Friday, 2 September 2011

Disciple (Christianity)

In Christianity, the disciples were the students of Jesus during his ministry. While Jesus attracted a large following, the term disciple is commonly used to refer specifically to "the Twelve", an inner circle of men whose number perhaps represented the twelve tribes of Israel. In addition to the Twelve, the canonical gospels and the Book of Acts refer to varying numbers of disciples that range between 70 and 120 to a "growing multitude". Jesus controversially accepted women and sinners (those who violated purity laws) among his followers, though it's not clear they were disciples. In the book of Acts, the Apostles (those sent by Jesus on a mission) themselves have disciples. The word disciple is used today as a way of self-identification for those who seek to learn from the teachings of Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount.

Several disciples are historical figures, notably James the Just, Peter and John, the pillars of the Jerusalem church according to Paul of Tarsus. The canonical gospels name Peter as the first among the disciples, the first to name Jesus the messiah on whom the church is built, and called to feed Jesus' sheep. Paul named him the Apostle to the Jews, as Paul claimed the title Apostle to the Gentiles, see also Circumcision controversy in early Christianity, though it was Peter who converted the first gentile, Cornelius the Centurion. John's tradition was strong in Asia Minor, where the Gospel of John was likely composed. In the synoptics, Peter, John, and James witness Jesus' transfiguration. Thomas is associated with a sayings tradition that features gnostic elements, and he appears in John as "doubting Thomas." The gospels Matthew (see Aramaic Matthew) and John (see Signs gospel) have traditionally been attributed to these disciples, and Mark associated with Peter's teaching, though modern scholars generally take these gospels as anonymous.