Book review: The Search for the Twelve Apostles

by William Steuart McBirnie, P.H.D.


Whatever happened to the men who learned at the feet of Jesus?

I picked this book up to provide a little insight into the legends and remembered personalities of Jesus’ entourage, for my upcoming book about John’s Gospel. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.

Written by a believer, but properly skeptical about the legends that sprang up, the book goes through each of the Twelve and then wraps up with a discussion of five other notable apostles: John Mark, Barnabas, Luke, Lazarus, and Paul. As tradition dictates, Nathanial in the Gospel of John is assumed to be Bartholomew in the other three Gospels.

For each figure, McBirnie relates a bit of what the New Testament says, what later Gospels and church fathers report, and what traditions are known. He discusses where they later preached, what they were recognized for, how they died, where they were buried. Where legends disagree (and there are many contradictory traditions) McBirnie reports on them all. He personally visited several countries learning local traditions, so much of the research is original.

Interesting and easy to read, I recommend this book for anyone who is curious about the legends of Jesus’ closest followers.

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