The word apostle as it is used in the New Testament literally means “one who is sent.” The apostles that are being referred to are the closest followers of Jesus who would be considered part of his inner circle of friends. There are four lists of these apostles and there are always twelve listed on the list but not always the same twelve men. However, there are four who are always listed and who were consistently mentioned as being part of the twelve apostles. These four apostles are Matthew, Peter, Andrew (Peter’s brother) and James.
Matthew: Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who became one of Jesus’ disciples and appears on all four of the apostolic lists. The tradition of the “call” of Matthew is found in Matthew, where his occupation at the time of the call is identified as that o tax collector. In the parallel accounts, however, the name of the tax collector called is Levi. The use of different names in the parallel passages has given rise to long-standing debate as to whether “Matthew” and “Levi” was the same person. Most scholars maintain that the mention of the two names actually constitutes a double name for one person. A double name in the Bible is when the person had their given name and then after they became a follower of Jesus their name changed to something else. Matthew gave up a lot to follow Jesus because when he left his tax-collecting booth to follow Jesus he guaranteed himself unemployment. Jesus allowed Matthew to continue to use the skills he had learned as a tax collector and made him a record keeper.
Peter: Originally named Simon, Peter was a Galilean fisherman. He was the son of John and brother of Andrew. According to a tradition preserved in John 1:35-43, the brothers came from the village of Bethsaida and had been disciples of John the Baptist before they became disciples of Jesus. Peter was married. He is said to have owned a house in Capernaum. Peter’s emergence as a leader among Jesus’ disciples is reflected in the fact that Jesus bestowed the nickname “rock” on Simon as a sign of his future role as upholder and interpreter o the traditions established by Jesus.
Andrew: Andrew was the brother of Peter and the son of John. Originally from Bethsaida, he was living in Capernaum at the time of his “call”. According to Matthew and Mark, Andrew and Peter were fishing when called to follow Jesus. In John’s account, Andrew, originally a disciple of John the Baptist followed Jesus after hearing John say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Andrew then found his brother, Simon, and brought him to Jesus saying, “We have found the Messiah”. Andrew is among the first persons named in the apostolic lists; perhaps an indication o his early selection to Jesus’ inner circle of disciples. Andrew was crucified in Achaia for being an apostle and follower of Jesus.
James: James was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John with whom he was called by Jesus to be one of the Twelve. Jesus nicknamed James and John “Boanerges,” meaning “sons of thunder”. The two are prominent in the various lists of the Twelve. With Peter, they were present when Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter at the transfiguration, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Acts 12:2 reports James’s martyrdom by decapitation at the command of Herod Agrippa.
These main apostles were part of the inner circle of followers of Jesus called the Twelve Disciples. In that day a disciple was a pupil attached to a teacher or movement. These men were being taught by Jesus so that after he was no longer with them they could continue to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and continue to grow the movement.