The 12 Apostles

The 12 apostles are commonly thought to map to the 12 tribes of Israel, and rightfully so. The challenge is figuring out how they map since the Gospels list the apostles in different orders at different times.

Picking A List

The definitive list appears to be Matthew 10, perhaps because it is the first full list to appear in the Gospels.

2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Matthew 10:2-4 (Matthew 10:2-4 NIV)


Tribe Apostle
Judah Peter
Reuben Andrew
Gad James Z.
Asher John Z.
Naphtali Philip
Manasseh Bartholomew
Simeon Thomas (the doubter)
Levi Matthew (the tax collector)
Issachar James A.
Zebulun Thaddaeus
Joseph Simon (the zealot)
Benjamin Judas (the betrayer) /Matthias

Notes on mapping

For Dan to make the list there either needs to be a 13th apostle or he and Benjamin share the 12th apostle. Because there are many other apostles mentioned in Scripture (some by name, some not) it's hard to say who would be the 13th. And since there's a future reason for the tribe/apostle map, as the apostles will judge the tribes, it stands that Judas can't be Benjamin's apostle in the end. So the fix seems to be sharing Matthias, the replacement for Judas, across the two tribes.


Levi mapping to Matthew the tax collector is too obvious since Levi is the tithe collector.

Benjamin picking up Judas makes sense in light of Benjamin's slow acceptance of Jesus in comparison to the rest of his family. Modern Israel is still not Christian and most of the tribes have been Christian for a long time now.

More work remains to understand the full value of this map, especially with the lesser known apostles, whose quirks and characteristics are harder to pick up.