Meet Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names

Thaddeus in the Bible is the Apostle Judas

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Compared to more prominent apostles in Scripture, little is known about Thaddeus in the Bible. Part of the mystery stems from him being called by several different names, including Thaddeus, Jude, Judas, and Thaddaeus. 

One thing we know for certain, as one of the twelve apostles, Thaddeus was a close friend and follower of  Jesus Christ. His name means "gift of God" in Greek and is derived from a Hebrew word meaning "breast."

Thaddeus in the Bible

Also Known as: Jude, Judas, and Thaddaeus. 

Known for: One of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Sometimes Thaddaeus is identified with a missionary named Thaddaeus in Syria. He is also at times associated with the noncanonical work, Acts of Thaddeus.

Bible References: The apostle Thaddeus is mentioned in Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; John 14:22; Acts 1:13; And possibly the book of Jude.

Occupation: Apostle, evangelist, missionary.

Hometown: Galilee.

Family Tree:

Father: Alphaeus

Brother: James the Less

Some have argued that there are two or more different people represented by Thaddeus' four names, but most Bible scholars agree that these various names all refer to the same person. In lists of the Twelve, he is called Thaddeus or Thaddaeus, a surname for the name Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3, KJV), which means “heart” or “courageous.”

The picture is confused further when he is called Judas. But he is distinguished from Judas Iscariot in John 12:22. Some Bible scholars suggest Thaddeus authored the epistle of Jude; however, a more widely accepted position is that Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote the book. 

Historical Background

Little is known of Thaddeus' early life, other than he likely was born and raised in the same area of Galilee as Jesus and the other disciples—a region which is now part of northern Israel, just south of Lebanon. One tradition has him born into a Jewish family in the town of Paneas. Another tradition holds that his mother was a cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus, which would make him a blood relation to Jesus.

We also know that Thaddeus, like other disciples, preached the gospel in the years following the death of Jesus. Tradition holds that he preached in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya, possibly alongside Simon the Zealot.

Church tradition claims that Thaddeus founded a church at Edessa and was crucified there as a martyr. One legend suggests his execution occurred in Persia. Because he was executed by an ax or club, these weapons are often shown in artworks depicting Thaddeus. After his execution, his body is said to have been brought to Rome and placed in St. Peter's Basilica, where his bones remain to this day, interred in the same tomb with the remains of Simon the Zealot.

Armenian Christians, for whom St. Jude is the patron saint, believe that Thaddeus' remains are interred in an Armenian monastery. 

Accomplishments of Thaddeus

Thaddeus learned the gospel directly from Jesus and loyally served Christ despite hardship and persecution. He preached as a missionary following Jesus’ resurrection. He may have penned the book of Jude. The final two verses of Jude (24-25) contain a doxology, or "expression of praise to God," considered the finest in the New Testament.

Weaknesses

Like most of the other apostles, Thaddeus abandoned Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons From Thaddeus

In John 14:22, Thaddeus asked Jesus, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” (NLT). This question uncovered a few things about Thaddeus. Number one, Thaddeus was comfortable in his relationship with Jesus, enough to stop the Lord in the middle of his teaching to ask a question. Thaddeus was curious to know why Jesus would reveal himself to the disciples but not to the whole world. This demonstrated that Thaddeus had a compassionate heart for the world. He wanted everyone to know Jesus. 

Key Bible Verses

John 14:22
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (NIV)

Jude 20-21
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (NIV) 

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Fairchild, Mary. "Meet Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names." Learn Religions, Oct. 3, 2022, learnreligions.com/thaddeus-the-apostle-with-four-names-701072. Fairchild, Mary. (2022, October 3). Meet Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/thaddeus-the-apostle-with-four-names-701072 Fairchild, Mary. "Meet Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/thaddeus-the-apostle-with-four-names-701072 (accessed November 29, 2022).

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