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View Full Version : How old were the Disciples (of Jesus)?


Eureka
04-09-2006, 08:43 PM
Information on the approximate ages of other people involved in the Crucifixion (Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Caiaphus) also welcome, but the Biblical personage whose age at the time of the Crucifixion is most important to me, is John. Ideally, I'd like to know about how old he was, and how that compared to the ages of the other Disciples.

tomndebb
04-09-2006, 09:47 PM
We have no way to know (although speculation has run rampant over the years).

No age is given for any Apostle. There has been a tradition (unsupported by any evidence) that the Apostle "whom Jesus loved" was John who later wrote the Gospel. While a nice tradition, there is simply no evidence that this is true.

John and Paul are each mentioned as "young(er)" at different places, but with no statement of age against which they would be compared. In the Gospel of John, the one "whom Jesus loved" beat Peter in a footrace to the empty tomb of Jesus (from which people have inferred youth which, combined with the tradition mentioned above, makes John the youngest Apostle--but without supplying an age).

Then there is the tradition that John lived to a ripe old age--into the 90s. However, he could actually have been the age of Jesus and lived into the 90s which would have made his age and the age of our current reckoning about the same.

In Acts, it is said that the people stoning Stephen laid their cloaks down at "the young man's feet" and the young man was Saul, later Paul. But, again, no age is provided.

spingears
04-09-2006, 10:06 PM
Information on the approximate ages of other people involved in the Crucifixion (Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Caiaphus) also welcome, but the Biblical personage whose age at the time of the Crucifixion is most important to me, is John. Ideally, I'd like to know about how old he was, and how that compared to the ages of the other Disciples.The Biblical record is 'stingy' when it come to triva not germaine to the narative. A searh for: "Age, Jesus, Disciples" yielded:

"The Bible doesn't say what the average age of the 12 disciples were. According to Luke 3:23, Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His ministry. From what is presented to us in Scripture, these 12 were adult men. Scripture does record that Peter was married, Matthew 8:14-15. You can read their names at Luke 6:12-16, and Mark 3:16-19."

Pontius Pilate: wag 40 +/- as he was an authoriy figue.
Caiaphus: wag 50/60 also authority figure as well as high priest.
Mary Magdalene: wag 40/50/
Mary, mother of Jesus: 45/50

There is no record so your reasonable guess is as good as anyone elses.

Eureka
04-09-2006, 10:09 PM
Thanks. That makes sense, even if it doesn't answer my real question, although I guess I could make some educated guesses.

The real question, incidently, is what motivated the casting director give lines to someone who sounded so cringe-inducingly young (in a locally produced Passion Play). It made me wonder if there was any historical basis for the choice, but I guess the answer is probably not.

psychonaut
04-10-2006, 07:23 AM
It's commonly thought that James the Lesser was younger than James the Greater, though that depends on the translation. Some interpret (or translate) the former's epithet as "the Little", and others as "the Younger".

sugrnspce
04-10-2006, 08:31 PM
Information on the approximate ages of other people involved in the Crucifixion (Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Caiaphus) also welcome, but the Biblical personage whose age at the time of the Crucifixion is most important to me, is John. Ideally, I'd like to know about how old he was, and how that compared to the ages of the other Disciples.

Looking in the books of the bible relating to the conception of Jesus, we know that John was born to Elizabeth while Mary was yet still pregnant with Jesus. I believe she had just been visited by the angel Gabriel.

Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified.

It stands to reason that John was 33 or 34 at the time.

For reference see the gospels (Matthew Mark Luke John)

Khadaji
04-10-2006, 08:39 PM
Looking in the books of the bible relating to the conception of Jesus, we know that John was born to Elizabeth while Mary was yet still pregnant with Jesus. I believe she had just been visited by the angel Gabriel.

Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified.

It stands to reason that John was 33 or 34 at the time.

For reference see the gospels (Matthew Mark Luke John)
I am by no means an expert, so I may be wrong, but I always thought that the John born to Elizabeth was John the baptist, not John the deciple.

sugrnspce
04-10-2006, 08:45 PM
I am by no means an expert, so I may be wrong, but I always thought that the John born to Elizabeth was John the baptist, not John the deciple.


John the deciple WAS John the baptist. Remember the scripture where John baptised Jesus, at first saying, No Jesus it is you that should baptise me..?
After the death of Jesus John the deciple was known as John the baptist, because Jesus had instructed the deciples to continue this practice out of obedience and love.

sugrnspce
04-10-2006, 08:47 PM
John the deciple WAS John the baptist. Remember the scripture where John baptised Jesus, at first saying, No Jesus it is you that should baptise me..?
After the death of Jesus John the deciple was known as John the baptist, because Jesus had instructed the deciples to continue this practice out of obedience and love.


This being the week before Resurrection Sunday (Easter) I have been doing some studying, and the pastor in my church touched upon this very subject yesterday.

Diogenes the Cynic
04-10-2006, 08:49 PM
Looking in the books of the bible relating to the conception of Jesus, we know that John was born to Elizabeth while Mary was yet still pregnant with Jesus. I believe she had just been visited by the angel Gabriel.

Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified.

It stands to reason that John was 33 or 34 at the time.

For reference see the gospels (Matthew Mark Luke John)
That was John the Baptist, not John the Apostle.

I don't have much to add to what [i]tom[/b] has said except to point out that some of the disciples were said to be Jesus' brothers* which (presuming that Jesus was a first born child) would mean that those disciples, at least, were younger than Jesus.

Tom is right that there is a tradition that John was very young but that's not actually in the Bible and the evidence is thin.


*The Catholic Church, which adheres to a doctrine of perpetual virginity for Mary, posits that Jesus' "brothers" were either Joseph's children from a previous marriage or possibly cousins who were called Jesus' "bretheren" in a more generic sense conveying a blood relationship which was not necessarily sibling. None of this is stated in the Bible, though.

Diogenes the Cynic
04-10-2006, 08:52 PM
John the deciple WAS John the baptist. Remember the scripture where John baptised Jesus, at first saying, No Jesus it is you that should baptise me..?
After the death of Jesus John the deciple was known as John the baptist, because Jesus had instructed the deciples to continue this practice out of obedience and love.
None of this is true. John the Baptist and John the Apostle are two different people. If you remember your Bible, JBap was executed by Herod Antipas while Jesus was still alive. That makes it kind of hard for him to continue any traditions or write any Gospels after the crucifixion.
This being the week before Resurrection Sunday (Easter) I have been doing some studying, and the pastor in my church touched upon this very subject yesterday.
Your Pastor needs to take a remedial Bible Study class.

sugrnspce
04-11-2006, 01:23 AM
Actually I thank you for setting me straight. It wasn't my pastor that was wrong, but my own notes and eagerness to share what I have learned. Thank you for the lesson.

Grimpen
04-11-2006, 12:10 PM
How old were the disciples of Jesus?
As other posters have noted, we really don't know.

For what it's worth, I'm guessing they were all younger than would seem reasonable to us. Here's an informed guess on life expectancies in the Roman world: "In the cities of antiquity nearly a third of the live births were dead before age six. By the mid-teens 60 percent would have died, by the mid-twenties 70 percent, and 90 percent by the mid-forties. Perhaps 3 percent reached their sixties. Few ordinary people lived out their thirties." (Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, p. 41)

Here's a cross-check from some people whose ages are in fact recorded:
Julius Caesar formed the ruling Triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus at the age of 42. He was assassinated at the age of 58.
Herod was governor of Galilee at the age of 26, and King of Judea at 33. He died at the age of 69.

Eureka
04-11-2006, 02:02 PM
Well, "younger than would seem reasonable to us" is kind of a vague statement, isn't it? I guess I don't have a problem with Disciples who were in their twenties or thirties. I'd be surprised to find out that a Disciple had been in his forties, but I'm not sure why. At least two Disciples in the local Passion Play which inspired the question sounded like whiney teenagers--and it is not unreasonable to suspect that that was because they were played by teens. The eldest Disciple was probably played by a guy just short of forty.

I'm also a little surprised by the notion that "few ordinary people lived out their thirties". The notion that many died as babies or in childhood seems reasonable, and I wouldn't expect large numbers of elderly, but I'm not quite sure why a male who survived his teen years would be likely to die before forty.

Diogenes the Cynic
04-11-2006, 02:20 PM
Well, "younger than would seem reasonable to us" is kind of a vague statement, isn't it? I guess I don't have a problem with Disciples who were in their twenties or thirties.
I think the point is that some of the Disciples might have been quite a bit younger than they are traditionally portrayed...perhaps even shockingly young. We tend to think of the disciples as being in their 20's and 30's but Jesus' entourage may well have included teenagers. Someone who is specifically identified as "young" or as a "youth" could conceivably has been as young as 13 or 14. The ancients had a much different perception of what constituted "adulthood" than we do (especially in such an undeveloped culture as 1st Century Palestine). The perception of teenagers as "children" is a relatively modern development.

Captain Amazing
04-11-2006, 02:50 PM
None of this is true. John the Baptist and John the Apostle are two different people. If you remember your Bible, JBap was executed by Herod Antipas while Jesus was still alive. That makes it kind of hard for him to continue any traditions or write any Gospels after the crucifixion.

Unless he was some sort of zombie apostle.

Green_Means_Go
04-11-2006, 10:41 PM
Actually I thank you for setting me straight. It wasn't my pastor that was wrong, but my own notes and eagerness to share what I have learned. Thank you for the lesson.

I applaud you for your eagerness and your ability to accept new information as it comes along!

Grimpen
04-11-2006, 10:55 PM
Well, "younger than would seem reasonable to us" is kind of a vague statement, isn't it?
Yes. I am not at all confident the evidence permits anything more precise. Malina and Rohrbaugh are competent social scientists, but they're extrapolating from societies more familiar to us which seem comparable in terms of technology and social structure. At best, I think this sort of tool can give us a rough estimate.

To try for more (barely substantiated) precision: we know from the instance of Herod (and I'm sure more could be found) that the governor of a province might be in his twenties. To me, that seems startlingly young for such a position.

I'm also a little surprised by the notion that "few ordinary people lived out their thirties". The notion that many died as babies or in childhood seems reasonable, and I wouldn't expect large numbers of elderly, but I'm not quite sure why a male who survived his teen years would be likely to die before forty.
Sickness and malnutrition would be major factors. Again, we're extrapolating; but I think it's reasonable to suppose that many adults -- perhaps most -- suffered from chronic or incurable illnesses. Considering how little could be cured at that level of medical technology.
I'm guessing Malina and Rohrbaugh are roughly right: if you lived to your mid-teens, as much as a quarter of what remained of your age cohort would likely be dead before their mid-twenties. And two-thirds of the rest by their mid-forties. The remainder would probably look a great deal older to us than they actually were.
Life expectancy might be better if you had money. (Though that would make you a nice target...) I can't recall the citation, but I've heard that Hellenistic society understood slaves as people who did the slow dying for their masters.

Sampiro
04-12-2006, 12:47 AM
Does the Bible say Jesus was thirty-three when he died?

Luke says he was about thirty (http://biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=49&chapter=3&verse=23&version=31&context=verse) when he started his ministry (a passage that is not in Mark on which Luke is so closely based) but the others don't seem to speak to the issue. I have read (somewhere- possibly can find a cite if called) that in Islam thirty-three is considered the ideal age for a man and it is the age his body will be in heaven and I have wondered if whatever middle eastern tradition this was born of may also be responsible for the usual 33 year age of Christ (i.e. an ideal age).

Diogenes the Cynic
04-12-2006, 01:30 AM
Does the Bible say Jesus was thirty-three when he died?

Luke says he was about thirty (http://biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=49&chapter=3&verse=23&version=31&context=verse) when he started his ministry (a passage that is not in Mark on which Luke is so closely based) but the others don't seem to speak to the issue. I have read (somewhere- possibly can find a cite if called) that in Islam thirty-three is considered the ideal age for a man and it is the age his body will be in heaven and I have wondered if whatever middle eastern tradition this was born of may also be responsible for the usual 33 year age of Christ (i.e. an ideal age).
The belief that Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified is inferred from the verse in Luke that you mentioned combined with the suggestion in the gospel of John that Jesus' ministry lasted three years (it doesn't say that explicitly but it describes three separate Passovers before the crucifixion).

Luke's claim that Jesus was 30 when he started his ministry may be symbolic or a reasoned guess based on the Jewish tradition that such was the age when a man could be afforded authority as a teacher. It's not unreasonable to assume that Jesus would have begun his ministry at 30 (that would have been the normal, expected age) but it may have begun more than three years before the crucifixion. Irenaeus claimed that Jesus was over 50 when he he was crucified, so who knows?

Incidentally, 33 was also the age at which Alexander the Great died, so it was an age that had some heroic resonance in the Hellenistic world.

Polycarp
04-12-2006, 09:38 AM
Looking in the books of the bible relating to the conception of Jesus, we know that John was born to Elizabeth while Mary was yet still pregnant with Jesus. I believe she had just been visited by the angel Gabriel.

Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified.

It stands to reason that John was 33 or 34 at the time.

For reference see the gospels (Matthew Mark Luke John)

Except that that's about equivalent to confusing George Washington and King George III in a book about the American Revolution. Jesus's cousin was John the Baptist, who was executed by one of the Herods about the time that Jesus began his actual ministry. The John who is probably "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and the author or source of the Fourth Gospel is John son of Zebedee, brother of James the Greater, and a completely different individual.

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