Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names

Meet Thaddeus, or Jude, Apostle and Epistle Writer

Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot
The Apostle Thaddeus (on left) and Simon the Zealot. Getty Images

Compared to more prominent apostles in Scripture, little is known about Thaddeus, one of Jesus Christ's 12 apostles. Part of the mystery stems from him being called by several different names in the Bible: Thaddeus, Jude, Judas, and Thaddaeus. 

Some have argued that there are two or more different people represented by these 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 is distinguished from Judas Iscariot. In the single epistle he authored, he calls himself "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James." (Jude 1, NIV).  That brother would be James the Less, or James the son of Alphaeus.

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 holds 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 ax, this weapon is 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. Armenians, 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 also 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 his short epistle, Jude warns believers to avoid false teachers who twist the gospel for their own purposes, and he calls us to staunchly defend the Christian faith during persecution.

References to Thaddeus in the Bible

Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; John 14:22; Acts 1:13; Book of Jude.

Occupation

Epistle writer, evangelist, missionary.

Family Tree

Father: Alphaeus

Brother: James the Less

Key Verses

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

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. (Jude 20-21, NIV) 

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Zavada, Jack. "Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names." ThoughtCo, Jan. 2, 2018, thoughtco.com/thaddeus-the-apostle-with-four-names-701072. Zavada, Jack. (2018, January 2). Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/thaddeus-the-apostle-with-four-names-701072 Zavada, Jack. "Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/thaddeus-the-apostle-with-four-names-701072 (accessed January 19, 2018).