Biblical characters

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Who are the biblical characters?

Biblical characters are those who appear in the stories of the books and epistles that make up the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Of course, when we think of the people named in the sacred book of Christianity, we all think of Jesus, the apostles, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Adam, and others who are mentioned a lot and had a great transcendence and legacy. However, there are many others who, even though they are not often mentioned, were also part of the great story told in the Bible, which is nothing more than the living Word of God.

How many biblical characters are there?

Actually, this is not an easy question to answer, since there is no consensus on an exact number. This is because there are several characters whose identity is not very clear and we could be talking about the same person, although they have different names depending on the author of the book or epistle. In addition, there are others, who comprise a big number, who are only referred to as ¨man¨ or ¨woman¨; should they also be counted as characters? This is a good question. In my opinion, they should. However, there seems to be a consensus on the fact that the number of biblical characters exceeds three thousand and there is a figure that seems to be widely accepted of 3272 characters in total (The Biographical Bible 2nd Edition). Nonetheless, less than two thousand are mentioned by name.

How many of the biblical characters are women?

In the Bible, although the number of women is quite small ―most figures indicate less than 200― if we take into account those mentioned by name. They represent a small number compared to that of men. However, there are women in the Bible of great importance such as the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus; or Ruth and Esther, both authors of two of the books of the Old Testament. On the other hand, there are women who represent malice in the Holy Scriptures, such are the cases of Athaliah, Jezebel, or Michal.

Who are the main biblical characters?

Although it would be extremely difficult to create a list of the main biblical characters, it would be necessary to do so. It is impossible for all of us to agree on this topic since in many cases we would be entering into issues of subjectivity. However, we decided to name some characters that clearly stand out. Of course, we are not going to include Jesus, because he occupies a top and indisputable place as our Savior and only-begotten son of our Lord who came to earth to atone for our sins. Below, we have a list of 20 of the main biblical characters in alphabetical order and then we will give special treatment to the apostles and deacons.

1- Aaron

2- Abraham:

3- Adam

4- Daniel

5- David

6- Esther

7- Isaac

8- Jacob

9- Joseph

10- John the Baptist

11- Luke

12- Mary

13- Moses

14- Noah

15- Paul

16- Solomon

17- Samson

18- Samuel

19- Saul

20- Timothy

Who were the Twelve Apostles?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).

It is clear that Jesus initially chose only twelve to follow him and then they became the twelve apostles we all know. What is not clear, however, is the number that is later added to those initial twelve apostles. There seems to be a clear consensus on the fact that Matthias replaces Judas Iscariot after his death and that later Paul of Tarsus is also added. However, if we assume the term ¨apostle¨ with the meaning of follower of Christ, the number may exceed five hundred.

Brief biography of the Twelve Apostles

Let’s take a look at a very brief biography of each apostle. In the articles of this category, you will find a more complete biography of each one of them.

Simon

  • Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:17-18). His real name was Simon Bar-Jona; however, he is known as Simon Peter, St. Peter, or simply Peter. He is also called by the name Cephas (John 1:42). He was born in Bethsaida and lived with his mother-in-law, so it can be assumed that he was married and possibly had children (Acts mentions that he had a daughter). He was a Jewish fisherman from the Sea of Galilee and he is the most mentioned apostle in the New Testament and is considered among the three most important apostles and one of the pillars of the incipient Church of Jesus. According to Matthew, Jesus approaches him while he was fishing in the sea of Galilee. On the contrary, according to John, it is his brother, Andrew, who introduces Jesus to him as the Messiah, since they were followers of John the Baptist. Despite being the closest to Jesus of all the apostles, he denies him three times on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus is captured.

Andrew

  • This name comes from Greek and means ¨brave¨. He was born in Bethsaida and he was the brother of Peter and son of Jonah. He was a fisherman like his brother and was a disciple of John the Baptist. He had the privilege of being the first apostle: He first findeth his own his brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ (John 1:41). He was present at the miracle performed by Jesus when He multiplied the loaves and fishes, and thus fed a multitude. It is said that he was crucified in Patras. Instead of crucifying him in the shape of an X, they tied him up, and he preached during the whole time he was suffering in this state.

     

James

  • Son of Zebedee and Salome, sister of Mary, mother of Jesus. This is why he was related to Jesus: he was His cousin. In addition, he was the older brother of the apostle John and was also related to John the Baptist. He is also called James or James the Greater. He was born in Bethsaida and worked with his father as a fisherman. Jesus invites him to follow him while he is helping his father in the boat and immediately responds to the call: And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him (Matthew 4:22). He witnessed several of Jesus’s miracles such as his transfiguration (Mark 9:1-9). Finally, Herod sends to pursue and capture some of Jesus’s followers and kills James with a sword.

John

  • Son of Zebedee and Salome, and younger brother of James. Also called John the Evangelist (which differentiates him from John the Baptist). He was the youngest of the twelve apostles. Jesus surnamed him and his brother Boanerges, which means the sons of thunder (Mark 3:17). He was also a fisherman with his father and brother and went with his brother at the call of Jesus. He was one of the apostles closest to Jesus Christ. He was John’s companion in many of his missions and witnessed several miracles and important events in the life of Jesus: His transfiguration, the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter, His apparitions. There is no certainty about the year of his death or the place.

Philip

  • This apostle was born in Bethsaida. Based on his name, one could speculate that he was of Greek descent, although he was Jewish. He was a follower of John the Baptist, and like Andrew, Peter, John, and James decided to follow Jesus. Since he realizes that Jesus is really the Lamb of God, he invites Nathanael to come and see him and follow him. Philip is present at the Last Supper and asks the Messiah to show him the Eternal Father, so Jesus takes this opportunity to tell his disciples about the unity of the Father and the Son. There is no consensus on how this apostle died.

Bartholomew

  • He was born in Cana and is related to Nathanael. His name in Greek means ¨son of Tolmay¨. He was a witness to the Ascension of Jesus. He is one of those in the boat when Jesus makes his appearance in the Sea of Tiberias. Philip shows him the Lamb of God after John the Baptist identified him. After Jesus ascended to heaven, it is not clear where he went. Some writings affirm that he went to India, others to Ethiopia and Mesopotamia, and others to Armenia, where it is said that the king flayed him alive since he was reluctant to abandon his faith.

     

Thomas

  • Also called Judas Thomas Didymus or Twin is considered a saint by both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. During the Last Supper, Thomas asks Jesus how they will know the way if they do not know where Jesus is going. In response to this question, Jesus tells him that He is the way and the way to know the Father (John 14:5-6). He does not believe in Jesus’s resurrection and says that he has to put his hands through the holes in Jesus’s hands and side. Finally, he has the opportunity to do so and Jesus rebukes him for having to see to believe (John 20:25-29). It is said that Thomas carried out the evangelization of the East and his figure has great importance in India and Syria.

Matthew

  • This name means ¨gift of the Lord¨. He is also called Levi or Levi of Alphaeus (Alphaeus was his father) and lived in Capernaum. In this city, he served as a tax collector for Herod of Antipas. Because of this profession, he was not well regarded by the Jews because tax collectors got rich very easily. However, when Jesus invited him to follow him, he did not hesitate and decided to dedicate his life to evangelizing (Mark 2:14). He is the author of the first of the Synoptic Gospels, which he apparently wrote during his stay in Antioch, possibly around 80 A.D. There is no consensus on the facts about his death. Some say he was martyred and others say he died a natural death.

     

James

  • Also called James the Lesser or James son of Alphaeus in order to distinguish him from James. He was the brother of John and is the author of the letter that bears his name in the New Testament. He was the first bishop of Jerusalem and participated in the Jerusalem Council. He is also known as ¨the brother of Jesus¨, although it is stated that the word ¨brother¨ at that time did not necessarily mean to be sons of the same father and mother but relative, in a general sense. It is said that his death took place when Annas II ordered him to disown Jesus. James refused to comply with the order and the scribes and Pharisees threw him down from the top of the temple from where he preached the Gospel.

Simon the Canaanite

  • He was also called Zealot (which means ¨jealous¨) because he belonged to this Jewish sect before he met and followed Jesus. He was born in Galilee. He is not mentioned much throughout the New Testament and actually quite little is known about him. It is not known for sure where he preached. Some say in Mauritania, in Africa; others place him in Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia; some even in Great Britain. It is believed that he died together with Judas Thaddeus in a city of Persia at the hands of the priests of that city. Although it is also said that he died when he was destroyed by a saw or that he was crucified during the time of the Trajan emperor.

Judas Thaddaeus

  • ¨Judas¨ means ¨praise be to God¨ and ¨Thaddaeus¨ means ¨magnanimous¨. He was a descendant of King David and a relative of Jesus. He preached in Judea, Mesopotamia, and Persia. In this last region, together with Simon, he rejected the heresies of Zeroes and Arfexat. He is the author of the epistle that bears his name and is part of the New Testament. In this epistle, he rebukes the false teachers and ends with this beautiful phrase: To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen (Jude 1:25). His death is related to that of Simon the Canaanite in Persia.

Judas Iscariot

  • We do not know much about this apostle before he followed Jesus. It is speculated that his surname may come from the region of Kerioth in Judea, or that it refers to a sect of hired killers among the rebellious Jews. Everyone recognizes Judas for his betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where he kisses Jesus and hands him over to the scribes and priests for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). After this, he repents and wants to return the money to the priests. Finally, he commits suicide by hanging.

Who are the deacons in the Bible?

We should begin by analyzing the etymology of the word ¨deacon¨. It comes from the Greek diakonos which means ¨by the dust¨. Then it passes to Latin as diaconus, which means ¨servant¨. In the New Testament, this word is translated as ¨servant¨, which is nothing more than a person who ministers to another.

In Philippians, we can see how a hierarchy is already established between the elders and the deacons. The elders are left with a supervisory and decision-making role, while the deacons play a servant role.

In Acts 6:3, we see how the apostles decide to choose seven deacons to perform the work of serving tables (Acts 6:2). Next, the names of these seven chosen deacons are related: (…) and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmaneas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch (Acts 6:5).

It is clear that, in spite of the fact that in the beginning they were instituted with the purpose of offering material help, later they would carry out spiritual functions such as preaching, baptisms, and the healing of the sick. Even one of them, Philip, would be called the evangelist.

In evangelical Christianity, the different churches choose their deacons based on the veracity of their faith and their moral qualities. They support the pastor in a variety of activities that may include financial, logistical, and even humanitarian issues.

More specifically, in the case of the Anglican Communion, deacons serve people in need and may marry before and after ordination. After some time, they could be appointed priests and both men and women could hold this responsibility.

These people had the duty to help those in need. Although this was also a duty of the apostles, the latter were to focus on preaching the word of God; therefore, they decided to elect seven deacons to support them in this noble work.

In 1 Timothy 3:8-13, Paul relates the qualities that deacons should possess:

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

From the words of the grandiloquent Paul, we can see that the deacons were to be people with a righteous heart and full of faith in Jesus Christ. They had to meet certain requirements to exercise their profession. In addition, we can see from these words that women were allowed to be deaconesses and we have the example of Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), although this is a controversial issue since many claim that this profession was not intended for followers of the female sex.

What were the functions of the deacons?

In spite of the fact that the deacons exercised an important function at that time, not much is said about them in the New Testament, which makes their functions not very clear. This is why the duties of deacons vary greatly according to the religious denomination they serve. In his book 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons, Benjamin L. Merkle defines the functions of deacons:

1- Benevolence: administration and distribution of funds for the needy.

2- Finances: although the elders are the ones in charge of the oversight of finances, deacons should be in charge of finance-related issues such as collecting and counting the offering, and keeping accounting records.

3- Ushers: distribute documents to support evangelization and assist the elders in preparing for communion.

4- Facilities: may be in charge of basic tasks related to the administration of the various churches.

5- Rescuers: assist people around the world in the face of a natural disaster or some crisis that affects people’s lives.

Brief description of three of the main deacons

Next, we would like to provide a brief description of at least three deacons who are considered by many to be the most important ones.

St. Stephen

He was the first Christian martyr and is believed to have been a Jew living in some foreign land where Greek was spoken. This is speculated by his name, which means ¨crown¨ in Greek. He very often preached among the Hellenistic Jews. In Acts 6:8, his preaching qualities stand out: And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. First, they reviled him, alleging that he had blasphemed against Moses and God. Then they put him on trial with false witnesses to blame him. At the very moment of the trial, he again lifted up his voice and gave a wonderful account of the vicissitudes of the Israelite people and of God’s grace with His people. Those present could not stand the eloquence of Stephen. Unfortunately, it was the power of his word that led him to his death. Before he died, he pronounced these beautiful words that gave an account of his faith: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:59).

Philip the Evangelist

He decided to begin a ministerial work with the Samaritans, who were half Gentile, and where he performed miracles. Because of his great work in this region, John and Peter moved there to impart the sacrament of Confirmation. In addition, after preaching the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, he baptized him (Acts 26-38), even though he had not previously converted to Judaism. Philip’s four virgin daughters had the gift of prophecy.

Prochorus

His name comes from the Greek prochoros and then from the Latin prochorus, which means the one who leads the choir or the one who prospers. He was of Hellenic origin and is associated with the group of the 72 disciples of Jesus (Luke 10:1). Later, he was appointed bishop of Nicomedia and martyred in Antioch.

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