The Last Supper
Names of Apostles in The Last Supper

Part of what people get confused about is who is who in the Last Supper painting. Obviously Jesus is Jesus. I don't think there is any debate over that! There is the debate whether the person to Jesus' right side is a man or woman, making that either Mary Magdalene or John. But who are all the other apostles?

The are, left to right -

James Minor
Peter (also called Simon Peter)
Judas Iscariot
John / Mary
James Major
Simon the Canaanite (also Simon the Zealot)

Note that Andrew has his hands straight up in alarm - is it because of Jesus' announcement, or is it because of the knife being pointed at him?

Peter is holding a knife in his hands. Later in the story, when the guards come for Jesus, Peter defends Jesus with that knife.

Thomas is pointing up at the sky - what is he trying to say?

Most importantly, Judas Iscariot is holding a small bag in his right hand. This is the bag with the 30 pieces of silver in it. In the actual timeline he doesn't get this until later, but Leonardo is making an obvious point that this is Judas, and he is the cause of all the trouble about to follow. Judas' other hand is reaching towards the plate, which is part of what Jesus says - that whoever dips his hand in his plate is the betrayer.

In fact, you can't see it now, but other early copies of this painting show that originally there was also a spilled salt container near Judas. In old traditions, that was a sign of broken trust. So Leonardo made triply sure that everybody who saw the painting knew which one was Judas.

As far as historical records, the writings say "He [Jesus] sat down with the 12". So we know that the 12 apostles were at the table with Jesus. In fact the apostles were led to the dinner location in an odd manner. They went into town and looked for a male water carrier. In those days, females did all the fetching of water, so a male water carrier stood out quite plainly. The apostles then followed this male to the location of the dinner.

Writings say that Mary was also there - she washes his feet and does other duties. It's not said that she sat at the table, though. I believe that two other men were also in the house, at least. One is Matthias - the trusted man who took Judas' spot in the 12 once Judas was dead. The other man was Paul, who becomes an apostle later because Jesus appears to him after the resurrection.

Visitor Opinion -
Hi, I was just wanting to let you know that the missing apostle from Da Vincis' Last Supper, looks to be Paul the churches co-founder and since he seems to be missing (while being a key part of the creation of the church) perhaps the disembodied hand belongs to him? the link below will take you to a page containing an image of the painting with the names of the apostles.

My response -
Actually if you count, there are 12 apostles around Jesus. Those are the standard 12 apostles that most scholars recognize. There was also a man named Paul who WROTE about the Bible and who later called himself "an apostle". But he was not one of the primary 12. There's also a man named Barnabas who calls himself an apostle, but he isn't one of the primary 12 either. In fact, when Judas hangs himself in shame having turned in Jesus, the remaining 11 apostles get together to choose a "new 12th". They do NOT choose Paul. They choose Matthias.

So in any case, Paul was not one of the 12 chosen by Jesus. Paul sort of self-nominated himself.

Visitor Opinion -
I am halfway through the Da Vinci Code and must admit that I am unimpressed. I was an avid Arthurian legend buff as a youngster, so most of the Grail legend (including the popularly held belief that the "holy vessel" was not a cup, but a woman--which by default means it was one of the Marys, either Magdalene, Jesus's mom, or Lazarus' sister) was not new to me. I knew from about page 30, that the story was a variant of the Grail legend. Though I suppose, if these are unfamiliar topics, the book is quite startling, not the least in its facts about the Church's suppression of the feminine.

With regards to the twelve "disciples" in the da Vinci painting: it's been a while since I've been to Sunday school, but, as I remember the story, John the Baptist had already been executed by the Romans by the time the Last Supper was supposed to have taken place, i.e. the night before Passover. So he was NEVER a part of the event; he'd died days before. So if there are 13 people at this supper, and only 11 disciples plus Christ were alive at the time, the last figure had to be someone else, and the reasonable choice would be Mary Magdalene or Mary, Jesus's mom. It's even possible that the priests who commissioned the painting were aware that the figure to Jesus' right was a woman, and they considered the painting historically accurate, because they would have known that John the Baptist was not involved in the Supper. Like I said, I could have my timeline mixed up, as I haven't studied the Bible since I was a child, but it's worth checking into. Even if the Church didn't see the anachronism, Leonardo, who was brilliant, would have realized this and used it to make his statement about Mary M. and still have the painting accepted by the monastery.

My Response -
An interesting theory! And yes, Dan Brown never claimed that any of this was startling or new information. He just wanted to write a cool story about the painting, and it turns out a lot of people found this to be new information.

John the Baptist was born about 6 months before Jesus was. He prophecised the coming of the Messiah long before he met Jesus. He was a "special child" from the start. He was baptising people to cleanse them of their sins. It was Jesus who came to John and said in essence "Baptize me, please, since you're baptizing everybody else". Even so, John didn't go immediately off with Jesus. John continued his preaching in his own spot. In fact, John was thrown into jail and languished there while Jesus went around preaching. Herod was the lord of the land, and during a party one night, Salome came in to dance. King Harod liked the dancing and asked the girl what she wanted as a reward, and Salome promptly said "The head of John the Baptist". Off it came.

So to summarize, John the Baptist was never an apostle. He was a person who prepared people for the Messiah, and he gathered up his own group of disciples. Some of his disciples in fact abandoned him and went off with Jesus when Jesus came on the scene. But it irks me a bit, at least, that Jesus didn't help John out. Jesus reaped the benefits of John's diligent starvation and day-and-night efforts, and then Jesus just sat around and watched as John the Baptist got his head chopped off :)

Visitor Opinion -
On your comment about Paul "nominating" himself as an Apostle, that is certainly the view that Peter and James took initially, but is certainly not a view which is supported by the Bible. An apostle is defined by theologians as a person who has experienced the risen Jesus, meaning that none of the Twelve became Apostles until Jesus visited them after his resurrection (meaning that Judas never was an Apostle). Paul experienced the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, thus being nominated by Jesus as an Apostle. Peter and the other original Apostles ultimately accepted Paul as an Apostle, though they did limit his ministry to preaching among the Gentiles.

Your point that Paul was not among the original Twelve, however, and therefore should not in any event have been included in an historically (or theologically) accurate depiction of the Last Supper is well-taken.

My Response -
I suppose most people call the individuals sitting at that last supper table "apostles" including Judas - and Judas is the "fallen apostle". If theologians are discounting Judas, most people don't know about that :) I know the apostles (or whatever they called themselves at the time) had formed a council of 12 and when Judas in essence kicked himself out, they nominated another to join their 12. If we don't want to call them apostles at any time before Jesus rises ... I suppose we can just call them his Disciples.

Visitor Opinion -
It wasn't ever said to be John the Baptist at the table. It was John the Apostle. As far as I know they are two seperate people since John the Apostle was supposedly one the the first to be told (Along with Peter) of Jesus' ressurection.

My Response -
Actually it was a visitor who made that mistake, about John the Baptist, and I corrected the visitor :) John the Baptist was most definitely NOT at this table. His head had been chopped off already and he never was a disciple.

Visitor Opinion -
I'm curious as to where you got the information as to who was who. How would anyone know? The Bible says almost nothing about anyone but Peter, James, John, and Judas. Of the rest, at best we have their previous occupations. There's no mention of a seating arrangement, no known place cards.

My Response -
Art Historians as you might imagine have poured over that painting in fine detail and also poured over the many versions of the Bible to get all known clues about each person. That all being said, sure they might have mixed up a random pair of 2 old guys and called one the other person's name. I think we know all the "important people" though :)

Visitor Opinion -
I have often read that Leonardo painted one of the disciples in his own likeness as a subtle way of "signing" his work not unlike Alfred Hitchcock appearing in his own movies. Would Leonardo's likeness be represented as Andrew, one of the few shown full face?

My Response -
Some art historians do believe this, but on the other hand, we HAVE no self portrait or any other record of what Leonardo looked like. All we have is guesses, and contemporary reports that he was quite handsome with blue eyes and curly hair. Apparently he was quite the man-about-town. With the guys, at least :) So in any case, to claim that anyone in any painting represented him is just a guess. He had certain male models that he adored and I would find it more likely that he kept putting his adored models in painting after painting, to immortalize their beauty. That all being said, who really knows :) Unless we find a hitherto-lost painting by one of his contemporaries, showing what he looked like, all we have is guesses.

Visitor Opinion -
The 12 apostles were named correctly as you have pointed them out. It does appear that Leonardo DaVinci slipped in Mary Magdelene instead of John, the Apostle. It does not mean that this was the actual scene. Don't forget, this is just a painting and not necessarily what actually took place. We do know that according to the Bible, the 12 disciples were there and you have named each of them accordingly. I think the confusion of John the Baptizer has been cleared up. Also remember, that this painting was supposed to depict that point in time. Judas was still alive and considered a disciple. I personally think that the knife is in Peterí s hand and that he has the knife ready to defend Jesus of his betrayer. This now focuses on the person sitting next to Jesus, Mary or John. Biblically, this would be John, the disciple (or apostle). John was Jesus í favorite disciple according to the end of the Gospel According to John. This painting clearly shows this disciple as a woman (Mary Magdalene if you will). Again, this goes along with DaVinciís theory of the Feminine and the "inverted V" and "M", etc. It is apparent to me that DaVinci slipped this one in under the Church to support his hidden meanings he so commonly depicted in his paintings. The truth of the matter is that the Bible supports 12 disciples being present and DaVinciís painting only depicts 11 if the person sitting on the right of Jesus is indeed Mary Magdelene.

Also regarding Paul, he was selected by Jesus Christ himself on the road to Damascus. He was blinded by Jesus and was later converted to Christianity (Acts 22:16). He later wrote to the Gentiles (non-Jewish) Christians at various locations (Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia, Rome, Phillipi, Colossae, etc.). In order for one to be an Apostle, they had to be with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry all the way up to his ascension. So when Judas committed suicide (at that point 11 apostles), they found his replacement (Matthias) whom met the qualifications, and hence, 12 apostles. Paul made it 13 when he came on the scene. Remember that the 12 Apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) which gave them a measure of power from God to preach, heal, prophesy, etc. (basically perform miracles confirming the word of God). This was necessary to convince people that what they (the Apostles) were preaching was indeed from God. Could you imagine preaching to Jews from all over the region about a New Covenant (replacing the Old Covenant/Testament) without something to back it up? This was the purpose of the miracles. To confirm the word of God until the church was mature enough to survive on its own and also until the Godís message to man (the Bible) was complete with all of its instructions and examples on how to live a Christian life. Jesus told the disciples of a Comforter (Holy Spirit, Paraclete) that would come after he left and that he would bring all things to their remembrance and that he would speak for them. This of course happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. The Comforter makes his debut. The Comfort is the Holy Spirit.

So where does Paul fit? Well, he was a special case. There was no record in the Bible of him being present with the other 12 during Jesusí ministry (actually he came on the scene persecuting Christians). But it was Jesus who changed him as I mentioned above. Although there is no mention that Paul was baptized with the Holy Spirit like the other 12, he was able to perform miracles like the other 12. This is indicated throughout his letters to the various letters to the gentile churches in the New Testament and also throughout the latter chapters of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which I may add was written by Luke, a physician. So I guess, Jesus personally ordained Paul as an apostle for the sole purpose of preaching and converting Gentiles to Christianity. I hope this clears some thoughts. Thank you.

My Response -
OK, so maybe Paul didn't self-nominate himself, although you have to take Paul's word for it that he really did have contact with God / Jesus that told him to join the others. How do we know that's true? Plus, Jesus blinded him. That seems like anti-support to me. Paul then converted, that's lovely. But I'm not sure that makes him "on equal footing" with the other apostles who stuck by Jesus from the beginning. Just my opinion :)