Characters: The Four Gospels
The various characters of The Four Gospels
. See also Acts of the Apostles
for how they're depicted in that work.
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"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
The main character of the Gospels, Jesus
is the central figure of Christianity
. A carpenter from the small town of Nazareth turned preacher and healer, he is called the Messiah
or Christ, the Son of God
, and even God himself in human form
, who came to bring humanity closer to God and to save them from their sins.
- All-Loving Hero: Jesus is the Trope Codifier; in fact, this trope's former name was "The Messiah" because of him.
- Angel Unaware / God Was My Copilot: Appeared to His disciples after His death, but they did not recognize Him at first.
- The Atoner: He was sent to atone for the sins of mankind.
- Back from the Dead: "But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him."
- Badass Pacifist: See The Determinator below.
- Badass Preacher: While He was pretty much nonviolent, the time He trashed the moneychangers' stalls in the temple certainly qualifies.
- Berserk Button: Don't treat His Father's house like a marketplace. Or alternatively, don't use it as a cover for cons and scamming the poor and downtrodden.
- Bigger Than Jesus: Strangely enough, Jesus Himself used this trope, at least in the eyes of the Jewish priesthood at the time. From Luke Chapter 11:
Jesus: The Queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom; and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now one greater than Jonah is here.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Sure, He will die for your sins, but if you ever happen to push His Berserk Button, may God help you...actually, He wouldn't.
- Bullying a Dragon: Frequently a target of this.
- Capital Letters Are Magic: Christians (and many translations of The Bible) often capitalize pronouns referring to Jesus out of reverence for Him.
- Catch Phrase: Often starts His sentences with "Verily I say unto you" ("I tell you the truth" in modern translations).
- Celibate Hero: Some people think that Jesus was married, but that His wife was not mentioned in The Bible (there are also a lot of speculations about why this is). Other people see this idea as heresy.
- The Chosen One: The Messiah or "Anointed One".
- Child Prodigy: At about 12, Jewish boys were expected to start joining in religious discussions. At 12, Jesus was teaching at these discussions, and astonishing everyone with His understanding and answers.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: When asked if an adulterer should be stoned, Jesus wrote or drew something in the dirt with his finger instead of answering, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
- Compelling Voice: He can stop storms with His voice.
- Country Mouse: Jesus was one, since Nazareth was apparently a backwater town, regarded as insignificant to the point of scorn: as others said, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"
- Crucified Hero Shot: The Trope Codifier.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Crucifixion was actually a standard public execution method in ancient Rome, but it was most definitely cruel. Certain aspects of His death were made to be crueler than usual, like the Crown of Thorns.
- Deadpan Snarker: If you happened to be Pharisees or Sadducee.
- Deal with the Devil: Averted, though not for lack of trying on Satan's part. (It helped that Jesus had Incorruptible Pure Pureness.)
- Depending on the Writer: Some details in the narratives of Matthew, Mark and Luke vary, which is nothing compared to the differences between these three, called the Synoptic gospels, and John.
- The Determinator: The man once faced down an angry mob that wanted to throw Him over a cliff, silenced them with a look and walked right through without a scratch. Heck, even death itself couldn't stop Him.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: In the midst of execution by torture, He refused to take anesthetic, managed to make arrangements for someone to look after His mother, reassured a penitent thief that he would go to Heaven and forgave His executioners.
- First Law of Resurrection: Returns three earthly days after his death.
- Forgiveness Requires Death: With the twist that Jesus wasn't guilty; He was dying to get forgiveness for everyone else.
- Friend to All Children: He got annoyed when His disciples tried to keep children from bothering Him, explaining that children have exemplary faith in His Kingdom.
- A God Am I: "Before Abraham was, I Am." (Double points for invoking the name of God revealed to Moses in the Old Testament.) Justified, if Jesus was, as He claimed, the Son of God Himself.
- God in Human Form: He claimed to be, leading to accusations of blasphemy from the Pharisees.
- Good Is Not Soft: Although this attitude is mainly aimed at Satan who tried to tempt Him, the Pharisees who were being hypocrites, and the merchants who defiled His temple.
- Good Shepherd: Jesus calls Himself this, and lives up to it, including the part about laying down His life for the sheep.
- Dark Shepherd: Then, there's His warnings of eternal damnation in Hell if one doesn't repent of their sins. He's more gentle about it, though.
- Healing Hands: He healed a lot of people, usually by laying hands on them.
- The Hero: Of the New Testament. Specifically, a Guile Hero who used cleverness rather than violence.
- Heroic Sacrifice / Someone Has to Die: Jesus had to die and suffer punishment for mankind's sins in order to make it possible for people to be saved and not have to suffer punishment for their own sins.
- Humble Hero: Shows this in many ways.
- I Am the Noun: A favorite form of statement, especially in the gospel of John. "I am the resurrection and the life," "I am the true vine," "I am the bread from heaven," "I am the way, and the truth, and the life..."
- I Have Many Names: Jesus son of Joseph, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, note , the Son of Man, Jesus Son of David...
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Jesus was even tempted by the Devil himself, but didn't buckle.
- Internal Reformist: Of Judaism and the law of Moses. Paul in turn was particularly instrumental in reforming the early church's focus, extending Jesus's message to non-Jews.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Oh, yes... Jesus knew he had to suffer and die for humanity's sake, reprimanded his disciples when they argued otherwise, and submitted himself to the will of God.
Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; yet not my will but yours be done.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Many people see Him as this. He was definitely seen as this by His contemporaries.
- Jews Love to Argue: Jesus was Jewish, of course, and much of the action in the Gospels involves Him arguing with other Jews (the Pharisees or His own disciples) about the correct interpretation of the Laws of Moses.
- Journey to Find Oneself: Jesus' 40 days and nights in the desert, sort of.
- Kung-Fu Jesus: Despite forcibly kicking shady merchants out of the temple on more than one occasion, this is mostly averted. In fact, the people turned against Him because He wasn't this; they expected their Messiah to lead a revolt against Rome.
- Large Ham: Yes.
- Law of Chromatic Superiority: In many Bibles, His words are written in red. Also, He is often portrayed wearing purple robes, purple being a color long associated with royalty in the West.
- Light Is Good: He could also be considered Good Is Not Soft.
- Lineage Comes from the Father: Subverted. Jesus is both the legal and biological heir of David. Legally through Joseph, but it turns out that the genealogy in Luke is actually Mary's, (though this is never explicitly stated) tracing her back to David. In addition, there are a few women so well-respected that Matthew felt the need to mention them: Tamar, Bath-sheba, Rahab and Ruth.
- Magnetic Hero: Jesus had no trouble gathering His twelve apostles. In fact, most of them Jumped at the Call.
- Man in White: Usually depicted this way. In the Gospels themselves, His robes become pure white in the Transfiguration sequence.
- Manly Tears: "Jesus wept" (John 11:35).
- Meaningful Name: "Yahweh saves."
- Meekness Is Weakness: Jesus actually described Himself as being "meek and lowly in heart," but He otherwise totally subverts this trope.
- Messianic Archetype: The Trope Maker.
- My Rule-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Often took the Pharisees down a notch or two.
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: The Trope Namer and the page quote-provider. Yeah, He wasn't exactly popular in Nazareth.
- Numerological Motif:
- Chose twelve apostles.
- Was tempted three times by Satan and rose from the dead on the third day afterward.
- When he preached forgiveness, Peter asked if he was supposed to forgive someone seven times, he said seventy times seven.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- When the guy known for using His powers for good turns and curses a fig tree in a fit of anger, causing it to wither and die, you know something serious is about to go down. Sure enough, Jesus went to His death a few days later.
- Ditto with the merchants in the temple. He goes absolutely berserk when He sees them.
- The Paragon: He told His disciples, "Love one another as I have loved you."
- The Power of Love: One of Jesus' most remembered teachings is to love God and to love your neighbor. Jesus emphasizes love as the most powerful thing in the universe. (Faith and Hope being the two runners-up.)
- Psychic Nosebleed: Jesus is praying at the Mount of Olives just before His arrest, and His sweat appears like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). This is actually a documented medical phenomenon in some cases of extreme stress, likely brought on by His knowledge of what's about to go down.
- Race Lift: Jesus was a Middle Eastern. He was born in Palestine, the Middle East, but, at least in Western art, he's almost universally depicted as a white person.
- "Rashomon"-Style: The four Gospels emphasize different sides of Jesus based on each evangelist's target audience. Matthew showed Jesus as an Expy of Moses and cited a myriad of Old Testament prophecies to really drive the whole Messiah thing home. Mark's Gospel was Darker and Edgier because his audience was persecuted Christians. Luke's Gospel is Lighter and Softer, emphasizing Nice Guy qualities of Jesus because he was targeting non-Jewish converts. John's Gospel is the most mystic-like of the four and writes a Higher Self version of Jesus to emphasize His divinity.
- Purity Personified: In a heated debate, Jesus once asked the Pharisees, "Which of you convicts me of sin?" There was no response.
- Scars Are Forever: He still had the scars from His crucifixion after He rose from the dead, probably because the Apostles would not believe unless they felt them.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: His ethics in a nutshell. See the parable about the eye of the needle.
- Self Restraint: He went along with being sentenced to death. He even remarked at the time that, if He really wanted to, He could summon four legions of angels to bust Him out.
- He declined to even open his mouth in his own defense while on trial. This likely has at least something to do with his track record of mopping the floor with the Pharisees' other arguments—if he'd made an active effort to rebut their accusations, it might have complicated the Heroic Sacrifice.
- Take a Third Option: One of His specialties.
- Notable example: saving the adulteress from stoning by telling those who wanted to kill her that it wasn't like they were so pure either.
- There's also the time where the Pharisees asked if it was legal to pay taxes to Rome, hoping they could get Jesus arrested for his answer; Jesus outsmarted them with a simple answer of "if it belongs to Rome, give it to them."
- Take That: It's hard to read His words and not think He's talking about someone today, but He was more talking about the people of his time, their hypocrisy and blindness to injustice. But, since He's omniscient, He very well could be talking about people today, so this can be Double Subverted. Or, simply, his message is one that can speak to all people across time.
- Thanatos Gambit: He comes Back from the Dead.
- Turn the Other Cheek: The Trope Namer. He does refer to the Old Testament "eye for an eye" ethic, but then adds that it's much better to, well...
You have heard that it was said "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
- The Unreveal: To settle a dispute, Jesus wrote something in the ground that apparently blew them away and made everyone stop fighting. This is the only recorded instance of Jesus ever writing anything. But none of the books ever tell us what He wrote, maybe because we couldn't understand it?
- The incident in question is recorded in John 8, when the people brought the woman who was caught in adultery in yet another attempt to trap Jesus by His own words. Commentators have suggested that what Jesus wrote on the ground was the accusers' own sins, as a way of calling them out for hypocrisy.
- Verbal Tic: In the book of John, "I tell you the truth" or "Truly, truly I say to you."
- Wham Line: "Tonight, one of you will betray me."
- With Us or Against Us: As far as He is concerned, neutrality in Him doesn't exist. Either one accepts Him or rejects Him.
- Wrongfully Attributed: Jesus' birth is often believed to be the original reason people celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. In reality pagans already held winter rituals and festivities centuries before Jesus' birth. The Church Fathers, not knowing when his birthday actually was, reasoned that since Jesus was a holy man, he would have died on the same day he was conceived to make a perfectly round number to his life. So since the Church calendar states Jesus was crucified on March 25, he must have been born on December 25th, neatly replacing the pagan festivals. Historically, Jesus probably wasn't born in winter; among other evidence, the shepherds wouldn't have been in their fields in December. Some astronomers suggested his real birthday was the 17th of June. Of course, given the sheer number of pagan (and Jewish) festivals, it would be hard to come up with a date that had not been used by some religion before...
The Virgin Mary
"Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!"
The mother of Jesus. Got pregnant miraculously, as she was a virgin.
- Arranged Marriage: Is engaged to Joseph at the time she becomes pregnant with Jesus.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Catholic and Orthodox churches believe she was bodily taken up into heaven at the end of her life as part of an event called the Assumption or Dormition. The difference lies in whether they believe she actually died first or not. The Orthodox and some Catholics hold that she did (hence Dormition, "falling asleep" i.e. death) while other Catholics believe she didn't.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Although her appearance is not mentioned or commented on at all (not even in passing), Catholics always describe her as being extraordinarily beautiful.
- Divine Race Lift: And that she conforms to whatever the ideal of feminine beauty is in the describer's culture.
- Breakout Character: In Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant!: When the Archangel Gabriel shows up to tell her she will give birth to the Messiah, she wonders how this is possible since she's a virgin. Gabriel explains that God can do anything.
- Celibate Heroine:
- Played straight at the time of Jesus' birth; there's a reason she got her title. Possibly averted afterward, depending on whether you translate references to Jesus' "brothers and sisters" as literal or metaphorical.
- Some believe that she had made a vow before God to remain a virgin her whole life, and that her marriage to Joseph was never to involve sex, only to ensure that she would be protected and provided for when her time as (the equivalent of) a Miko was up.
- The Chick: The most feminine figure in Christianity.
- The Chosen One: Chosen by God out of many different young women to be the mother of Jesus.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Has to watch her son be humiliated and killed, and cannot do anything about it. When a holy man spoke of the infant Jesus's future role. he added "a sword will pierce your heart.” This has long been understood to refer to Mary's suffering while watching her son suffer and die.
- The High Queen: To those who believe that she became Queen of Heaven at the end of her earthly existence.
- Humble Heroine: Despite the point that Mary's decision to become pregnant with the Messiah would make her a very important figure to many, Mary's few recorded actions after her son's birth reflected her son's importance. Many Christians honor her greatly, as her son did, because of that very humility.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The Roman/Latin Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception states that she had to be pure from the very beginning in order to be a suitable mother for Jesus, and so she was spared from Original Sin or a disordered human nature open to sin. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholics don't have quite the same doctrine, as Greek/Eastern thought defines Original Sin as death itself, not human nature, but they essentially agree that Mary was pure and sinless because of the Greek term kecharitomene (translated as "Highly favored" or "Full of grace") used by the angel to describe her, which means something more like "completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace."
- The Ingenue: See above
- Jewish Mother: Well, literally but the trope varies by the gospel. In the Gospel of John she moves Jesus to perform his first miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding party. Jesus says it's premature but does it anyway. In Matthew and Mark (the ones written for a Jewish audience), she and Jesus's brothers come to visit him while he's preaching, but Jesus doesn't go out to greet them, telling his audience that his real family was whoever hears God's message and listened to it. In contrast, the Gospel of Luke focuses the most on her and gives the most favorable impression of her as a follower of God's will.
- Miko: According to extrabiblical tradition (and Islam), she was the equivalent of this, from a very young age.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Her fiancé Joseph is understandably skeptical about her claim of a virgin pregnancy, believing that she must have slept with another man. Fortunately, the Archangel Gabriel shows up in a dream to set the record straight.
- Mystical Pregnancy: Experienced one. (Hint: There's a good reason she's referred to as the Virgin Mary.)
- One Steve Limit: Averted; there are at least two other women named Mary in the New Testament alone.
- This is one of the reasons why some Christians don't believe Jesus had literal brothers and sisters through Mary despite some of them being named. Jesus is said to have had brothers named James and Joseph/Joses. The four accounts of Jesus's death and burial mention several women at the scene. In the synoptic gospels, "Mary mother of James and Joseph/Joses" aka "the other Mary" is mentioned with Mary Magdalene and Salome the mother of James and John, while the "mother of Jesus" isn't explicitly or directly mentioned even if it's her son who just died. The gospel of John mentions "Jesus's mother, his mother's sister, Mary of Clopasnote , and Mary Magdalene". It's unclear how many women John meant, but one harmonized reading equates Mary mother of James and Joseph to Mary of Clopas, a "sister" or relative of some sort to Jesus's mother. Another reading is that Salome is "Jesus's mother's sister".
- Pals with Jesus: She is, after all, his mom. Because of that, Catholics and Orthodox believe that her prayers are more powerful, that God will never turn down a request from her.
- Also, among those that believe she was dedicated by her mother to live and work in the Temple, she was fed and cared for by angels.
- Proper Lady: Considered by some to be the Trope Codifier.
- Put on a Bus: To those who believe she was simply floated up to Heaven at the end of her Earthly life, instead of dying.
- Something About a Rose: Roses are a flower associated with her, notably the most iconic prayer about her is the rosary (meaning "rose garden")
- Take Care of the Kids: As he is dying on the cross, Jesus entrusts her to the care of the beloved disciple, usually identified as John.
- Team Mom: To Catholics and Orthodox. In fact, they actually pretty much call her this, citing the above incident as support. See below.
- True Blue Femininity: Traditionally depicted wearing blue robes.
- Virgin Power: In that she becomes pregnant and gives birth while still a virgin. To Catholics and Orthodox (who believe that she remained a virgin her whole life), she also has powers of intercession for such things as healing.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: Those who report seeing visions of her say that she conforms to whatever the ideal of feminine beauty is in their culture.
Joseph of Nazareth
Mary's husband and Jesus's foster father.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome / Disappeared Dad: Theological scholars speculate Joseph's lack of appearance post-Nativity may be due to Joseph dying at some point.
- Joseph shows up in that episode when Jesus was 12 and He was in the Temple showing off his knowledge to the rabbis. Mary and Joseph were both mentioned here. After this, not much is known. Most sources say Jesus was an adult when Joseph died.
- Impoverished Patrician: Although he is from the lineage of King David, he earns a modest and meager living as a carpenter. And his social status is essentially "a nobody." (Or, if you like, the Average Joe.)
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: Averted. After finding out that Mary was pregnant, he decided to (quietly) divorce her rather than make a big deal about it and have her be humiliated. That was really decent of him, considering the time and place he was in, he probably saved Mary's life (though he did come back for her).
John the Baptist
And there was a cry from the wilderness...
An ascetic preacher who was the forerunner to Jesus, known for dunking people in water as a sign of repentance/purification. Specified to be Jesus's cousin in Luke, as his mother was a cousin of Mary.
- Hermit Guru: Lived in the wilderness, surviving mainly on grasshoppers and honey, during his ministry.
- Off with His Head!: What happened to him in the end.
- Wonder Child: His parents were aged, making conception unlikely.
A female disciple and one of several women who supported Jesus's band financially. Witnessed his death and resurrection.
- Alliterative Name: Mary Magdalene.
- Canon Discontinuity: She had a whole gospel to herself in the Gnostic texts, but it's not considered canon by any modern religions.
- The Chick: While Jesus had other female followers, she is the most prominent.
- Demonic Possession: Supposedly had seven demons trapped within her, until Jesus healed her.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Traditionally she has been depicted as a harlot, but this comes from tradition and not from Scripture.
- The harlot actually comes from a passage several chapters after her debut, who is never stated to be Mary Magdalene.
- One Steve Limit: Another aversion; she shares a name with Jesus' mom and at least one other Mary.
- Undying Loyalty: She was present when Jesus died, along with several other women, even when his Apostles (except John the "beloved disciple", according to the gospel of John) had scattered and hidden themselves. She's also among the women present when Jesus is buried, and she's one of the first to see him back from the dead.
James the Just
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
One of several brothers of Jesus mentioned by name, together with unnamed sisters. He eventually took up leadership of the Christians in Jerusalem with Peter and John after Jesus's death and ascension. Is the author of the Letter or Epistle of James, and a brother named Judas wrote the Letter of Jude.
- Ascended Extra: Much more important in the Book of Acts.
- Heel-Face Turn: Didn't support Jesus at first, but converted after his death.
- The Magnificent: His title "The Just" is not from the Bible but from Eastern Christianity. According to tradition, he earned the title by being so true to both the Law of Moses and Jesus's teachings that even non-Christians recognized him as a righteous man.
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: He and Jesus's other brothers didn't believe in him, causing Jesus to invoke this.
- One Steve Limit: Averted as he shares a name with two of Jesus' apostles. James is actually the same name as Jacob, transformed as it went through various languages, and so was a very common name for the time.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Was this for the Jewish Christians during the Apostolic Age, while Paul was a similar figurehead for Gentile Christians and Peter skirted both sides. Traditionally the first bishop of Jerusalem, appointed by Peter, John and John's brother James before he died.
- Thicker Than Water: Averted by Jesus, who didn't go out to meet his mother and brothers when they came to see him while he was preaching. He claimed that his real mother, brothers and sisters were those who followed God. Jesus also told John aka the Beloved Disciple to take care of his mother, when this would have been a snub to James.
- Also, Catholics and Orthodox don't believe he was a son of Mary, but rather a son of Joseph only from a previous marriage (as seen in the non-canon book Protoevangelion or Infancy Gospel) or a relative in some other manner.
Herod the Great
The King of Judea at Jesus's birth.
The King of Judea at Jesus's death.
- Affably Evil: Had John the Baptist imprisoned, but liked him and had him well-treated.
- A Birthday, Not a Break: On one birthday, he was forced to kill John the Baptist, whom he considered his friend. On another, he was killed for blasphemy.
- A God Am I: During his birthday party several guests claimed he was a god and he did nothing to deny it. Bad move.
- I Gave My Word: Tells his daughter he'll give her anything she wants if she dances for him. She does, then demands the head of John the Baptist.
- Incest Is Relative: Married his aunt Herodias while she was still married to his brother. John the Baptist called them out on it, and it got him imprisoned and eventually executed.
- Laser-Guided Karma: For claiming A God Am I, he was struck down during his birthday party with a seizure, then eaten by intestinal worms.
The Roman governor of Judea.
- Anti-Villain: Depicted as a mostly fair ruler who was caught between killing an innocent man or setting him free and risking the people's rebellion.
- Batman Gambit: When carrying out the tradition of freeing one prisoner on the Passover, he had the other choice be the criminal Barabbas in hopes that people would pick Christ over him. It didn't work.
- Heel-Face Turn: Some stories say he converted to Christianity.
- Historical Villain Downgrade: When compared to the primary evidence we do have. By all contemporary accounts Pilate was a rude, undiplomatic, chauvinistic, and authoritarian colonial Prefect who went out of his way to rub the Jews down with his Cultural Posturing before getting recalled when it got too much even for Tiberius Caesar. Granted, as far as Roman officials went (especially in uncooperative regions) this was not unusual and we don't have much reason to believe he was overly corrupt, bloodthirsty, or venal; just that he was not exactly passive.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: He's often depicted as the man directly responsible for ordering the death of Jesus. Actually, in the Gospels themselves, he only does so reluctantly because he has no choice.
- Though the validity of those is questionable in and of itself, given what scant historical records say about him and the position of Prefect. See Historical Villain Downgrade.
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone."
A religious faction of Jews, along with Saducees and scribes, and like them a frequent target of Jesus's preaching.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: See quote. They followed the ceremonies of the law to a T, but they completely over looked the more important spirit of the law.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: "If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent."
- Greed: They turned the temple into a bank.
- Holier Than Thou / Pride: Their besetting sins, according to Jesus.
- Hypocrite: They followed the ceremonies of the law to a T, but they completely over looked the more important spirit of the law. Their religion was more to make them look good in front of men than out of any real love for God. For example, they got mad at the disciples for eating with unwashed hands, but they themselves plotted murder and stole from people.
- Irony: They had a reputation as being very religious. They also were some of Jesus's worst enemies.
- Insane Troll Logic: They accused Jesus of being Demonically Possessed because He healed people and cast out demons.
- Loophole Abuse: Sort of; they had to make up a new rule to do it. They had a tradition that if something was declared "Qorban" or "devoted to God," it was not to be used for secular use, and they would use that as a excuse not to use whatever it was to help their parents.
- Morton's Fork: One of their preferred strategies for trying to entrap Jesus: Should we execute this woman for adultery (defying the law of Rome), or not (defying the law of Moses)? Should we pay taxes to Rome (a very unpopular idea) or not (Caesar would like to have a word with you)? (In each case, Jesus Took a Third Option.)
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Jesus called them out not only for being holier-than-thou, but for putting unnecessary restrictions on the average folk.
- Rules Lawyer: And really didn't like it that Jesus' Rule Fu Was Stronger.
- Token Good Teammate: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea. Early in Christ's ministry, Nicodemus came to him in secret to ask about his doctrine. He also assisted in burying Christ, while Joseph gave his own pre-bought tomb for Jesus to be buried in.
- What the Hell, Hero?: They were not really heroes; they only claimed to be, but the Pharisees made the temple into a den of thieves and Jesus rebuked them for this.
Also known as the Wise Men, they were astrologer-priests from the East (most likely Zoroastrian
) who came to see the baby or child Jesus according to Matthew. Tradition calls them kings, but this isn't in the text. In Western Christianity they're also often assumed to number three because they brought three kinds of gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh), but they're not numbered in the text either. In Eastern Christianity they're said to be twelve.
The names of the Magi are not given in Matthew but tradition gives the names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar.
- Canon Foreigner: The Fourth Wise Man.
- Cross Cultural Kerfuffle: Should kids in Hispanic America (especially in Puerto Rico) get their presents from Santa or the Magi? The eternal debate!
- The Magi are often pictured in Arabic headgear despite not actually being Arabs.
- Then again, what people might call "Arabic Headgear" is generally common less because of ethnic identification and more because it's one of the best things to use in a desert.
- The Determinator: Artaban spent *his whole life* trying to deliver his present to Jesus.
- My New Gift Is Lame: While gold and frankincense are valuable and holy gifts, myrrh was used in burials and thus was unusually morbid to give to a newborn. It's implied it may have been as a Call Forward to Christ's eventual death to atone all sins.
- Numerological Motif: Three Kings, three presents.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Like traveling around the world on camel to deliver presents to the Son Of God personally.
- Rule of Three: Naturally. (Except in "The Fourth Wise Man.")
- Samaritan Syndrome: What kept Artaban from finding Jesus.
- Token Minority: Melchior is often depicted as being black.
- Five-Token Band: Many depictions actually make them three different races to symbolize the entire world coming together in awe of Christ.
The Twelve Apostles (in general)
Jesus had many disciples or followers and from these he chose a core group of twelve. These twelve were known as "apostles", meaning both messengers and delegates, since even before his death Jesus ordered them to go in advance to places he would visit and preach there. (Jesus also ordered another group of seventy (or seventy-two) disciples to do the same.) The twelve apostles also accompanied Jesus in his travels until his death.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke list the twelve apostles with a few variations, while the gospel of John doesn't list all of them. They're commonly given as: Simon Peter, Andrew the brother of Peter, James the brother of John, John, Philip, Bartholomew (aka Nathaniel in John), Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Judas son (or brother, the Greek is inexact) of James (aka Thaddeus), Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot the Betrayer
. The Acts of the Apostles says Matthias was later brought into the group as Judas' replacement.
- Flat Earth Atheist: Thomas has this reputation if the phrase "doubting Thomas" is anything to go by, but it's fairly unjustified. All the Apostles had trouble accepting Jesus' resurrection without physical proof; Thomas was just singled out because he arrived late. In addition, Jesus readily offered said proof and they immediately believed upon seeing it.
- La Résistance: Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were freedom fighters/terrorists who opposed Roman rule, later famed for their last stand at Masada.
- Possibly Judas Iscariot as well, if "Iscariot" is derived from the Sicarii, another anti-Roman group who carried out assassinations with daggers (sicae). So yeah Judas might have been an Assassin. Though some historians say this is anachronistic and interpret Iscariot as "from Kerioth (a town in Judea)".
- Literal-Minded: The Apostles were often clueless about the things Jesus taught. They thought that Jesus was coming to restore the monarchy that David started even after Jesus rose from the dead. It wasn't until after Jesus sent the Holy Spirit that the Apostles understood everything.
- Numerological Motif: It's popularly thought that the reason why twelve Apostles were chosen - not, say, ten - was because there were twelve tribes of Israel.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with two Jameses, the two Judases, and also with a second John (the first being John the Baptist). Played straight with Simons, as Jesus named one "Peter"—but even then, yet another Simon was involved in the crucifixion.
- Some traditions give Thomas's original name as Judas as well. "Thomas" derives from an Aramaic word meaning "twin", and he is also called "Didymos" which also means "twin" in Greek, so both might be nicknames.
- If Levi son of Alphaeus is the same as Matthew, Matthew's father has the same name as the father of one of the Jameses. But no tradition of Matthew and that James being brothers has survived.
- Historically, Western Christianity (Roman Catholics, post-Reformation churches) has tended to distinguish the two apostles named James as "James the Great/Greater" (James brother of John, son of Zebedee) and "James the Less/Lesser" (James son of Alphaeus). This comes from Mark's gospel where one James is called ho mikros in Greek and minor in Latin. More recent translations have favored the translation "younger" instead of "lesser". However, Eastern Christianity (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholics, etc.) tends to identify James "the lesser/younger" with James the Just, called the brother of Jesus, but believed not to be a biological son of Mary, and not a member of the Twelve. An ancient Christian writer lampshaded this saying "yep, there are many called James". This is because James is a mutation of Jacob, a very common Jewish name, as it passed through different languages to English.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Jesus gathered together fishermen, a tax collector and a freedom fighter (or two), among others.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Since many of the apostles worked in blue-collar occupations such as fishing, it's fair to assume they were manly men—and loved Jesus, of course.
- The Sixth Ranger: Matthias, who replaced Judas after his death.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome/We Hardly Knew Ye: In the Gospels James the brother of John is one of the three most prominent Apostles, after Peter and John, and the three of them apparently were Jesus's "inner inner circle" given the way they're singled out. Early in the Acts of the Apostles he's executed with the sword by Herod Antipas (likely and traditionally beheaded). In fact he's the only Apostle whose death is recorded in the New Testament.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Tradition states that, except for John, they were all martyred in different places around the world. Without any concrete evidence, their fates still remain vague.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Jesus did this to the disciples after they rebuked people for bringing their children to see Jesus.
- Undying Loyalty: Subverted. They all swear not to abandon Jesus when when he says he will be arrested, but they all scatter when the moment comes. Except in the Gospel of John which has the unnamed "beloved disciple", usually accepted to be John, as the only one who stays true.
Peter the Apostle
"And I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
Originally named Simon, he was one of the first disciples. Jesus gave him the name Peter, so he is often called "Simon Peter". The most prominent of the twelve apostles. He and his brother Andrew used to be fishermen. Traditional author of the Letters of Peter.
- Character Development: Post-Pentecost, Peter becomes one of the top leaders of Jesus's movement and gains maturity from it.
- Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: Jesus predicts that this will signal Peter's Friendship Denial. He's right.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: As the Gospel of John (likely written after his death) might allude, he was crucified. Tradition says he was crucified upside down. Also counts as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, as he specifically requested to be crucified upside down; he felt he didn't deserve to die the same way as his lord. This is why one of the symbols of Christian fealty is an upside-down cross, and not a Satanic Anti-Christian symbol.
- Friendship Denial: Peter was warned by Jesus that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows, and a few moments later, Jesus was right. This didn't go well for Peter at all.
- During two accounts of Jesus's arrest scene, Peter cuts off a soldier's ear with his sword (and one of these accounts makes it clear that, yes, Jesus healed it). This is just one of the many times Peter opens his mouth and inserts his foot.
- Also, the time when Jesus tells Peter that anything he asks by faith will be granted. The first thing Peter asks for? That Jesus doesn't have to die. Jesus immediately rebukes it, repeating that his death is preordained.
- Meaningful Rename: Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, which means "(a) rock". Catholics thus take Jesus' pronouncement "On this rock I will build my church" to mean that Jesus would establish Peter as leader of his church on earth, making Peter essentially the first Pope. Though the phrase is ambiguous enough that other Christians have understood it to mean that Jesus would establish his church upon Peter's faith, or prior statement of faith, that Jesus was the Messiah. Catholics do believe this as well, but emphasize Peter's personal role.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: After His resurrection, Jesus tells the women to "Go tell the disciples and Peter." This is an inversion of the trope, however, since Jesus is saying "Despite his Friendship Denial, make sure that Peter knows he's still included."
- My God, What Have I Done?: His reaction after realizing that not only was Jesus right about his Friendship Denial, Jesus was right there and heard him say it.
- One Steve Limit: Enforced. Since there was another Simon among the twelve, Jesus gave him the Peter nickname instead.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Called by Paul a pillar of the church in Jerusalem, along with John and James the Lord's brother. When religious disputes between Gentile Christians (a faction identified with Paul) and Jewish Christians (a faction identified with James) began breaking out, Peter had a history with both sides and helped James work out a compromise at a council of all the Christians.
- Red Baron: His real name was Simon, and Jesus called him Peter - in very literal English Simon the Rock.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Initially, Peter was the Hot-Blooded foil to Jesus's calm demeanor, but post-Pentecost, he got better.
- Rule of Three: Peter denies Jesus three times. Later Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times.
- Take Up My Sword: According to Catholic dogma, Jesus left Peter in charge of the movement he started. The Orthodox also believe in the primacy of Peter and his successor the Bishop of Rome aka the Pope, but not supremacy. Protestants tend to believe even his primacy was only temporary.
- Translation Convention: In the earliest surviving manuscripts, written in Greek, he is named Petros. This becomes Petrus in Latin and Peter in English. But the gospel of John clarifies that Jesus really named him Cephas, which means the same as Peter. Cephas is a Greek-style rendering of the Aramaic word kepha which means rock. Paul also preferred to call him Cephas in his letters. For extra complication, his original name in Aramaic was Simeon and Simon is the Greek form.
- Unbuilt Trope: Catholics consider him the first Pope but they acknowledge that the position has developed a lot through the centuries. They just maintain that the essentials can be traced back to Peter.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Soon after Jesus praised Peter for declaring he was the Messiah, even saying this was divine revelation, Peter didn't believe him when he said he would die and come back from the dead. When Peter tried to talk him out of it, Jesus called him Satan and an obstacle.
John the Apostle
"He who does not know love does not know God because God is love."
One of the first disciples besides Peter, Andrew and his own brother James, like them he was a fisherman. A son of Zebedee and Salome. Traditionally the author of the Gospel of John, the Letters of John and the Revelation to John.
- And That Little Boy Was Me: The ending of John's Gospel reveals that the unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" was the Narrator All Along. At no point does the Gospel name the disciple as John (once referring to "the sons of Zebedee" in third person), but it's pretty clear from inference.
- Hot-Blooded: He and James often fought over who would have a better position in Heaven, to the point where their mother had to ask Jesus in order to have them stop fighting.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jesus, if you think that "the disciple whom he loved" was him.
- Last of His Kind: Traditionally the last of the Twelve Apostles to die, and the only one not to be killed as a martyr. The Gospel of John is universally considered the latest-written of the four canonical Gospels.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with John the Apostle and John the Baptist.
- The author of the Book of Revelation explicitly names himself John unlike the author of the Gospel and Letters, but some modern critics and even a few ancient ones believe the former to be different from the latter, because the latter have a similar literary style while the former is different. Thus the author of Revelation is sometimes known as "John of Patmos" (after the island he was on), or "John the Presbyter" (noted as a disciple of John the Apostle by one early Christian writer).
- Red Baron: Jesus called James and John "Boanerges" or "sons of thunder."
- Tagalong Kid: Downplayed. John was traditionally the youngest of the Apostles.
- Take Care of the Kids: The beloved disciple and Jesus's mother Mary were among the people who witnessed Jesus's crucifixion. When Jesus saw them, he said to Mary "Behold your son", and to the disciple he said "Behold your mother". From that point, the disciple took care of Mary as if she was his own mother (though his real mother was still alive - and according to the other Gospels, also there.) Many Christians, including Catholics and Orthodox, have seen this passage as symbolic of Mary being made the Team Mom to the whole Church, with the disciple representing the Church in general.
- Undying Loyalty: According to the Gospel of John, the beloved disciple was the only Apostle to be with Jesus as he died.
Matthew the Apostle
Traditionally the author of Matthew's Gospel. The figure of "Levi son of Alphaeus" (whose name doesn't appear in the Apostle lists) in Luke and Mark is equated to him in Matthew.
"Have you come to betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
The one who betrayed Jesus, leading to his arrest and execution.
A prisoner marked for execution but released in place of Jesus. Pontius Pilate offered to release one prisoner and the people in attendance chose Barabbas.
- La Résistance: He was imprisoned for taking part in an insurrection and thus was a rebel against Roman rule. Some critics suspect he was a Zealot, though the texts don't state this.
- Meaningful Name: Barabbas is Greek for the Aramaic name Bar Abba, a Patronymic that means "son of the father". So the "son of the father" was spared while the "real Son of the Father" wasn't.
- One Steve Limit: Averted in some manuscripts which give his full name as Jesus Barabbas, taking the irony even further. Jesus was a common name for the time and place.
- The Pardon: He gets it instead of Jesus.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Apparently a celebrity to the Jewish people, though a public enemy of the Romans.