Follow TV Tropes


Characters / The Four Gospels

Go To

The various characters of The Four Gospels. See also Acts of the Apostles for how they're depicted in that work.

    open/close all folders 

    Jesus of Nazareth 
"I am the way, the truth, and the life."

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.

  • Badass Preacher: While mostly portrayed as calm, the time He trashed the markets and 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 or location for cons and scamming the poor and downtrodden.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: He will/did die for your sins but if you ever happen to push His Berserk Button, may God help you...actually, He wouldn't.
  • 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.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Frequently a target of this.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: As some styles of writing capitalize pronouns referring to deities, He often receives this treatment in translations of the Bible.
  • Cassandra Truth: "Jesus answered and said to him, 'What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.'" (John 13:7). Also, a lot of people Jesus spoke to did not believe Him, such as the Pharisees.
  • Catchphrase: Often starts His sentences with "Verily I say unto you" ("I tell you the truth" in modern translations).
    • Also, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
  • Celibate Hero: In the Bible Jesus does not marry or show romantic or sexual interest in anyone.
  • 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: In one instance, when asked if an adulterer should be stoned, Jesus wrote or drew something in the dirt with his finger instead of answering.
    • Actually, what He wrote was not random at all; it's speculated that He wrote was the names of the Pharisees who asked the question as well as the list of sins that they themselves had committed. This was not only to show that they were not free of sins (and hence should also be punished, according to their own logic), but also adds to His authority to forgive sins (including that of the adulteress who was to be stoned).
    • Obfuscating Stupidity: A lot of the time, these moments DO help Him make His point.
  • 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, for example the Crown of Thorns.
  • Deadpan Snarker: If you happened to be Pharisees or Sadducees.
  • 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: While the most important details are consistent across the four Gospels (such as Jesus being the Son of God and the Messiah), some smaller details vary between the four Gospels, partly due to the authors not all being in the same place at the same time.
  • Descend From A Higher Plane Of Existence
  • 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. The most prominent example is how 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.
  • Eccentric Mentor: See Cloud Cuckoolander; some writers tend to take this Up to Eleven, resulting in Jesus Was Way Cool.
  • 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 approaching Him to hear Him speak or crowd around Him, explaining that children have exemplary faith in His Kingdom. He then blessed the children and went back to what he was doing before.
  • Friend to All Living Things: He made a point of drawing parables from nature, inviting His disciples to "Consider the Lilies" or "Consider the birds of the air."
  • A God Am I: "Before Abraham was, I Am." (Double points for invoking the name of God revealed to Moses in the Old Testament.)
    • Whether Jesus actually claimed to be divine is open to interpretation and heavily debated among contemporary theologians (see Nontrintarianism). For example, "Son of God" may be more of a symbolic title ascribed to any peacemaker (Matthew 5:9), not only Jesus.
  • God in Human Form: He claimed to be, leading to accusations of blasphemy from the Pharisees.
    • Again, this is a currently debated topic. See A God Am I above.
  • 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: The Trope Namer. Jesus calls Himself this, and lives up to it, including the part about laying down His life for the sheep.
  • Healing Hands: He healed a lot of people who were sick, handicapped and/or maimed, 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...
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Crucifiction involved impaling a person through their wrists and ankles to the cross.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Jesus was even tempted by the Devil himself in a moment of seeming vulnerability (Satan tried to tempt Jesus with food while the latter was hungry from fasting), but He 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.
    • However, in many instances, it was the other person or people who argued with Jesus that started the argument.
  • 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, or dressed in white, representing purity.
  • 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: One example; Jesus had no trouble gathering His twelve apostles. In fact, most of them Jumped at the Call. Justified as, with God's help, He'd have all the knowledge He needed to choose the people in question.
  • 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).
  • Matter Replicator: A living case of one, as He multiplied fish and loaves of bread to feed the masses from just one boy's lunch.
  • 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 when they tried to discredit Him.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: The Trope Namer and the page quote-provider. Yeah, He wasn't exactly popular in Nazareth.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: More recent scholarship on both sides of the Jewish/Christian divide has recognized that whatever else he may be, Jesus was definitely a Jew whose lifestyle and teachings were perfectly at home in Roman-era Judea. And of course, "nice" goes without saying.
  • 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • When the guy known for using His powers for good turns and curses a fig tree after finding no fruit on it, causing it to wither and die, you know something serious is about to go down. This could have been invoked Foreshadowing as 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.)
    • Taken Up to Eleven when Jesus said to love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
  • 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). Ultimately averted as 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 an Israelite (descendant of Israel) who lived in the Middle East. The most famous branch of Israelites are the descendants of Judah, commonly called Jews. There have been several branches of Judaism, now commonly referred to as either Ashkenazi or Sephardic (Mizrahi, Yemenite, Kurdish, etc.). In academic studies, beyond generally agreeing that "Jesus was Jewish", modern scholarship has not conclusively dealt with the question of what "being Jewish" then meant. In most Western art, he's almost universally depicted as a white guy with straight brown hair. This may be seen as Artistic License to help the viewers contextualize Jesus as a person who can identify with them; in Europe he is blonde (or brunette) with blue eyes, in African art he is often depicted as black, in Asian art he is given Oriental features, and so on.
  • Rainbow Text: In addition to speaking in ALL CAPS, many versions of the Bible also have Jesus speaking in red text.
  • "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; something at least one of them (Thomas) outright stated.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: One example of his ethics. See the parable about the eye of the needle and some of the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees.
  • 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; note, when the angel opened Jesus' tomb, the sight of a single angel made a group of soldiers so afraid they fainted.
  • The Storyteller: His preferred method of teaching was telling Parables, usually with An Aesop included.
  • Suicidal Pacifism: True to his teaching to Turn the Other Cheek and not resist evil with violence, when his enemies show up to take him to his death, he not only doesn't resist in the least, he heals a man injured by one of his disciples. He explains that he could call legions of angels to fight for him, but that's not what he's about.
  • Take a Third Option: One of His specialties.
  • 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, especially since sometimes we humans can be slow to learn from our mistakes. Or His message is one that can speak to all people across time.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The Trope Codifier. He was mocked and whipped before he was crucified. Although, his death wasn't him being rescued from said sinful earth, but him taking the punishment for its sins on himself. After the resurrection, he also stayed around for a bit before his ascension into Heaven.
  • Thanatos Gambit: He comes Back from the Dead.
  • Third-Person Person: He often referred to himself as "the Son of Man," in a third-person kind of way, when he was prophesying or talking about his role as the Messiah.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Some sins are unforgivable even for him, such as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
    "And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
  • 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.
    • He was by no means an Extreme Doormat, however. He was always quick to call people out on their sinful attitudes and walk away from potentially explosive circumstances; it was only until Good Friday that He did not resist being arrested, tried, and then executed on false charges.
  • The Un-Reveal: 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: Jesus liked these. One of the repeated refrains of the Gospels was that the people reacted with what He said with amazement. He even announced His own eventual betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection to his disciples, who were unsurprisingly alarmed and confused at His words.
  • Whip It Good: According to John's gospel, Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove all the sheep and cattle away from the temple courts. He then scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He was also the recipient of scourging (being flogged with whips that had metal barbs attached to them so as to flay the skin) by Roman soldiers on the way to his crucifiction.
  • 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. Protestants rejected this account due to the event not mentioned in the scripture.
  • Beauty = 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" (Matthew 12:46) as literal or metaphorical.
    • According to Matthew's account, Virgin Mary might not have stayed virgin after giving birth to Jesus and is implied to have union with Joseph afterward (Matthew 1:25), in contrast to Catholic accounts.
    • Some believe that by agreeing to be Jesus' surrogate mother, she had effectively 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 a temple maiden 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.
  • 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.
  • Mum Looks Like a Sister: Depictions of her at the time of the Passion of the Christ, including Michelangelo's famous Pieta, portray her as extremely young for the mother of the thirty-three-year-old Jesus. Also, if Mary was Jesus's sole biological parent, some figure this would have made Jesus her Opposite-Sex Clone.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Experienced one. (Hint: There's a good reason she's referred to as the Virgin Mary.)
  • One-Scene Wonder: All we know about her is that she was a young peasant girl who was engaged to Joseph and (with her consent) experienced a Mystical Pregnancy. Beyond that, she doesn't have much characterization in the Biblical text itself; most of the popular interpretations of her character and appearance came from various theologians in the Catholic Church.
  • 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. However, for Protestants, the relationship between her and Jesus is merely surrogate mother and son, and the latter occasionally rejected her request.
    • 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, due to being seen as the perfect mother figure as the mother of Jesus and the spiritual mother to His followers. She is popularly depicted as beautiful and graceful, humble, chaste, wise, and altruistic, being held up as the perfect woman, and many Christian (especially Catholic) and Muslim girls are encouraged to be more like her.
  • 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.
  • Teenage Pregnancy: Her age isn't mentioned anywhere in the gospels, but most scholars figure she was a young teen when she got pregnant with Jesus since people tended to marry young in those days. Goes hand in hand with Mum Looks Like a Sister.
  • True Blue Femininity: Traditionally depicted wearing blue robes(This is generally the origin of this trope.)
  • Virgin Power: In that she becomes pregnant and gives birth while still a virgin. Catholics and Orthodox believe that she remained a virgin her whole life, and also has powers of intercession for such things as healing. Other denominations believe that Mary lost her virginity to Joseph not long after Jesus's birth, citing the fact that Jesus had several younger siblings, but consider her saintly nonetheless.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Scripturally she is mentioned as late as Acts chapter 1 being among those gathered for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that's it. Catholic and Orthodox traditional teachings fill in the gaps, as noted above.
  • 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.

  • Agent Scully: Joseph is, quite understandably, very skeptical about the claim that his fiancée had a miraculous virgin pregnancy rather than sleeping with another man. Fortunately, he comes around when the Archangel Gabriel explains it to him in a dream.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome/Disappeared Dad: Theological scholars speculate Joseph's lack of appearance later in the story 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 (or, depending on how you translate that term, he might have been an entirely unskilled laborer). On top of that, 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 publicly humiliated (and then possibly put to death for being an "adulteress"). That was really decent of him compared to how any other person of his time and place would've thought.
  • Nice Guy:
    • While it's debatable how nice he was in "only" wanting to divorce Mary quietly (this would have all but condemned her to a life of prostitution, since a poor single mother in first century Palestine would've had very few alternative income options), as soon as he got divine instruction he was willing obey and not ask questions. This saves Mary's (and by extension Jesus') life twice—once from a lynch mob of self-appointed Moral Guardians, and once more when Herod sent troops in hopes of murdering the infant Jesus.
    • Some denominations hold that by agreeing to be God's surrogate mother, Mary effectively dedicated herself to lifelong chastity. This means that Joseph was not just willing to marry her anyway and claim Jesus as his own son, but also to stay faithful to her for at least twelve years without physically consummating their marriage.
    • He also scolded Jesus in the Temple story for causing distress, specifically to His mother.

    John the Baptist 
And there was a cry from the wilderness...

An ascetic preacher who was the forerunner to Jesus, known for baptizing people as a sign of repentance/purification (Gentiles who wanted to convert to Judaism had to ritually cleanse themselves, usually via a bath, but some rituals also included pouring/sprinkling water over the penitent; John caused a public stir by baptizing Jews). 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.
  • Precursor Hero: Sort of. The point of his mission was to prepare ground for Jesus.
  • Turbulent Priest: What got him imprisoned, including calling out Herod on marrying his aunt Herodias while she was still married to his brother.
  • Wonder Child: His parents were aged, making conception unlikely.

    Mary Magdalene 
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 in cultural depictions, mainly because the resurrected Jesus first appears to her in the Gospel of John while she is alone, and also due to the historical tendency in the West to conflate her with three other women: Mary of Bethany, a sinful woman and a woman caught in adultery. In all four canonical gospels she is also consistently a witness to both the crucifixion and the empty tomb.
  • Demonic Possession: Supposedly had seven demons trapped within her, until Jesus healed her. Exegesis which identified her with the unnamed "sinful woman" who appears elsewhere linked the seven demons to the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • Due to the Dead: She's one of the women who witness both Jesus's burial and the empty tomb days later, having gone there to anoint his body with myrrh and other spices (further).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Traditionally she has been depicted as a harlot, but this comes from tradition and not from Scripture.
    • The unnamed "sinful woman" (who anointed Jesus with perfume as a gesture of honor, as well as "cleaning" his feet with her tears and hair as penitence) actually comes from a passage in the gospel of Luke several chapters after Mary Magdalene's debut, and this woman is never stated to be Mary Magdalene nor a harlot.
  • One Steve Limit: Another aversion; she shares a name with Jesus' mom and other women named 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 (if not the very first) to see him back from the dead.

    Martha, Mary and Lazarus 

Siblings from Bethany in Judea who were followers of Jesus, who is said to have loved all three.

  • Back from the Dead: Lazarus is most famous as one of the people Jesus brought back to life, after dying of an illness.
  • Due to the Dead: Though they're not explicitly identified by name, Eastern Christianity traditionally counts Martha and Mary among the "myrrh-bearers", a group of women who went to Jesus's tomb in order to anoint his body and thus saw at least the empty tomb.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Martha and Mary are contrasted this way, but this is played with.
    • Martha invites Jesus into their home and busies herself with showing hospitality while Mary listens at Jesus's feet. Martha complains about being left to do all the housework herself, but Jesus gently tells her to cool it since Mary chose what was more important.
    • On another occasion, Martha is serving at a dinner held for Jesus, while Lazarus is eating with him, and Mary surprises his apostles by anointing Jesus with some very expensive perfume as a grand gesture of devotion and honor. The apostles (particularly Judas) are indignant about this, calling it extravagant and wasteful, but Jesus says she has done an admirable thing because she has prepared him for his burial.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted yet again.
    • Mary of Bethany is yet another Mary in the gospels. Western Christianity has until recently tended to conflate her with Mary Magdalene (meaning Mary of Magdala, a different place) and the sinful woman who also anointed Jesus, while Eastern Christianity has always maintained they are separate people (and the two anointings are different though similar incidents).
    • Lazarus is also the name of a sickly beggar in one of Jesus's parables, who goes to heaven while a rich man who ignored him goes to hell.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Martha and Mary again. Besides the above incidents, when Lazarus dies it's Martha who goes to meet Jesus while Mary stays at home. Martha doesn't cry (or is not explicitly said to have), while later Mary does (and makes Jesus himself cry). When Jesus orders that Lazarus's tomb be opened, Martha shows her more "practical" side further when she says his body will smell since he's been dead for days.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Both sisters tell Jesus that Lazarus would not have died in the first place if he had come earlier and healed him. Jesus had received news of his illness some days earlier, but had delayed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Lazarus is resurrected, the chief priests and elders are also mentioned to be plotting his death along with Jesus's, but he is never mentioned again (as are the sisters, at least by name) after the anointing incident. Christian tradition says he and his sisters were eventually forced to flee persecution like many of Jesus's followers after Jesus was resurrected, but disagree on where they ended up. One tradition says they ended up in France, where further legends say Martha tamed a dragon-like creature called the Tarasque.

    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.
  • In Name Only: Discussed Trope in his epistles, as James didn't think someone who did nothing more than pay lip service to Jesus was a true believer.
  • 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 straddled 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.

    Herod Antipas 
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.
    • Some also interpret his interest in his daughter's dancing as this.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: For claiming A God Am I, he was supposedly struck down during his birthday party with a seizure, then eaten by intestinal worms. It has been generally decided that this is false.
  • Poisonous Friend: His wife, Herodias, was this to Herod on the subject of John. She stayed this to him for the rest of their lives.

    Pontius Pilate 
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.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: One reason historical records outside of the Gospels have little-to-no mention of his trial of Jesus. Pilate likely didn't know much about Jesus, if anything, before meeting Him, and most of the information he got came from the very biased Pharisees; Jesus could have been "another day, another internal dispute they need me to settle" to Pilate. Also, while he had a lot of leeway on what constituted justice, sentencing an innocent man to death could've made Pilate look bad, giving him another reason to downplay or omit Jesus' trial from records at the time.
  • Between A Rock And A Hard Place: Free an innocent man and risk causing major civil unrest when it's your whole job to prevent that, or execute the innocent man?
  • Culture Clash: To the Jews, Jesus' claim to be the Son of God was a Blasphemous Boast deserving the death penalty, but Pilate likely believed in Classical Mythology where a mortal being the actual son of a god was quite possible, and where killing a demigod would be a very bad idea.
  • Exact Words: He wrote a placard for Jesus' cross with the words "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." When the Pharisees protested it should say "This man said he was King of the Jews," Pilate retorted, "What I have written, I have written."
  • Heel–Face Turn: Some stories say he converted to Christianity.
    • Out, Damned Spot!: Others say he went mad with guilt and spent the rest of his life cleaning his hands with snow.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade/Historical Villain Upgrade: Zig-Zagged between the two. By all contemporary accounts (based on various historical records) 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. Despite this, he's often depicted as the man directly responsible for ordering the death of Jesus while in the Gospels themselves he only does so reluctantly because he has no choice and after trying to have Jesus pardoned more than once. It's reasonable to assume that, despite his rudeness and often rubbing the (supposed) superiority of Rome in the Jews faces, he'd balk at sentencing an innocent man to death.
    • This might also triple as a Historical Hero Upgrade: Given as Josephus describes him as a tyrannical and antisemitic judge, whereas in the Bible he was reluctant to crucify Jesus whilst being egged on by Jews. Though, it's possible Josephus exaggerated the accounts a little bit, being a Jew himself, thus making it hard to pinpoint the exact personality of the actual Pontius Pilate.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Symbolized by washing his hands.
  • Never My Fault: Hence why the "washing his hands" was done.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: He sent Jesus off to be tried by Herod when he found out He was from Nazareth. Unfortunately for Pilate, Herod saw through this ploy and sent Jesus right back.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Rather than risk the wrath of an angry mob, he chooses Lawful rather than do the morally right thing and release a man he believes to be innocent.

    The Pharisees 
"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.

  • Big Bad: They are the collective primary opponent of Jesus during his ministry, constantly conspiring to either incriminate Him or turn the people of Judea against Him.
  • Corrupt Church: They constantly disobeyed and twisted the Law of Moses for their own personal ends while claiming that everyone else should follow the law to the letter.
  • 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, especially for their personal use. Unfortunately, this contributed to the Greedy Jew slander.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: Jesus accused them of this.
  • 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.
  • Jews Love to Argue: A lot of space in the Gospels is taken up by the Pharisees' arguments with Jesus (who was Jewish himself too, of course) over the correct interpretation of the Torah.
  • 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.
  • Malicious Slander: They called Jesus crazy, demon-possessed, and a blasphemer (among other things), and they considered the people to be "uneducated rabble".
  • Misblamed: Given that Jesus and all the Apostles were canonically Jewish themselves, it should be clear that Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees is not meant to say that all Jewish people are bad or hypocritical, just the particular Holier Than Thou religious leaders being criticized.note  Regrettably, this context is largely lost on some later interpreters who have used such texts to justify antisemitism in the name of Christ— who, it's worth repeating, was Jewish.
  • 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.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: As rabbis, it was their job to interpret the Laws of God. Jesus pointed out that they did so in extremely hypocritical and self-serving ways.
  • Tautological Templar: Most of them. They had become corrupt in their positions, to the point that when the Messiah their faith prophesied appeared before them, even performing miracles, they tried to discredit Him and arrange his death when He called them out on their corruption.
  • 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.
  • Touché: A number of times when Jesus manages to outsmart them, they are said to be "impressed".
  • 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.

    The Magi 

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.

  • Astrologer: The Magi interpret the Star of Bethlehem to announce the birth of Jesus; they're exactly right.
  • Court Mage: Some historical interpretations of the word "Magi" see their role as closer to this rather than being kings themselves.
  • 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.)
    • Oriental Orthodox traditions say that at least one of the Magi came all the way from China.
  • 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: The Magi bring Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This led to the Word of Dante tradition that there were three Magi, one for each gift. Thus they're almost always depicted as three, despite the Scripture not actually specifying how many there were. (Some Eastern Orthodox traditions say there were as many as twelve.)
  • Star of Bethlehem: Led them to 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.
  • Word of Dante: The traditional names "Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar" came from a Greek manuscript from Alexandria that was written around AD 500, long after the Gospels.

    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 and Paul as the Sixth Ranger.

  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Thomas has this reputation, for example being the inspiration for the term "doubting Thomas", 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.
  • 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 (especially since this was the time when much of the work came from manual labor unaided by machines), it's fair to assume they were manly men—and loved Jesus, of course.
  • 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)".
  • 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.
    • On the other hand, after the Resurrection, the apostles all spent the rest of their lives dedicated to Jesus, and all of them suffered persecution as a result and all (except John) martyred.

    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.

  • Badass Beard: Depicted this way in later years. Though the beard was unrelated to badassery, he was among the most sword-swinging of the Apostles.
  • 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.
  • Commander Contrarian: He's often depicted as the contrarian second-in-command to Jesus, also in apocryphal works and later legends. This works as a contrast between Jesus and a fallible human, which sometimes forces Jesus to lay the plan down word-for-word for him, while also making a point that in spite of all his faults, he apparently had the best grasp on who Jesus really was.
  • 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. 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.
  • Hot-Blooded:
    • 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).
    • 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. This is just one of the many times Peter opens his mouth and inserts his foot.
  • Meaningful Rename: Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, which means "(a/the) 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. However, 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.
  • Noble Bigot: Like many Jewish people, harbored prejudice against Gentiles. In the book of Acts, God calls him out on this and he helps Cornelius come to faith. Later on, while he is willing to speak with Gentiles on his own, he ignores them when Jewish Christians are around. Paul calls him out on this.
  • One Steve Limit: Enforced. Since there was another Simon among the twelve, Jesus gave him the Peter nickname instead.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Peter does this a lot. It's even pointed out by the narrator:
    As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.)
  • 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 or Shimon 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.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The Quo Vadis ("Where are you going") tradition associated with Peter leads to this. The story goes that Peter tried to escape the persecution of Christians in Rome but a vision of Jesus made him change his mind and go back. Peter asked "Where are you going, Lord?" and Jesus answered that he was going to Rome to be crucified again, so Peter accepted his fate to die like his master.

    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. In art, he is often beardless to contrast with the others, as in famously Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper where he also has long hair, making him look feminine to modern eyes and fueling stuff like The Da Vinci Code...
  • 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.

    Judas Iscariot 
"Have you come to betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"

The one who betrayed Jesus, leading to his arrest and execution.

  • Biblical Bad Guy: Betraying Jesus qualifies him as one of the worst.
  • Les Collaborateurs: A more common villainous example.
  • Continuity Snarl: Matthew says he hanged himself, while Acts of the Apostles says he died in a fall, spilling his guts. Some reconcile this by assuming his dangling corpse fell and then burst open. (Note, however, that in those days, "hanging on a tree" was also used as a euphemism for impalement and/or crucifixion.)
  • Deceptive Disciple: Judas was sincere enough to make it into Jesus' inner circle of twelve, but didn't hesitate to sell Jesus out to the authorities.
  • Demonic Possession: If taken literally, it's said Satan entered into him when he went to betray Jesus.
  • Driven to Suicide: After learning that Jesus was going to be executed.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: See his page quote.
  • Face–Heel Turn: His betrayal, obviously.
  • Finding Judas: Trope Namer via the Gnostic Gospels but somewhat averted and not canon in the Four Gospels.
  • Heel Realization: He regretted betraying Jesus and tried to return the bribe money. The Pharisees were not impressed.
  • Greed: A recurring trait of his. Interestingly, the thirty pieces of silver Judas was paid is the same amount Jewish law requires you to pay someone if you murder their slave. Unfortunately this trait means he is the likely Ur-Example of the Greedy Jew stereotype, as he has no stated or apparent motivation to betray Jesus except perhaps for the money. (Or Demonic Possession if you take "Satan entered him" literally.) It doesn't help at all that the term Jew is very closely related to the name Judas, basically deriving from it, and anti-Semitism has historically exploited this.
  • Kiss of Death: How he identifies Jesus to the Romans when they come to arrest him.
  • Meaningful Name: Judas is the Greek form of Judah, the brother who got the idea to sell Joseph into slavery (and who the tribe of Judah, the Kingdom of Judah, the Roman province of Judea, and the terms Judaism, Jew and Jewish are all ultimately named after or derived from.)
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After he betrayed Jesus, he had a Heel Realization and was Driven to Suicide.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. He's actually one of two apostle Judases, the other who ends up going by Thaddeus. One of Jesus's brothers, who wrote the Book of Jude, is also named Judas.
  • Only in It for the Money: Possibly. He stole from the poor (see below) and betrayed Jesus for money.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": His very name became a byword for treachery so that even other people with the exact same name got theirs translated as "Jude" in English.
  • Stealing from the Till: This is noted of in John 12:6 when he is among those to complain when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus:
    "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it."
  • Token Evil Teammate: John's Gospel goes out of its way to show that Judas was evil from the beginning.
  • Trope Namer: To call someone a "Judas" is to say he is a traitor, hence trope names including Obvious Judas, Finding Judas, etc.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the books of Mark, Luke and John he disappears after he betrays Jesus. But Matthew mentions his death, as does Acts, the sequel to Luke.

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.

  • Meaningful Name: Barabbas is Greek for the Aramaic name Bar Abba, a Patronymic that means "son of the/his father". So the "son of the father" was spared while the "real Son of the Father" was cruficied.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in some manuscripts which give his full name as Jesus Barabbas, taking the irony even further. (In first century Palestine, if a Jewish man wasn't named Joshua/Jesus, Jacob/James, or Judas/Jude, he probably had a brother with that name.)
  • The Pardon: He gets it instead of Jesus.
  • 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.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Apparently a celebrity to the Jewish people, though a public enemy of the Romans.

    Joseph of Arimathea 

A Jewish councillor who inters the body of Jesus into a tomb which he had intended for himself.


Example of: