Jesus attracted a wide range of Jewish followers, both men and women. Inasmuch as he was trying to get all Israel to turn away from foreign influences and back to the Mosaic Law, he was talking to all parts of Jewish society.
It would be reasonable, then, for his closest followers to include representatives of the various philosophies and social classes, and to be a cross-section of Jewish male society. When Jesus debated with “the Pharisees”, for example, there is no reason to think that they weren’t members of the Twelve.
In “The Gospel According to the Romans” I identify the Twelve in this way:
- The fishermen James and John, and Andrew and Simon Peter – illiterate, unaffiliated with a particular philosophy, but anti-Roman
- Judas Iscariot (or “the Sicariot”) and Simon Zealotes (“the Zealot”) as Zealots – part of the armed resistance to the Romans
- Little James and his brother Judas Thaddeus as Essenes who avoided Romans
- Philip and Bartholomew, Pharisees who argued about correct attitudes regarding the Law and the Romans
- Thomas, a Sadducee willing to make allowances for the Romans
- Matthew, a foreign-born Greek-educated Jew who had worked for the Romans – a lost sheep who was returned to the flock
This covers the range of Jewish men. Jesus also had a diversity of women among his followers, such as the three who lived in Tiberias at Herod Antipas’ court: Mary Magdalene; Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza; and Susanna. A couple more, Mary and Martha, were sisters of Lazarus, close associates of Jesus, and assistants at the resurrection of Lazarus.