The 12 Disciples
The Christian Take on Ancient Astrology

#12 #babylonia #christianity #disciples #mithraism

Christianity adopted the importance of the number 12 from Jewish scriptures (where kings, judges and leaders often come in twelves), from Babylonian culture that infused the mythos of the region, and from pagan religions of the Roman Empire, who often divided the heavenly realm into 12 areas, each ruled by a different god. Also, pagan religions such as Mithraism had the son of God followed by 12 disciples. So when the Christian stories of Jesus emerged, it was only fitting that he too had 12 disciples. The stellar symbolism is still preserved in the solar halos that adorn the heads of the disciples in drawnings. Because these stories were not based on 12 actual people there are massive contradictions in the New Testament about who the 12 were - every list is different. See Mark 3:16-19, Matt. 10:2-4, Luke 6:14-16, John 21:2 and Acts 1:13. And although the 5th book of the New Testament is called "The Acts of the Apostles", their actual deeds are very brief, and some disciples are not mentioned at all. It is best to consider any "multiple of 12" element in the Bible to be based on copied pagan myths rather than being a historical account.1,2,3

1. The Number Twelve in Ancient Religion

#12 #astrology #christianity #greece #islam #israel #judaism #mithraism #religion #superstition #zoroastrianism

Starting out life as an immensely useful number for counting and dividing things, the number 12 became a number revered by mathematicians and early astronomers. So the skies were divided into 12 portions as were the months of year, reflecting the annual movement of heavenly bodies. Superstitions and religious beliefs were piled on top of respect for the number 12 and was adopted by multiple early civilisations. The sky, divided into 12, has each portion ruled by a personification, a god, a divine being, a teacher, a prophet or a son of the sun. Odin of Norse mythology sat on a chair that overlooked all of creation, and had 12 sons4. The Babylonians had the longest lasting influence upon our calendars, timekeeping, mathematics and religions; all of which emphasize the number 125,6. The Babylonians' most ancient myths defined zodiacs where each portion was ruled by a different god (some good, some evil)7. Pseudoscientific enterprises such as astrology have the number 12 at its core. The ancient Zoroastrians had twelve commanders on the side of light (light being a symbol for the sun)8, and in Judaism and the Hebrew Scripture there are many references to the 12 tribes of Israel, and later on the Greeks imagined 12 Gods on mount Olympus. Mithraists, and then Christians believed that their saviour had 12 disciples. Shi'a Muslims list 12 ruling Imams following Muhammad. Such holy persons are depicted with a bright solar light around their heads such as occurs when any object approaches from the sun and now stands infront of it. Although many ancient religions such as the Gnostics understood things like the twelve disciples of Mithras to be symbolic of the stages of the waning and waxing sun throughout the year, later religions took it literally and believed in an actual 12 disciples - and some still do.

Now we understand what stars, planets and stellar objects are, it makes no sense to retain the mystical, nonsensical connotations of the 'holy', 'perfect', 'divine' or 'special' number 12. If the number is employed in a practical sense to divide time, measurements, or angles, then the chances are it makes awesome mathematical sense to utilize such a factorable number as the number twelve. But if you see it used in a superstitious, religious, magical, paranormal, holy or weird way, then watch out, because you have entered the world of flat-earth delusion. It is, after all, only a number.

"The Divine Number 12: 12 Gods, 12 Disciples, 12 Tribes and the Zodiac" by Vexen Crabtree (2007)

2. Christian Adoption of the 12

#christianity #judaism #mithraism

As Christianity arose out of Judaism, it too inherited the reverence of the number 12. Jesus had 12 disciples. Early Gnostic Christians accepted this as a symbolic and figurative account according to its original meaning, but later Pauline Christians took it all literally.

The original source of this mysticism in sun worship and star gazing has never been completely lost: the representatives of the sun are still given an aurora behind their heads, representing the power and glory of the sun.

Book CoverJesus surrounds himself with 12 disciples. This is usually taken to be symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. This notion of 12 tribes, however, is itself a symbolic reference to the 12 signs of the zodiac in Babylonian astrology, which the Jews adopted whilst in exile in Babylon. The zodiac was an extremely important symbol in the Pagan world. Osiris-Dionysis is symbolically represented as the still spiritual center of the turning wheel of change represented by the 12 signs. [...] [In] the Mysteries of Mithras 12 disciples surrounded the godman, just as the 12 disciples surrounded Jesus. The Mithraic disciples were dressed up to represent the 12 signs of the zodiac and circled the initiate, who represented Mithras himself.

"The Jesus Mysteries"
Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy (1999) [Book Review]1

Other religious scholars such as "Robertson, Niemojewski, Volney and others" also hold that "as son-god Jesus had twelve apostles representing the twelve houses of the zodiac"2. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say why there were twelve disciples. But clearly, the solar son of the sun must have 12 disciples, because what happens when Judas fails them? In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, they immediately elect a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:21-26). The very fact that there are 12 apostles, and most of them are rarely mentioned at all in the New Testament, has made many think that most of the stories surrounding the apostles are merely re-written myths, rather than historical accounts. Such is the lure of the number 12.

St Paul who born Saul of Tarsus, which was the centre of Mithraism, a pagan gnostic religion. In Mithraism the Son of God had 12 disciples (as reported by Freke & Gandy above). St Paul, the first writer in history to mention Jesus, also says that Jesus "appeared to the Twelve" (1 Corinthians 15:5). Thus, from the very beginning, Paul included Roman 12-disciples myths into the Jesus story. Due to the already-existing popularity of this concept, it held. Many Jewish-Christians did NOT adopt this pagan concept of 12 disciples, so the Gospels accounts of the 12 are fragmentary and tenuous.

[Walter] Schmithals points out that almost all mentions of 'the Twelve' occur in narrative sections of the Gospels, not quoted sayings of Jesus, implying the number was just read back into the tradition by later narrators familiar with it. Conversely, the references to the Twelve on the lips of Jesus are scarce and mostly doubtful. To wit: in Mark 14:20, Jesus says his betrayer is 'one of the Twelve,' but neither Matthew nor Luke, who follow Mark, have the phrase, though each quotes or paraphrases the surrounding Markan material. Does this mean their copies of Mark, obviously much earlier than ours, lacked the phrase?

"Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition?" by Robert M. Price (2003)3

Source document for Matthew and Luke include both Mark and a common document called "Q". Another occasion of confusion can be seen in a phrase in Q that stated that the followers of Jesus would "sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel". It appears in Mathew. 19:28 and Luke 22:28-30, although Matthew inserts the word "twelve" to make "twelve thrones" and therefore implies twelve disciples. This inconsistency implies that the concept of "12 disciples" was not part of the original story.3

Price (2003) has investigated the question of the twelve in great detail, taking into account comparisons of the most ancient manuscripts.

1 Cor. 15:5 has a resurrection appearance to the Twelve, while Matt. 28:16, [Mark 16:14], and Luke 24:33 have Jesus appear to the eleven, Judas being offstage. But of course this is what we would expect since the Gospels have assimilated the Judas subplot, while the epistles have not. [...]

Thomas (Greek: Didymus, 'twin') was the Hebrew name for the constellation Gemini, but it was not used as an ordinary proper name. In any case, it must have been an epithet, not a primary name. He would have been known as So-and-So the Twin. Tradition, preserved in The Acts of Thomas, The Gospel of Thomas, The Book of Thomas the Contender, and some manuscripts of John, call him Judas Thomas. [...] In the early church, especially in Syria, many considered Judas Thomas the twin brother of Jesus, perhaps his physical likeness, perhaps his spiritual twin. [...]

The canonical lists of the Twelve (Mark 3:16-19, Matt. 10:2-4, Luke 6:14-16, John 21:2, Acts 1:13) do not agree in detail, nor do manuscripts of single gospels! If the Twelve were as important as church rhetoric would suggest, how is it possible that such uncertainty should exist even upon the point of who they were?

"Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition?" by Robert M. Price (2003)3

By Vexen Crabtree 2016 Nov 25
Originally published 2007 Sep 059
Parent page: Christianity

References: (What's this?)

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The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.

Budge, E. A. Wallis. (1857-1934)
(1921) The Babylonian Legends of the Creation.

Freke, Timothy & Gandy, Peter
(1999) The Jesus Mysteries. Paperback book. 2000 edition. Published by Thorsons, London, UK. Book Review.

Mackenzie, Donald A.
(1915) Myths of Babylonia and Assyria. E-book. Amazon Kindle digital edition produced by Sami Sieranoja, Tapio Riikonen and PG Distributed Proofreaders.

Price, Robert M.
(2003) Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition?. Published by Prometheus Books, NY, USA.

Reynolds, Alfred
(1993) Jesus Versus Christianity. Paperback book. Originally published 1988. Current version published by Cambridge International Publishers, London UK.

Sagan, Carl
(1995) Cosmos. Paperback book. Originally published 1981 by McDonald & Co. Current version published by Abacus.


  1. Freke & Gandy (1999) p51.^^
  2. Reynolds (1993) p77-78.^^
  3. Price (2003) chapter 7, The Twelve Disciples. Added to this page on 2016 Nov 25.^^
  4. Wikipedia URL accessed 2007 Sep 05.^
  5. Mackenzie (1915) Location 12-14.^
  6. Budge (1921) digital location 230-33.^
  7. Budge (1921) digital location 158-165.^
  8. Sagan (1995) p58.^
  9. 2007 Sep 05: The original source for this page was in a document I wrote in 2007.^

© 2017 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.