Andrew the Apostle: Biography, Facts & Death

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Christians recognize 12 principal disciples of Christ, but did they all start following Jesus at the same time? In this lesson, we'll examine the life of Andrew and see what the scriptures tell us about his role in the early Church.

Andrew the Protocletus

It's a big deal to be first. We can only imagine how Neil Armstrong felt as the first person to step on the moon, or how Washington felt being sworn in as America's first president. Now imagine being the first follower of what became the most popular religion in the world.

According to the Christian Bible, Jesus Christ had 12 principal followers. One of them, however, had to be first. That person was Andrew, known in ecclesiastic traditions as the Protocletus, or the first called. Disciple, apostle, and saint, Andrew holds a special place in Christian cultures. After all, it's a big deal to be first.

Andrew was the first of the disciples.

The Calling of Andrew

Very little is known about any of the 12 apostles before they are called to follow Jesus in his ministry. What we do know is that Andrew was born in Bathsaida, a small town on the Sea of Galilee. He seems to have been a fisherman by trade, along with his younger brother, Simon (later renamed Peter).

There are different accounts of exactly how Andrew came to be the first disciple. The Gospel of Matthew claims that Jesus was walking along the shore and saw Simon and Andrew fishing. He then called them and promised to make them fishers of men. The Gospel of Mark tells a similar story, while the Gospel of Luke only mentions Simon and not Andrew (at least not directly).

The calling of Simon and Andrew is a popular theme in Christian art.

John gives us a different tale. In his Gospel, Andrew and Simon are already disciples of John the Baptist. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and tells his followers to become disciples of Jesus instead. Andrew does and later brings his younger brother to Christ as well.

Biblical scholars disagree on exactly how to reconcile these stories. Some say that it's a matter of chronology (one event happened before the others), but all scholars agree that what really matters is that Andrew and Simon become the first disciples.

John's account is interesting, however, because it illuminates something about Andrew's treatment in the Bible. In all four Gospels, Andrew is rarely mentioned by name. He's simply one of ''the 12'' although biblical scholars believe he was very close to Jesus and respected among the disciples. Whenever Andrew is named, however, it is nearly always in a story about bringing somebody into a relationship with Christ, just as he did with Simon Peter. This has given Andrew an important place in Church memory, and in many sects he is venerated as the example of evangelism.

Andrew After Christ

As Christians know, all four Gospels climax with the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and (after his final departure) the descent of the Holy Spirit upon his followers. This is a big moment in Christian history as it identified the disciples as apostles sent out to spread the word of Christ and to form new congregations everywhere they went.

So, where'd Andrew go? While his brother made his way to Rome, Andrew went toward Eastern Europe. According to most interpretations of the scriptures, he focused his efforts around the Caspian and Black seas. In Russian Orthodox traditions, he's said to have made his way as far as Kiev and Novgorod.

Eventually, Andrew ended up in the still-small city of Byzantium (later Constantinople). He established the first Christian community in Byzantium and appointed a man named Stachys as the first bishop. This is significant as Constantinople would later rise to challenge even Rome as a center of the Christian faith. Thus, Peter became seen as the founder of the Church in the West, and Andrew as the founder of the Church in the East.

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