The New Testament is a document that has been revised, annotated, and edited many times over the centuries. Originally a collection of disparate stories told by Christians all over the known world, the book was codified by the early Catholic Church, and certain books were elevated while others were culled from the tome. The books of the Bible contain many stories, each with a message or lesson. Heroes are like keys and stories are like locks, but Bible stories often have many characters who fit the mold of the hero, so the stories and their casts are as inextricably tied as Luke Skywalker and "Episode IV."
Are you particularly religious? Did you have to study the Bible as part of your schoolwork? Do you approach it as a historical document, or do you see it as an elaborate collection of fables? How familiar are you with its characters, their stories, their goals, and their origins? Do you know how details from the New Testament connect to stories from the Old Testament? How well do you really know the Bible?
To find out, take this quiz and see if you can identify these characters from the New Testament from a simple clue.
The Virgin Mary is said to have been visited by the Archangel Gabriel, who announced to her that she was going to bear the child of God. One of the two major Marys of the Bible, The Virgin Mary may just be a mistranslation, since the Hebrew and Aramaic words for "young girl" are often mistranslated as "Virgin" by Greek and Latin speakers.
This Mary was not viewed as a virgin because of the process by which Bibles were produced in the Middle Ages. At the time, priests would often make notes in the margins of the Bible to refer to during sermons. It is believed by historians that a story about a prostitute was referenced in some of these Bibles, and then when the Bibles were reproduced by other priests, sometimes centuries later, those notes made their way into the actual text. This is born out by an examination of early Bibles.
Jesus, the central character of the New Testament, had twelve followers or "apostles" who followed him around and studied his spiritual lessons.
Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles, is credited with being the founder of the Catholic Church. His symbol is an inverted cross.
Saint Andrew was one of Jesus's twelve apostles and is especially important in eastern branches of Christianity. His symbol is the saltire or X-shaped cross found on the flag of Scotland.
James, son of Zebedee, not to be confused with James the brother of Jesus or James, son of Alphaeus (the New Testament has a lot of Jameses, like the 1980s), was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. The site of his martyrdom is located in Jerusalem, within the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of St. James.
The blind man of Bethsaida lived in the town of Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus wasn't happy with the behavior of most of the townspeople, so when the blind man asked for Jesus's help, the two left town. There, outside the confines of the city, Jesus laid his hands on each eye, healing them. This is sometimes taken to mean that spiritual enlightenment only comes in stages, not that Jesus couldn't have healed both eyes at once.
The brother of James, son of Zebedee, John was originally a follower of John the Baptist, but became one of Jesus's apostles.
Philip is the apostle perhaps best known from a question he asked of Jesus at the last supper, when he asked to see God. Jesus then spoke about the oneness of God and the Messiah.
Saint Bartholomew is particularly well known in the town of Lipari, where among his miracles are the changing weight of statues from his Cathedral. In one instance, the silver statue of Saint Bartholomew was considered for melting down by the Fascists in WW II but deemed too lightweight to be worth the effort. In truth, the statue weighed much more than the Fascists thought.
Matthew the Apostle was a tax collector from Galilee who joined Jesus's flock and become central to his story. Matthew's destiny has been disputed by different branches of Christianity, some saying he preached in Judea and abroad, while others claim he died a martyr in Judea.
James the lesser was possibly a tax collector who became a follower of Jesus, though his exact identity is left somewhat ambiguous in much of the Bible. We do know he was martyred along with many other Christians, at the hands of King Herod Agrippa.
Thomas the Apostle, AKA Doubting Thomas, was one of Jesus's apostles. The name Thomas is not a given name, but rather a nickname. His actual name was Judas, but since there was already a Judas, and Thomas looked a lot like Jesus, he was given the nickname, Thomas, which means "twin." Some skeptics surmise that the resurrection of Jesus was, in fact, Thomas impersonating his teacher.
Not to be confused with Simon who is also called Peter (what a mouthful!), Simon the Zealot was one of Jesus's apostles, known for his passion for religious law, hence the name. While some claim the term "zealot" is a bit misleading because the zealot movement did not begin until decades after the death of Jesus, some point to early Jewish uprisings against Rome as evidence that the word use is technically correct.
Hey, Jude! Jude was one of Jesus's apostles with a mysterious past. In some interpretations, he is the brother of Jesus, while in others they are cousins. In either case, Jude was the son of a farmer and early follower of Jesus, who spent his later years preaching all over the Levant.
Joseph is the adoptive father of Jesus, married to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Since the Bible says Mary was a virgin and conceived Jesus through immaculate conception, Joseph was considered Jesus's adoptive father.
Called to be an apostle after the death of Jesus, Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot as part of the core of Christianity. Stories of what Matthias did late in life vary wildly. Some say he left Judea and went as far as the Caspian Sea, preaching Christianity as far afield as Georgia. Others say he was stoned to death in Jerusalem and beheaded.
Paul was a Roman Jew who didn't like Christians very much, but on the road to Damascus, he had a sudden revelation that led him to convert to Christianity. Once a Christian, he traveled all over, using his Roman citizenship to minister to Romans, and his Jewish identity to preach to Jews. He founded several churches and is one of the most important apostles. But he wasn't part of the original twelve who followed Jesus while he was alive.
Judas Iscariot is perhaps the most famous betrayer in world history, just ahead of Brutus. Judas was one of Jesus's apostles, but he betrayed Jesus to the Romans, leading to Jesus's crucifixion. Since those events are essential to the narrative of Christianity, some Gnostic sects praised Judas as the best apostle, for without him there would be no resurrection, because there would be no death. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus, there would be no salvation for all mankind.
Balthazar was one of the three magi who visited Jesus when he was born. He is supposedly a Babylonian scholar who wanted to visit the newly-born Jesus and bring him a gift of myrrh, a substance worth about the same as gold.
Casper is one the three magi who came to Jesus at his birth with gifts. Traditionally, Casper is said to be an Indian scholar, though it is unclear which part of India he may have come from.
Melchior was the third of the three magi who visited Jesus. The King of Persia, Melchior came with a gift of gold for Jesus, presumably to help pay for his upbringing, though it could have just been a nice thing to look at too. Melchior is believed to have been a scholar as well, having seen a sign in the stars that it was time to visit Bethlehem.
Rufus is one of the sons of Simon, a Cyrenian, who helped carry Jesus's cross. Rufus later became an exponent of the religion.
Satan is referred to numerous times in the New Testament, and by many titles. His traditional job in the Old Testament is to test the faith and morality of humanity by offering them what they want at a cost. In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan tempts Jesus with life and power, shortly before the crucifixion. It doesn't work, and Satan retreats, having failed.
Not to be confused with the other biblical character named Lazarus, Lazarus of Bethany was a believer in Jesus who asked Jesus visit him to heal him. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus of Bethany was already dead. Jesus wept, and visited his tomb. The tomb was opened, Jesus said a prayer, and Lazarus of Bethany was alive once again, four days after his death.
Barabbas is the name commonly used for the man whose death sentence was commuted on Passover, a Jewish tradition at the time of Jesus. The choice of whom to pardon was based on public support, and Barabbas had more public support than Jesus, who was ultimately executed.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman in charge of the province of Judaea (the Roman name for the province) who ordered the execution of Jesus. After arresting Jesus, Pilate spoke to the crowd braying for his death, saying maybe he shouldn't kill Jesus, but agreeing to after the crowd said they wanted it. Was he sincere? Who knows? Either way, he ordered the execution of Jesus.
Longinus is the name commonly used to refer to the Roman who stabbed Jesus with a spear while Jesus was being crucified. While this is the extent of his role in the story, the spear tip itself has become an important relic with many mythological properties. There is an object in a museum in Austria believed to be the spear of Longinus, also called The Spear of Destiny.
The story goes that Jesus was approached by a Centurion who said he needed Jesus's help because his boy servant was sick. Jesus offered to visit the boy, but the Centurion said his word would be enough. Sure enough, the boy was healed the same day.
The Syrophoenician woman is a minor character in the New Testament, whose daughter was saved from demonic possession by Jesus. It is unclear exactly where she is from, as she is described as either Greek or being from the city or region around Tyre.
Agabus was a follower of Jesus who indeed preached alongside 70 other followers. He was effective, but he didn't make a lot of friends while doing it. He was dragged out of Jerusalem and, according to tradition, martyred in Antioch.
While not formally named, the impenitent thief is one of the two figures described as being crucified alongside Jesus. The impenitent thief chided Jesus for not using his powers to save himself, while the penitent thief asked to be absolved of his sins by Jesus.
Herod Antipas's daughter did not like John the Baptist. After performing a dance for her father, a fan of John the Baptist, she demanded his head as a favor, and she got it. John the Baptist was the head of a messianic movement long before he met Jesus as an adult, and he even told his followers that a greater messianic figure would come after him. So similar were the two men, that Herod Antipas thought Jesus could be John the Baptist raised from the dead.
Saint Anne was the Virgin Mary's mother, and according to the Bible, a descendant of King David. Though never mentioned explicitly in the New Testament, she is a major figure in the story, held to be real by most denominations of the church.
Simon the Leper was a dinner host of Jesus's. A woman at that dinner anointed Jesus, which is worth pointing out is the origin of the word "Messiah," which means "anointed one."