Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who was the first disciple of Jesus?


November 30th, Feast of St. Andrew
The Church begins her liturgical year with the disciple called first by the Lord. For, while it is true that the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Baptist, St. Elizabeth, and St. Joseph (in that order) all believed in the Messiah before him, St. Andrew is the Protokletos, the first-called.
St. Andrew was the first disciple of Christ Jesus in his public ministry – and in this sense, it is fiting that his feast be celebrated at the first of the Church’s year.
However, there is a difficulty: St. John tells us that Andrew was called in the place where John was baptizing, but St. Matthew specifies that Andrew and Peter were called together while cleaning their nets on the sea of Galilee. How are these two accounts to be reconciled?

The account from St. John
[1:36] And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. [37] And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. [38] And Jesus turning, and seeing them following him, saith to them: What seek you? Who said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? [39] He saith to them: Come and see. They came, and saw where he abode, and they stayed with him that day: now it was about the tenth hour. [40] And Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard of John, and followed him.
[41] He findeth first his brother Simon, and saith to him: We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. [42] And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter.
Here we see that Jesus calls Andrew and “the other disciple” (i.e. John the Evangelist) while they were yet disciples of John the Baptist. The vocation of Andrew, according to St. John, occurs south of Galilee on the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. Further, Andrew is called before Peter and he leads his younger brother to the Lord.
The calling of Peter and Andrew, from St. Matthew
[4:18] And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishers). [19] And he saith to them: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. [20] And they immediately leaving their nets, followed him.
According to St. Matthew, Jesus calls Andrew together with Peter (and Peter is named first). The two apostles are called while they were fishing on the sea of Galilee. Further, John is called after both Peter and Andrew. Hence, St. Matthew’s Gospel seems to be quite different from St. John’s.
A vocation harmony
The Fathers of the Church labored to prove the historical accuracy and reliability of the Gospels. They were especially keen to consider various places where the Gospels seemed to be in contradiction and, when they reconciled this apparent contradiction, they created what came to be called a “Gospel harmony” – to show how the four Gospels, though four voices, make a beautiful harmony singing in unison.
When considering the two accounts of the vocation (i.e. calling) of St. Andrew, the Church Fathers admit that the differences are significant. Therefore, the obvious conclusion must be: St. John is speaking of one calling, and St. Matthew is speaking of another.
Indeed, what we ought to conclude is that St. John discusses the first occasion in which Andrew was called – and, at that moment, he became the Protokletos (first-called). Together with St. John the Beloved, Andrew was the first disciple of Christ in his public ministry.
After this first calling, according to our Savior’s will, Andrew (together with John and Peter) returned to his home and took up again his labor of fishing. Some time later, Christ Jesus returned to Galilee and (after the wedding feast at Cana) he sought out him whom he had first called, together with Peter and John (and James, the brother of John). And this was the second vocation of the apostles – it is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.
Not only does this reconcile the two Gospel accounts, but it also helps to explain something of the human element in the calling of the apostles at the sea of Galilee. At first, we might be a bit perplexed as to understand how it was that Sts. Peter and Andrew knew to abandon all and follow Christ – simply from St. Matthew’s account, it seems as though they would not know anything at all about our Savior. But, according to this Gospel harmony, we understand that the two had already met Christ and come to know much about him, for (Andrew, at least) had heard St. John the Baptist say of our Lord, Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sin of the world; and both had followed him briefly in the area near the Jordan where John was baptizing.

St. Andrew, Pray for us!

8 comments:

I am not Spartacus said...

It is interesting that when it comes to Divinely-constitued authority, the first-chosen elder brother, Andrew, is passed over in favor of the later-called younger brother, Peter.

For me, it is an oblique recapitulation of Salvation History vis a vis The Jews and Gentiles.

I any event, Dear Father, I have to write and encourage everyone to find the money (even if they have to rob a Liquor Store) so they can but Dom Gueranger's, "The Liturgical Year." Today's entry on Saint Andrew is 26 pages of beauty and accurate history

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Father. This Link:

http://tinyurl.com/6mltztj

will bring readers to Dom Gueranger's, "Liturgical Year," and if they click on PDF at the top right, they can download a PDF File which can then be increased in size so they can read today's great entry on Saint Andrew (and everything else in that magnificent collection)

Anonymous said...

I have always considered Our Lady to be the first Christian.
Tiggy

Catinlap1 said...

The Church celebrates St. Andrew on Nov. 30, whether this date is at the beginning of Advent or in the last week of the Church year. It belongs to the sanctoral cycle, not to the seasonal cycle.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Catinlap1,
Yes, Nov 30 is always the feast of Andrew ... which I why I started the article with the words "November 30th" ... I would point out that this is generally in the first week of Advent and, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Advent is often described as the "season beginning on the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Andrew" ... hence, Advent is very much associated with Andrew, and Andrew with Advent.

Peace.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Tiggy,
I said the same in the first sentence of the article ... Mary, John, Elizabeth, and Joseph (in that order) were the first Christians.

Mark of the Vineyard said...

@I am not Sparticus:

"It is interesting that when it comes to Divinely-constitued authority, the first-chosen elder brother, Andrew, is passed over in favor of the later-called younger brother, Peter."

And yet it's not the first time we see this in Sacred Scripture, is it? Essau and Jacob spring to mind.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Mark of Vineyard. Yes, thanks for bringing-up that truth. God freq. passes-over the older brother, or brothers, when it comes to those He favors, such as Joseph, and then there is David etc etc.

I had inteneded to write that but I am getting old :)

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