Problem: The two callings of Andrew and Simon
Verses: John 1:35-41, Mark 1:14-18; Status: Minor

The following is John 1:35-41, which seems to describe how Andrew and Simon became disciples of Jesus while John the Baptist was still free:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. [...] One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). (ESV)

After we are introduced to Andrew and Simon, but before the imprisonment of John the Baptist, there are a number of verses in John's gospel which refer to "the disciples" of Jesus: John 2:2, John 2:12, John 2:17, John 3:22. The natural reading of John is that these disciples would have included Andrew and Simon. However, Mark 1:14-18 tells us that Andrew and Simon were only called later, after John's imprisonment:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (ESV)

So, if Andrew and Simon became disciples earlier on, why did they have to become disciples again later?

Luke's version

But there's a third thing we need to consider, which is Luke's gospel. Luke's description (Luke 5:1-11) of the calling of Simon is clearly based on Mark, but a curious fact is that Simon is mentioned before this occurs. This is Luke 4:38:

And he [Jesus] arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. (ESV)

From this, it seems that Simon already knew Jesus before he was called on his boat. This could bridge the gap between John and Mark a little bit. However, Luke's order of events differs from Mark's. Mark too has the story of Simon's mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31) but places it after the calling of Simon. Mark's order makes a lot more sense; in Luke we are told about Simon and his mother-in-law before we have any idea who Simon is!

So it seems that Luke (who used Mark's gospel as a source) has rearranged Mark. I therefore don't think Luke can be of much help.

What disciples?

Perhaps the best answer is to say that "the disciples" mentioned in John do not actually include Andrew and Simon - although this is hard to accept. Surely John expected us to understand that they followed Jesus from the first moment on? They called him the Messiah, after all. This would mean that they became disciples of Jesus, and travelled with him, long before the imprisonment of John the Baptist. The calling in Mark (after the imprisonment) therefore makes little sense. I think this borders on being Serious.

Updated: 2009-01-07

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