Sunday, October 16, 2011

Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur

Source of book: Gift from my sister, Bethi Ferrier

This book is about the twelve apostles. If I already lost you, this book might be a little advanced for you as it assumes that you have a basic grasp of the Bible and of Christian theology. It is also written to those who are already believers rather than skeptics.

From that frame of reference, MacArthur takes a look at what we know of each of the twelve from scripture, and throws in a little Eusebius and other church historians as evidence of the later events of the lives and deaths of the twelve.

Some strong points of this book: MacArthur, as would be expected from his background as a pastor and scholar, is meticulous in his Scripture references. Everything is laid out by chapter and verse, and is easy to follow.

I also liked the way the author is able to draw out the personalities of the apostles from the few statements they make and their known histories. He is able, for example, to show that Thomas has gotten a bad rap as a doubter where he probably should have been known more as pessimistic but unusually loyal. MacArthur also avoids the temptation to read too much into the evidence. He is not seeking to break new theological ground, but instead to demonstrate the humanness of the apostles: their personalities, their faults and strengths, and how they were changed by their contact with Christ.

Also well done was a brief discussion of the word underlying “Apostle”, which is a transliteration of a Greek word that was itself the translation of a word in Aramaic, shaliah. This word carried a whole concept in the culture, similar to how we would think of an ambassador, or even perhaps an attorney: one who carried the message of another and carried his principal’s full authority.

There was one sour note in the book, which I am inclined to attribute to sloppy editing. As a general rule, MacArthur is careful to give citations for his assertions, or at least attributions, for all quotes and references. However, at one point, an unnamed “study” is cited, but is never named or attributed. I would have expected that this would have been attributed in the same manner as other authorities, which is why I suspect that this one missed the fact checker’s red pen.

Other than that, this book was a good read, full of information and food for thought. After all, twelve rather ordinary men profoundly changed the world; eleven for good, and one in ways he never anticipated. It is inspiring to know that one need not be extraordinary to be used by God in extraordinary ways.


  1. Sounds really good. And I'm terrified of the idea of you editing anything I write - including blog posts. =D Which is not the point of your post at all, I do realize, but it's a thought that stands out to me.

  2. It's true - I am a grammar nazi. The reason the omission caught my eye was that I wanted to look it up. A good citation can be of use in the future, right?

    Don't worry anyway, you write well, so I don't expect to need to use my powers ;)