A black and white photo capturing a solemn church interior, where a stained glass window of St. Jude stands tall, illuminating the space with a soft, ethereal glow.

Who Was St. Jude In The Bible? A Comprehensive Look At This Apostle

If you have ever wondered “who was St. Jude in the Bible?” you’re not alone. St. Jude is one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, yet he remains one of the more mysterious and lesser-known figures of early Christianity.

Here’s a quick answer: St. Jude was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. He is often referred to as Thaddaeus or Jude Thaddaeus to differentiate him from Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. He is the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations.

St. Jude’s Names and Identities

Jude, Thaddaeus, and Lebbaeus

St. Jude is referred to by several similar names in the Bible and early Christian traditions, which has led to some confusion about his identity over the years. The three main names attributed to him are Jude, Thaddaeus, and Lebbaeus.

In the lists of Jesus’ twelve apostles provided in the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he is referred to as “Thaddaeus” (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18) or “Judas son of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). However, in the Gospel of John, he is called “Judas (not Judas Iscariot)” (John 14:22).

Most scholars believe all these names refer to the same person – the apostle we know today as St. Jude.

The name “Jude” comes from the Hebrew name “Judah,” meaning “praise.” This is likely the name he was commonly known by. “Thaddaeus” is thought to be a Greek or Aramaic nickname meaning “courageous heart.” “Lebbaeus” is a surname meaning “man of heart” or “courageous.”

So all three names essentially refer to Jude’s brave and faithful heart.

Interestingly, early Christian writers like St. Jerome sometimes also refer to him as “Trinomius,” meaning “man with three names.” So even in ancient times, Jude’s multiple names caused some confusion about his identity!

But it’s clear from the biblical context that Jude, Thaddaeus, and Lebbaeus all refer to the same apostle.

Brother of James the Lesser

In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, St. Jude is described as the “brother of James” (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). This James is typically identified as “James the Lesser” to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee, another apostle.

James the Lesser is not mentioned frequently in the Gospels, but is known as one of Jesus’ brothers along with Jude.

Some key facts about James the Lesser:

  • He was one of the Twelve Apostles, also called James the son of Alphaeus.
  • He authored the Epistle of James in the New Testament.
  • He became the first bishop of Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension.
  • He is known as “James the Lesser” or “James the Younger” to differentiate him from James son of Zebedee.
  • He likely was Jesus’ younger biological brother; his mother was Mary.

As brothers, Jude and James likely grew up together in Nazareth along with Jesus. They then became disciples and apostles together after Jesus began his ministry. While Jude is less famous than his brother James, he still played an important role in the early Christian church.

Some scholars have suggested Jude’s identity as the “brother of James” was used to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. Referring to him as James’ brother emphasized that this was a different, faithful Judas.

St. Jude in the Gospels

Mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels

St. Jude is mentioned briefly in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), which many biblical scholars believe were the first gospels written. He appears in the lists of the Twelve Apostles called by Jesus.

For example, Matthew 10:3 says, “Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus.” Thaddaeus is another name for Jude.

Very little is known about Jude from the Synoptic Gospels. The only detail provided is his name and his calling by Jesus to be one of the Twelve. Based on his inclusion among the Twelve, we can deduce he held a position of importance in the early Christian community.

Jesus would not have chosen just anyone to be among his closest disciples and friends.

Absent from the Gospel of John

Interestingly, Jude is not mentioned at all in the Gospel of John. This gospel does not contain a list of the Twelve Apostles. Scholars are not certain why John’s gospel omits this. Some speculate that the author of John was not concerned with identifying all twelve of the apostles.

The focus is more on the words and works of Jesus.

The absence of Jude’s name does not necessarily mean he was not present in the events described in John’s gospel. It is possible he was there but simply not named. Overall, Jude has very little written about him directly in any of the four gospels.

St. Jude After the Ascension

Activity Recorded in Apocryphal Texts

After Jesus ascended into heaven, St. Jude spread the gospel message throughout Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya. According to ancient apocryphal texts like the Acts of Thaddeus, Jude traveled with the apostle Simon the Zealot and later worked alongside the apostle Bartholomew.

Jude and Bartholomew brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century AD. Several miraculous healings and conversions are attributed to Jude in these texts, including the raising of the dead, healing the king’s son, and killing a venomous snake.

According to the Acts of Simon and Jude, King Abgar of Edessa requested a visit from Jesus. Unable to go himself, Jesus instead sent the image of his face on a cloth to the king along with a healing message delivered by Jude.

This apocryphal story forms the basis for later legends about the Image of Edessa, an icon believed to have been created miraculously and which later versions say was instrumental in converting the city to Christianity.

While scholars debate which deeds attributed to Jude in ancient apocryphal texts may contain a historical nucleus of truth about his ministry, these sources unanimously agree that St. Jude played a pivotal role in the earliest spread of Christianity in the East.

Martyrdom and Sainthood

According to tradition, St. Jude suffered martyrdom around 65 AD in Beirut, in the Roman province of Syria, together with the apostle Simon the Zealot. The axe that he was executed with is also believed to be preserved in the St. Antony’s Monastery in Egypt.

St. Jude was widely venerated in the early Eastern and Western churches. Devotion to him spread rapidly following reported answered prayers through his intercession, especially in hopeless and difficult cases. By the 800s AD, churches across Europe were dedicated to him.

He became the patron saint of lost causes, reflecting the hopelessness Christians felt when faced with martyrdom in the faith’s early centuries.

In the West today, St. Jude is still invoked as the patron of lost causes and hopeless situations. He is also the patron saint of the Chicago Police Department and of Clube de Regatas do Flamengo (a soccer team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). His feast day is October 28 on the Roman Catholic calendar.

He is commonly depicted in Christian art with a flame around his head and/or holding an image of Christ’s face (representing the miraculous Image of Edessa sent to King Abgar.)

Patronage and Legacy

Patron Saint of Desperate Causes

St. Jude is most well known as the patron saint of desperate or lost causes. This stems from stories of his amazing feats and miracles related to healing, protecting church communities, and more. Over time as devotion to St. Jude grew, many started praying to him when they felt a situation was hopeless or dire.

It is said that St. Jude helped countless people overcome immense struggles or obstacles when there seemed to be little chance of success.

Some of the specific types of desperate causes that St. Jude is associated as the patron for include:

  • Hopeless health situations or terminal illnesses
  • Poverty and financial ruin
  • Emotional distress or depression
  • Natural disasters and community tragedies
  • Family troubles and relationship issues

While the Catholic Church does not officially declare patrons of causes, over centuries the popular sentiment that St. Jude helps in even the most dire situations has led many faithful believers to pray to him.

The origins seem to come from appreciation for St. Jude’s acts helping fledgling church communities and healing the sick. The amazing stories passed on have contributed to the strong cultural legacy that St. Jude brings hope to the hopeless.

Veneration in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches

Both the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches have a long history of venerating St. Jude in special ways:

Catholic Church Orthodox Churches
  • Many Catholic cathedrals or basilicas named for St. Jude
  • Special devotions and novenas held for his feast day on October 28
  • Patron saint of many Catholic schools, hospitals, orphanages
  • Considered one of the Holy Unmercenaries in Eastern tradition
  • Often depicted in icons performing healing miracles
  • Churches across Middle East named for him

In recent years, many Catholic parishes across North and South America have constructed new churches named for St. Jude. For example, St. Jude Catholic Church opened in Madison, Wisconsin in 2013 and the National Shrine of St. Jude opened in 2018 in Boca Raton, Florida.

These large modern churches speak to the continued relevance and draw of St. Jude’s legacy centuries after his passing. The steady stream of believers praying to St. Jude for his heavenly aid rightly earns his title as the patron saints of desperate causes.


While he remains an elusive figure, St. Jude played an important role among the Twelve Apostles. His story provides insight into the diversity and dynamics of the apostolic era in early Christianity. By tradition, he traveled far to spread the gospel before meeting a martyr’s death.

Today, he continues to be revered by millions as the patron saint of lost causes.

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