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Discipleship Survivor – Season Two

After a successful first season (2016), students in Prof. Richard Ascough's RELS 214 The New Testament will once again spend the semester playing Survivor – Discipleship Edition. Jesus is with his 12 disciples in a boat, but can give only one of them the keys to the Kingdom. Students decide whether or not Peter should really get the keys to the Kingdom, like the Gospel of Matthew records (Matt 16:15-19).

Students research information about the Jesus’ disciples – Who are they? What did they do? Why are they worthy of the keys? Why are they not worthy? Each week students will come to class prepared to nominate a disciple to be removed from the boat, along with their arguments – why should this guy go and others remain? With the nominees in place, one disciple will be voted "out" of the boat.

Here is a list of the disciples:

  • Andrew
  • Bartholomew/Nathaniel
  • James "the Younger/Lesser", son of Alphaeus
  • James, son of Zebedee
  • John, son of Zebedee
  • Judas
  • Judas / Thaddeus
  • Matthew / Levi
  • Philip
  • Peter “the Rock”
  • Simon the Zealot
  • Thomas
  • Paul

Who will survive? Students get to decide! 


Round 1 of Discipleship Survivor:

After the first week and six nominees, Simon the Zealot has been voted out of the boat (for being a political radical).  

Round 2 of Discipleship Survivor:

Students voted out “James the Lesser” because, well, with a moniker like that, expectations for a great future are low!!

Round 3 of Discipleship Survivor:

In a stunning upset this week previous winner of discipleship survivor and ecclesiastical favorite Peter “the Rock” has been voted out of the boat. Meanwhile, the much maligned Judas Iscariot survived his third nomination for being cast overboard. With eight weeks and nine disciples still left, we are entering unprecedented territory. New choices and a different outcome are in the hands of students (Bandersnach anyone?). Keep watching for the next update of what is sure to be an exciting fight for keys to the kingdom

Round 4 of Discipleship Survivor:

Alas, because of the class cancellation all remaining disciples survived for another week. Two will have to go next week to keep us on track.

Round 5 of Discipleship Survivor:

In another stunning episode of Discipleship Survivor, two more key leaders of the early church have been removed from the running to be soul survivor (pun intended!) and inheritor of the “keys to the Kingdom.” The first to go was John, son of Zebedee, who was deemed a little too arrogant for the tastes of some students. With five nominees left a second round of voting saw the elimination of his brother James, who was to Jerusalem what Peter was to Rome. The elimination of both John and James, together with Peter two weeks ago, wipes out the fishing cartel from among Jesus’s disciples. At the mid-point of the season and with another six weeks to go, stay tuned to find out who will prevail!

Round 6 of Discipleship Survivor:

 Nobody likes paying taxes! And tax collectors bear the brunt of the wrath of those who think they are paying too much, especially when they have the reputation of skimming some for themselves. Matthew paid the price last week and was voted off the boat. With five weeks left six disciples remain: Andrew, Bartholomew, Judas, Philip, Thaddaeus, and Thomas. Who will be the next to go? Stay tuned….

Round 7 of Discipleship Survivor:

Things continue to heat up in Discipleship Survivor! In a bold and stunning move last class, students nominated people to be voted onto the boat!! Mary Magdalene received much support, but in the end Paul squeezed on by a few votes. A controversial figure both in antiquity and today, Paul is sure to generate impassioned debate as we move towards the final climactic decision around who gets the keys to the kingdom.

With one more person in the boat, another still had to leave, and last week it was Phillip’s turn. Things did not go well for him once students recognized that Phillip the Disciple is not the same person as Phillip the Evangelist, the latter having many more deeds attributed to his name.

Round 8 of Discipleship Survivor:

He’s been nominated every week but always survived… until now. Judas Thaddaeus has been cast out of the boat. It may have been is relatively unknown status (who now?), the confusion of his name with Judas the betrayer (what do you mean there are two Judases?), or the inability of student to pronounce his name (“Thadoose”? “Thadahus”? “Thadeeos”?), but ultimately it was his post New Testament affiliation with Simon the Zealot (the first to be voted off) that propelled the majority to support his expulsion.

Round 9 of Discipleship Survivor:

With the introduction of a new player a few weeks ago, it was necessary to vote two disciples off the boat in the last class. The first to go was Andrew, thus once and for all eliminating any hope of the fishing cartel still having one of their own in possession of the Keys. Joining him after the mid-class break was Bartholomew, who has seemingly flown under the radar on the basis of his good looks and charm but was finally called to task for his lack of substantial contributions to the cause.

As we enter into the final few weeks of Discipleship Survivor three candidates remain to inherit the Keys to the Kingdom: Judas (“the Betrayer”), Paul (“the interloper”), and Thomas (“the doubter”). But only two can go to the final round, so which of these three will be removed this coming Wednesday? Stay tuned…!

Round 10 of Discipleship Survivor:

Discipleship Survivor is down to the final two! In a stunning upset Thomas was voted out of the boat, leaving only Paul and Judas remaining. Arguably, each of them played a role in laying the foundations for Christianity. But only one will be granted the keys to the Kingdom. Final votes will be cast this week. Stay tuned to find out who will win this year’s edition of Discipleship Survivor.

Discipleship Survivor - We have a Winner!

With an overwhelming majority, students in RELS 214 “The New Testament” have voted Paul as the winner of Discipleship Survivor – Season Two. Judas Iscariot received a respectable 21 votes, while there were two abstentions, 1 vote for the Ethiopian Eunuch (wait, what now? He wasn’t even on the boat!), and a couple of shout-outs to Peter. But Paul received the lion’s share with 64 votes, granting him the ‘keys to the kingdom’ (Matt 16:15-19). Curiously, Paul is not one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus, although some theologians and scholars have argued that he, and not Matthias, should have replaced Judas in the Book of Acts. Be that as it may, it this second round of Discipleship Survivor he was brought onto the boat late and survived weeks of voting to prevail over the others.

Thanks to all students in the class for playing along. This year’s edition of Discipleship Survivor was full of unexpected twists and turns, but we learned lots along the way. At least I did. I hope you did too!

Richard Ascough

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