John MacArthur has provided insightful looks into the lives of the twelve men chosen by the Christ to be His closest disciples. The key word is "ordinary," because Jesus did not select those of unique ability or special privilege to follow Him for three-plus years and to whom He would hand over the task of establishing His Church. The largest group of the twelve were fishermen and they covered a spectrum of backgrounds and personalities. To imagine this group being gelled harmoniously into a unit seems difficult at best, and yet that is precisely what our Lord patiently did with them. MacArthur does an excellent job of describing these men by searching the biblical text. Where the Bible is silent, he draws from other historical sources (notably Josephus and Eusebius), although more complete referencing and annotation would have been helpful for the student seeking to dig still deeper into the lives of the disciples. Early in the book, the author suggests that there were three sub-groupings of four disciples each, a plausible but unprovable hypothesis. The chapters move along smoothly and freely, beginning most naturally with Peter and ending with Judas. I was somewhat disappointed that a chapter was not devoted to every disciple. For example, Matthew and Thomas rather awkwardly share a chapter, as do James the Less, Simon the Zealot, and Judas (not Iscariot), although an equally less-known Nathanael has a chapter of his own. The concluding chapter on Judas Iscariot is a fitting ending, although a brief summary chapter with personal challenge ("with which disciple do you most readily identify and why?") would have been even more effective. I recommend this book for both personal and small group study. A very helpful read.
Studying this book as a small group and the men in my group and have found this book to be excellent. We've had many great conversations arising out of the text. While I've enjoyed each of John MacArthur's books that I've read, I've found this book to be an easier read that his other offerings and so more suitable to read for enjoyment rather than as an academic/theological exercise.
This book speaks to both men and women and is appropriate for each generation. MacArthur writes in such a way that it isn't too academic and lofty, and neither is it too dumbed down. The insight to personalities using Scripture references regarding the apostles speaks to the variety of people in this world. In small groups it is great fodder for discussion to pick out who you feel you are most like in comparison or in attempting to analyze each other.