A reader writes:
Does the Church teach of any parallel between the 12 Apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel?
I don’t know of a Church document that stresses this connection off the top of my head, though there probably are some that do. It is generally acknowledged among Bible scholars that the New Testament draws clear parallels between the twelve apostles and the twelve tribes–and, more specifically, with the twelve patriarchs (sons of Jacob/Israel) who were the progenitors of the twelve tribes.
By appointing twelve apostles, Jesus clearly indicated his intention to establish the Christian community as a New Israel, without depriving the original Israel of its place in God’s plan.
Does each*Apostle represent a separate tribe or a characteristic associated with the tribe?
So far as we know, the twelve apostles correspond to the twelve patriarchs/tribes only in a generic manner. We can’t match each of them up one-to-one.
Also, are the Apostles the inhabitants of the twelve thrones of judgement for the tribes?
Without excluding the idea that there will be other thrones of judgment, Jesus does say that the apostles will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28, Luke 22:29-30).
Lastly, do many faithful Jewish people still know their tribe ancestry or is that knowledge long gone?
At this point, no. Most Jewish people do not know their specific tribal ancestry, though most would be descended from Judah, Benjamin, or Simeon (the southern tribes).
An exception is the tribe of Levi. Jewish people with names like Cohen (“priest”), Levi (“Levite”), etc., are generally thought to derive from the tribe of Levi and–in the case of Cohens–to be descendants of the priestly line of that tribe. They thus can have special roles in the synagogue liturgy.