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The commissioning of the Twelve Apostles during the ministry of Jesus is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. After his resurrection, Jesus sent eleven of them (minus Judas Iscariot) by the Great Commission to spread his teachings to all nations. There is also an Eastern Christian tradition derived from the Gospel of Luke of seventy apostles. Paul the Apostle (Saul of Tarsus), not one of the twelve or the seventy but a later convert, "the apostle of the Gentiles",
The sub-period of Early Christianity during the lifetimes of the apostles is called the Apostolic Age. In the 2nd century, association with the apostles was esteemed as evidence of authority and such churches are known as Apostolic Sees. Paul's epistles were accepted as scripture, and two of the four gospels were associated with apostles, as were other New Testament works. Various Christian texts, such as the Didache and the Apostolic Constitutions, were attributed to the twelve apostles. Bishops traced their lines of succession back to individual apostles, who were said to have dispersed from Jerusalem and established churches across great territories. Christian bishops have traditionally claimed authority deriving, by apostolic succession, from the twelve. Early Church Fathers that came to be associated with Apostles, such as Pope Clement I with Peter the Apostle, are referred to as Apostolic Fathers. The Apostles' Creed, popular in the West, was said to have been composed by the apostles themselves. The twelve apostles are also called the twelve disciples.
The word "apostle" comes from the Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstólos). By breaking it down into its constituents it gives us a literal translation of "from the fleet". By deriving ἀπό (apó) meaning from and στολος (stólos) meaning fleet.
The more general meaning of the word as one who is sent on a mission is translated into Latin as missio, and from this word we get missionary.
According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, "...Judaism had an office known as apostle (שליח)". The Friberg Greek Lexicon gives a broad definition as one who is sent on a mission, a commissioned representative of a congregation, a messenger for God, a person who has the special task of founding and establishing churches. The UBS Greek Dictionary also describes an apostle broadly as a messenger. The Louw-Nida Lexicon gives a very narrow definition of a special messenger, generally restricted to the immediate followers of Jesus, or extended to some others like Paul or other early Christians active in proclaiming the gospel.
In the New Testament, the names of the majority of the apostles are Hebrew names, although some had Greek names. Even Paul, the "apostle of the Gentiles", who said that Jesus revealed himself to him only after his ascension and appointed him to his mission, was a Jew by birth and always proud of it,
cf. , ) to towns in Galilee. The text states that their initial instructions were to heal the sick and drive out demons, and in the Gospel of Matthew to raise the dead. They are also instructed to "take nothing for their journey, except a staff only: no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse, but to wear sandals, and not put on two tunics", and that if any town rejects them they ought to shake the dust off their feet as they leave, a gesture which some scholars think was meant as a contemptuous threat (Miller 26). Their carrying of just a staff (Matthew and Luke say not even a staff) is sometimes given as the reason for the use by Christian bishops of a staff of office, in those denominations that believe they maintain an apostolic succession.states that Jesus initially sent out these twelve in pairs (
Later in the Gospel narratives the twelve apostles are described as having been commissioned to preach the Gospel to "all the nations," regardless of whether Jew or Gentile. Paul emphasized the important role of the apostles in the church of God when he said that the household of God is "built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone".
The twelve apostles
The Canonical gospels give varying names of the twelve apostles. According to the lists occurring in each of the three Synoptic Gospels, the twelve, some of whom chose to follow Jesus and some who were called by Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, those "whom he also named apostles", were:
|Simon, who is called Peter||Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter)||Simon, whom he named Peter|
|Andrew, his brother||Andrew||Andrew his brother|
|James the son of Zebedee||James the son of Zebedee||James|
|John, his brother||John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges)||John|
|Matthew, the tax collector||Matthew||Matthew|
|James the son of Alphaeus||James the son of Alphaeus||James the son of Alphaeus|
|Thaddaeus||Thaddaeus||Judas the son of James|
|Simon the Zealot||Simon the Zealot||Simon who was called the Zealot|
|Judas Iscariot||Judas Iscariot||Judas Iscariot|
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus selected Peter, James, and John to witness his transfiguration and to be near him when he prayed at Gethsemane. In Mark, the twelve are obtuse, failing to understand the importance of Jesus' miracles and parables.
Gospel of John
Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John does not offer a formal list of apostles, although it refers to "the twelve" in a single scene ( ). However, the gospel does not present any elaboration of who "the twelve" actually were. There is also no separation of "apostles" and "disciples" in John. Only the following disciples are mentioned:
- Andrew (identified as Peter's brother)
- "the sons of Zebedee" (presumably meaning John and James, although they are not named)
- Thomas (also called Didymus)
- Judas Iscariot
- "Judas (not Iscariot)"
- "disciple whom Jesus loved"
Of these, only Nathanael is not in the lists in the other gospels.
Calling by Jesus
The three Synoptic Gospels record the circumstances in which some of the disciples were recruited, Matthew only describing the recruitment of Simon, Andrew, James, and John. All three Synoptic Gospels state that these four were recruited fairly soon after Jesus returned from being tempted by the devil.
Despite Jesus only briefly requesting that they join him, they are all described as immediately consenting, and abandoning their nets to do so. Traditionally the immediacy of their consent was viewed as an example of divine power, although this statement isn't made in the text itself. The alternative and much more ordinary solution is that Jesus was simply friends with the individuals beforehand, as implied by the Gospel of John, which states that Andrew and an unnamed other had been a disciple of John the Baptist, and started following Jesus as soon as Jesus had been baptized. The Bible identifies Jesus as a tekton,
Albright and Mann extrapolate from Simon's and Andrew's abandonment of their nets, that Matthew is emphasizing the importance of renunciation by converting to Christianity, since fishing was profitable, though required large start-up costs, and abandoning everything would have been an important sacrifice. Regardless, Simon and Andrew's abandonment of what were effectively their most important worldly possessions was taken as a model by later Christian ascetics.
Matthew describes Jesus meeting James and John, also fishermen and brothers, very shortly after recruiting Simon and Andrew. Matthew and Mark identify James and John as sons of Zebedee. Luke adds to Matthew and Mark that James and John worked as a team with Simon and Andrew. Matthew states that at the time of the encounter, James and John were repairing their nets, but readily joined Jesus without hesitation. This parallels the accounts of Mark and Luke, but Matthew implies that the men have also abandoned their father (since he is present in the ship they abandon behind them), and Carter feels this should be interpreted to mean that Matthew's view of Jesus is one of a figure rejecting the traditional patriarchal structure of society, where the father had command over his children; most scholars, however, just interpret it to mean that Matthew intended these two to be seen as even more devoted than the other pair.
The synoptics go on to describe that much later, after Jesus had later begun his ministry, Jesus noticed, while teaching, a tax collector in his booth. The tax collector, Levi according to some Gospels, Matthew according to others, is asked by Jesus to become one of his disciples. Matthew/Levi is stated to have accepted and then invited Jesus for a meal with his friends. Tax collectors were seen as villains in Jewish society, and the Pharisees are described by the synoptics as asking Jesus why he is having a meal with such disreputable people. The reply Jesus gives to this is now well known: it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
The twelve and no women
Each of the four listings in the New Testament (Evelyn Stagg and Theologian Frank Stagg concluded that "this is the strongest single evidence against a clear breakthrough on the part of Jesus in the recognition of the full equality of women with men".They say the New Testament gives no clear answer. However, they present several considerations in their book., , , and ) indicate that all were men. While the names vary in the four lists, the male identity is uniform. Why were the twelve all men? Classicist
Replacement of Judas
After Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ and then in guilt committed suicide before Christ's resurrection (in one Gospel account), the apostles numbered eleven. When Jesus had been taken up from them, in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit that he had promised them, Peter advised the brethren:
Judas, who was guide to those who took Jesus... For he was numbered with us, and received his portion in this ministry... For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'Let his habitation be made desolate, Let no one dwell therein', and, 'Let another take his office'... So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us, must become with us a witness to his resurrection—
So, between the ascension of Christ and the day of Pentecost, the remaining apostles elected a twelfth apostle by casting lots, a traditional Israelite way to determine the Will of God. (see ) The lot fell upon Matthias.
This is one of several verses used by the Orthodox Churches (including Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox Churches) in support of their teaching of Apostolic Succession, and by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in support of the Great Apostasy.
First Epistle to the Corinthians
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.—
The text has some unresolved issues. Paul does not refer to "the twelve" anywhere else in his writings, nor did he ever limit the usage of the word "apostle" to the twelve disciples who by definition were the ones appointed as apostles.
Deaths of the twelve apostles
Christian tradition has generally passed down that all but one were martyred, with John surviving into old age. Only the death of James, son of Zebedee is described in the New Testament, and the details of the other deaths are the subject of pious legends of varying authenticity. In some cases there is near unanimity in the tradition, and in other cases, there are widely varying and inconsistent accounts.
Judas Iscariot, originally one of the twelve, died after Jesus' trial. Matthew 27:5 says that he hanged himself, and Acts 1:18 says that he fell, burst open, and his "bowels gushed out." Matthias was elected to take his place as one of the twelve.
Tombs of the apostles
Out of the eleven apostles excluding Judas Iscariot, the burial sites of only seven have been identified by Christian tradition.
The Apostle to the Gentiles: Paul of Tarsus
In his writings, Paul, though not one of the original twelve, described himself as an apostle, one "born out of due time" (e.g., , 1 Corinthians 15:8 and other letters). He was called by the resurrected Jesus himself during his Road to Damascus vision.
Other apostles in the New Testament
In Barnabas is referred to as an apostle.,
Andronicus and Junia
InPaul states that Andronicus and Junia were "of note among the apostles." This has been traditionally interpreted in one of two ways:
1) That Andronicus and Junia were "of note among the apostles," that is, distinguished apostles.
2) That Andronicus and Junia were "well known among the apostles" meaning "well known to the apostles".
In the first view it is believed that Paul is referring to a female apostle. Unhappy with reference to a female apostle, editors and translators have often changed the name to "Junias," the masculine version of Junia, as in the Revised Standard Version. While "Junia" was a common name, "Junias" was not.
In the second view, it is believed that Paul is simply making mention of the outstanding character of these two people which was acknowledged by the apostles.
Historically it has been virtually impossible to tell which of the two views were correct. The second view, in recent years, has been defended from a scholarly perspective by Daniel Wallace and Michael Burer. Following an examination of this Greek phrase (episēmoi + the preposition en) in biblical Greek, patristic Greek, papyri, inscriptions as well as Hellenistic and classical Greek texts, they conclude that the normal way one would attempt to convey the meaning to the apostles rather than among the apostles was employed by Paul.
Silas is referred to as an apostle inand along with Timothy and Paul. He also performs the functioning of an apostle as Paul's companion in Paul's second missionary journey in
Timothy is referred to as an apostle inand along with Silas and Paul. However, in he is only called a "brother" when Paul refers to himself as "an apostle of Christ". Timothy performs many of the functions of an apostle in the commissioning of Paul in 1st and 2nd Timothy, though in those epistles Paul refers to him as his "son" in the faith.
Apollos is included as "us apostles" in Cephas (Peter).(see , , and ) along with Paul and
Later Christianizing apostles
Roman Catholic tradition
A number of successful pioneering missionaries are known as apostles. In this sense, in the traditional list below, the apostle either first brought Christianity to a land or a people, or spread the faith in places where a few struggling Christian communities did already exist.
- Apostle to the Abyssinians: Saint Frumentius
- Apostle to the Caucasian Albania: Saint Yelisey
- Apostle of the Alleghanies: Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, 1770–1840
- Apostle of Andalusia: Juan de Avila, 1500–1569
- Apostle of the Ardennes: Saint Hubertus, 656–727
- Apostle to the Armenians: Saint Gregory the Illuminator, 256–331
- Apostle to Berkshire: Thomas Russell
- Apostle to Brazil: José de Anchieta, 1533–1597
- Apostle to Carantania: Saint Vergilius of Salzburg, Bishop, (745–84)
- Apostle to the English: Saint Augustine of Canterbury, died 604
- Apostle of the Eucharist: Saint Peter Julian Eymard
- Apostle of Franconia: Saint Kilian c. 640 - 689
- Apostle to the Franks: Saint Remigius, c. 437 – 533
- Apostle to the Frisians: Saint Willibrord, 657–738
- Apostle of Gaul: Saint Irenaeus, 130–200
- Apostle of Gaul: Saint Denis (3rd century)
- Apostle of Gaul: Saint Martin of Tours, 338–401
- Apostle to the Gauls: Saint Saturninus, died c. 257
- Apostle to the Georgians: Saint Nino, 320s
- Apostle to the Gentiles: Saint Paul
- Apostle to the Germans: Saint Boniface, 680–755
- Apostle of Holstein: Saint Vicelinus, 1086–1154
- Apostle to Hungary: Saint Anastasius, 954–1044
- Apostle to India: Saint Thomas
- Apostle to India: Saint Francis Xavier; 1506–1552
- Apostle to the "Indians" (Amerindians): John Eliot, 1604–1690
- Apostle to the Indies (West): Bartolomé de las Casas, 1474–1566
- Apostle to the Indies (East): Saint Francis Xavier, 1506–1552
- Apostle to Ireland: Saint Patrick, 373–463
- Apostle to the Iroquois, François Picquet, 1708–1781
- Apostle of Mercy: Saint Faustina Kowalska, 1905–1938
- Apostle to Noricum: Saint Severinus
- Apostle to the North: Saint Ansgar, 801–864
- Apostle to the Parthians: Saint Thomas
- Apostle of the Permians: Saint Stephen of Perm, 1340–1396
- Apostle of Peru: Alonzo de Barcena, 1528–1598
- Apostle to the Picts: Saint Ninian, 5th century
- Apostle to the Polish: Saint Adalbert
- Apostle to the Pomeranians: Saint Otto, 1060–1139
- Apostle to the Scots: Saint Columba, 521–597
- Apostles to the Slavs: Saints Cyril and Methodius, c 820–869
- Apostle of Spains: Saint James the Greater (d. 44)
- Apostle of the Wends: Saint Evermode, d.1178
Analogous use for non-Catholic missionaries:
- Apostle to the Americas: Saint Innocent, 1797–1879
- Apostle to the Cherokees: Cephas Washburn
- Apostle to China: Hudson Taylor
- Apostle to the Goths: Bishop Ulfilas (Arian)
"Apostle to the apostles"
Harvard theologian Karen King cites references in the Gospel of John that the risen Jesus gives Mary Magdalene special teaching and commissions her as an "Apostle to the Apostles." Mary is the first to announce the resurrection and to fulfill the role of an apostle─someone sent by Jesus with a special message or commission, to spread the gospel ("good news") and to lead the early church. The first message she was given was to announce to Peter and the others that "He is risen!"(Mt. 28:7 Mk. 16:9-11 Lk. 24:10 Jn. 20:2) Although the term is not specifically used of her in the New Testament, Eastern Christianity refers to her as "equal to the apostles"), and later traditions named her as "the apostle to the apostles." King writes that the strength of this literary tradition makes it possible to suggest that historically Mary was a prophetic visionary and leader within one sector of the early Christian movement after the death of Jesus.
"Equal to the apostles"
Some Eastern Orthodox saints are given the title isapostolos ("equal-to-the-apostles"; Russian: равноапостольный), e.g., Saint Cosmas. Beginning with Saint Constantine, this was also a frequent title of Byzantine Emperors.
The Emperor Constantine the Great, sometimes considered founder of the Byzantine Empire, formally recognized Christianity in the Roman Empire in the Edict of Milan in 313 (see also Constantine I and Christianity). According to Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church:
Soon after his death, Eusebius set him above the greatest princes of all times; from the fifth century he began to be recognized in the East as a saint; and the Greek and Russian church to this day celebrates his memory under the extravagant title of "Isapostolos", the "Equal of the apostles". The Latin church, on the contrary, has never placed him among the saints, but has been content with naming him "the Great," in remembrance of his services to the cause of Christianity and civilization. Comp the Acta Sact. ad 21 Maii, p. 13 sq. Niebuhr remarks: "When certain oriental writers call Constantine 'equal to the apostles', they do not know what they are saying; and to speak of him as a 'saint' is a profanation of the word.
The fivefold ministry states that the apostle continues to be a valid and active office in the contemporary church. C. Peter Wagner has been especially prominent in the New Apostolic Reformation, which argues that God is restoring the lost offices of prophet and apostle.
- Apostles' Fast
- Apostolic Fathers
- Apostolic succession
- Commissioning the twelve apostles
- Apostolic Council
- Disciple (Christianity)
- Disciples of Jesus in Islam
- Dispersion of the apostles
- Female disciples of Jesus
- Great Commission
- List of members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church)
- New Apostolic Church
- New Testament
- Old Apostolic Church
- Seventy Disciples
- Twelve Imams
- "Apostle." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. ISBN 0192802909
- Revelation 21:14.
- As was not uncommon for Jews at the time, some of them had two names, one Hebrew/Aramaic and the other Greek. Hence the lists of Jesus' twelve apostles contains 14 names not 12; the 4 Greek names are Andrew, Philip, Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus. Reference: John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew.
- cf. also , , , .
- Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "Mark" pp. 285–296.
- An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. The Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. Clarendon Press: Oxford, p. 797.
- Stagg, Evelyn; Stagg, Frank (1978). Woman in the World of Jesus. Westminster Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-664-24195-6. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- cf. ; , , ,
- May, Herbert G. and Bruce M. Metzger. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. 1977.
- Crossan, J. D. and Reed, J. L., In Search of Paul, Harper San Francisco (2004), pp. 115-116. ISBN 978-0-06-051457-0.
- Ehrman, Bart. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford University Press, USA. 2006. ISBN 978-0-19-530013-0.
- See Daniel B. Wallace and Michael H. Burer, "Was Junia Really an Apostle?" NTS 47 (2001): 76-91.
- King, Karen I. "Women in Ancient Christianity: the New Discoveries." Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Frontline: From Jesus to Christ—The First Christians. Online: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/women.html. Accessed 01–11–2008
- Th Navarre Bible. (RSV, Catholic Edition), Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999.
- Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. "Matthew." The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
- Pope Benedict XVI, The Apostles. Full title is The Origins of the Church – The Apostles and Their Co-Workers. published 2007, in the US: ISBN 978-1-59276-405-1; different edition published in the UK under the title: Christ and His Church – Seeing the face of Jesus in the Church of the Apostles, ISBN 978-1-86082-441-8.
- Carson, D.A. "The Limits of Functional Equivalence in Bible Translation - and other Limits Too." in The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God's Word to the World. edited by Glen G Scorgie, Mark L. Strauss, Steven M. Voth.
- Carter, Warren. "Matthew 4:18-22 and Matthean Discipleship: An Audience-Oriented Perspective." Catholic Bible Quarterly. Vol. 59. No. 1. 1997.
- Clarke, Howard W. The Gospel of Matthew and its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
- "Fishers of Men." A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature. David Lyle Jeffrey, general editor. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992.
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
- Manek, Jindrich. "Fishers of Men." Novum Testamentum. 1958 pg. 138
- Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
- Wuellner, Wilhelm H. The Meaning of "Fishers of Men". Westminster Press, 1967.
- The Lost Gospel - The Book of Q. by Burton L Mack
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Apostles|
- Apostle in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
- Apostle article from Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge
- Texts on Wikisource:
- "Apostle". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
- Beach, Chandler B., ed. (1914). "Apostles". The New Student's Reference Work. Chicago: F. E. Compton and Co.
- Coppieters, Honoré-Joseph (1913). "Apostles". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- "Apostle". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- "Apostle". Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.
- Liddell & Scott
- Strong's G652
- Apostle and Apostleship article from Jewish Encyclopedia
- The Twelve Apostles The Biographies of The Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
- Apostles.com Biographies of Christ's Apostles
- Cast Your Nets: Fishing at the Time of Jesus
- The Fishing Economy in Galilee
- The Twelve Apostles an Eastern Orthodox perspective by Rev. George Mastrantonis
- Apostle article from OrthodoxWiki
- Christian History: The Twelve Apostles
- Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
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