The Apostles (in Koine Greek 'απόστολος' apostolos, someone sent forth/sent out, an 'emissary') were probably Galilean Jewish men (10 names are Aramaic, 4 names are Greek) chosen from among the disciples, who were 'sent forth' by Jesus of Nazareth to preach the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles across the world.
- 'He called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles' (Gospel acc. to Luke 6:13).
The Twelve Apostles
Synoptic Gospels (the Gospel accounts acc. to Matthew, Mark and Luke)
According to the Gospel according to Matthew (10:1–4), the Gospel according to Mark (3:13–19), and the Gospel according to Luke (6:12–16), the Twelve chosen by Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, those whom 'also he named Apostles', were:
- Simon called Peter (Grk. petros, petra; Aram. kēf; Engl. rock) by Jesus, also known as Simon bar Jonah and Simon bar Jochanan (Aram.) and earlier (Pauline Epistles were written first) Cephas (Aram.) by Paul of Tarsus and Simon Peter, a fisherman from Bethsaida 'of Galilee' (Jn 1:44; cf. 12:21)
- Andrew brother of Peter, a Bethsaida fisherman and disciple of John the Baptist
- James ('the Great') and
- John, sons of Zebedee, called by Jesus Boanerges (an Aramaic name explained in Mk 3:17 as 'Sons of Thunder')
- Philip from Bethsaida 'of Galilee' (Jn 1:44, 12:21)
- Bartholomew, in Aramaic 'bar-Talemai?', 'son of Talemai' or from Ptolemais, identified with Nathanael
- Thomas, also known as Judas Thomas Didymus, Aramaic T'oma', 'twin', Greek Didymous, 'twin'
- James ('the Less') and
- Matthew the tax collector, sometimes identified with Levi, sons of Alphaeus
- Simon the Canaanite, called in Luke and Acts 'Simon the Zealot'
- Judas Iscariot 'the traitor'; name Iscariot may refer to the Judaean towns of Kerioth or to the sicarii (Jewish nationalist insurrectionists); he was replaced as an apostle in Acts by Matthias
- Thaddaeus, but in some manuscripts of Matthew 'Lebbaeus' or 'Judas the Zealot' and in Luke Judas, son of James
Gospel According to St. John
The Gospel according to John, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, does not offer a list of apostles, nor does the author even state their number. However, the following nine apostles appear in the fourth Gospel account:
- Andrew (Peter's brother),
- Judas Iscariot,
- Thomas (who is also called Judas),
- Nathanael, Philip,
- the sons of Zebedee
- John, and
- Judas, not Iscariot.
The apostles have also been known as the twelve saints: St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. Bartholomew, St. James the Greater, St. James the Lesser, St. John, St. Jude, St. Matthias, St. Matthew, St. Simon, St. Philip, and St. Thomas.
The Thirteenth Apostle
Paul of Tarsus
In his writings, Saul, later known as Paul, though not one of the Twelve, described himself as an apostle, one 'born out of time' e.g. Romans 1:1 and other letters), claimed he was appointed by the resurrected Jesus himself during his Road to Damascus vision; specifically he referred to himself as the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8). He also described some of his companions as apostles (Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, Andronicus and Junia) and even some of his opponents as super-apostles (2nd Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11). As the Catholic Encyclopedia states: 'It is at once evident that in a Christian sense, everyone who had received a mission from God, or Christ, to man could be called "Apostle"'; thus extending the original sense beyond the original Twelve. Since Paul claimed to have received the Gospel through a revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. Gal 1:12; Acts 9:3-19, 26-27, 22:6-21, 26:12-23) after the latter's death and resurrection, (rather than before like the Twelve) , he was often obliged to defend his apostolic authority (1st Corinthians 9:1 'Am I not an apostle?') and proclaim that he had seen and was anointed by Jesus while on the road to Damascus; but James, Peter and John in Jerusalem accepted his apostleship to the Gentiles (specifically those not circumcised) as of equal authority as Peter's to the Jews (specifically those circumcised) according to Paul in Galatians 2:7-9. 'James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars ... agreed that we <Paul and Barnabas> should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.' (Galatians 2:9NIV) Paul sometimes replaces Matthias in classical depictions of 'The Twelve Apostles.'
Many historians maintain that Paul and Peter certainly disagreed on the extent of Paul's authority as an Apostle, with Peter maintaining Paul was not one of those chosen by Jesus, or by his chosen after his death. See also Pauline Christianity and Jewish Christians.
Constantine the Great
The Emperor Constantine the Great, sometimes considered founder of the Byzantine Empire, is sometimes called the Thirteenth Apostle, for example: 'He is called "the Great," for he was a zealous champion for the purity of Orthodoxy. In the Sixth Ode of the Canon for today's Feast, he is referred to as "the thirteenth Apostle."' He is also part of the list of Equal-to-apostles. Also, Philip Schaff's: '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, with truer tact, has never placed him among the saints, but has been content with naming him 'the Great,' in just and grateful remembrance of his services to the cause of Christianity and civilization. Comp the Acta Sact. ad 21 Maii, p. 13 sq. Niebuhr justly 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.'
Judas having betrayed Christ and then in guilt committed suicide before Christ's resurrection (in one Gospel account), the apostles then numbered eleven. According to Acts 1:16–20, Peter states, '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."'
Between the ascension of Christ and the day of Pentecost, the remaining apostles elected a twelfth apostle by casting lots, a traditional Jewish way to determine the Will of God as a replacement of Judas. The lot fell upon Matthias, who then became the last of the Twelve Apostles in the New Testament.
- John - A common belief is that the 'beloved disciple' was John and that he was the writer the Gospel According to John – This John could be John the Evangelist or John the Apostle himself. Some assert that they are the same person – referred to him in the Gospel according to John.
- Mary Magdalene - Some believe that Mary Magdalene was the beloved disciple and that she wrote the Gospel attributed to John.
The writer of the Hebrews (3:1) refers to Jesus as the 'apostle and high priest of our professed faith' and of rank greater than Moses.
In Acts 14:14, Barnabas, the man who introduced Paul to the circle of disciples and the desposyni at Jerusalem, is referred to as an apostle.
James the Just
Brother or relative of Jesus (see James the Just for details), described by Paul as: 'James, Cephas, and John, who were reputed to be pillars' (Gal 2:9 NIV) and described in Acts as leader of the Jerusalem Church, is not called an apostle in the Gospels, though Paul in Galatians 1:19 states that he is one and according to Orthodox Christian Tradition he is the first of the Seventy of Luke 10:1-20. Many believe that the Seventy were also called apostles. The Greek text doesn't use the noun form apostolos but uses the verb form apostello which means to send away and in combination with the rest of the text strongly implies that they are apostles.
Twelve Disciples/Apostles of Christ in the Book of Mormon
According to the Book of Mormon, shortly after his resurrection, Jesus visited a group of people living in the Americas, and chose twelve apostles ('disciples' in the text) to support his church in that region. Their names, according to the third book of Nephi, chapter 19 verse 4, were Nephi, Timothy, Jonas, Mathoni, Mathonihah, Kumen, Kumenonhi, Jeremiah, Shemnon, Jonas, Zedekiah, and Isaiah. According to the book, nine of the twelve died of old age, with three (an unidentified subset of the twelve, called the Three Nephites) remained on the Earth, as was John, without tasting death, to await the Second Coming of Jesus.
Additionally, in Romans 16:7 Paul states that Andronicus and Junia were 'of note among the apostles', indicating that he considered these two as well to be apostles. As suggested by context, Andronicus and Junia were man and wife and Paul is identifying a female apostle. This is cited as an example of gender neutrality in the early church. (See Crossan, J. D. and Reed, J. L., In Search of Paul, HarperSanFrancisco, 2004, pp 115-116, ISBN 006-051457-4.) There is some doubt as to the gender due to number of ancient texts using the male form of 'Junia' i.e. 'Junias'. Additionally the surrounding wording uses masculine constructs relative to the name.
(However, the tag 'of note among the apostles' can also be considered to mean simply that the apostles considered them to be noteworthy Christians. This is the preferred interpretation of most conservative theologians, and renders the gender argument irrelevant. Following is a quote from Matthew Henry:
|‘||They were of note among the apostles, not so much perhaps because they were persons of estate and quality in the world as because they were eminent for knowledge, and gifts, and graces, which made them famous among the apostles, who were competent judges of those things, and were endued with a spirit of discerning not only the sincerity, but the eminency, of Christians.||’|
Later Christianizing apostles
A number of successful pioneering missionaries are known as Apostles. In this sense, in the traditional list below, the apostle first brought Christianity (or Arianism in the case of Ulfilas and the Goths) to a land. Or it may apply to the truly influential Christianizer, such as Patrick's mission to Ireland, where a few struggling Christian communities did already exist. The reader will soon think of more of the culture heroes.
- Apostle to the Abyssinians: Saint Frumentius
- Apostle of the Alleghanies: Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, 1770–1840
- Apostle of Andalusia: Juan de Avila, 1500–1569
- Apostle of the Ardennes: Saint Hubert, 656–727
- Apostle to the Armenians: Saint Gregory the Illuminator, 256–331
- Apostle to Brazil: José de Anchieta, 1533–1597
- Apostle to Karantania: Bishop Virgilius of Salzburg (745–84)
- Apostle to the Cherokees: Cephas Washburn
- Apostle to China: Hudson Taylor
- Apostle to the English: Saint Augustine, died 604
- Apostle to the Franks: Saint Denis (3rd century)
- Apostle to the Franks: Saint Remigius, ca 437–533
- Apostle to the Frisians: Saint Willibrord, 657–738
- Apostle to the Gauls: Saint Irenaeus, 130–200
- Apostle to the Gauls: Saint Martin of Tours, 338–401
- Apostle to the Georgians: Saint Nino, 320s
- Apostle to the Gentiles: Saint Paul
- Apostle to the Germans: Saint Boniface, 680–755
- Apostle to the Goths: Bishop Ulfilas
- Apostle to Hungary: Saint Anastasius, 954–1044
- Apostle to India: Saint Thomas;died around 53 AD
- Apostle to India: Saint Francis Xavier; 1506–1552
- Apostle to India (Protestant): William Carey
- 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, Francois Piquet, 1708–1781
- 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 of Bamberg, 1060–1139
- Apostle to the Scots: Saint Columba, 521–597
- Apostle to the Slavs: Saint Cyril, c 820–869
- Apostle to the Slavs: Saint Methodius
- Apostle of Spains: James the Great (d. 44)
- Apostle of Mercy: Saint Faustina Kowalska, 1905–1938
Some Eastern Orthodox saints are given the title specific to the Eastern rites 'equal-to-the-apostles', see isapostolos Kosmas Aitolos. The myrrh-bearing women, who went to anoint Christ's body and first learned of his resurrection, are sometimes called the 'apostles to the apostles' because they were sent by Jesus to tell the apostles of his resurrection.
In the Catholic and Orthodox churches, bishops are seen as the successors to the Apostles. See Apostolic succession.
Many Charismatic churches consider apostleship to be a gift of the Holy Spirit still given today (based on 1 Corinthians 12:28). The gift is associated with church leadership or church planting.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ('LDS Church'; see also Mormon) believes that the authority of the original twelve apostles is a distinguishing characteristic of the true church established by Jesus. For this reason, it ordains Apostles as members of its Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, second in authority to the church's First Presidency which is led by the senior Apostle similar to Peter leading the twelve disciples.
The New Apostolic Church believes also in the current existence of modern day apostles. They believe in the return of the apostles in the 1830s in England by prophecies. Started as a renewal movement in the Anglican Church, it soon went into the Catholic Apostolic Church which afterwards developed into the New Apostolic Church and others like the United Apostolic Church.