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In [[Christian theology and [[ecclesiology, apostles, particularly the Twelve Apostles (also known as the Twelve Disciples or simply the Twelve), were the primary [[Disciple (Christianity)|disciples of Jesus|Jesus Christ
according to the New Testament
. During the life
and ministry of Jesus
in the 1st century AD
, the apostles were his closest followers and became the primary teachers of the gospel
message of Jesus
. There is also an Eastern Christian
tradition derived from the Gospel of Luke
of there having been as many as seventy apostles
during the time of Jesus' ministry.
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
, who by then had died
) by the Great Commission
to spread his teachings to all nations. This event has been called the Dispersion of the Apostles
In the Pauline epistles
, although not one of the original twelve, described himself as an ''apostle
'', saying he was called by the resurrected Jesus
himself during his Road to Damascus
event. He later describes himself as "the apostle of the Gentiles
". In the Book of Acts
he and Barnabas
were allotted the roles of apostle
in the church.
In modern usage, missionaries
under Pentecostal movements
often refer to themselves as apostles, a practice which stems from the Latin
equivalent of ''apostle'', i.e. ', the source of the English
word ''missionary''. For example, Saint Patrick
373–463) was the "Apostle of Ireland", Saint Boniface
(680–755) was the "Apostle to the Germans
Saint José de Anchieta
(1534–1597) was the "Apostle of Brazil" and Saint Peter of Betancur
(1626–1667) was the "Apostle of Guatemala".
The period of early Christianity during the lifetimes of the apostles is called the Apostolic Age
During the 1st century AD, the apostles established churches
throughout the territories of the Roman Empire
and, according to tradition, through the Middle East
, and India
. Of the tombs of the apostles
, all but two are claimed by premises of the Catholic Church
, half of them located in the Diocese of Rome
The term ''apostle'' comes from the Greek
''apóstolos'' () – formed from the prefix ''apó-'' (, 'from') and root ''stéllō'' (, 'I send, I depart') – originally meaning 'messenger, envoy'. It has, however, a stronger sense than the word ''messenger'', and is closer to a 'delegate'.
'' argues that its Christian usage translated a Jewish
position known in Hebrew
as the ''sheliach'' (). This ecclesiastical
meaning of the word was later translated into Latin
as ', the source of the English "missionary
states that Jesus initially sent out these twelve in pairs (cf.
, ) to towns in Galilee
. The text states that their initial instructions were to heal the sick
and drive out demons
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 tunic
s," 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).
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
. 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."
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. The immediacy of their consent has been viewed as an example of divine power, although this is not stated in the text. The more ordinary explanation is that Jesus was friends with them beforehand, as implied by the Gospel of John, which states that Peter (Simon) and Andrew were disciples of John the Baptist
, and started following Jesus as soon as Jesus had been baptized
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, although 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 has been 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 boat 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, or that Jesus expected the imminent coming of the kingdom.
The Synoptic Gospels go on to describe that later in Jesus' ministry
he noticed a tax collector
in his booth. The tax collector, called Matthew in , Levi in and , 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 villain
s in Jewish society, and the Pharisees
are described as asking Jesus why he is having a meal with such disreputable people. The reply Jesus gave 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 to repentance."
Commissioning of the Twelve Apostles
The commissioning of the Twelve Apostles
is an episode in the ministry of Jesus
that appears in all three Synoptic Gospel
s: Matthew 10
:1–4, Mark 3
:13–19 and Luke 6
:12–16. It relates the initial selection of the Twelve Apostles among the disciples of Jesus
According to Luke
In the Gospel of Matthew
, this event takes place shortly before the miracle
of the man with a withered hand
. In the gospels of Mark
and of Luke
, it appears shortly after that miracle.
Replacement of Judas Iscariot
After he betrayed Christ (and then in guilt committed suicide before Christ's resurrection
, one Gospel recounts), 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:
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
Paul the Apostle in his First Epistle to the Corinthians
, appears to give the first historical reference to the Twelve Apostles: "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" (1 Cor 3–5).
Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles
Although not one of the apostles commissioned during the life of Jesus, Paul, a Jew
named Saul of Tarsus, claimed a special commission from the post-ascension Jesus
as "the apostle of the Gentiles
", to spread the gospel message after his conversion
. In his writings, the epistles
to Christian churches throughout the Levant
, Paul did not restrict the term "apostle" to the twelve, and often refers to his mentor Barnabas
as an apostle.
["Apostle." Cross, F. L., ed. ''The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church''. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. .]
In his writings
, Paul, although not one of the original twelve, described himself as an ''apostle''. He was called by the resurrected Jesus himself during his Road to Damascus
event. With Barnabas, he was allotted the role of apostle in the church.
Since Paul claimed to have received a gospel not from teachings of the Twelve Apostles but solely and directly through personal revelations from the post-ascension Jesus
, after Jesus's death and resurrection
(rather than before like the twelve), Paul was often obliged to defend his apostolic authority () and proclaim that he had seen and was anointed by Jesus while on the road to Damascus.
Paul considered himself perhaps inferior to the other apostles because he had originally persecuted Christ's followers while thinking he was not in the least inferior to those "super-apostles" and not lacking in "knowledge".
Paul referred to himself as the ''apostle of the Gentiles.'' According to Paul's account in his Epistle to the Galatians
, James, Peter and John in Jerusalem accepted the "grace" given to Paul and agreed that Paul and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles
(specifically those not circumcised
) and the three Apostles who "seemed to be pillars" to the circumcised. Despite the Little Commission of Matthew 10
, the Twelve Apostles did not limit their mission to solely Jews as Cornelius the Centurion
is widely considered the first Gentile convert and he was converted by Peter, and the Great Commission
of the Resurrected Jesus
is specifically to "all nations".
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 twelve.
ic account of the disciples
( ar|الحواريون ''al-ḥawāriyyūn'') of Jesus
does not include their names, numbers, or any detailed accounts of their lives. Muslim exegesis
, however, more-or-less agrees with the New Testament
list and says that the disciples included Peter
and Simon the Zealot
. Scholars generally draw a parallel with the disciples of Jesus and the companions of Muhammad
, who followed Muhammad during his lifetime.
By the 2nd century AD
, association with the apostles was esteemed as an evidence of authority. Churches that are believed to have been founded by one of the apostles are known as apostolic see
s. Paul's epistles were accepted as scripture
, and two of the four canonical
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 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
who came to be associated with apostles — such as Pope Clement I
with St. Peter
— are referred to as the Apostolic Fathers
. The Apostles' Creed
, popular in the West
, was said to have been composed by the apostles themselves.
Of the Twelve Apostles to hold the title after Matthias' selection, Christian tradition has generally passed down that all of the Twelve Apostles except only one were martyred
, with only John
surviving into old age.
Only the death of James, son of Zebedee
is described in the New Testament
says that Judas Iscariot threw the silver he received for betraying Jesus down in the Temple, then went and hanged himself. says that he purchased a field, then "falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out".
According to the 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon
, early Christians (second half of the second century and first half of the third century) believed that only Peter, Paul, and James, son of Zebedee, were martyred. The remainder or even all of the claims of martyred apostles do not rely upon historical or biblical evidence.
[ Citing ]
Tombs of the Apostles
The relics of the apostles are claimed by various Churches, many in Italy.
: buried in St. Peter's Basilica
in Vatican City
: buried in St. Andrew's Cathedral
* James the Great
: buried in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
in Santiago de Compostela
: buried in the Basilica of St. John
: buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles
or possibly Hierapolis
, near Denizli
: buried in the Basilica
, or Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island
: buried in the Salerno Cathedral
* James, son of Alpheus
: buried in the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem
or the Church of the Holy Apostles
: buried in the San Thome Basilica
or in the Basilica of St. Thomas the Apostle
: buried in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
under the St. Joseph
altar with St. Jude
* Jude Thaddeus
: buried in St. Peter's Basilica under the St. Joseph
altar with St. Simon; two bones (relics) located at National Shrine of St Jude
: buried in the St. Matthias' Abbey
: relics located in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
* Judas Iscariot
: remains located in Akeldama
, near the Valley of Hinnom
, in Jerusalem
List of the Twelve Apostles as identified by the Bible
Each of the four listings of apostles in the New Testament (, , , and ) indicate that all the apostles were men. The canonical gospels
and the book of Acts
give varying names of the Twelve Apostles. The list in the Gospel of Luke
differs from Matthew and Mark on one point. It lists "Judas the son of James" instead of "Thaddeus".
Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John
does not offer a formal list of apostles. Although it refers to "the Twelve" (), the gospel does not present any elaboration of who these twelve actually were, and the author of the Gospel of John does not mention them all by name. There is also no separation of the terms "apostles" and "disciples" in John.
Other apostles mentioned in the New Testament
The seventy disciples
The "seventy disciples" or "seventy-two disciples" (known in the Eastern Christian
traditions as the "Seventy Apostles") were early emissaries of Jesus
mentioned in the Gospel of Luke
. According to Luke, the only gospel
in which they appear, Jesus appointed them and sent them out in pairs on a specific mission which is detailed in the text.
In Western Christianity
, they are usually referred to as disciples
, whereas in Eastern Christianity they are usually referred to as Apostles
Using the original Greek words
, both titles are descriptive, as an ''apostle'' is one sent on a mission
(the Greek uses the verb form: ''apesteilen'') whereas a ''disciple'' is a student, but the two traditions differ on the scope of the words ''apostle'' and ''disciple''.
According to Church tradition, Luke the Evangelist
, the companion of Paul, is believed to have authored the Gospel of Luke
, though anonymously written and lacking an author's name; but while this view is still occasionally put forward, the scholarly consensus emphasizes the many contradictions between Acts and the authentic Pauline letters. The most probable date for its composition is around 80–110 A.D.
, and there is evidence that it was still being revised well into the 2nd century.
* Apostle (Latter Day Saints)
* Apostles' Fast
* Council of Jerusalem
* Council of Twelve Apostles
(Community of Christ
* Disciples of Jesus in Islam
* Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
* Companions of the Prophet
article from ''Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge
Liddell & ScottStrong's G652Apostle and Apostleship
article from ''Jewish Encyclopedia
''The Twelve Apostles''
The Biographies of The Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
Biographies of Christ's Apostles
Cast Your Nets: Fishing at the Time of JesusThe Twelve Apostles
an Eastern Orthodox
perspective by Rev. George Mastrantonis
article from OrthodoxWiki
Christian History: The Twelve ApostlesQuorum of the Twelve Apostles
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
"The Twelve Apostles"
at thChristian Iconography
Category:Articles about multiple people in the Bible
Category:Bible-related lists of people
Category:Christian religious occupations
Category:New Testament Greek words and phrases
Category:New Testament people
Category:Groups of Roman Catholic saints
Category:Religious leadership roles