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Apostles in the New Testament Church


Paul regarded the ministry of apostles as foundational in the life of the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:2; 4:11 cf. Eph. 3:5; Luke 11:49; Rev. 18:20).[1] Most ministers who were called “apostles” (apostoloi) in the New Testament, but not all, were involved in some kind of foundational leadership and teaching ministry. But there were different kinds of apostolic ministry. In this article, I look at the men and women who were apostles in the New Testament. I look at their qualifications and at what they did.

The Apostles in 1 Corinthians 15

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul clearly indicates that there were more apostles in the New Testament church than just the Twelve.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and 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 and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
1 Corinthians 15:3–9 NRSV (My underlines)

In this passage, Paul outlines the vital elements of the gospel. He emphasises that Jesus became alive again after his death and burial, and that he was seen by three groups of people. Paul identifies two groups of apostles among the groups of witnesses mentioned in this passage.

The first group of witnesses of the resurrected Jesus includes Cephas (i.e. the apostle Peter) and the Twelve (i.e. the twelve apostles)(1 Cor. 15:5). This group, of which Peter was the leader and spokesman, is the best-known group of apostles.

Paul then goes on to mention a group of more than five hundred believers who Jesus appeared to at one time (1 Cor. 15:6).[2] No apostles are identified as belonging to this group.

The third group of witnesses includes Jesus’s brother James, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and “all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:7 cf. Gal. 1:19). Paul had previously mentioned the twelve apostles in verse 5, so who are these other apostles in verse 7? Perhaps Jesus’s other siblings, such as Jude, were regarded as apostles and are included in this group too.[3]

Lastly, Paul refers to himself as an apostle or, more specifically, as “the least of the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9). But he is mentioned alone. Paul does not identify himself as belonging to “the Twelve” or to the group of “all the apostles”.

This passage in 1 Corinthians 15 mentions two groups of apostles among the followers of Jesus but, if we take into account other verses in the New Testament, there appear to be three and possibly more groups, or kinds, of apostles and apostolic ministries.

Neatly categorising different kinds of New Testament apostles is problematic and may not be particularly helpful, apart from distinguishing the Twelve. Nevertheless, I’ve chosen to discuss apostles using three categories.

Different Kinds of Apostles and Apostolic Ministries

Category One – The Twelve

The first category of apostolic ministry is that of the Twelve.[4] These twelve men held a unique position in the primitive church, especially among the followers of Jesus in Israel. Apart from Judas Iscariot, the apostles in this group were not replaced when they died.

When choosing Judas’ replacement, Peter outlined the necessary qualifications of the Twelve and said, “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who has been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:21–22 NIV).

Jesus called the Twelve to be his witnesses and to be servants of his people. Moreover, the number twelve corresponds with the twelve tribes of Israel, and one of the functions of the Twelve was symbolic. By choosing the Twelve, Jesus may have been signifying that his message, ministry, and new covenant were for all of Israel. (See Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:29–30.)

Category Two – Disciples Who Knew Jesus Personally

The second group of apostles mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7 consisted of people who had known Jesus during his earthly ministry and had seen him alive after his death and resurrection. Some think that seeing the risen Jesus was a criterion for all New Testament apostles (cf. Acts 1:21–22; 1 Cor. 9:1–2). Performing signs, wonders and miracles may also have been a criterion (2 Cor. 12:12).[5]

Kevin Giles highlights four credentials that Paul used to defend his own apostolic ministry. For Paul, an apostle was (1) someone who had seen the resurrected Lord, (2) someone who had brought a church into existence,[6] (3) someone who proclaimed the true gospel, and (4) someone who has suffered in the service of Christ.[7]  Perhaps there were many people in the second group of apostles who met these criteria.

As well as Jesus’s brothers (and sisters?) some of the Seventy (or seventy-two) disciples probably belonged to this second group of apostles (Mark 10:1ff; Luke 10:1ff). Some believe, or suggest, that Andronicus and Junia belonged to this group of Seventy.[8] Andronicus and Junia had been Christians longer than Paul and may have known Jesus personally. However, if this was the case, I think Paul would have mentioned it (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1–2). We know that the couple suffered in the service of Christ by being imprisoned. They may even have been instrumental in founding the church at Rome (Rom. 16:7).

Junia is not the only New Testament woman who was an apostle. Mark Goodacre observes that Mary Magdalene “seems to be depicted in the narratives of the four canonical Gospels as the first woman apostle.”[9] Mary Magdalene and other women who were close followers of Jesus may have been category two apostles. Many women from Galilee had left their homes to travel with Jesus and support his ministry. At least some of these women would have continued to travel after Pentecost, as eyewitnesses, evangelists, and apostles, spreading the gospel of their beloved Messiah and Lord (Acts 13:30–31).

Paul placed himself in a special category of apostle. He is unique in that he met Jesus in a vision after Jesus’s ascension (return to heaven), and was then personally commissioned to be his apostle to the Gentiles. Yet Paul still fits in this second group of apostles and meets its criteria (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8a).

Paul Barnett understands 1 Corinthians 15:9 to mean that Paul was the last of the apostles. He writes “the apostles are a group of limited number … From Paul’s standpoint, the unusual nature of Christ’s resurrection appearance to him serves to mark him out as the end point of such appearances and therefore the end of apostolic appointment.”[10] However, surviving second-century documents, including the Didache, a church manual that dates from the late first or early second century, indicate that the ministry of apostles continued into the post-apostolic period.

Who or what an apostle was in New Testament times is debated in modern times, but it was also debated in Paul’s time.[11] In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul had to defend his own apostolic credentials and ministry, and he was compared unfavourably to other apostles such as Apollos. It was not always clear who or what an apostle was.

Category Three – Missionaries and Messengers

There is still another category of apostleship in the New Testament, a category not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7. Category three apostles were Jesus-followers who may not have had a direct connection with Jesus while he was on earth.

The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos. The etymology of apostolos gives the sense of “a person who is sent,” and LSJ give the definition of apostolos as a “messenger, ambassador, envoy.” It is practically synonymous with the word “missionary,” which is derived from the Latin.[12] Some people were sent, or commissioned, by their church for a ministry that involved travel. For example, Epaphroditus was sent by the church in Philippi with a gift to help Paul while Paul was imprisoned. Paul refers to Epaphroditus as “their apostolos” in Philippians 2:25. This is sometimes translated as “their messenger” in English. Another example of category three apostles are the anonymous brothers who are called apostoloi (plural) in 2 Corinthians 8:23. These people were part of a delegation commissioned to carry a special offering to the Jerusalem church.[13]

These category three apostles, or messengers, were involved in practical ministries. But there were still other apostles, also seemingly without a direct connection with Jesus, who were involved in ministries that involved preaching and teaching.

Barnabas (Acts 14:1–4, 14 cf. 1 Cor. 9:5–6; Gal 2:9), Apollos (1 Cor. 1:12; 4:6, 9), Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 2:6 cf. 1 Thess. 1:1) were apostles who were commissioned for ministry by the church, rather than being personally commissioned by Jesus, and their ministry included the ministry of the word. These ministers continued a ministry that began with the category two apostles.

What did Apostles do in the Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Church?

While I believe that there is evidence of several types of apostles in the apostolic church and post-apostolic church, Paul Barnett refers to only two main senses, or ministries, of apostles in the New Testament church.

“Despite wide-ranging opinions of the origins, character and significance of apostolos within the NT, there is broad agreement that apostolos is used in two main senses—solemn, in the sense of bearing divine authority (e.g. “apostle of Christ Jesus,” 1 Cor. 1:1), and non-technical (e.g. “messengers from the churches,” 2 Cor. 8:23).”[14] 

“Non-technical apostles” were messengers who acted as agents and envoys of churches. “Solemn apostles” were preachers of the gospel who were often involved in itinerant ministries. The New Testament provides evidence that “solemn apostles” preached and taught. Paul, for example, travelled and preached and taught. He also occasionally baptised new converts and administered the Eucharist as part of his apostolic ministry. (See Acts 20:7–11.) But other apostles, as well as other ministers who are not called apostles (e.g. Epaphras, Col. 1:7), also taught and preached.[16]

Travelling evangelists are called apostles in the Apostolic Fathers (cf. Did. 11.3–6; Herm. Vis 13.1; Sim 92.4; 93.5; 102.2).[15] And in chapter eleven of the Didache, there are instructions about how travelling apostles and prophets were to be welcomed and treated.[17] These instructions suggest that apostles had a ministry that was on par with that of the prophets (cf. Eph. 3:5; Luke 11:49; Rev. 18:20). Moreover, it suggests that these second-century apostles were not few in number.

Valeriy Alikin sheds light on what travelling apostles did in the course of their ministries. He states that if an itinerant apostle was present in a house church gathering, “this apostle would conduct the gathering. If not, the master [or mistress] of the house and host [or hostess][18] of the meeting would normally play this part, or one of the members who were able to hold a leading position.”[19]

Alikin adds,

“Itinerant apostles and prophets continued to conduct gatherings and communal meals of Christian communities during the first half of the second century, as appears from the Didache. The apocryphal Acts, too, often present apostles as presiding at Christian gatherings and conducting eucharistic meals. These narratives are legendary to a large extent but reflect correctly the practice of travelling apostles and prophets conducting gatherings of Christian communities in the first and early second century.”[20]

Apostles Today

Some people believe that the ministry of apostles no longer operates, yet healthy churches still send men and women on important missions and itinerant ministries. Other men and women, spurred by a personal calling and conviction, are involved in ministries that can be called apostolic without necessarily being sent by their church. I believe there are numerous apostles operating throughout the world today, bringing Christian teaching, hope, and healing into new frontiers, all in the name of the risen Jesus.

Like many of the ministry terms used in the New Testament, the word “apostle” is not so much used as a title, but as a description of the kind of ministry a person, or group of people, was involved in. Whether a church today uses the word “apostle” as a ministry title, or not, is largely irrelevant. What is important is that we acknowledge that God is still calling some of his sons and daughters into apostolic ministries. As well as this acknowledgement, we should also be cooperating with what God is doing by equipping, sending, and supporting his apostolic ministers.

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[1] In Ephesians 2:20 the community of God’s people is metaphorically referred to as a building, a temple to be specific. This building is said to be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus being the cornerstone. The inspirational leadership and teaching ministries of apostles and prophets were fundamental in the primitive (very early) church.

[2] None of the four canonical Gospels record this event.

[3] In another passage in First Corinthians, Paul mentions the apostles and the Lord’s brothers, as well as Cephas, in the context of apostolic ministry (1 Cor. 9:5). It’s interesting that in chapter 9, as in chapter 15, Cephas seems to be mentioned as distinct from the Twelve.

[4] The Twelve are referred to as “apostles” (apostoloi) only a few times in the Gospels: once in Matthew, once in Mark (twice in the Textus Receptus), five times in Luke, and never in John. (See Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:14 TR; Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13; 9:10; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10.) Some scholars argue that Jesus did not call the Twelve “apostles.” Kevin Giles poses the question, “Did Luke introduce the title ‘apostle’ in his role as editor of the historical sources he used, or was it already there?”
Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (North Blackburn, Vic., Australia: Collins Dove, 1989), 155 & 157.
The word “apostles” is used many times in Acts, also written by Luke, where it sometimes includes, or refers to, more than the Twelve (e.g., Acts 14:14). I’ve included a list of all the New Testament people referred to as apostoloi in the postscript below.

Similarly, Dan Nässelqvist states:

Arnold Ehrhardt, Günter Klein, and Walter Schmithals argue that the origin of the notion of apostles cannot be traced back to Jesus. According to them, the notion of apostle developed in the early Jesus movement and its post-Easter mission. The majority of passages that use the word apostle are found in Acts and in the Pauline Letters, writings that are closely related to the missionary experience of the early Jesus movement. Thus, these scholars claim that the idea of apostles originated in the early missionary work, as new leadership figures emerged, and provided the background to the abundant use of apostle in the Pauline Letters and Acts. The Gospel writers then included the idea in their descriptions of how Jesus called His disciples (Ehrhardt, The Apostolic Ministry, 4–5; Klein, Die Zwölf Apostel, 22–52; Schmithals, The Office of Apostle in the Early Church, 1969:98–110).
D. Nässelqvist, “Apostle” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, J. D. Barry and L. Wentz (eds) (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012)

[5] I personally think Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:1–2 about seeing the risen Christ has been misunderstood. Here he was trying to prove his worth as an apostolic minister, but I don’t think he meant that everyone called an apostle is personally commissioned by Jesus after his resurrection.
Paul indicates that a mark of a true apostle is the proclamation of the true gospel. And in defending his claim of apostolic ministry, he points out that the Corinthians are his “workmanship in the Lord.” “The importance of this Paul underlines in the following sentence: ‘If to others I am not an apostle [i.e. if they reject me as an apostle], at least I am one to you; for you are my seal of my apostleship in the Lord (1 Cor. 9:2 cf. 1 Cor. 3:1–2; 2 Cor. 12:11).” Giles, Patterns of Ministry, 162.

[6] “Paul’s broader usage leads us to think that an apostle was similar in function to a church planter. For one, the term appears in contexts that stress the person’s role as a coworker in the church planting process” (e.g., 1 Cor. 9:1–6; 1 Thess. 2:6–8).”
Linda L. Belleville, Women Leaders and the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 54.

[7] Giles, Patterns of Ministry, 162–163.

[8] There is a tradition that associates Andronicus and Junia with the Seventy, but this idea cannot be verified and is most likely legendary and false. Origen (c. 185–254) suggested the couple were among the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10. Commentarius in epistolum ad Romanos, Book 10 (10.21 cf. 10:26) (PG 14.1280).

[9] Mark Goodacre, NT Pod 13: Mary Magdalene: the First Woman Apostle

[10] P.W. Barnett, “Apostle” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin (eds) (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 48.

[11] The modern debate about the nature of apostles began when J.B. Lightfoot wrote “The Name and Office of Apostles” (published in 1890 as an excursus to his commentary on Galatians.) In his essay, Lightfoot showed that people, other than the Twelve, were called apostles in the New Testament, and that apostles were mentioned widely in post-apostolic writings.”  Giles, Patterns of Ministry,  152.

[12] “The word apostolos (“apostle”) was used only infrequently in the Greek language prior to NT times … In classical Greek its use is more or less confined to seafaring contexts. Herodotus uses it twice for “messenger,” while the LXX has it only once with the same meaning. With the word occurring thirty-five times in the Pauline corpus and eighty times in the NT, it is evident that apostolos must have been very important within the early Christian movement.” Barnett, “Apostle”, 45.
The LSJ entry for apostolos is here.

[13] “Apostoloi was the name given to the men sent by officials at Jerusalem to collect the half-shekel tax for the Temple, the tax itself being called apostolē.” “Apostle and Apostleship” in JewishEncyclopedia.com It seems that Paul borrowed this usage and applied it to the collection for the church in Jerusalem.

[14] Barnett, “Apostles”, 45.

[15] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 1998), 797.

[16] Bauer and Danker have identified several roles of apostles in the apostolic and post-apostolic church:

• As a governing board, w. the elders Ac 15:2, 4, 6, 22f; 16:4.
• As possessors of the most important spiritual gift 1 Cor 12:28f.
• Proclaimers of the gospel 1 Cl 42:1f; B 5:9; Hs 9, 17, 1.
• Prophesying strife 1 Cl 44:1.
• Working miracles 2 Cor 12:12.
• W. overseers, teachers and attendants Hv 3, 5, 1; Hs 9, 15, 4;
• w. teachers Hs 9, 25, 2;
• w. teachers, preaching to those who had fallen asleep Hs 9, 16, 5;
• w. var. Christian officials IMg 6:1;
• w. prophets Eph 2:20; D 11:3; Pol 6:3.
• Christ and the apostles as the foundation of the church IMg 13:1; ITr 12; 2;
• cp. Eph 2:20.
• οἱ ἀ. and ἡ ἐκκλησία w. the three patriarchs and the prophets IPhld 9:1.
• The Holy Scriptures named w. the ap.
• 2 Cl 14:2 (sim. ApcSed 14:10 p. 136, 17 Ja.).
• Paul ironically refers to his opponents (or the original apostles; s. s.v. ὑπερλίαν) as οἱ ὑπερλίαν ἀ. the super-apostles 2 Cor 11:5; 12:11.
• The orig. apostles he calls οἱ πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀ. Gal 1:17;
• AcPlCor 2:4.

Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition, (BDAG) revised and edited by F.W Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. ἀπόστολος, ου, ὁ (s. ἀποστέλλω).

[17] Didache, Translated by M.B. Riddle. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm>.

[18] Several New Testament women are identified as being the mistresses of their own homes and as being hostesses of churches that met in these homes: Mary of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), Lydia of Philippi (Acts 16:40), Priscilla with her husband Aquila in Ephesus and Rome (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3–5, etc), Nympha of Laodicea (Col 4:15), the Chosen Lady (2 John 1:1, 5), and possibly Chloe of Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11).

[19] Valeriy A. Alikin, The Earliest History of the Christian Gathering: Origin, Development and Content of the Christian Gathering in the First to Third Centuries (Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill KV, 2010), 64.

[20] Alikin, Earliest History, 66.

© Margaret Mowckzo 2014
All Rights Reserved

Postscript: A List of All the Apostles in the New Testament

I count 21 apostles in the New Testament: the twelve apostles (with Matthias replacing Judas) plus eight others who are all referred to as apostoloi. This doesn’t include Jesus who is called “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” in Hebrews 3:1, and it doesn’t include the unknown number of anonymous brothers who are called apostoloi in 2 Corinthians 8:23.

Paul (Rom. 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor. 1:1; 4:9; 9:1–2;  2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1; Tit, 1:1.)
Barnabas (Acts 14:1–4, 14 cf. 1 Cor. 9:5–6; Gal 2:9)
Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7)
Apollos (1 Cor. 1:12; 4:6, 9)
Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 2:7 cf. 1 Thess. 1:1)
Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25)
James, Jesus’s brother (Gal. 1:19 cf. 1 Cor. 15:7)

Furthermore, the names of the Twelve in the four Gospels are precisely not uniform.
Matthew 10:2-4 has “Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus [Lebbaeus in some manuscripts]; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Mark 3:16-19 has the same twelve names as in Matthew 10:2–4, including the name Matthew. Levi son of Alpheus is previously mentioned in Mark 2:13–16. (Both Matthew and Levi were tax collectors and seem to be the same person. Compare Matthew 9:1–16 with Mark 2:1–21 and Luke 5:27–32).
Luke 6:14-16 has the same names as in Matthew 10, but instead of Thaddeus, it has Judas son of James. The list in Acts 1:13 is similar to the list in Luke 16 and similarly has Judas son of James instead of Thaddeus.
John never uses the word “apostles” for the Twelve or anyone else, and he identifies only a few of the Twelve by name: Simon Peter, Andrew, the sons of Zebedee (i.e. James and John), Philip, Thomas, Judas (not Iscariot) and Judas Iscariot (John 14: 5, 8, 22, etc). John also mentions Nathanial (John 1:43–51; John 21:2) and “the beloved disciple” (John 13:23; 19: 26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) who may or may not be John.
Paul doesn’t mention any of the Twelve by name in his letters except for Simon Peter.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC), the Seventy are regarded as apostles. (In Luke 9, Jesus called and sent the Twelve; in Luke 10, Jesus appointed and sent Seventy, or seventy-two, others.)  Furthermore, the EOC has conferred the title of “Equal to the Apostles” (isapostolos) on several women including Mary the Magdalene, the Samaritan woman (John 4), Apphia of Colossae (Phm. 1:2), and Nino of Georgia. The legendary Thecla also has this title. The EOC have always regarded Junia as both a woman and an apostle. Junia is sometimes included in lists of the Seventy.

Image Credit

Wooden carving of Jesus and his followers © kwerensia (iStock 2378892)

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Kevin Giles has an excellent paper on the subject of apostles: “Apostles Before and After Paul,” Churchman 99 (1985), 241–56. A pdf of his paper is here.

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

22 thoughts on “Apostles in the New Testament Church

  1. Great insights and footnotes!

    My understanding is that apostle means “sent out one” and the equivalent Hebrew term is shaliach. From the meaning of the name itself one can infer it is a ministry being described, an apostle who (supposedly) just stays in one place is a contradiction in terms.

    I see the distinctions among the different apostles in the NT arising when one considers who is doing the sending, if it is Jesus directly or if it is a congregation. Paul is a special case. So the 12 do not exist anymore, but an apostle sent out by a congregation can and does exist and are often called missionaries in some circles.

    An apostle or shaliach can speak with the authority of the sender, like an ambassador can speak for the country that sends them.

    Eph 4:11 And he himself gave some as apostles and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers
    Eph 4:12 for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
    Eph 4:13 until we all reach the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to a measure of the maturity of the fullness of Christ,
    Eph 4:14 so that we may no longer be infants, tossed about by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching, by the trickery of people, by craftiness with reference to the scheming of deceit.

    Per Eph 4, I see those ministries mentioned as being examples of spiritual gifts that involve leadership and I believe that all are active today.

    1. Hi Don,

      I agree. There is a distinction between apostles sent by Jesus and apostles sent by churches. And you make an important point that an apostle speaks with the authority, and brings the message, of the sender.

      I wonder how James, the Lord’s brother, fits the definition of “apostle”. There is no evidence that he travelled. Although I guess he travelled from Galilee and settled in Jerusalem.

  2. Thank you for this concise summary of apostles.

    1. You’re welcome, Keith.

  3. Matthias was chosen by the 11 after the Resurrection to replace Judas….we never hear about him again…and then Paul is called by God and becomes an apostle…and God’s call on him is evident.

    My view of this may not agree with others, but it seems to me that God spoke his view by “replacing” man’s choice (Matthias) with His own (Paul).

    In my view this was a subtle ‘rebuke’ to us to remember that only God chooses his apostles…above all else, they are not to be chosen by men but by God…and the ministry they perform must be obviously of God. We might consider that this also extends to other ministries…and we would do well to practice what Paul said…allowing ALL to speak and leaving the choosing to God, by letting His ministers (male or female) shine in the midst of the people and that their light shining before men would become the evidence of God’s call.

    Just a thought about how my thinking has developed over the years. So many WE choose end up shining little light on the people…and those we forbid…what light are we missing?

    1. Hi Judy, I wonder whether it was necessary to replace Judas Iscariot; whether it was God’s idea or only Peter’s idea.

      I do think that at least part the twelve’s function was symbolic and that this symbolism was no longer needed once Pentecost happened and Jesus’ followers were empowered to make disciples of all nations, not just the people of Israel.

      I don’t believe that Paul was Judas’s replacement. There were many years between the death of Judas Iscariot and the beginning of Paul’s ministry (Gal. 1:15-24). Paul never saw himself as one of the Twelve and carefully makes the distinction between them and himself.

      If Judas Iscariot was in fact replaced by someone other than Matthias, I think the more likely candidate was James the brother of Jesus, who stayed in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:19).

      I think there were many apostles in the New Testament church, and I think there are many today, even if most churches no longer use the term “apostle”.

      I also believe that many of the apostolic workers who are currently working with God to enlarge his kingdom are doing it away from any spotlight.

  4. Good insight on the distinctions between the apostles sent by God and the apostles sent by the church. I don’t know of Mary Magdalene but I heard of Junia. I too wonder how many apostles really existed. Thanks again for a good post.

  5. Good article.
    Unfortunately, the link to [9] “Mary Magdalene: the First Woman Apostle” does not work.

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Karin. The link is fixed now.

  6. In the verses quoted in the original post, the 12 are distinguished from James and Paul, so I do not think these overlap. Also, to make the mapping to the 12 tribes work, there needed to be 12. Given that Jesus handed over authority to the 12, I see the addition of Matthias after Judas disqualified himself as being faithful and endorsed by God.

    1. We know that Matthias, and not James, replaced Judas. And James did seem to be in a different category than the twelve. My main point (in response to Judy) was that Paul did not replace Judas. 🙂

      1. Yes, It is indeed true and scriptural. In theology, it is said that there are apostles of The Sheep(?) and Apostles of Gentiles. Paul is the first was called to be an Apostles of Gentiles. The Scripture indicates that there are other Apostles who are called for Gentiles. These are Barnabas, Andronicus and Junia, Silas, and Timothy. However, I would like to learn about James who is called an Apostle of Jesus. Is he categorized under the first twelve or among the Gentiles?

        1. Hi Tewodros,

          Paul regarded himself as primarily an apostle to the Gentiles, but, according to the Book of Acts, he usually visited and preached in Jewish Synagogues in every new town and city he visited. Paul was, of course Jewish himself (as were many of his ministry colleagues) so he was well equipped to minister to Jews. In Acts 9 Jesus says of Paul, “he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15 NASB, italics added).

          Paul regarded Peter as mostly an apostle to the Jews (or the circumcised), but Peter travelled widely and, no doubt, ministered to Gentiles as well as to Jews.

          James was the leader of the church at Jerusalem, so most of the people he ministered to would have been Jewish, but he wasn’t one of the original Twelve. John, who was one of the Twelve, ministered to both Jews and Gentiles at Ephesus for several years. Jews lived throughout the Roman Empire.

          All in all, I can’t see a clear cut distinction between being an apostle of, or to, Jews and being an apostle of, or to, Gentiles, despite Paul’s early observation in Galatians 2:8: For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.

  7. Hey, a small point: Is there any reason for the common assumption that Andronicus and Junia were married?
    Thank you, Marg, for all your work and sharing it so freely!

    1. Hi Lori, The way that Paul mentions them, Andronicus and Junia were definitely a couple or a pair. The assumption that they were a husband-wife couple is reasonable, but perhaps they were brother-sister.

      It is less likely that they were unrelated, but it is possible. It was not unusual for missionary pairs to be male-female. https://margmowczko.com/believing-wives-female-co-workers-of-the-apostles/

  8. […] [1] The Greek word apostolos, transliterated as “apostle” in English New Testaments, means “messenger, ambassador, envoy.” The Twelve are referred to as “apostles” (apostoloi) only a few times in the Gospels: once in Matthew, once in Mark (twice in the Textus Receptus), five times in Luke, and never in John. (See Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:14 TR; Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13; 9:10; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10.) “Many scholars [e.g. W. Schmithals (1969:98–110)] in fact argue that Jesus did not at any time call the twelve ‘apostles’ during his lifetime. … Did Luke introduce the title ‘apostle’ in his role as editor of the historical sources he used, or was it already there?” Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Collins Dove, 1989), 155, 157. The word “apostles” is used many times in Acts, also written by Luke, where it sometimes includes, or refers to, more than the Twelve (e.g., Acts 14:14). I’ve included a list of all the New Testament people called apostolos in a postscript, here. […]

  9. […] The author of Acts refers to many people as disciples. The word may be used in a less technical sense in Acts than in the Gospels. Nevertheless, Jesus had many disciples, and some of them were women. Jesus even had more than twelve apostles. […]

  10. Hi Marg,
    The function of the Apostles & prophets has now ceased. The above( Apostles) ended at the death of the last Apostle ( John on Patmos) & the completion & closure of the New Testament.
    The choosing of elders has ceased as well as the above is no longer in operation now that the foundation of the NT now laid.

    Christianity was not supposed to be in existence after the John of Patmos & the completion of the New Testament.
    What was supposed to be now is the Royal priesthood of all believers ( men & women)

    As Yahweh is all powerful & knowing he has worked through the apostasy called “Christianity” as many are “non the wiser” until God reveals the truth concerning this entity, then followers of Christ then leave, as I did.

    1. John, the Greek word apostoloi (“apostles”) is used in the New Testament to refer to missionaries or emissaries who carry the gospel message. This much-needed ministry has never stopped.

      And God still speaks to his people, sometimes through people, through prophets. God has always used prophets.

      The Royal Priesthood is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of ministries. Some are apostles/missionaries and prophets.

      There are problems with the church and with some expressions of Christianity. Some problems are severe. But my website is not the best place to share your views. I won’t be approving any further comments from you.

  11. […] Apostles in the New Testament Church […]

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