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THE TWELVE APOSTLES

   In our study of the Apostles we must first look at the Disciples to better understand the progression of our Lord's ministry here on earth.

   Disciple (from Latin discipulus, "pupil, learner", corresponding to Greek mathetes, from manthano, "to learn") is basically the pupil of a teacher. The corresponding Hebrew term limmud is somewhat rare in the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:16; 50:4; 54:13; compare Jeremiah 13:23), but in the rabbinical writings the talmid (compare 1Chronicles 25:8) is a familiar figure as the pupil of a rabbi from whom he learned traditional lore. In the Greek world philosophers were likewise surrounded by their pupils. Since pupils often adopted the distinctive teaching of their masters, the word came to signify the adherent of a particular outlook in religion or philosophy.

   Jewish usage is seen in the New Testament references to the disciples of the Pharisees (Mark 2:18). The Jews considered themselves to be ultimately disciples of Moses (John 9:28), since his teaching formed the basis of rabbinic instruction. The followers of John the Baptist were known as his disciples (Mark 2:18, John 1:35). The term was probably applied to his close associates. They practised prayer and fasting in accordance with his instructions (Mark 2:18, Luke 11:1), and some of them cared for him in prison and saw to his burial (Matthew 11:2-7, Mark 6:29).

   Although Jesus (like John) was not a recognized teacher by the temple leaders and chief priests (John 7:14 forward), he was known by many as a teacher or rabbi (Mark 9:5; 11:21, John 3:2), and the twelve that followed him were know as disciples. The word can be used of all who responded to his message (Matthew 5:1, Luke 6:17; 19:37), but it can also refer more narrowly to those who accompanied him on his travels (Mark 6:45, Luke 8:2f.; 10:1), and especially to the twelve apostles (Mark 3:14). Discipleship was based on a call by Jesus (Mark 1:16-20; 2:13f., Luke 9:59-62, even Luke 9:57f. was much more than an invitation). It involved personal allegiance to him, expressed in following him and giving him an exclusive loyalty (Mark 8:34-38, Luke 14:26-33). In at least some cases it meant literal abandonment of home, business ties and possessions (Mark 10:21, 28), but in every case readiness to put the claims of Jesus first, whatever the cost, was demanded. Such an attitude went well beyond the normal pupil-teacher relationship and gave the word "disciple" a new sense.

   Their names are listed in Mark 3:14-19, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13, and in Matthew 10:2-4, Christ's charge to them can be read in the rest of chapter 10. Listing their names we have divided them into three groups of four. The first group consists of two pairs of brothers. Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John who had been fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22). Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew make up the second group. Matthew, the tax collector, was also known as Levi (Matthew 9:9, Luke 5:27) Names vary in the Third group. All of the lists include James son of Alphaeus and Judas Iscariot. But Matthew and Mark refer to Thaddaeus (surname of Lebbaeus) and Simon the Canaanite while Luke and Acts list Judas the son of James and Simon the Zealot. Judas the son of James and Thaddaeus were probably the same person. He may have been called Judas Thaddaeus. If so, Thaddaeus would have served to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot (Matthew 10:3). Simon the Canaanite and Simon the Zealot were undoubtedly the same person. Canaanite should probably be understood as Cananaean. Cananaean is the Aramaic word for Zealot.
Simon (Peter)
Andrew
James (son of Zebedee)
John
Philip
Bartholomew
Thomas
Matthew (Levi)
James (son of Alphaeus)
Judas Iscariot
Thaddaeus (Lebbaeus, Judas)
Simon (the Zealot)
   The word, however, is not found outside the Gospels and Acts, in the New Testament a variety of terms are used to fully express the characteristics of discipleship (believers, saints, brothers, etc.) The members of the early church were known as disciples of Jesus, it's clear they formed the nucleus of the church and were taught by Jesus and appointed as his representatives to preach his message, cast out demons and heal the sick (Mark 3:14 forward), although these responsibilities were primarily delegated to the Twelve. According to Luke, they were not confined to them (Mark 5:19; 9:38-41, Luke 10:1-16).

   Apostle (one sent forth), in the New Testament the official name of those twelve disciples whom Jesus chose to send forth first to preach the gospel and to be with him during the course of his ministry on earth. Christ Himself is described as "the Apostle" in Hebrews 3:1, where the conjunction with "High Priest", implies a superiority to Moses in the first role and to Aaron in the second. The idea of the Son being sent from the Father is prominent in John, where the Greek verb; Pempo, "send" is used almost interchangeably with (the Greek) apostello. The word can be used in a general sense, as it occurs in John (13:16). The word also appears to have been used in a non-official sense to designate a much wider circle of Christian messengers and teachers (See 2Corinthians 8:23, Philippians 2:25). There is also an interesting use of the word to describe God's messengers to Israel (Luke 11:49).

   Altogether the word occurs ten times in the gospels, twenty-eight in Acts, thirty-eight in the epistles, and three times in Revelation. In the majority of cases it refers to men appointed by Christ for a special function in the Church. The Twelve and Paul are frequently in mind, but there are some instances where others are called apostles. James, the Lord's brother, seems to be one (Galatians 1:19; 2:9, compare 1Corinthians 15:7). Barnabas is described as an apostle in Acts 14:4, 14, and he is associated with Paul in the argument of 1Corinthians 9:6, but he is distinguished from the Jerusalem apostles (Acts 9:27). Silvanus and Timothy can be associated with Paul under that title (1Thessalonians 2:6). Andronicus and Junias (or even possibly Junia, a woman) also can be called apostles (Romans 16:7).

   The Office.
   The original qualification of an apostle, as stated by St. Peter on the occasion of electing a successor to the traitor Judas, was that;  1  he should have been personally acquainted with the whole ministerial course of our Lord from his baptism by John till the day when He was taken up into heaven.  2  They were chosen by Christ himself  3  They had the power of working miracles.  4  They were inspired. John 16:13 and  5  there in founding the churches and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose.

   The apostles were from the lower ranks of life, simple and uneducated; some of them were related to Jesus according to the flesh; some had previously been disciples of John the Baptist. Our Lord chose them early in his public career. They seem to have all been equal, both during and after the ministry of Christ on earth and they were both to be with Jesus as disciples and sent out to preach and exorcize as apostles. Early in our Lord's ministry he sent them out two by two to preach repentance and to perform miracles in his name Matthew 10; Luke 9. They accompanied him in his journey, saw his wonderful works, heard his sermons addressed to the people, and made inquiries of him on religious matters.

   Jesus gave them the title of "apostles" (Luke 6:13), though at this stage it may neither have been exclusive nor understood as permanent compare Matthew 10:2, Mark 6:30. The apostles were able to act in the name of Christ (Mark 9:38-41). Twelve were especially chosen because of the twelve patriarchs of Israel (Matthew 19:28), though there is some uncertainty about the exact list of names. Luke describes them regularly as "the apostles" (9:10; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10), using terminology appropriate to the time of writing (compare his use of "the Lord" in the gospel), while John avoids the technical term completely, perhaps in order to avoid magnifying the office as opposed to the reality for which it stood. But they recognized him as the Christ of God, Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20 and described to him supernatural power Luke 9:54.

   On the feast of Pentecost, ten days after our Lord's ascension, the Holy Spirit came down on the assembled church, Acts 2; and from that time the apostles became altogether different men, giving witness with power of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, as he had declared they should. Luke 24:48, Acts 1:8,22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 13:31. The sources all agree that the Eleven (perhaps with others) were commissioned by the risen Christ to go forth with a mission to the world (Matthew 28:19 forward, Luke 24:48 forward, John 20:21-23, Acts 1:6-8, compare Mark 16:14 forward). One of the first tasks was to find a replacement for the traitor Judas, and Matthias was chosen by lot to make up the number to twelve (Acts 1:15-26). Emphasis is laid on the divine choice (1:24).
Simon (Peter)
Andrew
James (son of Zebedee)
John
Philip
Bartholomew
Thomas
Matthew (Levi)
James (son of Alphaeus)
Matthias (Acts 1:15-25)
Thaddaeus (Lebbaeus, Judas)
Simon (the Zealot)
   The apostleship of Paul was also due to the divine choice and he was often at pains to point this out, both to emphasize the wonder of the grace of God and to maintain the authority of his own message (Galatians 1:1, 11, 12, 15-17, compare Romans 1:1, 1Corinthians 1:1; 9:1; 15:8). There could be no substitute for a personal call from Christ to this service.

   The apostles and the Gospel. When the Twelve were sent out by Jesus during His ministry, one of their tasks was to preach kerusso (Greek), (Mark 3:14). This is one of their most prominent activities in the Acts, and the basic form of the apostolic preaching is known as the kerugma (Greek). The canonical gospels have John's baptism as their basic starting point (Matthew 3:1 forward, Mark 1:2 forward, Luke 3:1 forward, John 1:6 forward), with some historical preliminaries in the case of Matthew and Luke and a brief theological introduction in the case of John. This was presumably also the starting point of the kerugma (Acts 10:37, 13:24). The gospels close with Christ's departure (Matthew 28:16-20, Luke 24:50-53, John 20:17, compare also Mark 16:19), though this is not made fully explicit in John. The kerugma goes on past the Ascension to speak of the presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:23, etc.), the knowledge of whose activity in the Church seems to be assumed by the written gospels. While it was necessary to have been present during all that period, particular stress is laid upon being a witness of the Resurrection (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 13:31).

   Paul could not be numbered among the Twelve, for he had not fulfilled the conditions laid down. But, he had been a witness of the Resurrection (Acts 26:16-18, 1Corinthians 9:1, 15:8), and in the way which he describes the appearance of Christ to him suggests that he had a unique objective experience really belonging to the period before the Ascension. James, the Lord's brother, had likewise seen the risen Christ (1Corinthians 15:7), as had more than 500 others (15:6). It was necessary for those who had not been among the disciples during the ministry to rely on the common Paradosis (Greek), "tradition", of the apostles concerning the events of that period. Paul, while claiming authority directly from Christ, nevertheless shows his dependence upon the paradosis (1Corinthians 11:23-26, 15:1-5). This shows that he was concerned about the historical Jesus.

   The apostles were not simply witnesses of facts, they were also interpreters of them. God had sent men to interpret His saving acts in the Old Testament, particularly Moses who had been a witness of and participant in the Exodus (Psalm 103:7, Micah 6:4). So there was a common apostolic teaching, and appeal was made to that even against the foremost apostles (Galatians 2:11). The preaching and writing of the apostles and their companions taken together therefore provide both the basic historical evidence and the norm of interpretation through which alone future generations could reach the facts about Christ.

   The apostles and the Spirit. The apostolic witness could be accomplished only in the Spirit. Their missionary journeys depended on Him (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8). Their proclamation of forgiveness was effective through Him (John 20:22). They realized their full apostolic vocation only at Pentecost. It was the Spirit who was to teach them and remind them of things (John 14:26). He was to lead them into all the truth about Jesus (John 16:13-15). The direct witness of the Spirit on the existential level was closely connected with the witness of the apostles on the historical (John 15:26). The ministry of the Gospel is a ministry of the Spirit (2Corinthians 3).

   Various forms of ministry, of which the apostolate was first, were gifts of the Spirit to the Church (1Corinthians 12:28). The work of a true apostle was accompanied by signs and wonders and mighty works (2Corinthians 12:12), though such things are regarded as peripheral compared with Christian converts (1Corinthians 9:2). It is through the laying on of the apostles' hands that special manifestations of the Spirit come upon groups of people at significant stages in the missionary advance of the Church (Acts 8:14-19, 19:1-7). There is no suggestion that these manifestations are permanent and on one important occasion the outward signs are shown without the laying on of apostolic hands (10:44-48).

   The apostles and the Church. The apostolate was God's gift to the Church and has a place of pre-eminence among the ministries (1Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11). The Church could be said to be founded upon the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). They were given authority (Mark 6:7) and power (Acts 1:8) to be used not only in proclaiming the Gospel to outsiders, but also for use in the Church (Acts 4:33, 2Corinthians 10:8, 13:10). Besides their preaching, their functions were to teach (Acts 2:42), to heal (5:12) and to undertake certain administration (4:37), though that was not allowed to get out of hand (6:1-4). Their authority was shown in the exercise of discipline (5:1-11, 1Corinthians 5:1-5) and of oversight (Acts 15:36, 1Corinthians 4:15). Major decisions which had to be made in the Church were reached by a council of apostles and elders (Acts 15:6).

   Paul tells us how areas of work were allotted, with his mission field being the Gentiles and that of James, Peter, and John being the Jews (Galatians 2:7-10). At first the Twelve stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), but in due course some at least seem to have gone further afield. There is no reason to suppose that the areas were too strictly kept as Paul was accustomed to preach first to the Jews (13:5, etc.), and Peter was the first to preach to Gentiles (chapter 10). As traveling representatives of Christ and of the universal Church they sought to open up new places to the Gospel (Romans 15:14-24). James, the Lord's brother, seems to have had a resident ministry which distinguished him from others called apostles.

   Conclusion. Their first mission out of Jerusalem was to Samaria Acts 8:5-25 where the Lord himself had, during his ministry, sown the seed of the gospel. Here ends the first period of the apostles' agency, during which its center is Jerusalem and the prominent figure is that of St. Peter. The center of the second period of the apostolic agency is Antioch, where a church soon was built up, consisting of Jews and Gentiles; and the central figure of this and of the subsequent period is St. Paul. It was through the apostles that Christ continued much of His work. Their position was unique and normative and many of their functions were not transmissible. There is no evidence that their numbers were to be made up as the original loyal apostles died (Acts 12:2), nor that Paul should have taken the place of Judas, and James, the Lord's brother, that of James bar-Zebedee. They appeared at a turning point in history, and they, through the Spirit, both founded the Church and, with their companions left the New Testament for us. It is through them that we have to go to find the historical Jesus. The third apostolic period is marked by the almost entire disappearance of the twelve from the sacred narrative and the exclusive agency of St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. Of the missionary work of the rest of the twelve we know that some set sail with St. Joseph for Britain, known to this day as Glastonbury.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. J. B. Lightfoot, Epistle to the Galatians (1902), 92-101; K. E. Kirk (ed.), The Apostolic Ministry (1948), 113-182; T. W. Manson, The Church's Ministry (1948), 31-52; A. Ehrhardt, The Apostolic Succession (1953), 11-34; J. N. Geldenhuys, Supreme Authority (1953); O. Cullmann, The Early Church (1956), 57-99; A. T. Hanson, The Pioneer Ministry (1961), 89-107; M. H. Shepherd Jr. in IDB I (1962), 170-172; A. F. Walls in NBD (1962), 48-50; L. Morris, Ministers of God (1964), 39-61; K. H. Rengstorf in TDNT I (1964), 398-448; C. K. Barrett, The Signs of an Apostle (1970). K. H. Rengstorf, TDNT 4, pages 415-460; E. Schweizer, Lordship and Discipleship, 1960; M. Hengel, Nachfolge und Charisma, Berlin, 1968; NIDNTT 1, pages 480-494. New Bible Dic. Sec. Ed. (1982), Pub. Tyndale. Smith's Bible Dic. Revised Ed. Holman Bible Pub. Nashville.

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