Different Uses of The Word Apostle


The word apostle means one who is sent and usually refers to a member of the Twelve in the NT. But Scripture seems to indicate that there were apostles outside the Twelve. Any thoughts on this?




I am fairly sure that Scripture tells us about disciples and followers and learners of Jesus but the term “apostle” is used only for the twelve and then St Paul.


Actually, scripture refers to several others as “apostles” and indeed they were. Included among them were:

Barnabas - a missionary “sent out” by the Jerusalem apostles (Acts 11:22, 30; 12:25), later by the Church of Antioch (Acts 13:1-15:39); Luke and Paul explicitly call him an “apostle” (Acts 14:14; 1 Cor 9:1-6).
Matthias - selected to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26).
Paul - often calls himself an “apostle” of Jesus, esp. in beginning his letters (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; etc), or when stressing his equal status with the other apostles (Rom 11:13; 1 Cor 9:1-5; 15:7-10; 2 Cor 12:12; Gal 1:17-19).
Apollos - never individually called an “apostle,” but clearly included when Paul refers to “us apostles” (1 Cor 4:9; cf. 1:12; 3:4—4:6)
Silas & Timothy - again, not called “apostles” individually, but included when Paul says, “we… as apostles of Christ” (1 Thess 2:7)
Andronicus and Junia - a married couple (or brother & sister?), “relatives” of Paul, who are “prominent among the apostles” (Rom 16:7) (although I personally believe that this simply means that they were well known by those who were apostles, not that they actually were apostles themselves).
James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church—Galatians 1:19.
Epaphroditus–Philippians 2:25. While the King James Version translates the word as “messenger”, the Greek word (apostolon) is actually “apostle”.
**Titus, ** Corinthians 8:23


Jimmy Akin did a piece on this here:



Where in scripture does it indicate that there were Apostles outside the twelve?

I’m interested in what part of Scripture you are referring to. Can you be specific?



Acts, Romans, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians etc.






Interesting. Thank you.


Here is one that might confuse us all :slight_smile:
“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the **apostle **and high priest of our confession,” Hebrews 3:1


In that passage, James is referred to as “the brother of the Lord”. This passage has been discussed at length. Many scholars believe that James may have been the son of Joseph, Jesus’ father, from a prior bond; hence “half-brother” (but probably more accurately “half foster bother”). Others believe the word “brother” is better translated as something like “kinsman”, and may have therefore been a cousin of Jesus.


Paul uses the word Apostle in a more general way than do the authors of the Gospels.

The word Apostle appears only eight times in the Gospels. Mark and Matthew each use the word only once. John does not use the word Apostle at all. Luke, who was a companion of and very close to Paul, uses the word six times, much more freely than do Matthew and Mark.

Mathew’s use of the word Apostle is specific only to the twelve chosen by Jesus.

The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zeb’edee, and John his brother; (Matthew 10:2)

Similarly, Mark’s reference is to the twelve who were sent out two by two to cure unclean spirits.

*And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.(Mark 6:7)

The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)*

In General, both Paul and Luke on the other hand, use the word Aostle to refer to the whole group of believers or those who evangelize in foreign lands. Most of the references to the twelve apostles in the Gospels are simply “The twelve.” There are twenty three references to “The twelve” in the Gospels. Even then however, Luke acknowledges the twelve are Apostles.

And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles; (Luke 6:13)

We can parse the word Apostle all day long but there are clearly twelve people to whom Jesus revealed himself fully, and then those who learned from these.



Modern Catholic Dictionary:

APOSTLE. A messenger and authorized representative of the sender. Broadly used in Scripture, it refers to many followers of Jesus who spread his message. More precisely, however, it applies to the original twelve men chosen by Jesus to be his immediate aides. They are referred to as disciples during the period in which he was instructing them, but following his ascension they are always called Apostles. After Pentecost they spoke and acted with confidence and assurance in teaching others what he had taught them and in assuming leadership roles in the early church. They were ordained priests by Christ at the Last Supper and were commissioned by him to preach the Gospel to all mankind (Matthew 28:19-20). (Etym. Latin apostolus, an apostle; Greek apostolos, one who is sent off.)


The term apostle
a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders
specifically applied to the twelve apostles of Christ
in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers
of Barnabas
of Timothy and Silvanus

OK so there’s the lexicon, the usage in Greek meant one who was sent forth specifically with the legal authority of the sender. It would be a servant who had the right to make purchases or sell property on the behalf of his master. So the notion of the NT writers applying it to the preeminent teachers in the New Church should not be too surprising. However the qualifications for what it means to be an apostle are laid in the NT by St Paul more or less
1 Corinthians 15:3-8English Standard Version (ESV)

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

So it would be one specifically called by Christ, to whom the risen Lord appeared and those qualifications fell only on the original 12 and once Judas fell then to St Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. That is why the Church when she confesses that she is One Holy Catholic and Apostolic she means that our faith is specifically that faith given directly to the 11 Apostles by Christ, confirmed at Pentacost, then to St Paul, and then to the bishops and to us in an unbroken line guarded by the long line of holy men and seated in the Keys of St Peter.

So while it may be confusing because the NT writers can be loose with how they use words (for example Martin Luther’s famous confusion about St James and St Paul quoting the same verse from Genesis about Abraham) the important thing is we submit to Church teaching (unlike Luther) and recall that there is great clarity on this for 2000 years.


Or in more correct terms, step brother.


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