Protestants, Why 12 Apostles?


As recommended by some posters in these forums, I am reading “Theology For Beginners” by Frank Sheed. Great book. :thumbsup:

It presented an interesting thought which I think Protestants may find challenging. Well, here goes…

Why did God select twelve (12) apostles? I mean, if their commission was to write the New Testament, then only some of them obeyed their master. Surely, having successors was part of the plan. Right? :shrug:


When Judas committed suicide, they commissioned Matthias–succession is right there in the Bible–clearly shown.


…and if they were to evangelize then he didn’t need the apostles. After all he had many disciples and many of them evangelized.


Huh? I don’t think I understand the question. And besides, I don’t think they were commissioned to write the New Testament, were they? It was more, “go make disciples” and so on.



The idea I think the OP is getting at, is if the Apostles were just a historical artifact, there would be no need to replace Judas. But as it was to continue on, in the episcopacy. Correct me if I’m missing the point, Charles.

The idea of course is that there was 120 disciples, but yet a special 12, in other words the special role of the bishops in the Church as a whole.

The best explanation I’ve seen is also the earliest St. Clement c. 95, i.e. during the NT. (In fact many Christians considered it part of the NT for centuries).

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from Jesus Christ who has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.” LXX Isa. lx. 17].


there is more than 12 apostles.


Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance
by E.W. Bullinger


is a perfect number, signifying **perfection of government, **or of governmental perfection. It is found as a multiple in all that has to do with rule. The sun which “rules” the day, and the moon and stars which “govern” the night, do so by their passage through the twelve signs of the Zodiac which completes the great circle of the heavens of 360 (12 x 30) degrees or divisions, and thus govern the year.

Twelve is the product of 3 (the perfectly Divine and heavenly number) and 4 (the earthly, the number of what is material and organic).

While seven is composed of 3 added to 4, twelve is 3 multiplied by 4, and hence denotes that which can scarcely be explained in words, but which the spiritual perception can at once appreciate, viz., organization, the products denoting production and multiplication and increase of all that is contained in the two numbers separately. The 4 is generally prominently seen in the twelve.

from Seth to Noah and his family, and twelve from Shem to Jacob.

though actually thirteen in number, there are never more than twelve names in any one list. There are about 18 enumerations altogether, but in each list one or other is omitted. Generally it is Levi, but not always. In Revelation 7 both Dan and Ephraim are omitted (see p. 211), but the enumeration is still twelve, Levi and Joseph being introduced for this special sealing of the remnant which shall go unscathed through the great tribulation.

Then there were twelve Judges or Saviours (see p. 214).

has the number twelve as the predominating factor, in contrast with the Tabernacle, which had the number five. This agrees with the grace which shines in the Tabernacle, and with the glory of the kingdom which is displayed in the Temple.

When we come to the New Testament we find the same great principle pervading the Apostolic government as we see in the Patriarchal and National, for we have:

The twelve Apostles.
The twelve foundations in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The twelve gates.
The twelve pearls.
The twelve angels.

will be 12,000 furlongs square, while the wall will be 144 (12 x 12) cubits, Revelation 21:16,17.

The number of the sealed in Revelation 7:4 will be 144,000, and all that has to do with the Twelve Tribes is necessarily pervaded by this number, such as the stones in the High Priest’s breastplate, the stones taken out of the Jordan, the number of the spies, etc. etc., and therefore we have not referred to all such reference in these pages.

for government of various kinds. Of course, all kings, priests, prophets, and healed lepers were anointed; but the circumstances of the anointing of twelve individuals is specially recorded. Of these, five were priests (Aaron and his four sons, Exodus 6:23) and seven were kings:

Aaron, Exodus 29:7,9, etc.
Nadab, Exodus 29:7,9, etc.
Abihu, Exodus 29:7,9, etc.
Eleazar, Exodus 29:7,9, etc.
Ithamar, Exodus 29:7,9, etc.
Saul, 1 Samuel 10:1.
David, * 1 Samuel 16:13.
Absalom, 2 Samuel 19:10.
Solomon, 1 Kings 1:39.
Jehu, 2 Kings 9:6.
Joash, 2 Kings 11:12.
Jehoahaz, 2 Kings 23:30.

  • David was anointed three times, viz:
    by Samuel, 1 Samuel 16:13;
    by the men of Judah, 2 Samuel 2:4;
    by the elders of Israel, 2 Samuel 5:3.
    It will be observed from the above list that Saul, the man of man’s choice, is thus stamped with the number 6. David, the man of God’s choice is stamped with the number seven. For Saul and David are the sixth and seventh respectively in order. The words, “a man after God’s own heart,” mean simply a man of God’s choice, and not, as infidels are never tired of asserting, that God approved of all the sins which David fell into.

of age was Jesus when He first appears in public (Luke 2:42) and utters His first-recorded words (see p. 52).

of angels mark the perfection of angelic powers (Matt 26:53).

sometimes denotes interruption or defect in human government, while

of words agrees with its signification, e.g., aulh, aulee, “palace,” occurs twelve times.


if the apostles weren’t needed, Then Christ choose 12 apostles for no reason and Peter placed himself through unessecary trouble replacing Judas.


Support? :shrug:


Because there were 12 tribes of Israel and the number 12 is the number of governance.

I mean, if their commission was to write the New Testament, then only some of them obeyed their master.

Their commission was not to write the New Testament. I have no idea where you heard such a thing.

Their commision was to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and that is what they all died doing.

Surely, having successors was part of the plan.

If so, it is extremely odd that they never once mentioned that they would have successors that would speak for them and have their very same authority.


The 12 were the Twelve.

They did not have successors that would take their place when they left.


How can you say there were to be no successors? They didn’t have to SAY so in the Bible; they DID so by selecting Matthias.

I understand this point perfectly. It occurred to me the other day: the Bible we hold so dear and the sole rule of faith for Protestants… was written by only some of the apostles. The others we never hear from.

If Jesus meant to leave us a book, why not just choose those esteemed men who would write it down?

That is because he didn’t say “Go therefore and write.” He said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”


But why didn’t Jesus say to all the disciples "You’ve all heard me, now let the Holy Spirit guide you… " ?


So you mean there always remainded “12” even unto today?

Note you also recognise ‘governance’


Matt 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

There are twleve apostles to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.


Are they still doing this?


Still doing this? Huh? Isn’t this the time of regenration when the Son of Man sits on His throne of Glory? I assumed that was at the 2nd coming.


1 Name: Andrew (means-“manly, conqueror”).

2 Name: Bartholomew (means-“son of Tolmai”).

3 Name: James (Greek for Jacob, means-“supplanter”).

4 Name: James * (Greek for Jacob, means-“supplanter”).

5 Name: John * (means-“gift of God”).

6 Name: Judas-ref Jn 14:22 (means-“praise”).

7 Name: Judas (means-“praise”).

8 Name: Matthew (also means-“gift of God”).

9 Name: Peter * (means-“stone; rock”)-Mt 16:18.

10 Name: Philip (means-“lover of horses”).

11 Name: Simon (means-“hearing”)

12 Name: Thomas (means-“twin”).

13 Name: Matthias (means-“gift of God”).

14 Name: Paul (means-“little”).

  1. Name: James (the Lord’s brother-ref Gal 1:19).

  2. Name: Joses

  3. Name: Andronicus (means-“conqueror”).

  4. Name: Junia (means-“youth”).

follow the link for biblical details on each.



Mark 3:16-19
These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (1) (to whom he gave the name Peter, James son of Zebedee (2) and his brother *John ** (3)(to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder, Andrew (4), Philip (5), Bartholomew (6), Matthew (7), Thomas (8), James son of Alphaeus (9), Thaddaeus (10), Simon the Zealot (11) and Judas Iscariot (12), who betrayed him.

Matthew 10:2-4
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, **Simon ** (1) (who is called Peter) and his brother **Andrew **(4); James son of Zebedee (2), and his brother **John **(3); **Philip **(5) and **Bartholomew **(6); **Thomas **(8) and **Matthew **(7) the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus (9), and **Thaddaeus *(10); Simon the Zealot (11) and Judas Iscariot (12), who betrayed him.

Luke 6:13-16
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: *Simon ** (1)(whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew (4), James (2), John (3), Philip (5), Bartholomew (6), Matthew (7), Thomas (8), James son of Alphaeus (9), Simon (11)who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James (10), and Judas Iscariot (12), who became a traitor.

Jesus selected 12 Apostles…now the word Apostle may have various a bit different meanings and those who were appointed later on are sometimes referred to as Apostles as well. However if you take the strict traditional path there were only 12 of them (or at least initially).


The Twelve are long dead waiting with the Lord for resurrection.

Note you also recognise ‘governance’

So what?

That somehow automatically means all RC bishops are successors to the 12 Apostles?



to say that the apostles did not have sucessors, you might as well say Christianity died with the apostles.

Acts 1: 22Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

Acts 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

2 Tim. 2:2


Acts 13

1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and** sent **them off.
On Cyprus
4The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

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