The Twelve in 1 Corinthians


In 1 Corinithans 15, St. Paul writes, “For what I received I passed onto you as of first importance: That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” Judas Iscariot had already died and the Apostles had not yet selected Matthias, so why does it say “Twelve” instead of “Eleven”? Thanks!


My Bible (DRV) has “eleven”.


The Douay-Rheims Version has “the eleven.”

A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Bernard Orchard and published in 1953, on page 1096, on 1 Corinthians 15:5, says, in part:
‘The eleven’ : the best texts say ‘the twelve’—a round number, for it must refer to the supper on the day of the resurrection, when both Judas and Thomas were absent.


The Douay-Rheims, the Knox, and the Vulgate all say 11. The new Vulgate has 12. :shrug:


It’s a case of textual variants in the manuscripts. Most Greek manuscripts of 1 Corinthians (which include the earliest surviving manuscript of Paul’s letters: Papyrus 46) and the Textus Receptus say “twelve,” but curiously, the Latin textual tradition plus about two or three Greek manuscripts have the harmonized reading “eleven.”

Textual criticism-wise, the “twelve” reading has the likelier chance of being the authentic reading than “eleven,” both because it has the wider attestation of the two and also happens to be the more difficult reading. Under the principle of lex difficilior, the reading that’s more unusual and difficult to harmonize is more likely to be authentic. In other words, it’s more easier to imagine a later scribe changing “twelve” into “eleven” to conform with the gospels than one changing “eleven” to “twelve.”

To answer the OP’s question: the term “the Twelve” is best understood as a stock collective title for the group as a whole, not a literal headcount of how many they were pre-Pentecost. For His inner circle of disciples, Jesus chose men that would symbolically represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Being “the Twelve” is their role, their office. You might say this specific group can be referred to as “the Twelve” regardless of their actual number at the time.

It’s one way to call the group as a whole; the other is “the Apostles.” (Different authors have different choices in terminology: Luke in Luke-Acts restricts the term apostoloi to refer to specifically to the Twelve, but Paul and some other NT authors are more liberal in their uses of the word - for Paul, pretty much anyone who is ‘sent’ by Jesus is an ‘apostle’. That’s why he calls himself the “apostle to the nations/gentiles” even though he was not one of the Twelve.)



  1. Jesus was resurrected for 40 days – and in that time period did not find it necessary to replace Judas. Could Jesus have pre-selected the ‘returned Lazarus’ as the ‘fill-in 12th’ apostle? Did a woman already take Judas’ place, and Peter objected?

  2. Possibly Paul did not give credence to Peter’s impetuous act of selecting someone not sanctioned by Jesus/Holy Spirit.

Original OP verses:

1Cor. 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Cor. 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

**Luke 24:49 ** - And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

Acts 1:3 - To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:10 - They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
Acts 1:11 - “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city.
13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying.

---- Acts 1:20 below.

Acts 1:23 - So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen
25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”
26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Note: They cast lots, a pagan practice, instead of waiting for Divine Direction which would have come after receiving of the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s rationale for picking a replacement apostle:

Acts. 1:20a - 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein (Psalm 69:25): (b) “and his bishoprick let another take:” (Pslam 109:8).

Psalm 69:24 - Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.
25 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.
27 Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.

Acts 1:20b - “and his bishoprick let another take:” (Pslam 109:8).

Psalm 109:5 - And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
6 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.
8 Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Thoughts: Neither of these Psalms passages reflect the Message of Christ - Forgive others as we have been Forgiven. Christ does not teach us to curse others after we have been Forgiven. Christ said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Seems to me that Peter ‘cherry-picked verses’ that were not reflective of Christ’s teachings - in order to willfully disregard Christ’s directive to do nothing until the Holy Spirit came.

Christ didn’t see a vacancy to be filled from the outside. Neither did Paul.

Anyway, that’s the view from here, thus far.


Jesus called Judas the son of perdition and said it would have been better if he would not be born. Twelve is a holy number. There was a vacancy that needed to be filled. And Jesus gave authority to Peter, not Paul.


:thumbsup: That makes the most sense to me. Back in the first century, they were not so concerned with the specific details as we are today. If you notice, some of the stories of the 4 Gospels appear to be told out of order in one or the other of them. I would say it’s the same principle. You could just as well, in those days, looked to today and called all the world’s Bishops (successors of the Apostles) “the Twelve”.


Twelve is the generic number that the early church and we are aware of referring to the apostles. If I say “the twelve followers of Jesus” you would think immediately of the twelve apostles. So when Paul refers to “the twelve” he is referring to the general statement of the apostles.


Thanks everyone!

closed #11

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