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How many Apostles were there and what are their names?

by Robert Randle  
6/18/2009 / Bible Studies

The most famous painting in all Christendom sits inside a convent in Santa Maria Della Grazie in Milan, Italy. Replica's of Leonardo DaVinci's famous and inspirational portrait of the "Last Supper" hangs on walls or murals in countless millions of homes and is revered by Catholics and Protestants alike throughout the world. The faces are so familiar and the12 men called disciples ("apostles") whom Jesus chose to be special messengers of His teachings are named Simon (who is called Peter), Andrew (Simon Peter's brother) James and John (sons of Zebedee), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector; Levi son of Alphaeus Mark 2: 14??), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot (Cp. Matthew 10: 1-4; Mark 3: 16-19; ).

This is the traditional teaching that has been handed down throughout Church history by the Ecumenical councils and decrees of Ecclesiastical authorities in Western Europe since around the second and third centuries. A closer examination of the New Testament Scriptures shows a slightly different picture as to the identity of the apostles chosen during the earthly ministry of Jesus, as well as to other men who were chosen to be called apostles after the establishment of the Christian Church.

Luke mentions Judas (son of James) as an apostle but omits Thaddeus (Luke 6: 13-16) and John mentions the original followers of Jesus as Andrew (Simon Peter's brother), Simon (called Peter), Philip, and Nathanael (John 1: 40-45). Judas (son of Simon Iscariot) is mentioned next (John 6: 71);

Another Judas is mentioned (Cp. Luke 6: 13??). At the Last Supper and after Jesus' resurrection, John mentions a mysterious, yet unnamed disciple that Jesus loved (John 13: 23-25; 20: 2-8; 21: 7, 20-23). John refers to Thomas as "Didymus" (John 20: 21) but didn't mention him previously.

In the same book of John (21: 1-2), it states, "After these things Jesus again manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee [Tiberius], and He manifested Himself in this way, There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples" (unknown or not revealed??)

Since it is believed that Luke wrote his gospel and the book of Acts, then one would naturally expect to find the same names of the apostles, and so it is. The remaining 11 disciples called apostles are: Peter, John and James (sons of Zebedee), Andrew (Simon Peter's brother), Phillip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew (Levi son of Alphaeus; Cp. Mark 2: 14) James (son of Alphaeus), Simon the' Zealot', Judas (son of James; grandson of Alphaeus??) [Acts 1: 13]. After the death of Judas, another disciple had to take his place, to make it twelve, so Matthias was selected among the two most trustworthy candidates (Cp. Acts 1: 21-26).

Perhaps the most famous apostle is Paul, or Saul of Tarsus, whose letters to the many Churches he founded or individuals he taught are canonized as New Testament Scripture. In the very writings of Paul, other apostles are mentioned such as Andronicus and Junas (Romans 16: 7) and Epaphroditus was a messenger [apostle??] to the Church of the Philippians (Philippians 2: 25). One of the qualifications to being an apostle is to have seen the risen Lord (I Corinthians 9: 1; 15; 7-8; Acts 1: 22); and even Paul's defense of his apostleship may have included the brothers of the Lord as well as Cephas [Simon Peter], mentioned in I Corinthians 9: 2, 5.

Lastly, it is almost certain that James, the Lord's brother was an apostle based on Acts 12: 17; 15: 13; 21: 18; Galatians 1: 19. In II Corinthians 2: 5, Paul wrote, "For I consider myself not the least inferior to the most eminent apostles," and it would seem that least three of them were thought to be: James (the Lord's brother) see Galatians 1: 19, Cephas [Simon Peter], and John [??] see Galatians 2: 9. This particular John is not mentioned as a son of Zebedee or the brother of James, who was killed by King Herod (Acts 12: 1-2).

A few last minute considerations are:

Philippians 2: 25
Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your 'messenger'
(Gr. Apostoloi; "Apostle"??)and the one who ministered to my need.

II Corinthians 8: 23
If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are 'messengers' (Gr. Apostolos; "Apostles") of the Churches, the glory of Christ.

NOTE: In the remaining passages Paul uses the same Greek word for these unnamed brethren, perhaps including Titus, as well as Epaphroditus, for Apostle. The word 'Apostoloi' is a designation which is applied to not only Paul, but the other special "messengers" of the Lord who received a special comission or calling to minister to the Churches.

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