How many apostles were there?
Twelve, right? Wrong. There are many more than 12 —
- There were the original 12 (Mark 3:17-19), later minus Judas Iscariot, plus Matthias who ‘replaced’ him (Acts 1, especially vv13, 20-26).
All these knew Jesus for almost the whole time he publicly ministered, and this was a requirement to be an Apostle (Acts 1:21-22). These 12 had great authority in the Church.
- Then there was Paul, who also saw the resurrected Jesus and was commissioned by him (Acts 9). Paul was very conscious of this commissioning by Jesus (e.g. Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1).
The above is well-known by many Christians.
- However, there are also numerous others who are called an ‘apostle’, such as Jesus’ brother James (Galatian 1:9) and Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14).
- There are also others. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to Peter “and then to the Twelve” (meaning the original 12, minus Judas Iscariot, plus Matthias). “After that” Jesus appeared to more than 500 Christians “then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” and “All the apostles” are different to the Twelve; additional “apostles”. 1 Thessalonians 2:6 also seems to imply that Silas is an “apostle”, too.
So, what’s the story? The Twelve plus Paul had a great authority, and this was recognised by Christ’s people. We might want to call them the capital ‘A’ Apostles. The others who are called apostles also had substantial authority but (apart from Paul & possibly James) don’t seem to have had the same level or sort of authority that the 12 had. We might want to call them small ‘a’ apostles. They were usually people sent out on evangelism and church planting. This makes sense because the word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent one’. So, how many apostles were there? We don’t know the exact number, but it was many.
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