Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
The term ‘Apostle’ (Gr. ἀπόστολος) is more definite than ‘messenger’ (Gr. ἄγγελος) in that the apostle has a special mission, and is the commissioner of the person who sends him. This distinction holds good both in classical and in biblical Greek. There is no good reason for doubting that the title ‘apostle’ was given to the Twelve by Christ Himself [ Luke 6:13 = Mark 3:14, where ‘whom he also named apostles’ is strongly attested). That the title was used in the first instance simply in reference to the temporary mission of the Twelve to prepare for Christ’s own preaching is a conjecture which receives some support from the fact that, in the Apostolic Church. Barnabas and Paul are first called ‘apostles’ ( Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14) when they are acting as envoys of the Church in Antioch in St. Paul’s first missionary journey. On this hypothesis, the temporary apostleship, though not identical with the permanent office, was typical of it and preparatory to it (Hort, The Christian Ecclesia , 1897, p. 28f.).
There is fundamental agreement between the work of the apostles during Christ’s ministry and their work after the Ascension: their functions undergo no radical change. But the changes are considerable. Christ chose them in the first instance ( Mark 3:14) ‘that they might be with him,’ to be educated and trained, ‘and that he might send them forth to preach’ and do works of mercy Instruction is the main thing, and ‘disciples’ is the usual designation; mission work is secondary and temporary. After the Ascension their mission work becomes primary and permanent. Apostle-ship is now the main thing; in Acts ‘apostles’ is the dominant appellation, and in the Epistles ‘disciples’ are not mentioned. Instead of being led and guided, the Twelve now become leaders and guides or rather, instead of having a visible Guide, they now have an invisible one-instead of Jeans, ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ ( Acts 16:7), who helps them to lead others. The guidance of the Spirit is the dominant idea in the Apostolic Church. Nevertheless, the other way of stating the change is true; they have become teachers rather than disciples. But the purpose is the same; their mission is unchanged. With enlarged experience, with powers greatly augmented at Pentecost, and with an enormously extended sphere of work, they have to make known the Kingdom of God. Cf. articleDisciple.
This extension of sphere is one of the special marks of the transfigured apostleship. It is no longer restricted to ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ but is to embrace ‘all the nations’ throughout ‘all the world.’ The tentative mission to the inhabitants of Palestine at a peculiar crisis has become one which has no limitations of either space or time ( Matthew 28:19, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8). But this universality of sphere was not the only or the most important characteristic of the new mission. The chief mark was the duty of bearing witness. The Twelve seem to have been selected originally because of their fitness for bearing witness. They were not specially qualified for grasping or expounding theological doctrines; nor were such qualifications greatly needed, for the doctrines which the Master taught them were few and simple. Yet they had difficulty in apprehending some of these, and sometimes surprised their Master by their inability to understand ( Mark 7:16; Mark 8:17; Mark 9:32). But because of their simplicity they were very credible witnesses of what they had heard and seen. They had been men of homely circumstances, and their unique experiences as the disciples of Christ made a deep impression upon them, especially with regard to the hopeless sense of loss when He was put to death, and to the amazing recovery of joy when their own senses convinced them that He had risen again. They were thus well qualified to convince others. They evidently had not the wit to invent an elaborate story, or to retain it when it had been elaborated, and therefore what they stated with such confidence was likely to be true. They were chosen to keep alive and extend the knowledge of events that were of the utmost importance to mankind-the knowledge that Jesus Christ had died on the cross, and had risen from the grave. That He had died and been buried was undisputed and indisputable; and all of them could testify that they had repeatedly seen Him alive after His burial. This was the primary function of an apostle-to bear witness of Christ’s Resurrection ( Acts 1:22; Acts 4:2; Acts 4:33), and the influence of the testimony was enormous. The apostles did not argue; they simply stated what they knew. Everyone who heard them felt that they were men who had an intense belief in the truth of what they stated. There is no trace in either Acts or the Epistles of hesitation or doubt as to the certainty of their knowledge; they knew that their witness was true ( John 21:24, 1 John 1:1-3). And the confidence with which they delivered their testimony was communicated to those who heard it all the more effectually because, without any sign of collusion or conspiracy, they all told the same story. They differed in age, temperament, and ability, but they did not differ when they spoke of what they had seen and heard. Nay, this still held good when one whom they had at first regarded with fear and suspicion ( Acts 9:26) was added to their company. Greatly as Saul of Tarsus differed from the Twelve in some things, he was entirely at one with them respecting fundamental facts. He, like them, had seen and heard the risen Christ ( 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8; 1 Corinthians 15:11; Latham, pastor Pastorum , 1890, pp. 228-230).
It was probably owing to St. Paul’s persistent claim to be an apostle, equal in rank with the Twelve ( Galatians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 9:1), that it became customary from very early times to restrict the appellation of ‘apostle’ to the Twelve and the Apostle of the Gentiles; but there is no such restriction in the NT. It is certainly given to Barnabas, but perhaps primarily as being an envoy from the Church of Antioch ( Acts 13:1-2; Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14), rather than as having a direct mission from Christ. St. Paul seems to speak of him as a colleague, recognized by Peter and John as equal to himself in the mission to the Gentiles ( Galatians 2:9), and as one who, like himself, used the apostolic privilege of working for nothing, although he had a right to maintenance ( 1 Corinthians 9:6). We need not doubt that Barnabas continued to be called an apostle in a general sense after the mission from Antioch was over.
Perhaps the simplest and most natural way of understanding Galatians 1:19 is that James, the Lord’s brother, had the title of ‘apostle’ in the wider sense. It may be regarded as certain that this James was not one of the Twelve. But 1 Corinthians 15:7 ought not to be quoted as implying either that there was a company of apostles larger than the Twelve or that James was a member of this larger company. ‘Next he appeared to James; then to the whole body of the apostles.’ There is no emphasis on ‘all,’ implying an antithesis between ‘to one, then to all.’ Such an antithesis, as well as the idea that James was in some sense an apostle, is foreign to the context. The ‘all’ probably looks back to ‘the twelve’ in 1 Corinthians 15:10, which is an official and not a numerical designation, for only ten were there, Thomas and Judas being absent. ‘Then to all the apostles’ probably means that on that occasion the apostolic company was complete (for Thomas was present) rather than that some were there who were called apostles although they were not of the original Twelve. It is highly probable that James, the Lord’s brother, was such a person, but 1 Corinthians 15:7 ought not to be quoted as evidence of this. It is after the murder of James the son of Zebedee that James the Lord’s brother comes on the scene. He may have taken the place of his namesake in the number of the Twelve.
That Silvanus and Timothy were regarded as apostles in the wider sense is not improbable. In both 1 and 2 Thess. they are associated with St. Paul in the address, and in both letters the first person plural is used with a regularity which is not found in any other group of the Pauline Epistles: ‘our gospel,’ i.e. ‘the gospel which we apostles preach,’ is specially remarkable ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:14). Still more remarkable is the casual addition, ‘when we might have been burdensome as apostles of Christ’ ( 1 Thessalonians 2:6).
Romans 16:7 probably means that Andronicus and Junias were distinguished as apostles; but there are two elements of doubt: ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις might mean ‘well known to the apostles,’ but it more probably means that among the apostles they were illustrious persons; and Ἰουνίαν may be masc. or fem., Junias or Junia , If Junia is right, the probability that Andronicus and Junia (? man and wife) were distinguished members of the apostolic body is lessened. But Chrysostom does not shrink from the thought that a woman may be an apostle. He says that to be an apostle at all is a great thing, and therefore to be illustrious amongst such persons is very high praise; and ‘how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!’ (Sanday-Headlam, ad loc. ).
The fact that there were people who claimed, without any right, the title of ‘apostle’ ( 2 Corinthians 11:13, Revelation 2:2) amounts to proof that in the Apostolic Church there were ‘apostles’ outside the Twelve with the addition of St. Paul. It is incredible that there were people who claimed to belong to a body so well known us the Twelve, or any who tried to personate St. Paul; and ‘it would be unprofitable to waste words on the strange theory that St. Paul is meant by these false apostles’ (Hort, Judaistic Christianity , 1894, p. 163). Very soon, though not in the NT, the title of ‘apostle’ was given to the Seventy. It is not likely that Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias were the only persons among the 120 gathered together after the Ascension ( Acts 1:15) who had the apostolic qualification of having seen the Lord; probably most of them had been His personal disciples. All of those who took to missionary work would be likely to be styled ‘apostles’; and it is not impossible that the ‘false apostles’ who opposed St. Paul had this qualification, and therefore claimed to have a better right to the title than he had.
The cumulative effect of the facts and probabilities stated above is very strong-so strong that we are justified in affirming that in the NT there are persons other than the Twelve and St. Paul who were called apostles, and in conjecturing that they were rather numerous. All who seemed to be called by Christ or the Spirit to do missionary work would be thought worthy of the title, especially such as had been in personal contact with the Master. When it is said that this reasonable affirmation, based entirely upon Scripture, is confirmed by the account in the Didache of an order of wandering preachers who were called ‘apostles,’ we must be careful not to exaggerate the amount of confirmation. There is no proof, and there is not a very high degree of probability, that the ‘apostles’ of the Didache are the same kind of ministers as those who are called ‘apostles’ in the NT, although not of the number of the Twelve. We must not infer that they are the lineal descendants, officially, of workers such as Silvanus, Andronicus, and Junias. But the fact that in the sub-Apostolic Age there were itinerant ministers called ‘apostles’ does give confirmation to the assertion that in the NT there were, outside the apostolic body, ministers who were known as ‘apostles.’ Chief among these were Paul, Barnabas, and James, of whom Paul certainly, and the other two probably, were regarded by most Christians as equal to the Twelve. Like the Twelve, Paul and Barnabas had no local ties: they retained a general authority over the churches which they founded, but they did not take up their abode in them as permanent rulers. They trained the churches to govern themselves. The Twelve are to be twelve Patriarchs of the larger Israel, twelve repetitions of Christ (Harnack, Expansion of Christianity , Eng. translation, 1904-5, i. 72), and at first they were the whole ministry of the infant Church. The first act of the infant Church was to restore the typical number twelve by the election of Matthias; and it is worthy of note, as indicating both the undeveloped condition of the ministry and also the germs of future developments, that in Acts all three terms, ‘diaconate’ ( Acts 1:17; Acts 1:25), ‘bishopric’ ( Acts 1:20), and ‘apostleship’ ( Acts 1:25), are used in connexion with the election of Matthias. There is no good ground for the conjecture that the choice of Matthias did not receive subsequent sanction, that he was set aside, and that St. Paul was Divinely appointed to take his place. It is true that he subsequently falls into the background and is lost from sight; but so do most of the Twelve.
The absence from Christ’s teaching of any statement respecting the priesthood of the Twelve, or respecting the transmission of the powers of the Twelve to others, is remarkable. As the primary function of the Twelve was to be witnesses of what Christ had taught and done, especially in rising from the dead, no transmission of so exceptional an office was possible. Even with regard to the high authority which all apostles possessed, it is not clear that it was a jurisdiction which was to be passed on from generation to generation. Belief in the speedy return of Christ would prevent any such intention. The apostles wore commissioned to found a living Church, with power to supply itself with ministers and to organize them.
Literature.-In addition to the works already cited, see J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians , ed. 1892, pp. 92-101; E. Haupt, Zum Verständnis des Apostolats im NT , Halle, 1896; H. Monnier, La Notion de l’apostolat , Paris, 1903; P. Batiffol, L’Église naissante 3, do. 1909, pp. 46-68; also article‘Apostle,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , Encyclopaedia Biblica , and Encyclopaedia Britannica 11.
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
αποστολος , one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, commissioned by him to preach his Gospel, and propagate it to all parts of the earth. The word originally signifies a person delegated or sent; from αποστελλω , mitto; in which sense it occurs in Herodotus, and other profane authors. Hence, in the New Testament, the term is applied to divers sorts of delegates; and to the twelve disciples by way of eminence. They were limited to the number twelve, in allusion to the twelve tribes of Israel. See Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Revelation 21:12-14; and compare Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 1:23; and Joshua 4:2-3 . Accordingly care was taken, on the death of Judas, to choose another, to make up the number, Acts 1:21-22; Acts 1:26 . Of the first selection and commission of the twelve Apostles, we have an account, Luke 6:13 , &c.; Matthew 10:1 , &c. Having chosen and constituted twelve persons, under the name of Apostles, our blessed Lord determined that for some time they should be continually with him, not only to attend upon his public ministry, but to enjoy the benefit of his private conversation, that he might furnish them the better for the great work in which they were to be employed; and that, at length, after suitable preparation, he might, with greater advantage, send them abroad to preach his Gospel, and thus make way for his own visits to some more distant parts, where he had not yet been; and to enable them more effectually to do this, he endowed them with the power of working miracles, of curing diseases, and casting out demons. About the commencement of the third year of his ministry, according to the common account of its duration, he sent them out two by two, that they might be assistants to each other in their work; and commanded them to restrict their teaching and services to the people of Israel, and to avoid going to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans, to declare the approach of the kingdom of heaven, and the establishment of the Gospel dispensation; to exercise the miraculous powers with which they had been endowed gratuitously; and to depend for their subsistence on the providence of God, and on the donations of those to whom they ministered. Their names were, Simon Peter; Andrew, his brother; James the greater, the son of Zebedee; and John his brother, who was the beloved disciple; Philip of Bethsaida; Bartholomew; Thomas, called Didymus, as having a twin brother; Matthew or Levi, who had been a publican; James, the son of Alpheus, called James the less; Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus, and who was also called Judas or Jude, the brother of James; Simon, the Canaanite, so called, as some have thought, because he was a native of Cana, or, as Dr. Hammond thinks, from the Hebrew קנא , signifying the same with Zelotes, or the Zelot, a name given to him on account of his having before professed a distinguishing zeal for the law; and Judas Iscariot, or a man of Carioth, Joshua 15:25 , who afterward betrayed him, and then laid violent hands on himself. Of these, Simon, Andrew, James the greater, and John, were fishermen; Matthew, and James the son of Alpheus, were publicans; and the other six were probably fishermen, though their occupation is not distinctly specified.
After the resurrection of our Saviour, and not long before his ascension, the place of Judas the traitor was supplied by Matthias, supposed by some to have been Nathaniel of Galilee, to whom our Lord had given the distinguishing character of an "Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile;" and the twelve Apostles, whose number was now completed, received a new commission, of a more extensive nature than the first, to preach the Gospel to all nations, and to be witnesses of Christ, not only in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and in Samaria, but unto the uttermost parts of the earth; and they were qualified for the execution of their office by a plenteous effusion of miraculous powers and spiritual gifts, and particularly the gift of tongues. In consequence of this commission, they preached first to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, and afterward to the idolatrous Gentiles. Their signal success at Jerusalem, where they opened their commission, alarmed the Jewish sanhedrim, before which Peter and John were summoned, and from which they received a strict charge never more to teach, publicly or privately, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The noble reply and subsequent conduct of the Apostles are well known. This court of the Jews was so awed and incensed, as to plot the death of the twelve Apostles, as the only effectual measure for preventing the farther spread of Christianity. Gamaliel interposed, by his prudent and moderate counsel; and his speech had so good an effect upon the sanhedrim, that, instead of putting Peter and John to death, they scourged them, renewed their charge and threats, and then dismissed them. The Apostles, however, were not discouraged nor restrained; they counted it an honour to suffer such indignities, in token of their affection to their Master, and zeal in his cause; and they persisted in preaching daily in the courts of the temple, and in other places, that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised and long expected Messiah. Their doctrine spread, and the number of converts in Jerusalem still increased. During the violent persecution that raged at Jerusalem, soon after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, several of the leading men among the Christians were dispersed; some of them travelled through the regions of Judea and Samaria, and others to Damascus, Phoenicia, the Island of Cyprus, and various parts of Syria; but the twelve Apostles remained, with undaunted firmness, at Jerusalem, avowing their attachment to the persecuted interest of Christ, and consulting how they might best provide for the emergencies of the church, in its infant and oppressed state.
When the Apostles, during their abode at Jerusalem, heard that many of the Samaritans had embraced the Gospel, Peter and John were deputed to confer upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit; for to the Apostles belonged the prerogative of conferring upon others spiritual gifts and miraculous powers. In their return to Jerusalem, from the city of Samaria, they preached the Gospel in many Samaritan villages. The manner of its being sent to Ethiopia, by the conversion of the eunuch who was chief treasurer to Candace, queen of the country, is related in Acts 8:26 , &c. After the Christian religion had been planted in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and sent into Ethiopia, one of the uttermost parts of the earth, Acts 1:8; and after it had been preached about eight years to the Jews only, God, in his wise and merciful providence, disposed things for the preaching of it among the Gentiles. Caesarea was the scene in which the Apostle Peter was to open his commission for this purpose; and Cornelius, one of the devout Gentiles, and a man distinguished by his piety and charity, was the first proselyte to Christianity. After Peter had laid the foundation of a Christian church among the devout Gentiles, others imitated his example, and a great number of persons of this description embraced the Christian faith, more especially at Antioch, where the disciples, whom their enemies had hitherto called Galileans, Nazarenes, and other names of reproach, and who, among themselves, had been called "disciples," "believers," "the church," "the saints," and "brethren," were denominated, probably not without a divine direction, Christians.
When Christianity had been preached for about eight years among the Jews only, and for about three years more among the Jews and devout Gentiles, the next stage of its progress was to the idolatrous Gentiles, in the year of Christ 44, and the fourth year of the emperor Claudius. Barnabas and Saul were selected for this purpose, and constituted in an extraordinary manner Apostles of the Gentiles, or uncircumcision. Barnabas was probably an elder of the first rank; he had seen Christ in the flesh, had been an eye witness of his being alive again after his crucifixion, and had received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as being one of the hundred and twenty. Saul also, since his conversion had preached as a superior prophet, about seven years to the Jews only, and about two years more to the Jews and devout Gentiles. They had both been born in Gentile countries; and therefore may be supposed to have had more respect and affection for the Gentiles than most of the Jews, who were natives of Judea. Saul had been converted, and had hitherto preached chiefly on Gentile ground; and he had joined with Barnabas in teaching devout Gentiles for a whole year, at Antioch in Syria; by all which previous steps they were regularly conducted to the last gradation, or the conversion of the idolatrous Gentiles. But it was necessary, in order to the being an Apostle, to have seen our Lord Jesus Christ alive after his crucifixion, for the Apostles were in a peculiar manner the witnesses of his resurrection. Some have supposed that Saul saw the person of Jesus, when he was converted, near the city of Damascus; but others, who conceive from the history of this event, that this could not have been the case, as he was instantly struck blind, are of opinion that the season, when his Apostolic qualification and commission were completed, was that mentioned by himself,
Acts 22:17 , when he returned to Jerusalem the second time after his conversion, saw the Lord Jesus Christ in person, and received the command to go quickly out of Jerusalem, that he might be sent unto the Gentiles. See also Acts 26:16-20 , where he gives an account of the object of his commission. He also received a variety of gifts and powers, which, superadded to his own genius and learning, as well as fortitude and patience, eminently qualified him for the office of an Apostle, and for that particular exercise of it which was assigned to him. St. Paul is frequently called the Apostle, by way of eminence; and the Apostle of the Gentiles, because his ministry was chiefly employed for the conversion of the Gentiles, as that of St. Peter was for Jews, who is therefore styled the Apostle of the circumcision. The Apostles having continued at Jerusalem twelve years after the ascension of Christ, as tradition reports, according to his command, determined to disperse themselves in different parts of the world. But what were the particular provinces assigned to each, does not certainly appear from any authentic history. Socrates says, that Thomas took Parthia for his lot; Matthew, Ethiopia, and Bartholomew, India. Eusebius gives the following account: "Thomas, as we learn by tradition, had Parthia for his lot; Andrew, Scythia; John, Asia, who having lived there a long time, died at Ephesus. Peter, as it seems, preached to the dispersed Jews in Pontus and Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia; at length, coming to Rome, he was crucified with his head downward, as he had desired. What need I to speak of St. Paul, who fully preached the Gospel of Christ, from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and at last died a martyr at Rome, in the time of Nero?" From this passage we may conclude, that at the beginning, of the fourth century, there were not any certain and well attested accounts of the places out of Judea, in which several of the Apostles of Christ preached; for if there had, Eusebius must have been acquainted with them.
The stories that are told concerning their arrival and exploits among the Gauls, the English, the Spaniards, the Germans, the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, and the Russians, are too romantic in their nature, and of too recent a date, to be received by an impartial inquirer after truth. These fables were for the most part forged after the time of Charlemagne, when most of the Christian churches contended about the antiquity of their origin, with as much vehemence as the Arcadians, Egyptians, and Greeks disputed formerly about their seniority and precedence.
It appears, however, that all of the Apostles did not die by martyrdom. Heraclion, cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, reckons among the Apostles who did not suffer martyrdom, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, and Levi, probably meaning Lebbeus.
To the Apostles belonged the peculiar and exclusive prerogative of writing doctrinal and preceptive books of authority in the Christian church; and it sufficiently appears that no epistles or other doctrinal writings of any person who was of a rank below that of an Apostle, were received by Christians as a part of their rule of faith. With respect to the writings of Mark and Luke, they are reckoned historical, not doctrinal or dogmatical; and Augustine says, that Mark and Luke wrote at a time when their writings might be approved not only by the church, but by Apostles still living.
The appellation of Apostles was also given to the ordinary travelling ministers of the church. Thus St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans 16:7 , says, "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners, who are of note among the Apostles." In this inferior sense the appellation is applied, by Clement of Alexandria, to Barnabas; who was not an Apostle in the highest sense of the word, so as the twelve and Paul were Apostles. Tertullian calls all the seventy disciples Apostles; and Clement calls Barnabas Apostolical merely in another place, and says that he was one of the seventy, and fellow labourer of Paul. These, says Dr. Lardner, are the highest characters which he really intends to give to Barnabas, and what he means when he styles him Apostle; therefore he need not be supposed to ascribe to Barnabas that large measure of inspiration and high authority, which was peculiar to the Apostles, strictly and properly so called. In a similar subordinate form, St. Clement of Rome is called Apostle. Timothy also is called by Salvian, Apostle, meaning merely Apostolical, or a companion and disciple of Apostles.
Apostle was likewise a title given to those sent by the churches, to carry their alms to the poor of other churches. This usage they borrowed from the synagogues, who called those whom they sent on this message, by the same name; and the function or office itself αποστολη , that is, mission. Thus St. Paul, writing to the Philippians, tells them, that Epaphroditus, their Apostle, had ministered to his wants, Php_2:25 . It is applied in like manner to those persons who first planted the Christian faith in any place.
Apostle is also used among the Jews, for a kind of officer anciently sent into the several parts and provinces in their jurisdiction, by way of visiter, or commissary; to see that the laws were duly observed, and to receive the moneys collected for the reparation of the temple, and the tribute payable to the Romans. These apostles were a degree below the officers of the synagogues, called patriarchs, and received their commissions from them.
Some authors observe, that St. Paul had borne this office; and that it is this he alludes to in the beginning of the Epistle to the Galatians: as if he had said, Paul, no longer an apostle of the synagogue, nor sent by men to maintain the law of Moses, but now an Apostle and envoy of Jesus Christ.
&c. St. Jerom, though he does not believe that St. Paul had been an apostle of this kind, yet imagines that he alludes to it in the passage just cited.
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology 
(Gk. apostolos [Ἀπόστολος]). Envoy, ambassador, or messenger commissioned to carry out the instructions of the commissioning aget.
Etymology and Usage of the Term Pre-Christian use of apostolos [Ἀπόστολος] in the sense of messenger is rare. More common is the verb apostello, referring to the sending of a fleet or an embassy. Only in Herodotus (1.21; 5.38) is it used of a personal envoy. Josephus employs it once (Antiquities 17.11.1) in the classical sense of an embassy. Epictetus (Discourse 3.22) speaks of the ideal Cynic teacher as one "sent by Zeus" to be a messenger of the gods and an "overseer" of human affairs.
The Septuagint uses apostello [Ἐμπέμπω Ἀποστέλλω] or exapostello [Ἐξαποστέλλω] some seven hundred times to translate the Hebrew salah [שָׁלַח] ("stretch out, " "send"). More than the act of sending, this word includes the idea of the authorization of a messenger. The noun apostolos [Ἀπόστολος] is found only in 1 Kings 14:6 , where the commissioning and empowering of the prophet are clearly in mind. Thus, the Septuagint uses the apostello [Ἐμπέμπω Ἀποστέλλω] word-group to denote the authorization of an individual to fulfill a particular function, with emphasis on the one who sends, not on the one who is sent.
The noun apostolos [Ἀπόστολος] appears seventy-nine times in the New Testament (ten in the Gospels; twenty-eight in Acts; thirty-eight in the Epistles; and three in Revelation). The vast majority of these occurrences are found in Luke-Acts (thirty-four) and in the Pauline epistles (thirty-four), and refer to those appointed by Christ for a special function in the church. Their unique place is based not only on having witnessed the resurrection, but also on having been commissioned and empowered by the resurrected Lord to proclaim the gospel to all nations.
In the New Testament apostolos [ Hebrews 3:1 ), to those sent by God to preach to Israel ( Luke 11:49 ), to those sent by churches (2Col 8:23; Philippians 2:25 ), and most often, to the individuals who had been appointed by Christ to preach the gospel of the kingdom. This latter category, however, is understood differently by New Testament writers. For example, Luke-Acts uses the term "apostle" to refer almost exclusively to the Twelve, while Paul uses it in relation to a broader group of individuals. The expression "all the apostles" in 1 Corinthians 15:7 seems to include more than the twelve referred to in verse 5. James is considered here, and in Galatians 1:19 , to be an apostle. Barnabas is referred to as an apostle in Acts 14:14 (11:22-24; 13:1-4). Paul calls Andronicus and Junias apostles in Romans 16:7 . In this broader sense, an apostle was a witness to the resurrection of Christ, sent by him to make disciples of all nations.
Christ the Apostle Although there is only one explicit reference to Jesus as an apostle ( Hebrews 3:1 ), implicit references to his having been "sent" by the Father are found throughout the New Testament. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the Gospel of John, where Christ's entire ministry is qualified by the term apostello [3:17,34; 5:36-38; 6:29,57; 10:36; 17:3,8, 18,21, 23; 20:21), Jesus in turn "sends out" his disciples (4:38; 17:18) to continue and extend his mission. Thus, all apostleship finds its meaning in Jesus the Apostle, sent by God to be the Savior of the world ( 1 John 4:14 ).
The Twelve Jesus had a large number of disciples during his ministry, but not all of them were apostles. The Twelve were chosen out of a wider group both to be with Jesus as disciples and to be sent out to preach and teach as apostles. There are four lists of the Twelve in the New Testament, one in each of the three Synoptic Gospels ( Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16 ) and one in Acts (1:13). These lists are roughly the same, representing four variant forms of a single early oral tradition.
Matthew and Mark identify the Twelve as apostles only once, and in each case, in the context of a missionary journey ( Matthew 10:2; Mark 6:30 ). Here the word designates function rather than status. Luke, however, frequently and almost exclusively calls the Twelve "apostles" (6:13; 9:10; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10; Acts 1:26; 2:43; 4:35,36 , 37; 5:2,12 , 18; 8:1 ). Except for Luke 11:49 and Acts 14:14 , Luke applies apostolos [ Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:48-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8 ). Thus, the essential qualification of an apostle is being called and sent by Christ. In the case of Matthias, additional qualifications come to light. In addition to the divine call, the person must have been a disciple of Jesus from John's baptism to the ascension, and specifically a witness of the resurrection ( Acts 1:21-22 ).
Jesus' choice of twelve disciples to form an inner circle of followers served to symbolize the truth that he had come to build a new house of Israel. The Twelve formed the nucleus of this new people of God, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, and signifying God's saving activity at work in Jesus and his followers. Their number implies that they were destined primarily to work among the children of Israel. Although not confined to the Jews, the mission of the Twelve had special relation to the twelve tribes of Israel, as emphasized in the promise of Matthew 19:28 .
Paul the Apostle Since Paul had not accompanied Jesus during his earthly ministry, he did not meet the apostolic criteria of Acts 1:21-22 . It is clear, however, that he considered himself to be an apostle. Even though the only place in the Book of Acts where Paul is called an apostle is in reference to the apostles of the church in Antioch (14:4,14), Luke's portrayal of Paul's ministry as paradigmatic for the church gives implicit support to his apostolic claims. Not only does Acts depict Paul as manifesting the signs of an apostle, but in its three accounts of the Damascus Road encounter, his apostolic task is presented as the direct action of the risen Christ (9:3-5; 22:6-8; 26:12-18; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:16 ).
Paul's own claim to apostleship is likewise based on the divine call of Christ ( Romans 1:1; 1Col 1:1; Galatians 1:1,15; cf. 2Col 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:1 ). He is an apostle, "not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" ( Galatians 1:1 ). His encounter with the resurrected Jesus served as the basis for his unique claim to be an "apostle to the Gentiles" ( Romans 11:13 ). Paul bases his apostleship on the grace of God, not on ecstatic gifts or the signs of an apostle ( 2 Corinthians 12 ). His apostolic commission is to serve God primarily through preaching the gospel ( Romans 1:9; 15:19; 1Col 1:17).
Paul uses the word "apostle" in more than one sense. At times he employs the term in the broader sense of messenger or aget (2Col 8:23; Philippians 2:25 ). More often, however, Paul uses the term to refer to those who had been commissioned by the risen Lord to the apostolic task. Included in this category are the Twelve (although he never explicitly applies the title of apostle to them as a group), Peter ( Galatians 1:18 ), Paul himself ( Romans 1:1; 1Col 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:8-10; Galatians 2:7-8 ), James the brother of Jesus ( Galatians 1:19; cf. Acts 15:13 ), Barnabas (1Col 9:1-6; Galatians 2:9; cf. Acts 14:4,14 ), and possibly others ( Romans 16:7 ). In addition to understanding apostleship in terms of its basis in a divine call, Paul views the life of an apostle as being one of self-sacrificial service that entails suffering (1Col 4:9-13; 15:30-32; 2Col 4:7-12; 11:23-29).
Apostles and the Spirit The primary function of the apostles was to witness to Christ. The Twelve had intimate knowledge of his life, and a wider group had been witnesses to his resurrection. Their commissioning by the risen Lord to worldwide witness ( Acts 1:8 ), however, was incomplete without the anointing of the Spirit. Only after Pentecost were they empowered by the Spirit for their ministry of word and deed. Their witness to Christ was not only empowered, but also guided and validated by the Spirit ( John 14:26 ). Thus, their full apostolic vocation was realized only in the Spirit ( John 14-17 ). Paul viewed apostleship as a gift of the Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 12:28 ), which was often accompanied by miraculous signs and mighty works ( 2 Corinthians 12:12 ). Such signs and wonders, however, were clearly secondary to the apostolic functions of preaching and teaching.
Apostolic Authority Having direct knowledge of the incarnate Word, and being sent out as authorized agets of the gospel, the apostles provided the authentic interpretation of the life and teaching of Jesus. Because their witness to Christ was guided by the Spirit ( John 15:26-27 ), the apostles' teaching was considered normative for the church. They were regarded as the "pillars" ( Galatians 2:9 ) and "foundation" ( Ephesians 2:20; cf. Revelation 21:14 ) of the church, and their teaching became the norm for Christian faith and practice. The deposit of revelation transmitted by the apostles and preserved in its written form in the New Testament thus forms the basis of postapostolic preaching and teaching in the church.
It is evident that the apostles formed the nucleus of primitive Christianity. The New Testament highlights their function as apostles, without delineating in detail the authoritative nature of their office in relation to the church. What is emphasized is that their apostolic commission authorized them to preach ( 1 Corinthians 1:17 ); to be ambassadors for Christ (2Col 5:20; Ephesians 6:20 ); to be witnesses to all nations ( Luke 24:48 ); and to make disciples of all peoples ( Matthew 28:19 ).
R. David Rightmire
Bibliography . F. Agnew, JBL 105 (1986): 75-96; C. K. Barrett, Signs of an Apostle ; W. Baur, New Testament Apocrypha 2 (1965): 35-74; O. Cullmann, Early Church ; E. J. Goodspeed, The Twelve ; L. Goppelt, Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Times ; J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians, pp. 92-101; H. Mosbech, ST 2 (1948): 166-200; D. Mller, NIDNTT, 1:126-33; J. Munck, ST 3 (1949): 96-100; K. Rengstorf, TDNT, 1:398-447; W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha 2 (1965): 25-34; R. Schnackenburg, Apostolic History and the Gospel, pp. 287-303.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
According to the word’s original meaning, an apostle was a sent one’. Jesus gave the name to his chosen twelve because, after their time of preparation with him, he sent them out in the service of his kingdom ( Mark 3:13-15; Luke 6:13). As twelve tribes had formed the basis of the old people of God, so twelve apostles would be the foundation on which God would build his new people, the Christian church ( Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14).
Mission of the twelve
Jesus’ purpose in sending out the twelve was to spread the message of his kingdom throughout Israel ( Matthew 10:5-7), as preparation for the worldwide mission to follow ( Matthew 28:19-20). He gave them a share in his messianic powers so that they could demonstrate the triumph of his kingdom through healing the sick and casting out demons ( Matthew 10:1; Matthew 10:8; see Kingdom Of God ). They were to move through Palestine as quickly as possible, avoiding anything that would hinder progress or waste time, so that they might complete the first stage of their mission during Jesus’ lifetime ( Matthew 10:9-14).
The apostles’ early activity proved to them that the special powers Christ had given them worked ( Mark 6:13; Mark 6:30). Even after Christ had returned to his Father, they continued to perform miraculous works, because the Spirit of the risen Christ now indwelt them. These miracles were evidence that they were truly Christ’s apostles ( Acts 3:12; Acts 3:16; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:12; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12).
Part of Jesus’ purpose in choosing the twelve to accompany him in his ministry was that, after his departure, they might be able to preach about him with the first-hand knowledge of eye witnesses ( John 15:26-27; Acts 1:8; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39-41; cf. Mark 3:14). Realizing that they had a specific ministry to the people of that generation, the apostles tried to maintain a unit of twelve personal associates of Jesus as the basis of the new community. They insisted, therefore, that the person to replace Judas in the apostolic group be one who, like the other apostles, had been a genuine eye witness of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism to his ascension ( Acts 1:21-22; cf. Luke 24:46-48).
With the establishment and growth of the church, the apostles had fulfilled part of the mission for which Christ had chosen them. They provided the leadership for the early church in Jerusalem ( Acts 2:42; Acts 4:37; Acts 5:1-5; Acts 6:1-4), and were general overseers of the expansion of Christianity into the regions throughout Palestine and beyond ( Acts 8:14-17; Acts 10:46-48). Because of these developments, they were no longer constantly in Jerusalem and were no longer moving together as a group. When James was executed, they saw no need to replace him in order to maintain the unit of twelve, for it had now largely fulfilled its purpose ( Acts 12:2; cf. Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8).
Apostles in the church
Initially apostles were concerned with announcing the good news that, through Christ, the new era had arrived ( Matthew 10:7; Acts 2:22-40). They then had the added responsibility of passing on the teachings of Jesus to those who believed ( Matthew 28:19-20). In this they had particular help and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, as Christ had promised ( John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:12-15). Teaching therefore became one of the apostles’ main duties in the church ( Acts 2:42; Acts 5:21; Acts 5:42; Acts 6:4).
As the church grew, other people were acknowledged as having equal authority with the original apostles. They were not part of that unique group of twelve, but they were no less apostles. Among these were Paul, Barnabas, and James the brother of Jesus ( Acts 14:14; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8-11; Galatians 1:19). Because people other than the original twelve might now be apostles, warnings were given against false apostles ( 2 Corinthians 11:13; Revelation 2:2). Regardless of the assertions people made about themselves, a true apostle could be appointed only by God ( Acts 1:24; 1 Corinthians 1:1; cf. Mark 3:13-14).
Although apostles increased in number beyond the original twelve, their position was still unique in the church. They were people to whom the Holy Spirit had given special gifts that enabled them to preserve, teach and develop the truths of the Christian gospel ( 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Timothy 1:11). People accepted the apostles’ teaching as having the authority of God’s Word ( Acts 2:42; Galatians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 John 1:10), and added the apostles’ writings to the collection of inspired Scriptures ( 2 Peter 3:15-16; cf. John 14:26; John 16:13-14; see Inspiration ).
Authority in teaching was only part of a wider authority that apostles exercised in the early church. Their authority extended over all areas of church life ( Acts 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 13:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Timothy 1:20).
Yet on many occasions the apostles refused to use their authority to force Christians to submit to their rulings. They preferred that the Christians make decisions and take action themselves, and in so doing grow in spiritual maturity ( Acts 11:2-4; Acts 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Philem 8-9). By helping such growth, they were again fulfilling their ministry ( Ephesians 4:11-13).
The apostles did not pass their office on to the next generation. They were God’s specific provision to link the ministry of Christ with the birth of the church, and to ensure that the church was built upon the right foundation ( Ephesians 2:20). As the authoritative interpretation of Christ and the gospel became firmly established in written form ( 2 Thessalonians 2:15; see Gospel ; Scriptures ), and as the churches became firmly established through their local leaders ( Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; see Elder ), the necessity for apostles decreased. The apostolic office had served its purpose, and after the first century it died out.
Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
("one sent forth".) The official name of the twelve whom Jesus sent forth to preach, and who also were with Him throughout His earthly ministry. Peter states the qualifications before the election of Judas' successor ( Acts 1:21), namely, that he should have companied with the followers of Jesus "all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John unto the day that He was taken up, to be a witness with the others of His resurrection." So the Lord, "Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations" ( Luke 22:28). The Holy Spirit was specially promised to bring all things to their remembrance whatever Jesus had said, to guide them into all truth, and to enable them to testify of Jesus with power to all lands ( John 14:26; John 15:26-27; John 16:13-14). They were some of them fishermen, one a tax collector, and most of them unlearned.
Though called before, they did not permanently follow Him until their call as apostles. All were on a level ( Matthew 20:20-27; Mark 9:34-36). Yet three stood in especial nearness to Him, Peter, James, and John; they alone witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter, the transfiguration, and the agony in Gethsemane. An order grounded on moral considerations is traceable in the enumeration of the rest: Judas, the traitor, in all the lists stands last. The disciples surrounded Jesus in wider and still wider expanding circles: nearest Him Peter, James, and. John; then the other nine; then the Seventy; then the disciples in general. But the "mystery" was revealed to all alike ( Matthew 10:27). Four catalogues are extant: Matthew's (Matthew 10), Mark's ( Mark 3:16), Luke's ( Luke 6:14) in the Gospel, and Luke's in Acts 1:13.
In all four the apostles are grouped in three classes, four in each. Philip heads the second division, i.e. is fifth; James the son of Alpheus heads the third, i.e. is ninth. Andrew follows Peter on the ground of brotherhood in Matthew and Luke; in Mark and Acts James and John, on the ground of greater nearness to Jesus, precede Andrew. In the second division Matthew modestly puts himself after Thomas; Mark and Luke give him his rightful place before Thomas. Thomas, after his doubts were removed ( John 20:28), having attained distinguished faith, is promoted above Bartholomew (or Nathanael) and Matthew in Acts. In Matt, hew and Mark Thaddaeus (or Lebbaeus) precedes Simon Zelotes (Hebrew "Canaanite," i.e. one of the sect the Zealots). But in Luke and Acts Simon Zelotes precedes Jude (Thaddaeus) the brother of James. John gives no catalogue, but writing later takes it for granted ( Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:19-20).
In the first division stand Peter and John, New Testament writers, in the second Matthew, in the third James and Jude. The Zealot stood once the last except the traitor, but subsequently became raised; bigotry is not always the best preparation for subsequent high standing in faith. Jesus sent them in pairs: a good plan for securing brotherly sympathy and cooperation. Their early mission in Jesus' lifetime, to preach repentance and perform miracles in Jesus' name, was restricted to Israel, to prepare the way for the subsequent gospel preaching to the Jews first, on and after Pentecost ( Acts 3:25). They were slow to apprehend the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and His crucifixion and resurrection as the necessary preliminary to it. Even after His resurrection seven of them returned to their fishing; and it was only by Christ's renewed call that they were led' to remain together at Jerusalem, waiting for the promised Comforter (John 21; Acts 1:4).
From the day of the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit they became new men, witnessing with power of the resurrection of Jesus, as Jesus had promised ( Luke 24:45; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 13:31). The first period of the apostles' working extends down to Acts 11:18. Excepting the transition period (Acts 8-10) when, at Stephen's martyrdom, the gospel was extended to Samaria and. to the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip, Jerusalem is its center, and Peter' the prominent figure, who opened the kingdom of heaven (according to Jesus' promise to him, Matthew 16:18-19) to the Jews and also to the Gentiles (Acts 2; 10). The second period begins with the extension of the kingdom to idolatrous Gentiles. ( Acts 11:19-26).
Antioch, in concert with Jerusalem, is now the center, and Paul the prominent figure, in concert with the other apostles. Though the ideal number always remained twelve ( Revelation 21:14), answering to the twelve tribes of Israel, yet just as there were in fact thirteen tribes when Joseph's two sons were made separate tribal heads, so Paul's calling made thirteen actual apostles. He possessed the two characteristics of an Apostle; he had" seen the Lord," so as to be an eye witness of His resurrection, and he had the power which none but an Apostle had, of conferring spiritual gifts ( 1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 1:11; Romans 15:18-19). This period ends with Acts 13:1-5, when Barnabas and Saul were separated by the Holy Spirit unto missionary work. Here the third apostolic period begins, in which the twelve disappear, and Paul alone stands forth, the Apostle of the Gentiles; so that at the close of Acts, which leaves him evangelizing in Rome, the metropolis of the world, churches from Jerusalem unto Illyricum had been founded through him.
"Apostle" is used in a vaguer sense of "messengers of the churches" ( 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25). But the term belongs in its stricter sense to the twelve alone; they alone were apostles of Christ. Their distinctive note is, they were commissioned immediately by Jesus Himself. They alone were chosen by Christ Himself, independently of the churches. So even Matthias ( Acts 1:24). So Paul ( Galatians 1:1-12; Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Their exclusive office was to found the Christian church; so their official existence was of Christ, and prior to the churches they collectively and severally founded. They acted with a divine authority to bind and loose things ( Matthew 18:18), and to remit or retain sins of persons ( John 20:21-23), which they exercised by the authoritative ministry of the word. Their infallibility, of which their miracles were the credentials, marked them as extraordinary, not permanent, ministers.
Paul requires the Corinthians to acknowledge that the things which he wrote were the Lord's commandments ( 1 Corinthians 14:37). The office was not local; but "the care of all the churches." They were to the whole what particular elders were, to parts of the church ( 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1:1). Apostles therefore could have strictly no successors. John, while superintending the whole, was especially connected with the churches of Asia Minor, Paul with the W., Peter with Babylon. The bishops in that age coexisted with, and did not succeed officially, the apostles. James seems specially to have had a presidency in Jerusalem ( Acts 15:19; Acts 21:18).
Once the Lord Himself is so designated, "the Apostle of our profession" ( Hebrews 3:1); the, Ambassador sent from the Father ( John 20:21). As Apostle He pleads God's cause with us; as" High Priest," our cause with God. Appropriate in writing to Hebrew, since the Hebrew high priest sent delegates ("apostles") to collect the temple tribute from Jews in foreign countries, just as Christ is the Father's Delegate to claim the Father's due from His subjects in this world far off from Him ( Matthew 21:37).
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
The Greek word ἀπόστολοςsignifies 'a messenger,' 'one sent,' and is used in this sense for any messenger in 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25; and as 'one sent' in John 13:16 . It is also used in a much higher and more emphatic sense, implying a divine commission in the one sent, first of the Lord Himself and then of the twelve disciples whom He chose to be with Him during the time of His ministry here. The Lord in His prayer in John 17:18 said, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." He was the Sent One, and in Hebrews 3:1 it is written "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus."* They were to consider this One who had been faithful, and who was superior to Moses, to the Aaronic priests, and to angels, and was in the glory. The ordering of a dispensation depended on the apostolic office as divinely appointed.
* The word 'Christ' is omitted by the Editors.
Apostles,The Twelve The Lord appointed these "that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons," and also to carry out the various commissions given by Christ on earth. It will be seen by the lists that follow that Lebbaeus, Thaddaeus and Judas are the same person; and that Simon the Canaanite (Cananaean) and Simon Zelotes are the same; Peter is also called Simon; and Matthew is calledLevi.
Matthew 10:2-4 . Mark 3:16-19 . Luke 6:14-16 . Acts 1:18 .
1 Peter and 1 Peter. 1 Simon. 1 Peter.
2 Andrew. 3 James. 2 Andrew. 3 James.
3 James and 4 John. 3 James. 4 John.
4 John. 2 Andrew. 4 John. 2 Andrew.
5 Philip and 5 Philip. 5 Philip. 5 Philip.
6 Bartholomew. 6 Bartholomew. 6 Bartholomew. 7 Thomas.
7 Thomas and 8 Matthew. 8 Matthew. 6 Bartholomew.
8 Matthew. 7 Thomas. 7 Thomas. 8 Matthew.
9 James and 9 James. 9 James. 9 James.
10 Lebbaeus. 10 Thaddaeus. 11 Simon Zelotes. 11 Simon Z.
11 Simon the Cana- 11 Simon C. 10 Judas. 10 Judas.
naean and 12 Judas 1. 12 Judas I.
12 Judas Iscariot.
Peter is always named first; he with James and John was with the Lord on the mount of transfiguration and also with the Lord at other times, though no one apostle had authority over the others: they were all brethren and the Lord was their Master. Judas Iscariot is always named last. In Matthew the word 'and' divides the twelve into pairs, perhaps corresponding to their being sent out two and two to preach. Bartholomew and Simon Zelotes are not mentioned after their appointment except in Acts1.
When the Lord sent the twelve out to preach He bade them take nothing with them, for the workman was worthy of his food: and on their return they confessed that they had lacked nothing. Their mission was with authority as the sent ones of the Lord; sicknesses were healed and demons cast out; and if any city refused to receive them it should be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgement than for that city. Matthew 10:5-15 .
They received a new mission from the Lord as risen : see Luke 24; John 20 . And before the ascension the apostles were bidden to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. This was bestowed at the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They are also viewed first among the gifts with which the church was endowed by the Head of the body when He ascended up on high. Ephesians 4:8-11 . These gifts were for "the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." The mystery hitherto hid in God was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, namely, that the Gentiles should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3 . Paul was the special vessel to make known this grace. His apostleship occupies a peculiar place, he having been called by the Lord from heaven, and being charged with the gospel of the glory. See PAUL.
On the death of Judas Iscariot, Matthias, an early disciple, was chosen in his place, for there must be (irrespective of Paul, who, as we have seen, held a unique place) twelve apostles as witnesses of His resurrection, Acts 1:22; Revelation 21:14 as there must still be twelve tribes of Israel. James 1:1; Revelation 21:12 . At the conference of the church in Jerusalem respecting the Gentiles 'the apostles' took a prominent part, with the elders. Acts 15 . How many apostles remained at Jerusalem is not recorded: we do not read of 'the twelve' after Acts 6 . Tradition gives the various places where they laboured, which may be found under each of their names. Scripture is silent on the subject, in order that the new order of things committed to Paul might become prominent, as the older things connected with Judaism vanished away: cf. 2 Peter 3:15,16 .
There were no successors to the apostles: to be apostles they must have 'seen the Lord.' Acts 1:21,22; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Revelation 2:2 . The foundation of the church was laid, and apostolic work being complete the apostles passed away, there remain however, in the goodness of God, such gifts as are needed "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Ephesians 4:12,13 .
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Apostle. (One Sent Forth). In the New Testament, originally the official name of those twelve of the disciples whom Jesus chose to send forth first to preach the gospel and to be with him during the course of his ministry on earth. The word also appears to have been used in a non-official sense to designate a much wider circle of Christian messengers and teachers. See 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25. It is only of those who were officially designated apostles that we treat in the article. Their names are given in Matthew 10:2-4, and Christ's charge to them in the rest of the chapter.
Their office. - (1) The original qualification of an apostle, as stated by St. Peter on the occasion of electing a successor to the traitor Judas, was that he should have been personally acquainted with the whole ministerial course of our Lord from his baptism by John till the day when he was taken up into heaven.
(2) They were chosen by Christ himself.
(3) They had the power of working miracles.
(4) They were inspired. John 16:13.
(5) Their world seems to have been pre-eminently that of founding the churches and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose.
(6) The office ceased, a matter of course, with its first holders-all continuation of it, from the very condition of its existence (Compare 1 Corinthians 9:1), being impossible.
Early history and training. - The apostles were from the lower ranks of life, simple and uneducated; some of them were related to Jesus according to the flesh; some had previously been disciples of John the Baptist. Our Lord chose them early in his public career. They seem to have been all on an equality, both during and after the ministry of Christ on earth.
Early in our Lord's ministry, he sent them out two and two to preach repentance and to perform miracles in his name Matthew 10; Luke 9. They accompanied him in his journey, saw his wonderful works, heard his discourses addressed to the people, and made inquiries of him on religious matters.
They recognized him as the Christ of God, Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20, and described to him supernatural power, Luke 9:54, but in the recognition of the spiritual teaching and mission of Christ , they made very low progress, held back as they were by weakness of apprehension and by national prejudices. Even at the removal of our Lord from the earth, they were yet weak in their knowledge, Luke 24:21; John 16:12, though he had for so long been carefully preparing and instructing them.
On the Feast of Pentecost , ten days after our Lord's ascension, the Holy Spirit came down on the assembled church, Acts 2; and from that time the apostles became altogether different men, giving witness with power of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus , as he had declared they should. Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 13:31.
Later labors and history. - First of all the mother-church at Jerusalem grew up under their hands, Acts 3-7, and their superior dignity and power were universally acknowledged by the rulers and the people. Acts 5:12. Ff. Their first mission out of Jerusalem was to Samaria Acts 8:5-25 where the Lord himself had, during his ministry, sown the seed of the gospel. Here ends the first period of the apostles' agency, during which its centre is Jerusalem and the prominent figure is that of St. Peter.
The centre of the second period of the apostolic agency is Antioch, where a church soon was built up, consisting of Jews and Gentiles; and the central figure of this and of the subsequent period is St. Paul.
The third apostolic period is marked by the almost entire disappearance of the twelve from the sacred narrative and the exclusive agency of St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. Of the missionary work of the rest of the twelve we know absolutely nothing from the sacred narrative.
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
Apostle. The official title, implying messenger, of the twelve disciples whom our Lord chose, "that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach." These twelve were arranged in three groups, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, with James and John, the two sons of Zebedee; then Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew; and, lastly, James, the son of Alpheus, Lebbeus (called Thaddeus, Judas, and Jude), Simon Zelotes or the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot. Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; comp. Acts 1:13. While Matthew narrates the sending forth of the apostles to preach, Mark and Luke describe the choice of them; and this choice, it appears, was made upon a mountain, not improbably that well-known horned hill of Hattin where also the notable sermon on the mount was probably delivered. Some time after their appointment the apostles were sent forth to preach and perform miracles, a special charge being given them. Matthew 10:1; Matthew 10:5-42; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6. They generally, however, accompanied their Master, witnessed his mighty works, heard the explanation of his parables, ana were the selected company at the institution of the last supper. One, however, Judas, betrayed him; and when Jesus was seized they all forsook him. Matthew 26:47-58. One or two had courage to attend his examination, John 18:15-16, and one was present at his execution. John 19:26. But, so far as appears, they took no part in the Lord's burial, and could hardly be persuaded that he was risen. After his resurrection, the eleven, the traitor having hung himself, had frequent interviews with him, and witnessed his ascension. Luke 24:50-51. According to their Master's command, they continued at Jerusalem, waiting for the promised gift of the Holy Ghost. One was appointed to fill the place of Judas, The Scripture account is as follows: "His bishopric let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning 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 bis resurrection." Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the place of Judas. Acts 1:20-26. After the day of Pentecost the apostles were no longer fearful and temporizing; they preached boldly in the name of Jesus. They took the lead, as the acknowledged heads of the movement, verses 12, 13, devoted themselves to ministerial labor, Acts 6:2-4, exercised peculiar powers, 8:14-18, and had primary authority in the church. Acts 9:27; Acts 15:2; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 1:17; Galatians 2:8-9. Two centres and two departments of apostolic working are described in the Acts of the Apostles; from Jerusalem among the Jews by Peter, from Antioch by Paul among the Gentiles. For Paul was extraordinarily appointed to the apostleship by Christ, Galatians 1:1; and others seem to nave been added, as Barnabas, Acts 14:14; and according to the belief of some writers many more. Scripture says but little of the personal history of most of the apostles; but what is known of each will be found under their respective names. The title is once given to our Lord. Hebrews 3:1.
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
A messenger or envoy. The term is applied to Jesus Christ, who was God's envoy to save the world, Hebrews 3:1; though, more commonly, the title is given to persons who were envoys commissioned by the Savior himself.
The apostles of Jesus Christ were his chief disciples, whom he invested with authority, filled with his Spirit, entrusted particularly with his doctrines and services, and chose to raise the edifice of his church. They were twelve in number, answering to the twelve tribes. Matthew 19:28 , and were plain, unlearned men, chosen from the common people. After their calling and charge, Matthew 10:5-42 , they attended their divine Master, witnessing his works, imbibing his spirit, and gradually learning the facts and doctrines of the gospel. After his resurrection, he sent them into all the world, commissioned to preach, to baptize, to work miracles, etc. See John 15:27 1 Corinthians 9:1 15:8 2 Corinthians 12:12 1 Thessalonians 2:13 . The names of the twelve are, Simon Peter; Andrew, his brother; James, the son of Zebedee, called also "the greater;" John, his brother; Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew, or Levi; Simon the Canaanite; Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus, also called Judas or Jude; James, "the less," the son of Alphaeus; and Judas Iscariot, Matthew 10:2-4 Mark 3:16 Luke 6:14 . The last betrayed his Master, and then hanged himself, and Matthias was chosen in his place, Acts 1:15-26 . In the Acts of the Apostles are recorded the self-sacrificing toils and sufferings of these Christlike men, who did that which was "right in the sight of God" from love to their Lord; and gave themselves wholly to their work, with a zeal, love, and faith Christ delighted to honor-teaching us that apostolic graces alone can secure apostolic successes.
King James Dictionary 
APOS'TLE, n. L. apostalus Gr. to send away, to sent.
A person deputed to execute some important business but appropriately, a disciple of Christ commissioned to preach the gospel. Twelve persons were selected by Christ for this purpose and Judas, one of the number, proving an apostate, his place was supplied by Matthias. Acts 1 .
The title of apostle is applied to Christ himself, Hebrews 3 . In the primitive ages of the church, other ministers were called apostles, Romans 16 as were persons sent to carry alms from one church to another, Philippians 2 . This title was also given to persons who first planted the Christian faith. Thus Dionysius of Corinth is called the apostle of France and the Jesuit Missionaries are called apostles.
Among the Jews, the title was given to officers who were sent into distant provinces, as visitors or commissioners, to see the laws observed.
Apostle, in the Greek liturgy, is a book contained the epistles of St. Paul, printed in the order in which they are to be read in churches, through the year.
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
In 2 Corinthians 8:23 and Philippians 2:25 the word "messenger" is the rendering of the same Greek word, elsewhere rendered "apostle."
Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.
Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Apostle'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/a/apostle.html. 1897.
Webster's Dictionary 
(1): (n.) The missionary who first plants the Christian faith in any part of the world; also, one who initiates any great moral reform, or first advocates any important belief; one who has extraordinary success as a missionary or reformer; as, Dionysius of Corinth is called the apostle of France, John Eliot the apostle to the Indians, Theobald Mathew the apostle of temperance.
(2): (n.) Literally: One sent forth; a messenger. Specifically: One of the twelve disciples of Christ, specially chosen as his companions and witnesses, and sent forth to preach the gospel.
(3): (n.) A brief letter dimissory sent by a court appealed from to the superior court, stating the case, etc.; a paper sent up on appeals in the admiralty courts.
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary 
Properly signifies a messenger or person sent by another upon some business.
1. It is particularly applied to them whom our Savior deputed to preach.
2. Apostle, in the Greek liturgy, is used for a book containing the epistles of St. Paul, printed in the order wherein they are to be read in churches through the course of the year.
3. The appellation was also given to the ordinary travelling ministers of the church, Romans 16:7 . Philippians 2:25 . though in our translation the last is rendered messenger.
4. It is likewise given to those persons who first planted the Christian faith in any place. Thus Dionysius of Corinth is called the Apostle of France, Xavier the Apostle of the Indies, &c.
Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary 
This is a word well known in the New Testament, It is peculiarly applied to the twelve men, whom the Lord Jesus called and commissioned to be his more immediate disciples and followers, to preach the gospel. But Christ himself condescended to be called by the same name. ( Hebrews 3:1.) Indeed, he was the apostle of Jehovah As it may be gratifying to have their names brought into one
5 James the Greater.
9 Simon the Canaanite.
10 Jude, the brother of James.
11James the Less.
12Judas the Traitor.
Matthias was elected in the Traitor's room.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
( Ἀπόστολος , from Ἀποστέλλω , To Send Forth). In Attic Greek the term is used to denote A Fleet or Naval Armament. It occurs only once in the Sept. ( 1 Kings 14:6), and there, as uniformly in the New Testament, it signifies A Person Sent By Another, A Messenger. It has been asserted that the Jews were accustomed to term the collector of the half shekel which every Israelite paid annually to the Temple an apostle; and we have better authority for asserting that they used the word to denote one who carried about encyclical letters from their rulers. OEcumenius states that it is even vet a custom among the Jews to call those who carry about circular letters from their rulers by the name of apostles. To this use of the term Paul has been supposed to refer ( Galatians 1:1) when he asserts that he was "an apostle, not of men, neither by men" — an apostle not like those known among the Jews by that name, who derived their authority and received their mission from the chief priests or principal men of their nation. The import of the word is strongly brought out in John 13:16, where it occurs along with its correlate, "The servant is not greater than his Lord, neither he Who Is Sent ( Ἀπόστολος ) greater than he who sent him."
It is the opinion of Suicer (Thesaurus, art. Ἀπόστολος ) that the appellation "apostle" is in the N.T. employed as a general name for Christian ministers as "Sent by God," in a qualified use of that phrase, to preach the word. The word is indeed used in this loose sense by the fathers. Thus we find Archippus, Philemon, Apphia, the seventy disciples ( Luke 10:17), termed apostles; and even Mary Magdalene is said Γενέσθαι Τοῖς Ἀποστόλοις Ἀπόστολος , to become an apostle to the apostles. No evidence, however, can be brought forward of the term being thus used in the N.T. Andronicus and Junia ( Romans 16:7) are indeed said to be Ἐπίσημοι Ἐν Τοῖς Ἀποστόλοις , "of note among the apostles;" but these words by no means imply that they were apostles, but only that they were well known and esteemed by the apostles. The Συνεργο . . . the fellow- workers of the apostles, are by Chrysostom denominated Συναπόστολοι . The argument founded on 1 Corinthians 4:9, compared with 1 Corinthians 4:6, to prove that Apollos is termed an apostle, cannot bear examination. The only instance in which it seems probable that the word, as expressive of an office in the Christian Church, is applied to an individual whose call to that office is not made the subject of special narration, is to be found in Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14, where Barnabas, as well as Paul, is termed an apostle. At the same time, it is by no means absolutely certain that the term apostles, or messengers, does not in this place refer rather to the mission of Paul and Barnabas by the prophets and teachers at Antioch, under the impulse of the Holy Ghost ( Acts 13:1-4), than to that direct call to the Christian apostleship which we know Paul received, and which if Barnabas had received, we can scarcely persuade ourselves that no trace of so important an event should have been found in the sacred history but a passing hint, which admits, to say the least, of being plausibly accounted for in another way. ‘ We know that, on the occasion referred to, "the prophets and teachers, when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul, sent them away" ( Ἀτέλυσαν ); so that, in the sense in which we will immediately find the words occurring, they were Ἀπόστολοι — prophets and teachers (Vollhagen, De Apost. Ebr. Greifsw. 1704).
In 2 Corinthians 8:23, we meet with the phrase Ἀπόστολοι Ἐκκλησιῶν , rendered in our version "the messengers of the churches." Who these were, and why they received this name, is obvious from the context. The churches of Macedonia had made a contribution for the relief of the saints of Judaea, and had not merely requested the apostle "to receive the gift, and take on him the fellowship of ministering to the saints," but at his suggestion had appointed some individuals to accompany him to Jerusalem with their alms. These "apostles or messengers of the churches" were those "who were chosen of the churches to travel with the apostle with this grace [gift], which was administered by him," to the glory of their common Lord ( 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:19). With much the same meaning and reference Epaphroditus ( Philippians 2:25) is termed Ἀπόστολος — a messenger of the Philippian Church — having been employed by them to carry pecuniary assistance to the apostle ( Philippians 4:14-18).
The word "apostle" occurs once in the New Testament ( Hebrews 3:1) as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ: ‘ " The apostle of our profession," i.e. the apostle whom we profess or acknowledge. The Jews were in the habit of applying the term שָׁלַיחִ , from שָׁלִח , To Send, to the person who presided over the synagogue, and directed all its officers and affairs. The Church is represented as "the house or family of God," over which he had placed, during the Jewish economy, Moses as the superintendent-over which he has placed, under the Christian economy, Christ Jesus. The import of the term Apostle is divinely commissioned superintendent; and of the whole phrase, "The Apostle Of Our Profession," the divinely commissioned superintendent whom WE Christians acknowledge, in contradistinction to the divinely appointed superintendent Moses, whom the Jews acknowledged.
1. The term apostle, however, is generally employed in the New Testament as the descriptive appellation of a comparatively small class of men, to whom Jesus Christ intrusted the organization of his Church and the dissemination of his religion among mankind. At an early period of his ministry "he ordained twelve" of his disciples "that they should be with him." Their names were:
1. Simon Peter (Cephas, Bar-jona);
5. James the Elder;
6. Nathanael (Bartholomew);
7. Thomas (Didymus);
8. Matthew (Levi);
9. Simon Zelotes;
10. Jude (Lebbaeus, Judas, Thaddaeus);
11. James the Less;
12. Judas Iscariot.
(For their names according to Mohammedan traditions, see Thilo, Apocr. 1:152.) "These he named apostles." Some time afterward "he gave to them power against unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease;" "and he sent them to preach the kingdom of God" ( Mark 3:14; Matthew 10:1-5; Mark 6:7; Luke 6:13; Luke 9:1). To them he gave "the keys of the kingdom of God," and constituted them princes over the spiritual Israel, that "people whom God was to take from among the Gentiles, for his name" ( Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). Previously to his death he promised to them the Holy Spirit, to fit them to be the founders and governors of the Christian Church ( John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 15:26-27; John 16:7-15). After his resurrection he solemnly confirmed their call, saying, "As the Father hath sent me, so send I you;" and gave them a commission to "preach the gospel to every creature" ( John 20:21-23; Matthew 18:18-20). After his ascension he, on the day of Pentecost, communicated to them those supernatural gifts which were necessary to the performance of the high functions he had commissioned them to exercise; and in the exercise of these gifts they, in the Gospel history and in their epistles, with the Apocalypse, gave a complete view of the will of their Master in reference to that new order of things of which he was the author. They "had the mind of Christ." They spoke "the wisdom of God in a mystery." That mystery "God revealed to them by his Spirit," and they spoke it, "not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." They were "ambassadors for Christ," and besought men, "in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God." They authoritatively taught the doctrine and the law of their Lord; they organized churches, and required them to "keep the traditions," i.e. the doctrines and ordinances delivered to them" (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 11:2). Of the twelve originally ordained to the apostleship, one, Judas Iscariot, "fell from it by transgression," and Matthias, "who had companied" with the other apostles "all the time that the Lord Jesus went out and in among them," was by lot substituted in his place ( Acts 1:17-26). Saul of. Tarsus, afterward termed Paul, was also miraculously added to the number of these permanent rulers of the Christian society (Acts 9; Acts 20:4; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). (See Disciples) (Twelve).
2. The number Twelve was probably fixed upon after the analogy of the twelve tribes of the Israelites ( Matthew 19:28; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p. 323; comp. Tertull. c. Marcion. 4:415), and was so exact that the apostles are often termed simply "the Twelve" ( Matthew 26:14; Matthew 26:47; John 6:67; John 20:24; 1 Corinthians 15:5). Their general commission was to preach the gospel. (See generally Cave, Hist. Of The Apostles, Lond. 1677; Spanheim, De Apostolatu, in his Dissert. Hist. Quaternio, Lugd. B. 1679; Buddae Eccles. Apost. Jen. 1729; Burmann, Exercit. Acad. 2, 104 sq.; Hess, Gesch. U. Schrift. D. Apostel, Tir. 1821; Planck, Gesch. Des Christenth. Gott. 1818; Wilhelm, Christi Apostel, Heidelb. 1825; Capelli Histor. Apost. Illustr. Genev. 1634, Salmur. 1683, Frckf. 1691; Von Einem, Historia Christ. Et Apostol. Gott. 1758; Rullmann, De Apostolis, Rint. 1789; Stanley, Sermons On The Apostolic Age, Oxf. 1847, 1852; Renan, Les Apotres, Paris, 1866. ) They were uneducated persons (F. Lami, De Eruditione Apostolorum, Flor. 1738) taken from common life, mostly Galileans ( Matthew 11:25), and many of them had been disciples of John the Baptist ( John 1:35 sq.). Some of them appear to have been relatives of Jesus himself. (See Brother). Our Lord chose them early in his public career, though some of them had certainly partly attached themselves to him before; but after their call as apostles they appear to have been continuously with him or in his service. They seem to have been all on an equality, both during and after the ministry of Christ on earth; and the prelatical supremacy of Peter, founded by the Romish Church upon Matthew 16:18, is nowhere alluded to in the apostolical period. We find one indeed, Peter, from fervor of personal character, usually prominent among them, and distinguished by having the first place assigned him in founding the Jewish and Gentile churches, (See Peter); but we never find the slightest trace in Scripture of any superiority or primacy being in consequence accorded to him. We also find that he and two others, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, are admitted to the inner privacy of our Lord's acts and sufferings on several occasions ( Mark 5:37; Matthew 17:1 sq.; Matthew 26:37); but this is no proof of superiority in rank or office. Early in our Lord's ministry, he sent them out two and two to preach repentance, and perform miracles in his name (Matthew 10; Luke 9). This their mission was of the nature of a solemn call to the children of Israel, to whom it was confined ( Matthew 10:5-6).
There is, however, in his charge to the apostles on this occasion not a word of their proclaiming his own mission as the Messiah of the Jewish people; their preaching was at this time strictly of a preparatory kind, resembling that of John the Baptist, the Lord's forerunner. Jesus early informed the apostles respecting the solemn nature, the hardships, and even positive danger of their vocation ( Matthew 10:17), but he never imparted to them any Esoteric instruction, nor even initiated them into any special mysteries; since the whole tendency of his teaching was practical; but they constantly accompanied him in his tours of preaching and to the festivals (being unhindered by their domestic relations, comp. Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5; see Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 3:30; Schmid, De Apostolis Uxoratis, Helmst. 1704, Viteb. 1734; comp. Deyling, Observ. 3, 469 sq.; Pfaff, De Circumductione Soror. Mulierum Apostolica, Tubing. 1751; Schulthess, Neueste.Theol. Nachricht. 1828, 1:130 sq.), beheld his wonderful acts, listened to his discourses addressed to the multitude ( Matthew 5:1 sq.; Matthew 23:1 sq.; Luke 4:13 sq.), or his discussions with learned Jews ( Matthew 19:13 sq.; Luke 10:25 sq.); occasionally (especially the favorite Peter, John, and James the elder) followed him in private ( Matthew 17:1 sq.), and conversed freely with him, eliciting information ( Matthew 15:15 sq.; Matthew 18:1 sq.; Luke 8:9 sq.; Luke 12:41; Luke 17:5; John 9:2 sq.) on religious subjects, sometimes with respect to the sayings of Jesus, sometimes in general ( Matthew 13:10 sq.), and were even on one occasion themselves incited to make attempts at the promulgation of the Gospel ( Matthew 6:7 sq.; Luke 9:6 sq.), and with this view performed cures ( Mark 6:13; Luke 9:6), although in this last they were not always successful ( Matthew 17:16). They had, indeed; already acknowledged him ( Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20) as the Messiah ( Ὁ Ξριστὸς Τοῦ Θεοῦ ), endowed with miraculous powers ( Luke 9:54), yet they were slow in apprehending the spiritual doctrine and aim of their Master, being impeded by their weak perception and their national prepossessions ( Matthew 15:16; Matthew 16:22; Matthew 17:20 sq.; Luke 9:54; John 16:12), insomuch that they had to ask him concerning the obvious import of the plainest parables ( Luke 12:41 sq.), and, indeed, they themselves at times confessed their want of faith ( Luke 17:5); nor even at the departure of Jesus from the earth, when for two or three years they had been his constant and intimate companions ( Matthew 16:21), were they at all mature ( Luke 24:21; comp. John 16:12) in the knowledge appropriate to their mission (see Vollborth, De Discip. Christiper Gradus Ad Dignitatem Et Potent. Apostolor. Evectis, Gott. 1790; Bagge, De Sapientia Christi In Electione, Institutione Et Missione Apostolor. Jen. 1754; Ziez, Quomodo Notio De Messia In Animis Apost. Sensim Sensimque Claris Orem Acceperit Lucem, Lubec. 1793; Liebe, in Augustij N. Theol. Blatt. II, 1, 42 sq.; Ernesti, De Prceclara Chr. In Apost. instituendis sapientia, Gott. 1834; Neander, Leb. Jes. p. 229 sq.; comp. also Mahn, De via qua Apost. Jesu doctrinam divin. melius perspexerint, Gott. 1809).
Even the inauguration with which they were privileged at the last supper with Jesus under so solemn circumstances ( Matthew 26:26 sq.; Mark 14:22 sq.; Luke 22:17 sq.) neither served to awaken their enthusiasm, nor indeed to preserve them from outright faithlessness at the death of their Master ( Matthew 16:14 sq.; Luke 24:13 sq., Luke 24:36 sq.; John 20:9; John 20:25 sq.). One who was but a distant follower of Jesus and a number of females charged themselves with the interment of his body, and it was only his incontestable resurrection that gathered together again his scattered disciples. Yet the most of them returned even after this to their previous occupation ( John 21:3 sq.), as if in abandonment of him, and it required a fresh command of the Master (Matthew 28:28 sq.) to direct them to their mission, and collect them at Jerusalem ( Acts 1:4). Here they awaited in: a pious association the advent of the Holy Spirit ( John 20:22), which Jesus had promised them ( Acts 1:8) as the Paraclete ( John 14:26; John 16:13); and soon after the ascension of their teacher, on the Pentecost established at the founding of the old dispensation, they felt themselves surprised by an extraordinary phenomenon (see Schulthess, De Charismatib. Spir. Sancti, Leipz. 1818; Schulz, Geistesgaben Der Ersten Christen, Bresl. 1836; Neander, Planting, 1:11 sq.), resulting in an internal influx of the power of that Spirit (Acts 2); and thereupon they immediately began, as soon as the vacancy occasioned by the defection of Judas Iscariot had been filled by the election of Matthias ( Acts 1:15 sq.), to publish, as witnesses of the life and resurrection of their Lord, the Gospel in the Holy City with ardor and success ( Acts 2:41). Their course was henceforth decided, and over much that had hitherto been dark to them now beamed a clear light ( John 2:22; John 12:16; see Henke, in Pott's Sylloge, 1:19 sq.).
3. Under the eyes of the apostles, and not without personal sacrifice on their part, the original Christian membership at Jerusalem erected themselves into a community within the pale of Judaism, although irrespective of its sacred rites, with which, however, they maintained a connection (Acts 3-7), and the apostolical activity soon disseminated the divine word among the Samaritans likewise ( Acts 8:5; Acts cf., 15), where already Jesus had gained some followers (John 4). In the mother Church at Jerusalem their superior dignity and power were, universally acknowledged by the rulers and the people ( Acts 5:12 sq.). Even the persecution which arose about Stephen, and put the first check on the spread of the Gospel in Judaea, does not seem to have brought peril to the apostles ( Acts 8:1). Here ends, properly speaking (or rather, perhaps, with the general visitation hinted at in Acts 9:32), the First period of the apostles' agency, during which its center is Jerusalem, and the prominent figure is that of Peter. Agreeably to the promise of our Lord to him ( Matthew 16:18), which we conceive it impossible to understand otherwise than in a personal sense, he among the twelve foundations ( Revelation 21:14), was the stone on whom the Church was first built; and it was his privilege first to open the doors of the kingdom of heaven to Jews ( Acts 2:14; Acts 2:42) and to Gentiles ( Acts 10:11). The next decisive step was taken by Peter, who, not without misgivings and even disapproval on the part of the primitive body of Christians, had published the Gospel on the sea-coast (Acts 10, 11); and this led to the establishment of a second community in the Syrian metropolis Antioch ( Acts 11:21), which kept up a friendly connection with the Church at Jerusalem ( Acts 11:22 sq.), and constitutes the center of this Second period of the apostolical history.
But all that had hitherto taken place was destined to be cast into the shade by the powerful influence of one individual, a Pharisee, who received the apostolate in a most remarkable manner, namely, Paul. Treated at first with suspicion, he soon acquired influence and consideration in the circle of the apostles by his enthusiasm (Acts 13), but, betaking himself to Antioch, he carried forth thence in every direction the Gospel into distant heathen lands, calling out and employing active associates, and resigning to others (Peter; comp. Galatians 2:7) the conversion of the Jews. His labors form the Third apostolical period. From this time Paul is the central character of the apostolical history; even Peter gradually disappears, and it is only after Paul had retired from Asia Minor that John appears there, but even then laboring in a quiet manner. Thus a man who had probably not personally, known Christ, who, at least, was not (originally) designated and consecrated by him to the apostleship, yet accomplished more for Christianity than all the directly-appointed apostles, not only in extent, measuring his activity by the geographical region traversed, but also in intensity, since he especially grasped the comprehensive scope of the Christian remedial system, and sought to harmonize the heavenly doctrine with sound learning. It is not a little remarkable that a Pharisee should thus most successfully comprehend the world-wide spirit of Christianity.
4. Authentic history records nothing concerning the apostles beyond what Luke has afforded respecting Peter, John ( Acts 8:14), and the two James's ( Acts 12:2; Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18). Traditions, derived in part from early times (Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiastes 3, 1 ), have come down to us concerning nearly all of them (see the Acta Apostolorunm Apocrypha, which have been usually ascribed to one Abdias, in Fabricii Cod. Apocryph. 1, 402 sq.; and Cave's Antiquitates Apostol. ut sup.; also Perionii Vitae Apostolorum, Par. 1551, Fref. 1774; comp. Ludewig, Die Apost. Jes. Quedlinb. 1841; Heringa, De vitis apostolorum, Tielae, 1844), but they must be cautiously resorted to, as they sometimes conflict with one another, and their gradual growth can often be traced. All that can be gathered with certainty respecting the subsequent history of the apostles is that James (q.v.), after the martyrdom of James the greater ( Acts 12:2), usually remained at Jerusalem as the acknowledged head of the fraternity (comp. Acts 12:17) and president of the college of the apostles ( Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; Galatians 2:9); while Peter traveled mostly as missionary among the Jews ("apostle of the Circumcision," Galatians 2:8), and John (all three are named "pillars" of the Christian community, Galatians 2:9) eventually strove at Ephesus to extend the kindly practical character of Christianity, which had been endangered by Gnostical tendencies, and to win disciples in this temper. From this period it certainly becomes impossible to determine the sphere of these or the other apostles' activity; but it must ever remain remarkable that precisely touching the evangelical mission of the immediate apostles no more information is extant, and that the memory of the services of most of them survived the very first century only in extremely unreliable stories.
We might he even tempted to consider the choice of Jesus as in a great measure a failure, especially since a Judas was among the select; but we must not forget, in the first place, that it was of great importance for Jesus to form as early as possible a narrow circle of disciples, i.e. at a time when there was small opportunity for selection ( Matthew 9:37 sq.); in the second place, that, in making the choice, he could only have regard to moral and intellectual constitution, in which respect the apostles chosen probably compared favorably with his other followers; and finally that, even if (as some infer from John 2:25) the ultimate results had been clearly foreseen by him, they did not (especially after the new turn given to the Christian enterprise by Paul) strictly depend upon this act of his, since, in fact, the successful issue of the scheme justified his sagacity as to the instrumentalities by which it was on the whole carried forward. Some writers (Neander, Leb. Jes. p. 223 sq.) have made out quite an argument for the selection of the apostles from their various idiosyncracies and marked traits of character (Gregorii Diss. de temperamentis scriptorum N.T. Lips. 1710; comp. Hase, Leb. Jes. p. 112 sq.), and Jesus himself clearly never intended that they should all have an equal career or mission; the founding of the Church in Palestine and its vicinity was their first and chief work, and their services in other countries, however important in themselves, were of secondary interest to this. See generally, respecting single apostles and their activity (especially in the N.T.), Neander's Planting and Training of the Prim. Ch. (Hamb. 3d ed. 1841, Edinb. 1843); D. F. Bacon, Lives of the Apost. (N. Y. 1846).
5. The characteristic features of this highest office in the Christian Church have been very accurately delineated by M'Lean, in his Apostolic Commission. "It was essential to their office —
(1.) That they should have seen the Lord, and been eye and ear witnesses of what they testified to the world ( John 15:27). This is laid down as an essential requisite in the choice of one to succeed Judas ( Acts 1:21-22), that he should have been personally acquainted with the whole ministerial course of our Lord, from the baptism of John till the day when He was taken up into heaven. He himself describes them as those that had continued with Him in his temptations. ( Luke 22:28). By this close personal intercourse with Him, they were peculiarly fitted to give testimony to the facts of redemption; and we gather, from his own words in John 14:28; John 15:26-27; John 16:13, that an especial bestowal of the Spirit's influence was granted them, by which their memories were quickened, and their power of reproducing that which they had heard from him increased above the ordinary measure of man. Paul is no exception here; for, speaking of those who saw Christ after his resurrection, he adds, ‘ and last of all he was seen of me' ( 1 Corinthians 15:8). And this he elsewhere mentions as one of his apostolic qualifications: ‘ Am I not an apostle? have I not seen the Lord?' ( 1 Corinthians 9:1). So that his seeing that Just One and hearing the word of his mouth was necessary to his being ‘ a witness of what he thus saw and heard' ( Acts 22:14-15).
(2.) They must have been immediately called and chosen to that office by Christ himself. This was the case with every one of them ( Luke 6:13; Galatians 1:1), Matthias not excepted; for, as he had been a chosen disciple of Christ before, so the Lord, by determining the lot, declared his choice, and immediately called him to the office of an apostle ( Acts 1:24-26).
(3.) Infallible inspiration was also essentially necessary to that office ( John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Galatians 1:11-12). They had not only to explain the true sense and spirit of the Old Testament ( Luke 24:27; Acts 26:22-23; Acts 28:23), which were hid from the Jewish doctors, but also to give forth the New Testament revelation to the world. which was to be the unalterable standard of faith and practice in all succeeding generations ( 1 Peter 1:25; 1 John 4:6). It was therefore absolutely necessary that they should be secured against all error and mistake by unerring inspiration. Accordingly, Christ bestowed on them the Spirit to
‘ teach them all things,' to ‘ bring all things to their remembrance whatsoever he had said to them' ( John 14:26), to ‘ guide them into all truth,' and to ‘ show them things to come' ( John 16:13). Their word, therefore, must be received, ‘ not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God' ( 1 Thessalonians 2:13), and as that whereby we are to distinguish ‘ the spirit of truth from the spirit of error" ( 1 John 4:6).
(4.) Another qualification was the power of working miracles ( Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43), such as speaking with divers tongues, curing the lame, etc. ( 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). These were the credentials of their divine mission. ‘ Truly,' says Paul, ‘ the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds' ( 2 Corinthians 12:12). Miracles were necessary to confirm their doctrine at its first publication, and to gain credit to it in the world as a revelation from God, and by these ‘ God bare them witness' ( Hebrews 2:4).
(5.) To these characteristics may be added the Universality of their mission. Their charge was not confined to any particular visible church, like that of ordinary pastors, but, being the oracles of God to men, they had ‘ the care of all the churches' ( 2 Corinthians 11:28). They had power to settle their faith and order as a model to future ages, to determine all controversies ( Acts 16:4), and to exercise the rod of discipline upon all offenders, whether pastors or flock ( 1 Corinthians 5:3-6; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10)."
6. It must be obvious, from this scriptural account of the apostolical office, that the apostles had; in the strict sense of the term, no successors. Their qualifications were supernatural, and their work, once performed, remains in the infallible record of the New Testament, for the advantage of the Church and the world in all future ages. They are the only authoritative teachers of Christian doctrine and law. All official men in Christian churches can legitimately claim no higher place than expounders of the doctrines and administrators of the laws found in their writings. Few things have been more injurious to the cause of Christianity than the assumption on the part of ordinary office-bearers in the Church of the peculiar prerogatives of "the holy apostles of our Lord Jesus." Much that is said of the latter is not at all applicable to the former; and much that admits of being applied can be so, in truth, only in a very secondary and extenuated sense. (See Succession).
The apostolical office seems to have been pre-eminently that of founding the churches, and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose. It ceased, as a matter of course, with its first holders; all continuation of it, from the very conditions of its existence (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:1), being impossible. The Ἐπίσκοπος or "bishop" of the ancient churches coexisted with, and did not in any sense succeed, the apostles; and when it is claimed for bishops or any church officers that they are their successors, it can be understood only chronologically. and not officially. (See Succession).
7. In the early ecclesiastical writers we find the term Ὁ Ἀπόστολος , "the apostle," used as the designation of a portion of the canonical books, consisting chiefly of the Pauline Epistles. "The Psalter" and "the Apostle" are often mentioned together. It is also not uncommon with these writers to call Paul "The Apostle," by way of eminence.
The several apostles are usually represented in mediaeval pictures with special badges or attributes: St. Peter, with the keys; St. Paul, with a sword; St. Andrew, with a cross; St. James the Less, with a fuller's pole; St. John, with a cup and a winged serpent flying out of it; St. Bartholomew, with a knife; St. Philip, with a long staff, whose upper end is formed into a cross; St. Thomas, with a lance; St. Matthew, with a hatchet; St. Matthias, with a battle-axe; St. James the Greater, with a pilgrim's staff and a gourd-bottle; St. Simon, with a saw; and St. Jude, with a club. (See Lardner, Works, 5, 255-6. 361.)
For the history of the individual apostles, see each name (Mant, Biog. of the Apostles, Lond. 1840).
8. Further works on the history of the apostles, besides the patristic ones by Dorotheus of Tyre (tr. in Hanmer's Eusebius, Lond. 1663), Jerome (in append. of his Opera, 2:945), Hippolytus (of doubtful genuineness, given with others in Fabricii Cod. Apocr. N.T. 2, 388, 744, 757; 3, 599), Nicetas (Lat. in Bibl. Max. Patr. 27:384; Gr. and Lat. by Combefis, Auct. Noviss. p. 327), and others (see J. A. Fabricius, Bibliotheca Eccles. append.), are the following: G. Fabricius, Hist. J. C. Itemque Apostol. etc. (Lips. 1566, 1581, 8vo); Cave, Lives of the Apostles (Lond. 1677, 1678, 1684, 1686, fol., and often since; new ed. by Cary, Oxf. 1840, 8vo; a standard work on the subject, above referred to); Hoffmann, Geschichtskalender d. Apostel (Prem. 1699, 8vo); Grunenberg, De Apostolis (Rost 1704, 1705); Reading, Hist. of our Lord, with Lives of the Apostles (Lond. 1716, 8vo); Anonymous, Hist. of the Apostles in Scripture (Lond. 1725, 8vo); Sandin, Hist. Apostolica (Petav. 1731, 8vo; an attempt to fortify the Acts by external accounts); G. Erasmus, Peregrinationes apostolor. (Regiom. 1702); Tillemont, L'Histoire Ecclesiastique, 1 and 2; Fleetwood, Life of Christ, s. f.; Lardner, Works, 6; Jacobi, Gesch. d. Apostel (Gotha, 1818, 8vo); Rosenm Ü ller, Die Apostel, nach ihrem Leben u. Wirken (Lpz. 1821, 8vo); Wilhelmi, Christi Apostel u. erste Bekenner (Heidelb. 1825, 8vo); Kitto, Daily Bible Illustrations, eve. ser. 4; Greens wood, Lives of the Apostles (3d ed. Bost. 1846, 12mo); also the works enumerated under Acts (Of The Apostles ) Of a more special character are the following among others: Ribov, De apostolatu Judaico, spec. Pauli (Gott. 1745); Heineccius, De habitu et insignib. apostolor. sacerdotalibus (Lips. 1702); Pflicke, De apostolor. et prophetar. in N.T. eminentia et discrimine (Lips. 1785); Rhodomann, De sapientia Chr. in electione apostolor. (Jen. 1752); C. W. F. Walch, De illuminatione apostolor. successiva (Gott. 1758); Michaelis, De aptitudine et sinceritate apostolor. (Hal. 1760); Jesse, Learning and Inspiration of the Apostles (Lond. 1798); Goldhorn, De institutione apostolor. precepta recte agendi a Jesu scepenumero repetenda (Lips. 1817); Tittmann, De discrimine discipline Christi et apostolorum (Lips. 1805); Hergang, De apostolor. sensu psychojogico (Budissae, 1841); Milman, Character and Conduct of the Apostles (Bampton Lect. Oxf. 1827); Whately, Lect. on the character of the Apostles (2d ed. Lond. 1853); Messner, Lehre der Apostel (Lpz. 1856). Monographs on various points relating to the apostolate have also been written in Latin by Moebius (Lips. 1660), Dannhauer (Argent. 1664), Kahler (Rint. 1700), Cyprian (Lips. 1717), Fischer (ib. 1720), Fromm (Ged. 1720), Neubauer (Hal. 1729), Beck (Viteb. 1735), Roser (Argent. 1743), Michaelis (Hal. 1749), Kocher (Jen. 1751), Stosch (Guelf. 1751), Rathlef (Harmon. 1752), C. W. F. Walch (Jen. 1754), J. E. J. Walch (ib. 1753,1755), J. G. Walch (ib. 1774), Pries (Rost. 1757), Schulze (Freft. 1758), Taddel (Rost. 1760), Stemler (Lips. 1767), Crusius (ib. 1769), Widmann (Jen. 1775), Wilcke (ib. 1676), Wichmann (ib. 1779), Schlegel (Lips. 1782), Ran (Erlang. 1788), Miller (Gott. 1789), Pisanski (Regiom. 1790), Heumann (Dissert. 1:120-155), Gude (Nov. misc. Lips. 3, 563 sq.), Christiansen (Traj. 1803), Bohme (Hal. 1826), etc.; in German by Gabler (Theol. Journ. 13:94 sq.), Grulich (Ann. d. Theol.), Ruhmer (in Schuderoff's Jahrb. 3, 3, 257-283),Vogel (Aufsatze, 2:4), and many others, especially in contributions to theological journals. (See Apostolic Age).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
a - pos ´' l ( ἀπόστολος , [@ apóstolos , literally, "one sent forth," an envoy, missionary): For the meaning of this name as it meets us in the New Testament, reference is sometimes made to classical and Jewish parallels. In earlier classical Greek there was a distinction between an ággelos or messenger and an apostolos , who was not a mere messenger, but a delegate or representative of the person who sent him. In the later Judaism, again, apostoloi were envoys sent out by the patriarchate in Jerusalem to collect the sacred tribute from the Jews of the Dispersion. It seems unlikely, however, that either of these uses bears upon the Christian origin of a term which, in any case, came to have its own distinctive Christian meaning. To understand the word as we find it in the New Testament it is not necessary to go beyond the New Testament itself. To discover the source of its Christian use it is sufficient to refer to its immediate and natural signification. The term used by Jesus, it must be remembered, would be Aramaic, not Greek, and apostolos would be its literal equivalent.
1. The Twelve
In the New Testament history we first hear of the term as applied by Jesus to the Twelve in connection with that evangelical mission among the villages on which He dispatched them at an early stage of His public ministry ( Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:14; Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13; Luke 9:1 ). From a comparison of the Synoptics it would seem that the name as thus used was not a general designation for the Twelve, but had reference only to this particular mission, which was typical and prophetic, however, of the wider mission that was to come (compare Hort, Christian Ecclesia , 23-29). Luke, it is true, uses the word as a title for the Twelve apart from reference to the mission among the villages. But the explanation probably is, as Dr. Hort suggests, that since the Third Gospel and the Book of Acts formed two sections of what was really one work, the author in the Gospel employs the term in that wider sense which it came to have after the Ascension.
When we pass to Acts, "apostles" has become an ordinary name for the Eleven ( Acts 1:2 , Acts 1:26 ), and after the election of Matthias in place of Judas, for the Twelve ( Acts 2:37 , Acts 2:42 , Acts 2:43 , etc.). But even so it does not denote a particular and restricted office, but rather that function of a world-wide missionary service to which the Twelve were especially called. In His last charge, just before He ascended, Jesus had commissioned them to go forth into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature ( Matthew 28:19 , Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:15 ). He had said that they were to be His witnesses not only in Jerusalem and Judea, but in Samaria (contrast Matthew 10:5 ), and unto the uttermost part of the earth ( Acts 1:8 ). They were apostles, therefore, qua missionaries - not merely because they were the Twelve, but because they were now sent forth by their Lord on a universal mission for the propagation of the gospel.
The very fact that the name "apostle" means what it does would point to the impossibility of confining it within the limits of the Twelve. (The "twelve apostles" of Revelation 21:14 is evidently symbolic; compare in Revelation 7:3 the restriction of God's sealed servants to the twelve tribes.) Yet there might be a tendency at first to do so, and to restrict it as a badge of honor and privilege peculiar to that inner circle (compare Acts 1:25 ). If any such tendency existed, Paul effectually broke it down by vindicating for himself the right to the name. His claim appears in his assumption of the apostolic title in the opening words of most of his epistles. And when his right to it was challenged, he defended that right with passion, and especially on these grounds: that he had seen Jesus, and so was qualified to bear witness to His resurrection ( 1 Corinthians 9:1; compare Acts 22:6 ); that he had received a call to the work of an apostle ( Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1 , etc.; Galatians 2:7; compare Acts 13:2; Acts 22:21 ); but, above all, that he could point to the signs and seals of his apostleship furnished by his missionary labors and their fruits ( 1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 2:8 ). It was by this last ground of appeal that Paul convinced the original apostles of the justice of his claim. He had not been a disciple of Jesus in the days of His flesh; his claim to have seen the risen Lord and from Him to have received a personal commission was not one that could be proved to others; but there could be no possibility of doubt as to the seals of his apostleship. It was abundantly clear that "he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for (Paul) also unto the Gentiles" ( Galatians 2:8 ). And so perceiving the grace that was given unto him, Peter and John, together with James of Jerusalem, recognized Paul as apostle to the Gentiles and gave him the right hand of fellowship ( Galatians 2:9 ).
3. The Wider Circle
It is sometimes said by those who recognize that there were other apostles besides the Twelve and Paul that the latter (to whom some, on the ground of 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19 , would add James the Lord's brother) were the apostles par excellence , while the other apostles mentioned in the New Testament were apostles in some inferior sense. It is hardly possible, however, to make out such a distinction on the ground of New Testament usage. There were great differences, no doubt, among the apostles of the primitive church, as there were among the Twelve themselves - differences due to natural talents, to personal acquirements and experience, to spiritual gifts. Paul was greater than Barnabas or Silvanus, just as Peter and John were greater than Thaddaeus or Simon the Cananean. But Thaddaeus and Simon were disciples of Jesus in the very same sense as Peter and John; and the Twelve and Paul were not more truly apostles than others who are mentioned in the New Testament. If apostleship denotes missionary service, and if its reality, as Paul suggests, is to be measured by its seals, it would be difficult to maintain that Matthias was an apostle par excellence , while Barnabas was not. Paul sets Barnabas as an apostle side by side with himself ( 1 Corinthians 9:5 f; Galatians 2:9; compare Acts 13:2 f; Acts 14:4 , Acts 14:14 ); he speaks of Andronicus and Junias as "of note among the apostles" ( Romans 16:7 ); he appears to include Apollos along with himself among the apostles who are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men ( 1 Corinthians 4:6 , 1 Corinthians 4:9 ); the natural inference from a comparison of 1 Thessalonians 1:1 with 1 Thessalonians 2:6 is that he describes Silvanus and Timothy as "apostles of Christ"; to the Philippians he mentions Epaphroditus as "your apostle" ( Philippians 2:25 the Revised Version, margin), and to the Corinthians commends certain unknown brethren as "the apostles of the churches" and "the glory of Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 8:23 the Revised Version, margin). And the very fact that he found it necessary to denounce certain persons as "false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 11:13 ) shows that there was no thought in the primitive church of restricting the apostleship to a body of 12 or 13 men. "Had the number been definitely restricted, the claims of these interlopers would have been self-condemned" (Lightfoot, Galatians , 97).
4. Apostles in Didache
When we come to the Didache , which probably lies beyond the boundary-line of New Testament history, we find the name "apostles" applied to a whole class of nameless missionaries - men who settled in no church, but moved about from place to place as messengers of the gospel (chapter 11). This makes it difficult to accept the view, urged by Lightfoot (op. cit., 98) and Gwatkin ( HDB , I, 126) on the ground Of Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8 , Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 9:1 , that to have seen the Lord was always the primary qualification of an apostle - a view on the strength of which they reject the apostleship of Apollos and Timothy, as being late converts to Christianity who lived far from the scenes of our Lord's ministry. Gwatkin remarks that we have no reason to suppose that this condition was ever waived unless we throw forward the Didache into the 2nd century. But it seems very unlikely that even toward the end of the 1st century there would be a whole class of men, not only still alive, but still braving in the exercise of their missionary functions all the hardships of a wandering and homeless existence (compare Didache 1 Corinthians 11:4-6 ), who were yet able to bear the personal testimony of eye-witnesses to the ministry and resurrection of Jesus. In Luke 24:48 and Acts 18:22 it is the chosen company of the Twelve who are in view. In 1 Corinthians 9:1 Paul is meeting his Judaizing opponents on their own ground, and answering their insistence upon personal intercourse with Jesus by a claim to have seen the Lord. But apart from these passages there is no evidence that the apostles of the early church were necessarily men who had known Jesus in the flesh or had been witnesses of His resurrection - much less that this was the primary qualification on which their apostleship was made to rest.
5. The Apostleship
We are led then to the conclusion that the true differentia of the New Testament apostleship lay in the missionary calling implied in the name, and that all whose lives were devoted to this vocation, and who could prove by the issues of their labors that God's Spirit was working through them for the conversion of Jew or Gentile , were regarded and described as apostles. The apostolate was not a limited circle of officials holding a well-defined position of authority in the church, but a large class of men who discharged one - and that the highest - of the functions of the prophetic ministry ( 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11 ). It was on the foundation of the apostles and prophets that the Christian church was built, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief corner-stone ( Ephesians 2:20 ). The distinction between the two classes was that while the prophet was God's spokesman to the believing church ( 1 Corinthians 14:4 , 1 Corinthians 14:22 , 1 Corinthians 14:25 , 1 Corinthians 14:30 , 1 Corinthians 14:31 ), the apostle was His envoy to the unbelieving world ( Galatians 2:7 , Galatians 2:9 ).
The call of the apostle to his task might come in a variety of ways. The Twelve were called personally by Jesus to an apostolic task at the commencement of His earthly ministry ( Matthew 10:1 parallel), and after His resurrection this call was repeated, made permanent, and given a universal scope ( Matthew 28:19 , Matthew 28:20; Acts 1:8 ). Matthias was called first by the voice of the general body of the brethren and thereafter by the decision of the lot ( Acts 1:15 , Acts 1:23 , Acts 1:26 ). Paul's call came to him in a heavenly vision ( Acts 26:17-19 ); and though this call was subsequently ratified by the church at Antioch, which sent him forth at the bidding of the Holy Ghost ( Acts 13:1 ), he firmly maintained that he was an apostle not from men neither through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead ( Galatians 1:1 ). Barnabas was sent forth ( exapostéllō is the verb used) by the church at Jerusalem ( Acts 11:22 ) and later, along with Paul, by the church at Antioch ( Acts 13:1 ); and soon after this we find the two men described as apostles ( Acts 14:4 ). It was the mission on which they were sent that explains the title. And when this particular mission was completed and they returned to Antioch to rehearse before the assembled church "all things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles" ( Acts 14:27 ), they thereby justified their claim to be the apostles not only of the church, but of the Holy Spirit.
The authority of the apostolate was of a spiritual, ethical and personal kind. It was not official, and in the nature of the case could not be transmitted to others. Paul claimed for himself complete independence of the opinion of the whole body of the earlier apostles ( Galatians 2:6 , Galatians 2:11 ), and in seeking to influence his own converts endeavored by manifestation of the truth to commend himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God ( 2 Corinthians 4:2 ). There is no sign that the apostles collectively exercised a separate and autocratic authority. When the question of the observance of the Mosaic ritual by Gentile Christians arose at Antioch and was referred to Jerusalem, it was "the apostles and elders" who met to discuss it ( Acts 15:2 , Acts 15:6 , Acts 15:22 ), and the letter returned to Antioch was written in the name of "the apostles and the elders, brethren" ( Acts 15:23 ). In founding a church Paul naturally appointed the first local officials ( Acts 14:23 ), but he does not seem to have interfered with the ordinary administration of affairs in the churches he had planted. In those cases in which he was appealed to or was compelled by some grave scandal to interpose, he rested an authoritative command on some express word of the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 7:10 ), and when he had no such word to rest on, was careful to distinguish his own judgment and counsel from a Divine commandment ( 1 Corinthians 12:25 , 40). His appeals in the latter case are grounded upon fundamental principles of morality common to heathen and Christian alike ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 ), or are addressed to the spiritual judgment ( 1 Corinthians 10:15 ), or are reinforced by the weight of a personal influence gained by unselfish service and by the fact that he was the spiritual father of his converts as having begotten them in Christ Jesus through the gospel ( 1 Corinthians 4:15 f).
It may be added here that the expressly missionary character of the apostleship seems to debar James, the Lord's brother, from any claim to the title. James was a prophet and teacher, but not an apostle. As the head of the church at Jerusalem, he exercised a ministry of a purely local nature. The passages on which it has been sought to establish his right to be included in the apostolate do not furnish any satisfactory evidence. In 1 Corinthians 15:7 James is contrasted with "all the apostles" rather than included in their number (compare 1 Corinthians 9:5 ). And in Galatians 1:19 the meaning may quite well be that with the exception of Peter, none of the apostles was seen by Paul in Jerusalem, but only James the Lord's brother (compare the Revised Version, margin).
Lightfoot, Galatians , 92-101; Hort, Christian Ecclesia , Lect II; Weizsäcker, The Apostolic Age , II, 291-99; Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry , 73-90.
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Apostle, a person sent by another; a messenger.
The term is generally employed in the New Testament as the descriptive appellation of a comparatively small class of men, to whom Jesus Christ entrusted the organization of His church and the dissemination of His religion among mankind. At an early period of His ministry 'He ordained twelve' of His disciples 'that they should be with Him.' 'These He named apostles.' Some time afterwards 'He gave to them power against unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease;' 'and He sent them to preach the kingdom of God' ( Mark 3:14; Matthew 10:1-5; Mark 6:7; Luke 6:13; Luke 9:1). To them He gave 'the keys of the kingdom of God,' and constituted them princes over the spiritual Israel, that 'people whom God was to take from among the Gentiles, for His name' ( Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). Previously to His death He promised to them the Holy Spirit, to fit them to be the founders and governors of the Christian church ( John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 5:26-27; John 16:7-15). After His resurrection He solemnly confirmed their call, saying, 'As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you;' and gave them a commission to 'preach the Gospel to every creature' ( John 20:21-23; Matthew 18:18-20). After His ascension He, on the day of Pentecost, communicated to them those supernatural gifts which were necessary to the performance of the high functions He had commissioned them to exercise; and in the exercise of these gifts, they, in the Gospel history and in their epistles, with the Apocalypse, gave a complete view of the will of their Master in reference to that new order of things of which He was the author. They 'had the mind of Christ.' They spoke 'the wisdom of God in a mystery.' That mystery 'God revealed to them by his Spirit,' and they spoke it 'not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.' They were 'ambassadors for Christ,' and besought men, 'in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God.' They authoritatively taught the doctrine and the law of their Lord; they organized churches, and required them to keep the traditions,' i.e. the doctrines and 'ordinances delivered to them' (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 11:2). Of the twelve originally ordained to the apostleship, one, Judas Iscariot, 'fell from it by transgression,' and Matthias, 'who had companied' with the other Apostles 'all the time that the Lord Jesus went out and in among them,' was by lot substituted in his place ( Acts 1:17-26). Saul of Tarsus, afterwards termed Paul, was also miraculously added to the number of these permanent rulers of the Christian society (Acts 9; Acts 22; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11).
The characteristic features of this highest office in the Christian church have been very accurately delineated by M'Lean, in his Apostolic Commission. 'It was essential to their office—1. That they should have seen the Lord, and been eye and ear witnesses of what they testified to the world ( John 15:27). This is laid down as an essential requisite in the choice of one to succeed Judas ( Acts 1:21-22) Paul is no exception here; for, speaking of those who saw Christ after his resurrection, he adds, 'and last of all He was seen of me' ( 1 Corinthians 15:8). And this he elsewhere mentions as one of his apostolic qualifications: 'Am I not an apostle? have not seen the Lord?' ( 1 Corinthians 9:1). So that his 'seeing that Just One and hearing the word of his mouth' was necessary to his being 'a witness of what he thus saw and heard' ( Acts 22:14-15). 2. They must have been immediately called and chosen to that office by Christ Himself. This was the case with every one of them ( Luke 6:13; Galatians 1:1), Matthias not excepted; for, as he had been a chosen disciple of Christ before, so the Lord, by determining the lot, declared his choice, and immediately called him to the office of an apostle ( Acts 1:24-26). 3. Infallible inspiration was also essentially necessary to that office ( John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Galatians 1:11-12). They had not only to explain the true sense and spirit of the Old Testament ( Luke 24:27; Acts 26:22-23; Acts 28:23), which were hid from the Jewish doctors, but also to give forth the New Testament revelation to the world, which was to be the unalterable standard of faith and practice in all succeeding generations ( 1 Peter 1:25; 1 John 4:6). 4. Another apostolic qualification was the power of working miracles ( Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43), such as speaking with divers tongues, curing the lame, healing the sick, raising the dead, discerning of spirits, conferring these gifts upon others, etc. ( 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). These were the credentials of their divine mission ( 2 Corinthians 12:12). Miracles were necessary to confirm their doctrine at its first publication, and to gain credit to it in the world as a revelation from God, and by these 'God bare them witness' ( Hebrews 2:4). 5. To these characteristics may be added the universality of their mission. Their charge was not confined to any particular visible church, like that of ordinary pastors, but, being the oracles of God to men, they had 'the care of all the churches' ( 2 Corinthians 11:28). They had a power to settle their faith and order as a model to future ages, to determine all controversies ( Acts 16:4), and to exercise the rod of discipline upon all offenders, whether pastors or flock ( 1 Corinthians 5:3-6; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10).
It must be obvious, from this scriptural account of the apostolic office, that the Apostles had, in the strict sense of the term, no successors. Their qualifications were supernatural, and their work, once performed, remains in the infallible record of the New Testament, for the advantage of the Church and the world in all future ages. They are the only authoritative teachers of Christian doctrine and law. All official men in Christian churches can legitimately claim no higher place than expounders of the doctrines and administrators of the laws found in their writings.
The word 'apostle' occurs once in the New Testament ( Hebrews 3:1) as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ: 'The apostle of our profession,' i.e. the apostle whom we profess or acknowledge. The Jews were in the habit of applying the corresponding Hebrew term to the person who presided over the synagogue, and directed all its officers and affairs. The Church is represented as 'the house or family of God,' over which he had placed, during the Jewish economy, Moses, as the superintendent—over which he has placed, under the Christian economy, Christ Jesus. The import of the term apostle, is—divinely-commissioned superintendent; and of the whole phrase, 'the apostle of our profession,' the divinely-commissioned superintendent, whom we Christians acknowledge, in contradistinction to the divinely-appointed superintendent Moses, whom the Jews acknowledged.
It is scarcely worthwhile to remark that the Creed, commonly called The Apostles', though very ancient, has no claim to the name, except as it contains apostolic doctrine.
- Apostle from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- Apostle from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- Apostle from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- Apostle from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Apostle from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Apostle from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- Apostle from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Apostle from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- Apostle from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- Apostle from King James Dictionary
- Apostle from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- Apostle from Webster's Dictionary
- Apostle from Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
- Apostle from Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary
- Apostle from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- Apostle from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Apostle from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature