apostles twelve acts church
APOSTLE (Greek arico-roXos, one who is sent forth) is in the New Testament, and in Christian literature, a technical term - apostle of Jesus Christ. It appears from Mat. x., Mark vi., that the name was originally applied to the twelve disciples in reference to the special mission to preach and work miracles in Israel, on which our Lord sent them forth during His ministry on earth. Luke alone of the evangelists uses the word in a technical sense out of connection with this mission After the resurrection the eleven, who again become twelve by the election of Matthias in the room of Judas, are regularly designated apostles. The precise prerogative of the apostolate is not defined. The apostles themselves feel that their distinguishing qualification is their personal fellowship with Jesus through all his ministry, their main office to witness to the resurrection (Acts i.) They do not act hierarchically (Acts xv.), and decline to be withdrawn by administrative cares from the ministry of the word and prayer (Acts vi.) Their central and unique position is, in truth, too universally allowed to call for precise definition. Nevertheless, the question, What is an apostle7 soon became a burning one in the church. How far a lax use of the name extended it in a lower sense to others than the twelve is a question of little importance (Acts xiv. 4, 14 ; Bora. xvi. 7 7) ; but when Paul claims to be an apostle, and especially the apostle of the Gentiles, his claim is to preach the gospel with the authority of one who is equal to the twelve, and responsible only to Christ. He is not an apostle (sent) from man or through man, he received his gospel not from man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ, whom he has seen as well as the twelve, and his apostleship is confirmed by miracles, and sealed by his success in founding churches (Gal. i.; 1 Cor. ix. 1, .f., xv. 8, f. ; 2 Cor. xii. 12). The last mark is acknowledged by the twelve as decisive.(Gal. ii.) Nevertheless, Paul's Judaising opponents continue to deny his apostolic authority (2 Cor.) The exact relation of parties which this controversy presupposes is a leading subject of debate in recent criticism. Here we have only to observe that the notion of apostleship now appears as that of evangelical authority derived direct from Christ and irresponsible to man. This authority is not properly administrative, though it is sometimes brought to bear on administrative questions. The apostleship is not a church office, but a charisma, similar to prophecy, but superior (1 Cor. xii. 28), and having its fit exercise in the founding of churches by direct testimony to Christ. Thus, the church is said to be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. ii. 20), not because they are the basis of the hierarchy, but because their activity lay at the root of the growth of the Christian society.
Very early, however, the notion that the apostleship is essentially an hierarchical office found entrance in the church. Irenceus and Tertullian regard the episcopate as a continuation of the apostolic functions, especially connecting this position with the idea of an authoritative tradition of apostolic doctrine. This view is further developed by Cyprian, and so becomes the foundation of the episcopal system of the Catholic Church, which regards all church power, especially disciplinary power, as entrusted•by Christ to the apostles, from whom the bishops: derive their authority by apostolic succession. This notion of the apostleship is based on an uncritical interpretation of Mat. xvi. 18, f. ; John xx. 21,f. The later Papal system goes still farther, so that Bellarmine and others teach that Peter alone was ordained bishop by our Lord, and all the other apostles by Peter.
Of the history of the apostles we have almost no authentic knowledge beyond what is stated in the New Testament. The names of the twelve are given in Mat. x., Mark iii., Luke Ni., Acts i. With regard to these lists it is to be observed that the Lebbeus of Matthew is identical with the Thaddeus of Mark, and that both these titles must probably be viewed as surnames of the Judas whom Luke calls either son or brother of James ('Io1.18a3 'Iaratil3ou). Bartholomew, too, is probably a patronymic of John's Nathanael. The history of the Acts tells little about any of the apostles except Peter and Paul ; and precisely with regard to these names the statements of the book have been made subject of critical controversy. (See ACTS or APOSTLES.) The later history of Peter has an artificial interest from the importance attached by the Roman Church to his episcopate at Rome, and the history of John is involved with the question of the genuineness of the Johannine writings. Pretty early tradition associates Philip with Phrygia, Thomas with Parthia, Andrew with Scythia, Bartholomew with India. Later traditions make the apostles divide the various countries between them by lot, and assert (against earlier tradition) that all except John were martyrs. The form ultimately assumed by the legendary history of the apostles may be seen in the Latin work which bears the name of Abdias, in Fabricii Codex Apocryphus N. T. (w. R. s.)