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Questions and answers about the apostles of the Bible
In a day when so many claim to be apostles, maybe it's important we discover some things about the originals. This list of questions is far from exhaustive...
I. Who were the original apostles?
Three lists are recorded for us. Differences in order, especially in the Acts list. Even name differences with regards to a couple men. It was and is not unusual for men to have multiple names.
The beginnings of this list are found also in the Gospel of John, 1, where we see the call of Andrew, Peter, Philip, and one "Nathanael", whom many take to be none other than Bartholomew. Other disciples show up later in the book, namely Philip, Thomas, John, and both Judases.
Here are the listings of Matthew 10, Luke 6, Acts 1, side by side.
1. Simon who is called Peter, Simon whom He also named Peter, Peter
2. Andrew his brother, Andrew his brother, Andrew
3. James the son of Zebedee, James, James
4. John his brother, John, John
5. Philip, Philip, Philip
6. Bartholomew, Bartholomew Bartholomew
7. Thomas, Thomas, Thomas
8. Matthew, Matthew, Matthew
9. James the son of Alphaeus, James the son of Alphaeus, James the son of Alphaeus
10. Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, Judas the son of James, Judas the son of James
11. Simon the Canaanite, Simon called the Zealot, Simon the Zealot
12. Judas Iscariot who also betrayed Him , Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor, (no listing.)
II. Where do the Gospel accounts seem to differ on the listing of apostles?
1. Notably in the man Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, called Judas by Luke. John refers to him as "Judas, not Iscariot," to differentiate him from the traitor.
2. Also in the designation of one Simon. He was a "Canaanite." But we know all the disciples were Jews. Canaanites, the cursed people replaced by Israel in the land, would not have a place in this original group. In the Greek, this particular word starts with a "K", not a "Ch", indicating that the city of Cana, not the land of Canaan, is meant. As to being called a "Zealot," he may have formerly been of that political persuasion, or he just had "qana" , "zeal" for the Lord. This would tie in with his being a "Canaanite", as the words overlap in the original.
III. What was the original mission of the apostles?
They had originally been disciples, or learners. Matthew 10 starts out talking about disciples in the first verse, then relates their empowering with the miraculous, then calls them apostles in the second verse. After listing them, Matthew notes that they were sent out and commissioned and warned.
We must believe that true apostles were once disciples, then appointed by miraculous intervention and empowerment, then sent by specific words from Christ to do a specific mission.
The word apostle simply means "sent." But the work of the apostle goes far beyond the sending. As the old saying has it, "There was some that was sent, and some that just went..." By the law of first mention, we contend that apostles are marked by supernatural intervention from beginning to end, an end that is most usually violent in the extreme.
Luke adds to this account that these twelve were chosen by Jesus only after a night of His wrestling with God. These were to be, after Himself, the most important men of all time. There could be no mistake.
IV. How were these twelve men designated, so as to differentiate them from all other apostles of all time?
They are called in the Gospels, "the twelve." Later they are known as "the eleven," following Judas' fall.
John confirms to us in the final scenes of Revelation that there are indeed twelve names on twelve foundations of the wall of the final City. Twelve was the number of tribes of Israel, though, like the apostolic list, that group was variously named through the years. But whatever the final names, twelve was to be the number.