- Alternate meaning: See Apostle (Mormonism)
The Christian Apostles were Jewish men chosen from among the disciples, who were "sent forth" (as indicated by the Greek word "απόστολος" apostolos= 'messenger'), by Jesus to preach the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles, across the world.
- "He called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles." — Gospel of Luke vi. 13.
The twelve apostles
The word "apostle" is used only once in Mark and Matthew. According to the Gospel of Mark (3:16-19) and Gospel of Matthew (10:2-4), the twelve chosen by Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, those whom "also he named Apostles", were:
The list in the Gospel of Luke (6:13-16) omits Thaddaeus, but includes Judas, son of James; Thaddaeus is also called "Judas the Zealot" in some Old Latin translations of Matthew 10:3.
The Gospel of John, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, does not offer a list of apostles, nor does the author even state their number. However, the following nine apostles appear in the fourth gospel: Andrew, Judas Iscariot, Peter, Thomas (who is also called Judas), Nathanael, Philip, the sons of Zebedee (James and John), and the other Judas.
The 12th apostle
Judas Iscariot having betrayed Christ, and having then in guilt hanged himself before Christ's resurrection (in one Gospel account), the apostles were then eleven in number. According to Acts 1:23-26, between the ascension of Christ, and the day of Pentecost, the remaining apostles selected a twelfth apostle by casting lots. The lot fell upon Matthias, who then became the last of the "twelve apostles" in the New Testament.
In his writings, Paul also described himself as an apostle (e.g. Romans 1:1 and other letters); specifically he referred to himself as 'the Apostle to the Gentiles' (Romans 11:13). He also described some of his companions as apostles (Romans 16:7). As the Catholic Encyclopedia states it, "It is at once evident that in a Christian sense, everyone who had received a mission from God, or Christ, to man could be called 'Apostle'". This certainly extended the original sense: because he found himself called in an extraordinary way, not directly by Jesus, Paul felt obliged often to defend his apostolic authority and proclaim that he had seen the Lord (I Corinthians, ix.1)
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (iii.1) refers to Jesus as the first apostle of the Christian confession.
In Acts 14:14, Barnabas is called an apostle, the man who introduced Paul to the circle of disciples and the desposyni at Jerusalem. Among them, James the Just the brother of Jesus, though a "pillar of the Church," is not called an Apostle in the final canonic versions of the Synoptic Gospels.
Later Christianizing apostles
A number of successful pioneering missionaries are known as "Apostles". In this sense, in the traditional list below, the "apostle" first brought Christianity (or Arianism in the case of Ulfilas and the Goths) to a land. Or it may apply to the truly influential Christianizer, such as Patrick's mission to Ireland, where a few struggling Christian communities did already exist. The reader will soon think of more of the culture heroes.
- Apostle to the Abyssinians: Saint Frumentius
- Apostle of the Alleghanies: Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, 1770-1840
- Apostle of Andalusia: Juan de Avila, 1500 - 1569
- Apostle of the Ardennes: Saint Hubert, 656 - 727
- Apostle to the Armenians: Saint Gregory the Illuminator, 256 - 331
- Apostle to Brazil: José de Anchieta, 1533 - 1597
- Apostle to Karantania: Bishop Virgilius of Salzburg (745-84)
- Apostle to the Cherokees: Cephas Washburn
- Apostle to the English: Saint Augustine, died 604
- Apostle to the Franks: Saint Denis (3rd century)
- Apostle to the Frisians: Saint Willibrord, 657 - 738
- Apostle to the Gauls: Saint Irenaeus, (130 - 200
- Apostle to the Gauls: Saint Martin of Tours, 338 - 401
- Apostle to the Gentiles: Saint Paul
- Apostle to the Germans: Saint Boniface, 680 - 755
- Apostle to the Goths: Bishop Ulfilas
- Apostle to Hungary: Saint Anastasius, 954 - 1044
- Apostle to India: Saint Thomas
- Apostle to the "Indians" (Amerindians): John Eliot, 1604 - 1690
- Apostle to the Indies (West): Bartolommé de las Casas, 1474 - 1566
- Apostle to the Indies (East): Saint Francis Xavier, 1506 - 1552
- Apostle to Ireland: Saint Patrick, 373 - 463
- Apostle to the Iroquois, Francois Piquet, 1708 - 1781
- Apostle to Noricum: Saint Severinus
- Apostle to the North: Saint Ansgar, 801 - 864
- Apostle to the Parthians: Saint Thomas
- Apostle of Peru: Alonzo de Barcena, 1528 - 1598
- Apostle to the Picts: Saint Ninian, 5th century
- Apostle to the Scots: Saint Columba, 521 - 597
- Apostle to the Slavs: Saint Cyril, c 820 - 869
- Apostle to the Slavs: Saint Methodius
Some Eastern Orthodox saints are given the title specific to the Eastern rites "equal-to-the-apostles". The myrrh-bearing women, who went to anoint Christ's body and first learned of his resurrection, are sometimes called the "apostles to the apostles" because they were sent by Jesus to tell the apostles of his resurrection.
Many Charismatic churches consider apostleship to be a gift of the Holy Spirit still given today (based on 1 Corinthians 12:28). The gift is associated with church leadership or church planting.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church"; see also Mormon) believes that the authority of the original twelve apostles is a distinguishing characteristic of true Christianity, and its chief leadership body is called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.