Alternate meanings: See Apostle (Mormonism), The Apostle (1997 movie)
The 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
Synoptic Gospels (Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke)
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:
Simon (called Peter by Jesus, also known as Simon Peter.)
James (called "James the Great"), son of Zebedee
John, son of Zebedee
Bartholomew ("bar Tolomai" lit. "son of Tolomai" identified with Nathanael)
Matthew (sometimes identified with Levi, son of Alphaeus)
Thomas (also known as Judas Thomas Didymus, "the twin")
James son of Alphaeus (called "James the Less")
Simon the Canaanite (called in Luke and Acts "Simon the Zealot")
Thaddaeus (Jude Thaddaeus, called in some manuscripts of Matthew "Lebbaeus")
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.
Gospel of John
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.
Judas Iscariot, having betrayed Christ, and having then in guilt committed suicide before Christ's resurrection (in one Gospel account), the apostles were then eleven in number. According to Acts 1:23-26, Peter states "Judas, who became guide to those who arrested Jesus, because he had been numbered among us and he obtained a share in this ministry...For it, it is written in the book of Psalms, "let his lodging place be come desolate, and let there be no dweller in it', and 'his office of oversight let someone else take it.' 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.
Some sects of Christianity believe that Mary Magdalene (aka Mary of Bethany) was the "beloved disciple" and therefore was an Apostle if not the First Apostle. This belief has become a very contentious issue in the church with mainstream denominations denying and the eastern churches such as the Syriac church admitting. The more mainstream belief is that the "beloved disciple" was John and that was how the writer (which could be John the Evangelist or John the Apostle himself if they are the same person) referred to him in the Gospel of John.
In his writings, Saul also known as 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'" thus extending the original sense. Since he claimed to be called in an extraordinary way and not directly by Jesus (while He was alive), Paul was often obligated to defend his self-proclaimed apostolic authority and proclaim that he had seen and was annointed by Jesus while on the road to Damascus (1 Corinthians, 11:1).
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (3:1) refers to Jesus as the first apostle of the Christian confession.
In Acts 14:14, Barnabas, the man who introduced Paul to the circle of disciples and the desposyni at Jerusalem, has been called an apostle.
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.
Many believe that the seventy sent by Jesus to mission to the gentiles were also called apostles.
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 Franks: Saint Remigius, ca 437 - 533
- 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 Pomeranians: Saint Otto of Bamberg, 1060 - 1139
- 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.