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The word “apostle” comes from the old Greek noun apostolos which means “sent one”, “messenger” and comes the verb apostellô which means “to send out”. God had sent his son Jesus as his messenger, apostolos. Jesus in his turn sent out certain men as his messengers, representatives.
A note: Jesus alone was God’s apostle. The twelve and Paul were Jesus’ apostles. (It could be that even certain other men were considered to be apostles; there is more on this, later in this article.)
Matthew 10:2–4, Mark 3:16–19, Luke 6:14–16 and Acts 1:13 contain lists of the twelve original apostles’ names. In certain New Testament passages, some of the twelve are called by varying names. Here are some details on that name variation
That gives us this list:
See also the name-table in the appendix at the end of this article.
The following contains some examples of what we can learn about the twelve apostles in the four Gospels, and what they are called there. After this, there are some notes on Matthias, Paul, Barnabas and certain others. Here, the twelve are mentioned in the same order as in Matthew 10:2–4.
In the four Gospels, he is called Simon or Peter. Matthew 10:2 has “Simon who is called Peter”. The name Peter, in the Greek NT text Petros, means “stone”. The corresponding Aramaic name is Cephas which likewise means “stone”.
The Greek text of Matthew 16:17 and John 1:42 has Simôn Bariônas and Simôn ho huios Iôna, both meaning “Simon the son of Jona”. The latter passage contains also the name Kêphas. In Acts 15:14 the spelling is “Simeon”, in the Greek text Sumeôn.
Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen, apparently at least sometimes together with James and John, see Matthew 4:18–21 and Luke 5:10. See even Luke 5:3. John 1:44 shows that Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, and Philip, had lived in Bethsaida, a town on the western shore of the lake of Gennesaret.
In the four Gospels, he is called Andrew, in the Greek text Andreas. Matthew 10:2, Luke 6:14 and John 1:40 state that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. Andrew and Simon were fishermen. John 1:44 mentions that they had lived in Bethsaida.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke he is called James, in the Greek text Iakôbos. In the book of John, the name James is not mentioned, but he is nevertheless mentioned in John 21:2, together with his brother John, under the name “the sons of Zebedee”. Mark 3:17 records an occasion when Jesus called James and his brother John, as the Greek text has it, boanerges, apparently an Aramaic word, some have interpreted it as “sons of thunder”. Matthew 4:18–21, Mark 1:20 and Luke 5:10 show that James and his brother John were fishermen, sometimes working with their father Zebedee, and with Simon Peter. James’ death is recorded in Acts 12:1–2.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke he is called John, in the Greek text Iôannês. John wrote what we today call “the Gospel of John”, but he did not mention his own name there. (In that book, the name John refers to John the Baptist.) But, the book of John mentions even John himself; see such passages as John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2 and 21:2, 7, 20 and 24. Matthew 10:2 and Mark 3:17 state that John was the brother of James. Matthew 4:18–21, Mark 1:20 and Luke 5:10 show that John and James were fishermen, sometimes working with their father Zebedee, and with Simon Peter. Mark 3:17 records an occasion when Jesus called John and James boanerges, apparently an Aramaic word, some have interpreted it as “sons of thunder”.
In the four Gospels, he is called Philip, in the Greek text Philippos. John 1:44 states that he had lived in the town Bethsaida.
This apostle is mentioned by the name Nathanael in John 1:45–49 and 21:2. Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:14 and Acts 1:13 contain the name Bartholomew, in the Greek text Bartholomaios, “son of Tholomaios”, apparently a patronymic name for Nathanael. John 21:2 connects Nathanael with the town Cana in Galilee.
In the four Gospels, he is called Thomas. John 11:16, 20:24 and 21:2 have “Thomas called Didymus”. In the Greek text, the spellings are Thômas and Didumos.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke, he is mostly called Matthew, in the Greek text Matthaios. A comparison of Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 leads to the conclusion that Matthew the tax-collector must be the same person as the tax-collector Levi.
A study of Mark 2:1–14 shows that he had worked in Capernaum and that his father’s name was Alphaeus.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke, he is called James [the son] of Alphaeus. In the Greek NT text, those names are spelled Iakôbos and Alphaios.
Acts 1:13 and Luke 6:16 have “Judas of James”, meaning either “the son of James” or “the brother of James”. John 14:22 has “Judas (not Iscariot)”. In Matthew 10:3 we find the name called Lebbaeus; [a] Mark 3:18 has “Thaddaeus”. It appears that Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus were nicknames for Judas of James. Some have interpreted both of the names Lebbaios and Thaddaios in the Greek text as meaning “a man of heart”, “large-hearted” or “courageous”.
a In the Greek text of Matthew 10:3, some manuscripts have Lebbaios ho epikalêtheis Thaddaios, “Lebbaeus who is called Thaddaeus”, but some have only Lebbaios, “Lebbaeus”.
In Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18, he is called “Simon the Canaanite”. In Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13, he is called “Simon called Zelotes”.
In the four Gospels, he is called “Judas Iscariot”, in the Greek text Ioudas Iskariôtês.
Judas Iscariot was the one who betrayed Jesus, for thirty pieces of silver. His death is recorded in Matthew 27:3–10.
On an occasion which is recorded in Acts 1, a disciple called Matthias was selected to replace Judas Iscariot, “as a witness”. He was then in that way “numbered with the eleven apostles”, Acts 1:26. But, it is not clearly stated whether he was considered to be an “apostle” (a person sent by Jesus), or merely “a witness with us of his resurrection” as Acts 1:22 has it. Acts 6:2 talks about “the twelve”, which logically ought to include Matthias, but it is not fully clear whether that means “the twelve apostles” or something else.
Then there is the apostle Paul, even he personally chosen, called and taught by the Lord Jesus, see Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1 and 11:5, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1 and Titus 1:1. Paul was sometimes called Saul. In the Greek text, the spellings are Paulos and Saulos.
Regarding Barnabas: The way many bible-versions render Acts 14:4 and 14, might give the impression that also Barnabas was an apostle. The question is, are those two verses, which appear to refer to Paul and Barnabas, connected to the in Acts 13 recorded event when the saints in Antioch sent [b] Paul and Barnabas on a mission, or, do Acts 14:4 and 14 mean that Jesus had sent even Barnabas as his personal messenger? This is not fully clear, but of course, there is a logical connection between Acts 13 and Acts 14.
b The noun apostolos, “sent one”, comes from the verb apostellô, “to send”.
Titus and Epaphroditus: In Philippians 2:25 and 2 Corinthians 8:23, some translators have interpreted the word apostolos in the Greek text in the general meaning “messenger” (“your messenger” and “messengers of assemblies”), while some others have put into those verses the word “apostle”. Which interpretation is correct? Perhaps the former, but this is not fully clear.
Silvanus and Timothy? If one reads 1 Thessalonians 2:6 as if it were connected to 1 Thessalonians 1:1, one may get the impression that even Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy were viewed as “apostles”. That might be, but on the other hand, the meaning of the Greek text of the last past of 1 Thessalonians 2:6 could also be “as ones sent by the Messiah”, without any implication that Silvanus and Timothy would have been apostles the way the twelve were.
A note: The article rma063.htm has some notes on 1 Thessalonians 2:6 in another context.
Andronicus and Junia, Romans 16:7? Some bible-translators have made it seem that they were “apostles of note”. The Greek text of that passage says that they were “noted among the apostles”, but that does not have to mean that they themselves were apostles. Consider this translation:
Romans 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. (ESV01)
What about James, Jesus’ (half-)brother? (Not the same as the apostle James who was the brother of John.) The way some bible-versions render Galatians 1:19, might cause the reader to think that even Jesus’ brother James was an apostle. But, consider this translation:
Galatians 1:18 Then, three years later I went to Jerusalem to become personally acquainted with Cephas. I stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 I didn’t see any other apostle. I only saw James, the Lord’s brother. (GWV)
So, it may be that the apostle Paul was merely saying that on that occasion he saw none of the other apostles except Cephas (Peter), and that at that time he saw even Jesus’ brother James.
Revelation 21:14, perhaps symbolically, places “the twelve” in a unique category among the saints. Since Judas Iscariot was excluded, someone must have replaced him. Was that Matthias, or someone else? The answer is that we do not know.
And again: Only Jesus was God’s apostle. The twelve and Paul, and eventually some others, were Jesus’ apostles. The article raa081.htm has some notes on this.
See also the “recommended reading” section, after the appendix below.
In the table below, the names are in all columns given in the same order as in Matthew 10:2–4.
|Matthew 10:2–4||Mark 3:16–19||Luke 6:14–16||Acts 1:13||Notes|
|Simon Peter||Simon Peter||Simon Peter||Peter||Also called Cephas, see John 1:42.|
|James the son of Zebedee||James||James||James||–|
|Bartholomew||Bartholomew||Bartholomew||Bartholomew||Also called Nathanael (John 1 and 21), see the main part of this article.|
|Matthew the publican||Matthew||Matthew||Matthew||Also called Levi (Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27), see the main part of this article.|
|James the son of Alphaeus||James the son of Alphaeus||James the son of Alphaeus||James of Alphaeus||–|
|Lebbaeus [who is called Thaddaeus]||Thaddaeus||Judas of James||Judas of James||See the notes on these names, in the main part of this article.|
|Simon the Canaanite||Simon the Canaanite||Simon Zelotes||Simon Zelotes||–|
|Judas Iscariot||Judas Iscariot||Judas Iscariot||–||–|
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An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa092.htm
On the King James version. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → rsa032.htm
The apostle Paul and his teachings. → roa113.htm
What powers were given to the apostles? Also: Did Simon Peter receive some kind of special authority, such as “primacy”? → raa092.htm
What does the word “righteous” really mean? What does the Bible say about righteousness? → rga083.htm
What does the Bible say about religious titles, such as “apostle”, “bishop”, “evangelist”, “father”, “pastor” and so on? → raa081.htm
On the translation and meaning of 1 Thessalonians 2:6. Was the apostle Paul talking about dignity, or about a “right to be burdensome”? → rma063.htm
Easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. → rga021.htm
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