Apostle, Disciple

The word "Apostle", from the Greek apostello "to send forth", "to dispatch", has etymologically a very general sense. Apostle means one who is sent forth, dispatched--in other words, who is entrusted with a mission, rather, a foreign mission.......

The word "Apostle", from the Greek apostello "to send forth", "to dispatch", has etymologically a very general sense. Apostle means one who is sent forth, dispatched--in other words, who is entrusted with a mission, rather, a foreign mission. It has, however, a stronger sense than the word messenger, and means as much as a delegate. In the classical writers the word is not frequent. In the Greek version of the Old Testament it occurs once, in 1 Kings 14:6. In the New Testament, on the contrary, it occurs, according to Bruder's Concordance, about eighty times, and denotes often not all the disciples of the Lord, but some of them specially called. It is obvious that our Lord, who spoke an Aramaic dialect, gave to some of his disciples an Aramaic title, the Greek equivalent of which was "Apostle". It seems to us that there is no reasonable doubt about the Aramaic word being seliah, by which also the later Jews, and probably already the Jews before Christ, denoted "those who were despatched from the mother city by the rulers of the race on any foreign mission, especially such as were charged with collecting the tribute paid to the temple service" . The word apostle would be an exact rendering of the root of the word seliah,= apostello.

Various meanings: 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". In fact, however, it was reserved to those of the disciples who received this title from Christ. At the same time, like other honourable titles, it was occasionally applied to those who in some way realized the fundamental idea of the name. The word also has various meanings.

The name Apostle denotes principally one of the twelve disciples who, on a solemn occasion, were called by Christ to a special mission. In the Gospels, however, those disciples are often designated by the expressions of mathetai (the disciples) or dodeka (the Twelve) and, after the treason and death of Judas, even of hendeka (the Eleven). In the Synoptics the name Apostle occurs but seldom with this meaning; only once in Matthew and Mark. But in other books of the New Testament, chiefly in the Epistles of St. Paul and in the Acts, this use of the word is current. Saul of Tarsus, being miraculously converted, and called to preach the Gospel to the heathens, claimed with much insistency this title and its rights. In the Epistle to the Hebrews (iii, 1) the name is applied even to Christ, in the original meaning of a delegate sent from God to preach revealed truth to the world. The word Apostle has also in the New Testament a larger meaning, and denotes some inferior disciples who, under the direction of the Apostles, preached the Gospel, or contributed to its diffusion; thus Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14), probably Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), two unknown Christians who were delegated for the collection in Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:23). We know not why the honourable name of Apostle is not given to such illustrious missionaries as Timothy, Titus, and others who would equally merit it. There are some passages in which the extension of the word Apostle is doubtful, as Luke 11:49; John 13:16; 2 Corinthians 13; 1 Thessalonians 2:7; Ephesians 3:5; Jude 17, and perhaps the well-known expression "Apostles and Prophets". Even in an ironical meaning the word occurs (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11) to denote pseudo-apostles. There is but little to add on the use of the word in the old Christian literature. The first and third meanings are the only ones which occur frequently, and even in the oldest literature the larger meaning is seldom found.

Origin of the apostolate:The Gospels point out how, from the beginning of his ministry, Jesus called to him some Jews, and by a very diligent instruction and formation made them his disciples. After some time, in the Galilean ministry, he selected twelve whom, as Mark (3:14) and Luke (vi, 13) say, "he also named Apostles." The origin of the Apostolate lies therefore in a special vocation, a formal appointment of the Lord to a determined office, with connected authority and duties. The appointment of the twelve Apostles is given by the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16) nearly in the same words, so that the three narratives are literally dependent. Only on the immediately connected events is there some difference between them. It seems almost needless to outline and disprove rationalistic views on this topic. The holders of these views, at least some of them, contend that our Lord never appointed twelve Apostles, never thought of establishing disciples to help him in his ministry, and eventually to carry on his work. These opinions are only deductions from the rationalistic principles on the credibility of the Gospels, Christ's doctrine on the Kingdom of Heaven, and the eschatology of the Gospels. Here it may be sufficient to observe

that the very clear testimony of the three synoptic Gospels constitutes a strong historical argument, representing, as it does, a very old and widely spread tradition that cannot be erroneous; that the universally acknowledged authority of the Apostles, even in the most heated controversies, and from the first years after Christ's death (for instance in the Jewish controversies), as we read in the oldest Epistles of St. Paul and in the Acts, cannot be explained, or even be understood, unless we recognize some appointment of the Twelve by Jesus.

Disciple: This term is commonly applied to one who is learning any art or science from one distinguished by his accomplishments. Though derived from the Latin discipulus, the English name conveys a meaning somewhat narrower than its Latin equivalent: disciple is opposed to master, as scholar to teacher, whilst both disciple and scholar are included under the Latin discipulus. In the English versions of the Old Testament the word disciple occurs only once (Isaiah 8:16); but the idea it conveys is to be met with in several other passages, as, for instance, when the Sacred Writer speaks of the "sons" of the Prophets (2 Kings 2:7); the same seems, likewise, to be the meaning of the terms children and son in the Sapiential books (e.g. Proverbs 4:1, 10; etc.). Much more frequently does the New Testament use the word disciple in the sense of pupil, adherent, one who continues in the Master's word (John 8:31). So we read disciples of Moses (John 9:28), of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33). of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14; Luke 7:18; John 3:25). These, however, are only incidental applications, for the word is almost exclusively used of the Disciples of Jesus.

In the Four Gospels it is most especially applied to the Apostles, sometimes styled the "twelve disciples" (Matthew 10:1; 11:1; 20:17; 26:20; 28:16, having reference to events subsequent to Christ's Passion, mentions only the "eleven disciples"), sometimes merely called "the disciples" (Matthew 14:19; 15:33, 36; etc.). The expression "his disciples" frequently has the same import. Occasionally the Evangelists give the word a broader sense and make it a synonym for believer (Matthew 10:42; 27:57; John 4:1; 9:27, 28; etc.). Besides the signification of "Apostle" and that of "believer" there is finally a third one, found in St. Luke, and perhaps also in the other Evangelists. St. Luke narrates (6:13) that Jesus "called unto him his disciples, and he chose twelve of them (whom also he named apostles)". The disciples, in this disciples, in this context, are not the crowds of believers who flocked around Christ, but a smaller body of His followers. They are commonly identified with the seventy-two (seventy, according to the received Greek text, although several Greek manuscripts mention seventy-two, as does the Vulgate) referred to (Luke 10:1) as having been chosen by Jesus. The names of these disciples are given in several lists (Chronicon Paschale, and Pseudo-Dorotheus in Migne, P.G., XCII, 521-524; 543-545; 1061-1065); but these lists are unfortunately worthless. Eusebius positively asserts that no such roll existed in his time, and mentions among the disciples only Barnabas, Sosthenes, Cephas, Matthias, Thaddeus and James "the Lord's brother" (Church History I.12). In the Acts of the Apostles the name disciple is exclusively used to designate the converts, the believers, both men and women (6:1, 2, 7; 9:1, 10, 19; etc.; in reference to the latter connotation see in particular 9:36) even such as were only imperfectly instructed, like those found by St. Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-5).


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