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Alternate meaning: See Apostle (Mormonism)
The Christian Apostles were Jewish men who were (as indicated by the Greek word apostolos) "sent forth", by Jesus to preach Christianity to both Jews and Gentiles, across the world.
The original 12 apostles
According to the Gospels of Mark (3:16-19) and Matthew (10:2-4), the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus Christ near the beginning of his ministry were:
- Simon Peter
- James and John, the sons of Zebedee
- Matthew (sometimes identified with Levi, son of Alphaeus)
- Thomas (a.k.a. Didymus or "the twin")
- James son of Alphaeus
- Thaddaeus (called in some manuscripts of Matthew Lebbaeus)
- Simon the Canaanite (called in Luke and Acts "Simon the Zealot")
- Judas Iscariot
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 apostles appear in the fourth gospel: Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, Thomas, Judas "not Judas Iscariot", Judas Iscariot, the 'Beloved Disciple' (usually thought to be John himself), and "the sons of Zebedee (James and John)".
The 12th apostle
Judas Iscariot having betrayed Christ, and then in guilt hanged himself before Christ's resurrection, 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 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).
In the eighth century, the Anglo-Saxon Saint Boniface was named the "Apostle to the Germans." In the ninth century, saints Cyril and Methodius earned the title "Apostles to the Slavs." The word Apostle, in this sense, is precisely equivalent to a missionary of a Christian church.
Some saints are given the title "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.
See also apostolic succession -- New Testament