apostle

apostle

[uh-pos-uhl]
apostle [Gr.,=envoy], one of the prime missionaries of Christianity. The apostles of the first rank are saints Peter, Andrew, James (the Greater), John, Thomas, James (the Less), Jude (or Thaddaeus), Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Matthias (replacing Judas Iscariot). Traditionally the list of the Twelve Disciples includes Judas and not Matthias, and the list of the Twelve Apostles includes Matthias and not Judas. St. Paul is always classed as an apostle, and so sometimes are a few others, such as St. Barnabas. The principal missionary to any country is often called its apostle, e.g., St. Patrick is the apostle of Ireland, and St. Augustine of Canterbury the apostle of England. For the Apostles' Creed, see creed; for the Teaching of the Apostles, see Didache; for the earliest account of their activities, see Acts of the Apostles.

See E. J. Goodspeed, The Twelve: The Story of Christ's Apostles (1957, repr. 1962).

orig. Simon

(died circa AD 64, Rome) Disciple of Jesus, recognized as the leader of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus called him Cephas (Aramaic for “Rock”; rendered in Greek as “Petros”) and said “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). When Jesus was arrested, according to the biblical account, Peter denied him three times, as Jesus had foretold. Accounts of Peter's life and ministry rely on the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Peter, and the epistles of St. Paul. Peter worked with Paul in Antioch and later carried on missionary work in Asia Minor. According to tradition, he eventually went to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom by being crucified upside down. Saint Peter's Basilica is said to have been built on the site of his grave in Rome. In Roman Catholicism he is regarded as the first in the unbroken succession of popes. Jesus' promise to give him the “keys of the kingdom” led to the popular perception of Peter as the gatekeeper of heaven. The Roman Catholic church celebrates five feast days in honour of Peter, and in each the name of Paul is associated.

Learn more about Peter the Apostle, Saint with a free trial on Britannica.com.

or St. John the Evangelist or St. John the Divine

(flourished 1st century AD) One of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus, traditionally credited with writing the fourth Gospel and three New Testament epistles. The book of Revelation was also traditionally assigned to him. His father was a Galilean fisherman. John and his brother James (see St. James) were among the first disciples called by Jesus, and John appears to have held a position of authority in the early church after the resurrection. Later accounts of his life are based on legend. He is said to have died in Ephesus, and his tomb became a site of pilgrimage. John's Gospel, unlike the other three, presents a well-developed theological point of view, on a level with the letters of St. Paul. After a prologue in which he identifies God with the Word (Logos), he offers selected episodes from Jesus' life and ministry. His explications of theological issues such as the significance of the Son of God greatly influenced the development of Christian doctrine.

Learn more about John the Apostle, Saint with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. Simon

(died circa AD 64, Rome) Disciple of Jesus, recognized as the leader of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus called him Cephas (Aramaic for “Rock”; rendered in Greek as “Petros”) and said “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). When Jesus was arrested, according to the biblical account, Peter denied him three times, as Jesus had foretold. Accounts of Peter's life and ministry rely on the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Peter, and the epistles of St. Paul. Peter worked with Paul in Antioch and later carried on missionary work in Asia Minor. According to tradition, he eventually went to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom by being crucified upside down. Saint Peter's Basilica is said to have been built on the site of his grave in Rome. In Roman Catholicism he is regarded as the first in the unbroken succession of popes. Jesus' promise to give him the “keys of the kingdom” led to the popular perception of Peter as the gatekeeper of heaven. The Roman Catholic church celebrates five feast days in honour of Peter, and in each the name of Paul is associated.

Learn more about Peter the Apostle, Saint with a free trial on Britannica.com.

or St. John the Evangelist or St. John the Divine

(flourished 1st century AD) One of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus, traditionally credited with writing the fourth Gospel and three New Testament epistles. The book of Revelation was also traditionally assigned to him. His father was a Galilean fisherman. John and his brother James (see St. James) were among the first disciples called by Jesus, and John appears to have held a position of authority in the early church after the resurrection. Later accounts of his life are based on legend. He is said to have died in Ephesus, and his tomb became a site of pilgrimage. John's Gospel, unlike the other three, presents a well-developed theological point of view, on a level with the letters of St. Paul. After a prologue in which he identifies God with the Word (Logos), he offers selected episodes from Jesus' life and ministry. His explications of theological issues such as the significance of the Son of God greatly influenced the development of Christian doctrine.

Learn more about John the Apostle, Saint with a free trial on Britannica.com.

An apostle is a messenger and ambassador.

Apostle and apostles may also refer to:

In religion:

  • The Twelve Apostles, 12 of Jesus' disciples chosen by him and given "the Great Commission"
  • The Seventy Disciples, referred to as Seventy Apostles by the Orthodox Church
  • Apostle (Latter Day Saints), a position within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement
  • Chief Apostle, highest minister in the New Apostolic Church
  • Rasul, Islamic prophet or messenger, sometimes translated "apostle" (Muhammad is known as Rasūlullāh, "Apostle of God")

In art and entertainment:

Elsewhere:

  • Cambridge Apostles, a secret society at the University of Cambridge
  • Apostle Plant, the Neomarica genus of plants, which closely resemble irises
  • The Squad (IRA unit) also known as the Twelve Apostles, an Irish Republican Army unit founded by Michael Collins

See also

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