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What are the differences between disciples and apostles?

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Quick Answer

A disciple is a follower of a spiritual leader, mentor or teacher. An apostle is one who was sent by that leader to deliver his message to the masses.

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Full Answer

People tend to confuse the terms "disciple" and "apostle" because in the biblical sense, they appear to refer to the same group of 12 main followers of Jesus mentioned throughout the Gospels. However, the word Greek word "mathetes," from which the word "disciple" is translated, means "student" or "one who is taught."

Many Jewish and Greek teachers, most notably Socrates and Gamaliel, who was Paul's mentor, had many disciples. The word "apostle" comes from the word "apostolos," which means "messenger." The form of the word that is used in the Bible was rarely in use prior to the New Testament.

In the biblical sense, the word "apostle" most often denotes those men who Jesus specifically sent out into the world to preach the Gospels. These were the 12 disciples originally chosen by Jesus. Paul later refers to other preachers of the Gospels as apostles as well. Nevertheless, in religious teachings and contexts, people use both the word "disciple" and the word "apostle" to refer only to Jesus' hand-picked followers, as shown in Mark 3:14.

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