I've been researching about the apostles and found historical documents that show there were more than 12 but 12 + 7, including women. This information was included in non biblical historical documents. In reading the bible, the number twelve is highly important to jewish readers as it represents the twelve tribes of Israel. My question is have the gospel writers focused on the number twelve to keep in line with the hebrew books? Or could there have been more than twelve? It seems logical to not limit his number to twelve, in order to spread the word as far as possible.

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    Hi, plawton. Welcome to Christianity.SE. What historical documents are you talking about? It's a lot easier to answer questions like this--particularly ones that deal with subjects that are not "common knowledge" material--if you cite your sources. In return, we try to do the same when coming up with answers for you. Would you mind editing your question to add some links? Thanks!
    – Mason Wheeler
    Jun 16 '13 at 1:44
  • Agreed with Mason; links and/or titles would be helpful.
    – David C.
    Jun 16 '13 at 2:57
  • Yes, there were only 12 because they were to be the kings of the new kingdom. 12 apostles, 12 disciples, 12 tribes, 12 kings Nov 20 '13 at 16:42
  • By my count here are 23 in the new testament. This is one requiring a bit of research.
    – atherises
    May 25 '15 at 18:31
  • Any answer will greatly depend on the definition of apostle.
    – fгedsbend
    May 26 '15 at 20:06

Different books of the Bible use the terms apostle and disciple in differing ways. The word disciple means a follower or student of a teacher, while the word apostle means a messenger or ambassador who champions a particular cause.

Initially, the term "apostle" was used to describe the early followers of Jesus. There were specific requirements to be called an apostle, some of which were, the chief of which was that they had to have seen him after his Resurrection. Additionally, the apostles were the foundation of the early church, after Jesus, the chief cornerstone. So the "apostles" were limited in number, but not to only 12 (a disciple, however is a much broader term. A disciple is any follower of Christ, and as such there are millions of disciples today).

However, there is a common convention of a difference between "apostle" and "Apostle", with "Apostle" denoting the those specifically appointed by Jesus as apostles (the twelve, along with Paul). So there were the Twelve, but these were set apart by Jesus as his closest companions during his earthly ministry, and not an artificial distinction posed by the writers of the gospels. So depending on your definition, there might be 12 apostles or several hundred (see 1 Corinthians 15:6)

  • no the term apostle was not used to describe the early followers of Jesus the term disciple was used to describe his followers downvoting
    – user4060
    Jun 17 '13 at 15:39
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    There is a question on the site that asks about the difference between an apostle and a disciple Jun 17 '13 at 18:59
  • so... was Matthias little 'a' or big 'A'? Sep 15 '14 at 1:01
  • @bruisedreed - a big 'A'
    – SSumner
    Sep 15 '14 at 2:37

The Recursive Great Commission

The Greek word from which apostle is derived literally means "one who is sent out". To be sure, every believer is in effect an apostle who is sent out to proclaim Christ to the world. The Great Commission is, in a sense, recursive. Those that received that command were to make disciples and them those disciples everything Jesus had commanded them, which included the Great Commission.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

The Special Designation of the Twelve

However, there was a specific designation of apostleship that was reserved for twelve specific men whose names are identified for us.

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out... Matthew 10:1-5a ESV

In a very real sense, the disciples/learners/students became apostles (ones sent out) at this moment in time when Jesus specifically sent them out with a purpose.


There were twelve Apostles to begin with, whom Jesus chose and ordained as special witnesses of his ministry. These were different from disciples, like everyone else here said, who were followers. But there are two recorded instances in the Bible where more men were called Apostles. The first is in the early chapters of Acts where Matthias is chosen to fill the void that was left after Judas killed himself. It seemed very important to fill that void immediately. It is more likely that the "12 Apostles" is more of a quorum that is to always maintain 12 members.

Later on, of course, Paul is denoted as an Apostle and a lot of the New Testament books are from his short writings. But, we have no record of him being ordained or of who may have died to leave a vacancy in the quorum. Anyway, there were definitely more than twelve, though the group may have only had twelve at any one time.

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    Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. This is okay for a first answer. It would be better if the few Bible events you refer to were either quoted or linked to an online Bible, like Bible Gateway. You can edit this post if you want to make those changes. I hope to see more of you.
    – fгedsbend
    Jun 30 '14 at 4:36

There are 2 groups of apostles. Both in a sense, means being sent out (ambassadors). But the first office is the 12. Many say that the 12 were ordinary Christians who happened to live at the same time as Jesus. Not true, they were specially appointed by God for a specific reason. Someone above said they noticed the emphasis on the number 12. SThe same is with the 12 apostles because they are another caliber of Christians. Yes, they were sinners like you and me, and yes they were men, but there office was divine specific.

Revelation 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

There were specific requirements of being an Apostle of Christ. One being the witness of the resurrected Christ. (Acts 1:22, 1 Corinthians 9:1). Another being able to perform signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 2:4).

There is some debate over who replaces Judas. Matthias or Paul. Matthias was the only not directly appointed by Jesus Christ. Anyways, this office wasn't as some confuse with disciples. They weren't ordinary Christians. One example of not ordinary is the writings of the New Testament. The writing and teaching of the apostles weren't received by a man or bok, but directly from Christ.

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

This verse was given directly to the apostles. I understand the we can claim this verse in a sense, but in it's context it was to the apostles to lay the foundation of the church. And to reveal the mystery of Christ.

Ephesians 3:4-5 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

The second group were apostles that were called by man. They were appointed by the apostles and the church. These were not the same as the 12. This group had the title of an apostle, but not the office. Hope that makes sense. The main group are apostles of Christ. The secondary group are apostles appointed by the church.

  • Welcome to the site! This is really good! This answer would be even better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? Nov 20 '13 at 0:03
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    I don't know of anyone who wondered if Cephas (Peter) replaced Judas - I do know there is debate as to whether it was Paul or Matthias, but Peter's apostleship was in effect long before Judas' betrayal. Nov 20 '13 at 14:53

Acts 14:14 says when the apostles Barnabas and Paul. So it names Barnabas as an apostle. And that's in the BIble. If anyone wants to get technical.


There were many apostles named in the new testament. Here is a list of them along with scriptures.

There are 11 named here

Acts 1:13, "Peter and John, and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James."

Judas Iscariot was another apostle not named there.

After this point there are 9 more that I can find for sure and a few theoretical ones.

James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church—Galatians 1:19

Barnabas–Acts 14:14

Paul–Acts 14:14 and many other references

Apollos– Corinthians 4:6-9

Timothy and Silvanus– I Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6

Epaphroditus–Philippians 2:25. While the King James Version translates the word as “messenger”, the Greek word (apostolon) is actually “apostle”.

Two unnamed apostles–Second Corinthians 8:23. A brother of fame among the churches, and a brother tested–“As for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Again, the Greek word is “apostoloi” but is translated here as “messengers”.

That adds up to 22 right there.

Andronicus and Junia–Romans 16:7 “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Were these genuine apostles or were they, as some (Charles Ryrie and others) translate, “well-known to the apostles”? If we count Andronicus and Junia, the total jumps to 24.

most of my sources are http://bmarkanderson.com/how-many-apostles-in-the-new-testament-12-or-25/ check it our for more in depth info.

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