In the Bible it mentions the apostles meeting together in prayer to determine who the lord would have them choose to fill the apostolic vacancy left by Judas.

Acts 1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias;

From this account we see that the lord intended the apostleship to continue however history shows that it did not. How long did the practice of replacing the fallen or deceased apostles continue after this account and why did it stop happening?

  • Catholics and others who believe in apostolic succession would say that the practice continues to this day. Many Protestants, for example, would disagree. Apr 13, 2016 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


An apostle is, per the Greek ἀποστέλλω (apostollow) - that is, sent out. It is a job, not necessarily a title. Jesus, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28, literally apostolt (ie commissioned and sent out) all of his followers by telling them:

Go ye therefore into all the world...

While Matthew 28:16 says there were only 11 people there (all his disciples), Acts 1 then goes to add Matthias, becaue the 11 disciples themselves thought a 12th should be added to their number, in order to match the 12 tribes. Later, some have questioned if God had intended to add Paul as the 12th to their number. Regardless of who was in attendance, however, many, many Christians - indeed just about all with a strong missionary bent - now take Jesus' words as being a "Great Commission" that applies to all his followers, not just the 11 in attendance.

As to the fact that many are called to be apostles, we have Paul's word on the matter:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. (1 Cor 12:27-28)

As such, the answer to your question is a simple Yes - because it is a gift given to all.

The difference, I suspect comes with whether or not there are more big-A "Apostles," by which you mean, did God confer some magical fairy dust and make them special. The answer to that question is far more nuanced. Protestants will say we are all Saints. Catholics will say that some are more Sainted than others. But we'll all say, if given a list, that the "12 Apostles" are drawn from Jesus' named disciples, minus Judas. This is an artifact of history, in the same way that Abraham Lincoln may be a great President, but he's not a Founding Father. Likewise, I'd argue John Champe is a founding father, but you've probably never heard of him.

Paul calls himself an apostle many times but is not included in the list of the 12. One would suspect he would have also called Barnabas an Apostle - but his name does not appear amongst the 12. The list of 12 comes from the tradition of the disciples being sent out, but the job is more widely dispersed than that.

The list is thus fixed by tradition, and because it is a fixed tradition, is finite and known. But as to the gift of apostleship - yes, there are many, many more. And it is the role of the church for those who have been "sent out" to actually act on it.

  • I would agree with most of what you said however I do not believe the Bible gives evidence that the Apostles ever thought that they would be the only 12 Apostles (with a capital A). Paul was defiantly said to be an apostle and recorded many revelations from God. Matthias was specifically chosen to fill the vacancy left by Judas. So we can see that new apostles were chosen to replace the fallen or deceased ones.
    – Nelson
    Feb 3, 2014 at 18:22
  • How do you explain Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30 in light of having numerous apostles when Jesus clearly enumerates 12 thrones, and the judgment of the 12 tribes?
    – BYE
    Feb 3, 2014 at 21:16
  • Also in Revelation 21:14 John says that there are 12 Apostles of the Lamb.
    – BYE
    Feb 3, 2014 at 21:20
  • @CecilBeckum I believe 12 should be the number of living Apostles. The book of revelations was written after the book of Acts. Matthias would have already been chosen to fill the vacancy left by Judas and thus restoring the Apostles to the number of 12 as mentioned.
    – Nelson
    Feb 4, 2014 at 2:22
  • You are correct that Acts was written prior to Revelation,m however When revelation was written by John in approximately he was the only Apostle who remained alive at the time all the others had already suffered a painful death including Paul who was beheaded in approximately 54 AD.
    – BYE
    Feb 4, 2014 at 3:44

If every twelve apostles need to be succeeded whenever they die, then we would have 12 Popes ruling in Vatican always from the past till today. But we only have one Pope always in the Roman Catholic Church. They key to Heaven was given to Peter first and then when Peter died, his office was assumed by Linus, who was succeeded again by Anacletus, and then Clement, and so on. See the list here.

Judas Iscariot was replaced by Matthias because Judas betrayed Jesus and left the company of the Twelve. Judas can no longer be remembered as an apostle because he renounced his apostleship. There is no record of Judas repenting from his sins while Peter repented after betraying Jesus. It seems like the eleven apostles wanted to preserve the number Twelve elected by Jesus Christ, hence their election of a replacement for Judas. However, there is no historical record of all the twelve apostles being succeed whenever they die, except for Peter.


The answer to your question may be in these Scriptures, where the reason for having 12 Apostles only can be inferred.

All Scripture quoted is from the King James translation.

Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke 22:30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

And in the Revelation:

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

It appears that the choice of twelve Apostles, has to do with the judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The continuation of apostleship would have no purpose if that were God's plan.

The only instructions given by Christ for the administration of his Church was when he told Peter to feed his sheep.

Other than that the administration of the Church has been in the hands of man.

  • It would appear to me that the apostleship was part of the organizational structure Christ established to lead his Church. For the fact that more than 12 apostles are mentioned in the Bible. The original 12 plus Matthias and Paul. Also Barnabas (Acts 14:14) Andronicus and Junias (Rom 16:7), Silas, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Apollos.
    – Nelson
    Feb 3, 2014 at 15:07
  • Not true an Apostle had to be chosen personally by Jesus, which separates Apostles from disciples, Paul based his claim to Apostleship the Damascus road incident. As far as those others you mentioned those were not Apostles, they were Church leaders. In Acts we see that the Apostles reserved themselves to spreading the Gospel and began Church administration with the selection of the seven.
    – BYE
    Feb 3, 2014 at 15:59
  • I would agree with your explanation of Paul being an Apostle and the last 7 I mentioned being called to an apostleship weather they were the same as the 12 is up for debate. I believe the answer does lie with Matthias. He was specifically selected to fill the vacancy left by Judas as the Bible mentions and Jesus was not present at his selection. The apostles prayed to Jesus for him to reveal whom he would have them choose and the lot fell upon Matthias. So it appears that the apostles believed that the apostolic succession should continue on.
    – Nelson
    Feb 3, 2014 at 18:09

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