The New Testament often mentions the title/calling apostle and prophet. Why don't Catholics (the largest Christian denomination) use those titles/callings? Is it because they see some biblical basis for not using them?

In Ephesians 4 (KJV) it says:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

And in 1 Corinthians 12:28 it says:

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

  • One of the main rationales is found here: What is the basis for Cessationism? – Nathaniel is protesting Sep 7 '16 at 16:01
  • @Nathaniel that question answers specifically miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy, do not occur in present day. but why aren't the titles used? Pastor and teacher are still used, but apostle and prophet aren't – depperm Sep 7 '16 at 16:03
  • If prophecy has ended, then so has the role (and title) of prophet. But shepherding ("pastoring") and teaching haven't ended, so those titles remain. – Nathaniel is protesting Sep 7 '16 at 16:04
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    in baptism we all become Kings, Prophets and priest according to RCC. – Grasper Sep 7 '16 at 19:20
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    Not only are you asking more than one question, but it's unclear how you define prophet, apostle, etc. One cannot make a comparison to something that isn't well-defined. – Geremia Sep 8 '16 at 0:29

Why don't Catholics…use those titles [apostle, prophet]?


Fr. John Hardon defines "apostle" in his Catholic Dictionary as

A messenger and authorized representative of the sender. Broadly used in Scripture, it refers to many followers of Jesus who spread his message. More precisely, however, it applies to the original twelve men chosen by Jesus to be his immediate aides. They are referred to as disciples during the period in which he was instructing the, but following his ascension they are always called Apostles. After Pentecost they spoke and acted with confidence and assurance in teaching others what he had taught them and in assuming leadership roles in the early church. They were ordained priests by Christ at the Last Supper and were commissioned by him to preach the Gospel to all mankind (Matthew 28:19-20). (Etym. Latin apostolus, an apostle; Greek apostolos, one who is sent off.)


Aren't prophets only known to be such after the fact?

For example, Pope Pius XII—in his encyclical promoting Catholic missions, Evangelii Praecones §27—described his predecessor, Pope Pius XI, as having "prophetic vision":

We are profoundly grieved as We behold these conditions which Our immediate Predecessor [Pope Pius XI] described with almost prophetic vision verified in many parts of the Far East.

Pope Paul VI's prediction in his 1968 encyclical Humanæ Vitæ of the damaging effects of contraception to marriage and society has also been called prophetic. He said that contraception "could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards" (§17), which has indeed occurred—e.g., as illustrated below:

Divorce rate vs. contraceptive use

(Cf. also Pope Pius XI's encyclical on marriage, Casti Connubii §§53 ff.)

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  • so you mention a Pope who made a prophecy, why isn't he referred to as a prophet (in addition/instead of Pope), your quote just uses the word prophetic and doesn't really answer why it isn't used. – depperm Sep 7 '16 at 18:43
  • @depperm Because not all popes are prophetic and also to avoid confusion with Old and New Testament prophets. – Geremia Sep 7 '16 at 20:45
  • I would like to follow up on @depperm comment. In order to answer the question, you must have either said that the Church does have prophets & apostles, or have actually explained why it does not. Does your reference to divorce & contraception mean the Church does have prophets? Also what is the source of this graph, what demographic does it refer to and is there a proven causal effect? – Dick Harfield Sep 7 '16 at 21:53
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    Hello. This doesn't seem to explain why Paul said some are called to be apostles, and why Paul calls himself "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)" in Galatians 1:1. If he isn't one of the Twelve chosen by Messiah or elected by Peter and the rest of the Apostles and disciples, how did he become an "apostle of Jesus Christ"? – Cannabijoy Sep 8 '16 at 6:02
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    Given you agree there is no causation between the 2 factors, this graph seems totally unrelated to the question of why the Church does not have prophets or apostles. It's a long shot to call Pius XI's vision (not explained here) "almost prophetic." No one could call Paul VI a prophet on the basis of his 1968 encyclical, because the graphs had already plateaued at the time of the encyclical, leaving nothing for him to predict or prophesy. The question remains entirely unanswered, hence a -1. – Dick Harfield Sep 8 '16 at 8:02

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