First off, a distinction between disciple and apostle - a disciple is a student, and the 12 disciples were Jesus' students. An Apostle is one who was "sent out." Eleven of Jesus' disciples were sent out to preach the good news. Judas, of course, had committed suicide before being sent out.

The Disciples, recognizing the "need" for a 12th, cast lots and chose Matthias in Acts 1. On the choice of Matthais, I've heard things similar to this:

Also, we wonder if Luke was pointing out that casting lots, used all through the Old Testament, was a poor substitute for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who became the source of wisdom and discernment for such decisions after Pentecost.

As Lloyd Ogilive says:

What happened to Matthias? We are not told. He never is mentioned again. Did he defect or drop out? Probably not. I believe we would have been told if that happened, and Luke’s thoroughness would have included that data. What we do know is that the position was filled by Paul. There is no need to be down on Matthias. He responded to a call. He was ready with his knowledge of Christ and an open mind and heart to receive His Spirit. He was there at Pentecost—that’s all that matters. Whether his ministry afterward received the recognition of history is unimportant. The same is true for us. Once we have experienced what Christ said and did for us in His death and Resurrection and then returned to continue to do, titles, or history’s recognition, or even the accolades of people today become unimportant.

The question is thus this - Did the Holy Spirit actually intend for Paul to be the real 12th Apostle, or was Matthias not just an accidental, rash act on the part of the Eleven?

Or, put more poetically (as well suggested by Flimzy, when it comes to apostleship, should we put our trust in God or men?)

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    FWIW, I am not even sure they had to pick a replacement. Why did they need to stick to twelve? Commented May 4, 2012 at 18:28
  • How do we know Matthias's position was filled by Paul? We know Paul was an Apostle, but that doesn't tell me that he replaced Matthias. Presumably Ogilive had some other evidence I'm not aware of. Do you know how he came to that conclusion?
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 19:19
  • 2
    Voting to close. This can not be answered today and backed up with relevant facts. It is just going to lead to arguing between different opinions. Which is not what this site is about.
    – Ryan
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 22:00
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    To find out what happened to the twelve, read the 4th. cent. Eusebius's History of the Church.
    – Waeshael
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 21:46
  • 1
    This is both opinion based and a guessing the mind of God question.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 22:58

11 Answers 11


There is one problem with the argument - "Matthias was never sent by Christ to do anything, therefore he cannot be an apostle". The problem is that Barnabus (of whom we have no evidence that he was sent by Christ) is also called an "apostle" in Acts 14:14.

We know that Judas was an apostle and his "office" (Acts 1:20) was taken over by Matthias. And it is not as though this was done through some rash thinking on the part of the Peter, for he, along with the other apostles had in fact already received the Holy Spirit before Pentecost (John 20:22).

Moreover, with the inclusion of Matthias, the phrase "Peter and the eleven" is used in Acts 2:14, which strongly suggests that Matthias was indeed the 12th apostle.

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    Barnabas was sent by the church. I believe that he is therefore an apostle of the church at Antioch. I think we need to distinguish here between apostle and Apostle. As noted in the original question the word apostle means one who was sent. The question is who sent them? Apostles of Christ must be sent by Christ. Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 0:32

Acts is quite clear on the matter. Matthias was called to fill the vacancy left by Judas, whereas Paul didn't even appear on the scene for quite some time afterwards. And even after he showed up, we have several epistles where he refers to himself as an apostle, but unlike Matthias, the actual process of him being called as an apostle has not been preserved down to our time.

As you mentioned, we have little information about what Matthias did after being called as an apostle, but that hardly disqualifies him from being one. We have little information on what most of the Apostles did after the Resurrection. What did Andrew do? What about Matthew? We don't know; it never got recorded in any record that survives to our day.

As for Paul, it's quite possible that he was chosen at a later point to fill a new void in the Twelve. We do know that martyrdom among Christian leaders was not an uncommon thing in those days. (Just look at Stephen.) The simple fact is, we don't know.

  • 1
    If you could give me dates to suggest that Paul filled a later void, I could reconsider my acceptance. My understanding, however, is that Paul was considered an apostle by at least 52 AD, and while I'm not sure when the first of the 12 apostles were martyred, I suspect that's not until the mid 50s. (It would be a good question though) Commented May 4, 2012 at 23:06
  • We do know that James (one of 'em) became the Bishop of Jerusalem. So even though he was "sent" he didn't appear to go anywhere.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented May 5, 2012 at 4:44
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    @AffableGeek According to Acts 12:2, James (the brother of John) was martyred significantly before the other Apostles and not long before the missionary journeys of Paul (i.e. before Paul began functioning effectively as an apostle, regardless of the date of his initial call) Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 11:09

Judas was the twelfth apostle, an by your own definition Matthias makes a more fit candidate to be reckoned as lucky #12 after Judas' death.

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 disciples. Among them most assuredly was St. Matthias. And the rest of the Apostles were doing quite a bit of on the job training, clearly away for Jesus as is shown in Matthew 17:21 where the disciples return to Jesus saying that they can't figure out how to cast out demons.

I don't doubt for an instant that St. Paul had the most effective charism in apostolic work that anyone ever had. And St. Thomas Aquinas just refers to him as "the apostle". St. Paul however, knew he was an Apostle, but also knew that he was the least among them by virtue of the wrongs that he had done to them. 1 Corinthians 15:7-8 Jesus appears to James and the Apostles ... and last of all to himself.

Personally, I don't see much point in making a distinction between disciples and apostles. If you're in the seminary and when you get out your a preacher or a pastor or a chaplain you were never simultaneously a seminarian and a what you are nowian. However you didn't become a crossing guard or a truck driver either. So it seems a tad strange to say one is better than the other or one is a dead end job and the other gets to judge the 12 tribes of Israel. But I guess that's all pretty important stuff. However, I'd ask another question that's been rolling around in my head. Was St. Paul's work (not his works themselves) but his life as described in Acts, discerned through his letters and filled in with sacred tradition, we're all those thing the fullfillment of a prophecy or were the more or less arbitrary and St. Paul was just used as a vessel to unify the Churches and codify early Christian doctrine by his writings and witness.


While we know little about Matthias' actions after this event (and Scripture says little about his life beforehand), it isn't simply that men chose Matthias and the Spirit chose Paul. There is at least one very important consideration that should lead us away from that conclusion.

If we conclude that men chose Matthias, then we must either ignore the fact that the 120 prayed before and during the selection process or conclude that God misled them.

The 120 were praying constantly in the days between Jesus' ascension and the appointment of Mattias.

Acts 1:14 All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Acts 1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty people) and said,

Peter then recounts the ministry of Judas and how he fell away. Peter concludes his speech by applying the Psalms to the current event:

Acts 1:20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his house become deserted, and let there be no one to live in it,’ and ‘Let another take his position of responsibility.’

Peter has been in prayer. The 120 have been in prayer with him. The rest of the Eleven are there and have been praying. While one man might conclude on his own that they need to fill out the Twelve, it seems less likely that 119 others (who have likewise been in prayer) would go along with it unless the Lord led them that way. We see nothing of the other Twelve arguing against Peter (even though James and John, the other of the Top Three were there that day). Surely, if this were not God's will, then one of the Eleven would have spoken up. Luke, who later records that there is great dissension around Paul's selection and throughout his ministry, would surely have recorded if Peter had been in the wrong. Indeed, Luke records how Peter needed to be told one thing three times by God himself!

After the nominations, the prayer continues and the 120 put their faith in the God guiding the lot (Proverbs 16:33):

Acts 1:24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know the hearts of all. Show us which one of these two you have chosen..."

However, after James is martyred in Acts 12:2, there is no discussion of replacing him. I conclude that on this day, Peter had heard from God that they needed a twelfth man and that God guided the selection of Matthias. I find it significant that even though the Twelve could have simply appointed another, they took the matter to the 120 for all to pray over.

While little is known of Matthias, we do know that Matthias was with them from the beginning (Acts 1:22), according to Eusebius, he was one of the seventy sent out by Christ (Church History 1.12.3). We also know that Jesus himself chose the original Twelve. In Jesus' eyes, the Twelve Apostles were to rule over Israel in the days of God's triumph (Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30). This band of twelve represented the remnant prophesied many times in the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:16-18; 10:20-22; 11:11-16; 28:5; 37:4, 31-32; 49:6; Jeremiah 23:3-8; 31:7-23, 27-34; Micah 2:12-13; 4:7).

This appointment is presented just before the day of Pentecost. When the time came to preach first to those in Jerusalem, to show that they were the remnant, the number twelve needed to be complete. As LoveTheFaith points out, Acts 2:14 says that Peter stood up with the eleven, meaning that Matthias witnessed on that day as one of the Twelve.

The need to appoint another and Matthias' elevation came from God for a reason. Even though we are told nothing else of his ministry in the New Testament after Pentecost,1 we cannot conclude from that fact that he was an apostle appointed only by men. In fact, with the amount of prayer before, during, and after the selection, they must have heard from God.

1The New Testament likewise says nothing of the ministry of several of the Apostles chosen by Jesus himself (for example, Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot).

  • 1
    Good answer, you may also like to include Prov 16:33 as additional support for it. Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 15:04
  • 2
    @bruisedreed, that verse could lead to another question: "Are lots to be used today?"
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 15:50

Acts 1 21-26 (NIV)

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Here, scripture tells us clearly that Matthias was "chosen to take over this apostolic ministry." I think it is clear here that he became one of the twelve original Apostles. Second guessing scripture that directly states fact based on reasonable supposition, however compelling, is not in my mind a very good idea.

Also, consider the following:

Acts 5:12-16 (NIV)

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

Clearly, this statement (when taken in the context of the broader text leading up to it) encompasses all the apostles the way it is stated here - that would include, though not called out by name, all 12 - including Matthias.

Also, though not one of the original twelve, Paul is clearly an Apostle. Just because he writes it so himself does not mean it lacks credibility - it is, after all, scripture.

If you are to withhold belief that Paul was speaking truth in that he is an Apostle, you call into question all his writings that are in the Bible, leading yourself onto that slippery slope of using your own discernment to attempt to codify what you actually believe is truth and what is not in the Bible.

Scripture, reason, tradition and the Holy Spirit are all needed for us understand the truth. However, when we start picking apart the Bible piecemeal, that may be a warning sign we are not on the right track. Are we to disbelieve that Paul's writings were a result of direct teaching of Christ who spoke to him?

Galations 1:11-12 (NIV)

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Are we to disbelieve this foundational statement also, just because Paul spoke it himself? Where does our disbelief in Paul begin and end if we start down that path? I know I see truth in Paul's writings, some of the most important truths in the Bible.


According to your correct assessment of the term Apostle I can not see that Matthias could possibly be an Apostle. He was never sent by Christ as an Apostle. To fill in as a top disciple he was a fit, but not as an Apostle to replace Judas.

On the other hand we have irrefutable evidence in scripture that Paul was called to be an Apostle of Christ.

  • Romans 1:1 "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God"
  • 1 Cor 1:1 "Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God"
  • 2 Cor 1:1 "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God"
  • Gal 1:1 "Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)"
  • Eph 1:1 "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God"

Need I go on? :-) I think that the greeting to the Galatians is especially relevant here. There Paul may be addressing this issue more directly. Man cannot make an apostle. You can't give God two choices and then just cast the lot to see which one. An Apostle of Christ is one who Christ Himself calls.

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    To claim that Paul is an apostle based completely on his own words. Which were quite prolific (which is why we have so much of them today) is very circumstantial evidence. I am not arguing that he was not inspired and not an apostle, but to unequivocally say that he is and Matthais is not, is very presumptuous. As @MasonWheeler said we simply don't know.
    – Ryan
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 21:58
  • 1
    Matthias was most likely previously sent as one of the 70/72, further to the legitimacy of the process of his choosing is Proverbs 16:33 - "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." Lots were used in scripture in other highly significant moments - to say what God can and can't use in this way seems unwarranted. Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 15:10

According to Acts

After prayer, the remaining eleven apostles cast lots and settle on Matthias to replace Judas. Within the narrative of Acts, the legitimacy of this action is never called into question.

The mere fact that the term 'apostle' is later used for Paul is not meant to challenge Matthias' fulfillment of the role, because the very first time Paul is identified by that term (Acts 14.14), so is another individual:

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it . . .

Within Acts, there are apostles (such as Paul and Barnabas), and then there are the twelve apostles (including Matthias).

According to Paul

Paul uses the term 'apostle' for himself and for others quite frequently in his letters, but he rarely identifies anyone else by name. But there are three passages that help shed light on how Paul perceived himself to be an 'apostle' in relation to other 'apostles'.

Galatians 1.18-19

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother.

None of the gospels identify Jesus' brother James as one of 'the twelve', but Paul here calls him an 'apostle' on equal standing with Peter (Cephas) and the others. It should be inferred that Paul was using the word 'apostle' with a broader range of meaning than 'one of the twelve apostles'.

1 Corinthians 15.5-8

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Jesus appeared to 'the twelve', and only later did Jesus appear to Paul. By his own words, Paul did not consider himself to be a member of 'the twelve'; they were a group whose number was complete even before his calling.

It may again be inferred from Paul's wording that his definition of the word 'apostle' could include people outside of 'the twelve'. In the passage above, it is implied that 'the twelve' are a subset of 'all the apostles'.

Romans 16.7

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

I won't bother with the details of the debate surrounding how to best translate this verse. In the course of this answer, I take it for granted that Paul is identifying Andronicus and Junia as apostles. (As written by John Chrysostom: 'How great is this woman's devotion that she should be counted worthy of the title of "apostle"!')

Conceivably, Andronicus and Junia could be counted in that larger grouping of 'all the apostles' mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, above.


Both Acts and Paul use the word 'apostle' with a degree of fluidity. Depending on the context, it could be used specifically for the twelve apostles, or it could refer other people who met the same qualifications and carried out the same functions.

Matthias was chosen to replace Judas as a member of the core twelve 'apostles'.

Meanwhile, Paul, Barnabas, Jesus' brother James, Andronicus, and Junia were some of an unknown number of other 'apostles'.


The eleven cast lots and one of two was chosen.Peter initiated this action.

Jesus initiated the action of choosing Paul and what a spectacular conversion story! Everything about this is wonderful. He was a sinner against the church. He had to humble himself and submit to Jesus and the other disciples had to submit to Jesus and trust Him on this.He was the instrument God chose to write a great portion of the Bible. I think it is clear that he wasn't to fill in Judas' empty place but rather he was grafted in from outside.

Don't we often convince ourselves that God is leading us in a certain direction in our lives and then suddenly things take a strange and wonderful turn,resulting in something you know was God's will all along? (Although we were not privy to the way things would turn out?). I see Paul's conversion like that. If he wasn't meant to be the replacement for Judas, then Jesus choosing him out of the blue for such a great calling seems so random. But Jesus is always rational and methodical in achieving his goals.


Paul replaced James making 12 apostles these are still the apostles that laid the foundation " Christ" upon which the church is built. They will always be the only Apostles chosen by the Lord and not by men.

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    – user3961
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 18:59
  • 2
    As far as Paul replacing James, I believe you need a source for that.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 18:59
  • That's very interesting, but it definitely needs a source. Is it your own reasoning, or are there commentaries that make the same point? Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 19:45

THe answer to the question.. who was the twelve apostle is simply Matthias.

There are quite a lot of apostles who were not mentioned of how they operated or what they did. The reason for this is quite obvious. If they were to keep to the gospel, then the left hand shouldn't know what the right hand was doing. Their goal wouldn't be to glorify themselves, but to spread the gospel. The book containing the story of Christ have no emphasis on the apostles but on Christ. Even Paul's books have no emphasis on what he was doing, but more of the things needed to be known. As for the book of acts, which was designed to tell the story of the acts of the apostles, mere intend was again so that people could understand in broad the work of an apostle, not that a lot of people understood it, but still the book was written.

There are 12 apostles for a reason. But it is not the reason most people think. Paul was not the only apostle, other than the 12. And when questioned about his apostleship he refered to it as though that of Peter and tried to drew a comparison. Not a comparison to put himself in the same level, but to the understanding of what is gift was. You see there are 12 differrent types of apostles. And in essension, if one didn't understand the function of or how to identify an apostle, it would be extremely hard to identify the office into which an apostle was appointed. Each apostle is send with a word. This word gives him power in times of need, when he struggles. No man can appoint an apostle, though there are those foolish enough to claim to be it. If God appointed one to be an apostle, you would be that from birth, just like if God appointed you, or Samaul, Moses, Jeremiah as a Prophet you would be that from birth. Or more Biblical correct:

Jer 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

It is not something you choose, earn or achieve. It is within the very fabric of your soul. You cannot one day wake up and decide, I am going to be an apostle. You can however decide that you are going to be with Christ or not. Whether you are going to perform the duties of to which is expected of an apostle or not. Let me use a prophet as an example. The purpose and function of any prophet is to motivate, warn and edify. This they do with various methods, but ultimately listen to God. When the prophet see somebody is going to be in a car crash, he can warn that person, or he can not do his duty. What he has seen, he has seen. But he can decide not to fulfill his job. He can sense a spiritual attack on the body of Christ. He can do nothing, but he can also inform the specific target of the attack. Ultimately there are various different types of prophets. This is as clear as day when one perceive the various prophets in the Bible. Moses did not function even remotely the same as David, even though there was similarities which would identify both as being prophets and not something else. But they were both in the role of leading Isreal, yet they did it totally different based on the gift they received. The same it is was with the apostles. Now let's look at the scripture: Act 1:22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Act 1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Act 1:24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, Act 1:25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. Act 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Two were appointed. These two had to meet two criteria... first they had to be an apostle and secondly they had to have been with them since the beginning of the Baptism of John until the end. The reason why there were only two out of two hundred, was because there was only two apostles that was with them from the beginning. For there were many others but they were not apostles and couldn't fulfill the function of the office of Judas. However only one of them were the same type as Judas were. Again born, not chosen by man, but chosen by God. And God pointed out that Matthias had the same gift and placing and therefore he joined the twelve. And only once the twelve was completed and in union again could the next step take place. The Holy Spirit filled them and they could minister as their office held.

Paul was not the only other apostle, but he was well known for the reason that he was literate and wrote to the churches. He was however of the same type as Peter and understood this. He never considered himself as of high rank or value, but emphasised that he must be seen as the least of the apostles because of the persecution that he have done against the Christians.

I can think of a couple of the other apostles of the twelve that was also never mentioned or wrote anything. The reason is simple. It was not their purpose. It could even be that they were illiterate and couldn't write. The reason for them not being more evident is not for us to know. But understanding the gospel, these people would have tried to fulfill their obligation without trying to make a name for themselves to earn more in the Kingdom of God.

  • 6
    Twelve types of apostles? Can you identifify which Christian tradition you are speaking for here? Can you give us any sources to show where this view is coming from?
    – Caleb
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 12:16

May I suggest that we look forward to the New Jerusalem (Rev 21 v 14); here we read that the twelve foundations have the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. This is recorded in the same passage as the twelve tribes of Israel being named on the twelve gates and has eternal significance! I would humbly suggest that it is difficult to seriously consider that the Apostle Paul is excluded from this list. I find it incredulous to think of Matthias being named here!! Add to this the weight of Paul's unique conversion experience, his leadership and influence on the early church, his NT writings and finally, his martyrdom. I suggest that Paul was and is the twelfth Apostle, appointed by the risen Lord Jesus not men.


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