Why do the successors of the Apostles do not carry the titles and dignity as apostles?

It seems that the apostles do not have the successors known in title and/or dignity as an apostle? Why is this?

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    Sorry, I can't work out what you're asking. Can you please edit this to clarify?
    – curiousdannii
    May 2, 2022 at 7:24

1 Answer 1


It is true that the Apostle’s successors were either named by the Apostles or were chosen by the Christian communities were bishops and not apostles.

The personal prerogatives and titles were not passed down to their successors, whom we recognize as bishops.

The following is a Catholic viewpoint that show that some of the prerogatives of the Apostles were not handed down to their successors as bishops.

The authority of the Apostles proceeds from the office imposed upon them by Our Lord and is based on the very explicit sayings of Christ Himself. He will be with them all days to the end of ages (Matthew 28:20), give a sanction to their preaching (Mark 16:16), send them the "promise of the Father", "virtue from above" (Luke 24:49). The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of the New Testament show us the exercise of this authority. The Apostle makes laws (Acts 15:29; 1 Corinthians 7:12 sq.), teaches (Acts 2:37 and following), claims for his teaching that it should be received as the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13), punishes (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5), administers the sacred rites (Acts 6:1 sq.; 16:33; 20:11), provides successors (2 Timothy 1:6; Acts 14:22). In the modern theological terms the Apostle, besides the power of order, has a general power of jurisdiction and magisterium (teaching). The former embraces the power of making laws judging on religious matters, and enforcing obligations by means of suitable penalties. The latter includes the power of setting forth with authority Christ's doctrine. It is necessary to add here that an Apostle could receive new revealed truths in order to propose them to the Church. This, however, is something wholly personal to the Apostles.

  • Another personal prerogative is the universality of their jurisdiction. The words of the Gospel on Apostolic office are very general; for the most part, the Apostles preached and travelled as if they were not bound by territorial limits, as we read in the Acts and the Epistles. This did not hinder the Apostles from taking practical measures to properly organize the preaching of the Gospel in the various countries they visited.

  • Among these prerogatives is reckoned personal infallibility, of course in matters of faith and morals, and only when they taught and imposed some doctrine as obligatory. In other matters they could err, as Peter, in the question of practical intercourse with the converted heathens; they might also accept certain current opinions, as Paul seems to have done with regard to the time of the Parousia, or Second Coming of the Lord. It is not easy to find a stringent scripturistic demonstration for this prerogative, but reasonable arguments suggest it, e.g. the impossibility for all his hearers to verify and try the doctrine preached to them by an Apostle.

Authority and prerogatives of the apostles

It is thus normal that the bishops as the successors of the Apostles are not themselves apostles and thus did not inherit the title of apostle.

Notwithstanding, the Catholic Church does employ the word ”apostle” to other individuals, but it makes a difference in the use of the term apostle. The term apostle has various meanings.

The name

The word "Apostle", from the Greek apostello "to send forth", "to dispatch", has etymologically a very general sense. Apostolos (Apostle) means one who is sent forth, dispatched--in other words, who is entrusted with a mission, rather, a foreign mission. It has, however, a stronger sense than the word messenger, and means as much as a delegate. In the classical writers the word is not frequent. In the Greek version of the Old Testament it occurs once, in 1 Kings 14:6 (cf. 1 Kings 12:24). In the New Testament, on the contrary, it occurs, according to Bruder's Concordance, about eighty times, and denotes often not all the disciples of the Lord, but some of them specially called. It is obvious that our Lord, who spoke an Aramaic dialect, gave to some of his disciples an Aramaic title, the Greek equivalent of which was "Apostle". It seems to us that there is no reasonable doubt about the Aramaic word being seliah, by which also the later Jews, and probably already the Jews before Christ, denoted "those who were despatched from the mother city by the rulers of the race on any foreign mission, especially such as were charged with collecting the tribute paid to the temple service" (Lightfoot, "Galatians", London, 1896, p. 93). The word apostle would be an exact rendering of the root of the word seliah,= apostello.

Various meanings

  • It is at once evident that in a Christian sense, everyone who had received a mission from God, or Christ, to man could be called "Apostle". In fact, however, it was reserved to those of the disciples who received this title from Christ. At the same time, like other honourable titles, it was occasionally applied to those who in some way realized the fundamental idea of the name. The word also has various meanings.

  • The name Apostle denotes principally one of the twelve disciples who, on a solemn occasion, were called by Christ to a special mission. In the Gospels, however, those disciples are often designated by the expressions of mathetai (the disciples) or dodeka (the Twelve) and, after the treason and death of Judas, even of hendeka (the Eleven). In the Synoptics the name Apostle occurs but seldom with this meaning; only once in Matthew and Mark. But in other books of the New Testament, chiefly in the Epistles of St. Paul and in the Acts, this use of the word is current. Saul of Tarsus, being miraculously converted, and called to preach the Gospel to the heathens, claimed with much insistency this title and its rights.

  • In the Epistle to the Hebrews (iii, 1) the name is applied even to Christ, in the original meaning of a delegate sent from God to preach revealed truth to the world.

  • The word Apostle has also in the New Testament a larger meaning, and denotes some inferior disciples who, under the direction of the Apostles, preached the Gospel, or contributed to its diffusion; thus Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14), probably Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), two unknown Christians who were delegated for the collection in Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:23). We know not why the honourable name of Apostle is not given to such illustrious missionaries as Timothy, Titus, and others who would equally merit it.

There are some passages in which the extension of the word Apostle is doubtful, as Luke 11:49; John 13:16; 2 Corinthians 13; 1 Thessalonians 2:7; Ephesians 3:5; Jude 17, and perhaps the well-known expression "Apostles and Prophets". Even in an ironical meaning the word occurs (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11) to denote pseudo-apostles. There is but little to add on the use of the word in the old Christian literature. The first and third meanings are the only ones which occur frequently, and even in the oldest literature the larger meaning is seldom found.

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