Click for Larger Image
1. How many apostles were there according to inspired Scripture? This question concerns the number of original apostles and does not deny the selection of the thirteenth Apostle Matthias (Acts 1) and the Apostle Paul who came by special selection directly by Christ (2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 1:1. The chart above illustrates some of the difficulty with answering the question of how many original Apostles there were. Because the Holy Spirit used their different names (as Peter was called Cephas and Simon), a simple tally of the names could lead someone to think there were more than 12 original Apostles.

Jesus said that He selected _____ disciples (Jn. 6:70). Matthew records that there were ________ (Mt. 10:1). Mark records that there were _______ (Mk. 3:16). And Luke says that Jesus chose __________ and named them Apostles (Lk. 6:13). John records that there were ________ disciples (Jn. 20:24). Luke also records in the book of Acts that there were _________ (Acts 1:26). An examination of the names of the Apostles (before Matthias and Paul became Apostles) turns up a number greater than ________. How is this explained when Jesus and the writer’s of the Gospels say there were _________? Regardless of someone’s motive for asking this question, it is a good question to ask and worthy of examination.

I contend that there were only 12 Apostles prior to selection of Matthias in Acts 1, just as Jesus and the Gospels say, and the colored cells with names should be matched up.

2. Matthew and Mark agree in their lists.

3. The list in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts agree, but there is one difference here from the list in Matthew and Mark. What is it? _____________

4. John never gives a full list of the apostles. But he says there were twelve. How many does John mention (see chart and look at verses)? __________. Does the language indicate that each of these were considered by John to be among the 12 Apostles? ________. Because John names only nine Apostles, does it mean: 1] that he forgot the other three or , 2] the full listing was not important to the Holy Spirit?

5. John mentions an Apostle not mentioned in any other Gospel. Who is it? How do we explain Nathanael? Either: 1] the writers were wrong on the number of Apostles, or 2]John accidentally applied a wrong name, or 3] Nathanael was an alternate name for one of the twelve listed in the other three Gospels. Which one? _______

6. What about Luke and Mark’s record of someone named “Levi” being called to follow Jesus. Is that: 1] another to be counted among the total list or, 2] is it one of the twelve? Which? _______ Notice that Luke 5 and Mark 2 speaks of the call of Levi, and Luke 6, his next chapter, speaks NOT of Levi, but of Matthew – and he makes the name change without explanation! He didn’t need to.

7. Surnames. What is a Surname? “NOUN: A name shared in common to identify the members of a family, as distinguished from each member’s given name. Also called family name, last name . A nickname or epithet added to a person’s name.”

Did the disciples go by or have different names? Acts 12:12 _________ ; Luke 22:3 _________ was surnamed or called Iscariot; Acts 1:23 _________ was called Justus; Acts 15:22 Barnabbas was also ________, surnamed ________. Mt. 10:3 __________ was called Thaddeus. Mark 3:17, Jesus called James and John, who were sons of Zebedee, what? _________.
What does the name “Bartholomew” mean? _____ of Tolmai. Now Bartholomew certainly had a given name, but it is not indicated in the New Testament.

8. Which Apostle in the Gospel of John could be Nathanael? Which: 1] Nathanael was a thirteenth or, 2] Nathanael was the name of an Apostle listed in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. ________

9. The discrepancy in number and names of the Apostles is not necessarily an indication of error. Is it plausible that the extra Apostle in Luke and the two extra in John are not different men, but the same ones listed in Matthew and Mark? If you say it is not plausible that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same disciple, can you explain why?

10. What about Thaddeus? He was also known as __________ in Matthew. If Luke’s list is accurate, only one name is at variance from Matthew and Mark: which one? ___________ Was Luke mistaken, erroneously adding Judas and omitting Lebbeus, also called Thaddeus? What do you think?

It is plausible that Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus in Matthew and Mark, is the one called Judas, the son of James, by Luke and John? If the writers are inspired, and we believe they are, then there doesn’t need to be an explanation for calling the man by different names.

The skeptics, disbelievers, are intent on debunking the Bible. They often say that one writer, say Luke, was used by the other writers to get the facts. But when the facts don’t exactly line up, then they explain that the differences occurred exactly because there was not one source: the Spirit who inspired them. If the Bible is not inspired and men wrote the Gospels according to their own recollections, then you might expect such errors. But when Jesus says there are twelve and the writers are said to be guided by the Holy Spirit, then the explanation has to be that there is no discrepancy at all. Luke said he examined everything carefully in giving his detailed story of the life of Christ (Acts 1:1ff). The skeptics and critics, who do not believe in God or in the inspiration of the Bible, don’t have much of a case since there is a plausible explanation for the differences in the lists.

var shared_object = SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title: document.title,
url: document.location.href

shared_object.attachChicklet(“email”, document.getElementById(“ck_email”));
shared_object.attachChicklet(“facebook”, document.getElementById(“ck_facebook”));
shared_object.attachChicklet(“twitter”, document.getElementById(“ck_twitter”));

Categories: Uncategorized

7 replies

  1. “The Twelve” that Jesus chose, with Simon Peter as their leader, were called by different names. However, these are a subset of the Apostles. Matthias (Acts 1:21-26) makes him the 13th. A second group included Paul and Barnabas as Apostles as well (Acts 14;14). Paul says, “Am I not free? Am I not an Apostle? have I not seen our Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1) and elsewhere, “Paul an Apostle – not from men not through man, but through jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” (Galatians 1:1)


  2. Greetings,Yes, you are right that Paul became the 13th active Apostle in the Church and his conversion and call to be an Apostle is recorded in the book of Acts. And the Corinthian letters make the case very well that he was equal to the other Apostles. But I would disagree that Barnabas was one who held this office. The word for Apostle, <>apostoloi<> is used in the generic sense of those commissioned by God to be sent for special purposes. Words like “Elder”, “Deacon”, and “Apostle” were used in two senses. First was the specific office of each that comes with specific qualifications (Elders, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1; Deacons, 1 Timothy 3:8ff; Apostles, Acts 1:21,22 with Paul as the only exception who saw and heard Jesus before his conversion). Some men were Apostles, Elders, Deacons, with a big “A”, if you will. But these same words are used in a more general sense and apply to a larger group of individuals so that there are elderly men and women in the faith (Titus 2:2,3); so that all Christians are to be deacons (meaning “servants”); and so that people like Barnabas, Titus, Timothy and others were “sent” by the Lord and minister in their own right: but to put them in a league with Paul and the twelve is speculative. Thank you for your comment.


  3. Thanks. I agree and understand that Apostle means “emissary” or “one who is sent.” This is in two basic senses 1) all disciples of Christ are “sent” and 2) the specific office of Apostle. It is the second sense of “office” I want to write about. Barnabas, along with Paul, is directly called an Apostle in Acts 14:14. So, it seems pretty reasonable that he was an Apostle. The specific conditions to be part of the Twelve (after Judas Iscariot’s death) that Peter lays out are found in Acts 1:20-24. Matthias fulfilled these requirements and so joined the eleven be the Twelve again. (“His office let another take” (Acts 1:20))Paul and Barnabas did not meet the conditions of Acts 14:14. However, as Acts 13:2 indicates they both received a revelation from the Holy Spirit to be commissioned as Apostles. Perhaps others were commissioned as Apostles, but not part of the Twelve, as well? I think that it is likely (an opinion) although their names are not recorded in Sacred Scripture. Putting Acts 13:2 and Acts 14;14 together, it’s hard to argue that Barnabas was not “in the league” with Paul. Although, I do acknowledge that both were NOT in the same league as the Twelve. The office of the Twelve could not continue indefinitely because since only a certain number of people were actually with Jesus and witnessed his ministry.


  4. Greetings,First of all, you say that Paul was NOT in the same league, borrowing my words, with the twelve. But that’s not what He said. Paul said he was not inferior to “most iminent apostles”, and I conclude that he WAS in a league with the twelve. In the Corinthian letters he defended his apostleship, saying, “For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles….I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. ” (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11). With the use of the word “inferior”, Paul is saying that he does NOT fall short or fall behind those considered by the Corinthians as most iminent. He also made the point to the Corinthians that he demonstrated the signs of a true Apostle. “<>The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.<>” – 2 Cor. 12:12It is my belief that Paul’s office was the same, though he was called at a different time, as that of the twelve. But the other question I have concerning your comments is whether Barnabas was on a par with Paul. There is no doubt, as you point out, that Acts 14 calls Barnabas and Paul APOSTOLOI. But it is not known in what sense the word is being used there. We know that Paul heard and saw the Lord and was commissioned by the Lord to witness to what he had seen and heard (see Paul’s conversion accounts in Acts 9, 22, 26). But of Barnabas, we know of no comparable call.


  5. Sure, Paul does indeed go to lengths to “demonstrate” the he is an also an Apostle in the same category as the other Apostles. Since his commissioning by Christ did not fulfill the requirements of Peter in Acts 1:20-24, he needed to stress his Apostleship as a reality even more. He was arguing his case for Apostleship. He certainly did not claim to be of The Twelve.I don’t want to mis-represent your thought, but I sense you don’t see “The Twelve” as a distinct subset of the Apostles. “The Twelve” as a distinct subset is more in line with what is presented in the New Testament, especially Acts 1:20-24. This is the point that I’m arguing as you can tell. It can be confusing (and maybe a new insight as well). Regardless, do you see Peter as the head of The Twelve and of the Apostles? I noticed no objection to my comment “with Simon Peter as their leader” earlier. He is always listed first and speaks on behalf of the others, etc… These distinctions (Twelve/Apostle/Head of the Apostles) stand out and are of importance. They stand out even more when one if from a hierarchical form of Christianity. It’s not a case of “reading back” current structures into an older non-structured environment, but rather seeing a similar pattern in contunity.As far as “Barnabas as Apostle” goes, Acts 13:2 and Acts 14:14 are most convincing. BTW. The Catholic Church recognizes liturgically the feast of Barnabas The Apostle on June 11th (in the current Latin calendar). I know of no early Christian writers who challenged the Apostleship of either Paul or Barnabas. The NT is pretty clear from what I read.


  6. I agree that Paul was not one fo the twelve, a distinct group who were with Jesus from the beginning to end of His ministry. Was Peter the leader? There is some merit for saying so, but a case could be made that John being the closest friend to Christ, being just as involved in establishing the church as recorded in Acts, and being the author of more inspired works than Peter, that John was the Leader. So I wouldn’t say that Peter was the definitive leader of the twelve, no. But even if he was, it wouldn’t make him what you call the first Pope. In the churches of Christ we have no special feasts as you do in the Catholic Church. I suppose if we had a feasts for Timothy or Titus, then we would probably be arguing for their Apostleship too. But since we have no special days or feasts indicated in the New Testament, we feel no pressure to bend that direction. By the way, the book of Acts shows that Barnabas was a true hero in the faith – whether he was an Apostle or an apostle.I have a feeling that I have not said the last word. 🙂Have a good day.– Discipler


  7. Discipler,Your topic and posts are very much in-line liturgically with the Latin-rite of the Catholic Church. Today is the feast of “The Conversion of Paul, Apostle” and tomorrow is the memorial (a little less than a feast day) of “Timothy and Titus, bishops”. Very interesting! With God there are no coindicences? Any way, thanks for the topic. It’s was a good preparation for these observances.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: