Apostles in Christianity

In Christian theology and ecclesiology, apostles, particularly the Twelve Apostles (also known as the Twelve Disciples or simply the Twelve), were the primary disciples of Jesus according to the New Testament. During the life and ministry of Jesus in the 1st century AD, the apostles were his closest followers and became the primary teachers of the gospel message of Jesus.[1] There is also an Eastern Christian tradition derived from the Gospel of Luke of there having been as many as seventy apostles during the time of Jesus' ministry.

The Last Supper, a late 1490s mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci, is a depiction of the last supper of Jesus and his Twelve Apostles on the eve of his crucifixion. Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
Jesus and his Twelve Apostles, fresco with the Chi-Rho symbol , Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome

The commissioning of the Twelve Apostles during the ministry of Jesus is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. After his resurrection, Jesus sent eleven of them (minus Judas Iscariot, who by then had died) by the Great Commission to spread his teachings to all nations. This event has been called the Dispersion of the Apostles.

In the Pauline epistles, Paul, although not one of the original twelve, described himself as an apostle,[2] saying he was called by the resurrected Jesus himself during his Road to Damascus event. He later describes himself as "the apostle of the Gentiles".[3] In the Book of Acts he and Barnabas were allotted the roles of apostle in the church.[4]

In modern usage, missionaries under Pentecostal movements often refer to themselves as apostles, a practice which stems from the Latin equivalent of apostle, i.e. missio, the source of the English word missionary. For example, Saint Patrick (AD 373–463) was the "Apostle of Ireland", Saint Boniface (680–755) was the "Apostle to the Germans",[5] Saint José de Anchieta (1534–1597) was the "Apostle of Brazil" and Saint Peter of Betancur (1626–1667) was the "Apostle of Guatemala". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has always had, among its leadership, twelve individuals identified as apostles. Their primary role is to teach and testify of Jesus throughout the world.[6]

The period of early Christianity during the lifetimes of the apostles is called the Apostolic Age.[5] During the 1st century AD, the apostles established churches throughout the territories of the Roman Empire and, according to tradition, through the Middle East, Africa, and India. Of the tombs of the apostles, all but two are claimed by premises of the Catholic Church, half of them located in the Diocese of Rome.[citation needed]