For other uses, see Apostle (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Apostille (international legal document or religious commentary).
Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn

An apostle (Greek: ἀπόστολος, translit. apóstolos, lit. 'one who is sent away')[1] is a messenger and ambassador. The purpose of such "sending away" is to convey messages, and thus "messenger" is a common alternative translation.[1] The term may be used metaphorically in various contexts, but is mostly found used specifically for early associates of the founder of a religion, who were important in spreading his teachings. The word in this sense derives from New Testament Greek and was used for the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus, as well as a wider group of Early Christian figures including Paul. Some other religions use the term for comparable figures in their history. The adjective "apostolic" is claimed as a continuing characteristic by many Christian churches, and so used far more widely, as in the Apostolic See as the official name for the Roman Catholic Papacy.


Gallery of the Apostles, Temmenhausen Nikolauskirche

The term "apostle" is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstolos), meaning "one who is sent away", from στέλλω ("stello", "send") + από (apo, "away from").[1] The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto ("send") and ex ("from").

The word "apostle" has two meanings, the broader meaning of a messenger and the narrow meaning of an early Christian apostle directly linked to Jesus. The more general meaning of the word is translated into Latin as 'missio', and from this word we get 'missionary.'

According to Walter Bauer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT "…Judaism had an office known as apostle (שליח)". The Friberg Greek Lexicon gives a broad definition as one who is sent on a mission, a commissioned representative of a congregation, a messenger for God, a person who has the special task of founding and establishing churches. The UBS Greek Dictionary also describes an apostle broadly as a messenger. The Louw-Nida Lexicon gives a very narrow definition of a special messenger, generally restricted to the immediate followers of Jesus, or extended to some others like Paul or other early Christians active in proclaiming the gospel.


Main article: Apostle (Christian)

Before their sending away, the Twelve had been mere disciples, from Latin discipulus, one who learns, from disco, to learn.[2] Jesus is stated in the Bible to have had twelve apostles who by the Great Commission spread the message of the Gospel to all nations after his resurrection. There is also an orthodox tradition derived from the Gospel of Luke of Seventy Apostles.

Latter Day Saint movement

In the Latter Day Saint movement, an apostle is a "special witness of the name of Jesus Christ who is sent to teach the principles of salvation to others."[3] In many Latter Day Saint churches, an apostle is a priesthood office of high authority within the church hierarchy. Today the twelve apostles of the LDS church include Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, M. Russell Ballard, Robert D. Hales, Jeffrey R. Holland, David A. Bednar, Quentin L. Cook, D. Todd Christofferson, Neil L. Anderson, Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson, Dale G. Renlund. [4] There are also members of the quorum of the seventy simply referred to as “seventies”. They typically work under the direction of the twelve apostles and are given similar responsibilities that build up the church. [5]

In many churches, apostles may be members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church. In most Latter Day Saint churches, modern-day apostles are considered to have the same status and authority as the Biblical apostles.

In the Latter Day Saint tradition, apostles and prophets are believed to be the foundation of the church, with Jesus Christ himself the chief cornerstone.[6] The Articles of Faith, written by Joseph Smith, mentions apostles: "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."[7]


See also: Sahabah

In Islam, an apostle or messenger (Arabic: رسول, translit. rasūl) is a prophet sent by God. According to the Qur'an, God has sent many prophets to mankind. The five universally acknowledged messengers in Islam are Ibrahim, Mūsa, Dāwūd, Īsā and Muhammad,[8] as each is believed to have been sent with a scripture.[9] Muslim tradition also maintains that Adam received scrolls as did some of the other patriarchs of the Generations of Adam.[10] The term apostle or messenger is also applied to prophets sent to preach to specific areas; the Qur'an mentions Yunus,[11] Elijah,[12] Ismail,[13] Shuaib[14] and other prophets as being messengers as well.

Sahabah refers to the companions, disciples, scribes and family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Later scholars accepted their testimony of the words and deeds of Muhammad, the occasions on which the Qur'an was revealed and various important matters of Islamic history and practice. The testimony of the companions, as it was passed down through chains of trusted narrators (isnads), was the basis of the developing Islamic tradition. From the traditions (hadith) of the life of Muhammad and his companions are drawn the Muslim way of life (sunnah), the code of conduct (sharia) it requires and the jurisprudence (fiqh) by which Muslim communities should be regulated.


Further information: Prophethood (Ahmadiyya)

Alongside the majority of Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims too consider apostles to be messengers or prophets. Ahmadi Muslims particularly emphasise the Quranic verse which exclaims that God sent a messenger to every nation of the world.[15] Thus Ahmadis recognize many religious figures as messengers or prophets, including Buddha, Zoroaster and Krishna in addition to the many prophets mentioned in the Qur'an.[16]

Bahá'í Faith

The Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh were nineteen eminent early followers of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. The apostles were designated as such by Shoghi Effendi, the head of the religion in the first half of the 20th century, and the list was included in The Bahá'í World, Vol. III (pp. 80–81).

These individuals played a vital role in the development of Bahá'u'lláh's Faith, consolidating its adherents and bringing its teachings around the world. To Bahá'ís, they filled a similar role as the sons of Jacob, the apostles of Jesus, Muhammad's companions, or the Báb's Letters of the Living.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, 1944
  2. Cassell's Latin Dictionary, Revised by Marchant & Charles
  3. McConkie, Bruce R. (1979). Mormon Doctrine. Deseret Book. p. 46. ISBN 0-88494-062-4.
  4. "quorum of the twelve apostles". 18 March 2014.
  5. "quorums of the seventy". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  6. Ephesians 2:20
  7. The Articles of Faith 1:6
  8. Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Messenger
  9. Muslims believe Ibrahim received the Scrolls of Abraham, Musa received the Torah, David in Islam received the Psalms, Jesus the Gospel in Islam and Muhammad received the Qur'an
  10. A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B.M. Wheeler, Apostle
  11. Quran 37:139
  12. Quran 37:123
  13. Quran 19:54
  14. Quran 7:85
  15. Quran 10:47
  16. Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-674-04624-5. Retrieved March 31, 2014.

External links

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