any of the early followers of Jesus who carried the Christian message into the world.
(sometimes initial capital letter) any of the original 12 disciples called by Jesus to preach the gospel: Simon Peter, the brothers James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot.
the first or the best-known Christian missionary in any region or country.
Eastern Church. one of the 70 disciples of Jesus.
the title of the highest ecclesiastical official in certain Protestant sects.
(among the Jews of the Christian epoch) a title borne by persons sent on foreign missions.
one of the 12 administrative officials of the Mormon Church.
a pioneer of any reform movement.
Nautical. a knighthead, especially one having its top projecting and used as a bitt or bollard.
(often capital) one of the 12 disciples chosen by Christ to preach his gospel
any prominent Christian missionary, esp one who first converts a nation or people
an ardent early supporter of a cause, reform movement, etc
(Mormon Church) a member of a council of twelve officials appointed to administer and preside over the Church

Old English apostol “messenger,” especially the 12 witnesses sent forth by Jesus to preach his Gospel, from Late Latin apostolus, from Greek apostolos “messenger, person sent forth,” from apostellein “send away, send forth,” from apo- “from” (see apo-) + stellein in its secondary sense of “to send,” from PIE *stel-yo-, suffixed form of root *stel- “to put, stand,” with derivatives referring to a standing object or place (see stall (n.1)). Cf. epistle.

The current form of the word, predominant since 16c., is influenced by Old French apostle (12c.), from the same Late Latin source. Figurative sense of “chief advocate of a new principle or system” is from 1810. Apostles, short for “The Acts and Epistles of the Apostles,” is attested from c.1400.

a person sent by another; a messenger; envoy. This word is once used as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ, the Sent of the Father (Heb. 3:1; John 20:21). It is, however, generally used as designating the body of disciples to whom he intrusted the organization of his church and the dissemination of his gospel, “the twelve,” as they are called (Matt. 10:1-5; Mark 3:14; 6:7; Luke 6:13; 9:1). We have four lists of the apostles, one by each of the synoptic evangelists (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14), and one in the Acts (1:13). No two of these lists, however, perfectly coincide. Our Lord gave them the “keys of the kingdom,” and by the gift of his Spirit fitted them to be the founders and governors of his church (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:7-15). To them, as representing his church, he gave the commission to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Matt. 28:18-20). After his ascension he communicated to them, according to his promise, supernatural gifts to qualify them for the discharge of their duties (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 2:16; 2:7, 10, 13; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Cor. 11:2). Judas Iscariot, one of “the twelve,” fell by transgression, and Matthias was substituted in his place (Acts 1:21). Saul of Tarsus was afterwards added to their number (Acts 9:3-20; 20:4; 26:15-18; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). Luke has given some account of Peter, John, and the two Jameses (Acts 12:2, 17; 15:13; 21:18), but beyond this we know nothing from authentic history of the rest of the original twelve. After the martyrdom of James the Greater (Acts 12:2), James the Less usually resided at Jerusalem, while Paul, “the apostle of the uncircumcision,” usually travelled as a missionary among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:8). It was characteristic of the apostles and necessary (1) that they should have seen the Lord, and been able to testify of him and of his resurrection from personal knowledge (John 15:27; Acts 1:21, 22; 1 Cor. 9:1; Acts 22:14, 15). (2.) They must have been immediately called to that office by Christ (Luke 6:13; Gal. 1:1). (3.) It was essential that they should be infallibly inspired, and thus secured against all error and mistake in their public teaching, whether by word or by writing (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Thess. 2:13). (4.) Another qualification was the power of working miracles (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 1 Cor. 12:8-11). The apostles therefore could have had no successors. They are the only authoritative teachers of the Christian doctrines. The office of an apostle ceased with its first holders. In 2 Cor. 8:23 and Phil. 2:25 the word “messenger” is the rendering of the same Greek word, elsewhere rendered “apostle.”


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    the dignity or office of an apostle. Roman Catholic Church. the dignity and office of the pope as head of the Apostolic See. the mission of bishops in their dioceses. an organization of the laity devoted to the mission of the Church. Historical Examples Mr. Archer has been followed, and perhaps outrun, in his apostolate […]

  • Apostolic

    of or characteristic of an . pertaining to or characteristic of the 12 . derived from the in regular succession. of or relating to the pope; papal. Contemporary Examples Even the U.K. maintains an apostolic mission that, until 2005, was always filled by British Catholics. Prosecute the Pope Geoffrey Robertson March 31, 2010 The apostolic […]

  • Apostolic age

    the earliest period of Christianity, lasting through the death of the last apostle.

  • Apostolic church

    the Christian church as founded by the apostles. (def 2).

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