The 12 Apostles

From the 12 disciples of Jesus to the 12 apostles, who were the 12 apostles? Were they Jesus Christ’s closest followers? Historical evidence and facts about the Apostles are scarce, and some of them contradict core Christian beliefs.

This introduction of the 12 apostles is an indication that Jesus built and started the early church on the foundation of the 12 disciples. For Jesus Christ to accompany His mission on earth, he made bold to call 12 people whom he termed as his disciples.

Although these apostles came from different geographical locations, the most exciting part is that they were all called unto works, which was

“The work of the Lord”

Together they worked and won most souls into the kingdom of God the Father. These apostles were not perfect, but they did try to live a life that was pleasing both in the eyes of men and the eyes of God, though they didn’t live their lives to the fullest because the apostles died in different ways.

This article gives an insight into the history of answering the question “Who Were the 12 Apostles?”, their origin, calling, and biography.

Martyrdom of the apostles
Martyrdom of the apostles

The Chosen Originators

Jesus Christ bestowed Himself and His holy Message on His Church. He passed it on to His disciples, who became His Church. Jesus Christ chose twelve Apostles to pass on His Gospel with authority, and He sent them to preach it and baptize converts all over the world:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19; Matthew 28:20).

The Apostles carried out their work with honesty and faithfulness. They devoted their lives to it; they instilled new confidence in the true God in humanity to cure its ills.

The converts were grouped into communities known as Churches by the Apostles. The Apostles passed down the treasure of the new Gospel to these Churches, their eyewitness account of the Word when they saw it taking shape, keeping it forever in the Church. This is the Gospel – the Tradition in its broadest sense – that we cherish today.

Taking the Truth from the Apostles, the Orthodox Church is an “Apostolic” Church; it has its roots in the apostolic ministry and succession, the apostolic faith and creed, and the apostolic Word and scriptures by which the Apostles and their immediate successors defended the Orthodox Faith and kept it undefiled against heresies and persecutions.

But who are these blessed Apostles who were chosen to hand down the new Gospel and establish the Church to which we belong today? Who empowered them to preach the Gospel and disregard all the threats that endangered and, in the end, took their lives? Who are these mighty personalities who were the instrumental figures behind the worldwide movement that changed men’s pace of life after that?

Often the voice of the past is the clearest and most vibrant guide for the minds and hearts of men today, lifting them out of the confusion of this life’s values. Sometimes the lives and deeds of men from the past are unforgettable and serve as light posts to illuminate the path to potential success.

They are unshakable rocks on which the waves of life’s disappointments lose their ferocity and vanish. The Apostles of Christ serve as both rocks and lightposts in our lives. To them, our ancestors in the Christian heritage and faith, this pamphlet is humbly dedicated, so that both the writer and the reader might imitate their devotion and work and appreciate their convictions in Christ, “in Whom they lived and moved and had their being” (Acts 17:28).

Origin and Definition of the Apostles

The only sources on the subject of the Twelve Apostles are the four Gospels and the first chapter of Acts, which describe Jesus’ relationship with His Apostles during His earthly ministry. While the Apostles are the ultimate writers of the Gospels, they do not appear prominently or are glorified in them. They are only mentioned in the Gospels because Jesus was busy with them, teaching and educating them to understand His origin and mission to correctly communicate His identity, His Gospel, and His deeds to others.

Whenever they appeared later in their ministry, they spoke with authority and determination on behalf of the Lord Who sent them to present His Gospel to the world. They never usurp or appropriate for themselves the new teachings. The Gospel indeed took some human aspects of their personalities. But these aspects were such that they showed their understanding and limitation of the words and deeds of their Lord, a reflection of the good news in their own simple and humble life. The Apostles are both the preachers and the examples of the New Creation.

The Greek word “apostle” means “messenger, representative, ambassador, or collector of tribute paid to the temple service.” The Twelve were clearly to be Christ’s envoys, according to the Gospels. The Apostles were sent by Jesus, just as His Father sent Jesus. Jesus Christ used contemporary words for “apostle” and gave it His content and interpretation, emphasizing the concept of being “given,” which means that an Apostle is a man who has a mission for the rest of his life.

In Luke 6:13 and Mark 3:14, Jesus Christ Himself bestowed the word “Apostle” on the Twelve, “whom he also called apostles.” The word “apostle” (“Apostolos” in Greek; a derivative of “apostille,” which means “to send”) denotes a special mission. An apostle is the representative of the person who sent him. As a result, the word apostle is more specific than the term messenger (in Greek, “Angelos”). The apostle does not simply convey a message; he works to bring it into effect among the recipients, ensuring that they understand it correctly and o incorporate its contents in their faith and life.

Jesus “Called” His Apostles

The First Approach

Some of the Twelve Apostles were followers of John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Christ. They were familiar with the Scriptures as well as their master’s standards. When John the Baptist saw Jesus as he crossed, he exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). Andrew, one of John’s followers, and another “heard him talking, and they followed Jesus,” according to the Bible (v. 37). They pursued him without his permission!

As a result, the Apostolic Church was born. They took it upon themselves to find out—to discover the facts for themselves. They persevered and “came and saw where he (Jesus) dwelt, and abode with him that day” (v. 39).

They had a long conversation with Jesus. What did they talk about? We have no idea. What we do know is that they left this refuge with a firm belief in Him. He was the One they were looking for.

Andrew felt compelled to share his conviction with others. He first went to his brother Simon and told him,

“We have found the Messiah,”

which is a reference to Christ, and

“he took him to Jesus” (v. 42).

St. Andrew’s deed serves as a model for any subsequent disciple and apostle. First, a sincere desire to discover the Truth; second, familiarity with revelation and adherence to it; third, recognition and conviction of the Truth; and finally, full repentance and declaration of the faith. These acts make the Church a growing and moving entity.

After Andrew, Peter, and John, “one of the two,” Jesus found Phillip in Galilee and summoned him to His crew; Phillip not only followed Him but told Nathanial, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and even the prophets wrote… come and see” (John 1:45; John 1:46). Nathanial saw Him and believed in Him:

“You are the Son of God!”

“You are the King of Israel,”

he declared words that millions will repeat for generations to come.

One day, five promising people became His devoted companions. Even in His torment and on the Cross, Christ was no longer alone.

Demand and Dedication of the Apostles

Following Jesus’ meeting with His first disciples in both Judea and Galilee, there was a pause. The focus of His ministry had to be determined. Following John the Baptist’s incarceration, Jesus declared in Galilee that the city of Capernaum would be the focal point of His expedient policy. The city’s inhabitants were Jewish, and its location was more appropriate for commanding Galilee.

While walking along the shore of the “sea of Galilee,” which is Jesus encountered the two brothers, Simon and Andrew, who were casting their nets; he now ordered them to obey Him and become men’s fishers. At the same time and place, he came across James and his brother John, anglers on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He invited them to come with Him.

All immediately obeyed (Mark 1:16; Mark 1:17; Mark 1:18; Mark 1:19; Mark 1:20). In Capernaum, Jesus addressed Matthew as Levi (Mark 2:16; Matthew 9:9). He was a tax collector, most likely for the city’s customs house. Matthew resigned from his job, said goodbye to his coworkers, and followed the Lord.

What a challenge for us today – for the merchants and the white-collar workers! They left work and home, pleasures, and habits; they discarded the dreams of their youth and on the ruins, built a new fortress of defense, and appealed firmly. They demonstrated that an immutable conviction in the living God could move mountains.

What was the intention of calling these disciples? They were to capture men instead of fish once they had passed through a period of training. He did not send them immediately on a special mission. The disciples were to take intensive training in divine attitudes, the new interpretation of the Scriptures, and obedience to the Lord.

They were invited to meet the new moral life standards and grow in courage to spread the Gospel and nourish its growth in humanity. The loyal Eleven have proven themselves worthy of the Mission. They have changed the orbit of the world in the name of Jesus.

The Choice and Installation of The Apostles

Jesus attracted many disciples. He knew them all, but He also knew that not all would be capable of being fishers of men. He had determined to make a proper selection of a definite number from the body of His disciples (Mark 3:13; Luke 6:13). It was one of the crucial moments for the destiny of His mission.

Even for human activities, the founders of an organization look carefully for co-workers of integrity and promote their ideals. The farsightedness of leadership is in selecting capable men to accomplish the mission, rather than attempting the work alone, regardless of the wonders one man may be capable of.

A good leader is not afraid of co-workers but is very careful in selecting them. Jesus Christ spent one night praying to His Father for the right choice (Luke 6:12). He sought specific guidance in this critical hour of His life. His choice would affect the future mission and the world.

For this reason: “He went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples. And of them, He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles: Simon (whom He also named Peter) and Andrew, his brother; James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon called Zelotes, Judas the brother of James and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor” (Luke 6:12; Luke 6:13; Luke 6:14: Luke 6:15: Luke 6:16).

In the New Testament, there are four lists of the Apostles, Matthew 10:2; Matthew 10:3; Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:16; Mark 3:17; Mark 3:18; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:14; Luke 6:15; Luke 6:16 and in Acts 1:13. The arrangement of names in these lists is made in three steps, with changes occurring in each step. Peter appears first and Judas last. There is no primacy of Peter in the sense of jurisdiction or authority over his fellow Apostles. Such an authority Peter never received and never exercised. “His position is that of the foremost among equals; a position due not to any formal or official appointment, but the ardor and force of his nature.” (Hastings)

What was our Lord’s aim in selecting His special group? St. Mark states that the purpose was that they might be with Him so He might send them forth to proclaim the approach of the Kingdom of God and so He could endow them with the power to heal and exercise. St. Mark records:

“He ordained twelve that they should be with Him and that He might send them forth to preach and to have the power to heal sickness and to cast out devils.”

But the Lord’s aim was more than that. He describes it on the eve of His death. He expected them to be His envoys on Earth. Their supreme duty was to bear witness to Him, to teach the world how He lived, what He said, what He wrought. Jesus prayed for them:

“As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so, have I also sent them into the world”.

Apostles’ Training

The Apostles were God-fearing people. Only a religious tie bound them to Jesus. Their integrity, justice, and mercy cannot be denied. They were diligent, honest, and pious people dedicated to the Lord and His command above all. They were not men of high education, but neither were they illiterate. Most of them spoke Aramaic and Greek. They were educated in the knowledge of. God in synagogues, and they managed a discipline of high standards.

Four of them were farmers, one was a tax collector, and the others were general working classes. They had no rank or distinction. They had to struggle in order to survive. The Gospels do not portray them as geniuses or original thinkers. They were all young men about our Lord’s age or younger. They were men with a variety of backgrounds, temperaments, and behaviors. They shared a commitment to Jesus and a pious lifestyle. They gathered under one roof to learn and comply.

The Apostles followed the Lord from one place to another. They heard all of His sermons and admonitions, as well as His private advice to the people and dreams. They saw patients being healed and heard about the causes of illness and the influence of evil spirits. They studied not only in the preaching and pastoral work clinics. Jesus Christ was the head of the Twelve. They shared a common purse, and one of them was designated as treasurer. Their supplies were sourced from their property and gifts, especially the generosity of several women who accompanied them on some of their journeys (Luke 8:2; Luke 8:3).

They were working and studying together. First and foremost, they were being trained in the personality of Jesus. His very existence was an education in and of itself. His actions and words in daily life, dealing with the depressed and modest, meeting sinners, defending the underprivileged, and inspiring rank and file – all of this was a lesson for them. They saw Him preaching and praying, healing the sick, and mending broken hearts. They were mindful of the Master’s actions against dry rituals, as well as the Sabbath, circumcision, foods, and prayer times.

The miracles performed by Jesus were the focus of the second phase of their Apostle preparation. The Messiah was supposed to perform miracles, but the actual success of the miracles astounded the Apostles. The essence of these works was and still is beyond explanation. The Apostles saw many miracles, including the capture of fish (Luke 3:1; Luke 3:2; Luke 3:3; Luke 3:4; Luke 3:5; Luke 3:6; Luke 3:7), the stilling of the storm (Mark 4:39), and walking on water (John 6:16). They also discovered that miracles were performed not only for the sake of miracles but also as a token of belief and confidence and a lesson in spiritual uprightness, as in the case of the fig tree.

Finally, the Apostles were trained in Jesus’ teaching. For them, He was the Teacher. He spoke with confidence.

Christ “Sent” His Apostles

The Apostles spent less than three years with their Master. He called them “that they might be with Him” (Mark 3:14) to be trained and educated, and then “that He might send them forth to preach” the Gospel and minister unto the people. Their work between these two stages is in agreement. It has been changed only in the stages of advancement.

But what a change!

From pupils, they became teachers; from followers of Christ, they became leaders, bringing people to Christ. They started as disciples and, in three years, advanced as Apostles. Their visible Guide, their Lord, became the Invisible One, “The Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 1:6; Acts 1:7), always present as He was before.

After devoting one night to praying for their ministry, Jesus Christ chose them. Jesus prayed for them and their future after their training, right up until a few moments before His arrest. One of His Apostles reported the prayer. On the Feast of Pentecost, He anointed them with the Holy Spirit. The mighty Spirit descended on the Apostles as “tongues of fire,” transfiguring their doubts, fears, and behaviors in such a marvelous way that they became heralds of the new mission.

Their primary duty was to bear witness to the Savior Jesus Christ, His life, teaching, and atoning work, and particularly to Christ’s resurrection, “a witness to his resurrection,” “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”

“And with great force, the apostles testified to the Lord Jesus’ resurrection”.

Their witness and testimony had a massive impact. They mentioned what they were aware of. There was no question in their minds about the integrity of their information. St. John concluded his Gospel with the words, “This is the disciple who bears witness to these things”, and he begins his first Epistle with the words, “This is the disciple who bears witness to these things.”

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the Word of life …

That which we have seen and heard we declare unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 1:3).

The Apostles’ ministry was directed and blessed, and they were mindful of it. In every move and turn of their work, they felt the presence of Christ and the companionship of the Holy Spirit. They were also informed of their appointment. They were not serving themselves, but the Lord as Prophet, Priest, and King, with authority and effectiveness. They chose their successors, establishing the Church’s exclusive priesthood.

There is no ordination of a deacon, priest, or bishop in the Orthodox Church without referring to the Apostles by a list of names of predecessors. Thus, the Apostolic succession is very important not only for the teaching of the Church but also for its sanctification. It is accepted in the Orthodox Church that the Church’s bishops are the successors of the Apostles.

The Lord’s New Testament was practiced by the Apostles in worship and prayer, preaching, and pastoral service. Believers in the Church, both past and present, rejoice in knowing the atoning truth and will of the living God in them and through them.

The personal lives of the Apostles are little known. We just know the names of some of them. Their job, however, will be remembered for future generations. Rather than their own, it was their goal to carry on the Lord’s work and will. We can see their character and intentions through the fruits of their labor.

Following is a short biographical note on each of the Apostles. According to Luke 6:12, the names are drawn from a list.

The Lord’s New Testament was practiced by the Apostles in worship and prayer, preaching, and pastoral service. Believers in the Church, both past and present, rejoice in knowing the atoning truth and will of the living God in them and through them.

New Covenant Apostles Handed Down

The Church of Jesus Christ began in Bethlehem with His birth in a manger, and it was sanctioned in His presence by angels and shepherds worshipping Him. The Church grew and was enriched due to Christ’s efforts in Palestine, and it was founded with His Cross on Golgotha.

Finally, after the resurrection of its Lord, the Church flourished in the upper room of Jerusalem, with the Holy Spirit’s “tongues of fire” leading the Apostles triumphantly. As a result, Jesus Christ, the Founder, and Lord of the new holy society bequeathed his precious endowment to His Church, making it the keeper of redemption and everlasting freedom.

Christ’s Church, which includes both saints and sinners, will always be His Sacred Body. It is, after all, the domain of His Covenant, which the Apostles obtained from Christ and passed on to us.

What exactly is this Covenant?

The Lord’s new will for life was created by Himself and passed down through all generations for all time. It includes God and man’s long-awaited reconciliation.

The new covenant was made possible by God’s mercies and empowered by His Son—the incarnate Logos. What is the content Of this covenant, and who is the warrantor who secures its riches to its heirs? Christ and His Gospel are the answers to both questions. In Him, man is destined to live anew, crossing again into Eden, the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the New Covenant which the Apostles received and handed down.

The new covenant is “great, joyous news.” Its title was granted by the angel who announced in Bethlehem at the incarnation of the Logos in Luke 2:10; Luke 2:11 that “to you is born… a Savior… Christ the Lord.”

The covenant’s contents were affirmed in Christ’s baptism by His Father’s declaration,

“Thou art my beloved Son”.


“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

John the Baptist bore witness to Him and exclaimed,

“Behold the Lamb of God!”

in adoration.

Christ’s new order of Love signed the covenant at His mystic supper – the New Testament – and accepted by His Cross and His final words,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Finally, His triumphant resurrection set an everlasting seal on this covenant, assuring victory and joy in life.

This covenant was heralded by the First-Called Apostle Andrew’s conviction and exclamation that

“we have found the Messiah,”

as well as his brother Peter’s declaration that

“Thou art the Christ.”

His believers and loyal followers are destined to span the globe in all epochs. His reign is eternal.

This mighty covenant of reconciliation – the New Testament to come – was handed down to the Church and entrusted to the Apostles of Christ, eyewitnesses. They preached the Orthodox faith in the True God and founded a new divine community in local churches for men to believe in and worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One living Triune God. The Apostles are the first golden ties of our inherited Faith, which we cherish today. The Lord sent them, and the faithful welcomed and honored them.

Resources Who Were the 12 Apostles

Scroll to Top