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Apostles

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The term “apostle” comes from the Greek apostolos: “envoy” or “messenger.” It is used primarily but not exclusively to refer to the chief companions of Jesus and is sometimes also applied to a number of later figures who continued the evangelization and missionary work of the first apostles. The original apostles are traditionally understood to have been twelve in number (although the exact number and their names differ slightly from Gospel to Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles). The symbolism of the number twelve is rooted in the Twelve Tribes of Israel descended from the twelve sons of *Jaco The apostles were chosen by Jesus, from the larger group of his followers, specifically to be with him in his historical life, and to be sent out to preach, heal, and exorcize. The apostles gave testimony to the *Resurrection, and according to later traditions were also all martyrs


Matthew 10:1-4 lists the brothers *Andrew and (Simon) *Peter, the brothers *James and *John, *Philip, *Bartholomew, *Thomas, *Matthew, *James (son of Alpheus), Lebbeus (Thaddeus), Simon, and *Judas Iscariot. Matthias was chosen by lot to take Judas’s place after Judas committed suicide. *Paul and Barnabas are also called apostles in the book of Acts.


The apostles feature frequently in medieval art, as individuals, in groups, and in narratives from the lives of *Christ and the Virgin *Mary. See individual entries for attributes and iconography for the apostles named above, also: *Ascension, *Assumption, *Betrayal of Christ, *Calling of Peter and Andrew, *Communion of the Apostles, *Crucifixion, *Deposition, *Entry into Jerusalem, *Last Supper, *Mission of the Apostles, *Pentecost, *Transfiguration.

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