Disciples and Apostles in the New Testament
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D. 

Basic Definitions and Biblical Overview

Disciple = "learner, pupil, student"  (Gk. mathetes, from the verb manthanein, "to learn")

Apostle = "missionary, messenger, emissary"  (Gk. apostolos, from the verb apo-stellein, "to send out")

Brothers and Sisters / Saints / Believers / Followers / Converts / Christians

Disciples of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels and the Book of Acts
Matt 10:2-4 Mark 3:14-19 Luke 6:13-16 Acts 1:13
The names of the twelve apostles are these: He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying,
first, Simon called Peter,
and his brother Andrew;
James, the son of Zebedee,
and his brother John;
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder;
Simon, whom he named Peter,
and his brother Andrew,
and John
and James
and Andrew,
and Bartholomew,
and Matthew the tax collector;
and Thomas,
and Matthew,
James, the son of Alphaeus,
and Thaddeus;
Simon the Cananaean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.
James the son of Alphaeus;
Simon the Cananaean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.
James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

James son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot,
and Judas son of James.

[Later, to replace Judas the betrayer:
"the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles" - 1:26]

Disciples of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel

Discipleship in Other New Testament Writings

Types of Discipleship or Church Vocations since the New Testament Era

Christian Churches today use many different titles for leaders and ministers who have various levels of authority and roles of responsibility in the community.  One basic distinction is between the clergy and the laity; important subcategories include religious men and women, ecclesial lay ministers, and Christian married couples/parents. Yet one should not forget that all Christians have a common "vocation," since are "called" by God to live out their baptismal promises in lives of service to both the Church and the world.

Clergy or "clerics" = ministers who are "ordained" to lead and serve the Christian community, usually on a full-time, life-long basis.

Religious or "consecrated persons" = members of religious orders, societies, congregations, or other communities within the Church.

Laity or "lay people" = non-ordained Christians, most of whom live and work primarily in the "secular" world, although many also serve actively in the Church on a volunteer and/or professional basis (full-time or part-time):

Baptism is not just a sacrament of initiation, through which a person becomes a member of the Church, but is the foundational "vocation" that "calls" all Christians to live out their faith in whatever career, family, community, and/or lifestyle they choose or find themselves in.

Electronic New Testament Educational Resources

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