There is a significant textual variant in Mark 3:14 and a range of variant translations indicating that the passage is not at all straightforward. How should the textual and translation issues be resolved and what are the implications of the passage theologically?

These are the textual variants:


And these the popular English translation attempts:


The textual variants relate primarily to the bolded text:

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] καὶ ἐποίησεν δώδεκα, [οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν,] ἵνα ὦσιν μετ' αὐτοῦ καὶ ἵνα ἀποστέλλῃ αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν

It appears that the scholarly opinion is that the words are original, not added (possibly based on being difficult).

Example translation with the words:

Berean Literal Bible And He appointed twelve ones, and He called them apostles, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them to preach,

Of special significance is what appears to be a very unusual use of the word ἐποίησεν in reference to "twelve", which reads differently with or without the disputed phrase.

2 Answers 2


This appears to be a simple attempt (conscious or otherwise; but in any case not criminal) to match this verse with Luke 6:13, it's parallel:

καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡμέρα προσεφώνησεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκλεξάμενος ἀπ' αὐτῶν δώδεκα οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν

And when day was-come, he called-[unto-him] his disciples. And having-chosen from them twelve, whom also he named apostles:

(The Vulgate omits the variant you bolded, but found here in Luke, from Mark 3:14)

Theologically, therefore, there are no implications. It isn't 'either or'. Luke 6:13 has no variants (that I could find), so the Bible does teach that those twelve whom He selected "He also named apostles."

So theologically, it wouldn't matter if this was original to Mark. But even if you held to so-called 'Markan priority,' the latter part of the verse, Mark 3:14b, conveys the same: 'He apostalized them to be preachers.' This is synonymous with 'He called them apostles.' It's clear that 'apostle' was an understood office in any case and that thus there was no 'improving upon' of anything, or theological changes, as is often supposed by scholars to be found here.

As to whether that 'resolves' the issue, is up to the reader.

  • It's not anachronistic at all. St. Paul recognizes the office that the twleve apostles had (Eph 4:10-12; 1 Cor 15:5). Besides, it's explicit that Christ chose 12 of the disciples for some set-apart purpose. he didn't set apart twelve from the disciples to be disciples.The term or office given need not be named, even though it is (in Luke, and elsewhere). Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 19:40

The disputed portion of the text of Mark 3:14 appears also in Luke 6:13 with the identical wording:

καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡμέρα προσεφώνησεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκλεξάμενος ἀπ' αὐτῶν δώδεκα οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν

And when day was-come, he called-[unto-him] his disciples. And having-chosen from them twelve, whom also he named apostles

The rest of the Markan passage, though is not identical, most notably not using ἐκλεξάμενος but rather ἐποίησεν. Now, ἐποίησεν is a versatile word used approximately a kazillion times in Greek, primarily with the sense of "to make" or "to do". I don't see any clear cut examples of it ever being used to mean "appoint".

According to Liddle and Scott's Lexicon, the first usage with a sense related to "appoint" is from this passage by Isocrates:

(39) Παραλαβοῦσα γὰρ τοὺς Ἕλληνας ἀνόμως ζῶντας καὶ σποράδην οἰκοῦντας, καὶ τοὺς μὲν ὑπὸ δυναστειῶν ὑβριζομένους, τοὺς δὲ δι’ ἀναρχίαν ἀπολλυμέ- νους, καὶ τούτων τῶν κακῶν αὐτοὺς ἀπήλλαξεν, τῶν μὲν κυρία γενομένη, τοῖς δ’ αὑτὴν παράδειγμα ποιήσασα· πρώτη @1 (5) γὰρ καὶ νόμους ἔθετο καὶ πολιτείαν κατεστήσατο.

The translation is given here:

Isoc. 4 39 [39] For, finding the Hellenes living without laws and in scattered abodes, some oppressed by tyrannies, others perishing through anarchy, she delivered them from these evils by taking some under her protection and by setting to others her own example; for she was the first to lay down laws and establish a polity.1

1 The tradition is probably correct that Athens was the first city to set her own house in order and so extended her influence over Greece. The creation of a civilized state out of scattered villages is attributed to King Theseus. See Isoc. 10.35; Isoc. 12.128 ff.. In Isoc. 12.151-4, Isocrates maintains that certain features of the Spartan constitution were borrowed from Athens.

Isocrates. Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes, by George Norlin, Ph.D., LL.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1980.


In Hebrews 5:1 the author uses καθίσταται when he speaks of the appointment of priests to God's service:

Berean Literal Bible Heb 5:1 For every high priest, being taken from among men, is appointed (καθίσταται) on behalf of men in things relating to God, that he should offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins,

So I surmise that the disputed words were improperly taken from Luke 6:13. I further surmise that the Mark passage and the Luke passage are not intended to be congruent.

It appears to me that Mark is identifying the origin of the office of the twelve ("establishing a polity"):

BLB 1 Corinthians 15:5 and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

BLB Acts 1:17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.

But Luke is explaining the origin of the calling to apostleship.

In that light it isn't necessary to add the disputed words (though they don't hurt) or to coin a new usage of ἐποίησεν. Mark's passage is saying that Jesus "established a Twelve".

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