Revelation 2:1-2 (ESV):

"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.

What is the point of testing those who call themselves apostles if there are no apostles other than the original twelve? Does this mean that the title of apostle is not restricted to the original twelve only and that other genuine apostles could exist?

For the interested reader, a spin-off question I just asked on C.SE: Are there any denominations that believe in contemporary apostles, and if so, how is a person called to be an apostle according to them?

  • 1
    Recall that Paul and Jesus are also called apostles in the scriptures. (Galatians 1:1; Hebrews 3:1)
    – agarza
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 3:17
  • 1
    See seventy disciples (Luke 10).
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 4:11
  • 1
    It only implies that there true and false without identifying who is true or false apostles.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 4:53
  • 1
    Don't make an assumption on one single scripture that there are only twelve apostles, simply because the bible states there are only twelve named on the new temple. If you are going to interpret the word correctly, it has to interpreted with the entire word; not assumption. Clearly Dottard's previous post shows there are many more apostles ordained by God than just the original twelve. Too many people believe only what they are taught and don't obey Paul's command to search the scripture for themselves in order to discern what is true and false.
    – greg
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 11:58
  • 1
    The trial disproved a claim. The trial did not prove that other such claims could ever be legitimate.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


The Greek noun, ἀπόστολος (apostelos), most often refers to the original 12 apostles (Matt 10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 22;14, etc.).

However, it also refers to others as apostles who were not part of the original 12 such as:

  • Jesus, Heb 3:1
  • Paul, Rom 1;1, 11;13, 1 cor 1:1, 9, 15:9, 2 Cor 1:1, Gal 1;1, Eph 1:1, Col 1;1, 1 Thess 1:1, 1 Tim 1:1, 2:7, 2 Tim 1:1, Titus 1;1, etc.
  • Barnabas, Acts 14:14, 15:2.
  • Andronicus and Junia, Rom 16:7
  • James the Lord's brother, Gal 1:19

Thus, the word apostle could refer to anyone sent to do the work of the original 12 apostles, ie, preach the Gospel of Christ such as, 1 Cor 4:9, 9:5, 15:7, 2 Cor 11:13, etc.

Thus, there were apostles well after the 12 apostles as the above list shows and as implied in Rev 2:2. The same is implied (more strongly) in 1 Cor 12:28-30 -

And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, and those with gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

In the above reference, whatever one says about teachers, administrators, helpers, one must also say about the spiritual gift of apostleship - we are asked to desire the "great gifts" (V31), the first of which was (and is) apostleship.


One might as well attempt to add a thirteenth tribe to the children of Israel.

And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. [Revelation 12:10-14 KJV]

From this place, which signifies the construction of an eternal city wherein shall dwell, for ever and ever, the bride, the Lamb's wife, verse 9, and the glory of God, verse 10, and in which is no temple, for the Lord God almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it, verse 22 - from this place shall the servants of God serve him, Revelation 22:3.

The walls are emblazoned with the names of the twelve tribes and the foundations with the names of the twelve apostles.

Twelve names - none other.

For all eternity.

Anyone claiming to be Mr Thirteen may be tried and will be found to be an impostor. That trial does not prove the existence of another potential candidate to the position of the thirteenth apostle.

It merely disproves the claim of the person being tried.

It appears to be, from scripture, that Matthias, James the Lord's brother and Barnabas were all (in a way) tried and found wanting. It was Paul, alone, who, in time, and by Peter's evident approbation, was found to be the twelfth.

Which would be the subject of another, slightly different, question.


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