Vol. 19 New Series August&October, 1957 No.'s 4&5

As the question of the nature and functions of the apostles has arisen, it is as well to set out simply the salient facts about them. (a) The word "apostle" is the Greek word apostolos taken over into English. It is the combination of two words meaning from and put, the latter meaning to set or place in some determined position. In Scripture the verb apostellO means to put or send out officially and with authority for the performance of some particular task, to commission or to delegate. The idea of "commission" does not inhere in the word itself and is absent from some of its compounds. For instance, exapostellO is usually rendered send away in Luke 1:53; 20:10, 11; Acts 17:14. In none of these can the action be regarded as official but, rather, as deliberate. The precise force of these words must therefore be determined by their contexts.

(b) The term "the twelve apostles" occurs in three passages only: Matt. 10:2; Luke 22:14 and Rev. 21:14; and the second of these is somewhat doubtful, as some texts omit "twelve." The first lists their names, the third speaks of "twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."

(c) The form "the Twelve," by itself, occurs 23 times: in Matt. 10:5; 26:14, 47; Mark 4:10; 6:7; 9:35; 10:32; 11:11; 14:10, 17, 20, 43; Luke 8:1; 9:12; 18:31; 22:3, 47; John 6:67, 70, 71; 20:24; Acts 6:2; 1. Cor. 15:5. In one of them, John 6:70, the term "the Twelve" is actually defined; for the Lord Jesus says: "do I not choose you, the Twelve; and, from among you, one is a slanderer?" In every single passage of these, the reference is unmistakeably to the Twelve Apostles. No other group is described as "The Twelve."

(d) The Eleven. After the defection of Judas, and until he is replaced, the apostles are described as "the Eleven" (Matt. 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9, 33). "The Eleven Apostles" occurs once, in Acts 1:26: "and the lot falls on Matthias, and he is enumerated with the eleven apostles." Once more, only, do we find "the Eleven," in Acts 2:14: "Now Peter, together with the Eleven, lifts up his voice. . ."

(e) The Twelve after Pentecost. In Acts 2:14 "Peter, together with the Eleven," one plus eleven, makes twelve in all. As Peter already was one of the Eleven in the earlier references, the number "eleven" must have been made up here by somebody else, see (d) above. However, we need have no doubt as to this, for Acts 6:2 reads: "Yet the Twelve, calling near the multitude of the disciples, said. . . ." Thus, the Twelve were completed again long before the call of Paul. Further confirmation, if any were needed, is supplied by the last reference. After the Lord Jesus was roused, Paul says: "He was seen by Cephas, thereupon by the Twelve. Thereupon he was seen by James, thereafter by all the apostles. Yet, last of all, even as if by a premature birth, He was seen by me also." (1. Cor. 15:5-7).

(f) The apostles. This expression occurs about 40 times, and the context always shows who are intended. As might be expected, as soon as more than twelve apostles existed, the-description" the Twelve" could no longer be used except in such a way as to make it plain that none others were intended. So the less explicit description "the apostles" appears.

(g) The Apostle Paul. Saul (as he was named until Acts 13:9) is nowhere recognized under that name as an apostle. Not till Acts 14:14 is Paul spoken of as an apostle; and it is extremely important to note the point that here the text reads, "the apostles Barnabas and Paul." There is no reason to suppose that there was any inequality between them; but if there were, the superiority is plainly with Barnabas.

(h) Apostles of Christ. This term is found. in two passages only. The first, 2. Cor. 11:13, reads: "For such are false apostles, fraudulent workers, altering their appearance into apostles of Christ." The second is 1. Thess. 2:6: "... neither seeking glory from men, neither from you, nor from others, when we could be a burden as apostles of Christ." Rotherham (2nd edition) reads: "though we had power to be burdensome as Christ's apostles." This version has the inestimable advantage of showing the emphasis of the Greek. The New World Translation reads: "though we could be an expensive burden as apostles of Christ," with a marginal alternative: "be on our dignity." The word-for-word Greek reads: "being-able" (Middle) "in heavy to-be as of-anointed apostles." The alternative New World rendering, above, departs from the literal, but it may well be the best approximation to the sense, nevertheless. How would three such men as Paul, Silvanus and Timothy be a burden to such a keen and active church as that of Thessalonica unless they stood on their dignity and claimed some very special consideration and service? In what other way could they be a burden? And if, as three extra mouths to feed in a poor community they were a burden anyhow, why not leave it at that, instead of adding "as Christ's apostles"? It is hard to see how they could have been a burden unless, by coming there in their official position as apostles and by demanding special treatment, they would have brought heavy extra labour on their unfortunate hosts.

Objection has been taken to "as" being interpreted in the way implied in the foregoing; in the same sense, indeed, as in the words "as three extra mouths to feed." It is; admittedly, a difficult word to define. The C.V. Concordance, in listing its usages, says it is used "as a conjunction of time" and "as introducing a consequence," "as expressing design or aim"; each "as" being exactly parallel with "as Christ's apostles" here. The truth is, "as" is employed in a number of ways. Others occur in this epistle, yet we find also:

In these it cannot mean "being," and "as if" is inadmissible because already provided for in the Greek language. "Like" is wholly unacceptable; for the idea that people who make themselves burdensome are like Christ's apostles is too startlingly inappropriate to be entertained for one moment.

(i) The paramount apostles. In 2. Cor. 11 and 12 the Apostle Paul is concerned to defend his equality with what he calls "the paramount apostles" (11:5; 12:11). He claims that he is not deficient in any way by comparison with them. "Hebrews are they? I also," etc. (11:22). We are not told explicitly who "the paramount apostles" are; but if they are not the Twelve, it is impossible in the face of this comparison to imagine who they would be. And Paul does not say one single word here to suggest that he is one of them; but that he is deficient in nothing pertaining to them.

(j) 1. Cor. 9:1. Another suggestion which has been made is that this verse implies that it is necessary for One to have seen the Lord in order to be sent by Him and thus become an apostle. This is neither novel nor sound. The questions asked are quite separate. If one is a condition of apostleship, the other three are also. Even if we were to grant this, it would only prove that all who are named as apostles must somehow have seen the Lord Jesus.

(k) Apostles of churches. This term occurs in 2. Cor. 5:23 only: "... for the sake of Titus, my mate, and unto you fellow-workers; or our brethren, apostles of churches, Christ's glory." Elsewhere Paul says of Epaphroditus: "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, yet of you apostle and minister of my need." (Phil. 2:25) That he was not an emissary of the Philippian church is shown by the fact that it was Paul who sent him to them and, later urged them to receive him (v. 29). That is all.

(l) Rom. 11:13. A flagrant error which is sometimes advanced, but which I have not seen for some considerable time, is that Paul was "the Apostle of the Gentiles." If this were true, it would prove that he was alone in his standing as an apostle and would be unique. As a matter of fact, Rom. 11:13 actually says: "I am Gentiles' apostle," and there is no "the" in the original before either word. Many versions and expositions are in error here, and the C.V. disgracefully fails to do better. Rotherham (2nd Edition), to his honour, will have none of this. He says, honestly, "I am an Apostle of Gentiles." There were others.

Part 2
From the purely practical point of view, errors about the Sacred Scriptures may be regarded as falling into two classes. There are those which are made by Christians who desire and seek the truth, but who go astray to some extent in the quest, either through failure to think clearly, incomplete acquaintance with Scripture itself, following some theory in the belief that it is the truth but without first submitting it to critical investigation, or inadvertence and human fallibility. Such errors are forgiveable, but very often the deadliest; for like the termite in a block of wood they undermine from within and may eventually cause our faith to crumble. The other sort are those which come from open unbelievers, people who either reject God's Word as nothing more than a collection of humanly contrived documents, or regard it as insufficient by itself and presume to add to it or "correct" it. When such "corrections" are made, the "Authority" is invariably the private judgment of the presumptuous person himself.

Private judgment is a matter about which there is a great deal of confusion. Roman Catholics accuse Protestants of rejecting the authority of "the Church" in favour of private judgment; but they take care to leave out of account the fact that one can accept their own authority only by an act of private judgment. The plain truth is that in nothing whatever can we escape having to make decisions for ourselves and about matters outside ourselves. We cannot avoid trusting some authority. If we are Roman Catholics, we have chosen the authority of "the Church" to expound the Scriptures. If we are Protestants, we have chosen the authority of the Scriptures themselves. In other words, the Protestant chooses to approach Scripture direct, the Roman Catholic at second hand; yet each choice is by an act of private judgment. If you can trust "the Church" to do your thinking for you, and it is a very big "if" indeed; then it is perfectly logical to be a Roman Catholic. What is not logical or reasonable in this action. is the trust itself. In effect, you are believing "the Church" because "the Church" tells you to. The moment you demand that it produce its credentials from Scripture itself, the whole pretence is blown sky-high.

Still, the system is logical and reasonable so far as it goes, even though that is not very far. What is irremediably illogical and unreasonable is to claim to be a Protestant, and therefore to claim to submit absolutely to the authority of the Sacred Scriptures, and yet at the same time to set aside any part whatever of that Authority in favour of personal private judgment, either of one's own or of some selected teacher. Once the decision, one way or the other—the Scriptures or "the Church"—is made, there is no going back. The Roman Catholic who begins to question or even argue about the pronouncements of Papal authority is soon thrown out. The Protestant who begins to question the authority of the Sacred Scriptures in any matter whatsoever immediately excommunicates himself from all real Protestants. The great tragedy for us, however, is that so many men stay on in positions of influence and power, and undermine our faith while pretending to support it. This point may be taken up more fully in another paper.

These reflections have been prompted by a curious discovery made in the course of the researches which culminated in the first part of this paper (August, 1957). It was noticed that to 2. Cor. 8:23 the 1930 C.V. appends the following note.

    "It is interesting to note the usage of the word apostles in this
    connection. The Authorized Version hides it by translating
    'messengers.' The American Revision repeats this, but puts
    'apostles' at the foot of the page. Others render it  'am-
    bassadors.' But this occurrence is by far the best example by
    which to define the true meaning of 'apostle.' Sopater,
    Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus and Trophimus are not
    ordinarily rated as apostles. While they were not apostles of the
    Lord, they certainly were apostles of the ecclesias. They had
    been elected and commissioned by the ecclesias to represent them
    in this matter. This shows that an apostle is an official representative,
    bearing a commission."
Now I have to admit, with regret, that it never occurred to me to check this Note until my researches forced me to do so. I suppose this is understandable, for when pursuing some particular line of study it is most disturbing, to say the least.. to have to go off at a tangent in pursuit of another: nevertheless it does underline the paramount importance of not taking anything for granted and always verifying references. A red light should have been seen in the circumstance that the Note itself quotes no references. Certain bold statements are made. No proof of any sort is offered; for none of these men were apostles. This is not to say that the author of this Note erred deliberately. Most likely, it was copied or paraphrased from some" Authority" and through an oversight was not checked. The fact that this misstatement was, in all probability, published inadvertently makes its public correction all the more urgent and important.
One or more of the names in the Note are to be found in the. following references:—Acts 19:29; 20:4; 21:29; 27:2; Rom. 16:23; 1. Cor. 1:14; Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7, 10; 2. Tim. 4:12, 20; Titus 3:12; Phm. 24; 3. John 1. The reader can himself verify the startling facts that none of these men are described as apostles and that the word apostle itself does not occur in the context of so much as even one of the references to these men. Furthermore, in only one of them, 2. Tim. 4:12, does the verb apostellO occur: "Now Tychicus I despatch to Ephesus." He was Paul's emissary, not that of the Ephesian church.

This shocking blunder might have passed unnoticed, as a: matter not worth bothering about, had it not been for the fact that recently the whole question of who were apostles and what sort of apostles they were has been forced on our attention. The Note refers to errors in other versions: it omits to notice a glaring one in the C.V. itself: "the apostles of the churches," in which "the," which is not in the Greek, is inexcusably twice added to the English. And the Note tells us that the six men "certainly were apostles of the churches." It would be interesting to learn just what churches "the churches" are! Once again, it must be pointed out that Scripture does not tell us a single thing about" apostles of churches" except when Paul writes to the Philippians of "Epaphroditus, the brother and fellow-worker and fellow soldier of me, yet of you apostle, and minister of my need" (Phil. 2:25 very literally). Now, if there ever were apostles despatched by churches, here surely would be the place to find them named. But no! Paul says "I send him. . . Receive him." (Phil. 2:28, 29).

These are facts, and if we are real Protestants, and therefore real Christians, we would accept such facts without question or demur. But facts are not good enough for some people, as the following quotation on the subject of "apostles of churches."

    "This term is used in 2. Cor. 8:23 of at least two not counting
    Titus; one being spoken of as 'chosen of the churches.' Phil 2:25.
    speaks of Epaphroditus as the (or a) 'messenger' of the church at
    Philippi. Barnabas was sent by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 11:22).
    Andronicus and Junia were of note among the apostles (Rom. 16:7). It
    does not say 'apostles of Christ,' we therefore conclude that they were
    among the apostles of the church at Rome, as they are never mentioned
    elsewhere though they were 'of note.'"
To collect so many errors into so small a space is something of an achievement. Titus is not included. He is excluded by the "whether. . or . ." (Greek eite . . eite . .). The one who is mentioned as "chosen of the churches" (better, "elected by the churches") in v. 19 is not named as an apostle or, indeed, named at all. What is in this quotation said of Epaphroditus contradicts the facts. "The" and "a" are not interchangeable words in English, and in Phil. 2:25 "the" is absent before "apostle" in the original Greek. The use of the word "exapesteilan" in Acts 11:23 does not imply that Barnabas was nothing more than a delegate of the Jerusalem church, any more than "aposteilantes" (commissioners) in Acts 11:30 means that Barnabas and Saul were simply delegates of the Antioch church, and not apostles in the full sense. The comment omits any reference to the severance of Barnabas and Saul by the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:2 and the description of the two as "the apostles Barnabas and Paul" in Acts 14:14. Andronicus and Junia were indeed of note among the apostles; but the comment does not trouble to explain who "the apostles" were on this occasion or give any reason why the reference should not be to the apostles generally, as it plainly is. The "therefore" is charming! By that sort of "proof" anything we might wish could be proved. Scripture says nothing about "the apostles of the church at Rome." If we take Rom. 16:7 rationally, it can only mean that among the whole company of the apostles Andronicus and Junia were so outstanding as to be justly described as "notable." To make out that this verse simply means that they were some sort of local emissaries or delegates is, as it were, to stand the whole passage upside down.

The comment that Rom. 16:7 "does not say 'apostles of Christ'" is typical of this way of dealing with Scripture. As already noted, the term "apostles of Christ" occurs twice only, and three alone of the whole of the apostles are thus named. No other references to apostles say "apostles of Christ": so this objection stands exposed as the fatuous nonsense it is. Even if we were to stretch the term to cover "Christ Jesus" and "Jesus Christ" that would add. only Paul and Peter, thus covering only about a quarter of all the apostles.

If it were not for the attempted distinction which has been made whereby the Twelve (in which Paul is included by this writer quoted above) are distinguished as "apostles of Christ" and the others in effect written off as "apostles of churches"; I would see little objection to conceding that all the apostles are probably entitled to be described as Christ's. Certainly, if He did not recognize them as apostles and if their commission did not issue from Him, they could fairly be described as false apostles; but this would apply to Barnabas and Andronicus as validly as it would apply to, say, Andrew and James of Alpheus. Apart from the five who are explicitly named as apostles of Christ, of Christ Jesus or of Jesus Christ; the only legitimate distinction within the apostolic band is between the Twelve, on the one hand, and Paul with the apostles named as associated with him, on the other—and that is a distinction of sphere of commission, not of kind or status. All were equally apostles. Paul, for instance, was deficient in nothing pertaining to the Twelve (see p. 183).

The idea that Paul was ever one of the Twelve is untenable; and, as we have already seen (pp. 181, 183) 1. Cor. 15:5-7 and 2. Cor. 11 and 12 plainly imply that he was not. Moreover, positive evidence exists. On the one hand, Scripture nowhere enumerates him with the Twelve; on the other, Matthias is plainly enumerated with the Eleven apostles and, immediately after Pentecost, this is confirmed in Acts 2:14; 6:2. I am told of my remarks in the middle of p. 22 (February 1957):

This is so; but if it is a matter for censure, it is Paul who must take the blame; for he is quite explicit in Phil. 3:4-11 that the privileges according to flesh of the Israelite, which the Twelve were promised in full measure, were by him all being deemed to be a forfeit. This impossibility is of Paul's own making. I am merely following him. There is no room for doubt about the meaning of all this. By the time Paul wrote to the Philippians he had repudiated, in the most definite way possible, his circumcision and all his privileges and claims as an Israelite. If (as we are apparently now required by some to believe) these included membership of the Twelve, he had abandoned this just as decisively as Judas did, though in an altogether different manner.

If there were any truth in the theory that Paul was the true twelfth apostle (and by now we clearly see there is none), Christ's disciples at the time of Pentecost must have been a pretty bad lot. For consider. On this theory, the very first thing they did after the ascension of the Lord Jesus was to elect another false apostle to take the place of Judas. Luke, the historian of these events and, if Acts is truly part of Scripture, the mouthpiece of God's Holy Spirit in so doing, recorded this deed without a scrap of adverse comment. Indeed, the next event is the endorsement of this (supposed) sinful act by the Holy Spirit himself at Pentecost. He descends on a "Twelve" of whom one is (supposedly) an impostor or, at best improperly and illegitimately elected. When, after a long delay, the true (?) twelfth, Paul, is chosen; a stony silence about his being the twelfth is maintained; and presently he is so ungrateful for the privilege as to repudiate it and also to repudiate the sign of covenant involved in it, circumcision. (Gal. 6:14-16). And not one writer of the Greek Scriptures had the courage to set out the facts plainly—if they were facts. And this extraordinary fantasy has been put out as Scripture truth!

Let us get this set down so plainly as to be beyond question. "The apostles of the Lamb" in Rev. 21:14 are identical with the Twelve after their number had once again been completed, and this new twelfth was Matthias. Their number was complete before Paul was called. He was not, and could not be, one of them.

The errors regarding "apostles of churches" are not the only ones made by the one who scorns me for making it "impossible for Paul to be an apostle of the Lamb." He writes:

In other words, "of" has to mean "by" in one place and "to" in another—whichever best suits my critic's theories! One who can write like that is hardly to be trusted as a sound guide! He has also told me: Why I ought to admit this thing, which is blatantly untrue, is not explained by my critic; but now that the matter has been raised, it is necessary that the standing of Barnabas as an apostle on equal terms with Paul should be defended.

The first reference to Barnabas is in Acts 4:36, 37:

This happened before Saul was called; but, immediately after his conversion, it was Barnabas who "getting hold of him, led him to the apostles and related to them how, in the way, he perceived the Lord; and how He talked to him, and how in Damascus he is bold in the name of Jesus." (Acts 9:27). Evidently Barnabas had considerable influence then with the apostles, so much that after the Kingdom had been unlocked to the Gentiles, the church in Jerusalem delegated (exapesteilan) him to Antioch (11:22) and later Barnabas and Saul were commissioned (aposteilantes v. 30) by the Antioch church to Judea. In due course the two returned from Jerusalem (12:25). The text is uncertain; but the next statement (Acts 13:1) makes it plain that they were in Antioch. At this point the Holy Spirit orders that Barnabas and Saul be severed "for the work to which I have called them" (13:2). This severing by the Holy Spirit marks them out definitely as apostles, and no distinction is shown in the manner of their severing. The two are associated again in 13:7 and immediately we read of "Saul, who is also Paul." Although it is Paul who makes the speech related in this chapter, the two are thrice associated again (vv. 43, 46, 50) and in v. 46, both speak. In Acts 14:12 the throngs, thinking their gods had descended to them in human likeness, treat Barnabas as the leading figure (Zeus), "yet Paul, Hermes; since, in fact, he was the leading speaker"; Hermes being reckoned the messenger of the gods. Then in Acts 14:14 we read of "the apostles Barnabas and Paul," and the two apostles act and speak jointly. Only Paul is stoned but, the day after he stands up, the two leave together for Derbe (14:20). Later, when some from Judea start trouble, it is arranged for the two to go up to the apostles and elders, into Jerusalem (15:2). There, these and the entire multitude hear Barnabas and Paul (15:12); and then the apostles and the elders and the whole church (15 : 22) choose men to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas with a letter of commendation in which they are referred to as "our beloved Barnabas and Paul."

Yet, in the face of all this, we are actually expected to regard Barnabas as of a different class from Paul, and, Paul as himself one of the Twelve. They were on equal terms addressing the apostles at Jerusalem; yet, on this ridiculous assumption, they were oblivious of the fact that Paul himself was really one of the company of these apostles and that none of them had any business to be ranking Barnabas equal with him. Could any idea be more outrageous? True, the apostles at Jerusalem are not here called "the Twelve," and only once in Acts (6:2—at Jerusalem) are they so described; but the fact that they were the apostles in Jerusalem, and that Peter himself speaks, makes it plain who are meant.

The suggestion has been made that the four questions in 1. Cor. 9:1 show that Paul was an apostle in a special way not shared by Barnabas; but in v. 6 he spoils the argument, such as it is, by deliberately associating himself with Barnabas, so that is invalid too.

Lastly, Ga1. 2:1 shows Paul and Barnabas in association, and Ga1. 2:9 the two again receiving recognition together, this time by the leaders of the Twelve. If it really were true that Paul was one of the Twelve; the fact that this point is not only nowhere made clear but in several of the foregoing passages is quite ignored, and by implication denied, calls loudly for an explanation. This is never given, understandably, because the theory does not make sense. I am told that in Acts 15:2:

This is so; but it is nevertheless extraordinarily one-sided, and. can hardly be other than deliberately misleading; for it neglects altogether to mention the circumstance that before the Apostle Barnabas had dropped out of the record (Acts 15:39), the Apostle Peter himself had already done so (Acts 15:7). If the one proves the inferiority of Barnabas, the other proves the inferiority of Peter. This argument is unanswerable, and would silence most controversialists, but not my critic, who tries to dismiss it thus: But this does not affect the issue in any way; for it is not I who am denying the full apostleship either of Peter or of Barnabas. Of course Peter was an apostle; and if his disappearance after Acts 15:7 from the record does not nullify his apostleship, the disappearance of Barnabas a little later cannot nullify his, either, or render inferior the apostleship of either man.

After mentioning when "Barnabas drops out of the record," my critic says:

He does not, however, tell us what apostles other than Paul founded churches. If failing to found a church condemns Barnabas as a different sort of apostle, what of those of the Twelve who founded none? If it be argued that we are not told that any of the Twelve failed to found churches, the obvious retort is that neither are we told this of Barnabas.

To sum-up: no evidence has been produced to show that "Barnabas was an apostle of a different class from Paul." On the contrary, out of the twenty-nine references to Barnabas, only eight mention him apart from Paul. Of the remainder nine refer to him first and twelve refer to Saul or Paul first. No evidence has been produced that Paul ever was, or could be, one of the Twelve, or that the election of Matthias as the twelfth was in any way improper or invalid. It has even been argued (in the face of Acts 1:26; 6:2) that "Matthias is never called an apostle by the Holy Spirit." Yet Paul is never called one of the Twelve by the Holy Spirit. If the first proves that Matthias was not an apostle, the second certainly proves that Paul was not one of the Twelve.

We may safely leave it at that.

R. B. WITHERS. Last updated 19.6.2006