Jesus an Apostle? Hard to Believe!

It’s an interesting question. When hearing the word apostle, we often think of the 12. Those whom Jesus specifically named as his apostles (Mk.3:13-19, Lk.6:12-16).

But what about Jesus, was he ever called an apostle?

Jesus was called an Apostle once in the Bible.

A title we don’t often associate with Jesus himself. And for good reason because never in the gospels is he addressed as an apostle.

Requiring us to consider what is an apostle.

Why was this title used in reference to Jesus?

As always, let’s start with definitions.

What is an Apostle?

Understanding an ancient word will require us to go Greek on this one. For root meaning then a more simple definition.

An apostle comes from the Greek word ‘Apostolos‘, which simply means “one who is sent out”.

In ancient Greek culture, this title was often used in reference to ambassadors or someone who was speaking on someone else’s behalf.

Just like in modern times, when two countries’ governments communicate with each other or even business. It is rarely the President or CEO but someone representing them. Who the Greeks would call an apostle.

Speaking For You

If you have bought a house, your realtor would have played this role. They would talk for you to the seller, who again would often have a representative talking for them.

Who Is Considered an Apostle?

The most famous that we think of within Christian context is the 12.

That Jesus himself designated as Apostles.

But using the definition as sent one.

Expands greatly to include many more “apostles.” Like Paul, Barnabus, and James the brother of Jesus, along with numerous others.

In the New Testament, there are 25 times the destination Apostle is used. More than doubling the classic understanding of 12.

Without wading too deep into church controversy, some modern churches designate many more as apostles. Using the title apostle to their current leadership or speakers.

Bringing it back to our current quest.

When was Jesus referred to as an apostle?

Does the Bible Say Jesus Was an Apostle?

there is only one reference to Jesus being an apostle in the Bible.

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Hebrews 3:1 NIV

It’s almost a throwaway comment.

The writer is calling the reader to focus on Jesus, giving him a title of honour. Apostle.

It is not without bases, though.

When Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James and John (Matt.17:1-8, Mk.9:2-8, Lk.9:28-36). A cloud appeared saying, “This is my son, whom I love/chosen/pleased). Listen to Him.”

Yes, the gospels vary in wording, but the main point is they are told to listen to Jesus.

In John 14, Jesus claims to be speaking the words of his Father (God). Acting like an apostle, speaking for another.

In the transfiguration, they are told by God to listen to the words of Jesus. John goes even further with, Jesus, claiming he is speaking the words of God.

The role of an apostle in his culture.

Was Jesus an Apostle or Disciple?

Well, this one is interesting.

All the apostles were disciples, but not all disciples are apostles.

A disciple is one who is learning or studying under another.

Where an apostle is one designated to speak for someone.

Jesus appointed only 12 apostles, but we know that he had at least 72 disciples (Lk.10:1). Most likely more.

But back to Jesus.

It appears that Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist. Making that he was a disciple in the early days of his ministry.

But never do we hear of Jesus being designated an Apostle except for in Hebrews 3:1. A post-death designation.

Making it easier historically to refer to Jesus as a disciple, not an apostle.

I am not saying the writer of Hebrews is wrong. Only that, historically speaking. Jesus, an apostle, is a later addition. A designation given to him by the Hebrews writer to make a point, not a reality of Jesus’ life while he lived in Judea or Galilee.

But I do share his sentiments that we should think about Jesus. That his life is something to be contemplated and studied. For there is much we can take from the life of a carpenter turned preacher.



Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

Recent Posts