English blog

apostle = one who is commissioned

04-01-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet

1_blog_15 The word “apostle”, by itself, suggests a special office. The term “the apostles” refers, for most people, automatically to the first century, to “the twelve” and Paul. There is an element of truth in it, but this word-usage is rather misleading. The word “apostle” is for us little more than an onomatopoeia with a religious association. What escapes us is that apostolos is a general, concrete Greek concept that indicates a delegate, one who is commissioned. This meaning we discover when we consult the concordance with respect to the Greek word apostolos. That word occurs eighty times in the NT and is always rendered as “apostle” with a couple of exceptions. And precisely these passages explain the concept!

Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. 2Cor. 8:23 (KJV)

Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. Phil. 2:25 (KJV)

In both of the above cases, there clearly is no reference to the well-known apostles and, therefore, the translators were here forced to translate the meaning of the word with the ordinary English word: messenger. Or better: a delegate,  someone who has been delegated or authorized for a particular task. One is always sent to or by a person or an institution. The ecclesia in Greece (2Cor.8:23) had authorized men to carry a gift from them to Jerusalem, and, therefore, they were “delegates of the ecclesia’s”. And the ecclesia in Philippi had sent Epaphroditus to Paul (Philippians 2:25; 4:18) and therefore Paul calles him “your delegate”. One can see how misleading the term “apostle” here would be. But why have not all translators chosen for this translation, because the word “messenger” at once explains, consistently, the meaning of apostolos! In a subsequent blog, I would like to focus on “the apostles of Christ”, for that term does indeed exclusively relate to men in the first century. To be continued  

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