Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Who were the "Apostles"?

My partner in crime poses the question: What do you suggest this "historical distinction" then consisted of? Are you suggesting that the terminology originally reserved for the twelve was then extended to include others?
It appears, but I'm not certain, that Jesus elected various disciples who then became apostles who were entrusted with a mission. N. T. Wright notes that “Jesus intended to establish, and indeed succeeded in establishing, what we might call cells of followers, mostly continuing to live in their own towns and villages, who by their adoption of his praxis, would be distinctive within their local communities.”[Wright, JVG, pg. 276] It appears that this was the fundamental vocation of an apostle. A basic job description for an apostle would look something like this:
  • Delegates of Jesus/Holy Spirit sent to proclaim his victory to the nations.
  • Established communities of disciples dedicated to the mission of Jesus.
  • Transmit and explain the teachings of Jesus and the founding apostles.
  • Signs and wonders should confirm the ministry of the apostolic
  • Strategically release new ministries of leadership and church planting
  • Encourage Christian communities and deal with specific areas of concern/sin
  • Gather resources for further apostolic exploits
How far apostolic authority went, beyond the elders into the local church, we can only speculate on. However, there are some fascinating scripture from which to speculate. My basic contention at this point is that the historical distinction is simply that some apostles were disciples of the historical Jesus, or had an encounter with the risen Jesus, other apostles were commissioned by the Holy Spirit and Church leaders [Acts 13]. Unless we import confusion and arbitrary distinctions into our enquiry, the basic view is that there was a continual widening and inclusion of people who could be apostles [Epaphroditus, Titus, Silas, and others] who could plant churches, lay proper foundations and do the things described above. There does not seem to be any formal distinctions of authority or sphere of influence.
This leads me to think that there were apostolic teams [Paul never travelled alone, but was always accompanied by others, perhaps offering "on the job" training so that they could be further released into apostolic work {this is my understanding of Titus in 2 Cor 8}]. Overall, I think this radically affects central assumptions of many scholars and calls their view to account for the various distinctions with evidence and argument, instead of assertions. It also calls for more faithful bible translations, because many of the versions obscure the crucial passages by offering an interpretation that rests on shaky foundations.
Thoughts, comments, criticisms? I welcome them all...

1 comment:

eddie said...

In other words, the term had a single general sense rather than 'non-technical', 'semi-technical', and 'technical' senses..?