History of the Word "Apostle"
In the synagogue, an important official was the sheliach (in Hebrew,
seliah in Aramaic, or apostello in Greek - apo, off; stello,
send), meaning "to be sent." These sheliach carried the collections taken up in
Babylonia and Jewish colonies of the Roman empire to Jerusalem for the support of the
Temple. Every Jew was obliged to give every year for the expenses incurred by the Temple
and its sacrifices.1 The Temple priests were sent each year apostles from
Jerusalem to the different synagogues of the world to bring greetings from their brethren in
Judea, and to see that the synagogue worship was rightly observed in these distant
Apostello has a very general sense, but Apostolos (Apostle) has a stronger sense than the word messenger, meaning one who is entrusted with a foreign mission, with the authority of a delegate. In the Greek version of the Old Testament it occurs once, in III Kings, 14:6 (cf. ibid., 12:24 [1 Kings]).3 The english translation is, of course, "I am sent to you . . .", (DR) or "I have been commissioned to give you . . ." (NAB)
Learned Rabbis in the Old Testament traveled the country preaching and gathering disciples to the number of twelve, as the high priest was served by twelve priests in his Temple ministry, in memory of the twelve sons of Jacob, fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Rabbi, "my Master", or "my Lord", was first given to religious teachers in the time of Herod the Great, when Rabbis began letting their wisdom go to their head. Besides the twelve immediate followers, these Rabbis had seventy-two followers, images of Noe's grandsons, the fathers and founders of the nations4.
John the Baptist, following the customs of the Rabbis, gathered disciples around him - many of whom followed Christ after John had identified Him as the true Messiah. As a rightful priest of the Davidic line, Christ followed this custom when he traveled all over Judea with his twelve apostles, destining the twelve to be the twelve teachers - and judges5 - of the nations.
When Christ sent His followers out from Jerusalem into the heathen nations, they were correctly called apostles, as they were specifically designated by Him, true Rabbi, and this was an accustomed practice at the time of His coming.
The word mission, when applied to our Saviour Christ, sometimes signifies
1.) His eternal procession from the Father, and
2.) sometimes His mission, as He was sent into the world to become man, and the Redeemer of mankind:
The first mission fits Him, as the eternal Son of God:
The second, as man, or as both God and man.
The mission which Christ here gives His apostles, is like this latter mission, with this great difference, that graces and divine gifts were bestowed on Christ, even as man, without measure: and the apostles had a much lesser share in both these missions." For example, Christ had a perfect human nature, whereas the apostles suffered from the effects of original sin.
Before establishing the Apostles as having been sent by God, it must first be understood
1.) Jesus had been sent by God his Father for the reconciliation of His people:
2.) The apostles were sent, under the instruction and guidance of Jesus:
3.) The Holy Spirit was sent to the apostles, proceeding from both the Father and the Son:
3.) The apostles, having recieved the Holy Spirit, go forth to teach6 all nations.
Jesus Had Been Sent
Luke 4:18 (quoting Isaias 61:1),
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to heal the contrite of heart."
"Jesus said to them: My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work."
"That all men may honor the Son, as they honor the Father. He who honors not the Son, honors not the Father who has sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, that he who hears my word, and believes him that sent me, has everlasting life; and comes not into judgment, but is passed from death to life."
"This is the work of God, that you may believe in him who he has sent."
"Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. Now this is the will of the Father, that sent me: that of all that he has given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again on the last day. And this is the will of my Father, who sent me: that every one who sees the Son, and belives in him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
"Therefore Jesus answered them and said my teaching is not mine but of the one who has sent me."
Being visibly a man to the jews, Jesus explains His teaching is not man-made, but divine.
and also in John 9:7,
Matthew 15:24, John 11:42,
"I know that you (God the Father) always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me."
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "He wished to offer prayers to the Father, not as though He were incompetent, but for our instruction. First, that He might show Himself to be from the Father."7
John 12:44-45 (also verse 49),
"Jesus cried out and said, 'the one believing in me believes not in me, but in the one having sent me. The one seeing me sees the one having sent me'."
It is not enough to believe in just God the Father, but also in God the Son. John 17:3
"And this is eternal Life that they may know you the one true God and the one you have sent." (Jesus Christ)
"Sts. Augustine Ambrose, and many of the Fathers have held that the words of our Lord in this verse should be read thus: 'Eternal life consists in acknowledging thee and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent, as the only true God'."8
1. How Christ Said the First Mass quoting Migne, Cursus Comp. S. Scripture 2. 1328. Reprinted by TAN Publishers
2. How Christ Said the First Mass, quoting Migne, Cursus Comp. S. Scripture 3. 828, 829.
3. Catholic Encyclopedia on the Internet.
4. Genesis, chapter 10.
5. Matthew 19:28
6. Or preach - Some insist there is a huge difference between preaching and teaching, as if the apostles were not given any authority to preach. When someone is preaching, they are more than likely teaching also, so there is no substantial difference in the meaning of these words.
7. Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas, 3:21;1.
8. The Four Gospels, with a Practical Critical Commentary, Charles Callan, O.P., 1918.