Icon of the Seventy Apostles

The Seventy Apostles (Eastern Christianity) or Seventy Disciples (Western Christianity) are a group of Jesus' followers whom He sent ahead to spread his message to the people of Israel (Luke 10:1-24). The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox church maintains a list of the names of the Seventy; however, Roman Catholic scholars commonly judged that "these lists are unfortunately worthless," and Protestants generally agree.


The Seventy Apostles [2][1] [2] were chosen by the Lord subsequent to His choosing of the first Twelve Apostles; and this commissioning took place at a time near to the day of His crucifixion (Luke 9:1-6 [3]). They were commanded to preach the gospel to all people--first to Jews, then to Gentiles. As with the first Twelve Apostles, Christ sent the Seventy out in pairs, telling them to go before Him “into every town and place" where He Himself “was about to go.”

The Lord’s command is given to us in Luke chapter 10. Verses 1-4 of that chapter read, “ 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road”. Later in the same chapter we read of how the Lord gave them further instructions on how to act and what to say while carrying out this mission.

Luke 10:17 reveals the Lord’s great joy over the preaching work of His disciples as well as their own joy after having successfully completed a particular mission. The verse reads, “17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." 18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." 21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. 22 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." 23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." ]

The Great CommissionEdit

Jesus Christ's command to preach the gospel is referred to by most Christians as “The Great Commission”. It encompases phases of missionary work such as evangelism and baptism; and has been a primary basis for all Christian missionary activity down to the present day. [Some Christian denominations believe that the Great Commission and other prophecy was fulfilled in the apostolic age (See Preterism)

The most familiar version of the Great Commission is depicted in Matthew 28:16-20: (16) It states, "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. (17) And when they saw him, they worshiped him: but some doubted. (18) And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Other versions of the Great Commission are found in Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:44-49, Acts 1:4-8, and John 20:19-23. All these passages are composed as words of Christ spoken after his resurrection.[4]

The Command to Wait for the Holy SpiritEdit

In the Lord’s final words to His disciples before His Ascension back into heaven, He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, which descended upon all of the disciples who were gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, was sent by Jesus to empower them in their preaching work. At Luke 24:44-49 we read, “44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." [5]

Biblical References to the SeventyEdit

There are several instances in the Bible where the Seventy Apostles are mentioned or referred to. Some are as follows:

  • (1) After the Lord's Resurrection (Luke 24-1-9) “1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
  • (2) On the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) “13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles [a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
  • (3) Jesus Appears to His Disciples (Luke 24:36-39) “36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
  • (4) The Lord's Ascension (Luke 24:50-53) 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

Personal Achievements of the Seventy ApostlesEdit

Throughout the book of Acts and in later New Testament books, we learn that some of the Seventy accompanied the Twelve Apostles on their missionary journeys.

  • Mark, evangelist and author of the gospel book of Mark, accompanied Saint Paul as well as Saint Peter on their missionary journeys. Mark is the founder of the Church of Alexandria, one of the original four main sees of Christianity. About ten to twenty years after the ascension of Christ, Saint Mark traveled to Alexandria and founded the Church of Alexandria. He became the first bishop of Alexandria and is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa. Saint Mark died in the eighth year of Nero by the hands of the people of Alexandria, the city where he was buried. His feast day is celebrated on April 25, and his symbol is the lion. [6]
  • Luke is the Evangelist and author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The Roman Catholic Church venerates him as Saint Luke, patron saint of physicians, surgeons, students, butchers, and artists. His feast day is October 18. The next earliest account of Luke is in the Anti-Marcionite Prologue to the Gospel of Luke, a document once thought to date to the 2nd century, but which has more recently been dated to the later 4th century. Helmut Koester, however, claims that the following part – the only part preserved in the original Greek – may have been composed in the late 2nd century: “Luke, a native of Antioch, by profession a physician. He had become a disciple of the apostle Paul and later followed Paul until his [Paul's] martyrdom. Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit he died at the age of 84 years.” (p. 335) [7]
  • Timothy is the author of 1st and 2nd Timothy in the New Testament and is addressed as the recipient of two Pauline epistles. Saint Timothy accompanied Saint Paul on his missionary journeys to Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, Troas, Philippi, Veria, and Corinth. He was also a first-century Christian bishop. Saint Timothy died around 80AD. [8]
  • Prochorus is called the nephew of Stephen [the Protomartyr] and a companion of John the Evangelist. Saint John consecrated him Bishop of Nicomedia in Bithynia (modern-day Turkey). Saint Prochorus is traditionally ascribed the authorship of the apocryphal Acts of John, and is said to have ended his life as a martyr in Antioch in the 1st century. [9]

Over time, the Twelve added others to their number, who were sent out with the original Seventy to preach the gospel. Although this number eventually exceeded seventy, they were all nevertheless referred to as "of the Seventy" out of reverence to the number which the Lord originally chose.”[10] Many of them were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel of Christ; and many received the crown of martyrdom. [3]


The feast day commemorating the Seventy is known as the "Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles" in Eastern Orthodoxy, and is celebrated on January 4. [The Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles was established by the Orthodox Church to indicate the equal honor of each of the Seventy. ] Each of the Seventy Apostles also has individual commemorations scattered throughout the liturgical year (see Eastern Orthodox Church calendar). (In the ninth century St Joseph the Hymnographer composed the Canon for the Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles of Christ.)


Troparion (Tone 3)

Holy apostles of the Seventy, entreat the merciful God to grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.

Kontakion (Tone 2)

O faithful, let us praise with hymns the choir of the seventy disciples of Christ. They have taught us all to worship the undivided Trinity, for they are divine lamps of the Faith.

Besides the celebration of the "Synaxis of the Holy Disciples," the Church celebrates the memory of each of them during the course of the year:

St James the Brother of the Lord (October 23); Mark the Evangelist (April 25); Luke the Evangelist (October 18); Cleopas (October 30), brother of St Joseph the Betrothed, and Simeon his son (April 27); Barnabas (June 11); Joses, or Joseph, named Barsabas or Justus (October 30); Thaddeus (August 21); Ananias (October 1); Protomartyr Stephen the Archdeacon (December 27); Philip the Deacon (October 11); Prochorus the Deacon (28 July); Nicanor the Deacon (July 28 and December 28); Timon the Deacon (July 28 and December 30); Parmenas the Deacon (July 28); Timothy (January 22); Titus (August 25); Philemon (November 22 and February 19); Onesimus (February 15); Epaphras and Archippus (November 22 and February 19); Silas, Silvanus, Crescens or Criscus (July 30); Crispus and Epaenetos (July 30); Andronicus (May 17 and July 30); Stachys, Amplias, Urban, Narcissus, Apelles (October 31); Aristobulus (October 31 and March 16); Herodion or Rodion (April 8 and November 10); Agabus, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon (April 8); Hermas (November 5, November 30 and May 31); Patrobas (November 5); Hermes (April 8); Linus, Gaius, Philologus (November 5); Lucius (September 10); Jason (April 28); Sosipater (April 28 and November 10); Olympas or Olympanus (November 10 ); Tertius (October 30 and November 10); Erastos (November 30), Quartus (November 10); Euodius (September 7); Onesiphorus (September 7 and December 8); Clement (November 25); Sosthenes (December 8); Apollos (March 30 and December 8); Tychicus, Epaphroditus (December 8); Carpus (May 26); Quadratus (September 21); Mark (September 27), called John, Zeno (September 27); Aristarchus (April 15 and September 27); Pudens and Trophimus (April 15); Mark nephew of Barnabas, Artemas (October 30); Aquila (July 14); Fortunatus (June 15) and Achaicus (January 4). [11][4] [5]

Notes & References

  1. The number is seventy in manuscripts in the Alexandrian (such as Codex Sinaiticus) and Caesarean text traditions but seventy-two in most other Alexandrian and Western texts. It may derive from the 70 nations of Genesis or the many other 70 in the Bible, or the 72 translators of the Septuagint from the Letter of Aristeas.[2] In translating the Vulgate, Jerome selected the reading of seventy-two.
  2. In Western Christianity it is usual to refer to them as Disciples while in Eastern Christianity they are usually referred to as Apostles [the original Greek words]. Both titles are descriptive as an apostle is one sent on a mission whereas a disciple is a student.[1]
  3. Two other Apostles of the Seventy to whom the Lord appeared after the Resurrection were Saint Cephas ([1 Corinthians.15:5-6-]) and Simeon, called Niger (Acts 13:1-[]), who were also glorified by their apostolic preaching.
  4. There are discrepancies and errors in some lists of the Seventy Apostles. In a list attributed to St Dorotheus of Tyre, some names are repeated (Rodion, or Herodion, Apollos, Tychicus, Aristarchus), while others are omitted (Timothy, Titus, Epaphras, Archippus, Aquila, Olympas). St Demetrius of Rostov consulted the Holy Scripture, the traditions passed down by the Fathers, and the accounts of trustworthy historians when he attempted to correct the mistakes and uncertainties in the list in compiling his collection of “Lives of the Saints.”
  5. The Orthodox Church tradition of supplying names to the Seventy whose "names are written in heaven" is associated with a late 3rd century bishop Dorotheus of Tyre, unknown except in this context, to whom has been ascribed an account of the Seventy, of which the surviving version is 8th century. The names of these disciples are given in several lists: Chronicon Paschale, and the Pseudo-Dorotheus (printed in Migne's Patrologiae cursus completus, XCII, 521-524; 543-545; 1061-1065). Roman Catholic scholars commonly judged that "these lists are unfortunately worthless" (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, "Apostle").
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