Christianity Knowledge Base

Icon of the Seventy Apostles

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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 [1] 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.[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 city and place" where He Himself “whither he himself would come.”

The Lord’s command is given to us in Luke chapter 10. Verses 1-4 of that chapter read, 1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. 2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. 3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. 4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. 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 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto to us through thy name. 18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. 19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. 21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. 22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. 23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. ]

The Great Commission[]

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 Spirit[]

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 And he said unto them, These are the words I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endured with power from on high. [5]

Biblical References to the Seventy[]

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 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
  • (2) On the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) 13 And, behold, two of them went that same day two to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all thses things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33 They rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
  • (3) Jesus Appears to His Disciples (Luke 24:36-39) 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not have flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
  • (4) The Lord's Ascension (Luke 24:50-53) 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen

Personal Achievements of the Seventy Apostles[]

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. [1]


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][2] [3]

Notes & References

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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").