Matthias: the First Serious Error of the Early Church

The NT Office of Apostle: Introduction

The biblical foundation of this series is this very clear text:

Rev 21.14
And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

This verse tells us that there were exactly twelve apostles; the fact that they are its foundation stones teaches us clearly both of their permanence and scope.

If you’ve spent any time on, you know that one of the purposes of this site is to call out modern ideologies and practices which claim to be biblical but actually deny sound Bible doctrine. This series on the error of the selection of Matthias as the replacement for Judas Iscariot as an "Apostle of Jesus Christ" does the same, but also highlights the problems encountered and initiated by the early church regarding this pivotal event.

Yes, the early church initiated an error concerning the number of Apostles which has persisted into the present.

At first you might think that stating there are twelve Apostles is a non-point: "Of course there were twelve Apostles! That’s what the gospels tells us in Mat 10.1-7and Luk 6.12-16, the accounts of the Lord Christ’s selection of the original twelve Apostles.”

Mat 102a
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: …

Luk 6.12-13
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:

Of course, after the betrayal and death of Judas Iscariot and the subsequent (and poorly-conceived and equally-poorly-implemented) selection of Matthias, there were once again twelve Apostles. But, then comes the divine calling of Saul of Tarsus, the selection of Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

If we regard the selection of Matthias as legitimate, with the addition of Paul we now have thirteen “Apostles” .


Afterward, we find several additional indications in the Acts that others had been named and/or regarded as Apostles; the number of Apostles therefore jumps to at least fifteen.

But, note also another count of twelve mentioned in the immediately preceding context:

Rev 21.12-14
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

If we claim a number other than twelve for the count of Apostles—something done often by careless and irresponsible Christians and “theologians”—we should also able to claim a number other than twelve for the count of the tribes of Israel. But, instead, if there are exactly twelves tribes of Israel—and there are!—then there are likewise exactly twelve Apostle of the Lamb.

If “twelve” ceases to mean “twelve” and could mean thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, etc., then words cease to have meaning and the Bible becomes worse than useless. When will "theologians" begin to take the Bible seriously?

Both in NT times as well as into the present day, the error persists that there were more than twelve apostles. If this error is found actually to be true, then Rev 21.14 must be regarded as symbolic; there really isn’t any other rational explanation for the apparent contradiction.

Moreover, if that “symbolic interpretation defense” is legitimate then it must also be legitimate that the statement in the immediately preceding context—there are “twelve tribes of the sons of Israel”—is symbolic. At that point, then there are no longer twelve tribes of Israel and words cease to have meaning.

[Welcome to modern theology where up is down, left is right, evil is good, faith is works, and twelve is not twelve…]

Now what do we do?

Well, I know what one modern theologian did: I selected Dr. Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan, 1994, ppg. 906 – 912. [It is a portion of “Chapter 47: Church Government”.] His arguments were disobedient and irresponsible to the very clear Scripture above (Rev 21.14). They do serve, however, as a reasonably typical presentation of the error that the count of Apostles is greater than twelve.

The purpose of this series is to thoroughly examine all NT texts that deal with the topic of the “Apostles of Jesus Christ”. It will detail the terms used as well as both the ancient and modern error of claiming another value for the count of the “Apostles of Jesus Christ”.

The foundation of this series is the text cited above and again here:

Rev 21.14
And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The position of is that there are exactly twelve “Apostles of Jesus Christ” for all time. Any assertion of a count other than twelve is unbiblical and shows contempt for the Lord Christ and active disobedience to His Word.