The Apostolic Age

“by Bible Scripture | But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts of the Apostles 1:8 (image: YouTube)

Jesus named the Apostles, often called the Twelve (John 6:67), to be with him and carry on his ministry: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Nathaniel Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, Jude Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him (Mark 3:14-19). Following the Resurrection, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. The period of these Twelve Apostles, dating from the Great Commission of 33 AD until the death of the last Apostle in Anatolia c. 100 is refereed to as the Apostolic Age.

Prior to his Ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost on about 120 Apostles, Mary the mother of Jesus, and disciples in the Upper Room (Acts 1:15, 2:1-4). This strengthened the Apostles to spread the word of Christ Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles describes the infancy period of the Church, a time following the Pentecost when Christianity spread like wildfire. The Apostles all gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 15) to discuss whether Gentiles who had been converted to Christianity had to observe all the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic Law. This gathering of the Apostles became known as the Council of Jerusalem, and set the pattern of future Councils to resolve issues that arose within the Church.

To the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter the fisherman that answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16). Whereupon Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). Peter became the first Patriarch of Antioch and ultimately Bishop of Rome.

The Conversion of Paul occurred on the road to Damascus, Syria (Acts 9:1-9). Saul persecuted the Church and consented to the death of the first martyr Stephen. He had men and women who lived the Way thrown into prison. But while going to Damascus, Saul was struck from his horse by a great light and a voice asked “Why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who spoke. Christ identified himself with his Church: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul experienced the grace of conversion and first preached in Damascus. Paul, as Apostle to the Gentiles, became just as passionate spreading Christianity as he was in persecuting Christians before his conversion.

Saints Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome during the persecution of Christians by Nero, Emperor of the Roman Empire. St. Peter was crucified upside down and St. Paul was beheaded, both probably in 64-68 AD. In fact, all of the Apostles were martyred for having preached the Gospel, except for St. John the Evangelist.

Heeding the message of Jesus Christ to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), the Apostles traveled East and West to all parts of the known world to spread Christianity. Andrew, Peter’s brother, was the first to be called to follow Jesus, and is called by the Byzantine Church the Protoclete, meaning the first called. Andrew evangelized Byzantium, appointed Stachys (Romans 16:9) the first Bishop there, and was crucified in Patras, Greece. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, is believed to have preached in Spain; he is the only Apostle to have his martyrdom recorded in the Bible (Acts 12:2). John, the son of Zebedee and the brother of James, was the “one Jesus loved.” He is called the Theologian for his mystical writings – the Gospel of John and three Letters. Christ on the Cross entrusted his mother Mary to John (19:26-27), who took her with him to Ephesus; he was later exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation in his elderly years (Revelation 1:9).

The other James, son of Alphaeus, is sometimes called James the Less, to distinguish him from James the Son of Zebedee. He played an important role as head of the Church of Jerusalem, and writer of the Letter of James in the Bible. According to the historian Flavius Josephus, he was stoned to death in 62 AD. Tradition has it that Matthewpreached among the Hebrews and wrote his Gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic. Philip preached the Gospel in Phrygia, Asia Minor and was martyred in Hierapolis. Nathaniel, Son of Talmay, or in Aramaic Nathaniel Bartholomew, taught the Way in Armenia. Jude Thaddeus, the author of the Letter of Jude, spread the faith to Edessa, Syria and then evangelized Armenia. Thomas Didymus, or Thomas the Twin, is known as Doubting Thomas, for questioning the Lord’s Resurrection. But when he put his hand in the Lord’s side, he reacted with a beautiful profession of faith: “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28). Thomas traveled through Chaldea and Persia all the way to India! Little is known about Simon the Zealot or Matthias. 7-12

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.