What Is the Difference Between Jesus Disciples and Apostles?

When we talk about the twelve people who were closest to Jesus during his lifetime, two terms often come up – disciples and apostles. Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually refer to two distinct groups of people with different roles in Jesus’ ministry.


The term “disciple” comes from the Greek word “mathetes,” meaning “learner” or “follower.” Disciples were individuals who followed Jesus, learned from him, and supported his mission. They were men and women from all walks of life who were drawn to Jesus’ teachings and wanted to be a part of his movement.

Jesus had many disciples throughout his ministry, but he chose twelve men to be his closest followers. These twelve are often referred to as the “twelve disciples” or simply “the disciples.” Their names were Simon Peter, Andrew, James (son of Zebedee), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (also known as Levi), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus (also known as Judas son of James), Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot.

The disciples traveled with Jesus from town to town, listening to his teachings and witnessing his miracles. They also helped him spread his message by telling others about him and inviting them to join the movement. In many ways, they were like modern-day evangelists or missionaries.


The term “apostle” also comes from a Greek word – “apostolos,” meaning “one who is sent out.” Apostles were individuals who had a specific role in spreading the Gospel message after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Although all of the twelve disciples could be called apostles in this sense (since they were all sent out by Jesus to preach), not all apostles were among the original twelve. For example, Paul (also known as Saul) was not one of the twelve disciples, but he is often referred to as an apostle because of his important role in spreading Christianity.

The main difference between disciples and apostles is that disciples were primarily focused on learning from Jesus and supporting his ministry during his lifetime, while apostles were focused on continuing Jesus’ work after his death and resurrection. Apostles were also given a special authority by Jesus to preach and teach on his behalf.


In summary, disciples were learners and followers of Jesus who supported his ministry during his lifetime, while apostles were individuals who were sent out by Jesus to continue spreading the Gospel message after his death and resurrection. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, it’s important to understand the distinct roles that these two groups played in the early Christian movement.