Apostles and missionaries

I’ve been having an interesting Facebook discussion with a friend, part of which concerns whether the mission word family would be a good translation choice for the ἀποστέλλω word family, and particularly whether missionary is a good choice for ἀπόστολος, which we normally transliterate apostle.

What do you think, and why?

And if you don’t think it’s a good choice, can you suggest other non-transliterated options?

29 Comments

  1. wm tanksley
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    If one doesn’t mind a Latin/French import, “envoy” carries the same linguistic roots. “Missionary” does indeed mean ‘sent one’, but I think the existing use of the word limits its ability to be redefined.

    It occurs to me that ‘missionary’ is also a bit narrower in focus: a missionary is one sent with authority to perform a single task (the mission), while an envoy has the authority of the one sending. I’m not sure what to think of that…

    -Wm

  2. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Emissary might work. One dictionary defines it as: An agent sent on a mission to represent or advance the interests of another.

    However, I do believe ἀποστέλλω and ἀπόστολος very definitely carry the idea of being sent with the authority of the sender. So, I like the suggestion of envoy.

    Danni, your question is mainly focused on ἀπόστολος, and I don’t want to steer the post in a direction you don’t want to go. But, I think the more difficult question is with ἀποστέλλω. That is, it is too frequently translated simply as send. I think that misses the sense many times. And I think the pragmatic effect is therefore not achieved. Specifically, it doesn’t achieve the idea of the one sent carries the authority of the one sending. Send doesn’t convey that at all. ἀποστέλλω is not πέμπω.

  3. Posted April 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Ambassador may also be a good option – they are the highest-ranking representative of a foreign government and carry the authority of the sender as well.

    I agree that in English at least the verb is the tough one. It is interested that many languages have a cognate verb for these terms (like French ‘envoye’ and its corresponding verb ‘envoyer’ also Latin, and obviously Greek) but I can’t think of one in English, certainly not one in common use.

  4. Iver Larsen
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    In John 13:16 I think envoy might work well.

    I do not like to use missionary for an apostle. There is too great a semantic mismatch between the two. Many missionaries are not apostles, and many apostles are not missionaries. A missionary is a full-time Christian worker in a cross-cultural ministry. He might be an apostle, a teacher, a pastor or an evangelist.

    An apostle describes the function of the highest authority in the NT church. It needs to be compared with and contrasted to the other four ministry functions in Eph 4:11: the prophet, the evangelist, the shepherd and the teacher.

    In languages where this term is already well established, I don’t think it is advisable to try to suggest another term. In languages without a Christian tradition, the situation is different. In one language I worked with, a local term which literally means “lightbringer” was chosen. I don’t particular like either a “messenger” or “a sent one”, since an apostle indicated the highest spiritual authority in the early church.

  5. Posted April 5, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Missionary is a loaded term in English. It calls to mind pith helmets and the rest. It’s better than apostle, I think. That word is very narrow in range. Messenger or representative could work.

  6. Iver Larsen
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    What is the difference between ἀποστέλλω and πέμπω?

    I noticed that in Mark 5:10 the unclean spirits asked Jesus not to send (ἀποστέλλω) them out of that region. In 5:12, they speak directly to Jesus saying: Send (πέμπω) us into the pigs.

    It seems to me that ἀποστέλλω implies the authority of the one sending, not necessarily of those being sent, unless the sender hands over such authority to them.

    πέμπω seems to have focus on the sending and the people sent, not on who sent them.

  7. Posted April 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    “Missionary” does seem to carry a lot of baggage with it, but “apostle” does seem very narrow. For the verbal form, however, “commission” might be pretty good. “Emissary” is pretty good, I think. I think it’s not an unknown word, but its precise meaning is probably vague enough for many so that its use in biblical texts can be self-defining. “Commission” and “emissary” are both based on the Latin mittere, so we are able to stay in a common root family.

    As for the distinction between αποστελλω and πεμπω, look at John 20.21: “Just as the Father has sent (αποστελλω) me, I also send (πεμπω) you.” A lot has been made of the distinction here, but for John, at least, I think it is entirely a matter of variety. As confirmation, see John 1.19 and 24 where αποστελλω is used and 1.22 where is πεμπω used. They are all referring to the exact same thing, namely the ones “sent” from Jerusalem to interrogate John the Baptizer.

  8. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that ἀποστέλλω implies the authority of the one sending, not necessarily of those being sent, unless the sender hands over such authority to them.

    Yes, exactly. I once heard ἀπόστολος defined as “he is as the man himself.” An ἀπόστολος has the full authority of the sender, though the authority is constrained to the task given.

    I noticed that in Mark 5:10 the unclean spirits asked Jesus not to send (ἀποστέλλω) them out of that region.

    Interesting pericope.

    Translating ἀποστέλλω as send loses the sense and therefore misses the point. The idea is the Demoniac did not want the demons to be given any authority to work somewhere else. Note the 3rd person singular of παρακαλέω and the fact that the demons are the objects of that request. It’s the Demoniac that is making the request.

    I find that incredibly amazing. He’s deeply concerned. Here’s a guy who has been tortured by these evil spirits. And his earnest request, bordering on a summons (παρακαλέω) to Jesus, is focused on the potential harm it might bring to others. Amazing! Even as a Demoniac, I admire him.

    No wonder the freed Demoniac is commissioned (note the sense of ἀποστέλλω here, though the word is not used) in verses 18-19.

  9. Posted April 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Apostle is Greek for sent one (though with specific cultural connotations in English).

    Missionary is Latin for sent one (though with specific cultural connotations in English).

    How about plenipotentiary? It’s Latin, too, but it actually says what it means.

    Or shaliakh? Means the same, is foreign, and without baggage. Then you can just add a footnote with a short paragraph to explain the meaning to the un-Hebrewed.

  10. Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    @Mike Sangrey,

    I’ve never heard that perspective on who is talking in Mark 5:10. In fact, none of the commentaries I scanned even consider it. They all say that it is Legion speaking there.

    You say that the 3S of παρακαλεω shows that the Demoniac is speaking. However, in 5:8 Jesus was telling him (αυτω) to come out, and in 5:9, the spokes-demon (presumably) responded (λεγει). These seem to be clearly referencing the demon in the 3S.

    I’m curious as to why in 5:10, then, you take that back to the man himself.

    Thanks! Daniel

  11. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Daniel,

    There’s a textual issue going on here which I’m going to ignore.

    Notice the Greek of verse 5:9b: καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ λεγιὼν ὄνομά μοι ὅτι πολλοί ἐσμεν

    My translation: ”He said in reference to himself, ‘Legion is our name for we are many.'”

    Seems to me the Greek conveys how intertwined with demons this poor guy was.

    At the risk of bringing up theological questions the text makes no presumption to answer, you’re right that Jesus spoke first and said (essentially), “You (sing.), come out of him.” Jesus had no reason to expect he was dealing with more than one demon when he was approaching the Demoniac. But, one thing seems clear–he didn’t get the result he expected. What’s the explanation for that?

    Note the discourse marker γάρ in verse 8. This marker indicates explanation of a previously stated concept. Mark is explaining why the man responded in such an incredibly unusual way. That is, this man knows Jesus is the Son of God, and he expects Jesus to roughly question him (βασανίζω). Odd! Completely incongruent. [1] That’s the reason Jesus didn’t get what he expected. He’s dealing with a highly possessed, highly schizophrenic person.

    I frankly wonder if it was the man who knew Jesus was the Son of God and the demons who “knew” him as one who would torture them (at least, that’s how they responded).

    This is a singular duplicitousness. Demons had masticated this guy; and yet, he still voiced truth. In such a case, how can the plural be separated from the singular. It reminds me of that joke that says, “I use to have schizophrenia, but I’m cured. It’s just the other guy that needs therapy now.”

    I think the text is carefully worded to show a complex which involves a single man and many demons, intertwined into a single personality. I think many of the details can be explained in different ways, but the awfulness, and the extreme difficulty the man faced, come across loud and clear. And yet, there was something beautifully redeemable in one so completely rejected.

    Lastly, do any commentaries deal with the use of ἀποστέλλω? I have a suspicion of what the answer might be.

    And also, and quite interesting, I think, the Luke parallel has the plural for παρακαλέω and uses ἐπιτάσσω (to order by giving a command). It also refers to the “Abyss” and not “a different region”. Perhaps the reason the different gospel accounts are hard to harmonize is because there was a lot more to the dialog–and it was filled with contradictory statements. Some statements coming from from the man and different ones coming from the demons. That’s speculation. However, harmonization often carries its own speculation. I think it is kind of neat, almost ironic, that attempts at harmonization here help us see the lack of harmony in this man’s life.


    [1] I think it is important to note that this part of the story is told backwards–the later event is told first. I think the reason for that is to shove off of the stage the idea that Jesus was surprised by the demon(s) not coming out of the man. That’s not the topic here in this pericope. Mark makes no mention of it. The focus is on the highly duplicitous nature of the Demoniac. That is why the duplicity is conveyed up front.

  12. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Notice the Greek of verse 5:9b: καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ λεγιὼν ὄνομά μοι ὅτι πολλοί ἐσμεν

    My translation: ”He said in reference to himself, ‘Legion is our name for we are many.’”

    Huh?

    I have no idea what I was thinking.

    The translation should–obviously–be, “He told him, ‘Legion is our name for we are many.'”

  13. Posted April 5, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting, Mike. Like I said, I’ve never heard that perspective before. I’ll definitely take a closer look from that angle. Thanks for your explanation (specifically) and posts (generally) here.

    And, no, I didn’t see anything about αποστελλω, as I surmise you surmised.

    Daniel

  14. Posted April 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    You know, I wondered about that “in reference to himself”, but figured you had a reason for it that I was missing.

  15. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    To add even more “out of my mind” thinking to my thinking…

    When I said, Demons had masticated this guy, I meant Demons had metastasized this guy.

    Note to self: When editing your post, second opinions from yourself are not enough. If there is enough of you, get a third and fourth opinion.

    Note to other self: And do that before you hit “post comment.”

  16. Dannii
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Some great ideas here! I particularly like envoy and emissary.

    A couple of other comments:

    Iver, my Greek is bad, but I’m skeptical that apostle actually means “highest authority”. I think that is a conflation between The Twelve’s role and the authority Jesus gave them (or at least is thought to have given them). We don’t think that disciple means “highest authority”, but we do with apostle, perhaps because we mistakenly think it was a role given only to the Twelve. This is why I think we should use a word other than apostle, because it’s a transliteration, but also because for most people now it means the wrong thing (or many people may not be sure what it really means).

    With ἀποστέλλω, how does being sent with the authority of the sender fit with the meaning of “dismiss” which is given by some lexicons?

  17. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    One other thing I wanted to mention about ἀποστέλλω.

    In our modern English conceptual model of the world, there are relatively few times where we “send someone to do a task giving them our authority to do it.” The concept in our world is relatively rare.

    However, it seems to me that the concept, or perhaps I should say, the conceptual pathway, was much more common in their conceptual model.

    In other words, here’s the difference between πέμπω and ἀποστέλλω.

    When we say, “I’m going to send Harvey to the back of the room,” we would use a word like πέμπω. So would they.

    When we say, “I’m going to send Harvey to get my bread,” we would use a word like πέμπω. They would use ἀποστέλλω.

    The difference is that in our conceptual world, we’re just sending someone. We want them to move from point A to point B and do something. In their world, they are authorizing someone to do something. They would give Harvey some money (which would empower him to do his task) and ἀποστέλλω him. He would go, he would say, “I’m here to pick up Mike’s bread,” he would present the money, and get the bread.

    We don’t think in terms of authorizing someone to pick up bread. They did.

    It’s not that we do not have a word to properly translate ἀποστέλλω. The problem lies in our conceptual model within which we have to interpret the word. There’s no seamless fit to our reality.

    In my opinion, that’s what all the discussions about ἀποστέλλω are really about.

    And one of the things that makes Bible translation so hard.

  18. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Since the person who is an ἀπόστολος is given a task and is given the authority of the sender to accomplish the task, there is a significant difference between those who are sent by Christ to start the Church age and missionaries who are sent by a church to start and plant another church. Each is sent with the authority of the sender, but the authority and tasks are substantially different.

  19. Dannii
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Mike, I would interpret the passages where Jesus gives his disciples authority as saying that authority was given to the church as a whole, each generating passing it to the next. So I would say there isn’t a great difference between those first apostles, and the later apostles, at least as far as the were apostles for church planting. That does seem to be the general task for which the church was given apostles, but there could have been other tasks too.

    The one difference I can think of is that only the first generation were able to write scripture, which might be related to John 14:26. But then that verse could apply to all of us, as the Spirit helps us remember all that we’ve heard Jesus say through the written records we have. And it’s likely that parts of the NT were written by those not called apostles (was James?)

  20. Tony Pope
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Scholars have discussed the synonyms ἀποστέλλω and πέμπω. See C C Tarelli at http://jts.oxfordjournals.org/content/os-XLVII/187-188/175.extract .

    Also G D Kilpatrick, who lays out the data for John and agrees with Tarelli that there was no difference in meaning, at least as far as John is concerned, but also claims that what Mike claims for ἀποστέλλω is true for πέμπω as well. “They are apparently narrower in meaning than the English word ‘send’. … They have a suggestion of commissioning or sending with a purpose.” See The Bible Translator, Vol 11 No.4 1960 176 at

    http://www.ubs-translations.org/bt/archives_1950_2010/search/

    (Search for 387 in the ID box and turn to p. 176.)

  21. Micah Schmidt
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    One of the German words for missionary is ‘Sendling.’ In English, this would be ‘sendling.’ :) Every time I propose this to friends, they roll their eyes, but I seriously think that this would be an excellent translation of ‘ἀπόστολος.’

    The word may not be as intellectual-sounding as others, but I mean, what is a missionary/apostle/emissary/envoy/etc., but one sent by the command of Christ (and maybe one’s church, depending on the church body)?

  22. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Tony,

    Thank you for pointing us to those articles. They are helpful.

    The observations are valuable. However, I think they should motivate further research. For example, Tarelli says,


    It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the Johannine usage in the case of these two verbs is dependent not upon difference of meaning, but upon difference of tense or mood, upon a preference for one verb in certain of its grammatical forms and for the other in the other forms.

    Right before that statement, he notes that ἀποστέλλω occurs in the aorist passive participle (not active) and πέμπω occurs very frequently in the aorist active participle. That makes sense to me. The emphasis (only a slight emphasis) in the former case is on the recipient of the action being “commissioned”. So, the passive would be the natural choice. There’s no such emphasis with πέμπω.

    Much the same can be said of the perfective aspect of the usage of ἀποστέλλω and the more unbounded nature of πέμπω. This requires more in-depth lexical semantic research; but, in any case, I’m thinking of the fact, for example, that some words are naturally continuous while others are perfective. Therefore we don’t find perfective forms for the former or continuous forms of the later. It would make no sense lexically. For example, how would one convey an unbounded blink? (And I’m not referring to repeated blinks. What single word does one use to talk about one long, continuous blink? “Wow, what blinkage you have my fair maiden!” :-) ) Commisionng is much more point in time, while being sent from one location to another is much more continuous. This is not a grammatical consideration; it is a lexical one.

    Also, an argument can be made from the occurrences of πέμπω following ἀποστέλλω that it indicates that they are used interchangeably. However, another possible explanation has to do with their relative pragmatic effect. That is, the two words have a sending semantic component in common and the author does not want to overemphasize the authority component of ἀποστέλλω. So, he uses the one and then switches to the other. This boarders on being stylistic, and yet John (or Jesus speaking) does not want to overplay the one component and therefore convey something more than what he wants to say. I wonder if the occurrences in Thucydides could be explained this way. Flipping the words around (πέμπω first, then ἀποστέλλω) is not a show stopper, either. The author might want to bring the authority aspect in afterward. Please note that these distinctions are always subtle–and meant to be. So, no one is to build some grand theological point on such subtleties. The pragmatic effect is the intent, not a semantic one. So, the distinction is to help interpret all of what is going on around these words and not so much to understand the words themselves.

    I think the pragmatic effect can be seen in the John 1:19,22 text (which pericope Tarelli mentions). John tells his readers that the Priests and Levites were commanded to perform a task which they then did. That clues the readers in to whose actually asking the questions. However, when it comes to their speaking to John, they want to convey a different pragmatic effect to John. So, they play down the authority-they speak and focus simply on the movement from one geographic location to the other–the aspect of authority is left ambiguous to John. There’s a relative distinction in pragmatic effect with the two uses. It’s not so much in the semantics. And the use of ἀποστέλλω in verse 19 is the more important since it sets the interpretive context.

  23. Tony Pope
    Posted April 9, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Mike,
    I like the approach of your last two paragraphs. It should be said that Tarelli was not the first to discuss these synonyms.

    Westcott, p. 298, seems to have seen the same distinction as you do.

    http://www.archive.org/stream/gospelaccording13unkngoog#page/n400/mode/2up

    Similarly, Rengstorf in Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT , 1964, vol. 1 (Google books, p.403-405)

    Abbott, Johannine Vocabulary, § 1723d – 1723g, sees a different distinction.

    http://www.archive.org/stream/johanninevocabu00abbogoog#page/n246/mode/2up

    However, the fashionable view today seems to be to deny differences in meaning that earlier scholars saw. Morris in his commentary on John (p. 230 n. 78) pits Abbott against Westcott and, taking his cue from Tarelli, says, “The difference is not one of meaning but of John’s consistent choice of certain parts only of these verbs. That there is no difference of meaning is further to be seen in the way the verbs are used. … No real difference of meaning is apparent.”

    More recently Köstenberger has a chapter “The Two Johannine Verbs for Sending: A Study of John’s Use of Words with
    Reference to General Linguistic Theory.” pp. 125-143, in Stanley Porter and D.A. Carson, eds. Linguistics and the New
    Testament: Critical Junctures,
    1999, which I just skimmed on Google Books. He concludes that in contemporary literature the two words were used as “virtual synonyms” and develops a complicated set of explanations as to why an author chose one over the other at each point – grammatical forms à la Tarelli, plus genre and stereotyping. (He explains what he means.)

    But it strikes me that appealing to genre or to stereotyping does not constitute a proper explanation, and that’s why I think your approach is worth pursuing further.

  24. Stephen Beck
    Posted April 10, 2011 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    I’m a few days late into this discussion, but I did a short (non-rigorous, very basic) study myself on the use of these two words in John’s Gospel recently, and I was astounded reading here the absoluteness which Mike Sangrey speaks of in the difference between these two verbs. I do not purport to be a scholar of any expertise, but I did pour over and examine each of John’s usages, and I could not determine any subtlety of meaning difference. I am actually a new student at Kostenberger’s institution and when I find the time I will definitely have to look up his article.

    But for now I did want to ask Mike to consider two verses: John 7:18 and 12:49. Perhaps there is a difference between “speaking from myself” and “speaking on my own authority”. John 12 is an interesting chapter in this discussion since in the middle of it, God the Father directly speaks! Seems to be the highest manner of authority, and the “last straw” as it were that the crowds and the leaders would not believe in him (12:37). Jesus, if we were too dense to figure this out, recaps in the closing words of the chapter, that he only speaks the words that were given to him from the one who pempsas him, and there’s not an apostellw to be found.

    This has been a really interesting discussion for me to read, thanks to all for this fascinating topic. And to Mike, you have challenged my previous views and pushed me into further study.

  25. Iver Larsen
    Posted April 11, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Dannii,

    I have not been following this discussion for a few days.

    When I said that apostles are the highest authority I was not thinking of the 12 disciples of Jesus who did not properly start to function as apostles until after Pentecost. (They had a rehearsal when Jesus sent them out alone.) Nor it is a matter of the Greek word in itself, but how it is used. I was thinking of all the apostles in NT times, including the first 12, as well as modern apostles.

    I agree that most Christians today do not understand the role and function of an apostle, but that problem is not solved by using another word, on the contrary, it will only add to the confusion as if an apostle was the same as a missionary or an ambassodor or an envoy or an emissary. The function of apostle started to get lost already at the end of the first century and was gradually replaced by the “bishop”, which took on a life of its own. Apostles (and prophets) were rediscovered in the Welsh revival about 100 years ago, but this understanding did not go far beyond the Apostolic Church that grew out from that revival. Within the tradition of the Apostolic Church, the first 12 apostles are sometimes referred to as “the Apostles of the Lamb” to distinguish them from other apostles. With the Charismatic movement the functions of apostles and prophets were re-discovered within other church denominations, assisted by Peter Wagner’s books and teaching. A good introduction to the topic is “The Gift of Apostle” by David Cannistraci (1996).

    Your point about dismiss is well taken, although I don’t know which lexicon you refer to. The basic sense given in both LSJ and BDAG is “dispatch”. The word in itself does not imply “being sent with authority”.

    Comparing the two verbs, I noted that πέμπω does not occur in the perfect in the NT, and in the LXX only in 2 Macc 11:32 and 1Es 2:20. Therefore, it is quite possible that there is no significant distinction between πέμπω and ἀποστέλλω in the perfect tense. Or I should rather say, that ἀποστέλλω may be used in the perfect in a sense that is not distinguishable from the sense of πέμπω. This explains some of the observations by Tarelli that Tony referred to. But it does not follow that no distinction is found outside the perfect tense.

    In my view πέμπω refers to the sending without any indication of authority of the sending person nor of the authority of the person sent.

    ἀποστέλλω does not in itself imply a person sent with authority, but it does imply a sender who has authority. You cannot dismiss a crowd without authority.

    Concerning synonyms, I think it is somewhat inaccurate to talk about words being synonyms. It is rather usage that can be synonymous. For instance, if word A has 5 senses and word B has 7 senses, and if 3-4 of the most commonly used senses are identical, Word A and B may be said to be synonyms. But it only applies to contexts where the shared senses are used. In other contexts, A and B would not be synonyms.

  26. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Stephen wrote:
    This has been a really interesting discussion for me to read, thanks to all for this fascinating topic. And to Mike, you have challenged my previous views and pushed me into further study.

    See Being Pragmatic about Words if you haven’t already.

    Also, pushing someone into further study of the Word of God is a win for all. :-) I take this as one of the more wonderful compliments I’ve received. Thank you.

  27. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I hope this comment helps Dannii wrestle through the translation issues with πέμπω and ἀποστέλλω. I think even the prepositions come into play.

    The wording of 7:29, and the word order, is starting to strike me as extremely emphatic. The sentences are short and hard-hitting. And the word order seems to me to be a bit odd.

    Also, it seems to me, using ἀπό and παρά in the context of “being sent” leverages the sense of being sent from the person. παρά more tightly connects the sending action to the person doing the sending, but I think ἀπό can also be used. That is, when using παρά and to a lessor degree ἀπό in the context of πέμπω, then the translator needs to consider whether the prepositions rely on the action referred to by the verb–as in “sent from.” To illustrate, see next.

    7:28-29:
    ἔκραξεν οὖν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ διδάσκων ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ λέγων, κἀμὲ οἴδατε. καὶ οἴδατε πόθεν εἰμί. καὶ ἀπ’ ἐμαυτοῦ οὐκ ἐλήλυθα. ἀλλ’ ἔστιν ἀληθινὸς ὁ πέμψας με. ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε. ἐγὼ οἶδα αὐτόν ὅτι παρ’ αὐτοῦ εἰμι. κἀκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν.

    So, Jesus raised his voice in the temple courts, teaching them by saying, “You know me. You know I’m from some place or other. But, I didn’t send myself [lit: come from me]. Contrary to your thinking the one who sent me is being genuine. And you do not know him! But, I know him because he sent me! He is the one that gave me the authority to do what I’m doing!

    And then the people reacted!

  28. elnwood
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    D.A. Carson says that defining ἀπόστολος as “one who is sent” based on ἀποστέλλω is a root fallacy and is “linguistic nonsense.”

    He writes: Actual usage in the New Testament suggests ἀπόστολος commonly bears the meaning a special representative or a special messenger rather than “someone sent out.”

    Carson, D. A. Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 28, 30.

  29. Johnathan Knop
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure if anyone is still following this string, but if you are interested, please post and I would like to discuss.

    I think it is quite ridiculous to have such an ardent view on terms on which there is so much overlap. Actually, I think that the nature of people is to define out such terms of authority to facilitate mediocrity.
    We are all given the authority of Jesus Christ as His emissary. We are told to seek all the gifts, and especially the gift of prophesy. We are all called to evangelize. We are all called to follow the example of Jesus. If these are not so, then not only is the Great Commission is not applicable today, but neither is the merit of the Bible (as compared with any other moral story).

    Apostle and Missionary are the same.


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  1. [...] are having a fascinating discussion about ἀποστέλλω and πέμπω in Apostles and missionaries. I don’t want to slow it down, but one comment on that post brought some thoughts about [...]

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