were the 12 apostles from the 12 tribes - one per tribe?

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were the 12 apostles from the 12 tribes - one per tribe?

Post by email » Sun Apr 15, 2007 10:43 pm

Weren't all the apostles each a member of each of the twelve tribes of Israel?
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I don't think so

Post by m273p15c » Sun Apr 15, 2007 11:25 pm

If I understand your question correct, I believe the answer is "no". First, the Bible does not tell us the tribal identity of most of the apostles. Second, there were at least two sets of brothers among the apostles: Peter and Andrew; James and John (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:17). There are two others who were each independently acknowledged as being a "son of Alphaeus"; however, they are never referenced this way in the same immediate context, neither were they ever specifically designated as brothers (Matthew 10:3; Mark 2:14; 3:18). Therefore, they could have easily had different fathers, who happened to share the same name. Regardless, several of the apostles being brothers would complicate their unique representation of distinct tribes, since they shared the exact same lineage. Furthermore, most of the apostles were Galilean, and many came from the same city (John 1:44-45; Luke 5:5-10; Acts 2:7-14). This would suggest (not necessarily) that many of them shared the same tribe, again spoiling the notion that there was one apostle born of each tribe.

However, the number of apostles is definitely related to the number of Israel's tribes:
Matthew, recording Jesus' words, wrote:Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?" So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:27-28)
The number 12 represented the fullness of God's people, most likely because there were 12 tribes of Israel when God first established a "people". Similarly, 12 apostles were chosen to lead and be a foundation for the church, which is the 12 tribes of spiritual Israel (Ephesians 2:19-21; Romans 9:6). This symbolism is prevalent in the figurative, apocalyptic book of Revelation:
  • sealing of "twelve thousand" from each of the twelve tribes - Revelation 7:5-8
  • the woman representing God's people had a garland of 12 stars on her head - Revelation 12:1
  • the heavenly city had "twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel" - Revelation 21:12, 21
  • the wall of the heavenly city also had "twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb"
  • the length, breadth, and height of the new city was 12,000 furlongs in each direction - Revelation 21:16
  • the tree of life is pictured as producing "twelve fruits" - Revelation 22:2
So, I agree that the 12 apostles share the same numerical significance as the 12 tribes; however, I cannot find any inspired evidence that suggest that they each represented a separate tribe. In fact, I am unaware of any passage that identifies their tribal heritage, except for Paul, who was of Benjamin (Philippians 3:4-5).
May God help us to love truth sincerely and supremely (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

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