Apostle Apollos? -- By: Andrew Wilson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 56:2 (Jun 2013)
Article: Apostle Apollos?
Author: Andrew Wilson


Apostle Apollos?

Andrew Wilson*

* Andrew Wilson is a researcher at King’s College, Stamford St., London SE1 8WA, and an elder at Kings Church, Eastbourne, BN23 6PT, UK.

Did Paul see Apollos as a fellow apostle in 1 Corinthians? Surprisingly, this question has not received a full-length scholarly treatment, despite its relatively significant implications for our understanding of the apostolate. Amongst commentators on 1 Corinthians, it is frequently argued or assumed that he did, as we shall see, based on the flow and logic of chapters 1-4. Many evangelicals, on the other hand, have reasoned that since Apollos had not seen the risen Christ, and since Paul believed that an essential qualification for apostleship was to have seen the risen Christ, Paul could not have regarded Apollos as an apostle.1

Under the surface of this discussion is another concern for conservative scholars: if someone who had not seen the risen Christ could be termed an apostle by Paul, then what implications would that have for the completion of the apostolate, and thereby the completion of the canon of Scripture? Would more apostles be possible after the first generation had died out? More books of the Bible, even? One unfortunate consequence of this is that Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 1-4, which has nothing to do with the canon of Scripture, has not always been read on its own terms, particularly with reference to the position of Apollos. In this paper, we will review the main interpretive approaches, and then attempt to answer the question through a careful study of the evidence in 1 Corinthians. We will close by suggesting some possible implications.

I. Interpretive Approaches

The biggest question mark over the apostleship of Apollos, oddly, arises from a passage that does not mention him at all: 1 Cor 9:1-3. In verse 1 of this chapter, Paul links together his freedom, his apostleship, and the appearance of the risen Christ to him, leading many interpreters to conclude that witnessing the resurrected Jesus is regarded by Paul as a necessary condition for apostleship. Thus, if Paul is speaking coherently on this point, which most commentators accept that he is, then he must believe one of three things. Either (1) Paul did not regard Apollos as an apostle; (2) Paul believed Apollos had witnessed the resurrected Jesus; or (3) for Paul, witnessing the risen Christ was not a necessary condition for all apostleship. The only alternative is inherent contradiction, which prima facie seems unlik...

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