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Apostle vs. Disciple: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 1, 2023
Apostle refers to a messenger or leader sent on a mission, especially the 12 chosen by Jesus; Disciple means a follower or student of a teacher.

Key Differences

Apostle is a term that carries a specific mission or purpose, especially in a religious context. Disciple, on the other hand, denotes a person who adheres to the teachings and follows the example of a particular leader or teacher.
While every Apostle can be considered a Disciple because they followed and learned from Jesus, not every Disciple can be deemed an Apostle. The term Apostle has been closely linked to the twelve individuals Jesus specifically chose to carry out certain missions. In contrast, Disciple encompasses a wider group of individuals who followed and learned from Jesus or any other teacher.
Both words, Apostle and Disciple, have evolved in their usage and understanding, but their origins in religious contexts remain evident.

Comparison Chart


A messenger or leader sent on a mission.
A follower or student of a teacher.

Biblical Reference

Refers specifically to the 12 chosen by Jesus.
Refers to any follower of Jesus.


More specific in terms of role and mission.
Broader, can be a follower of any teacher.

Relation to Jesus

Both a follower and chosen messenger.
Primarily a follower.

General Use

Can refer to a pioneer in a certain field or movement.
Can denote a devoted adherent in any context.

Apostle and Disciple Definitions


A high-ranking official in certain Christian churches.
The Apostle oversees several congregations in the area.


Someone who accepts and spreads the doctrines of another.
As a Disciple of the philosophy, she organized seminars.


A pioneer in a movement or field.
Elon Musk can be seen as an Apostle of modern space exploration.


One who practices discipline or has self-control.
As a Disciple of the art, he practiced every day.


A chief proponent of a cause.
Martin Luther King Jr. was an Apostle of civil rights.


A member of the Christian group known for following Jesus.
The Disciple dedicated his life to spreading the teachings.


One of the 12 primary followers of Jesus.
Paul became an Apostle after Jesus' death and resurrection.


One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.


A person sent on a specific mission.
She was chosen as an Apostle to spread the message across continents.


An active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.


Apostle One of a group made up especially of the 12 disciples chosen by Jesus to preach the gospel.


Often Disciple One of the original followers of Jesus.


A missionary of the early Christian Church.


Disciple A member of the Disciples of Christ.


A leader of the first Christian mission to a country or region.


A person who learns from another, especially one who then teaches others.


One of the 12 members of the administrative council in the Mormon Church.


An active follower or adherent of someone, or some philosophy etc.


One who pioneers an important reform movement, cause, or belief
An apostle of conservation.


(Ireland) A wretched, miserable-looking man.


A passionate adherent; a strong supporter.


To convert (a person) into a disciple.


A missionary, or leader of a religious mission, especially one in the early Christian Church (but see Apostle).


To train, educate, teach.


A pioneer or early advocate of a particular cause, prophet of a belief.


To routinely counsel (one's peer or junior) one-on-one in their discipleship of Christ, as a fellow affirmed disciple.


A top-ranking ecclesiastical official in the twelve seat administrative council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


One who receives instruction from another; a scholar; a learner; especially, a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher; an adherent in doctrine; as, the disciples of Plato; the disciples of our Savior.


A person who is plucked, that is, refused an academic degree.


To teach; to train.
That better were in virtues discipled.


(legal) A letter dismissory.


To punish; to discipline.


(legal) A note sent to an appeals court presenting the appeal in summary.


To make disciples of; to convert to doctrines or principles.
Sending missionaries to disciple all nations.


(legal) The trial court record sent to an appeal court concerning an appeal.


Someone who believes and helps to spread the doctrine of another


Literally: One sent forth; a messenger. Specifically: One of the twelve disciples of Christ, specially chosen as his companions and witnesses, and sent forth to preach the gospel.
He called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.


An active follower or student of a leader or teacher.
He was a Disciple of the renowned artist.


The missionary who first plants the Christian faith in any part of the world; also, one who initiates any great moral reform, or first advocates any important belief; one who has extraordinary success as a missionary or reformer; as, Dionysius of Corinth is called the apostle of France, John Eliot the apostle to the Indians, Theobald Mathew the apostle of temperance.


A devoted fan or enthusiast.
He was a Disciple of jazz music, attending every concert in town.


A brief letter dimissory sent by a court appealed from to the superior court, stating the case, etc.; a paper sent up on appeals in the admiralty courts.


An ardent early supporter of a cause or reform;
An apostle of revolution


Any important early teacher of Christianity or a Christian missionary to a people


(New Testament) one of the original 12 disciples chosen by Christ to preach his gospel


Can Apostle be used outside of religious contexts?

Yes, it can refer to a pioneer or chief proponent in any field.

What does the term Apostle primarily refer to?

Apostle refers to a messenger or leader, especially one of the 12 chosen by Jesus.

Were all Apostles also Disciples?

Yes, all Apostles were Disciples, but not all Disciples were Apostles.

What is the main difference between an Apostle and a Disciple?

Apostle denotes a sent messenger while Disciple means a follower or student.

Does the term Disciple strictly pertain to religious contexts?

No, while it originates from religious contexts, Disciple can mean a follower of any teacher or doctrine.

Can someone be both an Apostle and a Disciple simultaneously?

Yes, for example, the 12 Apostles were also Disciples of Jesus.

Which term is broader in scope, Apostle or Disciple?

Disciple has a broader scope, encompassing any follower or student.

Can the term Disciple be used in non-religious contexts?

Yes, it can refer to anyone who follows or studies under another in any field.

Does the term Disciple imply a certain level of commitment?

Yes, a Disciple is typically seen as a devoted follower or student.

How many Apostles were there in the Bible?

There were 12 primary Apostles chosen by Jesus.

Were there female Apostles in the Bible?

While the primary 12 were men, some argue figures like Junia were female Apostles.

How does one become an Apostle?

Historically, Apostles were chosen by Jesus, but in broader contexts, one can be seen as an Apostle in a field by pioneering or leading it.

Who chose the Apostles?

In Christian tradition, Jesus chose the 12 Apostles.

Is Apostle used in modern churches?

Yes, some Christian denominations use the title for high-ranking officials.

Is the role of an Apostle higher than that of a Disciple?

In religious contexts, an Apostle has a specific mission or role, while a Disciple is a general follower.

Do all religions have concepts of Apostles and Disciples?

While the terms originate from Christianity, many religions have similar concepts of leaders and followers.

Are the words Apostle and Disciple interchangeable?

No, while they have similarities, they have distinct meanings and roles.

Who is the most famous Disciple?

Many might say Peter or John from the Bible, but it's subjective.

Can someone today be called an Apostle?

In certain Christian denominations, yes. In broader contexts, it denotes a pioneer or leader in a field.

Is every student a Disciple?

Not necessarily. While every Disciple is a student in some sense, not every student is a devoted follower or adherent.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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