In Christianity, during his ministry, the disciples were Jesus’ pupils. Although Jesus attracted a wide following, it is popular to use the word disciple to refer directly to the twelve apostles.

Difference between Apostle and DiscipleThe Gospels and the Book of Acts also refer to different numbers of disciples, ranging from 70 to 120 to a “growing multitude”. For those who want to learn from Jesus’ teachings, such as the Sermon on the Mount, the term disciple is used today as a means of self-identification.

Here are some differences between Apostle and Disciple. Have a look: 

Particulars  Apostle Disciple
Meaning   An apostle is an ambassador and a messenger. Someone who champions, believes or causes a crucial reform movement (more so in the Christian context). A disciple is the follower and student of a mentor, tutor, or some other prudent person. Someone who embraces and assists in spreading another’s teachings or who actually puts someone who knows some art or science.
Origin  Originally and generally, an apostle referred to the early followers of Jesus who transmitted the Christian message to the world or to a person appointed to spread the Christian message by a Christian missionary.  The word disciple is not associated specifically with any single entity or organization.
Etymology  Middle English, from the Old English Apostle and from the Old Apostle of French, all from the Late Apostle of Latin, from the Greek Apostolos Middle English, from the disciple of Old English and from the disciple of Old French, both from Latin discipulus, teacher, from discere, to learn; see dek- in the origins of Indo-Europe.
Reference in movies  The title of a hit movie starring Robert Duvall is The Apostle.  “The Disciple” is the title of a film that stars Race Owens.



The English word “apostle” is derived from the Greek apostello, “to send forth.” While it is hardly used in the Old Testament, in the New Testament it is used at least 80 times. “Jesus may have originally used the Aramaic word seliah, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, which describes “those who were dispatched from the mother city by the rulers of the race on any international mission, especially those who were charged with collecting the tribute paid to the temple service.


An apostle is one that God sends to the nations to preach the Gospel. This was almost solely used for many years to describe the 12 apostles who were brought by Jesus into the earth. In a related manner, because of his divine commission from Jesus, St. Paul is also called an “apostle.”

Since then, the term has also been used for great saints who have been “apostles,” called on a special mission by God. For one, for his missionary work among the Germans, St. Boniface is regarded as the “Apostle to the Germans.” He sought divine inspiration to spread Christianity though not directly instructed by Jesus.

Origin of the Word

After Jesus’ ascension, the word apostle came in use. The Apostle is identified by the Christian assembly as ‘a preliminary to Judas’ replacement choice.’ Paul is also regarded as an apostle after Jesus himself awarded this title to him. 

When the last apostle died about 100 A.D., the Apostolic Period came to an end. In today’s Christian church, there are no real apostles.

12 Apostles

The apostle is generally reserved in the New Testament Gospels for the 12 men Jesus chooses to comprise his near circle of followers. The twelve are mentioned in Mark 3:14-19 as follows: Simon Peter, James the son of Zebedee, James the brother of John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Alphaeus’ son James, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot. 

Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:12-16 contain identical lists of apostles, although the term apostle is not used by John for the followers of Jesus.


Middle English, Old English Apostol, and Old French Apostle, all derived from Late Latin Apostolos, which is in turn derived from Greek Apostolos. 


A blockbuster film starring Robert Duvall is titled The Apostle.


The term “disciple” is derived from the Latin discipulus, which means “student” or “pupil.” It is almost entirely found in the New Testament, similar to the word “apostle.” Typically, it denotes the several “students” who surrounded Jesus and learned from his many teachings enthusiastically.

A disciple of Jesus in this sense is not simply someone who is “sent” to the world to spread the Gospel, but a person who is continually learning what it means to be a Christian.


The disciple derives from an educational background which is equivalent to “student.” Therefore, in terms of their intent or task, the word apostle identifies a person, while the disciple emphasizes the connection of the person to the teacher. All apostles are disciples but not all disciples are apostles. Jesus selected twelve disciples, and this inner circle of men were known as apostles who were charged with distributing Jesus’ word across the world so that many disciples would be there.

Origin of the Word

The word disciple is not associated exclusively with any single entity or organization. However, even now, there are many Christian disciples spreading the words of Jesus. But in today’s Christian church, there are no real apostles.

Use of the Term

“The word disciple is used more generally than apostle and is usually used to identify persons outside of “the twelve” (for example, Mark 2:18 describes the disciples of John the Baptist; see also Luke 6:13, where Jesus picks the 12 apostles from a wider community of disciples). Some historians claim that women participating in the movement of Jesus, such as Mary and Martha of Bethany, would be called disciples.


A film starring Race Owens is titled The Disciple.


Middle English, from the disciple of Old English and the disciple of Old French, both derived from Latin discipulus, pupil, from discere, to learn; see dek- in Indo-European origins.


(Last Updated On: January 29, 2021)