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REGARDING THE OFFICE OF APOSTLE IN EARLY CHRISTIANITY
Question: My interest centers on the early Apostolic ministries, their lives, and filling the vacancies after the first 12/13. The following were the Lord’s (13) Apostles: Simon, who is called Peter. Andrew, his brother. James, the son of Zebedee. John, his brother. Philip. Bartholomew. Thomas. Matthew the publican (Levi, son of Alphaeus). James, the son of Alphaeus. Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus (Judas, brother of James, Jude, assumed the same as Lebbaeus but no real historical evidences to draw the connection). Simon the Canaanite (the zealot). Judas Iscariot. Matthias.
The LDS Bible dictionary lists Paul and James, the Lord’s brother, as Apostles. The following were referred to as Apostles in the NT, though at least Bruce R. McConkie suggests Barnabas was an apostle with a little a: Barnabas, Silas, Apollos. Then there is the question of at least the following personalities: Timothy, Mark, Luke, Andronicus and Junia/Junius.
Logic suggests that because Paul was extended the office of Apostle, the calling of such was occurring at least up through ca 35-40 AD and could have reasonably been extended up through his death at or about 65 AD. I am also curious if the historic record, or ecclesiastical records, suggest any early church fathers were ordained to the office of apostle, e.g. Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Linus, Cletus, etc.
Response from Kent Brown: The evidence from the New Testament about apostles is spotty. Our best sources are the gospels and letters of the apostle Paul. There are other sources, but they did not make it into the canon of scripture and are, for the most part, considered to be apocryphal. Because of their late dates of composition, they are suspected to be unreliable.
Of course, we all can read of the first replacement, Matthias, for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). This event sets a pattern that the remaining members of the Twelve must have followed thereafter. But the records are incomplete for the next selections to the apostleship. Paul is certainly an apostle. James the Lord’s brother may well have been because of his place among leaders (Galatians 2:9). After these men, we are left to guess. Of course, it is likely that other apostles, if chosen and ordained, came from the ranks of the Seventy (Luke 10:1), but we have no specific record. None of those whom you mention — Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp, Linus, Cletus — from the third generation of Christians ever claims apostolic status.
Although his purpose in writing is not to excavate ancient sources to look for other apostles, you will find the book by Hugh Nibley titled Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity (2005, edited by John W. Welch and John F. Hall) to be a very helpful study that helps us to distinguish these two offices in the early church.
REGARDING JESUS AS THE BREAD OF LIFE AND THE LIVING WATER
Question: What was Jesus referring to when he said he was the “bread of life” and “living water”? Do these names also refer to the bread and water of the sacrament? If so, how?
Response from Kent Brown: The two expressions come from different chapters in John’s gospel. But they each have connections to sacred actions and ceremonies.
Jesus calls himself the bread of life in a discourse in Galilee found in John 6 that ties to the exodus experience (reference to manna, etc. — John 6:49). But the discourse is loaded with connections to the Christian Eucharist, what we call the Sacrament, especially with references to bread and blood. (The blood points to the grape juice or wine that early Christians drank to celebrate Jesus’s Atonement.)
The living water reference occurs at the temple in Jerusalem (John 7). On the last day of the feast of booths or tabernacles, when priests carry water up from the pool of Siloam in a solemn procession, Jesus promises that those who have genuine thirst and who believe on him will become sources of living water for themselves and for others (verses 37-38). The image is usually understood as a desert image, having to do with sustaining life, with spiritual application. But it may also have to do with generating life and the birth from the womb both literally and spiritually. This incident, therefore, is only distantly tied to the Sacrament.
REGARDING THE MEANING OF “MARTUS,” A WITNESS UNTO DEATH
I understand that the word ‘martus’ originally just meant a ‘witness.’ How did this greek word evolve into meaning ‘a witness unto death’? And should my list of people who were a witness unto death–Joseph Smith, Stephen, Peter, James–also include Christ? Yours sincerely, David.
Response from Kent Brown: You are correct in saying that at base the word comes from a root that means “to witness” or, properly, “to remember.” By extension, the verb form comes to mean “to say what one remembers.” Outside of the legal sphere, the noun and its associated words came to describe the Jewish martyrs and sufferers during the Maccabean War (164-61 BCE).
Certainly in early Christian thinking, the word and its associated concepts had to do with witnessing to the truth that Christians experienced. But in time, we see this collective set of terms applied to those who suffered during persecutions against Christians. Those who suffered, of course, looked to the experience of Jesus as described in the Gospels for their inspiration, believing that they were truly imitating Christ in their sufferings.
And, yes, I believe that we could include Jesus as a “witness unto death,” as were others.