In Christian theology and ecclesiology, the apostles (Greek: ἀπόστολος, translit. apóstolos, lit. 'one who is sent away'), particularly the Twelve Apostles (also known as the Twelve Disciples or simply the Twelve), were the primary disciples of Jesus, the central figure in Christianity. During the life and ministry of Jesus in the 1st century AD, the apostles were his closest followers and became the primary teachers of the gospel message of Jesus. The word disciple is sometimes used interchangeably with apostle; for instance, the Gospel of John makes no distinction between the two terms. In modern usage, prominent missionaries are often called apostles, a practice which stems from the Latin equivalent of apostle, i.e. missio, the source of the English word missionary. For example, Saint Patrick (AD 373–463) was the "Apostle of Ireland", Saint Boniface (680–755) was the "Apostle to the Germans", Saint José de Anchieta (1534-1597) was the "Apostle of Brazil" and Saint Peter of Betancur (1626-1667) was the "Apostle of Guatemala". While Christian tradition often refers to the apostles as being twelve in number, different gospel writers give different names for the same individual, and apostles mentioned in one gospel are not mentioned in others. The commissioning of the Twelve Apostles during the ministry of Jesus is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels.
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