This term is commonly applied to one who is learning any art or science from one distinguished by his accomplishments. Though derived from the Latin discipulus , the English name conveys a meaning somewhat narrower than its Latin equivalent: disciple is opposed to master , as scholar to teacher , whilst both disciple and scholar are included under the Latin discipulus . In the English versions of the Old Testament the word disciple occurs only once ( Isaiah 8:16 ); but the idea it conveys is to be met with in several other passages, as, for instance, when the Sacred Writer speaks of the "sons" of the Prophets ( 2 Kings 2:7 ); the same seems, likewise, to be the meaning of the terms children and son in the Sapiential books (e.g. Proverbs 4:1, 10 ; etc.). Much more frequently does the New Testament use the word disciple in the sense of pupil, adherent, one who continues in the Master's word (John viii, 31). So we read disciples of Moses ( John 9:28 ), of the Pharisees ( Matthew 22:16 ; Mark 2:18 ; Luke 5:33 ). of John the Baptist ( Matthew 9:14 ; Luke 7:18 ; John 3:25 ). These, however, are only incidental applications, for the word is almost exclusively used of the Disciples of Jesus.
In the Four Gospels it is most especially applied to the Apostles, sometimes styled the "twelve disciples" ( Matthew 10:1 ; 11:1 ; 20:17 ; 26:20 ; 28:16 , having reference to events subsequent to Christ's Passion, mentions only the "eleven disciples"), sometimes merely called "the disciples" ( Matthew 14:19 ; 15:33, 36 ; etc.). The expression "his disciples" frequently has the same import. Occasionally the Evangelists give the word a broader sense and make it a synonym for believer ( Matthew 10:42 ; 27:57 ; John 4:1 ; 9:27, 28 ; etc.). Besides the signification of "Apostle" and that of "believer" there is finally a third one, found in St. Luke, and perhaps also in the other Evangelists. St. Luke narrates (vi, 13) that Jesus "called unto him his disciples, and he chose twelve of them (whom also he named apostles )". The disciples, in this disciples, in this context, are not the crowds of believers who flocked around Christ, but a smaller body of His followers. They are commonly identified with the seventy-two (seventy, according to the received Greek text, although several Greek manuscripts mention seventy-two, as does the Vulgate ) referred to ( Luke 10:1 ) as having been chosen by Jesus. The names of these disciples are given in several lists (Chronicon Paschale, and Pseudo-Dorotheus in Migne, P.G., XCII, 521-524; 543-545; 1061-1065); but these lists are unfortunately worthless. Eusebius positively asserts that no such roll existed in his time, and mentions among the disciples only Barnabas, Sosthenes, Cephas, Matthias, Thaddeus and James "the Lord's brother" (His. Eccl., I, xii). In the Acts of the Apostles the name disciple is exclusively used to designate the converts, the believers, both men and women (vi, 1, 2, 7; ix, 1, 10, 19; etc.; in reference to the latter connotation see in particular ix, 36) even such as were only imperfectly instructed, like those found by St. Paul at Ephesus ( Acts 19:1-5 ).
More Catholic Encyclopedia
Browse Encyclopedia by Alphabet
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Browse the Catholic Encyclopedia by Topic
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online