Did The Disciples Become The Apostles Before or After The Ascension of Jesus?
Skeptics like to comb through the Bible and think they have found contradictions. Skeptics think they may have found a chronological contradiction this time. The contradiction they have said to find is that gospel writers and Paul cannot agree upon when the disciples became apostles. Did they become the apostles before the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9-11), which seems to be the case or was it after the ascension of Jesus? These passages Matthew 10:2, Mark 6:30, Luke 6:13, 9:10, 11:49, 17:5, 22:14, 24:10, Acts 1:2, and 1:26 call the disciples the apostles before the ascension of Jesus (except for Acts 1:26). Paul indicates in his letter to the Ephesians that the gift of apostleship was not given until after the ascension of Jesus (Ephesians 4:7-16).
When we come to the study of the Bible, we must employ several hermeneutical principles (rules of interpretation) which help in rightly dividing God's Word. One of the common hermeneutical principles is that a text must be considered literally unless it poses a contradiction. It is then to be seen as figurative. If we were to look at Matthew 10:2, Mark 6:30, Luke 6:13, 9:10, 11:49, 17:5, 22:14, 24:10, Acts 1:2, we would see that they are using a common figure of speech called prolepsis.
Dictionary.com defines "prolepsis" as: "the assigning of a person, event, etc., to a period earlier than the actual one; the representation of something in the future as if it already existed or had occurred."
Let me demonstrate what that figure of speech means in an example. If I were in a conversation with you about how I met my wife, I might say to you, "I met my wife during college." Chronologically speaking, I went to college from August 2004 to May 2010. I did not marry my wife until after I had graduated from college in July 2010. Am I caught in a chronological contradiction? No. I am assigning my spouse to a period earlier (in college from 2004 to 2010) than the actual one (when I was actually married her in July 2010). The Bible writers employ this figure of speech frequently throughout Scripture such as Genesis 3:24 and 1 Peter 3:18-21.
The gospel writers were assigning these disciples the title of apostles in their gospel accounts during the personal ministry of Jesus because they were looking at it from a futuristic standpoint, pointing to the future work these men were to perform in spreading the gospel to all the world.
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