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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

False Apostles

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A designation for Paul's opponents in 2 Corinthians 11:13 , also designated deceitful workers (2 Corinthians 11:13 ) and ministers of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:15 ). Such “apostles” were characterized as preaching a “rival Jesus” (likely a lordly, miracle-working “success story”), possessing a different spirit (a self-seeking motivation evidenced by a different life-style than Paul's), and a different gospel which disregarded the cross (and its corollary of suffering for those who follow Christ). The false apostles appear to have been Jewish Christians (2 Corinthians 11:22 ), well-trained in speech (2 Corinthians 11:6 ), who perhaps claimed “visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1 ) as authenticating marks of apostleship (Compare the role of Paul's Damascus Road experience, Acts 9:15; Acts 22:14-15; Acts 26:16-19 ). Though they cut in on Paul's missionary territory, the “false apostles” are characterized as boasting (2 Corinthians 10:13-16 ) according to human standards. Their leadership style was oppressive (2 Corinthians 11:20 ). In contrast to Paul, these false apostles relied on the Corinthian Christians for financial support (2Corinthians 11:7-11,2 Corinthians 11:20; 2 Corinthians 12:14 ). They perhaps accused Paul of being “paid what he was worth.” Paul countered that suffering for Christ was the mark of true apostleship (2 Corinthians 11:23 ). Weakness, not dominating power, reveals God's power (2 Corinthians 11:30; 2Corinthians 12:5,2 Corinthians 12:9 ). If the “super-apostles” (2Corinthians 11:5;2 Corinthians 12:11 NRSV, REB, NIV) are identified with the leaders of the Jerusalem church, they should be distinguished from the false apostles at Corinth. The latter may have claimed the authority of the former.

The false apostles of Revelation 2:2 are characterized as evil men and liars. They should perhaps be identified with the Nicolaitans active at Ephesus ( Revelation 2:6 ) and Pergamos (Revelation 2:15 ), and with the followers of the “false prophetess” at Thyatira (Revelation 2:20 ).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'False Apostles'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/f/false-apostles.html. 1991.

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