Responsive image
Nederlands/Vlaams Deutsch Francais English language Spanish language Portuguese language Catalan Chinese Czech Malayalam Finnish Igbo
Japanese Korean Romanian Malay language Norwegian Swedish Polish Swahili Chichewa Tagalog Urdu
The Call of the Apostles

Mark 3, 13-19

The Call of the Apostles

“He went up into the hills and called to him those whom he desired. And they came to him. (verse 13)
And he appointed twelve to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” (verse 14)

Parallel in Luke 6,12-13b: “In those days he went out into the hills to pray, and at night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.”

“They were: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is ‘sons of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (verses 16-19).

No one can seriously doubt the symbolism of the number twelve. Like elsewhere in Scipture it points to the twelve tribes of Israel, and therefore to the whole Jewish people . Compare the symbolism of the 12 pillars of the altar (Exodus 24,4), the 12 precious stones on the Highpriest's breast piece inscribed with the names of the tribes (Exodus 28,15-21), the 12 gates of the new temple (Ezekiel 48,30-34; see Revelation 21,12), and so on.

The Early Church understood the power of this symbolism. They elected a new member to replace Judas, so that the number be complete (Acts 1,15-26).

The question is: May the omission of women be interpreted as a deliberate decision by Jesus to exclude women from the priesthood for all times?

The answer is: No! For the following reasons:

Objection 1:

Jesus chose the twelve with great care. He spent the whole night in prayer before finalising his choice. We are told that he chose “those he himself wanted” (Mark 3,13). Surely, the exclusion of women was also carefully considered by Christ.


Objection 2:

“Jesus Christ did not call any woman to become part of the twelve. If he acted in this way, it was not in order to conform to the customs of his time, for his attitude towards women was quite different from that of his milieu, and he deliberately and courageously broke with it.” (Inter Insigniores, no 9.


The facts show differently. Jesus did adapt and had to adapt to the Jewish social customs of male dominance.

Read also: “The twelve apostles were men - -” by Ida Raming, Orientierung 56 (1992) pp. 143-146.

John Wijngaards

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.

Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.

The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.

Please, support our campaign
for women priests
Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.


Please, credit this document
as published by www.womenpriests.org!