"The Lord Appointed Other Seventy Also"
Our understanding of the Seventy in early Christian times is dim because the Bible and historical sources in general contain such scant information concerning that priestly office. Who were the Seventy” What was their calling” Was there one body of Seventy or two” As we search for answers, insights from restoration scripture and history, as well as hints from the early church fathers Eusebius and Clement, may prove helpful.
While all four New Testament Gospel accounts discuss the Twelve Apostles, only Luke recounts the calling of the Seventy. The charge Jesus gave the Seventy, as recorded in Luke 10:1–12, is essentially the same as the one he had given to the Twelve (see Luke 9:1–6). The King James version of Luke 10:1 says that “the Lord appointed other seventy also.” Some have thought this referred to a second body of Seventy. But the Greek can mean “seventy others,” which would suggest that Christ selected seventy other apostles.
The Greek from which we get apostle derives from the verb “to send” and means “one sent” or “envoy.” Jesus told the Twelve, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21), and Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1. In Luke 9:2, Jesus sends the Twelve Apostles, while in Luke 10:1 he sends the Seventy. There is no mention of another group of Seventy being sent out in the interval between these two events.
The Latter-day Saint view is that while the Twelve Apostles hold keys, both they and the Seventy are all called as “special witnesses” of Christ “in all the world,” with the Seventy serving “under the direction of the Twelve . . . in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations” (D&C 107:23, 25, 34). Indeed, several passages from early LDS records call the Seventy by the term apostle. Under the date of 28 December 1835, the History of the Church notes, “This day the Council of the Seventy met to render an account of their travels and ministry, since they were ordained to that Apostleship” (2:346). At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in March 1836, Joseph Smith “called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the presidents of Seventies who act as their representatives, as Apostles and special witnesses to the nations, to assist the Twelve in opening the Gospel kingdom among all people” (History of the Church, 2:418).
Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, also addressed the Seventies as “apostles to the nations to carry the gospel; and when we send you to build up the kingdom, we will give you the keys, and power and authority” (History of the Church, 7:307). During Brigham Young’s presidency, apostle Wilford Woodruff spoke of “the Twelve Apostles and the Seventy Apostles” (Journal of Discourses, 4:147; see 18:126).
Our major extrabiblical source for information on the Seventy called by Jesus is the fourth-century Christian historian Eusebius, who wrote:
The names of the apostles of our Saviour are known to every one from the Gospels. But there exists no catalogue of the seventy disciples. Barnabas, indeed, is said to have been one of them, of whom the Acts of the apostles makes mention in various places, and especially Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians [2:1, 9, 13]. They say that Sosthenes also, who wrote to the Corinthians with Paul [1 Corinthians 1:1], was one of them. This is the account of Clement in the fifth book of his Hypotyposes, in which he also says that Cephas was one of the seventy disciples, a man who bore the same name as the apostle Peter, and the one concerning whom Paul says, “When Cephas came to Antioch I withstood him to his face” [Galatians 2:11]. Matthias, also, who was numbered with the apostles in the place of Judas, and the one who was honored by being made a candidate with him [Acts 1:23–26], are likewise said to have been deemed worthy of the same calling with the seventy. They say that Thaddeus also was one of them, concerning whom I shall presently relate an account which has come down to us.1
Eusebius also attributes to Clement’s Hypotyposes the declaration that “the Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge [gnosis] to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy of whom Barnabas was one.”2 Unfortunately, the original work has not survived, though in Stromata 2.20, which is extant, Clement indicates that Barnabas was one of the Seventy. Clement lived in the second century A.D., and therefore his writings reflect relatively early traditions.
Of particular interest is the fact that Eusebius indicates that Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas Justus, the two candidates to take Judas Iscariot’s place in the Twelve (see Acts 1:15–26), were both members of the Seventy. Another possible member of the Seventy who later became one of the Twelve is Thaddaeus. According to Matthew 10:3, Lebaeus Thaddaeus was one of the original Twelve. He is also listed as one of the Twelve in Mark 3:18. But the corresponding list of the apostles found in Luke 6:16 replaces him with “Judas the brother of James.” But, as we have seen earlier, Eusebius wrote that Thaddaeus was one of the Seventy and promised to say more of him. The additional information is found in his Ecclesiastical History 1.13.4: “Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, under divine impulse sent Thaddeus, who was also numbered among the seventy disciples of Christ, to Edessa, as a preacher and evangelist of the teaching of Christ.”3
If the Sosthenes mentioned by Eusebius and in 1 Corinthians 1:1 is the same individual mentioned in Acts 18:17, it is very unlikely that he could have been one of the original Seventy, for he was a Corinthian (see Acts 18:1), while the original Seventy would have been Palestinian Jews. But he may well have been a late member of the Quorum of the Seventy. Barnabas and Paul, who are called apostles (see Acts 14:14) but are never said to number among the Twelve, may in fact have been of the Seventy. They, along with Judas Barsabas and Silas, were called “chief men among the brethren” at the time they were sent by “the apostles and elders” as envoys to Antioch (Acts 15:22).
The Ethiopic Kebra Nagast 102 calls Stephen “[one] of the Seventy Disciples” and adds, “Now among the Seventy Disciples there were seven who were chosen for service with the Twelve Apostles, to perform service with Silas, and Barnabas, and Mark and Luke and Paul.”4 The seven “chosen for service” are mentioned in Acts 6:5 and include Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas. Luke and Paul, being later converts, were obviously not among the original Seventy chosen by Christ, but may have been added to that body to replace others who had died.
Though very little is known about the Seventy in the early Christian church, the few hints left us in the Bible5 and in the writings of Clement and Eusebius are instructive. While we cannot ascertain the reliability of the traditions about specific members of the Seventy, these early accounts suggest that replacement members of the Twelve may sometimes have been called from the Seventy. This, in turn, indicates that the earliest Christians intended that these two ruling bodies be perpetuated.