Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church has written an interesting post regarding the disappearance of the word ‘disciple’ after the Gospels and Acts. He asks why the word in it’s various forms was used so often in the Gospels and Acts and then seems to be completely abandoned in the epistles and Revelation. There are several proposed reasons by his readers that are all pretty reasonable, but a few things must be cleared up:
- If you say it is a difference in authors don’t forget John wrote both the Gospel of John and the epistles of John and Revelation
- If you say it is a difference in audience (Jews vs. Greeks) don’t forget that there were Gospels written for Gentiles and epistles written for Jews.
- If you say it is a difference in literary styles (like I did) don’t forget that there are narrative sections in the epistles, not just the Gospels and Acts.
I will now propose my actual understanding of why the word disappeared after the Gospels and Acts. Enjoy.
After Jesus spent the Gospels making and talking about disciples it became pretty common language. Then Jesus ascended into Heaven. Then Paul was converted. Then Paul brought the gospel to different parts of the world and made disciples. Over the next couple thousand years Christians shared their faith and the Gospel spread all over the world. So far, so good.
Well then, toward the end of the 20th century a group of Christians formed a band. They named their band Disciple and they played rock music. They made sure to get copyrights for the name so that no one could pretend to be them.
Then, Disciple was playing a crazy awesome show and a fan jumped on stage and said, “hey, wanna jump in my time portal,” so of course the band was totally into that idea. They got in the time portal and said they wanted to go back to the time where Paul was in Rome. They blasted through the time-space continuum and landed in 1st century Rome where Paul was hanging out.
When they heard Paul talking about making disciples they were like, “we like you and all dude, but we own the copyright for that name so you can’t use it anymore, sorry.” So, Paul, being a law-abiding citizen and not wanting to cause disunity with these odd brothers from the future decided he could use other words to convey similar ideas as the word ‘Disciple,’ and because Paul was well known and respected among the church his influence kept other epistle writers from using the word. So, as we leave Paul at the end of the book of Acts the word ‘disciple’ has been deemed intellectual property of the Christian rock band from the future. The End.
I think that about sums it up. You’re welcome Alan!