The Seventy

Commemorated January 4

In Luke 10:1, the Lord appointed seventy men to go out as missionaries - as apostles. Though not so prominent as the Twelve, the Seventy carried out their missions with fervor and enthusiasm.

The Tradition of the Church confirms that the Seventy remained true to the Lord and their calling, fulfilling a vital role in the spread of the gospel. These were not random choices or accidental:volunteers but true disciples, true apostles, whose labours carried the message of their Lord throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

Though lists of the Seventy vary somewhat, all are remembered in the calendar of the Church. One day, January 4, is set aside to remember them all, and the record of their work is preserved in accounts handed down through the centuries from place to place, especially in those locations where they laboured.

To tell the stories passed down in the Church concerning all of the Seventy would fill a book of considerable size, but the compromise of telling the stories of a few, both prominent and relatively obscure members, will relate the conviction and faith of this illustrious body.

Barnabas, a Jew of the tribe of Levi, was born in Cyprus of wealthy parents. He is said to have studied under Gamaliel with Saul of Tarsus, who was to become Paul the Apostle. Originally named Joseph, he was called Barnabas (Son of Consolation) by the apostles (Acts 4:36) because he had a rare gift of comforting the hearts of people, He who sought out Paul when everyone else was afraid of him, bringing him to the apostles. And it was Barnabas who was first sent by the apostles to Antioch to find out what was going on there (Acts 11:22).

Barnabas sought out Paul to work with him, and their long association was broken only when Barnabas was determined to take his cousin Mark, whom Paul did not trust just then, on a missionary journey. The mutual relationships among the three were later healed (Col, 4:10).

Many ancient accounts say Barnabas was the first to preach in Rome and the first in Milan, but he was martyred in Cyprus, then buried by Mark at the western gate of the city of Salamis.

Among the more prominent of the Seventy was the Apostle Titus, whom Paul called his. brother (2 Cor. 12:18) and his son (Titus 1:4). Born Crete, Titus was educated in Greek philosophy, but after reading the Prophet Isaiah he began to doubt the value of all he had been taught. Hearing the news of the coming of Jesus Christ, he joined some others from Crete who went to Jerusalem to see for themselves. After hearing Jesus speak and seeing His works, the young Titus joined those who followed.

Baptised by the Apostle Paul, he worked with and served the great apostle to the Gentiles, traveling with him until Paul sent him to Crete, making him bishop of that city. It is said that he was in Rome at the time of the beheading of St. Paul and that he buried the body of his spiritual father before returning home.

Back in Crete, he converted and baptised many people, governing the Church on that island until he entered into rest at the age of ninety-four.

There are many less prominent among the Seventy who also laboured for Christ unto death, Aristarchus, whom Paul mentions several times (cf. Acts 19:29; Col. 4:10; Philem. 24), calling him a "fellow labourer", became bishop of Apamea in Syria. Sosthenes (Acts 18:17; 1 Cor. 1:1) became bishop of Caesarea, and Tychicus (Acts 20:4; Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12) succeeded him in that city. Simeon (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), son of Cleopas (who was the brother of Joseph the betrothed of the Virgin Mary), succeeded James as bishop of Jerusalem. Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10), the brother of the Apostle Barnabas, preached the Gospel in Britain and died peacefully there.

The lives of these few are quite representative of the Seventy who were instrumental in helping to plant the Church throughout the world. Many became bishops, but the names of all are numbered in the Book of Life, as faithful servants of the Lord, apostles and foundations of the Church.

from The Orthodox Study Bible
Thomas Nelson Publishers, p.165

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