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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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BARNABAS . A surname given by the Apostles to Joseph, the Levite, whose first recorded deed ( Acts 4:36 ) was the selling of his property and the devotion of its proceeds to the needs of the Christian community. In this generous act St. Luke sees a proof that Barnabas is, in accordance with the popular etymology of his name, ‘a son of comfort.’ His kindly introduction of Saul to the Christians at Jerusalem disarmed their fears ( Acts 9:27 ); his broad sympathies made him quick to recognize the work of grace amongst the Greeks at Antioch ( Acts 11:23 ), and to discern the fitness of his gifted friend for that important sphere of service ( Acts 11:25 f.). After a year’s fellowship in work at Antioch, Barnabas and Saul were appointed to convey ‘the relief’ sent thence to the brethren in Judæa ( Acts 11:30 ). From Jerusalem they brought back, as a helper, John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas ( Acts 12:12 ; Acts 12:25 ; cf. Colossians 4:10 ).

The church at Antioch solemnly dedicated Barnabas and Saul to missionary service (Acts 13:1 f.); with John Mark the two friends sailed for Cyprus, and from this point, with three exceptions, their names occur in the order ‘Paul and Barnabas.’

Harnack ( PRE [Note: RE Real-Encykl. für protest. Theol. und Kirche] 3 ii. 411) explains these three passages thus: Acts 14:14 is accounted for by Acts 14:12 ; Acts 15:12 ; Acts 15:25 by the closer association of Barnabas with the Jerusalem church.

At Lystra (Acts 14:12 ), as doubtless at other places, Paul was the chief speaker; he was also the more prominent figure at the Jerusalem conference ( Acts 15:2 ff., Galatians 2:1 . See Paul). Between Paul and Barnabas ‘there arose a sharp contention’ concerning John Mark ( Acts 15:35 ff), and they agreed to work apart; Galatians 2:13 also records Paul’s adverse judgment of Barnabas’ attitude in regard to the circumcision controversy. But the interesting reference to Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:5 affords welcome proof of St. Paul’s familiarity with the work of his friend. All that is definitely known of Barnabas after he bade Paul farewell is that with his cousin Mark he ‘sailed away unto Cyprus’ ( Acts 15:39 ). For the spurious Epistle attributed to Barnabas, see Canon of NT, § 2.

J. G. Tasker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Barnabas'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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