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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Βαρνάβας, from the Syro-Chaldee בִּר נְבוּאָה ), originally Ι᾿ωσῆς, Joses, or Ι᾿ωσήφ, Joseph (Acts 4:36); but he received from the apostles the surname of Barnabas, which signifies the son of prophecy, or as it is interpreted in the above text, υἱὸς παρακλήσεως, i.e. son of exhortation (Auth. Vers. less accurately, "son of consolation"). The Hebrew term נְבוּאָה and its cognates are used in the Old Testament with a certain latitude of meaning, and are not limited to that of foretelling future events (see Genesis 20:7; Exodus 7:1). (See PROPHECY). In like manner, προφητεία, in the New Testament, means not merely prediction, but includes the idea of declarations, exhortations, or warnings uttered by the prophets while under divine influence (see 1 Corinthians 14:3). Of Silas and Judas it is said, "being prophets, they exhorted (παρεκάλεσαν ) the brethren" (Acts 15:32). It can hardly be doubted that this name was given to Joses to denote his eminence as a Christian teacher. In Acts 13:1, his name is placed first in the list of prophets and teachers belonging to the Church at Antioch. Chrysostom, however, understands the surname to have been given to Barnabas on account of his mild and gentle disposition (In Act. Apost. Hom. 21). He is described by Luke as "a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith" (Acts 11:24). He was a native of Cyprus, but the son of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi; he was possessed of land (but whether in Judaea or Cyprus is not stated), and generously disposed of the whole for the benefit of the Christian community, and "laid the money at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:36-37). A.D. 29. As this transaction occurred soon after the day of Pentecost, he must have been an early convert to the Christian faith (comp. Assemani, Bibl. Or. III, 1:319 sq.). According to Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 2, c. 20, vol. 2, p. 192, ed. Klotz), Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 1:12), and Epiphanius (Haer. 20:4), he was one of the seventy disciples (Luke 10:1). It has been maintained that Barnabas is identical with Joseph Barsabas, whose name occurs in Acts 1:23. Most modern critics, however, embrace the contrary opinion, which they conceive is supported by the circumstantial manner in which Barnabas is first mentioned. However similar in sound, the meanings of the names are very different; and if no farther notice is taken of Barsabas (a circumstance which Ullmann urges in favor of his identity with Barnabas), the same may be affirmed of Matthias (see Chrysostom, In Act. Apost. Homil. 11:1). From the incident narrated in Acts 14:8-12, Chrysostom infers that the personal appearance of Barnabas was dignified and commanding, "When the inhabitants of Lystra, on the cure of the impotent man, imagined that the gods were come down to them in the likeness of men, they called Barnabas Zeus (their tutelary deity), and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker" (In Act. Apost. Hom. 30).
When Paul made his first appearance in Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas introduced him to the apostles, and attested his sincerity (Acts 9:27). A.D. 30. This fact lends some support to an ancient tradition (Theodor. Lector, Hist. Eccl. 2:557, ed. Vales.) that they had studied together in the school of Gamaliel; that Barnabas had often attempted to bring his companion over to the Christian faith, but hitherto in vain; that, meeting with him at this time in Jerusalem, not aware of what had occurred at Damascus, he once more renewed his efforts, when Paul threw himself weeping at his feet, informed him of "the heavenly vision," and of the happy transformation of the persecutor and blasphemer into the obedient and zealous disciple (Acts 26:16). Though the conversion of Cornelius and his household, with its attendant circumstances, had given the Jewish Christians clearer views of the comprehensive character of the new dispensation, yet the accession of a large number of Gentiles to the Church at Antioch was an event so extraordinary that the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem resolved on deputing one of their number to investigate it. Their choice was fixed on Barnabas. After witnessing the flourishing condition of the Church, and adding fresh converts by his personal exertions, he visited Tarsus to obtain the assistance of Saul, who returned with him to Antioch, where they labored for a whole year (Acts 11:23-26). A.D. 34. In anticipation of the famine predicted by Agabus, the Antiochian Christians made a contribution for their poorer brethren at Jerusalem, and sent it by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:28-30), A.D. 44, who speedily returned, bringing with them John Mark, a nephew of the former. By divine direction (Acts 13:2), they were separated to the office of missionaries, and as such visited Cyprus and some of the principal cities in Asia Minor (Acts 13; Acts 14). Soon after their return to Antioch, A.D. 45, the peace of the Church was disturbed by certain zealots from Judaea, who insisted on the observance of the rite of circumcision by the Gentile converts. To settle the controversy, Paul and Barnabas were deputed to consult the apostles and elders at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-2); they returned to communicate the result of their conference (Acts 15:22) accompanied by Judas Barsabas and Silas, or Silvanus, A.D. 47. On preparing for a second missionary tour a dispute arose between them on account of John Mark, which ended in their taking different routes; Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas and his nephew revisited his native island (Acts 15:36-41). A.D. 47-51.
In reference to this event, Chrysostom remarks, "What then? Did they part as enemies? Far from it. For you see that after this Paul bestows in his Epistles many commendations on Barnabas." If we may judge from the hint furnished by the notice that Paul was commended by the brethren to the grace of God, it would seem that Barnabas was in the wrong. At this point Barnabas disappears from Luke's narrative, which to its close is occupied solely with the labors and sufferings of Paul. From the Epistles of the latter a few hints (the only authentic sources of information) may be gleaned relative to his early friend and associate. From 1 Corinthians 9:5-6, it would appear that Barnabas was unmarried, and supported himself, like Paul, by some manual occupation. In Galatians 2:1, we have an account of the reception given to Paul and Barnabas by the apostles at Jerusalem, probably on the occasion mentioned in Acts 15. In the same chapter (Acts 15:13) we are informed that Barnabas so far yielded to the Judaizing zealots at Antioch as to separate himself for a time from communion with the Gentile converts. This event took place about A.D. 47. (See PAUL). It has been inferred from 2 Corinthians 8:18-19, that Barnabas was not only reconciled to Paul after their separation (Acts 15:39), but also became again his coadjutor; that he was "the brother whose praise was in the Gospel through all the churches." Chrysostom says that some suppose the brother was Luke, and others Barnabas. Theodoret asserts that it was Barnabas, and appeals to Acts 13:3, which rather serves to disprove his! assertion, for it ascribes the appointment of Paul and Barnabas to an express divine injunction, and not to an elective act of the Church; and, besides, the brother alluded to was chosen, not by a single church, but by several churches, to travel with Paul (2 Corinthians 8:19). In Colossians 4:10, and Philemon 1:24, Paul mentions Mark as his fellow-laborer; and at a still later period, 2 Timothy 4:11, he refers with strong approbation to his services, and requests Timothy to bring him to Rome; but of Barnabas (his relationship to Mark excepted) nothing is said. The most probable inference is that he was already dead, and that Mark had subsequently associated himself with Paul. Barnabas seems not to have possessed Paul's thoroughness of purpose.
For the latter years of Barnabas we have no better guides than the Acta et Passio Barnabae in Cypro (first complete edition, from a Paris codex of the 9th cent., in Tischendorf's Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, Lpz. 1841), a forgery in the name of John Mark, and, from the acquaintance it discovers with the localities of Cyprus, probably written by a resident in that island; and the legends of Alexander, a Cyprian monk, and of Theodore, commonly called Lector (that is, an ἀναγνωστής, or reader), of Constantinople; the two latter belong to the sixth century. According to Alexander, Barnabas, after taking leave of Paul, landed in Cyprus, passed through the whole island, converted numbers to the Christian faith, and at last arrived at Salamis, where he preached in the synagogue with great success. Thither he was followed by some Jews from Syria (the author of the Acta names Bar-jesus as their leader), who stirred up the people against him. Barnabas, in anticipation of his approaching end, celebrated the Eucharist with his brethren, and bade them farewell. He gave his nephew directions respecting his interment, and charged him to go after his decease to the apostle Paul. He then entered the synagogue, and began as usual to preach Christ. But the Jews at once laid hands on him, shut him up till night, then dragged him forth, and, after stoning him, endeavored to burn his mangled body. The corpse, however, resisted the action of the flames; Mark secretly conveyed it to a cave about five stadia from the city; he then joined Paul at Ephesus, and afterward accompanied him to Rome. A violent persecution, consequent on the death of Barnabas, scattered the Christians at Salamis, so that a knowledge of the place of his interment was lost. This account agrees with that of the pseudo Mark, excepting that, according to the latter, the corpse was reduced to ashes. Under the emperor Zeno (A.D. 474-491), Alexander goes on to say, Peter Fullo, a noted Monophysite, became patriarch of Constantinople. He aimed at bringing the Cyprian church under his patriarchate, in which attempt he was supported by the emperor.
When the Bishop of Salamis, a very worthy man, but an indifferent debater, was called upon to defend his rights publicly at Constantinople, he was thrown into the greatest perplexity. But Barnabas took compassion on his fellow-countryman, appeared to him by night no less than three times, assured him of success, and told him where he might find his body, with a copy of Matthew's gospel lying upon it. The bishop awoke, assembled the clergy and laity, and found the body as described. The sequel may easily be conjectured. Fullo was expelled from Antioch; the independence of the Cyprian church acknowledged; the manuscript of Matthew's gospel was deposited in the palace at Constantinople, and at Easter lessons were publicly read from it; and by the emperor's command a church was erected on the spot where the corpse had been interred. These suspicious visions of Barnabas are termed by Dr. Cave "a mere addition to the story, designed only to serve a present turn, to gain credit to the cause, and advance it with the emperor." Neither Alexander nor Theodore is very explicit respecting the copy of Matthew's gospel which was found with the corpse of Barnabas. The former represents Barnabas as saying to Anthemius, "There my whole body is deposited, and an autograph gospel which I received from Matthew." Theodore says, "Having on his breast the Gospel according to Matthew, an autograph of Barnabas." The pseudo Mark omits the latter circumstance. If we believe that, as Alexander reports, it was read at Constantinople, it must have been written, not in Hebrew, but in Greek. The year when Barnabas died cannot be determined with certainty; if his nephew joined Paul after that event, it must have taken place not later than A.D. 56 or 57. "Chrysostom," it has been asserted, "speaks of Barnabas as alive during Paul's first imprisonment at Rome." The exact statement is this: in his Eleventh Homily on the Epistle to the Colossians he remarks, on ch. 4:10, "‘ touching whom ye received commandments, if he come unto you receive him' — perhaps they received commands from Barnabas." There is a vague tradition that Barnabas was the first bishop of the church at Milan, but it is so ill supported as scarcely to deserve notice. It is enough to say that the celebrated Ambrose (b. A.D. 340, d. 397) makes no allusion to Barnabas when speaking of the bishops who preceded himself (see Hefele, Das Sendschreiben des Apostels Barnabas, Tubing. 1840, p. 42-
47). His festival is celebrated throughout the Roman Church on the 11th of June. The Church of Toulouse pretends to possess his body, and no less than eight or nine other churches lay claim to the possession of his head. See the Acta Sanctorum, tom. in; Baronius, Martyrol. Romans 11 th of June; Fabric. Cod. Apocr. p. 781 sq.; Ullmann, in the Theol. Stud. 1:382 sq.; Hug, in the Freiburg. Zeitschr. 2:132 sq.; Schulthess, in the Neuest. theol. Annal. 1829, p. 943 sq.; Neander, Planting, etc., 1:196 sq.; comp. generally Mosheim, Comment. de reb. Christianor. ante Constant.' p. 161 sq.; Rysewyk, Diss. hist.-theol. de Barnaba (Arnh. 1835); also Brehme, De Barnaba justo (Leucop. 1735); Pucinelli, Vita di Santo Barnaba (Mediol. 1649).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Barnabas'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​b/barnabas.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.