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Essay/Term paper: Barnabas

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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I. Who was Barnabas?
II. Where is he first mentioned in the Bible?
III. Barnabas' introduction of Saul to the apostles
IV. His mission work with Paul
V. His departure from Paul
VI. Barnabas as a writer VII. His Death

Barnabas was a native of the island of Cyprus. His birthplace makes him
a Jew of the Diaspora, the dispersion of Jews outside Palestine or modern Israel.
He was originally named Joseph but the apostles called him Barnabas, he probably
acquired this name because of his ability as a preacher. The name Barnabas was
understood by Luke to mean "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36). Barnabas was an
apostle of the secondary group, companion of Paul on his mission to Cyprus and
the Pisidian mainland.
Barnabas first appears in Luke's account of communal living in the
Jerusalem church, as a man of some means who gave to the church the proceeds
from the sale of a piece land, "Barnabas sold a field he owned and brought the
money and put it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:36-37).
After the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:54-8:1, the church was persecuted
and scattered, "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at
Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and
Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to
destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and
put them in prison" Acts 8:1-3. In Acts 9:26-27, "Saul tries to join the
disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a
disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them
how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him,
and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." Barnabas
thus belongs to the company of first converts in Jerusalem who were won by the
apostolic preaching, if not by Jesus himself.
Though not a native, Barnabas had the confidence of the apostles. Later
he was sent to join the company of workers at Antioch, to preach to Jews,
Hellenists, and Greeks (Acts 11:19-22). As the work of the Antioch church
expanded and more workers were needed, Barnabas went over to Tarsus and brought
back with him Saul. It seems that Barnabas was the leader of the Antioch church,
and the order which Luke gives, "Barnabas and Saul," indicates the pre-eminence.
It was "Barnabas and Saul" who carried relief funds from Antioch to the famine-
stricken Jerusalem (Acts 11:30). Barnabas was commissioned by the Antioch church,
along with Saul and John Mark, to undertake the missionary journey which led
them to Cyprus and later to the provinces of the mainland. While on the island
of Cyprus, two major changes occur, Saul is now called Paul and the leadership
role changes from Barnabas to Paul (Acts 13:9). Once on the mainland the group
would be referred to as "Paul and his company" (Acts 13:13). In Lystra there was
a wave of enthusiasm on the part of the natives, and Barnabas was given the
title "Zeus", while Paul was only "Hermes" the spokesman (Acts 14:12). The
reason for the fanfare in honor of Barnabas and Paul was occasioned by an
ancient legend that told of a supposed visit to the same general area by Zeus
and Hermes. They were, however, not recognized by anyone except an old couple.
So the people of Lystra were determined not to allow such an oversight to happen
again. Leadership again changes back to Barnabas after the stoning of Paul in
Lystra and "he and Barnabas left for Derbe" (Acts 14:19-20). Luke's account of
the conference at Jerusalem (Acts 15) again places Barnabas at the front,
indicating that Barnabas was in better standing than Paul in Jerusalem.
"Barnabas and Paul" made the report in the conference relating to the work which
had been done among the Gentiles (Acts 15:12). The document which was sent by
the conference recommending "Barnabas and Paul" to the Syrian and Cilician
churches again shows Luke's knowledge of the relative standing of the two men in
The separation of Barnabas from Paul and their divergent missionary
activity began in Antioch after the Jerusalem conference. The issue which Luke
gives was the taking of John Mark on another journey (Acts 15:36). John Mark's
defection at Cyprus (Acts 13:13) seemed to Paul to be sufficient grounds for
dropping him from the party. Barnabas was extremely devoted to John Mark because
they were cousins (Col 4:10), and leaving Paul, Barnabas took John Mark on a
separate mission again to Cyprus. Luke's cryptic words "sailed away to Cyprus"
(Acts 15:39) are his farewell to Barnabas.
The testimony of the later church gives Barnabas a role as writer.
Tertullian assigned to him the authorship of the Letter to the Hebrews. Both
Clement of Alexandria and Origen gave him credit for the epistle which bears his
name and they gave it canonical standing because they rated its author as an
apostle. However, the nature of both Hebrews and the Epistle of Barnabas is hard
to reconcile with the conservative tendencies of Barnabas as indicated in
Galatians, and the identification of Barnabas with Jerusalem in the book of Acts.
Moreover, the Epistle of Barnabas seems to be dated A.D. 130 on internal
evidence, and too late for our Barnabas.
An exact date for the death of Barnabas was not found, Luke ends the
book of Acts around A.D. 67 so Barnabas must have died sometime after this.
However, Barnabas died by martyrdom in Cyprus.

Scriptures from the Holy Bible, The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962) 356.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1995) 1654.

Scriptures from the Holy Bible, The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962) 356.


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