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Saint Barnabas of the first century, born Joseph, was an Early Christian convert, one of the earliest Christian disciples in Jerusalem. Like almost all Christians at the time (see also Jewish Christians), Barnabas was Jewish, specifically a Levite. Named an apostle in Acts 14:14, he and Saint Paul undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts against the demands of stricter church leaders, see also Judaizers. They gained many converts in Antioch (c 43-44), traveled together making more converts (c 45-47), and participated in the Council of Jerusalem (c 50). Barnabas and Paul successfully evangelized among the "God-fearing" gentiles who attended synagogues in various Hellenized cities of Anatoliamarker..

Barnabas' story appears in the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul mentions him in some of his epistles. Tertullian named him as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but this and other attributions are conjecture. Clement of Alexandria ascribed an early Christian epistle to Barnabas (Epistle of Barnabas), but that is highly improbable.

Martyred at Salamis, Cyprusmarker, in AD 61 , he is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Church. The feast day of St Barnabas is celebrated on June 11.

Some traditions hold that Aristobulus of Britannia, one of the Seventy Disciples, was the brother of Barnabas.

Etymologies

His Hellenic Jewish parents called him Joseph (although the Byzantine text-type calls him , Iōsēs, 'Joses', a Greek variant of 'Joseph'), but when he sold all his goods and gave the money to the apostles in Jerusalemmarker, they gave him a new name: Barnabas. This name appears to be from the Aramaic , , meaning 'the (son of the) prophet'. However, the Greek text of the explains the name as , hyios paraklēseōs, meaning "son of consolation" or "son of encouragement". A similar link between ”prophecy” and ”encouragement” is found in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:3)

Barnabas in the New Testament

Barnabas appears mainly in Acts, a Christian history of the early Christian church. He also appears in certain of Saint Paul's epistles.

St Barnabas is one of the first teachers of the church at Antiochmarker (Acts 13:1). Like all the apostles, Barnabas was Jewish, a Levite (one of the twelve Israelite tribes, which was assigned the task of serving in the Jewish Temple). His aunt was the mother of John, surnamed Mark (Colossians 4:10), widely assumed to be the same Mark as the person traditionally believed to be the author of the Gospel of Mark. He was a native of Cyprus, where he possessed land (Acts 4:36, 37), which he sold, and gave the proceeds to the church in Jerusalem. When Saint Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas took him and introduced him to the apostles (9:27). Easton, in his Bible Dictionary, supposes that they had been fellow students in the school of Rabbi Gamaliel.

The prosperity of the church at Antioch led the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem to send Barnabas there to superintend the movement. He found the work so extensive and weighty that he went to Tarsusmarker in search of Paul to assist him. St Paul returned with him to Antioch and labored with him for a whole year (Acts 11:25, 26). At the end of this period, the two were sent up to Jerusalem (AD 44) with the contributions the church at Antioch had made for the poorer members of the Jerusalem church (11:28-30).

Shortly after they returned, bringing John Mark with them, they were appointed as missionaries to Asia Minormarker, and in this capacity visited Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia (Acts 13:14). With the conversion of Sergius Paulus, Paul begins to gain prominence over Barnabas from the point where the name "Paul," his Roman name, is substituted for "Saul" (13:9); instead of "Barnabas and Saul" as heretofore (11:30; 12:25; 13:2, 7) we now read "Paul and Barnabas" (13:43, 46, 50; 14:20; 15:2, 22, 35); only in 14:14 and 15:12, 25 does Barnabas again occupy the first place, in the first passage with recollection of 14:12, in the last two, because Barnabas stood in closer relation to the Jerusalem church than Paul. St. Paul appears as the preaching missionary (13:16; 14:8-9, 19-20), whence the Lystrans regarded him as Hermes, St. Barnabas as Zeus (14:12). Returning from this first missionary journey to Antioch, they were again sent up to Jerusalem to consult with the church there regarding the relation of Gentiles to the church (Acts 15:2; Galatians 2:1). According to Gal. 2:9-10, Barnabas was included with Paul in the agreement made between them, on the one hand, and James, St. Peter, and St. John, on the other, that the two former should in the future preach to the pagans, not forgetting the poor at Jerusalem. This matter having been settled, they returned again to Antioch, bringing the agreement of the council that Gentiles were to be admitted into the church.

Having returned to Antioch and spent some time there (15:35), St Paul asked Barnabas to accompany him on another journey (15:36). Barnabas wished to take John Mark along, but Paul did not, as he had left them on the former journey (15:37-38). The dispute ended by Paul and Barnabas taking separate routes. Paul took Silas as his companion, and journeyed through Syria and Cilicia; while Barnabas took his younger cousin, John Mark, to visit Cyprus (15:36-41).

St Barnabas is not mentioned again by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. However, in Gal. 2:13 a little more is learned about him, and his weakness under the taunts of the Jewish Christians is evident; and from 1 Corinthians 9:6 it may be gathered that he continued to labor as missionary.

Barnabas and Antioch

Antiochmarker, the third-most important city of the Roman Empire, then the capital city of Syria province, today Antakyamarker, Turkey, was where Christians were first called thus. It was indeed the site of an early Christian community, traditionally said to be founded by Peter . A considerable minority of the Antioch church of Barnabas's time belonged to the merchant class, and they provided support to the poorer Jerusalem church.

Council of Jerusalem

Barnabas participated in the Council of Jerusalem, which dealt with the admission of gentiles into the Christian community, a crucial problem in early Christianity. Paul and Barnabas proposed that gentiles be allowed into the community without being circumcized.

Martyrdom

Church tradition describes the martyrdom of many saints. Barnabas' martyrdom is legend. It relates that certain Jews coming to Syria and Salamis, where Barnabas was then preaching the gospel, being highly exasperated at his extraordinary success, fell upon him as he was disputing in the synagogue, dragged him out, and, after the most inhumane tortures, stoned him to death. His kinsman, John Mark, who was a spectator of this barbarous action, privately interred his body in a cave, where it remained until the time of the Emperor Zeno, in the year 485 AD. A monastery built in his name at Salamis, Cyprusmarker, is where a tomb reputed to hold his remains was found in the year 488. He is venerated as the Patron Saint of Cyprusmarker.

Other sources

Other sources bring St Barnabas to Romemarker and Alexandriamarker. In the "Clementine Recognitions" (i, 7) he is depicted as preaching in Rome even during Christ's lifetime, and Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, ii, 20) makes him one of the Seventy Disciples that are mentioned in the Gospel of Luke.

Not older than the 3rd century is the tradition of the later activity and martyrdom of St Barnabas in Cyprusmarker, where his remains are said to have been discovered under the Emperor Zeno. The Cypriot Church claimed Saint Barnabas as its founder in order to rid itself of the supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch, as did the Archbishop of Milan afterwards, to become more independent of Rome. In this connection, the question whether St. Barnabas was an apostle became important, and was often discussed during the Middle Ages. The statements as to the year of St Barnabas's death are discrepant and untrustworthy.

Alleged writings

Tertullian and other Western writers regard Barnabas as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. This may have been the Roman tradition -- which Tertullian usually follows -- and in Rome the epistle may have had its first readers. But the tradition has weighty considerations against it.

According to Photius (Quaest. in Amphil., 123), Barnabas wrote the Acts of the Apostles. (Current consensus ascribes the book to the author of Luke.)

He is also traditionally associated with the Epistle of Barnabas, although modern scholars think it more likely that that epistle was written in Alexandria in the 130s. The sixth century Decretum Gelasianum includes a Gospel of Barnabas amongst works condemned as apocryphal; but no certain text or quotation from this work has been identified.

Another book using that same title, the "Gospel of Barnabas," survives in two post-medieval manuscripts in Italian and Spanish. Contrary to the canonical Christian Gospels, and in accordance with the Islamic view of Jesus, this later "Gospel of Barnabas" states that Jesus was not the son of God, but a prophet, and calls Paul "the deceived." The book also says Jesus rose alive into Heaven without having been crucified, and that Judas Iscariot was crucified in his place. Allegedly also it mentions by name the Comforter, as Mohammad. This discord between Paul and Barnabas would be unlikely, according to the author of the Acts of the Apostles, whether Doctor Luke or Saint Barnabas, mentions several times the comradery between Paul and Barnabas.

Literature: Epistle of Barnabas

  • Die Apostolischen Väter. Griechisch-deutsche Parallelausgabe. J.C.B. Mohr Tübingen 1992. ISBN 3-16-145887-7
  • Der Barnabasbrief. Übersetzt und erklärt von Ferdinand R. Prostmeier. Series: Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern (KAV, Vol. 8). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Göttingen 1999. ISBN 3-525-51683-5


Notes



References

  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. "The Penguin Dictionary of Saints," 3rd edition, New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0140513124.


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