« Barletta Barnabas Barnabites »


BARNABAS: The companion of the Apostle Paul, himself called an apostle in Acts xiv, 4, 14. According to Acts iv, 36, he was a Levite born in Cyprus, his original name was Joses, and he was surnamed by the apostles (in Aramaic) Barnebhuah, which is explained by the Greek huios paraklēseos ("son of exhortation,” not “of consolation,” cf. Acts xi, 23) and denotes a prophet in the primitive Christian sense of the word (cf. Acts xiii, 1; xv, 32). Like his aunt, the mother of John Mark (Col. iv, 10), Barnabas seems to have been living in Jerusalem, and he sold his property, after having joined the Christian congregation in the first year of its foundation, for the benefit of needy coreligionists (Acts iv, 37; xii, 12). He soon occupied a leading place in the community.

Authentic History

Of his activity the Book of Acts records that he introduced the still distrusted Saul to the Jerusalem church after his return from Damascus (ix, 27). When the news of the spread of Christianity to Antioch came to Jerusalem Barnabas was sent to the former city (xi, 22-24). From Antioch he went to Tarsus to meet Paul and with him worked for an entire year in the Antioch church (xi, 23-26). Both were sent to Jerusalem with a contribution for the Christians of Judea (44 A.D.) and returned to Antioch with John Mark (xi, 27-30; xii, 25). The three were sent on a missionary journey to Cyprus, Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia (xiii, 1 sqq.). In the narrative of this journey Paul occupies the first place from the point where the name “Paul" is substituted for “Saul" (xiii, 9). Instead of “Barnabas and Saul" as heretofore (xi, 30; xii, 25; xiii, 2, 7) “Paul and Barnabas" is now read (xiii, 43, 46, 50; xiv, 20; xv, 2, 22, 35); only in xiv, 14 and xv, 12, 25 does Barnabas again occupy the first place, in the first passage with recollection of xiv, 12, in the last two, because Barnabas stood in closer relation to the Jerusalem church than Paul. Paul appears as the preaching missionary (xiii, 16; xiv, 8-9, 19-20), 487whence the Lystrans regarded him as Hermes, Barnabas as Zeus (xiv, 12). After this journey follows a long stay in Antioch (xiv, 26-28) until they became involved in a controversy with the Judaizers and were sent to the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem, where the matter was settled (xv, 1-29; Gal. ii, 1-10; see Apostolic Council At Jerusalem). According to Gal. ii, 9-10 Barnabas was included with Paul in the agreement made between them, on the one hand, and James, Peter, and John, on the other, that the two former should in the future preach to the heathen, not forgetting the poor at Jerusalem. Having returned to Antioch and spent some time there (xv, 35), Paul asked Barnabas to accompany him on another journey (xv, 36). Barnabas wished to take John Mark along, but Paul did not, as he had left them on the former journey (xv, 37-38). An unhappy dissension separated the two apostles; Barnabas went with Mark to Cyprus (xv, 39) and is not again mentioned in the Acts; but from Gal. ii, 13 a little more is learned about him, and his weakness under the taunts of the Judaizers is evident; and from I Cor. ix, 6 it may be gathered that he continued to labor as missionary.

Legendary History

Legends begin where authentic history ends. Barnabas is brought to Rome and Alexandria. The “Clementine Recognitions" (i, 7) make him preach in Rome during Christ’s lifetime, and Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, ii, 20) makes him one of the seventy disciples. Not older than the third century is the tradition of the later activity and martyrdom of Barnabas in Cyprus, where his remains are said to have been discovered under the emperor Zeno (474-491). The Cyprian church claimed Barnabas as its founder in order to rid itself of the supremacy of the Antiochian bishop, just as did the Milan church afterward, to become more independent of Rome. In this connection, the question whether Barnabas was an apostle became important, and was often treated during the Middle Ages (cf. C. J. Hefele, Das Sendschreiben des Apostels Barnabas, Tübingen, 1840; O. Braunsberger, Der Apostel Barnabas, Mainz, 1876). The statements as to the year of 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 (Quaæt. in Amphil., 123), Barnabas wrote the Book of Acts, and a gospel is ascribed to him (cf. T. Zahn, Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, ii, 292, Leipsic, 1890). Of more interest is the tradition which makes Barnabas author of an epistle in twenty-one chapters, contained complete in the Codex Sinaiticus at the end of the New Testament. A complete Greek manuscript was discovered by Bryennios at Constantinople, and Hilgenfeld used it for his edition in 1877. Besides this there is a very old Latin version (now in the imperial library at St. Petersburg), in which, however, chaps. xviii-xxi are wanting. Toward the end of the second century the epistle was in great esteem in Alexandria, as the citations of Clement of Alexandria prove. It is also appealed to by Origen. Eusebius, however, objected to it and ultimately the epistle disappeared from the appendix to the New Testament, or rather the appendix disappeared with the epistle. In the West the epistle never enjoyed canonical authority (though it stands beside the epistle of James in the Latin manuscripts). The first editor of the epistle, Menardus (1645) advocated its genuineness, but the opinion to-day is, that Barnabas was not the author. It was probably written in Alexandria in 130-131, and addressed to Christian Gentiles. The author, who formerly labored in the congregation to which he writes, intends to impart to his readers the perfect gnosis that they may perceive that the Christians are the only true covenant people, and that the Jewish people had never been in a covenant with God. His polemics are, above all, directed against Judaizing Christians. In no other writing of that early time is the separation of the Gentile Christians from the patriotic Jews so clearly brought out. The Old Testament, he maintains, belongs only to the Christians. Circumcision and the whole Old Testament sacrificial and ceremonial institution are the devil’s work. According to the author’s conception, the Old Testament, rightly understood, contains no such injunctions. He is a thorough anti-Judaist, but by no means an antinomist. The main idea is Pauline, and the apostle’s doctrine of atonement is more faithfully reproduced in this epistle than in any other postapostolic writing. The author no doubt had read Paul’s epistles; he has a good knowledge of gospel-history but which of the gospels, if any, he had read, can not be asserted. He quotes IV Esdras (xii, 1) and Enoch (iv, 3; xvi, 5). The closing section (chaps. xviii-xxi), which contains a series of moral injunctions, is only loosely connected with the body of the epistle, and its true relation to the latter has given rise to much discussion.

A. Harnack.

Bibliography: A list of editions and discussions is in ANF, Bibliography, pp. 16-19. The editio princeps, Paris, 1645, was preceded in 1642 by an edition of Usser, Oxford, 1642, which, however, was consumed by fire in 1644, cf. J. H. Barkhouse, The Editio princeps of the Epistle of Barnabas, Oxford, 1883; the epistle was edited also by J. G. Müller, Leipsic, 1869; A. Hilgenfeld, ib. 1866, 2d ed., 1877 (containing the material discovered by Bryennios); W. Cunningham, London, 1877; in Patrum apostolicorum opera, ed. Gebhardt and Hamack, Leipsic, 1875, 2d ed., 1878 (contains a list of titles up to the year 1878); Funk, 1887, ANF, i, 133-149 contains an Eng. transl. and an introduction. Consult DCB, i, 260-265 (discusses the earlier literature on the subject); S. Sharpe, Epistle of Barnabas, from the Sinaitic MS, London 1880; Völter, in JPT, xiv (1888), 106-144; J. Weiss, Der Barnabasbrief, kritisch untersucht, Berlin, 1888; Harnack, Litteratur, i, 58-62; G. Salmon, Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament, pp. 513-519, London, 1892; Krüger, History, pp 18-21; (Barnabas), Brief an die Hebräer, ed. F. Blass, Halle, 1903.

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