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St. Barnabas Council, 13785, Scarborough, ON

St. Barnabas

Barnabas appears mainly in Acts, a Christian history of the early Christian church. He also appears in several of Paul's epistles. Barnabas, a native of Cyprus and a Levite, is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as a member of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, who sold some land that he owned and gave the proceeds to the community (Acts 4:36-37). When the future Apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas 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.[9] The successful preaching of Christianity at Antioch to non-Jews led the church at Jerusalem to send Barnabas there to oversee the movement (Acts 11:2022). He found the work so extensive and weighty that he went to Tarsus in search of Paul (still referred to as Saul), "an admirable colleague", to assist him.[10] Paul returned with him to Antioch and labored with him for a whole year (Acts 11:2526). At the end of this period, the two were sent up to Jerusalem (AD 44) with contributions from the church at Antioch for the relief of the poorer Christians in Judea. They returned to Antioch taking John Mark with them, the cousin or nephew of Barnabas.[11] Later, they went to Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia (Acts 13:14). After recounting that the governor of Cyprus Sergius Paulus believed, the Acts of the Apostles 13:9 speaks of Barnabas's companion no longer as Saul, but as Paul, his Roman name, and generally refers to the two no longer as "Barnabas and Saul" as heretofore (11:30; 12:25; 13:2, 7), but as "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. Paul appears as the more eloquent missionary (13:16; 14:8-9, 19-20), whence the Lystrans regarded him as Hermes, Barnabas as Zeus[12] (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, Peter, and 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 without having to adopt Jewish practices.[11] After they had returned to Antioch from the Jerusalem council, they spent some time there (15:35). Peter came and associated freely there with the Gentiles, eating with them, until criticized for this by some disciples of James, as against Mosaic law. Upon their remonstrances, Peter yielded apparently through fear of displeasing them, and refused to eat any longer with the Gentiles. Barnabas followed his example. Paul considered that they "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" and upbraided them before the whole church (Galatians 2:11-15).[11] Paul then 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 earlier 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 John Mark to visit Cyprus (15:36-41). John Francis Fenlon suggests that Paul may have been somewhat influenced by the attitude recently taken by Barnabas, which might have proven prejudicial to their work.[11] Barnabas is not mentioned again in the Acts of the Apostles. However, Gal. 2:11-13 says, "And when Kephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews (also) acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy." Barnabas is also mentioned in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in which it is mentioned that he and Paul funded their missions by working side jobs and (it is implied) went without some of the benefits other apostles received, such as female companionship or food and drink (1 Cor. 9:6); Paul states that he and Barnabas forsook those benefits "that we may cause no hindrance to the Good News of Christ" (1 Cor. 9:12).

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