Barnabas and the split with Paul – an Excerpt from Acts, Volume 3

The following is an excerpt from Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, Volume 3, by Craig Keener.


Cover ArtGiven our evidence for Paul’s later reconciliation with Mark (Phlm 24; Col 4:10) and appreciation of Barnabas (1 Cor 9:6), either this separation did not lead to enmity or relations were later reconciled (whether in person or by letter).

….Luke does not provide us this information, however, because his interests lie elsewhere. Luke thus is certainly not “covering up” for Paul; he may well have known of the reconciliation (especially since he ends up in Rome himself, Acts 28:16; and this was where Mark joined Paul, Phlm 24). Because it is not his focus, he does not revisit their reconciliation, though one topic that interested some ancient writers was notable reconciliation between famous men (Aul. Gel. 12.8).

Although Luke tells us no more about Barnabas (his focus being Paul), later legends filled in Barnabas’s story, many or all of them fancifully. The fullest source, Acts of Barnabas, is from the fifth or sixth century C.E. In it, Barnabas ordained as Cyprus’s bishop one Heracleides, who had spent time with Paul at Kition (Latin, Citium); given that such bishops probably do not predate Ignatius by many decades, this tradition is likely false, though Heracleides may have been an early bishop. The legend claims that Barnabas carried an early gospel from Matthew (on the basis of Papias’s tradition that Matthew wrote first).He confronted Bar-Jesus again, through whose instigation Cyprian Jews burned Barnabas alive in the hippodrome; Mark then went on to Alexandria (the last claim according with earlier tradition).

Tradition also claims that in 478 C.E. Barnabas’s tomb was revealed through a dream to Cyprus’s bishop, Anthemius; Barnabas was supposedly still holding Matthew’s Gospel. Some earlier traditions claim that Barnabas authored Hebrews. What is relevant for the text of Acts is that revisiting the churches was originally Barnabas’s plan (15:36); Barnabas chose to revisit those in Cyprus with Mark (who had remained with them during their Cyprus mission), leaving Paul to deal with southern Asia Minor.

©2014 by Craig Keener. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


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