Please note, there will not be class on 9/5 or 9/12/17.
Few individuals had as volatile a relationship with Paul as Barnabas, who was both his mentor and initial companion in ministry. Details of their missionary endeavors are recorded in the epistles, early church literature, and later ecclesiastical histories. However, contention followed the apostle, often from city to city, as he defended his uncompromising theological system that permitted the unfettered inclusion of Gentiles and their reception of the gospel message. It seems evident that Judaizing enemies opposed his efforts in most communities Paul founded and that even the apostles were apprehensive about his radical approach. In contrast, Barnabas is depicted as moderate in life and doctrine throughout Acts as well as in tradition, legend, and patristic sources. While their disagreements were primarily concerned with the degree to which Gentile integration was applied, they shared a great deal in common, especially a mutual objective at the core of their missionary activities under the authority of the renowned northern community of Antioch.
Barnabas was one of a mere handful of leaders in the early Jesus movement who maintained close relations with both Jerusalem and Antioch and was well respected in both communities. Paul did not share such an enviable reputation. While Barnabas was perceived as possessing greater authority, he did not receive the same sort of acknowledgement as the apostle in early patristic literature, even though he retained the same title. Since his accomplishments were preserved in the Acts narrative, mainly in conjunction with Paul, little is known about Barnabas, apart from the few references that survived antiquity in early church tradition. Nonetheless, two very prominent documents were attributed to him before the close of the apostolic age, one of which was later canonized and the other gained popularity and wide circulation despite questions regarding its authenticity. As a result, anonymity surrounds both epistles, even though they significantly differ in literary style, intent, and substance.
The document bearing his name, the Epistle of Barnabas, may be the earliest surviving Christian treatise from Alexandria. While little is known about this first-century church, local tradition attributes its founding to Mark, the nephew of Barnabas. Eusebius identified him as the first to “establish churches” in the city. The narrative in Acts, however, makes it highly doubtful that either character was responsible for its origin. There is no mention of either individual visiting the site or of having family residing there, despite its substantial Jewish population. In fact, Barnabas was a Cypriot and John Mark was a Jerusalemite. Nonetheless, the Epistle of Barnabas bears the marks of an Alexandrian document, especially its theological approach, scriptural interpretation, and allegorical methodology. Its polemic with Judaism is undeniable, and this suggests an era after the fall of Jerusalem, as its content indicates. In order to determine its potential authorship and date of composition, therefore, it is essential to reconstruct the founding of the church in that region.