The Role Of Barnabas In The Book Of Acts -- By: S. Jonathan Murphy

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 167:667 (Jul 2010)
Article: The Role Of Barnabas In The Book Of Acts
Author: S. Jonathan Murphy

The Role Of Barnabas In The Book Of Acts

S. Jonathan Murphy

S. Jonathan Murphy is Senior Pastor, Newcastle Baptist Church, Newcastle, Northern Ireland, and research writer for Sacra Script Ministries.

Barnabas plays an important role in the Book of Acts. This significant function is seen by examining his presence through a narrative-critical lens. A method sensitive to the conventions of story listens to the voice of the narrator as he skillfully unfolds it. In Acts the series of events and their arrangement in the formation of plot, the value of spatial, temporal, and social aspects of the settings in which these events or happenings occur, the rhetorical devices employed, and the characters developed are selected and employed to make a point, that is, to project an ideology. Even secondary characters literarily speaking are utilized in this manner. Barnabas is a case in point. Barnabas plays an important role in Acts for he is another vehicle through whom the story’s message is projected.

Scene 1 (4:36-37)

Barnabas is introduced in Acts 4:36-37, which is part of a larger scene that describes the life and growth of the church in Jerusalem (4:32-5:16). The scene is a snapshot of life in the church despite antagonism toward it from the outside. Barnabas was involved in the second of three major movements in this scene (4:32-35; 4:36-5:11; 5:12-16).1


A summary of the life of the community in the Jerusalem church (4:32-35) echoes a previous description (2:42-47). The atmosphere in the church is illustrated in the second movement by two concrete examples: Barnabas, and Ananias and Sapphira (4:36-5:11). The scene closes with another summary (5:12-16). The ministry of the apostles to those physically and spiritually oppressed as well as the numerical growth of the church signals the progress in the midst of conflict.

Whereas Ananias and Sapphira are examples of internal problems in the church, Barnabas is the choice example of the positive side of its communal life. Both were members of the new community. Both sold land and placed money at the apostles’ f...

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