Friday, September 08, 2006

The Split between Paul and Barnabas

I have been wondering recently whether Barnabas might help us with some of the vexed problems of sorting out Paul's chronology. Paul and Luke are agreed that there was a major split between Paul and Barnabas, and they are agreed on the timing, not long after the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15 // Gal. 2.1-10), though they disagree on the content of the dispute between them:
Gal. 2. 11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13. The rest of the Judeans joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

Acts 15. 36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
He never appears again in Acts, nor does he appear again in Paul's correspondence except in 1 Corinthians 9, one tantalising, brief reference:
1 Cor. 9.6: “Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?”
It looks like, when writing 1 Corinthians, Paul was still friendly with Barnabas. But if that is the case, we have only a narrow window for the writing of 1 Corinthians. The letter is clearly written after the Jerusalem Council since the collection is now underway (see 1 Cor. 16), but if it is also written while Paul is still friendly with Barnabas, it is written in that narrow window between the events reported in Gal. 2.1-10 (Jerusalem Council) and Gal. 2.11-20 (Dispute at Antioch). Is that a large enough window?

10 comments:

Jim said...

Fascinating question Mark! I wonder if it's correct, though, to say that Paul mentions Barnabas in 1 Cor because he's still friendly with him. Mention does not friendship make. It's possible, isn't it, that Paul simply uses Barnabas as an example of his point without any regard to his personal relationship to him.

Chris said...

In the same vein as Jim in the previous post, I wonder if we have to assume that Paul's disappointment in Barnabas voiced in Gal. was a catalyst for a break. Just as mention does not a friendship make, disappointment does not a separation make. I am not arguing one way or the other; only thinking out loud. Could the argument over John Mark have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back? Of course none of this matters much for the chronological question at hand.

JohnO said...

Furthermore, does it neccessitate that Luke's story be so tightly wound? Could these events not haven taken place over a few months? Paul at Jerusalem, writes to Corinth "I'm coming by for the collection soon" - meanwhile after he's sent the letter and prepares to leave, he and Barnabas part ways.

Moreover isn't the reference to Barnabus in Galations less temporal and more distance (i.e. this is how far it went - to divide Barnabus and myself). Not that they were divided the moment Paul came to Peter with the issue.

Jeff Peterson said...

Interesting question I've never approached from quite this angle. A further data point: Rom 15 and 1 Cor 15:1–4 indicate that the tension documented in Gal 2 didn't precipitate a complete break with Jerusalem. One might have expected Paul to oppose James most strongly of any of the other principals in the Antioch controversy, as it was his emissaries who precipatated the trouble, whether by design or not), but instead Paul continued to work to honor the charge James et al. had laid upon him. Paul seems then to have taken the Antioch incident as an instance of apostolic authorities acting in a way that denied the substance of the gospel, yet the upshot was not that they thereby forfeited their roles. So it's not necessary that Paul be on cooperative terms with Barnabas for the appeal to his example in 1 Cor 9 to serve its purpose; he only has to be acknowledged by the Corinthians as an apostle entitled to support who like Paul characteristically supports himself.

Layman said...

And must we rule out some sort of reconciliation? Colossians 4:10 seems to suggest there was reconciliation with Mark (perhaps even assuming non-Pauline authorship). Why not with Barnabas?

Michael B Thompson said...

Mark, it's a good question but I wonder if the assumption that Gal 2 = Acts 15 is the best starting point. If Paul did got to Jerusalem with Barnabas as Acts 11 depicts, despite the trip's purpose it would be extremely odd if people there were not curious about what he was preaching (given his reputaton as a persecutor), and the picture of an informal meeting with leaders that we get in Gal 2 makes sense. Relating the Jerusalem visits in Acts and Galatians is an old chestnut that hasn't to my mind been resolved by the academy. In any event, the presenting issue between Paul and Barnabas was different in the two conflict scenarios.

Christopher Shell said...

I think Michael is right to emphasise that Ac11 may equal Gal2, because (and this is rarely stressed by commentators) it is far more likely than not that Paul's mission, status and relationship to the 12 would have been a perennial issue, including on his second visit. After all, it was an issue even on his 5th visit, which fell after the council.
Placing the Antioch incident after 1 Cor (if I understand correctly) is quite daring. We need a book- length treatment of the hitherto intractable Galatian question: I find the arguments re date/destination of Gal as finely balanced as any NT question, equal only with whether Mark intended to end at 16.8.

simon said...

I'm also inclined to think that Acts 11=Gal 2:1-10 and that the so-called incident at Antioch in 2:11-14 is what Luke reports in Acts 15:1-2 that led to the Jerusalem council. But I also wonder whether we too easily assume that disagreements necessarily led to permanent rifts - whether between Paul and Barnabas or Paul and Antioch. We can disagree with one another, even find certain people hard people hard to work with but that doesn't mean that an irreconcilable gulf has opened between us. Do we maybe hang too much on single fleeting references?

Frank McCoy said...

Acts 15:33-41: (1) Silas leaves Antioch, (2) Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, teaching and preaching, (3)they quarrel over John Mark, (3) Barnabas leaves Antioch with John Mark, (4)Paul leaves Antioch with Silas. Suggested scenario in-between Luke's stages (2)and(3): (2a)James sends Silas and John Mark to Antioch with his order that the Jews there are not to eat with Gentiles, (2b)the Jews there, including Peter and Barnabas, obey the order, (2c) Paul accuses Peter of hypocricy (2d) After hearing Paul's position, Silas decides that Paul is right and they get buddy-buddy, but John Mark remains convinced that James did the right thing in making the order,(2e) Barnabas sides with John Mark, agreeing with him that James did the right thing in making the order and they get buddy-buddy, (2f)Paul decides to try and convince Barnabas to change his opinion over John Mark's position, which leads to Luke's stage (3), i.e., Paul and Barnabas quarrel over John Mark.

Anonymous said...

I take Luke's reference to Barnabas and John Mark setting sail to Cyprus to be significant for understanding Luke's point of view of this disagreement. We know already from Acts 4-5 that Barnabas is from Cyprus. Now we learn that he is going home while Paul, "commended by the brethren", continues with the Gentile mission. Whether Paul remained on 'friendly terms' with Barnabas, I don't know, but it seems Luke understands this to be a major rift between the two (or three, since John Mark is involved also)and clearly favors Paul.
Mikeal Parsons