Thursday 11 June 2020

Bible Book:

News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. (v. 22)

Acts 11:19-30 Thursday 11 June 2020

Psalm: Psalm 112


Today the church celebrates the feast day of Barnabas; an early disciple, prominent in Jerusalem and mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 4:36 tells us that he was a Cypriot Jew and he is named as an apostle in Acts 14:14. He travelled extensively with Paul and is mentioned in several of Paul’s epistles (cf 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1, 9, 13; Colossians 4:10).  In the last of these, Mark the Gospel-writer is described as the cousin of Barnabas. In Acts 4:36 we read that the name Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’ and the various stories included about him bear out this name. 

As this passage opens, the Early Church is reeling from the backlash of persecution following the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7) and has scattered north from Jerusalem and Judea to the island of Cyprus and the area on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea known as Phoenicia, with the city of Antioch at its head, almost 500 miles from Jerusalem.  Antioch was an ancient Greek city, now ruined, lying close to the modern city of Antakya in Turkey. The city was one of the most important centres of its day, having an excellent geographical, military and economic location. 

A little technical information along with the noting of a probable mistranslation might help us with verse 20. In this period, the term ‘Hellenists’ denotes Greek-speaking Jews, but the word translated in some versions in verse 20 as ‘Hellenists’ should probably be translated simply ‘Greeks’. So the verse is intended to convey that the original dispersed believers, themselves Hellenists (ie Greek-speaking Jews) initially spoke only to others with the same background. The idea that the gospel could also be good news for Greeks seems not to have occurred to them. This would reinforce the message learned by Peter in his encounters with Cornelius in the preceding chapters. However, in Antioch, some more daring believers step out of their culture to speak to Greeks, with remarkable effects. 

News of this fruitful mission led the church in Jerusalem to send Barnabas to Antioch. He remained there for a year, and, with Paul, established a thriving Christian community; we can rightly call it that as it was, as verse 26 tells us, there in Antioch that followers of ‘the Way’ were first called Christians.  Thus Antioch became known as ‘the cradle of Christianity’. 


To Ponder:

  • In what ways might this passage encourage you to be bold in sharing your life of faith, perhaps particularly with people who are from a different background from your own?
  • How do you feel about being called a Christian?
  • The final verses of this passage describe what may have been the earliest known relief and development work amongst Christians. Such work continues today through such charities as All We Can. Visit their website for ways to be involved particularly at this time when many other countries are facing COVID-19 with far fewer resources than we have in the British Isles.
Previous Page Wednesday 10 June 2020
Next Page Friday 12 June 2020