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Scripture citations are to the NIV-UK.



Q Was Barnabas an Apostle?



A No, not in the official meaning of the term.

In Scripture, the Greek word apostolos applies to a general messenger, but also to a member of that select group known as the Twelve Apostles (Matt. 10: 2; ‘These are the names of the twelve apostles ...’).

When Judas betrayed his Lord, he lost his office and his salvation, leaving a single vacancy (Acts 1: 20; ‘May another take his place of leadership.’). Similarly, ‘disciple(s)’ (mathetes, ‘[a] learner’) may either refer to a general follower or to one of the Apostles, as in Luke 6: 13-16 (emphases added):


13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.


Thus, out of a larger group of disciples Jesus made twelve of them apostles. They correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel, as Jesus states in Luke 22: 29, 30:


I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may . . . sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’

Rev. 21 teaches similarly, with reference to the heavenly Jerusalem:

12. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


Criteria for Selection

Aside from the fact that all those chosen as Apostles were male, they met unique requirements. Jesus –


1. personally chose each one (John 6: 70, 71; 15: 19)

2. anointed them with the holy spirit (John 20: 21-23)

3. sent them forth as His personal representatives (Matt. 28: 16-20)

4. gave them the power to perform miracles and to bestow the gifts of the spirit on others (Matt. 10: 1)

5. authorised them to reveal new truths, their utterances and writings being divinely inspired, infallible, and authoritative for the entire church then and throughout the Gospel Age (John 17: 20)


The ‘Eleven’, as they were described numerically following the defection of Judas, were sometimes also called the ‘Twelve’, as standing for the whole: Matt. 28: 16; Luke 24: 9, 33; Acts 1: 26; 2: 14; 6: 1, 2, 6.


The use of either ‘Eleven’ or ‘Twelve’ underscores the specialness of this tiny band and hints at incompleteness. This is why the remaining Apostles reasonably, if inadvisedly attempted to ‘top up’ their number by electing Matthias as the twelfth member (Acts 2: 20-26):


20 ‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘“May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,” and, ‘“May another take his place of leadership.”

21. Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us,

22. beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.’

23. So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.

24. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen

25. to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’

26. Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.


Peter, et al, took it for granted that there could be no more than twelve Apostles, hence their casting lots to determine which one of the two qualified men should fill the vacancy. However, the mere recording of this event neither condones nor certifies the Apostles’ action as legitimate, for they were not given the right to appoint Apostles  regardless of their attempting to sanctify their decision by prayer. Only Jesus had that authority. Yes, Matthias and Justus were witnesses to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, but they did not meet the other criteria listed above. Nor did Barnabas: he was an apostle in the general sense of that word, as were others.


Saul Becomes Paul

In fact, the twelfth Apostle was Paul. His spectacular conversion on the road to Damascus, when the risen Lord appeared to him in blinding light; his special anointing and commission; and the revelations which the Lord subsequently gave him, demonstrate that he was the final Apostle. See Acts 9: 15-18; Gal. 1: 1, 11.

Asserting his claim, Paul writes (1 Cor. 15: 3-8; emphasis added):

3. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5. and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8. and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born [out of time – as though seeing Christ in heavenly glory].

Were one to ascribe true Apostleship to Matthias and Barnabas, the total tally of Apostles would rise to fourteen. This conclusion contradicts the Scriptures.


April-may 2019 – – no copyright


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