Acts 15:39
And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
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(39) And the contention was so sharp between them, that . . .—Literally, there was a sharp contention, (or paroxysm), so that . . . The warmth of previous affection, of a friendship begun probably in boyhood, and cemented by new hopes, and a great work in which both were sharers, made the breach between the two more painful. At this stage, both Barnabas and Mark disappear from the history of the Acts, but it will be worth while to note the chief facts in the after-history of each. (1) Probably Barnabas and Paul met again in the visit of Acts 18:22, unless, indeed, we refer the incidents of Galatians 2:11-13 to an earlier period, and then there was a yet further cause of division in his yielding to the dissimulation of the Judaising teachers. (2) In writing to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 9:6) the Apostle names Barnabas as setting the same noble example as himself in labouring with his own hands and accepting nothing from the churches. (3) On the later life of Mark see the Introduction to St. Mark’s Gospel. Here it will be sufficient to note that the discipline did its work. After labouring with his cousin in Cyprus, he appears to have returned to St. Peter, as his first father in the faith, and to have been with him at Babylon (1Peter 5:13). He and St. Paul met during the latter’s first imprisonment at Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24), and the Apostle learnt to recognise in him one who was “profitable to him for the ministry” (2Timothy 4:11), and whom he wished to have with him at the last.

15:36-41 Here we have a private quarrel between two ministers, no less than Paul and Barnabas, yet made to end well. Barnabas wished his nephew John Mark to go with them. We should suspect ourselves of being partial, and guard against this in putting our relations forward. Paul did not think him worthy of the honour, nor fit for the service, who had departed from them without their knowledge, or without their consent: see ch.And the contention was so sharp - The word used here παροξυσμός paroxusmos is that from which our word "paroxysm" is derived. It may denote "any excitement of mind," and is used in a good sense in Hebrews 10:24. It here means, however, "a violent altercation" that resulted in their separation for a time, and in their engaging in different spheres of labor.

And sailed into Cyprus - This was the native place of Barnabas. See the notes on Acts 4:36.

39. And the contention was so sharp between them—such was the "irritation," or "exacerbation."

that they departed asunder one from the other—Said they not truly to the Lystrians that they were "men of like passions with them"; (Ac 14:15). But who was to blame? (1) That John Mark had either tired of the work or shrunk from the dangers and fatigues that yet lay before them, was undeniable; and Paul concluded that what he had done he might, and probably would, do again. Was he wrong in this? (See Pr 25:19). But (2) To this Barnabas might reply that no rule was without exception; that one failure, in a young Christian, was not enough to condemn him for life; that if near relationship might be thought to warp his judgment, it also gave him opportunities of knowing the man better than others; and that as he was himself anxious to be allowed another trial (and the result makes this next to certain), in order that he might wipe out the effect of his former failure and show what "hardness he could now endure as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," his petition ought not to be rejected. Now, since John Mark did retrieve his character in these respects, and a reconciliation took place between Paul and him, so cordial that the apostle expresses more than once the confidence he had in him and the value he set upon his services (Col 4:10, 11; 2Ti 4:11), it may seem that events showed Barnabas to be in the right, and Paul too harsh and hasty in his judgment. But, in behalf of Paul, it may well be answered, that not being able to see into the future he had only the unfavorable past to judge by; that the gentleness of Barnabas (Ac 4:36; 11:24) had already laid him open to imposition (see on [2028]Ga 2:13), to which near relationship would in this case make him more liable; and that in refusing to take John Mark on this missionary journey he was not judging his Christian character nor pronouncing on his fitness for future service, but merely providing in the meantime against being again put to serious inconvenience and having their hands weakened by a possible second desertion. On the whole, then, it seems clear that each of these great servants of—Christ had something to say for himself, in defense of the position which they respectively took up; that while Barnabas was quite able to appreciate the grounds on which Paul proceeded, Paul was not so competent to judge of the considerations which Barnabas probably urged; that while Paul had but one object in view, to see that the companion of their arduous work was one of thoroughly congenial spirit and sufficient nerve, Barnabas, over and above the same desire, might not unreasonably be afraid for the soul of his nephew, lest the refusal to allow him to accompany them on their journey might injure his Christian character and deprive the Church of a true servant of Jesus Christ; and that while both sought only the glory of their common Master, each looked at the question at issue, to some extent, through the medium of his own temperament, which grace sanctifies and refines, but does not destroy—Paul, through the medium of absolute devotion to the cause and kingdom of Christ, which, warm and womanly as his affections were, gave a tinge of lofty sternness to his resolves where that seemed to be affected; Barnabas, through the medium of the same singleness of heart in Christ's service, though probably not in equal strength (Ga 2:13), but also of a certain natural gentleness which, where a Christian relative was concerned, led him to attach more weight to what seemed for his spiritual good than Paul could be supposed to do. In these circumstances, it seems quite possible that they might have amicably "agreed to differ," each taking his own companion, as they actually did. But the "paroxysm" (as the word is), the "exacerbation" which is expressly given as the cause of their parting, shows but too plainly, that human infirmity amidst the great labors of the Church at Antioch at length sundered those who had sweetly and lovingly borne together the heat and burden of the day during a protracted tour in the service of Christ. "Therefore let no man glory in men" (1Co 3:21). As for John Mark, although through his uncle's warm advocacy of his cause he was put in a condition to dissipate the cloud that hung over him, how bitter to him must have ever afterwards been the reflection that it was his culpable conduct which gave occasion to whatever was sinful in the strife between Paul and Barnabas, and to a separation in action, though no doubt with a mutual Christian regard, between those who had till then wrought nobly together! How watchful does all this teach Christians, and especially Christian ministers and missionaries, to be against giving way to rash judgment and hot temper towards each other, especially where on both sides the glory of Christ is the ground of difference! How possible is it that in such cases both parties may, on the question at issue, be more or less in the right! How difficult is it even for the most faithful and devoted servants of Christ, differing as they do in their natural temperament even under the commanding influence of grace, to see even important questions precisely in the same light! And if, with every disposition to yield what is unimportant, they still feel it a duty each to stand to his own point, how careful should they be to do it lovingly, each pursuing his own course without disparagement of his Christian brother! And how affectingly does the Lord overrule such difference of judgment and such manifestations of human infirmity, by making them "turn out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel"; as in this case is eminently seen in the two missionary parties instead of one, not travelling over the same ground and carrying their dispute over all the regions of their former loving labors, but dividing the field between them!

and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas—(See on [2029]Ac 15:34)—going two and two, as the Twelve and the Seventy (Mr 6:7; Lu 10:1).

They departed asunder; as Abraham and Lot parted, Genesis 13:9, yet keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; loving of and praying for one another, as we may judge, being both good men. But they verified here what they had said at Lystra, Acts 14:15,

We are men of like passions with you; yet God overruled these very divisions between Paul and Barnabas for his own glory, and the enlargement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, several places being by this means blessed with the gospel. And this reflection upon this John Mark, is thought, to have made him for the future more diligent and valiant in the cause of the gospel, which occasioned that kind salutation from St. Paul unto him, Colossians 4:10.

Cyprus; an island in the Mediterranean Sea.

And the contention was so sharp between them,.... About this matter; Barnabas insisting on it, that John Mark should go with them, he being a relation of his; and in whose favour it might be urged, that his mother Mary was an excellent good woman, who had received the saints into her house, in a time of persecution; and that it should be considered, that this her son was but a young man, and could not be thought to have that courage, resolution, constancy, and solidity, as older professors and ministers; and that his crime was not very heinous, and should be overlooked. Paul, on the other hand, opposing his going with them, as a very unworthy person, because he had behaved so cowardly, and had shown such a coldness and indifference to the work of the ministry, and had so shamefully left them; and thus they disputed the point till there was a paroxysm between them, as is the word used: they were irritated and provoked by one another, and were so warmed and heated on both sides,

that they departed asunder one from another; thus as soon almost as peace was made in the church, a difference arises among the ministers of the word, who are men of like passions with others; and though it is not easy to say which was to blame most in this contention; perhaps there were faults on both sides, for the best men are not without their failings; yet this affair was overruled by the providence of God, for the spread of his Gospel, and the enlargement of his interest; for when these two great and good men parted from one another, they went to different places, preaching the word of God:

and so Barnabas took Mark and sailed unto Cyprus;

See Gill on Acts 13:4.

{16} And {r} the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

(16) God uses the faults of his servants to the profit and building of the Church: yet we have to take heed, even in the best matters, that we do not let our anger overflow.

(r) They were in great heat: but in this we have to consider the power of God's counsel, for by this means it came to pass that the doctrine of the Gospel was spread into many places.

Acts 15:39. παροξυσμός, Hebrews 10:24, in different sense, nowhere else in N.T. The verb is found twice, Acts 17:16, 1 Corinthians 13:5; in the former passage of Paul’s righteous provocation in Athens, and in the latter of irritation of mind as here; the noun twice in LXX of God’s righteous anger, Deuteronomy 29:28, Jeremiah 39(32):37 (cf. also the verb, Deuteronomy 9:7-8, etc.), so too in Dem. Both noun and verb are common in medical language (Hobart); παροξυσμός, φησίν, ἐγένετο οὐχ ἔχθρα οὐδὲ φιλονεικία; in the result good, for Mark was stirred up to greater diligence by Paul, and the kindness of Barnabas made him cling to him all the more devotedly, cf. Oecumenius, in loco.—ἀποχωρισθῆναι: “they parted asunder,” R.V., cf. διαχωρίζεσθαι ἀπό, Genesis 13:11; Genesis 13:14, cf. Luke 9:33.—παραλαβόντα: not the compound verb, because Barnabas alone takes Mark.—ἐκπλεῦσαι: with εἰς also in Acts 18:18, with ἀπό in Acts 20:6; On πλέω and the number of its compounds in St. Luke, cf. Acts 27:4, etc.—εἰς Κ.: where he could be sure of influence, since by family he belonged to the Jews settled there, Acts 4:36. Barnabas is not mentioned again in Acts, and it is to be noted that St. Paul’s friendship was not permanently impaired either with him or with Mark (see Chrysostom, in loco, and cf. 1 Corinthians 9:6). In Galatians 2:13 St. Paul in speaking of Barnabas marks by implication his high estimate of his character and the expectations he had formed of him; καὶ Β. “even Barnabas” (Lightfoot, Gal., in loco, and Hackett). According to tradition Barnabas remained in Cyprus until his death, and the appearance of Mark at a later stage may point to this; but although possibly Mark’s rejoining Paul may have been occasioned by the death of Barnabas, the sources for the life of Barnabas outside the N.T. are quite untrustworthy, “Barnabas,” B.D.2; Hackett, Acts, p. 192. Whatever his fortunes may have been, St. Luke did not estimate his work in the same category as that of Paul as a main factor in the development of the Church, although we must never forget that “twice over did Barnabas save Saul for the work of Christianity”.—Μάρκον: In his two imprisonments St. Paul mentions Mark in terms of high approval, Colossians 4:10-11, Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:11. In the first imprisonment St. Paul significantly recommends him to the Colossians as being the cousin of Barnabas, one of his own fellow-labourers unto the kingdom of God, one amongst the few who had been a παρηγορία, a comfort unto him. In such words as these St. Paul breaks the silence of the years during which we hear nothing of the relations between him and Mark, although the same notice in Colossians seems to indicate an earlier reconciliation than the date of the letter, since the Churches of the Lycus valley had already been instructed to receive Mark if he passed that way, Expositor, August, 1897, “St. Mark in the N.T.” (Dr. Swete), p. 85.

39. And the contention was so sharp, … that, &c.] More literally (with R. V.), And there arose a sharp contention so that, &c. The Greek word (from which our English paroxysm comes) intimates a temporary rather than a prolonged dispute, although it may for the time be severe. The result to the church was that two missionary journeys were undertaken instead of one. Though the Apostles might differ in their estimate of Mark, they were at one with reference to the work of the Gospel. Barnabas is mentioned no more in the Acts after this chapter. His name occurs in St Paul’s Epistles, 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:13; and Colossians 4:10, in which last passage, written no doubt after the events here related, we can see that Mark had been again received as a fellow-worker by St Paul. We learn too from 2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 1:24 that St Paul became warmly attached to him afterwards.

sailed unto Cyprus] In which island Barnabas, and it may be Mark also, was born (Acts 4:37). They chose therefore for their labours a district in which they were likely to have some influence.

Acts 15:39. Παροξυσμὸς, the exasperation of their minds [contention]) Whether Barnabas sometime before looked upon the greatness of Paul, as being a colleague junior to himself, with less joyful feeling; or this present was the only source of contention between them; vehement excitement is denoted by this word. Barnabas was leaning more on the lenient view of the case, Paul, on the truth [strict justice]. There is no other sin of which there is greater danger in the case of holy and great colleagues. “How comprehensive is the grace, how powerful the faith, which, in the midst of the world, in the midst of sin, amidst so many snares of Satan, and in the case of such incredible infirmity on our parts, notwithstanding sanctifies, still sustains, and preserves!”—Justus Jonas.—ἀποχωρισθῆναι, that they departed asunder) This separation also was directed (overruled) by the Lord to good. For so out of one pair, two were made: and Paul having obtained, instead of one colleague who was his equal, several subordinates, was the less restricted in his movements. Paul also afterwards made kind mention of Barnabas: 1 Corinthians 9:6.—ἐκπλεῦσαι) sailed forth, on a different course. The infinitive depends on ὥστε. The exasperation on the part of Barnabas was more violent: for it is the sailing of Barnabas, rather than the setting out of Paul, that is deduced from it.—Κύπρον, Cyprus) His country, intending again to see it, and know “in what state it was” (how it had itself): Acts 15:36, with which comp. ch. Acts 13:4 [Barnabas and Saul at the first had sailed to Cyprus].

Verse 39. - There arose a sharp contention for the contention was so sharp between them, A.V. and T.R.; parted for departed, A.V.; so that for so sharp... that, A.V.; and Barnabas for and so Barnabas, A.V.; took Mark with him for took Mark, A.V.; sailed away for sailed, A.V. There arose a sharp contention, etc. The sense "between them" must be supplied, if the English word "contention" is used. The word παροξυσμός only occurs twice in the New Testament: once in Hebrews 10:24, in a good sense, "To provoke" (for a provocation) - " stimulate or excite" - " unto love and good works," which is its common classical sense; the other time in this passage, where the sense is attributed to it in which it is used in the LXX., as in Deuteronomy 29:28, Ἐν θυμῷ καὶ ὀργῇ καὶ παροξυσμῷ μεγάλῳ σφόδρα, "in great indignation;" and in Jeremiah 32:37 (39. 37, LXX.), coupled with the same words, ἐν παροξυσμῷ μεγάλῳ, "in great wrath;" answering to קֶצפin Hebrew. But it is more probable that St. Luke uses the word here in its common medical sense. In medical writers - Galen, Hippocrates, etc. - the παροξυσμός is equivalent to what we call an access, from the Latin aecessio, used by Celsus, when a disease of some standing takes a turn for the worse, comes to a height, and breaks out into its severest form. This is the sense in which our English word "paroxysm" is used. The meaning of the passage will then be that, after a good deal of uncomfortable feeling and discussion, the difference between Paul and Barnabas, instead of cooling down, broke out into such an acute form that Barnabas went off to Cyprus with Mark, leaving St. Paul to do what he pleased by himself. And Barnabas, etc. The R.V. is much more accurate. The consequence of the quarrel is said by St. Luke to have been that Barnabas took Mark off with him to Cyprus. The statement that Paul chose Silas is a separate and independent statement, as appears by Παῦλος (in the nominative) and ἐξῆλθε in the indicative mood. St. Luke's narrative quite sides with St. Paul, and throws the blame of the quarrel, or at least of the separation, upon Barnabas. Renan ('St. Paul,' p. 119) thinks St. Paul was too severe upon John Mark, and that it was ungrateful of him to break with one to whom he owed so much as he did to Barnabas for any cause of secondary importance. He also thinks that the real root of the quarrel lay in the constantly changing relations between the two apostles, aggravated by a domineering spirit in St. Paul. But the force of this censure turns upon the question whether it was a cause of secondary importance. If St. Paul had a single eye to the success of his mission, and judged that Mark would be a hindrance to it, it was a question of primary importance to "the work," and St. Paul was right. Renan also remarks upon the extinction of the fame of Barnabas consequent upon this separation from his more illustrious companion. "While Paul kept advancing to the heights of his glory, Barnabas, separated from the companion who had shed a portion of his own luster upon him, pursued his solitary course in obscurity." Sailed away. Cyprus was Barnabas's native country (Acts 4:36), and the scene of the earliest mission (Acts 11:19), and of Paul and Barnabas's first joint evangelistic labors (Acts 13:4). Barnabas would have many friends there, and could form plans at his leisure for his future action. The friendly mention of him in 1 Corinthians 9:6 shows both that he continued his disinterested labors as an apostle and that the estrangement between him and St. Paul had passed away. The paroxysm had yielded to the gentle treatment of charity. Acts 15:39The contention was so sharp (ἐγένετο παροξυσμὸς)

More correctly, there arose a sharp contention. Only here and Hebrews 10:24. Our word paroxysm is a transcription of παροξυσμὸς. An angry dispute is indicated.


The last mention of him in the Acts.

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