Although Joseph Barnabas was one of the most influential leaders in the early church, there is relatively little information about him in the Bible. This book by Bernd Kollmann, professor of New Testament at Universitäat-Gesamthochschule Siegen and former professor of Biblical Theology at Rheinische-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, provides a rich investigation of the extant information about Barnabas.
Kollmann provides a thorough exegesis of the information that the New Testament provides about Barnabas, as well as a careful examination of the socio-economic background of Barnabas' world (especially his native Crete) as it informs these texts. Although his primary focus is on the scant evidence offered in canonical texts, Kollmann also incorporates all known extra-canonical references to Barnabas such as the Acts of Barnabas, the Gospel of Barnabas, the Epistle of Barnabas, and Laudatio Barnabae by Alexander Monachus. He also surveys the brief references to Barnabas in the writings of Tertullian (who credits him with writing the book of Hebrews), Clement of Alexandria, Pseudo-Clement, and other early writers.
While tracing Barnabas' background in Crete, his influence in the churches at Jerusalem and Antioch, and his activity in the missionary journeys, Kollmann assesses the place of Barnabas in the leadership of the early church before the emergence of the Apostle Paul. Barnabas was a trusted and respected leader in the Jerusalem and Antioch churches, a statesman and peacemaker who helped calm the tensions within the early church. He consistently modeled humility and self-sacrifice in his sacrificial gift of property to the Jerusalem church, his service on the missionary journeys, and his selfless investment in the lives of others such as Paul and John Mark. Truly, Barnabas was the great encourager, the "son of consolation."
Despite the scanty information afforded by all the sources, Kollmann does a magnificent job of piecing together what is known about Barnabas to construct a credible picture of his life and ministry. Although it is a short work, this book evidences thorough research and thoughtful writing. It is a useful reference for New Testament scholars.