Christian Bible Quiz and Answer

Bible Quiz Question: Who Was Barnabas?

Bible answer man
How to we characterize any preacher for that matter?
In the cobbled market square, she noticed an impromptu evangelist set up his soapbox and start rabbiting on about judgment and sin.  It made her feel vaguely guilty just hearing him, and as she went into the station, she contemplated asking one of the uniforms to go out and move him on.  There must be a law against it somewhere on the books.  Disturbing the peace of an overworked DC?
    Charity prevailed, and she went up to her office.  It faced the car park out back, so she wouldn't have to listen to him there.
--Peter Robinson, Final Account171

I want to explore Bible versions and was waiting for an opportunity to look at various ones, how they treat something preached on while at the same time not treating some critical doctrinal issue.  The nickname of Barnabas fits the bill, because it is given differently in the four versions172 in my library, and nobody is going to get all bent out of joint over it one way or another.

The King James version says, (Acts 4:36-37) "And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet." On Bible quiz night if someone is asked who was The son of consolation, the right answer is Barnabas.  It's in all our (KJV) Bibles, and since the King James Version uses for the most part the formulas of Tyndale who himself only polished up Wycliffe's work, Barnabas as the son of consolation has been named that way, among all the English speaking people for several hundred years.

Nicknames are, of course, subjective, and we must rely on the people johnny-on-the-spot to come up with the suitable one to capture the mood.

    The real mood of the commune can only be described subjectively.  It is hard to imagine so many people happy, so full of joy with so few material possessions.  The harmony and fellowship between each member cannot be realized except by direct observation.
--Edward Plowmam, The Jesus Movement in America173

Now because there's such an impetus any more for really modern translations, I also have a more modern translation in my library, the J.B. Phillips NewTestament, which I only use on the rare occasion that quoting a modern English version rather than the King James has some benefit.  Phillips says, "It was at this time that Barnabas (the name, meaning son of comfort, given by the apostles to Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus) sold his farm and put the proceeds at the apostles' disposal." Barnabas here is given to mean son of comfort rather than of consolation.  My dictionary defines "consolation 1. comfort. 2. a comforting person, thing, or event." So Phillips gives the same thought with an easier word.  If someone were given a Bible quiz question, Who was the son of comfort? it would be a harder question, unless he were familiar with Phillips, but he could probably still get it right as a variation of the long established name.  In fact Phillips' introduction states that he is translating so that his version has the same effect on the reader as the first Greek manuscripts did way back when.  Since Barnabas was a single nickname, not several, and since modern readers are already, and had been for centuries, familiar with the name son of consolation, Phillips could not give him another name and expect it to have the same effect; the most he could do was use a variation.

There's probably little reason in my opinion to quote son of comfort instead of the more widespread son of consolation; the latter doesn't seem at all a difficult word.  Except, say, I had a real slow learner to whom I was trying to convey that Barnabas was a fulfillment of Isaiah 12, "And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me.  Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.  And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.  Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.  Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee."

The introduction to the NIV Bible says that their group of scholars has translated the authors.  Now, my lecture book on translating warns that we should translate the reader, not the author, so that what we read in the translation will have the same effect on us as the original did on its readers; otherwise, by translating the author, we could end up with only an imitation of the original.  The NIV in not translating the reader, but the writer, is not under the rule of Phillips, no, they would give us a different name from son of consolation if in their scholarly opinion it was closer to the Greek even though in giving Barnabas a second nickname they were affecting the reader differently than the original writing did theirs in attributing but one nickname to the man.  So in the NIV we read, "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet."

Here, if I'm a contestant at Bible quiz and somebody asked me the answer to who was the son of encouragement, I'd say it would be John the Baptist from (Matt. 11:12) And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." He's the one encouraging us to take it.  His preaching style is more like "she noticed an impromptu evangelist set up his soapbox and start rabbiting on about judgment and sin. It made her feel vaguely guilty just hearing him," as contrasted to Jesus' gentler style.  (In verse 17 he contrasts their two styles.)  As the lecture book says, the son of encouragement is an imitator of the son of consolation, Barnabas.

Then we get to "Paraphrases translate the New Testament into the language and idiom of the street scene."174 Living Bible: "For instance, there was Joseph (the one the apostles nicknamed 'Barney the Preacher'! He was of the tribe of Levi, from the island of Cyprus).  He was one of those who sold a field and brought the money to the apostles for distribution to those in need." If asked a Bible quiz question, who was Barny the Preacher, I think most men would get it right even if they weren't familiar with the Living Bible.

In I Timothy 3, Paul gave Timothy qualification criteria for high authority in the church. The first criterion is that the leader must be "blameless." The King James Version has a good reputation in this respect.  I've just pointed out a place where I don't go along with the NIV, minor in significance because I don't want to give the impression I'm arguing with the preacher who uses it.  A brother's going to give me the list of differences between the KJV and the NIV that his daughter used to convince her Ass'y of God church to return to the KJV from the NIV.  It's probably a more serious list than my example, but it's not my personal list and one can do with other material what he wants after he's got his hands on it.

Continuing qualifications: "The husband of one wife." The Bible is married to the culture in which it was produced, which is no reason not to take it seriously, witness the lesson of Miriam and Aaron murmuring against Moses because of his wife.  If my culture says the seat of the soul is the heart and another culture says it's the belly, and we make a multicultural translation that says David was a man whom God could stomach, it's lost something in the translation. International Bibles should not be our major authority.

"Vigilant." That's a quality the paraphrases lack in translating their material, and to their credit they tell Christians not to use them as their main Bible.

"Sober." Bible translation is to be a serious enterprise if the fruits are going to be respected as ultimately authoritative.  I paraphrased an epistle once as an exercise, but it wasn't a serious endeavor, and I'd be mortified if anyone followed it as gospel. It's paraphrasing that lessens the value of a translation as authoritative.

"Of good behavior." That's why it's called the Good Book, and if a translation doesn't rate that appellation, we don't need to highly regard it.

"Given to hospitality." The Gideons have left their KJV's strewn around our stopping places as part of a hospitable gesture. Lately they are going with the NKJV, but still it's not the NIV. This is not the only criterion on the list; there are plenty more that the other versions would have to live up to.

"Not given to wine." Ah, take a little wine for thy stomach's often infirmities, Timothy.  If a translation allowed too much boozing, though, we'd have to devalue it.

"No striker." Here I believe this means a Bible version that's ultimately authoritative is not to be one put out by some denomination or other to take cheap shots at promoting their particular viewpoint.  That's why the advantage of a mixed group of translators to guard against it, although a rightly motivated single translator could still succeed here.  The New International Version, I believe, fails this test by claiming in its introduction to have used "the best manuscripts." At any rate I've been in an argument with someone using the NIV disagreeing with my KJV, and who used just that cheap shot.

"Not greedy of filthy lucre." The major motivation of an acceptably authoritative Bible should not be the financial success of its publisher.

"But patient." Good authoritative versions come about over a long process.

"Not a brawler." It should not encourage militant applications.  The NIV fails this, of all tests, in (Revelation 13:10) "If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed." That turns the traditional reading into a tautology and a carte blanche for a militant group to do its thing.

If he can't take care of his house, he can't rule the church.  The NIV mistakes whom a Christian may marry, so I can't trust it on spiritual matters.

"Not a novice." That rules out all the "New Whatever" versions.

"Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without." The KJV is most highly regarded.  On talk radio they call the NIV "The New Idiot's Version."

I have such problems with a high place for the NIV.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Web page copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III
Photograph of preacher copyright © 2001, Richard Carter
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Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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