Acts 15:39
(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.

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.

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 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.

Acts 15:38
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