TWO BARSABBAS: JUSTUS AND JUDAS (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

In the Acts of the Apostles we come across two persons with the surname Barsabbas: Joseph Barsabbas and Judas Barsabbas.

Joseph alias Justus Barsabbas was among the followers of Jesus, who have accompanied him from the Baptism of Jesus to his Ascension. We know it because Joseph Barsabbas was one of the two candidates suggested or put forth by the followers of Jesus to take the place of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and hang himself to death.

The Acts have noted down Peters words in addressing the fellow disciples about choosing a successor for Judas, the betrayer.

So then, someone must join us as a witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He must be one of the men who were in our group during the whole time that the Lord Jesus traveled about with us, beginning from the time John preached his message of baptism until the day Jesus was taken up from us to heaven (Acts 1, 21-22).

In answer to Peters exhortation the followers of Jesus proposed two men to choose from to take the place of Judas Iscariot. They are Joseph, who was called Barsabbas (also known as Justus), and Matthias (Acts 1, 23). The Acts or the rest of the New Testament do not say anything more about Joseph Barsabbas.

We know that between Joseph and Mathias the later was chosen to take the place of Judas in the apostolic college; that is, in the select group of 12 apostles. So Joseph Barsabbas was the unsuccessful candidate in the election to complete the number of the select group of 12 apostles.

The second Barsabbas, Judas Barsabbas, is also an eminent follower of Jesus. He must have been a participant in the first General Assembly or Christian Council of the early Christians held in Jerusalem in 49 or 50 AD. For, he was one of the two persons commissioned to carry the decision of the Council to the concerned people at Antioch.

We read in the Acts: Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole Church, decided to choose some men from the group and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose two men who were highly respected by the believers, Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas (Acts 15, 22).

As the Acts has noted both Judas and Silas were highly respected persons among the apostles and elders among the early Christians.

The mission of Judas Barsabbas and Silas was very significant. It must been also a difficult one. The Jewish Christians at Antioch wanted to impose the Jewish Law on the Gentile Christians which was opposed by Paul and his companion, Barnabas.

The Jerusalem Council under the Chairmanship of James, the brother of Jesus refused to impose the Jewish Law on Gentile Christians. On the contrary, the Council appreciated the service of Paul and Barnabas who have risked their lives in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15, 26) and deputed Judas Barsabbas and Silas to carry a letter from the council and convey the message of the Council. The letter says, we send you, then, Judas and Silas, who will tell you in person the same things we are writing (Acts 15, 27).

The Acts further notes, The messengers were sent off and went to Antioch, where they gathered the whole group of believers and gave them the letter. When the people read it, they were filled with joy by the message of encouragement. Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, spoke a long time with them, giving them courage and strength. After spending some time there, they were sent off in peace by the believers and went back to those who had sent them (Acts 15, 30-34).

Here we see that the Evangelist Luke, the Author of the Acts, has noted that both Judas and Silas were themselves prophets. They were both trusted and capable messengers, well versed in the affairs of the early Christians.

We may carefully distinguish that Judas Barsabbas and Justus Barsabbas are two different biblical personalities. This Judas is also totally different from Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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