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Barnabas and Boniface, Apostles?

June 12, 2018

 

 

June 5th was the Memorial of Boniface, "Apostle" to the Germans and June 11th is the Memorial of Barnabas, Apostle. You might realize that these names do not appear in the list of the Twelve Apostles. Many of our Protestant brethren cite these and other New Testament examples as proof of the non-necessity of Bishops, and some even go so far as to claim they are modern Apostles. Is there a way to maintain Barnabas and Boniface were "Apostles" and that Bishops are the modern day inheritors of this Apostolic lineage? In fact, must we do so as The Catholic Church maintains?

 

Why there can be no new "Apostles"

 

By "Apostle" here I mean, one of the Twelve. As always I have Evangelism in mind. I have had, and have, Protestant friends who claim to be an Apostle. I've seen vans with things like 'Dr. John C. Shropshire, PhD, Apostle" written on the side. I tell them it's impossible they're an "Apostle." Why? Because the criteria to be one is now impossible to fill. Recall what St. Peter tells the other ten when electing a replacement for Judas:

 

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
Acts 1:21-22

 

I doubt anyone in 2018 was also alive during Christ's time. Thus there are no new "Apostles" in the sense of being one of The Twelve, or being an inheritor to the twelve. You'd have to qualify just as Matthias did, which is only possible since he was a disciple from the get go.

 

Etymology of "Apostle"

 

Apostle is an English word coming from the Greek ἀπόστολος (apostolos) meaning to send, especially a cargo ship sent on a mission ("fishers of men"), or an ambassador sent with the king's authority on a mission ("ambassadors of Christ")

 

While etymology is interesting regarding how the word developed, meanings do not stay locked up in the past. Some of my Protestant friends think dictionaries somehow delimit the uses of a term, set them in stone, never to change. I suppose if that's the case then Jesus and the Evangelists use of the term Apostle for anything other than a literal ambassador or cargo ship is wrong! In logic, we fall this desire to keep words locked up in history "The Etymological Fallacy."

 

The Many Uses of the term "Apostle"

 

The term "Apostle" came to have many uses in The New Testament and throughout Church History. They typically derive from a sense of being "sent" (apostolos). This means the one sending, their authority, and the mission sent on will change the sense of term "apostle!"
 

  • Jesus, The Apostle

    • Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. 
      Hebrews 3:1

      • ​"sent" by God The Father; this makes Christ the Standard, or Apostle to apostles
         

  • Apostles to Israel, i.e. The Twelve

    • him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon...
      Matthew 10:1-2

      • ​"sent" by God The Son, The Twelve are a reflection of the Twelve Patriarch of Israel, the chosen nation
         

  • Apostle to The Gentiles, i.e. Paul

    • Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles
      Romans 11:13

      • ​"sent" to non-Israelites, i.e. everybody else
         

  • Apostle to Specific Gentiles, i.e. a nation or people

    • As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker in your service; and as for our brethren, they are apostles of the churches, the glory of Christ.
      2 Cor 8:23

       

  • Apostle as a Messenger

    • Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
      John 20:17

      • Mary Magdalene is "sent" by Jesus to the Apostles with a message, thus her title "Apostle to the Apostles." This title uses two senses of the term "apostle," and thus it qualifies as a pun.
         

What kind of "Apostle" is Barnabas?

 

An Apostle to the Gentiles. Barnabas and Paul are the only two saints, bracketing out the Twelve, who are listed as "Apostle" in The Church Kalendar. This tells us what The Tradition says. And we'll find calling both "Apostles" is in The Kalendar because it's found that way in The Scriptures:

 

when the apostles Barnabas and Paul
Acts 14:14

 

This means Barnabas is in the same category as Paul. So if Paul is an Apostle to the Gentiles, then apparently so is Barnabas!

 

What kind of "Apostle" is Boniface?
 

An Apostle to a Specific Gentile nation and/or people. Boniface is the "Apostle" to the Germans, or The Apostle to Germany 675-754 AD. This is similar to Augustine of Canterbury being the Apostle to England or Patrick being the Apostle to Ireland. Boniface and Patrick were both Bretons (British) by the way, so they are part and parcel of the English Spiritual Patrimony of the Catholic Church.

 

Or

Q: What kind of 'Apostle' is Boniface?"
A: A manly one.

He's the only saint I know of that converted a town of people by chopping down a tree old fashioned style: with an axe, a back, and two hands. They said it was Thor's tree and he would strike any dead who struck it. Boniface took the challenge. (See the image above)


How are The Apostles of Israel and the Apostles of the Gentiles All One?

 

This is an excellent question and of the utmost importance for evangelizing Protestants. We ought be "destroyers of arguments" (2 Cor 10:5) but we don't want to leave a vacuum, we want to make room for the seeds of faith to grow! We also need to show how The Catholic Church actually has a coherent, unified vision of Christ's Church that is true. 

 

and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised;
Galatians 2:9

 

To answer this question we'll go into how The College of Bishops inherited The Apostolic Collegiality. It turns out the right hand of "fellowship" (koinonia) is more than a common handshake.

 

Peace of Christ, and happy Trinitytide II.

 

 

 

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