The Acts of Barnabas – From Kourion to Salamis

They continued east on their way to Salamis being stopped from entering Kourion and Amathus. Even Lazarus didn’t come to meet them in Kition, so they ‘shook the dust off their feet,’ caught a boat, and sailed around Cape Greco to Salamis.

There were synagogues in all of the major cities, some cities having more than one, as did Salamis. Barnabas’ mission was only to the Jews, so Elymas was determined to keep him out of the cities and out of the synagogues.

When they arrived in Salamis, Mark tells us they arrived at a place of idols where high festivals and libations took place. They apparently sailed into the mouth of the Pedieos River, which would have been silted up by the 4th century, the islands of the idols covered over. Up unto what century would they have still been in existence and referred to? (Perhaps one day archaeologists will excavate this area.)

Today nothing remains except a few riverlets which wind through the silt and one small tree covered in small plastic bags of offerings and prayer requests. It seems that tradition still holds that this is a place of offerings.

Votive Tree at Salamis Estuary

Offering tree at the mouth of the silted up Pedieos River

This was the only time they outran Barjesus, who would have continued on the road via Tremithous.  The Christians arrived two days before he did, giving them time to preach in the synagogues without interruption. Heracleius was waiting for Barnabas and John Mark in Salamis; he must have taken the road from the mountains, across the plains, directly to Salamis.  Barnabas taught him how to set up and manage Christian communities. It appears that the meeting in Salamis had been arranged in Lambadistis.

Catacombs at St Barnabas MonasteryCatacomb near the Tomb of St. Barnabas

And then Barjesus arrived. He was furious that Barnabas had outsmarted him, so he called on his followers to apprehend Barnabas and take him to Hypatius, the governor of Salamis, but when Barjesus found out that a pious Jesubite and relative of Nero was coming to town, he changed his mind because he was afraid the Barnabas would be released.

Instead, Barjesus (Elymas) had Barnabas taken to the outskirts of Salamis near the hippodrome and burned, planning to throw his remains into the sea the next day.

Map of ancient Salamis, showing the major structuresPossible Site of the Hippodrome in Salamis

Mark says that Timon, Rhodon, and himself took the remains out of the city to a cave where they buried Barnabas. The body of Barnabas while burnt could not have turned to pure ash.

It would have taken about 600 pounds of wood and at least 6 hours to reduce the body to pure ash.  It is unlikely that there was enough wood or time to complete the act.

So, when Mark says that it took three of them to remove Barnabas to the burial site, that makes perfect sense. The remains of the body would have been rolled up tightly, and carried with one person at each end and one in the middle, needing three.

Mark goes into great detail relating how they were pursued, how they went out of town and found caves, then hid out for three days.

There is a massive ancient necropolis on the Mesaoria Plains barely a mile out of Salamis. It consists of huge tombs and an intricate catacombs network, a perfect place to hid out and to bury a body. This is the place where St. Barnabas was found, in a cave with the Gospel of St. Matthew.  John Mark tells us the Matthew himself give the copy to Barnabas who used it to preach from and to heal with.

Rhodon, Timon, and John Mark left from a town called Limni, and took a boat to Egypt, where Mark founded the Coptic Branch of the Apostolic Church.  The Coptic Church continues the tradition of Mark.  Perhaps just coincidence, but the town of Paralimni is just 12 miles from the cave and on the coast, though it was originally on a hill.

So, is the document Acts of Barnabas a fake, written for the self serving purpose of the local church?  There are enough elements of the story related by Mark to make someone wonder if it might just actually be true.

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