Who is…

Greek: Βαρνάβας

also known as: Bar-nabas, Joses, Joseph

Meaning: Son of Nabas (i.e., prophecy); Son of Encouragement or Son of the Encouragement (Acts 4:36), Son of Consolation (comfort)

This is the surname of the man Joses, a Levite Cypriot Messianic Jew (Acts 4:36) and a family relative of Mark the author of one of the GospelsThe Gospel According to Mark.

His name stands first on the list of prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch (13:1). Luke speaks of him as a “good man” (11:24). He was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi.

He was a native of Cyprus, where he had a possession of land (Acts 4:36-37), which he sold to help the church in Jerusalem.

His personal appearance is supposed to have been dignified and commanding (Acts 14:11-12). Luke reports that,

“…he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith…” —Acts 11:24 NASB

Barnabas is mentioned by name in 3 books of the Bible: Acts, 1 Corinthians and Galatians.

When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas took him and introduced him to the apostles (9:27). They had probably been companions as students in the school of Gamaliel.

The prosperity of the church at Antioch led the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem to send Barnabas there to superintend the movement.

He found the work so extensive and weighty that he went to Tarsus in search of Saul to assist him. Saul returned with him to Antioch and labored with him for a whole year (Acts 11:25-26).

At the end of the missionary work in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were sent up to Jerusalem with the contributions the church at Antioch had made for the poorer brethren there (11:28-30).

Shortly after they returned, bringing John Mark with them, they were appointed as missionaries to the heathen world, and in this capacity visited Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Asia Minor (Acts 13:14).

Returning from this first missionary journey to Antioch, they were again sent up to Jerusalem to consult with the church there regarding the relation of Gentiles to the church (Acts 15:2; Galatians 2:1).

Paul reported a temporary disagreement with Barnabas and Peter in his letter to the Galatians, saying that,

“…when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” —Galatians 2:1-14 NASB

After this matter was settled, they returned again to Antioch, bringing the decree of the council as the rule by which Gentiles were to be admitted into the church.

When about to set forth on a second missionary journey, a dispute arose between Saul and Barnabas as to the propriety of taking John Mark with them again, as he had left them on their previous assignment. The dispute ended by Saul and Barnabas taking separate routes. Saul took Silas as his companion, and journeyed through Syria and Cilicia; while Barnabas took his nephew John Mark, and visited Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).

Barnabas is not again mentioned by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.


More information

Article Version: March 8, 2019