Bar´na – bas ( Βαρνάβας , Barnábas , “son of exhortation,” or possibly “son of Nebo”): Son Of Exhortation, or Of Prophecy. The surname of Joses, a Levite; a native of the isle of Cyprus, and an early convert to the Christian faith. He was a companion of the apostle Paul, and had a large share in the labors and sufferings which attended the early spread of Christianity.  Acts 4:36-37;  Acts 9:26-27.

It is not known when Barnabas became a Christian, but he appears very early in the story of the Jerusalem church. He was related to John Mark, whose family home was in Jerusalem ( Colossians 4:10;  Acts 12:12).

His first deed was recorded in Acts 4. In  Acts 4:36  Barnabas is introduced as a Levite of Cyprus, who sold land that he possessed, and devoted the proceeds to the use of the Church. No other Levite is mentioned by name in the NT. His ownership of land, in contravention of the law ( Deuteronomy 10:9) which excluded Levi from part or inheritance with his brothers, is not surprising, as in later times this Deuteronomic prohibition cannot have been enforced ( Jeremiah 32:7-12).

From Cyprus the youthful Barnabas may have passed over to the neighboring Tarsus, famous in his time for its culture as well as its commerce, and there made the acquaintance of Paul. At any rate, he appeared as his friend, and stood sponsor for him on his first visit to Jerusalem, when other members of the Church regarded him with distrust (Acts 9:26).

Thereafter Paul retired to Tarsus, but Barnabas remained in Jerusalem till tidings reached the mother Church of the success of the gospel in Antioch, when he was commissioned to visit that city and confirm the disciples (Acts 11:22-24). Having sought out Paul at Tarsus, he induced him to join him in his work in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26).

After a year of service there, the two fellow-laborers were dispatched to Jerusalem with alms for the needy Christians of Judaea ( Acts 11:29-30).

From Jerusalem they brought back, as a helper, John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (  Acts 12:12;   Acts 12:25; cf.   Colossians 4:10 ).

Ordained as missionaries on their return ( Acts 13:3 ), and accompanied by John Mark, they proceeded upon what is ordinarily known as the “First Missionary Journey” of Paul ( Acts 13:4-5). Its history belongs to Paul’s life. Barnabas as well as Paul is designated “an apostle” ( Acts 14:14 ). Up to  Acts 13:43 , the precedency is constantly ascribed to Barnabas; from that point, except in  Acts 14:14 and  Acts 15:12 , Acts 15:25 , we read “Paul and Barnabas,” instead of “Barnabas and Saul.” The latter becomes the chief spokesman. The people at Lystra named Paul, because of his fervid oratory, Mercurius, while the quiet dignity and reserved strength of Barnabas gave him the title of Jupiter ( Acts 14:12 ). Barnabas escaped the violence which Paul suffered at Iconium ( Acts 14:19 ).

Upon their return from this first missionary tour, they were sent, with other representatives of the church at Antioch, to confer with the apostles and elders of the church at Jerusalem concerning the obligation of circumcision and the ceremonial law in general under the New Testament – the synod of Jerusalem. Acts 15:1-3

A judgment on this question having been obtained from the leaders of the mother Church met in Council, Paul and Barnabas repaired again to Antioch, and began to consult about another missionary journey. As Barnabas, however, insisted on taking Mark with them, in spite of his defection on the previous journey, a sharp contention took place between them, with the result that Paul chose Silas as his companion, and proceeded to Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas set sail with Mark for Cyprus ( Acts 15:36-41).

There is no further notice of Barnabas in Acts.

Luther and Calvin regard  2 Corinthians 8:18-19 as meaning Barnabas by “the brother whose praise is spread through all the churches,” and indicating, therefore, subsequent joint work. The incidental allusions in  1 Corinthians 9:6 and  Galatians 2:13 (“even Barnabas”) show at any rate Paul’s continued appreciation of his former associate. Like Paul, he accepted no support from those to whom he ministered.

One who encourages others

In the early days of the Jerusalem church, Barnabas demonstrated his sacrificial spirit when he sold a field that he owned and gave the money to the apostles to help the poor Christians ( Acts 4:36-37). Being a good man and full of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 11:24), he was well known for the encouragement he gave people. For this reason he was given the name Barnabas (meaning ‘son of encouragement’). His original name was Joseph ( Acts 4:36).

Barnabas’ gift of encouragement showed itself on a number of memorable occasions. When many of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were doubtful about Paul and his reported conversion, Barnabas gained acceptance for Paul with the leaders of the church ( Acts 9:26-29). Being more open-minded than most of the Jewish Christians, he was later sent by the Jerusalem leaders to help at Antioch in Syria, where many non-Jewish people had become Christians. He, in turn, invited Paul to Antioch, and through the help they gave over the next year the church grew rapidly ( Acts 11:19-26).

Missionary travels

A fruitful partnership developed between Paul and Barnabas. Their first trip together was to Jerusalem, where they helped the church by taking an offering of goods and money from the Christians in Antioch ( Acts 11:27-30;  Galatians 2:1). They then returned to Antioch, from where they set out on a missionary tour of Cyprus and parts of Asia Minor ( Acts 12:25;  Acts 13:1-4;  Acts 13:14;  Acts 14:12).

After returning to Antioch, the two missionaries met trouble when Jews from the Jerusalem church taught that Gentile Christians had to keep the Jewish law ( Acts 15:1;  Acts 15:5). The Jewish teachers argued so cleverly that they persuaded Barnabas to believe them ( Galatians 2:11-13). After Paul rebuked him, Barnabas saw his error. He then opposed the Jewish teachers and even went with Paul to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the church leaders ( Acts 15:2;  Acts 15:12).

When Paul suggested that he and Barnabas revisit the churches of Asia Minor, a disagreement arose between them concerning whether to take Mark with them. As a result they parted. Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas to Asia Minor ( Acts 15:36-41; see Mark ). Although this concludes the biblical record of Barnabas’ travels, Paul continued to speak well of him. It is possible that Barnabas later became associated with Paul in Corinth ( 1 Corinthians 9:6).

Tradition has been busy with the name of Barnabas, but has preserved little that is deserving of trust. According to one legend, he was a personal disciple of Christ, even one of the Seventy mentioned in  Luke 10:1, and preached the gospel in Rome during the lifetime of our Lord. Another asserts that he was the founder and first bishop of the Church of Milan, though Ambrose makes no mention of him as one of his predecessors in that see. A third makes him the missionary or apostle to Cyprus, and states that he died by martyrdom at Salami a in a.d. 61. From an early date also the writing of an Epistle has been ascribed to him: (1) the Epistle to the Hebrews, the authorship of which was claimed for him by Tertullian; and (2) the Epistle to which his name has been attached since the time of Clement of Alexandria (see following article). In both cases the internal evidence is strongly against the authorship of Barnabas, such references, for instance, being made to the Jewish Law as wore not likely to come from a member of the Jerusalem Church and a sympathizer with Peter at Antioch. McGiffert ( Apostol. Age , Edinburgh, 1897, p. 598f.) argues very ingeniously in favour of Barnabas as the author of 1 Peter; but the reasons adduced by him, though plausible, are scarcely sufficient to establish his theory. There is nothing in the Epistle to necessitate a Levite authorship, and Barnabas need not have remained anonymous (Moffat, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt). , 343 n.[Note: . note.], 437).

Compiled from BiblePortal Wiki