St Barnabas the Apostle


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St Barnabas the Apostle

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Barnabas is a significant member of the early church. Information about him comes mainly from the book of Acts, with further details from Paul’s letters.

Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus (the Hellenistic world). His original name was Joseph, the apostles called him Barnabas (son of encouragement). Luke writes that in the early church in Jerusalem everything was held in common, and that Barnabas sold an estate and gave the proceeds to the church (Acts 4:36-37). Barnabas was warmly accepted by the church and vouched for Paul when he joined the church (Acts 9:27). Evidence of Barnabas good standing is seen in the fact that he was able to stay on in Jerusalem when many of the Greek-speaking Christians were scattered (Acts 8:1).

Later the church in Jerusalem entrusted Barnabas with the task of leading the church in Antioch, where Gentiles as well as Jews were beginning to respond to the gospel (Acts 11:22-24). Barnabas brought Paul from Tarsus to assist him (Acts 11:25-26). The church in Antioch then sent them to Jerusalem with relief funds (Acts 11:30), and commissioned them to undertake a missionary journey, which took them to Cyprus and then to Asia Minor (Acts 13:13-14). John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, accompanied them part of the way. Paul and Barnabas were mobbed in Lystra, with Barnabas being called “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes”, but Barnabas appears to have escaped the stoning that Paul received (Acts 14:8-20).

Eventually Barnabas and Paul (Barnabas appears to be the leader) reported their success to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-35). They were present there for the debates over the treatment of Gentile converts to the church, Barnabas seems to have held a centrist position, relating warmly to the Gentiles, but not willing to eat with them in the presence of more conservative Jewish Christians. For which he and Peter, received a sharp rebuke from Paul (Galatians 2:11-14). Barnabas and Paul then returned to Antioch with the decision of the Jerusalem Council on the rules required of Gentiles joining the church. When it was suggested they revisit the churches from their first missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul refused. Paul went with Silas instead. Although Paul undertook no further missionary work with Barnabas, he regarded him with respect, as another apostle who like himself, worked for his living (1 Corinthians 9:6). Barnabas and Mark went home to Cyprus. Barnabas is regarded as the founder of the church there and later tradition has it that he was martyred on Cyprus.

BORN: Salamis, Cyprus

DIED: 61 AD, Salamis, Cyprus

There is a fake Gospel of Barnabas. No Christian would write what this piece of fiction claims. However the Epistle of Barnabas is part of the Codex Siniticus and likely genuine so it is the origin of today's quotes at the bottom of our prayer pages.