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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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Bar´nabas. His name was originally Joses, or Joseph (Acts 4:36), but he received from the Apostles the surname of Barnabas, which signifies the Son of Prophecy. Luke interprets it by Son of Exhortation. It can hardly be doubted that this name was given to Joses to denote his eminence as a Christian teacher. He is described by Luke as 'a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith' (Acts 11:24). He was a native of Cyprus, but the son of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. From Acts 4:36-37, it appears that he was possessed of land, but whether in Judea or Cyprus is not stated. He generously disposed of the whole for the benefit of the Christian community, and 'laid the money at the Apostles feet.' As this transaction occurred soon after the day of Pentecost, he must have been an early convert to the Christian faith.

When Paul made his first appearance in Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas introduced him to the Apostles, and attested his sincerity (Acts 9:27). Though the conversion of Cornelius and his household, with its attendant circumstances, had given the Jewish Christians clearer views of the comprehensive character of the new dispensation, yet the accession of a large number of Gentiles to the church at Antioch was an event so extraordinary, that the Apostles and brethren at Jerusalem resolved on deputing one of their number to investigate it. Their choice was fixed on Barnabas. After witnessing the flourishing condition of the church, and adding fresh converts by his personal exertions, he visited Tarsus to obtain the assistance of Saul, who returned with him to Antioch, where they labored for a whole year (Acts 11:23-26). In anticipation of the famine predicted by Agabus, the Antiochian Christians made a contribution for their poorer brethren at Jerusalem, and sent it by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:28-30), who speedily returned, bringing with them John Mark, a nephew of the former. By divine direction (Acts 13:2) they were separated to the office of missionaries, and as such visited Cyprus and some of the principal cities in Asia Minor (Acts 13:14). Soon after their return to Antioch, the peace of the church was disturbed by certain zealots from Judea, who insisted on the observance of the rite of circumcision by the Gentile converts. To settle the controversy, Paul and Barnabas were deputed to consult the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-2); they returned to communicate the result of their conference (Acts 15:22), accompanied by Judas Barsabas and Silas, or Silvanus. On preparing for a second missionary tour, a dispute arose between them on account of John Mark, which ended in their taking different routes; Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas and his nephew revisited his native island (Acts 15:36-41). At this point Barnabas disappears from Luke's narrative, which to its close is occupied solely with the labors and sufferings of Paul. From the Epistles of the latter a few hints (the only authentic sources of information) may be gleaned relative to his early friend and associate. From 1 Corinthians 9:5-6, it would appear that Barnabas was unmarried, and supported himself, like Paul, by some manual occupation. In Galatians 2:1, we have an account of the reception given to Paul and Barnabas by the Apostles at Jerusalem, probably on the occasion mentioned in Acts 15. In the same chapter (Acts 15:13) we are informed that Barnabas so far yielded to the Judaizing zealots at Antioch, as to separate himself for a time from communion with the Gentile converts. Respecting the later years of Barnabas we have no authentic information. The year when he died cannot be determined with certainty; if his nephew, as some have supposed, joined Paul after that event, it must have taken place not later than A.D. 63 or 64.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Barnabas'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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