Who Was Saint Barnabas ?

Barnabas, originally called Joses (Joseph), was a Jewish Levite born and raised on the island of Cyprus sometime before the Common Era.   He converted to Christianity in Jerusalem and was cited as one who shared in the communal life of the early community there.  The apostles were so impressed with the sincerity and openness of Joses, tradition says they began calling him Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement.”

Barnabas was certainly a man of encouragement.  It was Barnabas who encouraged and believed in Paul despite Paul’s early persecution of Christians.  The Christian Community in Jerusalem didn’t trust Paul, but Barnabas did!  Barnabas chose Paul to partner with him and to attend to the needs of the fledgling church in Antioch.  They worked together for over a year achieving great success.  As the Church in Antioch grew in faith and numbers, they commissioned Barnabas and Paul to set out on their first missionary journey.

Barnabas was a strong advocate for the Gentile converts to Christianity and bridged the divide between the Jewish Christians and the Hellenists.  The stumbling block between the new Christians centered on whether or not the Gentiles needed to observe dietary laws and circumcision rites.  The Council of Jerusalem, through the persuasion and compassionate thoughts of Barnabas and Paul, was encouraged  to compromise.

Barnabas was the man who encouraged John Mark to take on a second missionary trip after he deserted Barnabas and Paul on the first trip.  That encouragement probably resulted in the achievements of John Mark as a gospel writer, a leader in the Christian Church in Alexandria, Egypt, and as an important aid to Peter and to Paul.

Barnabas serves as a model for each of us.  He encouraged those around him to use their time, talents and treasures for building up one other.  He was a true mentor!

Barnabas, was an example of how we can empower each other to be all we’re called to be.

(Although Acts of the Apostles is not history, nor are the Letters of Paul, these documents help form a reliable image about Barnabas, and his contribution to early Christianity.  Approximate dates rely on references  found  in the above documents.)