National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series

Barnabas, also known as Joseph, was a prominent figure in the New Testament of the Bible. He played a significant role in the early Christian community and was a close associate of the apostles, especially the Apostle Paul. Here is a brief biography of Barnabas along with relevant scriptural citations:

Background and Early Life:

Barnabas was a Jew of the tribe of Levi, born in the island of Cyprus (Acts 4:36). His original name was Joseph, but he was given the nickname “Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement” or “son of consolation,” because of his generous and encouraging nature.

Conversion to Christianity:

Barnabas became a follower of Jesus Christ after witnessing His teachings and miracles. He was one of the early converts to Christianity and became an integral part of the Christian community in Jerusalem.

Selling of Property and Giving to the Church:

Barnabas demonstrated his generosity by selling a field he owned and donating the proceeds to the early Christian community in Jerusalem (Acts 4:37).

Advocate for the Apostle Paul:

When Saul of Tarsus (who later became the Apostle Paul) converted to Christianity, many disciples were skeptical of his conversion, considering his previous persecution of Christians. However, Barnabas vouched for Paul and introduced him to the apostles (Acts 9:26-27).

Missionary Work with Paul:

Barnabas and Paul undertook several missionary journeys together to preach the Gospel and establish Christian communities in various regions. Their first significant mission was to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26).

Ministering in Antioch:

Barnabas and Paul spent a considerable amount of time in Antioch, where they taught and encouraged the believers (Acts 11:26).

Relief Mission to Jerusalem:

During a time of famine, Barnabas and Paul, along with some other disciples, collected financial aid from the church in Antioch to send to the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30).

Dispute and Split with Paul:

Barnabas and Paul had a disagreement over taking John Mark along on their second missionary journey because John Mark had left them on a previous trip. They decided to part ways, with Barnabas taking John Mark to Cyprus, while Paul selected Silas as his companion (Acts 15:36-41).

Later Life:

The Bible doesn’t provide much information about Barnabas’s later life. Some early Christian writings and traditions suggest that he continued his ministry and might have been martyred for his faith.

Barnabas’s life serves as an example of encouragement, generosity, and willingness to support others in their faith journey. His partnership with the Apostle Paul significantly contributed to the spread of Christianity in the early church. The biblical accounts of his life can be found primarily in the Book of Acts.