St Barnabas’ Church
Clarksfield, Oldham



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Biblical evidence

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Saint Barnabas was in fact born with the name ‘Joseph.’ He was an early convert to Christianity, and one of the first Christian disciples in Jerusalem. Like almost all Christians at the time, he was a Jew.

He was a native of Cyprus and, like almost all Jews of the Diaspora living outside of Palestine, his first language would have be Greek. We don’t know when Barnabas came to Palestine.

He was born into a Jewish family who were members of the tribe of Levi. Being a Levite, he probably spent much time in Jerusalem, probably even before the Crucifixion. He may have been in the company of disciples who travelled with Jesus; some of the early church writers thought so. If he did not know Jesus before the crucifixion, Barnabas would have heard the apostles’ preaching very soon after Pentecost.

His aunt was the mother of John Mark (Colossians 4:10), widely assumed to be the same Mark who wrote Mark’s Gospel. He owned land in Cyprus (Acts 4:36, 37), but sold it, and gave the proceeds to the Church in Jerusalem. This act explains why Joseph was renamed ‘Barnabas’: as Acts 4:36 explains, the new name means ‘son of consolation’ or ‘son of encouragement.’ So our Church nears the nickname of this amazing man.

St Barnabas in the Bible

When Saint Paul made his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion at an unknown time between 33 and 38 ad, it was Barnabas who stood as his sponsor, introducing him to the apostles (Acts 9:27). In fact, Paul saw only Peter and James, the brother of the Lord, according to Paul himself (Galatians 1:18–19).

In about 42–43 ad, Jerusalem was afflicted by famine. The church at Antioch took a collection to help the apostles in Jerusalem. Barnabas was asked to supervise this work, but found it so onerous he went to Tarsus in search of Paul to assist him.

St Paul returned with Barnabas to Antioch and laboured with him for a whole year (Acts 11:25, 26). The two were then sent to Jerusalem with the contributions for the poorer members of the church there (Acts 11:28–30).

Later, Barnabas and Saint Paul undertook missionary journeys together. While away, they defended Gentile converts against the demands of stricter church leaders (the ‘Judaisers’). Between them, they gained many converts in Antioch (Acts 13:1), in perhaps 43–44 ad, before travelling further together making more converts (ca. 45–47 ad), and participating in the so-called Council of Jerusalem (ca. 50 ad).

Barnabas and Paul successfully evangelised many of the ‘God-fearing’ gentiles who attended the local synagogues. Des­pite taunts from Jewish Christians (Gal­atians 2:13) he con­tinued to labour as a missionary (1 Cor­inthians 9:6).

After returning from their first missionary journey to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were again sent up to Jerusalem to consult with the church there regarding the relation of Gentiles to the church (Acts 15:2; Galatians 2:1). According to Galatians 2:9–10, Barnabas was included with Paul in the agreement made between them, on the one hand, and St James, St Peter, and St John, on the other, that the two former should in the future preach to the pagans, not forgetting the poor at Jerusalem. This matter having been settled, they returned again to Antioch, bringing the agreement of the Council that Gentiles were to be admitted into the church.

Having returned to Antioch and spent some time there (Acts 15:35), St Paul asked Barnabas to accompany him on another journey (Acts 15:36). Barnabas wished to take with him his relative John Mark, but Paul refused, because the boy had left them on the former journey (Acts 15:37–38). The dispute ended by Paul and Barnabas separating. Paul took Silas as his companion, and journeyed through Syria and Cilicia; while Barnabas took John Mark to Cyprus (Acts 15:36–41).

Other information

The great second-century scholar Tertullian said Barnabas wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, but this and other attributions are conjecture.

Barnabas is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Church, and was martyred at Salamis (61 ad).

The western Church celebrates his feast day on 11 June.

External links

Article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia

Article in Wikipedia

(St Barnabas Church cannot be held responsible for the content in these websites.)


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Page posted 27 September 2015