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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Barnabas, Epistle of
Barnabas, Gospel of
Joseph Barnabas
Greek - Barnabas, Barnabas'

(bahr' nuh buhss) The name Barnabas appears 23 times in Acts and 5 times in Paul's letters and probably means “son of prophecy” or one who prophesies or preaches (“son of exhortation,” Acts 4:36).

Barnabas in Acts Barnabas was a Levite and native of the island of Cyprus, named Joseph (Joses), before the disciples called him Barnabas. He sold his property and gave the proceeds to the Jerusalem church (Acts 4:36-37). He introduced Saul of Tarsus to the Jerusalem church (Acts 9:26-27). The church chose Barnabas to go to Syrian Antioch to investigate the unrestricted preaching to the Gentiles there. He became the leader to the work and secured Saul as his assistant. They took famine relief to the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:19-30). On Paul's “first missionary journey,” Barnabas at first seems to have been the leader (Acts 13-14). Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to try to settle the questions of how Gentiles could be saved and how Jewish Christians could have fellowship with them (Acts 15:1-21). They agreed to go on another missionary journey but separated over whether to take John Mark with them again (Acts 15:36-41).

Barnabas in Paul's Letters In Galatians 2:1-10, Paul recalled how he went with Barnabas to Jerusalem and how the apostles approved of their Gentile mission (probably the same event as Acts 15:1). In Galatians 2:13, however, Paul indicated that on one occasion Barnabas wavered on the issue of full acceptance of Gentile Christians. In 1 Corinthians 9:6, Paul commended Barnabas for following his (Paul's) practice of supporting himself rather than depending upon the churches. Colossians 4:10 simply states that Mark was Barnabas' cousin.

Barnabas in Later Legend In the third century Clement of Alexandria identified Barnabas as one of the seventy of Luke 10:1; Tertullian referred to him as the author of Hebrews; and the Clementine Recognitions stated he was the Matthias of Acts 1:23,Acts 1:26. All of these are most unlikely. In the second century an epistle bearing Barnabas' name appeared, became quite popular, and even received some consideration for a place in the New Testament. Later an apocryphal Acts of Barnabas and perhaps even a Gospel of Barnabas were circulated. Barnabas had nothing to do with the writing of any of these.

James A. Brooks

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'BARNABAS'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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