Friday, August 23, 2013

Whatever Happened to Barnabas? by Chris White

Barnabas is known to us largely because of his connection with the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts.  Barnabas’ cousin was John Mark (who wrote the Gospel of Mark) whose family was prominent in the Church of Jerusalem in the earliest days.  We are first introduced to him in Acts chapter 4 where he is noted for selling a large tract of land he owned and giving the money as a gift to the Apostles for the care of the poor in the early Church.  His real name was Joseph and he was of the tribe of Levi but was given the name Barnabas which means the “son of encouragement”.  Nicknames are usually related to some truth or behavior in a person’s life and so knowing Barnabas must have been a real blessing because he would be more likely to encourage than to criticize you.  Later Barnabas took up the commission of pastoring the Church of Antioch where he brings Paul into the ministry and the two are sent as missionaries to their respective home countries Cyprus and Asia Minor.  Both the men made history together as they brought the gospel to the Gentiles but especially in Cyprus where the Roman governor of that island nation was converted through their preaching.  Eventually Paul and Barnabas had a falling out in their enterprise and chose to go in separate directions and Barnabas fades from the pages of scripture.  The long standing tradition of the Church is that in old age, Barnabas returned to his homeland of Cyprus where he was eventually killed by the Jews in his hometown of Salamis for continuing to preach the Gospel.  Because of the fact that the Church in Cyprus was founded directly by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, the Greek Orthodox Church allows the Cyprian Church to be autocephalus or self-governing even in the present day.

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