St. Barnabas, apostle and martyr

June 9, 2016

The Pastor's Page

StBarnabasBarnabas was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.  He was a Jew of the tribe of Levi.  He was given the name Joses or Joseph, but the apostles changed his name to Barnabas, which means the “son of encouragement” or the “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36).

Barnabas is not one of the original twelve apostles, yet he is considered an apostle because of his close association with the Twelve, his advocacy for Paul as a trustworthy apostle, his leadership in Antioch, his companionship with Paul on his first missionary journey, his tenacity as an evangelizer, his prominent role in the Council of Jerusalem in support of the inclusion of the Gentiles, and his work as the founder of the church of Cyprus.

Barnabas first appears in Scripture in Acts 4:36-37.  It recounts how Barnabas “sold a piece of property that he owned, [and] then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.”  Not only was this a powerful act of faith, it also was a demonstration of how to practice stewardship and a validation of the role of the apostles in the fair distribution of donations to the needy.

One of Barnabas’ greatest contributions was his willingness to vouch for Paul’s authenticity as an apostle.  Paul had persecuted Christians (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2; 22:4-5; 26:9-11; Gal 1:13), and his hostility was widely known.  While some had heard of his supposed conversion, they doubted that someone who had opposed them with such ferocity could now be on their side.  It was Barnabas who brought Paul to the apostles, and Barnabas who spoke on his behalf (Acts 9:27).

Barnabas made a number of significant contributions to the early Church.  He was commissioned by the apostles to be a missionary to Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:22).  Barnabas, along with Paul, who he asked to be his partner (Acts 11:25-26), made numerous converts in Antioch.  Barnabas was Paul’s companion on his first missionary journey, and he accompanied him to Cyprus, Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13 and 14), and he proclaimed the gospel with exceptional conviction.  Barnabas accompanied Paul to the Council of Jerusalem, and he, along with Paul, vigorously defended the inclusion of Gentiles, and he argued that Gentiles should not be subject to the stipulations of the Mosaic Law, a proposition that was accepted and the scope of the Church forever widened (Acts 15:1-21).  Barnabas was commissioned to return to Antioch of Syria to announce the good news that Gentiles are welcome (Acts 15:22-35).  Then, after a dispute with Paul, Barnabas sailed to Cyprus with John Mark to establish the Christian church in his native land (Acts 15:36-41).

Barnabas was bitterly opposed by Greco-Roman pagans on Cyprus, and they eventually killed him by stoning in Salamis, a seaport city, in 60 or 61 AD.

The symbols for Barnabas are a book, because he preached the gospel with Paul on his missionary journeys and to the people of Cyprus, and an olive branch because he was an effective peacemaker.  He is often depicted with St. Paul.

Barnabas is the patron saint of peacemakers because he quelled the antagonism of the apostles toward Paul and helped to resolve the conflict over Gentile admission.  He is also the patron saint of Cyprus, and invoked against quarreling and hailstorms.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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