Barnabas of Cyprus, A.D. 37


Joses was chrismated Barnabas. Barnabas was a Levite (a member of the Jewish priestly tribe)and a Jewish Lawyer (a Pharisee) who was born on the island of Cyprus. He was the brother of Aristobulus of Britannia (Saint Paul’s father-in-law). He was a prominent Christian disciple, whose conversion is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (4:36-37), as ocurring shortly after the crucifixion of God’s messiah, the Christ (i.e., in A.D. 33) where he is described as having sold all he had and having given the proceeds to the nascent (and impoverished) Christian community in Jerusalem.

In A.D. 37 Barnabas was living in Jerusalem when Paul came to Jerusalem on his 1st post-conversion visit. Paul met with Barnabas, and Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles James, the brother of Jesus and Simon Peter (Acts 9:27 & Gal 1:13-24). Many think that Paul already knew Barnabas, and that they may have been fellow Jewish Law students at Rabbi Gamaliel’s school in Jerusalem. Paul stayed in Jerusalem for 15 days and then Paul left Jerusalem, that is he had to flee Jerusalem for Caesarea and he then traveled back to his home town of Tarsus (in Cilicia).

Later that same year Barnabas is said to have followed Aristobulus of Britannia to Britain and worked with Aristobulus for a while, before returning to Jerusalem.

Around A.D. 41, Barnabas was respected enough in Jerusalem that the Christians in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to organize the church in Antioch (the prosperous Roman capital of the Provence of Syria, which was one of the terminal ports cities on the famous silk route from China). Antioch had initially been a refuge for the Christians who fled Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Stephen. The church in Antioch was growing rapidly and needed leadership. Barnabas’ work in Antioch became so extensive that he went to Tarsus in search of Paul. Paul joined Barnabas in Antioch and he “labor with him for a whole year” and they established a strong church there.

In 44 A.D. the church in Antioch (which had a prosperous merchant core and was therefore quite wealthy) sent Barnabas and Paul to Jerusalem with their contribution for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem (Paul’s 2nd post-conversion trip there). After delivering their relief, Barnabas and Paul returned to Antioch with John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas with them (some think this John Mark was the Apostle Mark the Evangelist, but most think he was NOT that Mark; Colossians 4:10). The church in Antioch then raised financial support and sent Barnabas, John Mark and Paul out from Antioch on what later became known as Paul’s First Missionary Journey (see A.D. 48).

In A.D. 49 a dispute arose in Antioch regarding whether Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised and needed to follow the rest of the Jewish dietary laws, etc. to be true Christians. Barnabas and Paul were then sent from Antioch up to Jerusalem, where they attended the Great Council of Jerusalem (i.e., “zeroeth ecumenical council”) which found that Gentile Christians were to be admitted into the church without having to adopt all the Jewish legal practices (ceremonial laws). They then returned to Antioch, and enjoyed “full fellowship” with the gentile Christians there, and they were later joined by Peter (who went on to become the first Bishop of Antioch).

In late A.D. 49 Paul asked Barnabas to accompany him on a second missionary journey (Acts 15:36). Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them again, but Paul did not like the idea because John Mark left them on their 1st trip (Acts15:37-38). Instead, Paul decided to take Silas with him on his second journey.

Around A.D. 50 Barnabas and John Mark left on a separate journey back to the island of Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41). Early church tradition reports that Barnabas’ preaching in a synagogue on Cyprus infuriated the local Jews, and they dragged him out of the Synagogue and stoned him to death. John Mark privately interred his body and had it buried.

The remarkable next event is that in A.D. 478 Barnabas appeared to Archbishop of Constantia (Salamis), Anthemios in a dream. The following day Anthemios found the tomb and exhumed it and found Barnabas’ body with a copy of the Matthew’s Gospel lying on his chest.