Barnabas (Cousin of John Mark)

Referenced in the Bible:

Acts 4:36, 9:27, 11:22-30, 12:25, 13:1-7, 42-50, 14:1-3, 12-23, 15:2, 12, 22, 25, 35-39;

1 Corinthians 9:6;

Galatians 2:1, 9, 13;

Colossians 4:10.

Key Verse: 

Acts 9:27
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (NIV)

Acts 13:2
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. (NIV)

Introduction:[1] (By Jack Zavada).

Barnabas – Missionary and Companion of Paul, Cousin of John Mark.

Barnabas was one of those humble early Christians who played a vital role in the church’s growth simply by stepping out in faith.

His real name was Joseph, born into the Hebrew tribe of Levi, the group responsible for serving in the temple.  The book of Acts tells us he was from Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The apostles called him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”  No doubt he earned that title by building up the members of the struggling young church.  His first act of stepping out was to sell a field he owned and put the money at the feet of the apostles in Jerusalem.

His second act of faith is hardly noticed, yet it had such a profound effect on Christianity that it is still felt today.  Paul had been preaching in Damascus, and his ministry was so powerful there that the Jews conspired to kill him.  He managed to escape only when his friends lowered him in a basket from the city wall.

When Paul fled to Jerusalem, the apostles were afraid to meet with him.

Before his conversion, Paul had persecuted the church, dragging men and women off to prison.  But Barnabas sought him out, heard his story, and introduced him to the disciples.  Gradually they accepted Paul, who became one of the most tremendous missionaries of all time, taking the gospel to the Gentiles and all the way to Rome.

Barnabas’s great faith wasn’t just in Paul, though.  He was a cousin of John Mark, who accompanied both of them on Paul’s first missionary journey to Cyprus.  When they sailed for Perga, John Mark left them.  The reason is not stated in Scripture.

When it came time for Paul’s second missionary trip, Barnabas wanted to take Mark, but Paul would not because he had deserted them earlier.  The disagreement became so bitter that Paul went one direction with Silas while Barnabas set out for Cyprus with Mark.  Through Barnabas’s faith in Mark, the unintended result was two missionary teams instead of one.  Later, Paul reconciled not only with Barnabas but with Mark as well.


Indirectly, Barnabas made possible Paul’s missionary trips and epistles and the gospel of Mark, written by John Mark.  He strengthened the early church and helped spread the good news to Gentiles.


Barnabas was an encourager.  His faith held strong despite persecution.  He bolstered weaker disciples, and as a missionary, he was a clear, zealous preacher of the Word.


He was “led astray,” according to Paul, by Peter and a group of former Pharisees who believed Gentiles had to be circumcised to become members of the church.

Life Lessons:

We never know how our small acts of faith will benefit others.  Barnabas was a true believer in Jesus Christ and boldly centered his whole life on that belief.  Just like him, we can step out and the ripple effect of our actions can have long-lasting impact.




Missionary, teacher.

2.0 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia[2]H. E. Jacobs


bar’-na-bas (Barnabas, “son of exhortation,” or possibly “son of Nebo”):

This name was applied to the associate of Paul, who was originally called Joses or Joseph (Acts 4:36), as a testimony to his eloquence.

Its literal meaning is “son of prophecy” (bar, “son”; nebhu’ah, “prophecy”). Compare word for prophet in Genesis 20:7; Deuteronomy 18:15,18, etc. This is interpreted in Acts 4:36 as “son of exhortation” the Revised Version (British and American), or “son of consolation” the King James Version, expressing two sides of the Greek paraklesis, that are not exclusive.

The office of a prophet being more than to foretell, all these interpretations are admissible in estimating Barnabas as a preacher. Deismann (Bibelstudien, 175-78) considers Barnabas the Jewish Grecized form of Barnebous, a personal Semitic name recently discovered in Asia Minor inscriptions, and meaning “son of Nebo” (Standard Bible Dictionary in the place cited.).

He was a Levite from the island of Cyprus, and cousin, not “nephew” (the King James Version), of the evangelist Mark, the word anepsios (Colossians 4:10), being used in Numbers 36:11, for “father’s brothers’ sons.”

When we first learn of him, he had removed to Jerusalem, and acquired property there. He sold “a field,” and contributed its price to the support of the poorer members of the church (Acts 4:36).

In Acts 11:24 he is described as “a good man and full of the Holy Spirit” (compare Isaiah 11:2; 1 Corinthians 12:8,11) “and of faith,” traits that gave him influence and leadership.

Possibly on the ground of former acquaintanceship, interceding as Paul’s sponsor and surety, he removed the distrust of the disciples at Jerusalem and secured the admission of the former persecutor into their fellowship.

When the preaching of some of the countrymen of Barnabas had begun a movement toward Christianity among the Greeks at Antioch, Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to give it encouragement and direction, and, after a personal visit, recognizing its importance and needs, sought out Paul at Tarsus, and brought him back as his associate.

At the close of a year’s successful work, Barnabas and Paul were sent to Jerusalem with contributions from the infant church for the famine sufferers in the older congregation (Acts 11:30). Ordained as missionaries on their return (Acts 13:3), and accompanied by John Mark, they proceeded upon what is ordinarily known as the “First Missionary Journey” of Paul (Acts 13:4,5).

Its history belongs to Paul’s life. Barnabas as well as Paul is designated “an apostle” (Acts 14:14). Up to Acts 13:43, the presidency is constantly ascribed to Barnabas; from that point, except in 14:14 and 15:12,25, we read “Paul and Barnabas,” instead of “Barnabas and Saul.”

The latter becomes the chief spokesman. The people at Lystra named Paul, because of his fervid oratory, Mercurius, while the quiet dignity and reserved strength of Barnabas gave him the title of Jupiter (Acts 14:12). Barnabas escaped the violence which Paul suffered at Iconium (Acts 14:19).

Upon their return from this first missionary tour, they were sent, with other representatives of the church at Antioch, to confer with the apostles and elders of the church at Jerusalem concerning the obligation of circumcision and the ceremonial law in general under the New Testament–the synod of Jerusalem.

A separation from Paul seems to begin with a temporary yielding of Barnabas in favor of the inconsistent course of Peter (Galatians 2:13).

This was followed by a more serious rupture concerning Mark.

On the second journey, Paul proceeded alone, while Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus.

Luther and Calvin regard 2 Corinthians 8:18,19 as meaning Barnabas by “the brother whose praise is spread through all the churches,” and indicating, therefore, subsequent joint work. The incidental allusions in 1 Corinthians 9:6 and Galatians 2:13 (“even Barnabas”) show at any rate Paul’s continued appreciation of his former associate. Like Paul, he accepted no support from those to whom he ministered.

Tertullian, followed in recent years by Grau and Zahn, regard him as the author of the Epistle to the He. The document published among patristic writings as the Epistle of Barnabas, and found in full in the Codex Sinaiticus, is universally assigned today to a later period. “The writer nowhere claims to be the apostle Barnabas; possibly its author was some unknown namesake of ‘the son of consolation’ ” (Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, 239 f).

3.0 What should we learn from the life of Barnabas?[3]

In the book of Acts, we find a Levite from Cyprus named Joses (Acts 4:36), whom the apostles called Barnabas. That nickname, translated “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36-37) or “Son of Exhortation” was probably given to him because of his inclination to serve others (Acts 4:36-37, 9:27) and his willingness to do whatever church leaders needed (Acts 11:25-31). He is referred to as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” Through his ministry, “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). Paul uses Barnabas as an example of one with a proper perspective on money and property. When he sold his land, he brought the proceeds to the apostles and laid it at their feet (Acts 4:36-37).

As the early church began to grow, in spite of Herod’s persecution, Barnabas was called by the Holy Spirit to go with Paul on a missionary journey. Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, served him and Paul as their assistant (Acts 13:5). During that first missions trip, for an unspecified reason, John Mark left them and did not complete the journey (Acts 13:13). However, Barnabas continued with Paul and was with him when Paul’s ministry was redirected to reaching the Gentiles with the gospel (Acts 13:42-52). The only negative mention of Barnabas in Scripture is in reference to an incident in which Peter’s hypocrisy influenced other Jews (including Barnabas) to shun some Gentiles at dinner (Galatians 2:13).

After that first trip, Paul and Barnabas began planning their next journey. Barnabas wanted to take his cousin, but Paul refused, and a rift grew between them to the point that they parted company (Acts 15:36-41). Barnabas, true to his nickname, took John Mark and spent time discipling him. That ministry was so effective that, years later, Paul specifically asked for John Mark to come to him, as Mark had matured to the point of becoming helpful to Paul in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).

Like Barnabas, as Christians we are called to be encouragers, particularly of those who are weak in the faith or struggling. Acts 11:23 depicts Barnabas as a man who was delighted to see others exhibiting the grace of God in their lives, exhorting and encouraging them to remain faithful. In the same way, we should look for opportunities to praise those who bring glory and honor to God through lives that reflect their faith. In addition, Barnabas is an example of a generous spirit when it comes to giving sacrificially to the work of the Lord.

4.0 What should we learn from the account of Paul and Barnabas?[4]

Paul and Barnabas traveled together through the island of Cyprus and the province of Asia (modern Asia Minor) preaching the gospel in the first missionary journey (Acts 13). The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement,” and encouragement was his first function in Paul’s life. When the newly converted Saul/Paul came to the Christians at Jerusalem, they were afraid of him. But Barnabas built a bridge between Saul and the other Christians, vouching for the reality of his faith and ministry (Acts 9:26–27).

Later, news reached Jerusalem of a burgeoning church in Syrian Antioch, and Barnabas was sent to encourage the believers there (Acts 11:22). Many people began coming to the Lord and joining the church, so Barnabas sought out Paul and, finding him, brought him to Antioch. The biblical account calls Barnabas “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24). While Paul and Barnabas were still in Antioch, a prophet named Agabus foretold a famine, and the church determined to send relief to the brothers living in Judea (verses 27–29). They sent Paul and Barnabas to deliver the gift (verse 30).

After that, the Holy Spirit chose Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries (Acts 13:2), and the church of Antioch sent them off. Paul and Barnabas took John Mark along as a helper and traveled through many Gentile areas with the gospel. They were “men who . . . risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:25). Halfway through their journey, Mark left Paul and Barnabas, and this became a point of contention later. As they planned a second missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas disagreed on whether or not to take Mark again. Paul was determined not to bring him, due to his forsaking them previously. Barnabas, ever the encourager, was unwilling to leave John Mark behind. A “sharp disagreement” arose between them, and they parted ways. From that point on, Barnabas traveled with John Mark, and Paul chose Silas as his companion in ministry (Acts 15:36–41).

From the relationship of Paul and Barnabas we can draw an important lesson. Here were two godly men, loved by the churches, filled with the Spirit, enduring persecution together, seeing people saved, and enjoying an effective ministry. Yet they were fallible and did not see eye to eye on everything. They quarreled and parted ways. Even the best and most faithful among us are prone to the interpersonal conflicts and mistakes. We are all fallen human beings. The ministries of both men continued—in fact, the number of missionary teams doubled! God can use even our disagreements to further His work.

Paul and Barnabas continued to depend on God. They moved forward peacefully, even though it meant parting ways. In matters of personal opinion and practical procedure, Paul and Barnabas differed. In matters of doctrine, they both saw the necessity of sharing the gospel with the world. They were united in what is truly important.



Aunt – Mary, mother of John Mark
Cousin – John Mark (Mark)


1.0) Source: (By Jack Zavada)

2.0) Source:

3.0) Source:

4.0) Source:

5.0) Source: | Tittle: “A Guide to Key Events, Characters and Themes of the Bible”

Related: Biblical Overviews List of Key Old Testament Characters


1 (By Jack Zavada).
2 H. E. Jacobs

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