Saint Barnabas, though not one of the 12 apostles chosen by the Lord Jesus, is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ. He was the most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves. His name, which was given to him by the Apostles (his parents gave him the name Joseph), means either “son of exhortation” or “son of consolation.”
Barnabas is believed to have been a Levite Jew, born and raised in Cyprus, the land to which he returned to found the Church as a follower of Christ, and of which he is the patron.
St. Luke described Barnabas as ‘a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’ (Acts 6:24), and he was known for his exceptional kindliness and personal sanctity, and his openness to pagans. He was the first to urge the Apostles to receive St. Paul in Jerusalem, when the history of Paul’s persecutions against Christians was a cause for doubt.
He went with St. Paul and John Mark to Antioch where they spent much time preaching the Gospel. They were persecuted there by both the pagans and the Jews. Paul and Barnabas both went to the council of Jerusalem where they defended the position that pagans didn’t need to be circumcised upon entering the Church.
On their return to Antioch, “There arose a sharp contention between them. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:39). Not much is known of Barnabas’ life after this incident, although it seems that there was a reconciliation between him and Paul, owing to the references in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and Galatians.
He is said to have been stoned to death in Salamis in the year 61.
The holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostle Barnabas was one of the Seventy Apostles and the companion of the Apostle Paul on some of his missionary voyages. He is referenced in Acts and in two of St. Paul’s epistles, Galatians and I Corinthians. His feast day is June 11.
Barnabas was born to a wealthy family in the tribe of Levi. Later becoming one of the Seventy Apostles, he studied with Saul (later St. Paul) under Gamaliel. From birth his given name was Joseph, but the Apostles called him Barnabas (“son of consolation”) because he was gifted at comforting people’s souls. It was St. Barnabas who introduced Paul to the other apostles after his conversion. St. Barnabas was likely the first to preach in Rome and Milan. He was martyred by the Jews on the island of Cyprus and was buried by St. Mark. Many receive healing at his grave, which place was unknown for hundreds of years until the Council of Chalcedon in 451 when he appeared to Archbishop Anthemius in a dream and revealed its location. This appearance and the finding of St. Barnabas’ miraculous relics is what kept the Patriarch of Antioch from absorbing Cyprus into its jurisdiction and thus this Apostolic Church of Cyprus has since been independent.