Barnabas. [Gr. Barnabas. The exact Hebrew or Aramaic form of which this name is a transliteration is uncertain. Hence it is uncertain how the meanings, "son of consolation," KJV, "Son of encouragement," RSV (Acts 4:36), are derived.]
The surname given by the apostles to Joseph (KJV "Joses"), a Cypriote Jew of the tribe of Levi (Acts 4:36), and by which he is thereafter named in the NT. He is described as a "good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith," and as a successful evangelist (ch 11:24). He was a cousin of John Mark (Col 4:10, RSV). An ancient tradition names Barnabas as one of the Seventy sent out by Jesus (Lk 10:1).
Barnabas appears first in the NT account as one of those who sold their property and donated the proceeds for the support of the needy in the Jerusalem church (Acts 4:34, 36, 37). He appears next in connection with the visit Paul made to Jerusalem some three years after his conversion (Gal 1:18). At this time, Barnabas helped to dispel the understandable fear and distrust the Christians of that city felt toward Paul, by befriending the converted persecutor, and by urging others to accept him (Acts 9:26, 27).
When news of the spread of the gospel in Antioch of Syria came to the leaders of the Jerusalem church, they dispatched Barnabas to strengthen and expand the work there. He succeeded in adding many new converts to the church (Acts 11:20-24). Feeling the need of help with the growing work, he made a trip to Tarsus, found Paul, and brought him back to Antioch with him (vs. 25, 26). The two laboured together in Antioch for one year, during which time the church was further strengthened (v 26). About this time a great famine, which had been predicted by the prophet Agabus, took place (v 28). The Christians of Judea were seemingly especially affected, so the believers at Antioch gathered a contribution and delegated Barnabas and Paul to deliver it to the church leaders at Jerusalem (vs. 29, 30).
Their mission accomplished, Barnabas and Paul returned to Antioch (Acts 12:25). By divine direction, they were consecrated as missionaries, and "sent forth by the Holy Ghost" (ch 13:2-4) on what is usually called Paul's 1st Missionary Journey. John Mark, who had returned from Jerusalem with them, began the itinerary with them. The journey took them to the island of Cyprus and onward to the mainland. John Mark, discouraged by the vicissitudes of the journey, left them at Perga, and returned to his home at Jerusalem (vs. 5-13). Continuing their trip, Barnabas and Paul preached in some of the important cities of Asia Minor, at Antioch of Pisidia (vs. 14, 15), Iconium (ch 14:1-6), Lystra (vs. 8-18), and Derbe (vs. 20, 21). From Derbe, they retraced their way to Perga, thence to the coast, where they took ship to Antioch in Syria (vs. 19-26).
After a period of time in Antioch, Barnabas was delegated to accompany Paul to Jerusalem, this time to consult the leaders of the church there with respect to the role of various requirements of the Mosaic law in the practices of the new Christian church (Acts 15:2). The matter being satisfactorily decided (vs. 4-21), they again returned to Antioch, accompanied by others from Jerusalem, and bearing letters for the church of Antioch (vs. 22, 23). There, followed another period of labour in that city (v 35), during which time the dissimulation described in Gal 2:11, 12 evidently took place, in which Barnabas, Peter, and others had a part.
When Paul planned his second tour of the churches of Asia Minor, Barnabas agreed to accompany him (Acts 15:36). Barnabas suggested taking John Mark with them, but Paul, remembering Mark's previous failure, dissented. A severe contention ensued, resulting in the separation of the two missionaries. Barnabas took John Mark with him and embarked for Cyprus. At this point (vs. 37-41), the book of Acts terminates the story of Barnabas, but he is mentioned several times in Paul's writings (1 Cor 9:6; Gal 2:1, 9, 13; Col 4:10) -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.