Saint Barnabas was among Christ’s earliest followers and by tradition honored as part of the seventy-two most respected men of the early Church.
His birth date is unknown, but according to Acts 4:36, he was a Cypriot Jew. His Hellenic Jewish parents named him Joseph, but the Apostles later changed his name to Barnabas, defined as “son of consolation.” His story is told primarily in the Book of Acts, with some mention in the epistles of Paul.
Barnabas became a close associate of Saint Paul, and it’s believed they both studied theology in the Jerusalem school of Gamaliel. Their relationship was, as most true friendships are, a rocky one. It survived because of their commonality in love and devotion to their Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Barnabas introduced Paul to Peter and others of the Twelve. The two men felt called by God to become the “Apostles of the Gentiles,” and they sometimes were at odds with Jewish traditions and St. Peter’s insistence on their inclusion.
Either during Christ’s public ministry or after his death and resurrection, Barnabas chose to donate all he had to the Church. He sold his large inherited estate and gave the proceeds to the fledgling band of Apostles, and the spreading of the Gospel.
He died a martyr, stoned to death in 61 AD by an unruly mod in Salamis, Cyprus. His enviable epitaph, given him by St. Luke in Acts 6:24, describes Saint Barnabas as ‘a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.’ His reputation spoke of exceptional kindness, personal holiness, and openness to unbelievers.