Acts describes Joseph “Barnabas” as a Hellenized Jew from Cyprus who played a leading role in the gentile mission. The apostles call this Joseph “son of encouragement” when he makes a large donation to the Jerusalem church (Acts 4.36–37). Barnabas introduces Saul (Paul) to Jesus' original apostles in Acts 9.27 and journeys to Antioch in Acts 11.22–24 as their representative.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul describes how he and Barnabas were given “the right hand of fellowship” by the Jerusalem leadership and had their mission to the gentiles approved (Gal. 2.9; cf. Acts 15). Acts portrays Barnabas as Paul's senior partner in evangelizing Cyprus and Iconium (Acts 13.1–3; 14.1, 14) until their split over the role of John Mark (15.36–41: probably the Mark called Barnabas's cousin in Col. 4.10). Although Barnabas plays no further role in the New Testament, the second‐century Epistle of Barnabas is written in his name.

Philip Sellew