Feast Day of St. Barnabas – 11th June, 2023

Paul’s first Missionary Companion

Would you have liked to go to Cyprus on holiday this year?  If so, spare a thought for the Cypriot who played such a key role in the New Testament.

He was Joseph, a Jewish Cypriot and a Levite, who is first mentioned in Acts 4:36, when the Early Church was sharing a communal lifestyle.  Joseph sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. His support so touched them that they gave him the nickname of Barnabas, ‘Son of Encouragement’.

Barnabas has two great claims to fame.  Firstly, it was Barnabas who made the journey to go and fetch the converted Paul out of Tarsus, and persuade him to go with him to Antioch, where there were many new believers with no one to help them.  For a year the two men ministered there, establishing a church.  It was here that the believers were first called Christians.

It was also in Antioch (Acts 13) that the Holy Spirit led the church to ‘set aside’ Barnabas and Paul, and to send them out on the church’s first ever ‘missionary journey’.  The Bible tells us that they went to Cyprus, and then travelled throughout the island.  It was at Lystra that the locals mistook Barnabas for Zeus and Paul for Hermes, much to their dismay.

Much later, back in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul decided to part company.  While Paul travelled on to Syria, Barnabas did what he could do best; return to Cyprus and continue to evangelise it.  

So, if you go to Cyprus and see churches, remember that Christianity on that beautiful island goes right back to Acts 13, when Barnabas and Paul first arrived.

In England there are 13 ancient church dedications and not a few modern ones. Barnabas the generous, the encourager, the apostle who loved his own people – no wonder he should be remembered with love.


Finally – Although St. Barnabas’ Day used to be celebrated more widely in the Church, these days it is a more muted occasion.  Nevertheless, the Church still commemorates it by changing the altar frontal to red – the colour of martyrdom.


The images of St. Barnabas used in this post were obtained from Wikicommons (P.D.)

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