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Barnabas, Advocate for the Despised

"Barnabas" was actually his nickname, given him by the apostles. It meant "Son of Encouragement," and it was most appropriate.

He was actually born Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus. He was probably one of many Jews who migrated back to Jerusalem, where he became one of the earliest converts to Christianity. He sold a field shortly afterwards and gave the money to the Jerusalem church.

Unlike most Christians, Barnabas believed Paul's conversion story, and he smoothed the way for the former persecutor to be accepted by the Jerusalem church.

Barnabas then went to pastor the growing church in Antioch, and Paul returned to Tarsus. Barnabas later invited Paul to come and co-pastor the Antioch church.

In 48, Barnabas set off with his cousin Mark and Paul to evangelize cities in Asia Minor. Though Mark deserted the party early on, Barnabas and Paul preached, performed miracles, and endured persecution together.

One early tradition, recorded by Clement of Alexandria, says Barnabas worked briefly with Jesus, being one of the 70 sent out to evangelize Palestine. Another tradition says he preached in Alexandria and Rome after leaving Paul, founded the church on Cyprus, and was finally stoned and then burned to death in about 61 in Syria. Though three early church works claim his name--The Epistle of Barnabas, the Gospel of Barnabas, and the Acts of Barnabas--none are considered to be written by him.

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