Studies in the Book of Acts

Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas sells a field (4:36-37)

Luke next introduces a man named Joseph, a Levite (4:36). He was named Barnabas by the apostles, which Luke says means “Son of Encouragement.” The problem is that the word Barnabasactually means something like “Son of Nebo” (Bar-nabas). Luke’s interpretation of the name has been translated as “Son of exhortation,” or “of consolation” or “of encouragement.” “Son of Encouragement” certainly fits the character of Barnabas (9:27; 11:23; 12:25; 15:37).

The family of Barnabas originally came from Cyprus, and he may have owned property on the island, but he has close ties to Judea. John Mark is his cousin (Colossians 4:10), and he apparently lives with his mother in her home in Jerusalem (12:12). Barnabas will be an important figure in Luke’s story of the church’s expansion. He appears to be a link between the Jewish and Gentile worlds. [Acts 9:2711:22-3013:1-14:2815:2-41222,36-411 Corinthians 9:6.] Barnabas is introduced here for two reasons. We are alerted to his future role in the spread of the gospel. He is also a fitting example of how the Jerusalem believers share their possessions.

Barnabas “sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (4:37). He is held up for special commendation in this regard, showing that the selling of property and donating the proceeds was voluntary. It was not required of all church members. Barnabas will later play a key role in mediating between a zealous Paul and a skeptical Jerusalem church that does not trust him (9:25). He will also be sent as an emissary to look into matters in the Antioch church. There he will put the stamp of approval for the preaching the gospel to Gentiles in Antioch (9:22-23). Luke assures his readers that Barnabas is submissive to the Twelve, and he can be trusted.

Author: Paul Kroll, 1995, 2012