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Monday, 7 February 2022
And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, Acts 4:36
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
The previous paragraph revealed the state of the people and how they were supported from within as people gave of their own possessions to meet the needs of the community. With that stated, the words of Luke now introduce a new and significant character into the ongoing narrative. The way he will do this is by tying what this person does in with these same previously noted actions of the people. That begins now with the words, “And Joses.”
The name Joses is a variant of Joseph. In many Greek manuscripts, it reads Joseph as the name. The name Joseph is derived from the Hebrew name Yoseph, or “He shall add,” or “He increases.” From there, and which is not uncommon, a second name is provided for him. This is recorded by Luke next, saying, “who was also named Barnabas.”
The name literally indicates “Son of Prophecy,” coming from bar, an Aramaic term signifying “son,” and nevi, the Hebrew word for a prophet. This name was given to him “by the apostles.”
The reason for calling him Barnabas isn’t clear when it is translated as “Son of Prophecy,” but Luke next provides an explanation saying, “which is translated Son of Encouragement.” The reason for the name is given in its explanation. The name defines the person. That will then be more fully revealed as the account progresses and as this person’s character becomes more evident.
The difference in the name from its original meaning (Son of Prophecy) still requires an explanation. Albert Barnes gives a suitable one concerning it, saying –
“The Greek word which is used to interpret this παράκλησις paraklēsis, translated ‘consolation,’ means properly exhortation, entreaty, petition, or advocacy. It also means ‘consolation’ or ‘solace’; and from this meaning the interpretation has been given to the word ‘Barnabas,’ but with evident impropriety.”
What may be the case is that Barnabas was well schooled in the prophets and was able to “encourage” or “comfort” others with his knowledge of these scriptures by directing them to Jesus, the fulfillment of them all. This may be how the two thoughts harmonize, but this is only speculation.
Concerning a reason for Luke’s explaining the name, it may be as simple as that his addressee, Theophilus (see Acts 1:1), was unschooled in Hebrew. For this, or some other reason, Luke felt it necessary to provide this additional note. Of Barnabas, Luke next notes that he was “a Levite.”
As this is the case, he was a member of the tribe set apart to the Lord for religious instruction. It is the tribe from which the priests (descended from Aaron) are from, but they were their own class within the tribe. As he is not noted as a priest, it means he was not of the line of Aaron. However, the other Levites were the ones designated to assist the priests in the service of the temple, and they performed other religious duties between the priests and the people.
Finally, Luke notes Barnabas was “of the country of Cyprus.” Again, Albert Barnes suitably explains the meaning and importance of including this –
“Cyprus is the largest island in the Mediterranean; an island extremely fertile, abounding in wine, honey, oil, wool, etc. It is mentioned in Acts 13:4; Acts 15:39. The island is near to Cicilia, and is not far from the Jewish coast. … Barnabas afterward became, with Paul, a distinguished preacher to the Gentiles. It is worthy of remark, that ‘both’ were born in pagan countries, though by descent Jews; and as they were trained in pagan lands, they were better suited for their special work.”
Life application: Luke’s inclusion of an explanation of the meaning of the name Barnabas is not without importance. Among Christians, there are innumerable claims concerning the origin of various things, the reliability of certain manuscripts over others, which Bible version is the “best,” and so on.
A little bit of logic is often all that is necessary to dispel many of the falsities that arise. One is that of what original language certain things were penned in. For example, there are several views concerning what language the New Testament was originally penned in. Some say Hebrew, others Aramaic, others Greek, and so on.
Quite often, there is absolutely no proof for a particular claim. Pride has a way of stepping in and forcing out any other option. Adherents condemn any other option as heretical, and they claim that they have the true “key” to enlightenment. Yes, it is ridiculous, but it is as common as leaves on a tree.
As far as the original language of Acts, Luke’s words of this verse clearly indicate that Greek is the original language. For him to translate the name as he did, by default, means that he is explaining to his recipient something that required an understanding in Greek. If the words are a part of the inspired text, as anyone who holds to the inspiration of Scripture will agree they are, then it means that the translation itself is inspired – in whatever translation was used. In this case, it is Greek.
This is true with all four of the gospels as well. Each of them has a similar note which logically brings the scholar to an understanding that the original language of them was Greek.
When presented with claims concerning things like this, think things through. It is not hard to find out when such a doctrine is based on a false claim.
Heavenly Father, help us to not get misdirected by aberrant doctrines and by things that only distract us from a sound and proper analysis of Your word. May we stay focused on what is important and be diligent in our study of that. Be with us in this, O God. Amen.