🔼The name Barnabas: Summary
- One Of The Prophets
- From (1) the noun בר (bar), son, and (2) the noun נביא (nabi'), spokesman or prophet.
🔼The name Barnabas in the Bible
Paul praised Barnabas in his letter to the Galatians, but also mentioned that even Barnabas was carried away by what Paul deemed the hypocrisy of Cephas and James (Galatians 2:1-13). Finally, Paul and Barnabas parted ways due to an otherwise unexplained but sharp disagreement, and Barnabas went on with young Mark (Acts 15:39).
Altogether, the name Barnabas occurs 29 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
The author of Acts (who is probably Luke), writes that the apostles gave Barnabas his nickname and explains it to mean Son Of Encouragement (Acts 4:36), which is not a linear translation but rather a paraphrase (something similar occurs with the name Boanerges). The word that Luke uses is παρακλησις (paraklesis), which describes the act of calling people closer together, onto closer intimacy and stronger comfort. It comes from the verb παρακλεω (parakaleo), which in turn is a construct of the words παρα (para), which expresses the notion of immediate vicinity or proximity, and the verb καλεω (kaleo), meaning to call.
Parakaleo means to implore someone to come to one's side; to aid or support. The word paraklesis is used for the whole of Scriptures (Romans 15:4) as well as the Gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:3), and the phrase Son Of Encouragement may also be interpreted as Son Of The Encouragement, referring to the Gospel.
🔼Etymology of the name Barnabas
The Aramaic noun בר (bar) is cognate with the Hebrew noun בן (ben) and both mean "one of," i.e. one of a certain house, one of a certain profession, one of a certain country, and so on. These nouns are also the regular words for "son."
The second part of the name Barnabas is thought to stem from the Aramaic word נביא (nebi'), meaning prophet. This word is most likely an adoption of the similar Hebrew word נביא (nabi'), also meaning prophet:
Root נבא (nb') means to speak on behalf of, or in the stead of, some authority. Noun נביא (nabi') means spokesman or speaker and is also the Biblical word for prophet. Verb נבא (naba') means to prophesy or speak for some authority. Noun נבואה (nebu'a) means prophecy. Noun נביאה (nebi'a) means prophetess.
The noun that means prophet is identical to the Niphal or 'incomplete passive' form of the verb בוא (bo'), to come or bring.
Our English word "prophet" comes from the Greek word προφητης (prophetes), which is constructed from the words προ (pro), meaning before in place or time; and φημι (phemi), originally meaning to shine, but commonly used in the meaning of bringing to light by saying or uttering. The Greek word prophetes thus means a fore-sayer, either meaning a representative of someone else, or a foreteller of future events. The ultimate results of prophesying are listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:3, "But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation".
For the second of these three results of prophesying, Paul uses the word paraklesis.
The Aramaic word bar and its Hebrew equivalent ben literally mean son, but are often applied to indicate a member of a group or possessors of a certain skill or vocation. The phrase "son of a prophet" or rather "one of the sons of the prophets" occurs in 1 Kings 20:35, where it simply denotes one of the prophets; a prophet.
The name Barnabas literally means One Of The Prophets, or even more literally Representative.