Barnabas is a nickname given by the Apostles to a Levite named Joseph of the country of Cyprus (Acts 4:36), who had resettled in Judea. Joseph, called Barnabas, is also the brother of Mary, the mother of John Mark (cf. Colossians 4:10 and Acts 12:12). I have identified Mary, the mother of Mark, as Mary, sister to Martha and Lazarus HERE. Therefore, if that study is true, Lazarus is probably Joseph, whom the Apostles called Barnabas. This should become clearer as one goes further into this study.
It is said in John 11:3, 5 that Jesus loved Lazarus, and I believe Jesus’ love for this man is key to understanding his identity both in the Gospels and in Acts. I contend that Jesus, through the pens of the Gospel writers intends to show how God works in the lives of those he loves—from the beginning to the end (cf. Philippians 1:6).
One of the things I find really intriguing is the fact that only Luke and John mention anything about a person named Lazarus, and Luke mentions him only in what appears to be a play on a rabbinic story (Luke 16:19-31)! Scholarship tells us that the name Lazarus is another name of the Hebrew Eleazar, and its meaning is whom God helps or God has helped. Since Lazarus was raised from the dead and targeted by the Jewish authorities to be killed, because of how great a number of Jews were turning to Jesus over this miracle (cf. John 12:10-11), it may be that Lazarus is an encrypted name for someone God has helped.
If my study, concerning Mary, the mother of Mark, is true, then Joseph (Barnabas) is also the brother of the Apostle, James the Less (cf. Matthew 27:55-56 and Mark 15:40). Jesus chose several people from the same family to be his apostles. Peter and Andrew were brothers, as were James and John (the sons of Zebedee). Judas Iscariot was probably the son of Simon, called Zelotes (cf. John 6:71; 13:26). James the Less and Judas (the writer of the epistle Jude) were either brothers or more likely father and son (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; cf. Jude 1:1).
The father of the second Apostle named James was Alphaeus (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), but the father of James the Less is Clopas (cf. Mark 15:40; John 19:25). According to Thayer’s Greek Dictionary Alphaeus means ‘changing’ and is the same name as Clopas which means ‘my exchanges’. Clopas is of Chaldee or Aramaic origin and corresponds to the Greek, Alphaeus. So, since Clopas and Alphaeus are the same man, his wife, Mary, is the mother of James the Less (i.e. James the Apostle) and of Joseph (Mark 15:40), who is called Barnabas by the Apostles in Acts.
I find it interesting that, if Lazarus was loved by Jesus in a very special way, so that he was identified in this manner (John 11:1-3), and if he was closely related to two of Jesus’ apostles, why wasn’t Lazarus chosen as well? Remember, Lazarus and Barnabas are the same person, according to this study, and the Scriptures tell us that Barnabas’ given name was Joseph (Acts 4:36; cf. Mark 15:40). Moreover, according to Acts 4:36, Barnabas was a wealthy man, because he sold land and laid the entire amount at the Apostles feet.
With the above in mind, I have to wonder about the ‘rich young ruler’ who came to Jesus asking how he might gain eternal life (cf. Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27 and Luke 18:18-27). The Scriptures also make a point in telling us that he, too, was loved by Jesus (Mark 10:21). Luke describes him as a ruler (Luke 18:18), which may have to do with being a member of the Sanhedrin. Finally, Matthew refers to him as a young man (Matthew 19:20). So, we have a young ruler who was very rich (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23), whom Jesus loved and invited to follow him (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22). Wouldn’t it be appropriate for Barnabas, now converted and fully embracing Jesus, to give to the Apostles in Acts 4:36 what he found so difficult to do for Jesus a few years earlier?
Jesus concluded this episode with the rich young ruler whom he loved with the words: “with God, all things are possible.” Was Jesus merely stating a magnanimous fact about God, or did Jesus intend that this record of the rich young ruler—whom he loved—to become a demonstration of how God both began and brought to completion his work of salvation in one individual (cf. Philippians 1:6)?
If the above is logical, let’s go a little further and suggest another Scriptural comparison. Barnabas’ real name is Joseph, and we know Jesus was approached by a rich young ruler, whom Jesus loved. We also know that Barnabas / Joseph was very rich, but could he have also been a member of the Sanhedrin (a ruler)? Well, there was a Joseph who was a member of the Sanhedrin (Joseph of Arimathaea), who came to Jesus at night, implying he loved his position in his nation more than he loved Jesus (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42). However, upon the death of Jesus, this Joseph boldly went to Pilate to crave Jesus’ body, and laid it in his own tomb.
If this Joseph is Lazarus, and was raised by Jesus from the dead, he knew he owed Jesus all he had. Therefore, he boldly craved the body of Jesus, not secretly as he had been his disciple up to that time, but now his position and riches mattered no more. All he cared about he laid in the grave. Remember, we are supposing that this study shows in the Scriptures how God moves in the hearts of those who love him and brings that beginning work to its completion (cf. Philippians 1:6).
I would be remiss, if I didn’t deal with one more thing. The Gospel of John was written by the disciple whom Jesus loved. Is this John, the son of Zebedee, of whom the Scriptures make no point in saying he was loved by Jesus in a special manner so that he could be identified by that love. Or, was the fourth Gospel written by Joseph, called Barnabas in Acts? The writer of the Gospel of John is referred to in John 13:23 where he leaned upon Jesus’ breast at the last meal Jesus ate just before his death. Nothing is said in the Scriptures that only the Twelve were present.
The writer of the fourth Gospel is again referred to at the site of the crucifixion, when Jesus provided for his mother through the disciple whom he loved (John 19:26-27). Traditionally, this is supposed to be the apostle, John, but there is nothing here to show it could not be Joseph, called Barnabas in Acts. He is again mentioned in John 20:2 when Mary Magdalene ran to Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved to tell them Jesus’ body was missing. Peter is the leading disciple and should be told, but why would John be singled out and told? On the other hand, if the disciple whom Jesus loved was Joseph (of Arimathaea) / Barnabas in whose tomb Jesus was laid, it was entirely appropriate to tell him as well.
Finally, the author of the fourth Gospel is referred to for a final time in John 21 in verses 7 and 20. We know John, son of Zebedee, was among the disciples present (John 21:2), but so were two unnamed disciples, implying only the Apostles were identified by name; the other two were not numbered among the Twelve. So, Joseph / Barnabas may have been one of the two disciples. The Gospel writer identifies himself only as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:20, 24). Traditionally, this would be John, the apostle, but it could also be Joseph, called Barnabas, because, if this study is true, the only one in Acts who could be traced to the one known as the disciple whom Jesus loved is Joseph called Barnabas.