Paul had fled Jerusalem and gone to Tarsus (Acts 9:28-30). Later (Acts 11:22-26):

News of this [Jews and Gentiles following Jesus in Antioch] reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Do we know why Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch?

My theory that I want to test here is: Barnabas saw this as an opportunity for both Paul and the church in Antioch to grow. Consider:

  1. Barnabas was known for encouraging Acts 4:36-37 which meant that he was able to recognise Paul's gifts.
  2. Being in Antioch was clearly a pivotal experience for Barnabas and Paul (see eg Acts 13:2 and 14:26).
  3. Paul (and Barnabas) went on to spread the Gospel all over the known world.

Did then Barnabas deliberately invite Paul to Antioch to help him to grow? If so, in which gifts? Teaching? (See Acts 13:1) Leadership?

  • I think that Barnabas knew how gifted Paul was (though I don't see how encouragement as a gift would lead him to that). If you've ever been in a similar situation, where the gospel is spreading rapidly, you know you need help, and wisdom, and accountability. You also need community to build community. It's possible that Barnabas would have been over his head here, and he enlisted the man he saw so much potential in. I will turn that into an answer when I have time for proper citation. Sep 3, 2014 at 2:40
  • One can't leave out that Paul was still not welcomed by the apostles until Barnabas vouched for him. Acts 9:26-27. So they clearly knew each other for a time before Paul fled to Tarsus.
    – Joshua
    Feb 29, 2016 at 13:54

6 Answers 6


The answer to this question is really quite simple and can be found in Acts 11:26:

And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch to teach the multitudes.

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Here is one possible answer, taken from the book Paul and Stephen* (emphasis added):

The Cyprian ex-Levite [Barnabas] arrived from Antioch, where serious responsibilities had fallen upon his shoulders. The church there was in need of the help of intelligent servants. There were countless spiritual difficulties to be resolved, much work to be done. The church had been founded by disciples from Jerusalem under Simon Peter's generous auspices. The ex-fisherman from Capernaum felt they should take advantage of the break in the persecutions to expand Christ's reach, and Antioch was one of the largest working centers. There was no lack of contributors to share in the costs of the work at hand since the Gospel message had had repercussions in the humblest workplaces; however, educated workers were scarce. Once more it was due to Peter that the weaver fro Tarsus [Saul] would not lack the opportunity to serve. Evaluating the difficulties, and after appointing Barnabas to head the Way's church there, Peter advised him to seek out the Damascus convert so that his abilities would reach a new level of spiritual exertion.

* some regards about this source:

  1. this is a Spiritist book written by the Spirit Emmanuel, psychographed by Chico Xavier
  2. there is a free Portuguese version in PDF
  3. in this 2014 initial study (also in Portuguese), Candice Günther proposes a correlation of spiritual content and literary similarity of this book with Luke in "The Journey to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51 – 19:48)
  4. there is a 2012 scientific research about brain activity during a mediumistic trance state

Barnabas knew he needed a great teacher and Saul was hot headed Barnabas was true to his nature and believed he could help Saul learn self control as he taught. After a year of small group meetings Barnabas decided to take John Mark and Saul with him as he led the first mission trip.

Later we read that the people called Saul/Paul Mercury as a gifted speaker and Barnabas as Zeus for being the stop leader in the group. Paul proved his lack of stability later when he refused to forgive John Mark for leaving early. Later, they reconciled after the split.


Because there was such an influx of Gentiles ( non jewish) now believing and receiving the Good News, Barnabas brought Paul to teach them more because Paul is an Apostles for the Gentiles. Romans 11:13

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Certainly it was the lead of Spirit that made Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch. But it was a rational act of Barnabas, and not because of the Lord's intervention.

Barnabas and Paul knew each other in Acts 9:26-30, it read;

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him.

30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

vv27 indicated Barnabas was a few accepted Paul. vv29 indicated Paul was fluent in Greek, and could tell the Gospel effectively in Greek. vv30 indicated that Barnabas was one who send Paul away, and knew where he lived in Tarsus.

Probably eight years later, the news of Antioch reached the church in Jerusalem, what they heard of, according to Acts 11:19-21

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.

20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.

21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

vv19 indicated the scattered disciples spreading the Gospel only among Jews, likely they could not communicate well in Greek. However, some Jews in Cyprus and Cyrene, who were bilingual, spread the Gospel to Antioch in Greek (vv20). Although by grace of the Lord, they believed (vv21). Yet the teachers from Cyprus and Cyrene, were not yet spiritual mature.

In view of their need, Barnabas knew how to help them, was to find the most qualified teacher capable to preach the Gospel in Greek, that was Paul.


I am thinking that Paul had expertise with the Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem as his success there roused opposition from conservative elements in the same community and that was what caused the death threats which drove him back to Tarsus. (I wonder if Paul was despondent for a while after that?)It is a long way by foot or ship to Tarsus from Antioch (in those days) so Barnabas may have been feeling charitable to Paul, but he also had to have a really deep need to go that far. So possibly Barnabas was having trouble coping with both Gentiles and Greek-speaking Jews in some way. Do any of the Church Fathers comment on this?

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