Barnabas and Paul's First Missionary Journey to Cyprus

It is a little known fact that by the time Barnabas and Paul (then still Saul) arrived in Cyprus on their first missionary journey, there was already an established Christian community on the island “by those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen” [Acts 11:19], and had been for about a decade, preaching only to the Jews. In actuality, it was from Cyprus and Cyrene (Libya) that early Christians first set out to proselytize to the Greeks of Antioch [Acts 11:20].

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Barnabas and Paul's time in Cyprus is often Forgotten

Early Christianity

The ancient city of Antioch had an eclectic population of Jews and Greeks who would come together, to create a major Christian Church center.

And although this, and other, information about early church history is readily available for anyone to read, it is usually overlooked, because the passages relating to Cyprus are thought to be devoid of important events, when they are in fact crucial to laying the foundation for Barnabas and Paul’s mission to spread the Word of Christ among the Gentiles in foreign lands.

 

The Gymnasium Complex at Salamis
The Gymnasium at
ancient Salamis

Though few people realize it, the story of the first missionary journey to Cyprus actually begins on the island itself a few years before Barnabas and Saul ever set foot there, for “there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus” [Acts 11:20]. It would seem that the proselytizing carried out by these men met with unprecedented success, as Acts clearly states that “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” [Acts 11:24]. So great was the rate of conversion to Christianity at Antioch, that news soon reached the Church of Jerusalem, and Barnabas was dispatched to Antioch as a result.

There he found the reports to have been true and rejoiced in the Lord’s grace for some time before leaving for Tarsus, most probably by sea, to find Saul and bring him back to carry out the divine work. It should be remembered that it was Barnabas himself who first introduced Saul to the Elders of the Jerusalem Church in Acts 9:27, and now, once again, Barnabas sought to “bring an active useful man out of obscurity” and to “tell him what a door of opportunity was opened at Antioch” [Matthew Henry - Acts 11].

Map of the Eastern Mediterranean, charting the route of Barnabas and Paul
The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit,
went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
[Acts 13:4]

Upon their return to Antioch, the pair spent an entire year proselytizing to both the city’s Jews and Gentiles, and it was there, at some stage during this year, that the term Christian was first applied to the Followers of the Way. This was a truly monumental development for the Faith, since it completely nullified the distinction between Jewish Follower and Gentile Follower, and instead enabled ALL Followers of the Way, regardless of previous beliefs, to proclaim themselves as Christians. As Matthew Henry points out: “They took their denomination not from the name of his person, Jesus, but of his office, Christ-anointed, so putting their creed into their names, that Jesus is the Christ.

Following their year of missionary work and preaching to the Christians of Antioch, one day, while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting “the Holy Spirit said: ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ “ [Acts 13:2]. Thus they were commanded to set forth from Antioch, and take the message of the Lord to the people in foreign lands.

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"The Lord's hand
was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned
to the Lord.
News of this reached the ears of the
church at Jerusalem, and they sent
Barnabas to Antioch."

[Acts 11:21-22]

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Book Cover - Antioch, the lost ancient City
by Christine Kondoleon
Click here...

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Christians adopted the peacock as a symbol of immortality because they believed its flesh did not decay. It also represents the Resurrection because it sheds its old feathers every year and grows newer brighter plumage.

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Peacock Mosaic from a Roman Villa in Ancient Paphos
Peacock Mosaic found at a Roman Villa in Paphos

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The Karpass PEninsula seen from Salamis Bay
Barnabas and Saul sailed along the Karpass Peninsula (Panhandle)
into Salamis Bay

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