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    Q: #494. Was Mark the cousin or nephew of Barnabas?

By: Steve Shirley

    A: I must admit that without looking too deeply into it, I have always gone with Mark being the "nephew" of Barnabas. The KJV Bible, from which I primarily post verses on this site, has seemed to back this up. There are two different verses which are used to come to this conclusion:

(Acts 12:12) And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

(Col 4:10) Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)

     Putting these two verses together, we see that "Mary" was the mother of (John) Mark, and Mark (Marcus) was the son of Barnabas' sister. This would make Mark the "nephew" of Barnabas, or Barnabas the "uncle" of Mark. Pretty clear, right? Except, there is a problem here.

     When we look at the Greek for (Col 4:10), this is what we see: "Aspazetai hymas Aristarchos ho synaichmalotos mou kai Markos ho anepsios Barnaba peri hou elabete entolas ean elthe pros hymas dexasthe auton." The key word in this is anepsios. It is the word which the KJV translates as "sister's son." However, "anepsios" means "cousin!" Nowhere in (Col 4:10) is the Greek word for "sister / sisters / sister's = adelphe" or "son / sons = huios" found. "Anepsios" is used nowhere else in the New Testament.

***Note: The word "cousin" is used only two other times in the New Testament (Lk 1:36)(Lk 1:58), and the Greek word "suggenes" is used. "Suggenes" is translated as "kin," kinsfolk," and "kinsman" in 10 other verses.

     In every major Bible version apart from the KJV (i.e. NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV), (Col 4:10) is translated as "cousin of Barnabas" or "Barnabas's cousin." In addition, nearly every scholar agrees this is the proper translation. Also, keep in mind that if Mark was indeed the "cousin" of Barnabas, they could have been "cousins" through the father of Mark just as easily as through the mother of Mark. (Because Acts 12:12 does not mention Mark's father, most believe he was likely dead at that time. Mary would have been a widow.)

     We cannot know with "absolute certainty" that Mark was the "cousin" of Barnabas. Some (primarily KJV only people) believe that anepsios could also be used for "nephew." This is possible, but it seems very unlikely (The Greek word for nephews in [1 Tim 5:4] is "ekgonon."). I will now go with Mark being the "cousin" of Barnabas.

Related:

Who was Barnabas in the Bible?

Why did Paul and Barnabas split (Acts 15:36-41)?

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