I chose the pen name J.B. Cyprus in honor of the first century Christian Joseph of Cyprus. The name is surprisingly unfamiliar to many modern Christians. He was a first century Jew of the Levite tribe who was born on the island of Cyprus and converted to The Way during those first months following the Resurrection.
The first time Joseph of Cyprus appears in the historical record is when he sold a parcel of land and gave the money to help care for the poor. First century Christian letters tell us that Joseph was among the most trusted members of the early Church community. When the Apostles needed someone to carry money from the rich Christian communities to the poorer ones, they often gave the job to Joseph and trusted him with the long journey.
We also have ample evidence that Joseph was a man whose opinion was greatly respected. On more than one occasion we read that it was Joseph who vouched for the quality of new converts to the faith, including some who were known to have persecuted Christians. We have letters indicating that Joseph played a critical, behind the scenes role in helping Peter and James realize that the Gospel was meant as much for the pagan Greeks as it was for Jews.
Joseph was also a man of incredible courage. He faced down the Roman authorities, was beaten, imprisoned, and ostracized for his faith, but he never wavered. He was an effective teacher and a loved, admired, and respected member of the early Church.
There is so much to admire about a man like Joseph: a great teacher; a courageous, generous, and charitable brother; an honest and trustworthy elder in the Church; a valued friend; and a trusted advisor with deep spiritual discernment. However, it was not for any of those reasons that I adopted his name for this book. It was, instead, because Joseph was known for one character trait above all others...
Most of us know Joseph not by his given name, but by his nickname: Barnabas. As Luke tells us, this nickname meant the Son of Encouragement or “the encourager.” For all of his many spiritual and personal gifts, what we remember most about Joseph of Cyprus some 2,000 years later, is that he was a gifted encourager. Even though he is among the most frequently referenced people in the New Testament, most of us do not even remember his given name. He is just Barnabas, the encourager. That is all we need to know. His given name appears once in the Bible (Acts 4:36-37). His nickname appears thirty-three times.
When I set out to write Letters to Bentrock I had hoped, above all else, that readers would find encouragement here. So it is written by Joseph "The Encourager" Cyprus. I pray that it encourages you in your journey to be a faithful follower of Our Lord.
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