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§ 167. Barnabas.


First editions in Greek and Latin, except the first four chapters and part of the fifth, which were known only in the Latin version, by Archbishop Ussher (Oxf. 1643, destroyed by fire 1644), Luc. d’achery (Par. 1645), and Isaac Voss (Amstel. 1646).

First complete edition of the Greek original from the Codex Sinaiticus, to which it is appended, by Tischendorf in the facsimile ed. of that Codex, Petropoli, 1862, Tom. IV. 135–141, and in the Novum Testam. Sinait. 1863. The text dates from the fourth century. It was discovered by Tischendorf in the Convent of St. Catharine at Mt. Sinai, 1859, and is now in the library of St. Petersburg.

A new MS. of the Greek B. from the eleventh century (1056) was discovered in Constantinople by Bryennios, 1875, together with the Ep. of Clement, and has been utilized by the latest editors, especially by Hilgenfeld.

O. v. Gebhardt, Harnack, and Zahn: Patr. Ap. 1876. Gebhardt ed. the text from Cod. Sin. Harnack prepared the critical commentary. In the small ed. of 1877 the Const. Cod. is also compared.

Hefele-Funk: Patr. Ap. 1878, p. 2–59.

Ad. Hilgenfeld: Barnabae Epistula. Inteqram Graece iterum edidit, veterem interpretationem Latinam, commentarium criticum et adnotationes addidit A. H. Ed. altera et valde aucta. Lips. 1877. Dedicated to Bryennios. "Orientalis Ecclesicae splendido lumini." who being prevented by the Oriental troubles from editing the new MS., sent a collation to H. in Oct. 1876 (Prol. p. xiii). The best critical edition. Comp. Harnack’s review in Schürer’s "Theol. Lit. Ztg. 1877, f. 473–’77.

J. G. Müller (of Basle): Erklärung des Barnabasbriefes. Leipz. 1869. An Appendix to De Wette’s Corn. on the N. T.

English translations by Wake (1693), Roberts and Donaldson (in Ante-Nic. Lib. 1867), Hoole (1872), Rendall (1877), Sharpe (1880, from the Sinait. MS). German translations by Hefele (1840), Scholz (1865), Mayer (1869), Riggenbach (1873).

Critical Discussions.

C. Jos. Hefele (R.C.): Das Sendschreiben des Apostels Barnabas, auf’s Neue untersucht und erklärt. Tüb. 1840.

Joh. Kayser: ueber den sogen. Barnabasbrief. Paderborn, 1866.

Donaldson: Ap. Fathers (1874), p. 248–317.

K. Wieseler: On the Origin and Authorship of the Ep. of B., in the "Jahrbuecher für Deutsche Theol.," 1870, p. 603 sqq.

O. Braunsberger (R.C.): Der Apostel Barnabas. Sein Leben und der ihm beigelegte Brief wissenschaftlich gewürdigt. Mainz, 1876.

W. Cunningham: The Ep. of St. Barnabas. London, 1876.

Samuel Sharpe: The Ep. of B. from the Sinaitic MS. London, 1880.

J. Weiss: Der Barnabasbrief kritisch untersucht. Berlin, 1888.

Milligan in Smith and Wace, I. 260–265; Harnack in Herzog2 II. 101–105.

Other essays by Henke (1827), Rördam (1828), Ullmann (1828), Schenkel (1837), Franke (1840), Weizsäcker (1864), Heydecke (1874). On the relation of Barnabas to Justin Martyr see M. von Engelhardt: Das Christenthum Justins d. M. (1878), p. 375–394.

The doctrines of B. are fully treated by Hefele, Kayser, Donaldson, Hilgenfeld, Braunsberger, and Sprinzl.

Comp. the list of books from 1822–1875 in Harnack’s Prol. to the Leipz. ed. of Barn. Ep. p. XX sqq.; and in Richardson, Synopsis 16–19 (down to 1887).

The Catholic Epistle of Barnabas, so called, is anonymous, and omits all allusion to the name or residence of the readers. He addresses them not as their teacher, but as one among them.12631263    οὐχ ὡς διδάσκαλος , ἀλλ’ ὡς εἷς ἐξ ὑμῶν, ch. 1; Comp. 4: πολλᾲ θέλων γράφειν, οὐχ ὡς διδάσκαλος .263 He commences in a very general way: "All hail, ye sons and daughters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us, in peace;" and concludes: "Farewell, ye children of love and peace, The Lord of glory and all grace be with your spirit. Amen."12641264    The Cod. Sinaiticus omits ’Amen."and adds at the close: Ἑπιστολὴ Βαρνάβα..264 For this reason, probably, Origen called it a "Catholic" Epistle, which must be understood, however, with limitation. Though not addressed to any particular congregation, it is intended for a particular class of Christians who were in danger of relapsing into Judaizing errors.

1. Contents. The epistle is chiefly doctrinal (ch. 1–17), and winds up with some practical exhortations to walk "in the way of light," and to avoid "the way of darkness" (ch. 18–21).12651265    The last chapters are derived either from the Didache, or from a a still older work, Duae Viae vel Judicium Petri, which may have been the common source of both. See my work on the Didache, p. 227 sqq., 305, 309, 312 sq., 317.265 It has essentially the same object as the Epistle to the Hebrews, though far below it in depth, originality and unction. It shows that Christianity is the all-sufficient, divine institution for salvation, and an abrogation of Judaism, with all its laws and ceremonies. Old things have passed away; all things are made new. Christ has indeed given us a law; but it is a new law, without the yoke of constraint.12661266    Ch. 2:ὁ καινὸς νόμος τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰ.Χ., ἄνευ (ἄτερ) ζυγοῦ ἀνάγκης ὤν266 The tables of Moses are broken that the love of Christ may be sealed in our hearts.12671267    Ch. 4:συνετρίβη αὐτῶν ἡ διαθήκη, ἵνα ἡ τοῦ ἠγαπημένου Ἰησοῦ ἐγκατασφραγισθῆ; εἰς τὴν καρδίαν ἡμῶν ἐν ἐλπίδι τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ.267 It is therefore sin and folly to assert that the old covenant is still binding. Christians should strive after higher knowledge and understand the difference.

By Judaism, however, the author understands not the Mosaic and prophetic writings in their true spiritual sense, but the carnal misapprehension of them. The Old Testament is, with him, rather a veiled Christianity, which he puts into it by a mystical allegorical interpretation, as Philo, by the same method, smuggled into it the Platonic philosophy. In this allegorical conception he goes so far, that he actually seems to deny the literal historical sense. He asserts, for example, that God never willed the sacrifice and fasting, the Sabbath observance and temple-worship of the Jews, but a purely spiritual worship; and that the laws of food did not relate at all to the eating of clean and unclean animals, but only to intercourse with different classes of men, and to certain virtues and vices. His chiliasm likewise rests on an allegorical exegesis, and is no proof of a Judaizing tendency any more than in Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian. He sees in the six days of creation a type of six historical millennia of work to be followed first by the seventh millennium of rest, and then by the eighth millennium of eternity, the latter being foreshadowed by the weekly Lord’s Day. The carnal Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament is a diabolical perversion. The Christians, and not the Jews, are the true Israel of God and the righteous owners of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Barnabas proclaims thus an absolute separation of Christianity from Judaism. In this respect he goes further than any post-apostolic writer. He has been on that ground charged with unsound ultra-Paulinism bordering on antinomianism and heretical Gnosticism. But this is unjust. He breathes the spirit of Paul, and only lacks his depth, wisdom, and discrimination, Paul, in Galatians and Colossians, likewise takes an uncompromising attitude against Jewish circumcision, sabbatarianism, and ceremonialism, if made a ground of justification and a binding yoke of conscience; but nevertheless he vindicated the Mosaic law as a preparatory school for Christianity. Barnabas Ignores this, and looks only at the negative side. Yet he, too, acknowledges the new law of Christ. He has some profound glances and inklings of a Christian philosophy. He may be called an orthodox Gnostic. He stands midway between St. Paul and Justin Martyr, as Justin Martyr stands between Barnabas and the Alexandrian school. Clement and Origen, while averse to his chiliasm, liked his zeal for higher Christian knowledge and his allegorizing exegesis which obscures every proper historical understanding of the Old Testament.

The Epistle of Barnabas has considerable historical, doctrinal, and apologetic value. He confirms the principal facts and doctrines of the gospel. He testifies to the general observance of Sunday on "the eighth day," as the joyful commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, in strict distinction from the Jewish Sabbath on the seventh. He furnishes the first clear argument for the canonical authority of the Gospel of Matthew (without naming it) by quoting the passage: "Many are called, but few are chosen," with the solemn formula of Scripture quotation: "as it is written."12681268    Cap. 4 at the close: προσέχωμεν μήποτε, ὡς γέγραπται, πολλοί κλητοὶ, ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοὶ εὑρεθῶμεν. From Matt. 22:14. As long as the fourth chapter of this epistle existed only in Latin, the words: "sicut scriptum est" were suspected by Dr. Credner and other critics as an interpolation, Hilgenfeld (1853) suggested that the original had simply καθώς φησιν, and Dressel, in his first edition of the Apostolic Fathers (1857), remarked in loc: "Voces ’sicut scriptum est’ glossam olent." But the discovery of the Greek original in the Sinaitic MS. of the Bible has settled this point, and the Constantinopolitan MS. confirms it. The attempt of Strauss and other sceptics to refer the quotation to the apocryphal fourth Book of Esdras, which was probably written by a Jewish Christian after the destruction of Jerusalem, and contains the passage: ’Many are born, but few will be saved."is only worth mentioning as an instance of the stubbornness of preconceived prejudice.268 He introduces also (ch. 5) the words of Christ, that he did not come "to call just men, but sinners," which are recorded by Matthew 9:13. He furnishes parallels to a number of passages in the Gospels, Pauline Epistles, First Peter, and the Apocalypse. His direct quotations from the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and Isaiah, are numerous; but he quotes also IV. Esdras and the Book of Enoch.12691269    Funk (I. 364-366) gives nine quotations from Genesis, thirteen from Exodus, six from Deuteronomy, fourteen from the Psalms, twenty-six from Isaiah, etc., also one from IV. Esdras, four from Enoch. Comp. the list in Anger’s Synopsis Evang. (1852), Gebh. and Harn., 217-230.269

2. Authorship. The Epistle was first cited by Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, as a work of the apostolic Barnabas, who plays so prominent a part in the early history of the church.12701270    See Acts 1:23; 4:37; 9:26 sq.; 11:22, 30; 14:4, 14; 15:2, etc. Clement of Alex. quotes the Epistle seven times (four times under the name of Barnabas), in his Stromtata, Origen, his pupil, three or four times (Contra Cels. I. 63; De Princ. III. 2; Ad Rom. I. 24). Tertullian does not mention the epistle, but seems to have known it (Comp. Adv, Marc. III. 7; Adv. Jud. 14); he, however, ascribes the Ep, to the Hebrews to Barnabas )De Pudic. c. 20). Hefele and Funk find probable allusions to it in Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and Hermas; but these are uncertain. On the life and labors of Barnabas see especially Hefele and Braunsberger (p. 1-135).270 Origen seems to rank it almost with the inspired Scriptures. In the Sinaitic Bible, of the fourth century, it follows as the "Epistle of Barnabas," immediately after the Apocalypse (even on the same page 135, second column), as if it were a regular part of the New Testament. From this we may, infer that it was read in some churches as a secondary ecclesiastical book, like the Epistle of Clement, the Epistle of Polycarp, and the Pastor of Hermas. Eusebius and Jerome likewise ascribe it to Barnabas but number it among the "spurious," or "apocryphal" writings.12711271    In H. E. III. 25, Eusebius counts it among the "spurious" books (ἐν τοῖς νόθοις ... ἡ φερομένη Βαρνάβα ἐπιστολή), but immediately afterwards and in VI. 14, among the "doubtful" (ἀντιλεγόμενα), and Jerome (De Vir. ill. c. 6), "inter apocryphas scripturas."271 They seem to have doubted the authority, but not the authenticity of the epistle. The historical testimony therefore is strong and unanimous in favor of Barnabas, and is accepted by all the older editors and several of the later critics.12721272    Voss, Dupin, Gallandi, Cave, Pearson, Lardner, Henke, Rördam, Schneckenburger, Franke, Gieseler, Credner, Bleek (formerly), De Wette, Möhler, Alzog, Sprinzl ("genuine, but not inspired "), Sharpe. The interpolation hypothesis of Schenkel (1837) and Heydeke (1874) is untenable; the book must stand or fall as a whole.272

But the internal evidence points with greater force to a post-apostolic writer.12731273    So Ussher, Daillé, Cotelier, Tillemont, Mosheim, Neander, Ullmann, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Hefele, Döllinger, Kayser, Donaldson, Westcott, Müller, Wieseler, Weizsäcker, Braunsberger, Harnack, Funk. Hefele urges eight arguments against the genuineness; but five of them are entirely inconclusive. See Milligan, l. c., who examines them carefully and concludes that the authenticity of the Epistle is more probable than is now commonly supposed.273 The Epistle does not come up to the position and reputation of Barnabas, the senior companion of Paul, unless we assume that he was a man of inferior ability and gradually vanished before the rising star of his friend from Tarsus. It takes extreme ground against the Mosaic law, such as we can hardly expect from one who stood as a mediator between the Apostle of the Gentiles and the Jewish Apostles, and who in the collision at Antioch sided with Peter and Mark against the bold champion of freedom; yet we should remember that this was only a temporary inconsistency, and that no doubt a reaction afterwards took place in his mind. The author in order to glorify the grace of the Saviour, speaks of the apostles of Christ before their conversion as over-sinful,12741274    Or "sinners above all sin," ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν ἁμαρτίαν ἀνομωτέρους,homines omni peccato iniquiores, c. 5. Paul might call himself in genuine humility " the chief of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15), with reference to his former conduct as a persecutor; but he certainly would not have used such a term of all the apostles nor would it be true of any of them but Judas.274 and indulges in artificial and absurd allegorical fancies.12751275    He is also charged with several blunders concerning Jewish history and worship which can hardly be expected from Barnabas the Levite. Comp. chs. 7, 8, 9, 10, 15. But this is disproved by Braunsberger (p. 253 sqq.), who shows that the epistle gives us interesting archaeological information in those chapters although he denies the genuineness.275 He also wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem when Barnabas in all probability was no more among the living, though the date of his death is unknown, and the inference from Col. 4:10 and 1 Pet. 5:13 is uncertain.

These arguments are not conclusive, it is true, but it is quite certain that if Barnabas wrote this epistle, he cannot be the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and vice versa. The difference between the two is too great for the unity of the authorship. The ancient church showed sound tact in excluding that book from the canon; while a genuine product of the apostolic Barnabas12761276    He is twice called an apostle, Acts 14:4, 14, being included with Paul in ἀπόστολοι.276 had a claim to be admitted into it as well as the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews or the writings of Mark and Luke.

The author was probably a converted Jew from Alexandria (perhaps by the name Barnabas, which would easily explain the confusion), to judge from his familiarity with Jewish literature, and, apparently, with Philo and his allegorical method in handling the Old Testament. In Egypt his Epistle was first known and most esteemed; and the Sinaitic Bible which contains it was probably written in Alexandria or Caesarea in Palestine. The readers were chiefly Jewish Christians in Egypt and the East, who overestimated the Mosaic traditions and ceremonies.12771277    So Neander, Möhler, Hefele (1840), Funk, GüdemAnn. On the other hand, Lardner, Donaldson, Hilgenfeld, Kayser, Riggenbach, Hefele (1868), Braunsberger, Harnack contend that Barnabas and his readers were Gentile Christians, because he distinguishes himself and his readers (ἡμεῖς) from the Jews chs. 2, 3, 4, 8. 10, 14, 16. But the same distinction is uniformly made by John in the Gospel, and was quite natural after the final separation between the church and the synagogue. The mistakes in Jewish history are doubtful and less numerous than the proofs of the writer’s familiarity with it. The strongest passage is ch. 16: " Before we became believers in God, the house of our heart was ... full of idolatry and the house of demons, because we did what was contrary to God’s will."But even this, though more applicable to heathen, is not inapplicable to Jews; nor need we suppose that there were no Gentiles among the readers. Towards the close of the second century there were probably very few unmixed congregations. Lipsius and Volkmar seek the readers in Rome, Müller in Asia Minor, Schenkel, Hilgenfeld, Harnack, and Funk in Alexandria or Egypt. There is a similar difference of opinion concerning the readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews.277

3. Time of composition. The work was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which is alluded to as an accomplished fact;12781278    Ch. 16 compared with the explanation of Daniel’s prophecy of the little horn in ch. 4.278 yet probably before the close of the first century, certainly before the reconstruction of Jerusalem under Hadrian (120).12791279    Hefele, Kayser, Baur, Müller, Lipsius, put the composition between 107 and 120 (before the building of Aelia Capitolina under Hadrian), and Braunsberger between 110 and 137; but Hilgenfeld, Reuss )Gesch. d. N. T, 4th ed., 1864, p. 233), Ewald )Gesch. d. Volkes Israel, VII. 136), Weizsäcker (" in Jahrb. für Deutsch. Theol.," 1865, p. 391, and 1871, p. 569), Wieseler (Ibid. 1870, p. 603-614), and Funk (Prol. p. VI.), at the close of the first century, or even before 79. Wieseler argues from the author’s interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the ten kingdoms and the little horn (ch. 4 and 16), that the Ep. was written under Domitian, the eleventh Rom. emperor, and "the little horn" of Daniel. Weiszäcker and Cunningham refer the little hero to Vespasian (79-79), Hilgenfeld to Nerva; but even in the last case the Ep. would have been written before a.d. 98, when Nerva died. Milligan concludes that it was written very soon after the destruction of Jerusalem. But in fresh view of that terrible judgment, we can scarcely account for the danger of apostasy to Judaism. The author’s aim seems to presuppose a revival of Judaism and of Jewish tendencies within the Christian Church.279

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