Epistle of Barnabas

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The Epistle of Barnabas is an epistle with twenty-one chapters, contained complete in the Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament. It is traditionally ascribed to the Barnabas who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, though some ascribe it to another apostolic father of the same name, a "Barnabas of Alexandria." The Epistle 850 lines long is listed in the Latin list of canonical works inserted in the 6th century Codex Claromontanus [1] (http://www.ntcanon.org/codex_Claromontanus.shtml).

Contents

Manuscript tradition

The authoritative text is in the Codex Sinaiticus, part of a triple manuscript tradition in which the Greek text of this epistle has survived.

  1. Until 1843 eight manuscripts, all derived from a common source, were known in Western European libraries: none of them contained chapters i to chapter v.7a.
  2. The 4th century Codex Sinaiticus, in which the Epistle and the Shepherd of Hermas follow the canonical books of the New Testament, contains a more complete manuscript of the text, which is independent of the preceding group of texts.
  3. The 11th century Codex Hierosolymitanus ("Jerusalem Codex"), which includes the Didache, is another independent witness to the text. This complete Greek manuscript was discovered by Philotheos Bryennios at Constantinople, and Adolf Hilgenfeld used it for his edition in 1877.
  4. There is also an old Latin version of the first seventeen chapters (chapters 18 to 21 are not present) which dates, perhaps, to the end of the 4th century (St Petersburg, Q., I, 39). This is a free version. The same is true for the citations from the Epistle in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Origen and others.

Early citations

Toward the end of the second century Clement of Alexandria cites the Epistle. It is also appealed to by Origen. Eusebius, however, objected to it and ultimately the epistle disappeared from the appendix to the New Testament, or rather the appendix disappeared with the epistle. In the West the epistle never enjoyed canonical authority (though it stands beside the epistle of James in the Latin manuscripts). In the East, the Stichometry of Nicephorus, the list appended by the 9th century Patriarch of Jerusalem to his Chronography, lists the Epistle of Barnabas in a secondary list, of books that are antilegomena— "disputed"— along with the The Revelation of John. the Revelation of Peter and the Gospel of the Hebrews.

Origin of the Epistle of Barnabas

The first editor of the epistle, Hugo Menardus (1645) advocated the genuineness of its ascription to Barnabas, but the opinion to-day is that Barnabas was not the author. Many scholars today believe it was probably written in the years 70131, and addressed to Christian Gentiles. In 16:3-4, the Epistle reads:

"Furthermore he says again, 'Lo, they who destroyed this temple shall themselves build it.' That is happening now. For owing to the war it was destroyed by the enemy; at present even the servants of the enemy will build it up again."

This passage clearly places Barnabas after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. But it also places Barnabas before the Bar Kochba revolt of 132 CE, after which there could have been no hope that the Romans would help to rebuild the temple. The document must come from the period between the two revolts. The place of origin remains an open question, although the Greek-speaking Eastern Mediterranean appears most probable (Treat).

The author, who formerly labored in the unidentified congregation to which he writes, intends to impart to his readers the perfect gnosis that they may perceive that the Christians are the only true covenant people, and that the Jewish people had never been in a covenant with God. His polemics are, above all, directed against Judaizing Christians (see Ebionites, Nazarenes, Judaizing teachers). In no other writing of that early time is the separation of the Gentile Christians from the patriotic Jews so clearly insisted upon. The Old Testament, he maintains, belongs only to the Christians. Circumcision and the whole Old Testament sacrificial and ceremonial institution are the devil's work. According to the author's conception, the Old Testament, rightly understood, contains no such injunctions. He is a thorough anti-Judaist, but by no means an antinomist. The main idea is Pauline, and Paul's doctrine of atonement is more faithfully reproduced in this epistle than in any other postapostolic writing.

The author does not quote any of the Gospels or Paul's epistles; no doubt had read Paul's epistles; he has a good knowledge of gospel-history but which of the gospels, if any, he had read, can not be asserted. He quotes IV Esdras (12:1) and Enoch (4:3; 16:5). The closing section (chapters 18-21), which contains a series of moral injunctions, is only loosely connected with the body of the epistle, and its true relation to the latter has given rise to much discussion.

External links

  • Early Christian Writings: (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/barnabas.html) Epistle of Barnabas; e-texts of translations and introductions
  • Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. i:introduction (http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-40.htm#TopOfPage) and text
  • Catholic Encyclopedia 1907: (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02299a.htm) Epistle of Barnabas from the official Roman Catholic point-of-view: "the chief importance of the epistle is in its relation to the history of the Canon of the Scriptures."

Sources

  • Treat, Jay Curry, in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 1, pp. 613-614.de:Barnabasbrief
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