Preface to the Epistle
1. All happiness in peace to you my sons and daughters, in
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who loved us.
2. Having perceived abundance of knowledge of the great and excellent laws of God to be in you, I exceedingly rejoice in your blessed and admirable souls, because you have so worthily received the grace which was grafted in you.
Early Christians were fond of the horticultural or agricultural analogy of grafting one living thing permanently into another. Compare with: "...receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21)
3. For which cause I am full of joy, hoping with more
reason to be saved; inasmuch as I truly see a spirit infused into
you from the pure fountain of God:
4. Having this persuasion, and being fully convinced of it, because that since I began to speak unto you, I have had a more than ordinary good success in the way of the law of the Lord which is in Christ.
"And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation), a Levite, [and] of the country of Cyprus" (Acts 4:36) is highly spoken of in the New Testament. He is characterized as sympathetic and generous (Acts 4:37), broadminded, for he brought to the Apostles the newly-converted Paul, still dazzled by his vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:26, 27). Barnabas was filled with the Spirit, had the gift of exhortation, and was an inspiring influence (Acts 11:23-26); he was trustworthy, suited for missionary work and suffered persecution with Paul (Acts 11:29, 30, 13:2, 50).
He and Paul worked harmoniously until they disagreed over a co-worker, but they resolved their differences when Paul chose Silas and Barnabas chose Mark, and each went to preach in different areas (Acts 15:36-41)
They again collaborated (Galatians 2:1), but when Peter, for fear of being reproached by Jewish Christians, separated himself from James for eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:19-13), Paul rebuked Peter to his face "because he was to be blamed" and complained that even "Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation." (In Colossians 4:10, Paul mentions he was imprisoned with Barnabas' nephew, and in 1 Corinthians 9:6 he affirms that neither he nor Barnabas lived off donations, but were self- supporting.)
Because he and Paul had "hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26), Barnabas indeed had the credentials to command respect and the authority to write this Epistle.
5. For which cause, brethren, I also truly think that I
love you above my own soul; because in that dwells the greatness
of faith and charity, as also the hope of that life which is to
6. Considering that if I shall take care to communicate to you a part of what I have received, it will turn to my reward, that I have served such good souls; I gave diligence to write in a few words to you, that together with your faith, knowledge also may be perfect.
7. There are therefore three things ordained by the Lord; the hope of life; the beginning and the completion of it.
8. For the Lord has both declared to us by the prophets those things that are past, and opened to us the beginnings of those that are to come.
9. Wherefore, it will be incumbent on us, as he has spoken, to come more holily, and nearer to his altar.
Although a heavenly altar is mentioned in Revelation 6:9, 8:3, 9:13, and 14:18, it is clear from the context and other citations that Barnabas refers to the church altar where the Eucharist is celebrated. Christ's teaching on that is recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.
Compare with: "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." (Hebrews 13:10)
In the Old Testament, priests were given part of most sacrifices for food, but lay people had no right to eat this food. Under the New Covenant, all Christians may eat the food of the altar.
10. I therefore, not as a teacher, but as one of you, will endeavor to lay before you a few things by which you may, on many accounts, become more joyful.
That God has abolished the legal sacrifices to introduce the spiritual righteousness of the Gospel.
1. Seeing then the days are exceeding evil, and the
adversary has got the power of this present world, we ought to
give all the more diligence to inquire into the righteous
judgments of the Lord.
2. Now the assistants of our faith are fear and patience; our fellow-combatants are long-suffering and continence.
3. While these remain pure in what relates to the Lord, wisdom, and understanding, and science, and knowledge, rejoice together with them.
4. For God has manifested to us by all the prophets, that he has no occasion for our sacrifices, or burnt-offerings, or oblations, saying thus: To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me, says the Lord.
5. I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of he- goats.
The "fed beasts" refer to lambs.
6. When you come to appear before me, who has required this
at your hands? You will no more tread my courts.
7. Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination to me; your new moons and sabbaths and the calling of assemblies I cannot put up with, it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting; your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates.
See Isaiah 1:11-14. Note that without modern Bible concordances and other study aids, by allusion and verbatim quotations these early Christian writers show their comprehensive knowledge of the Scriptures.
8. These things therefore God has abolished, that the new
law of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is without the yoke of any
such necessity, might have the spiritual offering of men
9. For so the Lord again said to these before: Did I at all command your fathers when they came out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt-offerings of sacrifices?
See Jeremiah 7:22, 23.
10. But this I commanded them, saying, Let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor, and love no false oath.
See Zechariah 8:17.
11. Because then as we are not without understanding, we
ought to apprehend the design of our merciful Father. For he
speaks to us, being willing that we who have been in the same
error about the sacrifices should seek and find how to approach
12. And therefore he speaks to us, The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart God will not despise.
See Psalm 51:17.
13. Therefore, brethren, we ought all the more diligently
to inquire after those things that belong to our salvation, so
the adversary may not have any entrance into us and deprive us of
our spiritual life.
14. Therefore he again speaks to them concerning these things: You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
15. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
16. But to us he says in this manner, Is not this the fast that I have chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?
17. Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh.
18. Then will your light break forth as the morning, and your health will spring forth speedily; your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your reward.
19. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry and he will say, Here I am. If you put away from the midst of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul.
For verses 14-19, see Isaiah 58:4-10.
20. In this therefore, brethren, God has evidenced his foreknowledge and love for us, because the people which he has purchased to his beloved Son were to believe in sincerity; and therefore he has shown these things to all of us, that we should not run as proselytes to the Jewish law.
The prophecies of Daniel concerning the ten kings, and the coming of Christ.
1. So it is necessary that searching diligently into those
things which are near to come to pass, we should write to you
what may serve to keep you whole.
2. For which purpose let us flee from every evil work and hate the errors of the present time, that we may be happy in that which is to come:
3. Let us not give ourselves the liberty of disputing with the wicked and sinners, for fear that in time we possibly should become like them.
4. For the consummation of sin is to come, as the prophet Daniel says. And for this end the Lord has shortened the times and the days, that his beloved might hasten his coming to his inheritance.
See Matthew 24:15-23.
5. For so the prophet speaks, There will ten kings reign in the heart, and there will rise last of all another little one, and he will humble three kings.
See Daniel 7:24. Apocalyptic passages such as these in Daniel, like those in Revelation, defy definitive interpretation. Whether they foretell near or distant future events, whether those are historical or spiritual, whether a historical reference is symbolic of another historical event or a spiritual one, etc., foments endless debates. Barnabas may interpret all apocalyptic prophecies as spiritual analogies, for he says the ten kings will "reign in the heart," misquoting Daniel.
6. And again Daniel speaks in a similar manner concerning the kingdoms: And I saw the fourth beast dreadful and terrible, and exceedingly strong; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold there came up among them another little horn, before which were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.
See Daniel 7:7, 8. Some commentators think the "little horn" was Antiochus Epiphanes, who destroyed the Temple in A.D. 70. Others believe it may have a dual meaning, a future spiritual as well as a past historical fulfillment.
7. We ought therefore to understand this also, so I beseech
you as one of your own brethren, loving you all beyond my own
life, that you look well to yourselves and not be like those who
add sin to sin, and say that their covenant is ours also. No,
but it is ours only, for they have forever lost that which Moses
8. For thus says the Scripture: And Moses continued fasting forty days and forty nights in the mount; and he received the covenant from the Lord, even the two tables of stone, written by the hand of God.
9. But having turned themselves to idols, they lost it; as the Lord also said to Moses, Moses, go down quickly, for your people, whom you have brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves, and turned aside from the way which I commanded them. And Moses cast the two tables out of his hands, and their covenant was broken so the love of Jesus might be sealed in your hearts, to the hope of his faith.
For the story of Moses breaking the two stone tablets, see Exodus 32:19 and Deuteronomy 9:11-17.
10. Therefore let us give heed to the last times. For all
the time past of our life, and our faith, will profit us nothing
unless we continue to hate what is evil and to withstand the
future temptations. So the Son of God tells us, Let us resist
all iniquity and hate it.
11. Consider the works of the evil way. Do not withdraw yourselves from others as if you were already justified, but coming all together into one place, inquire what is agreeable to and profitable for the beloved of God. For the Scripture says, Woe to them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.
The first reference is paraphrased, the second verbatim. Compare with: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25); "Woe unto [them that are] wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:21)
12. Let us become spiritual, a perfect temple to God. As much as we can, let us meditate upon the fear of God and strive to the utmost of our power to keep his commandments, so that we may rejoice in his righteous judgments.
Compare with: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)
13. For God will judge the world without respect of persons, and every one will receive according to his works.
Compare with: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book of] life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." (Revelation 20:12, 13)
14. If a man will be good, his righteousness will go before him; if wicked, the reward of his wickedness will follow him.
Compare the following: "Behold, the Lord God will come with strong [hand], and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him." (Isaiah 40:10); "Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him." (Isaiah 62:11); "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." (Revelation 22:12)
"Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:12; see also Luke 6:23); "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil." (Luke 6:35); Hypocrites now have their reward (Matthew 6:1-5)
"He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold [water] only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." (Matthew 10:41, 42); "For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41)
And regarding the ministry: "... every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." (1 Corinthians 3:8)
15. Take heed therefore for fear that sitting still, now that we are called, we fall asleep in our sins and the wicked one get dominion over us, stir us up, and shut us out of the kingdom of the Lord.
This is probably a reference to the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:7-13, specifically verse 10.
16. Consider this also: although you have seen such great
signs and wonders done among the people of the Jews, yet despite
this the Lord has forsaken them.
17. Beware therefore, for fear that it happen to us as it is written, There may be many called, but few chosen.
See Matthew 22:14.
That Christ was to suffer is proved from the prophecies concerning him.
1. For this cause did our Lord condescend to give up his body to destruction, that through the forgiveness of our sins we might be sanctified; that is, by the sprinkling of his blood.
Ritual blood sprinkling of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament prefigured the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Compare with: "And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel." (Hebrews 12:24; see also Hebrews 10:19, 22); "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ..." (1 Peter 1:2)
2. Now for what concerns the things that are written about
him, some belong to the people of the Jews, and some to us.
3. For the Scripture says: He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and by his blood we are healed. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth.
See Isaiah 53:5, 7.
4. Considering this, we ought to give thanks to God even
more, because he has both declared to us what is passed, and not
allowed us to be without understanding of those things that are
5. But to them he says, The nets are not unjustly spread for the birds.
Compare with: "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird." (Proverbs 1:17); "Deliver thyself... as a bird from the hand of the fowler." (Proverbs 6:5); "Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler..." (Psalm 91:3); "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped." (Psalm 124:7)
6. This he spoke, because a man will justly perish if,
having the knowledge of the way of truth, he will nevertheless
not refrain himself from the way of darkness.
7. Because of this the Lord was content to suffer for our souls, although he is the Lord of the whole earth, to whom God said before the beginning of the world, Let us make man after our own image and likeness.
See Genesis 1:26.
8. Now how he suffered for us, seeing it was by men that he
underwent it, I will show you.
9. The prophets, having received from him the gift of prophecy, spoke before concerning him:
Compare with: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets." (Hebrews 1:1); "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." (1 Peter 1:11); "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21)
10. But he, that he might abolish death and make known the
resurrection from the dead, was content, as was necessary, to
appear in the flesh, that he might make good the promise given
before to our fathers, and preparing himself a new people, might
demonstrate to them while he was upon earth, that after the
resurrection he would judge the world.
11. And finally teaching the people of Israel and doing many wonders and signs among them, he preached to them and showed the exceeding great love which he had toward them.
12. And when he chose his Apostles who were afterwards to publish his Gospel, he took men who had been very great sinners; that he might plainly show that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
See Matthew 9:13.
13. Then he clearly demonstrated himself to be the Son of
God. For had he not come in the flesh, how could men have been
able to look upon him so that they might be saved?
14. Seeing if they beheld only the sun, which was the work of his hands, and will hereafter cease to be, they are not able to endure steadfastly to look against the rays of it.
15. Therefore the Son of God came in the flesh for this cause, that he might fill up the measure of their iniquity, who have persecuted his prophets to death. And for the same reason also he suffered.
16. For God has said of the lash-marks on his flesh, that they were from them [namely, from the Jews]. And, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
See Zechariah 13:7.
17. Thus he would suffer, because it was incumbent on him
to suffer upon the cross.
18. For thus one says, prophesying concerning him: Spare my soul from the sword. And again, Pierce my flesh from your fear.
The source of the first quote is Psalm 22:20; the second is unknown.
19. And again, the congregation of wicked doers rose up against me, (They have pierced my hands and my feet).
These words in parentheses are from Psalm 22:16 (see also Zechariah 12:10) and were doubtless cited thus by Barnabas, because without them, those foregoing do not prove the crucifixion of Christ. But through the repetition of the same proposition, this latter part was so early omitted that it was not in the Latin interpreter's copy.
20. And again he says, I gave my back to the smiters, and my face I set as a hard rock.
Compare with: "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting." (Isaiah 50:6)
The subject continued.
1. And what did he say when he had fulfilled the commandment of God? Who will contend with me? Let him stand against me, or who is he that will implore me? Let him draw near to the servant of the Lord. Woe be to you! Because you will all become old as a garment, the moth will eat you up.
See Isaiah 50:8, 9.
2. And again the prophet adds, He is put for a stone for stumbling. Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a precious stone, a choice cornerstone; an honorable stone. And what follows? And he that hopes in him will live forever.
Compare with: "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel..." (Isaiah 8:14);
"... Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." (Isaiah 28:19); the Septuagint version of this verse reads: "Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious [stone] for its foundations; and he that believes [on him] shall by no means be ashamed."
"But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because [they sought it] not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 9:31-33);
"Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe [he is] precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." (I Peter 2:6-8)
3. What then? Is our hope built upon a stone? God forbid. But because the Lord has strengthened his flesh against sufferings, he says, I have put me as a firm rock.
Isaiah 50:7 reads "I have set my face like a flint..."
4. And again the prophet adds, The stone which the builders refused has become the head of the corner. And again he says, This is the great and wonderful day which the Lord has made. I write these things the more plainly to you that you may understand; for indeed I could be content even to die for your sakes.
Compare with: "The stone [which] the builders refused is become the head [stone] of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it [is] marvelous in our eyes. This [is] the day [which] the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:22-24)
5. But what says the prophet again? The counsel of the wicked surrounded me. They came about me, as bees about the honey-comb. And, Upon my vesture they cast lots.
See Psalm 22:16, Psalm 118:12, and Psalm 22:18. (The scriptures originally were not divided into chapters and verses, so obviously early Christians like Barnabas could not cite chapter-and-verse but relied on memory and sometimes quoted sources out of order.)
6. Because our Savior was to appear in the flesh and
suffer, his passion was foretold by this.
7. For thus says the prophet against Israel: Woe be to their soul, because they have taken wicked counsel against themselves, saying, let us lay snares for the righteous, because he is unprofitable to us.
This quote is Isaiah 3:10 as it appears in the Septuagint: "Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, saying against themselves, Let us bind the just, for he is burdensome to us..."
8. Moses likewise speaks to them: Behold, the Lord God says, Enter into the good land that the Lord promised to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, that he would give it you and possess it; a land flowing with milk and honey.
See Exodus 33:1-3.
9. Now learn what the spiritual meaning of this is: It is as if it had been said, Put your trust in Jesus, who will be manifested to you in the flesh. Man is the suffering earth, for out of the substance of the earth Adam was formed.
Barnabas is devout and thoughtful, and although sometimes his interpretations may seem a stretch, his attitude toward the Old Testament is typical also of the early Church Fathers, whose acceptance of the divine inspiration of the Hebrew canon was approached mystically in a firm faith that the ancient records held hidden hints of the new covenant, for the new fulfilled the old. Everything in God's old covenant with Israel was an allegory or an analogy of what was manifested in the new covenant of God with the Church.
They took seriously the words attributed to Solomon: "The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun. Is there [any] thing whereof it may be said, See, this [is] new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us." (Ecclesiastes 1:9, 10)
10. What therefore does he mean when he says, Into a good land flowing with milk and honey? Blessed be our Lord, who has given us wisdom, and a heart to understand his secrets. For so says the prophet, Who will understand the difficult sayings of the Lord? He that is wise, and intelligent, and loves his Lord.
Compare with: "Who [is] wise, and he shall understand these [things]? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord [are] right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein." (Hosea 14:9); "A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings." (Proverbs 1:5, 6)
11. Seeing that he has renewed us by the remission of our
sins, he has made us another form so that we should have souls
like those of children, forming us again himself by the Spirit.
12. For thus the Scripture says concerning us, where it introduces the Father speaking to the Son; Let us make man after our likeness and similitude; and let them have dominion over the beasts of the earth, and over the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea.
13. And when the Lord saw the man he had formed, and that he was very good, he said, Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth. And this he spoke to his son.
See Genesis 1:26-28. Compare with: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:1, 2, 14)
14. I will now show you how he made us a new creature in the latter days.
Both the Church and the individual Christian are called a new man or a new creature (or a second formation); compare with: "Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17); for Jew and Gentile alike: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Galatians 6:15); "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace." (Ephesians 2:15); "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Colossians 3:10)
15. The Lord says, Behold I will make the last as the
first. Wherefore the prophet thus spoke, Enter the land flowing
with milk and honey, and have dominion over it.
16. So you see how we are again formed anew. He also speaks by another prophet, Behold says the Lord, I will take from them, that is, from those whom the spirit of the Lord foresaw, their hearts of stone, and I will put into them hearts of flesh.
Compare with: "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you: and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 11:19)
17. Because he was going to be made manifest in the flesh
and to dwell in us.
18. For, my brethren, the habitation of our heart is a holy temple to the Lord. For the Lord says again, In what place shall I appear before the Lord my God, and be glorified?
Compare with: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16); the source for "In what place..." is unclear.
19. He answers, I will acknowledge you in the congregation in the midst of my brethren and sing to you in the church of the saints.
Compare with the following: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.... I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.... Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, [and] his praise in the congregation of saints." (Psalms 22:22; 35:18; 149:1)
20. So we are they whom he has brought into that good land.
21. But what does the milk and honey signify? Because as the child is nourished first with milk, and then with honey; so we being kept alive by the belief of his promises, and his word, shall live and have dominion over the land.
22. For he foretold above, saying, Increase and multiply, and have dominion over the fishes, and so forth.
23. But who is there that is now able to have this dominion over the wild beasts, or fishes, or fowls of the air? For you know that to rule is to have power, for a man should be set over what he rules.
24. But because we have not this now, he tells us when we shall have it; namely, when we shall become perfect, that we may be made the inheritors of the covenant of the Lord.
The scape-goat an evident type of this.
1. Understand then, my beloved children, that the good God
has before made clear all things to us, that we might know to
whom we ought always to give thanks and praise.
2. If therefore the Son of God, who is the Lord of all and will come to judge both the living and the dead, has suffered so that by the lash-marks he received we might live, let us believe that except for us, the Son of God would not have suffered. But while being crucified, they gave him vinegar and gall to drink.
3. Hear therefore how the priests of the temple foreshowed this also: the Lord declared by his written command that whoever did not fast the appointed fast should die the death, because he also was himself one day to offer up his body for our sins; so that the type of what was done in Isaac, who was offered upon the altar, might be fulfilled.
Hebrews 9 deals with how the Jewish priests and temple foreshadowed (Barnabas says foreshowed) the deeds of Christ. The penalty of death for those who did not keep the fast on the Day of Atonement is found in Leviticus 23:39. The story of Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice is in Genesis 22.
Barnabas calls this latter example a "type," which differs from allegory. "Typology" is an integral part of Christian interpretation of the Old Testament.
St. Augustine, who wrote extensively on allegory as a method of interpretation, said: "There are several species of this kind of trope that is called allegory, and one of them is that which is called enigma. Now the definition of the generic term must necessarily embrace also all its species; and hence, as every horse is an animal, but not every animal is a horse, so every enigma is an allegory, but every allegory is not an enigma. What then is an allegory, but a trope wherein one thing is understood from another."
An allegorical interpretation hunts for "the hidden meaning" of Scripture behind the actual words. Typology, however, is not an interpretation of the words but of the events. Thus, types are historical in nature (particular words are not examined at all) and the types depend upon correlation or correspondence. Not all Old Testament occurrences can be said to be types, for not all have parallels in the New. However, in the New Testament writings themselves we are given certain Old Testament incidents which are "types" of the key events in the New.
Although St. Paul says "to speak allegorically" in Galatians 4:24-5:1, he is really speaking of types. St. John Chrysostom wrote: "Contrary to usage he calls a type an allegory. His meaning, however, is as follows: this history not only declares that which appears on the face of it but tells of something to happen later. Therefore, it is called an allegory. And what is foretold? No less than all the things now present."
After taking Paul's examples as a "type," Chrysostom explained: "Thus the type of Jerusalem below was Hagar, as is plain from the mountain being so called -- but that which is above is the Church. Nevertheless he is not content with these types, but adds the testimony of Isaiah to what he has spoken. Having said that Jerusalem which is above 'is our mother,' and having given that name to the Church, he cites the words of the prophet in his favor."
This is not the only use of "types" (called "figures") by St. Paul. In Romans 5:14 he writes: "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." We can recognize, in a passage in which foreshadowings of the Eucharist are also connected with Israel in the wilderness (I Corinthians 10:1-6), the use of typology in his seeing baptism in the crossing of the Red Sea by Israel.
Christ himself pointed to Jonah as a symbol (type) of his Resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41). Also, the writer of Hebrews (chapter 7) points to Melchizadek as a foreshadowing of Christ.
All this means that the Church is not assigning a new meaning to the prophetic texts, for the meaning was always there, even though it could not be discerned. For when the Church saw Moses, as the giver of the Law foreshadowing Christ, or recognized the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 42 as a prefiguring of Christ crucified, she was not simply making an application of an Old Testament vision to a New Testament event. What she saw was the meaning of the Old Testament passage, a meaning which could only have been discerned after the coming of Christ. Isaiah's vision of the Servant of the Lord is now seen as a historical fact, for Christ has come and fulfilled the vision.
This does not imply that the typology used by writers and teachers in the Church has always perfectly represented these truths. Even anciently there was some slippage from typology into allegory and allegory found its way into homilies and devotional teachings. But in the catechetical teachings, dogma, the creeds, and the writings of the Fathers, a clearer typology was maintained.
The point is that such interpretations have an ancient, honorable, and legitimate place in Christian history and theology.
4. What therefore is it that he says by the prophet? And let them eat of the goat offered for all their sins in the day of the fast. Hearken diligently (my brethren): all the priests will eat only the inwards not washed with vinegar.
Exodus 29:13, 17, 22 and Leviticus chapters 1-7 give instructions for various kinds of sacrifices, but no mention of washing with vinegar. Leviticus 14:4 mentions the use of scarlet and hyssop, but only in the sacrifice of birds. Regarding the two goats, one a scapegoat, see Leviticus 16:5-10, 21-26. The details mentioned by Barnabas are not found in the canonical scriptures, so either we can assume them to have been practiced, or else he strayed from the facts.
5. Why so? Because I know that when I shall hereafter
offer my flesh for the sins of a new people, you will give me
vinegar to drink mixed with gall; therefore do you only eat, the
people fasting meanwhile and lamenting in sackcloth and ashes.
6. And that he might foreshow that he was to suffer for them, hear then how he appointed it.
7. Take, says he, two goats, fair and alike, and offer them, and let the high priest take one of them for a burned offering. And what must be done with the other? Let it, says he, be accursed.
8. Consider how exactly this appears to have been a type of Jesus: And let all the congregation spit upon it, and prick it, and put the scarlet wool about its head, and thus let it be carried forth into the wilderness.
9. And this being done, he that was appointed to convey the goat, led it into the wilderness, and took away the scarlet wool, and put it upon a thorn bush, whose young sprouts when we find them in the field we are accustomed to eat, because only the fruit of that thorn is sweet.
10. And to what end was this ceremony? Consider: one was offered upon the altar, the other was accursed.
11. And why was that which was accursed crowned? Because they will see Christ in that day having a scarlet garment about his body, and will say, Is not this he whom we crucified after we had despised him, pierced him, mocked him? Certainly this is he who said that he was the Son of God.
12. So he then will be similar to what he was on earth, the Jews were commanded to take two fair and equal goats so that when they hereafter will see our Savior coming in the clouds of heaven, they may be amazed at the analogy of the goats.
13. So again here you see a type of Jesus who was to suffer for us.
14. But what then signifies this, that the wool was to be put into the midst of the thorns?
15. This also is a figure of Jesus, sent out to the church. For as he who would take away the scarlet wool must undergo many difficulties, because that thorn was very sharp, and only with difficulty could he get it, Christ says, They that will see me and come to my kingdom, must attain to me through many afflictions and troubles.
It may well be that these are unrecorded words of Christ, but they appear as Paul's exhortation to the disciples after his stoning at Lystra, at which apparently Barnabas was a witness. See Acts 14:14, 22.
The red heifer, another type of Christ.
1. But what type do you suppose it to have been, where it is commanded to the people of Israel, that grown persons in whom sins are come to perfection, should offer an heifer, and after they had killed it should burn it?
This sacrifice is mentioned in Numbers 19:2-10, but as before, without all the details mentioned here.
2. Then young men should take up the ashes and put them in
vessels, and tie a piece of scarlet wool and hyssop upon a stick,
and so the young men should sprinkle every one of the people, and
they would be clear from their sins.
3. Consider how all these are delivered in a figure to us.
4. This heifer is Jesus Christ, the wicked men that were to offer it are those sinners who brought him to death, who afterwards have no more to do with it; the sinners have no more the honor of handling it.
5. The young men who performed the sprinkling signified those who preach to us the forgiveness of sins and the purification of the heart. The Lord gave authority to preach his Gospel at the beginning to twelve, to signify the tribes, because there were twelve tribes of Israel.
6. But why were there three young men appointed to sprinkle? To denote Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, because they were great before God.
7. And why was the wool put upon a stick? Because the kingdom of Jesus was founded upon the cross; therefore they that put their trust in him will live for ever.
8. But why was the wool and hyssop put together? To signify that in the kingdom of Christ there will be evil and filthy days, in which however we shall be saved; and because he who has any disease in the flesh caused by some filthy fluids is cured by hyssop.
A branch of hyssop (a fragrant, blue-flowered plant of the mint family) was used routinely in ceremonial sprinklings of water or blood (Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51, 52; Numbers 19:6, 18; Hebrews 9:19). Its supposed physical curative power, however, is not mentioned in Scripture, unless one wishes to depart from the usual spiritual interpretation of "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean..." (Psalm 51:7). (John 19:29 mentions that hyssop soaked in vinegar was given to Jesus.)
9. These things done this way are to us indeed evident, but to the Jews they are obscure, because they hearkened not to the voice of the Lord.
Compare with: "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:12-14)
Of the circumcision of the ears, and how in the first institution of circumcision Abraham mystically foretold Christ by name.
1. And therefore the Scripture again speaks concerning our ears, that God has circumcised them together with our hearts. For the Lord says by the holy prophets, By the hearing of the ear they obeyed me.
This is from Psalm 17:44 in the Septuagint, where the chapter and verse divisions are different: "At the hearing of the ear they obeyed me..."
2. And again, They who are afar off will hear and understand what things I have done. And again, Circumcise your hearts, says the Lord.
Compare with: "Hear, ye [that are] far off, what I have done; and, ye [that are] near, acknowledge my might." (Isaiah 33:13); "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench [it], because of the evil of your doings." (Jeremiah 4:4)
3. And again he says, Hear O Israel! For thus says the Lord your God. And again the Spirit of God prophesies, saying, Whoever would live forever, let him hear the voice of my Son.
The source of these citations is uncertain.
4. And again, Hear, O Heaven, and give ear, O Earth! Because the Lord has spoken these things for a witness.
See Isaiah 1:2.
5. And again he says, Hear the word of the Lord, you princes of the people. And again, Hear, O Children, the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
See Judges 5:3 and Isaiah 40:3.
6. He has circumcised our ears so that we should hear his
word, and believe. But as for that circumcision, in which the
Jews trust, it is abolished. For the circumcision of which God
spoke was not of the flesh;
7. But they have transgressed his commands, because the evil one has deceived them. For thus God speaks to them; Thus says the Lord your God (Here I find the new law) Sow not among thorns, but circumcise yourselves to the Lord your God. And what does he mean by this saying? Hearken to your Lord.
See Jeremiah 4:3, 4.
8. And again he says, Circumcise the hardness of your heart, and harden not your neck. And again the Lord says, Behold all the nations are uncircumcised (they have not lost their foreskin), but this people is uncircumcised in heart.
Compare with: "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." (Deuteronomy 10:16)
9. But you will say the Jews were circumcised for a sign. And so are all the Syrians and Arabians, and all the idolatrous priests, but are they therefore of the covenant of Israel? And even the Egyptians themselves are circumcised.
See Romans 2:25ff.
10. Understand therefore, children, these things more
fully, that Abraham, who was the first that brought in
circumcision, looking forward in the Spirit to Jesus, was
circumcised, having received the mystery of three letters.
11. For the Scripture says that Abraham circumcised three hundred and eighteen men of his house. But what was the mystery that was made known to him?
12. Mark, first the eighteen, and next the three hundred. For the numeral letters of ten and eight are I H. And these denote Jesus.
13. And because it was by the cross we were to find grace, he said, three hundred; the note of which is T (the figure of his cross). Therefore by two letters he signified Jesus, and by the third his cross.
Genesis 17:13 says Abraham circumcised all his male servants, and Genesis 14:14 numbers them at three hundred and eighteen. The first two letters of the name Jesus in Greek are IH, but it is unclear how "the numeral letters of ten and eight are I H" is arrived at, for those are not the tenth and eighth letters of the Greek alphabet. The first letter of the compound word "three hundred" in Greek is T, and it may well have been the form of the cross at the Crucifixion, for it is so pictured in early Christian art (in medieval art it is often Y-shaped).
Although many of the early Church Fathers concurred with this ingenious but fantastically extravagant interpretation, it merely shows how obsessed they were with finding obscure evidences of Christ in the Old Testament. Note that it all is based on a reading of the Septuagint, written not in Hebrew, but in Greek.
14. He who has put the engrafted gift of his doctrine within us, knows that I never taught to anyone a more certain truth; but I trust that you are worthy of it.
That the commands of Moses concerning clean and unclean beasts, etc., were all designed for a spiritual significance.
1. But why did Moses say, You must not eat of the swine, neither the eagle nor the hawk; nor the crow; nor any fish that has not a scale upon it? Because he comprehended three doctrines that were to be gathered in the understanding.
Leviticus 11 contains the Old Testament Jewish dietary laws. It was permitted to eat animals that chewed the cud, providing they also had cloven hoofs. Permitted seafood must have both fins and scales.
Animals or birds specifically forbidden (as translated in The New English Bible) were the camel, rock-rabbit or rock-badger, hare, pig; griffon-vulture, black vulture, bearded vulture; the kite and every kind of falcon; every kind of crow and raven, the desert- owl, short-eared owl, long-eared owl, every kind of hawk; the tawny owl, fisher-owl, screech-owl; the little owl, the horned owl, the osprey, the stork or heron, every kind of cormorant, the hoopoe, and the bat; all four-footed wild animals that go on flat paws; the mole-rat (weasel), the jerboa, every kind of thorn- tailed lizard, the gecko, the sand-gecko, the wall- gecko, the great lizard, and the chameleon; all creatures that teem on the ground, crawl on their bellies, go on all fours or have many legs are forbidden as vermin.
Every teeming winged creature with four legs was forbidden as vermin, yet it was permissible to eat the great locust, long-headed locust, green locust, and the desert locust!
2. So he says to them in the book of Deuteronomy, I will give my statutes to this people. Therefore it is not the command of God that they should not eat these things, but Moses in the spirit spoke to them.
Here Barnabas makes the vital point in Biblical interpretation of noting who says what to whom: "And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land wither ye go over to possess it." (Deuteronomy 4:14)
3. He forbade them to eat the sow, meaning: You must not
join yourself to such persons who are like swine, who while they
live in pleasure, forget their God; but when any lack pinches
them, then they recognize the Lord; just as the sow when she is
full does not acknowledge her master, but makes a noise when she
is hungry, and being fed again, is silent.
4. Neither, says he, will you eat the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the kite, nor the crow; that is, you must not keep company with the kind of men who do not know how to get themselves food by their labor and sweat, but injuriously steal the things of others and watch how to lay snares for them, when at the same time they appear to live in perfect innocence.
5. So these birds alone seek not food for themselves, but sitting idle seek how they may eat the flesh others have provided, being destructive through their wickedness.
6. Neither, says he, will you eat the lamprey, nor the polypus, nor the cuttle-fish; that is, you must not become like such men, by being used to conversing with them, who are altogether wicked and adjudged to death. For so these fishes are alone accursed, and wallow in the mire, and do not swim as other fishes, but tumble in the dirt at the bottom of the deep.
7. But he adds, neither must you eat of the hare. To what end? To signify this to us: You must not be an adulterer, nor be like such persons. For the hare every year multiplies the places of its conception; and so many years as it lives, so many it has.
The hare was forbidden "because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof" (Leviticus 11:6); but Barnabas is consistent in his anthropomorphic- metaphorical exegesis.
8. Neither must you eat of the hyena: that is, again, be not an adulterer, nor a corruptor of others, neither be like such. And why so? Because that creature every year changes its kind, and is sometimes male and sometimes female.
This is pure fantasy or folklore; the hyena is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.
9. For which reason also he justly hated the weasel, to the end that they should not be like such persons who with their mouths commit wickedness by reason of their uncleanness, nor join themselves with those impure women who with their mouths commit wickedness. Because that animal conceives with its mouth.
Whatever is meant by this is uncertain; but Barnabas is clearly opposed to oral sex.
10. Moses, therefore, speaking as if concerning meats,
delivered indeed three great precepts to them in the spiritual
significance of those commands. But they according to the
desires of the flesh, understood him as if he had only meant it
11. And therefore David took aright the knowledge of his three-fold command, saying in like manner.
This "three-fold command," mentioned also in verse 1, is not clear. The reference which follows is from Psalm 1.
12. Blessed in the man that has not walked in the counsel
of the ungodly; as the fishes before mentioned in the bottom of
the deep in darkness.
13. Nor stood in the way of sinners; as they who seem to fear the Lord, but yet sin, as the sow.
14. And has not sat in the seat of the scorners; as those birds who sit and watch that they may devour.
15. Here you have the law concerning meat perfectly set forth, and according to the true knowledge of it.
16. But, says Moses, you may eat all that divides the hoof and chews the cud. This means one that after taking food, knows him that nourishes him, and rests upon him, and rejoices in him.
17. And in this he spoke well, having respect to the commandment. What, therefore, is it that he says? That we should hold fast to them that fear the Lord, those who meditate on the command of the word that they have received in their heart, and with those that declare the righteous judgments of the Lord and keep his commandments;
18. In short, with those who know that to meditate is a work of pleasure, and therefore exercise themselves in the word of the Lord.
To distinguish between currently popularized "New Age meditation" and Biblical meditation, it is worth noting that the word in Scripture means "to think deeply."
19. But why might they eat those that cleave the hoof?
Because the righteous lives in this present world, but his
expectation is fixed upon the other. See, brethren, how
admirably Moses commanded these things.
20. But how should we know and understand all this? We, therefore, understanding aright the commandments, speak as the Lord would have us. He has circumcised our ears and our hearts, in order that we might know these things.
Baptism and the Cross of Christ foretold in figures under the law.
1. Let us now inquire whether the Lord took care to reveal
anything beforehand concerning water and the cross.
2. Now for the former of these, it is written to the people of Israel how they will not receive that baptism which brings forgiveness of sins, but will institute another to themselves that cannot.
3. For thus says the prophet: Be astonished, O Heaven! And let the earth tremble at it, because this people have done two great and wicked things: they have left me, the fountain of living water, and have dug for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.
See Jeremiah 2:12, 13.
4. Is my holy mountain a Zion, a desolate wilderness? For you will be as a young bird when its nest is taken away.
See Isaiah 16:1, 2
5. And again the prophet says, I will go before you, and will make plain the mountains, and will break the gates of brass, and will snap in pieces the bars of iron; and I will give you dark, hidden, and invisible treasures, that they may know that I am the Lord God.
See Isaiah 45:2, 3.
6. And again, He will dwell in the high den of the strong rock. And then, what follows in the same prophet? His water is faithful; you will see the king with glory, and your soul will learn the fear of the Lord.
See Isaiah 33:16, 17.
7. And again he says in another prophet, He that does these things will be like a tree, planted by the currents of water, which will give its fruit in its season. Its leaf also will not wither, and whatever he does will prosper.
Again a reference to Psalm 1.
8. As for the wicked, it is not so with them; they are as
the dust which the wind scatters away from the face of the earth.
9. Therefore the ungodly will not stand in the judgment, neither sinners in the council of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly will perish.
10. Consider how he has joined both the cross and the water together.
11. For thus he says: Blessed are they who put their trust in the cross and descend into the water, for they will have their reward in due time; then, he says, I will give it to them.
12. But concerning the present time, he says their leaves will not fall, meaning that every word that will go out of our mouth through faith and charity will be to the conversion and hope of many.
13. In a similar manner another prophet speaks, And the land of Jacob was the praise of all the earth, magnifying by that the vessel of his spirit.
By the "vessel of his spirit" is apparently meant the body of Christ. The quote referred to is likely Zephaniah 3:19.
14. And what follows? And there was a river running on the right hand, and beautiful trees grew up by it, and he that will eat of them will live forever. The significance of which is this: that we go down into the water full of sins and pollutions but come up again, bringing forth fruit because we have in our hearts by the spirit the fear and hope which is in Jesus. And whoever will eat of them will live forever.
Perhaps a reference to: "And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine." (Ezekiel 47:12)
15. That is, whoever will pay attention to those who call them, and will believe, will live forever.
The subject continued.
1. In a similar manner he determines concerning the cross
in another prophet saying, And when will these things be
2. The Lord answers, When the tree that has fallen will rise, and when blood will drop down from the tree. Here you have again mention made both of the cross and of him that was to be crucified upon it.
The source for this citation is unknown.
3. And yet further he says by Moses, when Israel was
fighting with, and beaten by, a strange people, to the end that
God might teach them how that for their sins they were delivered
to death, yes, the Holy Spirit put it into the heart of Moses to
represent both the sign of the cross and of him that was to
suffer so that they might know that if they did not believe in
him, they would be overcome forever.
4. Moses therefore piled up armor upon armor in the middle of a rising ground, and standing up high above all of them, stretched forth his arms, and so Israel again conquered.
5. But no sooner did he let down his hands, but they were again slain. And why so? So they might know that except they trust in him, they cannot be saved.
See Exodus 17:8-12. Many Church Fathers believed Moses and his outstretched arms symbolized the cross.
6. And in another prophet he says, I have stretched out my hands all day long to a people who are disobedient and speak against my righteous way.
Compare with: "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way [that was] not good, after their own thoughts." (Isaiah 65:2); "But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." (Romans 10:21)
7. And again Moses makes a type of Jesus in the example of those that fell in Israel, to show that he was to die, and then that he, whom they thought to be dead, was to give life to others.
Verses 7-11 describe the story (in Numbers 21:6-9) how Moses erected on a pole a brazen serpent, to which those bitten by fiery serpents could look and be healed. In the above verse "to show that he was to die, and then that he, whom they thought to be dead, was to give life to others" refers to Christ.
8. For God caused all sorts of serpents to bite them, and
they died, just as by a serpent transgression began in Eve, so
that so he might convince them that they will be delivered into
the pain of death for their transgressions.
9. Moses, who had commanded them, then said, You must not make to yourselves any graven or molten image to be your God; yet now did so himself so that he might represent to them the figure of the Lord Jesus.
10. For he made a brazen serpent, and set it up on high, and called the people together by a proclamation. When they came, they entreated Moses that he would make an atonement for them and pray so they might be healed.
11. Then Moses spoke to them, saying: When any one among you will be bitten, let him come to the serpent that is set upon the pole, and let him assuredly trust in him, for though he be dead, yet he is able to give life, and presently he will be saved; and so they did. See therefore how here also you have in this the glory of Jesus, and that in him and to him are all things.
Barnabas is on solid exegetical ground here (Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and St. John Chrysostum concurred) for Christ himself said to Nicodemus: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:14, 15); Romans 11:36 says: "For of him, and through him, and to him [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen."
12. Again, consider what Moses, being a prophet, said to Jesus the son of Nun, when he gave that name to him so that all the people might hear him alone, because the Father did manifest all things concerning his son Jesus, in Jesus the son of Nun. When he sent him to spy out the land of Canaan, he gave him that name and said, Take a book in your hands, and write what the Lord says: inasmuch as Jesus the Son of God will in the last days cut off by the roots all the house of Amalek. See here again Jesus, not the son of man, but the Son of God, made manifest in a type and in the flesh.
See Exodus 17:14. (The New Testament equivalent of the name Joshua, or Jeshua, which means Jehovah is salvation, is Jesus.)
13. But because it later might be said that Christ was the Son of David, therefore David fearing and well knowing the errors of the wicked, says, The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.
See Psalm 110:1.
14. And again Isaiah speaks like this. The Lord said to Christ my Lord, I have laid hold on his right hand, that the nations should obey before him, and I will break the strength of kings.
The source of this is obscure; there is no such reference in the Bible.
15. Behold how David and Isaiah call him Lord and the Son of God.
The promise of God is not made only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles, and fulfilled to us by Jesus Christ.
1. But let us go yet further, and inquire whether this
people be the heir, or the former; and whether the covenant be
with us or with them.
2. And first, as concerning the people, hear now what the Scripture says.
3. Isaac prayed for his wife Rebecca because she was barren, and she conceived. Afterwards Rebecca went forth to inquire of the Lord.
4. And the Lord said to her, There are two nations in your womb, and two people will come from your body; and the one will have power over the other, and the greater will serve the lesser. Understand here who was Isaac, and who was Rebecca, and of whom it was foretold that this people will be greater than that.
Compare Genesis 25:21-23 with: "Who are Israelites.... For they [are] not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, [are they] all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these [are] not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed..." (Romans 9:5, 6-8, 10-16)
5. In another prophecy Jacob speaks more clearly to his son
Joseph, saying, Behold the Lord has not deprived me of seeing
your face, so bring me your sons that I may bless them. And he
brought to his father Manasseh and Ephraim, desiring that he
should bless Manasseh, because he was the elder.
6. Therefore Joseph brought him to the right hand of his father Jacob. But Jacob by the spirit foresaw the figure of the people that was to come.
7. And what says the Scripture? And Jacob crossed his hands, and put his right hand upon Ephraim, his second and younger son, and blessed him. And Joseph said to Jacob, Put your right hand upon the head of Manasseh, for he is my first-born. And Jacob said to Joseph, I know it, my son, I know it; but the greater will serve the lesser; though he also will be blessed.
8. You see of whom he appointed it, that they should be the first people, and heirs of the covenant
See Genesis 48. A careful reading shows Jacob indeed crossed his hands to give his blessing; to the Church Fathers this was another symbol of Christ's cross.
9. If God took notice of this also by Abraham, our
understanding of it will then be perfectly established.
10. What says the Scripture to Abraham when he believed, and it was imputed to him for righteousness? Behold I have made you a father of the nations that without circumcision believe in the Lord.
Abraham was living by faith when he was seventy- five years old and his faith was imputed to him for righteousness, but he was not circumcised until he was ninety-nine years old: see Genesis 12:4, 15:3-6, 17:6- 11, 24. Compare with: "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory;; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:1-5)
11. Let us therefore now inquire whether God has fulfilled
the covenant he swore to our fathers, that he would give this
people? Yes, truly, he gave it; but they were not worthy to
receive it because of their sins.
12. For thus says the prophet, And Moses continued fasting forty days and forty nights in Mount Sinai, to receive the covenant of the Lord with the people.
13. And he received from the Lord two tables written with the finger of the Lord's hand in the Spirit. And when Moses received them he brought them down to deliver them to the people.
14. And the Lord said to Moses: Moses, Moses, get down quickly, for the people you brought out of the land of Egypt have done wickedly.
15. And Moses understood that they had again set up a molten image; and he cast the two tables out of his hands, and the tables of the covenant of the Lord were broken. Moses received them, but they were not worthy.
See Exodus 24:18; 32:7-9, 15-29, and Deuteronomy 9:9-21.
16. Now then learn how we have received them. Moses, being
a servant, took them; but the Lord himself, having suffered for
us, has given them to us in order that we might be the people of
17. He was manifested that they should fill up the measure of their sins; and that we, being made heirs by him, should receive the covenant of the Lord Jesus.
18. Again the prophet says, Behold, I have assigned you to be a light to the Gentiles for salvation to all the ends of the earth, says the Lord your God who has redeemed you.
See Isaiah 49:6.
19. Who was prepared for that very purpose so by his own
appearing he might redeem our hearts, already devoured by death
and delivered over to the irregularity of error, from darkness;
and establish a covenant with us by his word.
20. For so it is written that the Father commanded him by delivering us from darkness, to prepare to himself a holy people.
21. Therefore the prophet says, I the Lord your God have called you in righteousness, and I will take you by your hand and will strengthen you. And give you as a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
See Isaiah 42:6, 7.
22. Consider therefore for what we have been redeemed. And again the prophet says, The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken in heart, to preach remission to the captives and sight to the blind, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of restitution, and to comfort all that mourn.
Compare Isaiah 61:1, 2 with: "And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias, And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave [it] again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." (Luke 4:17-21)
That the Sabbath of the Jews was but a figure of a more glorious Sabbath to come, and their temple, of the spiritual temples of God.
1. Furthermore it is written concerning the Sabbath, in the ten commandments which God spoke face to face in Mount Sinai to Moses, Sanctify the Sabbath of the Lord with pure hands and with a clean heart.
See Exodus 20:8.
2. Elsewhere he says, If your children will keep my Sabbaths, then will I put my mercy upon them.
Perhaps a condensed reference to Leviticus 26:2-5.
3. And even in the beginning of the creation he makes mention of the Sabbath: And God made in six days the works of his hands; and he finished them on the seventh day, and he rested the seventh day, and sanctified it.
See Genesis 2:2, 3; that this was the basis of the Sabbath is stated in Exodus 20:11.
4. Consider, my children, what it signifies, that he
finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this: that in
six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end.
5. For with him one day is a thousand years, as he himself testifies, saying, Behold this day will be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, will all things be accomplished.
That is, all things will be accomplished up to the time of the Gospel. This was a popular interpretation at that time, based on "For a thousand years in thy sight [are but] as yesterday when it is past, and [as] a watch in the night" (Psalm 90:4), and "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8).
Many cults have been created and many people have been led astray by the practice of setting dates for prophesied events. That some in the early Church engaged in such speculation is surprising in view of Christ's words to his disciples after the Resurrection: "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." (Acts 1:6, 7)
6. And he rested the seventh day, means this: that when his Son will come, and abolish the season of the Wicked One, and judge the ungodly, and will change the sun and the moon and the stars, then he will gloriously rest in that seventh day.
Compare with: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then [that] all these things shall be dissolved, what manner [of persons] ought ye to be in [all] holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." (2 Peter 3:10-13)
7. He adds lastly, You will sanctify it with clean hands
and a pure heart. Therefore we are greatly deceived if we
imagine that anyone can now sanctify that day which God has made
holy, without having a heart pure in all things.
8. Behold therefore, he will then truly sanctify it with blessed rest, when we having received the righteous promise, when iniquity will be no more, and all things have been renewed by the Lord, will be able to sanctify it, because we ourselves will first be made holy.
9. Lastly he says to them, I cannot stand your new moons and your Sabbaths. Consider what he means by it: the Sabbaths, he says, that you now keep are not acceptable to me, but only those which I have made, when resting from all things I shall begin the eighth day, that is, the beginning of the other world.
Compare with: "...the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; [it is] iniquity, even the solemn meeting." (Isaiah 1:13)
10. For which cause we observe the eighth day with gladness, in which Jesus rose from the dead, and after showing himself to his disciples, ascended into heaven.
Compare with: "...ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day [shall be] a sabbath, and on the eighth day [shall be] a sabbath." (Leviticus 23:30)
This concept of the "eighth day" is mentioned in the writings of some Church Fathers, and has several connotations. In a literal sense, of course, it corresponds to the first day of the week (Sunday), when Christ rose from the dead after his redemptive work was finished. In an eschatological (prophetic) sense, it refers to Christ's coming again and the ensuing eternal bliss of the faithful. Some monks of the Orthodox Church used the term mystically to represent the advanced state of personal spirituality.
11. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] It
still remains for me to speak to you concerning the temple, how
these miserable men, being deceived, have put their trust in the
house as if it were the habitation of God, and not in God himself
who made them,
12. For much after the same manner as the Gentiles, they consecrated him in the temple.
13. But learn therefore how the Lord speaks, rendering the temple vain: Who has measured the full extent of heaven, or the earth with his hand? Is it not I? Thus says the Lord, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What is the house that you will build me? Or what is the place of my rest? Know therefore that all their hope is vain.
Compare with: "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" (Isaiah 40:12); and "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven [is] my throne, and the earth [is] my footstool: where [is] the house that ye build unto me? and where [is] the place of my rest?" (Isaiah 66:1)
14. And again he speaks after this manner: Behold they that destroy this temple, even they will again build it up. And so it came to pass, for through their wars it was destroyed by their enemies, and the servants of their enemies built it up.
The reference is uncertain. Compare with: "Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste." (Isaiah 64:11); "... came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the Lord..." (2 Kings 25:8,9); "They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled [by casting down] the dwelling place of thy name to the ground." (Psalm 74:7)
It is unlikely this cites Ezra 6:12, for the Jews themselves rebuilt a rather shabby temple after their return from the Exile. However, when Rome set up its puppet government over the Jews, their appointee, Herod the Great, in fact rebuilt the Temple of Jerusalem.
15. Furthermore it has been made evident how both the city and the temple, and the people of Israel, should be given up. For the Scripture says, And it will come to pass in the last days, that the Lord will deliver up the sheep of his pasture, and their fold, and their tower into destruction. And it is come to pass, as the Lord has spoken.
Compare with: "And it shall come to pass at that time, [that] I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil. Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit [them]; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof." (Zephaniah 1:12, 13); the Septuagint reads: "And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] I will search Jerusalem with a candle, and will take vengeance on the men that despise the things committed to them; but they say in their hearts, The Lord will not do any good, neither will he do any evil. And their power shall be for a spoil, and their houses for utter desolation; and they shall build houses, but shall not dwell in them; and they shall plant vineyards, but shall not drink the wine of them."
"And the sea coast shall be dwellings [and] cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks." (Zephaniah 2:6); the Septuagint reads: "And Crete shall be a pasture of flocks, and a fold of sheep;" but the Hebrew is closer to Barnabas' allusion.
16. Let us therefore inquire whether there is any temple of God. Yes there is, where he himself declares that he would both make and perfect it. For it is written, As soon as the week will be completed, the temple of the Lord will be gloriously built in the name of the Lord.
Compare Daniel 9:24, 25, and Haggai 2:9.
17. I find therefore that there is a temple. But how will
it be built in the name of the Lord? I will show you.
18. Before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was as corruptible and feeble as a temple truly built with hands.
19. For it was a house full of idolatry, a house of devils; inasmuch as there was done in it whatever was contrary to God. But it will be built in the name of the Lord.
20. Consider how that the temple of the Lord will be very gloriously built, and learn by what means that will be.
21. Having received remission of our sins, and trusting in the name of the Lord, we are become renewed, being again created as it were from the beginning. Therefore God truly dwells in our house, that is, in us.
22. But how does he dwell in us? Through the word of his faith, the calling of his promise, the wisdom of his righteous judgments, and the commands of his doctrine. He himself prophesies within us, he himself dwells in us, and opens to us who were in bondage of death the gate of our temple, that is, the mouth of wisdom, having given repentance to us; and by this means he has brought us to be an incorruptible temple.
23. He therefore who desires to be saved looks not to the man, but to him that dwells in him, and speaks by him, because he is struck with wonder, for he never either heard him speaking such words out of his mouth, nor ever desired to hear them.
24. This is that spiritual temple that is built to the Lord.
Of the way of light, a summary of what a Christian is to do, that he may be happy forever.
1. And thus, I trust, I have declared to you as much, and
with as great simplicity as I could, those things which make for
your salvation, so as not to have omitted anything that might be
2. For should I speak further of the things that now are, and of those that are to come, you would not yet understand them, seeing they lie in parables. What I have said will suffice as to these things.
Parables can both reveal and conceal; compare with Christ's remark to his disciples: "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all [these] things are done in parables; That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and [their] sins should be forgiven them. (Mark 4:11, 12)
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, [is] come, he will guide you into all truth... and he will shew you things to come." (John 16:13); "But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26); "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Corinthians 2:13); "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." (1 John 2:27)
3. Let us now go on to the other kind of knowledge and
doctrine. There are two ways of doctrine and power: the one of
light, the other of darkness.
4. But there is a great deal of difference between these two ways; for over one are appointed the angels of God, the leaders of the way of light; over the other, the angels of Satan. And the one is the Lord from everlasting to everlasting; the other is the prince of the time of unrighteousness.
5. Now the way of light is this: if any one desires to attain to the place that is appointed for him, he will hasten there by his works. And the knowledge that has been given to us for walking in it, is to this effect: You must love him that made you; you must glorify him that has redeemed you from death.
6. You must be simple in heart, and rich in the spirit. You must not unite to those that walk in the way of death. You must hate to do anything that is not pleasing to God. You must abhor all dissimulation. You must not neglect any of the commands of the Lord.
7. You must not exalt yourself, but must be humble. You must not take honor to yourself. You must not enter into any wicked counsel against your neighbor. You must not be over- confident in your heart.
8. You must not commit fornication nor adultery. Neither must you corrupt yourself with mankind. You must not make use of the word of God to any impurity.
9. You must not accept any man's person, when you reprove anyone's faults. You must be gentle. You must be quiet. You must tremble at the words which you have heard. You must not keep any hatred in your heart against your brother. You must not entertain any doubt whether it will be or not.
10. You must not take the name of the Lord in vain. You must love your neighbor above your own soul.
11. You must not destroy your conceptions before they are brought forth, nor kill them after they are born.
Apparently abortion and infanticide were sufficiently common to warrant this exhortation.
12. You must not withdraw your hand from your son, or from
your daughter, but will teach them from their youth the fear of
13. You must not covet your neighbor's goods, neither must you be greedy. Neither must your heart be joined to proud men, but you must be counted among the righteous and the lowly. Whatever events will happen to you, you must receive them as good.
14. You must not be double-minded, or double-tongued, for a double tongue is the snare of death. You must be subject in fear and reverence to the Lord, and to inferior masters as to the representatives of God.
By "inferior masters," probably is meant the lowest order of clergy, the deacons, as contrasted with the presbyters, or priests.
15. You must not be bitter when ordering any of your
servants who trust in God, for fear that you may not fear him who
is over both; because he came not to call any with respect of
persons, but whomever the Spirit had prepared.
16. You must communicate to your neighbor of all you have; you must not call anything your own, for if you share in such things as are incorruptible, how much more should you do it in those that are corruptible?
17. You must not be too eager to speak, for the mouth is the trap of death. Strive for your soul with all your might. Do not reach out your hand to receive, and then withhold it when you should give.
18. You must love, as the apple of your eye, everyone that speaks to you the word of the Lord. Call to your remembrance, day and night, the future judgment.
19. You must seek out every day the persons of the righteous, and both consider and go about to exhort others by the word, and meditate how you may save a soul.
20. You must also labor with your hands to give to the poor, so that your sins may be forgiven you. You must not deliberate whether you should give, nor, having given, complain about it.
21. Give to every one that asks, so will you know who is the good rewarder of your gifts.
22. Keep what you have received; you must neither add to it nor take from it.
23. Let the wicked be always your aversion. You must judge righteous judgment. You must never cause divisions, but make peace between those that are at variance, and bring them together.
24. You must confess your sins and not come to your prayer with an evil conscience.
25. This is the way of light.
Of the way of darkness, that is, what kind of persons will forever be cast out of the kingdom of God.
1. But the way of darkness is crooked and full of cursing.
For it is the way of eternal death, with punishment, in which
those that walk will meet those things that destroy their own
2. Such are: idolatry, confidence, pride of power, hypocrisy, double-mindedness, adultery, murder, pillage, pride, transgression, deceit, malice, arrogance, witchcraft, covetousness, and the lack of the fear of God.
By "confidence" here is meant an overweening sense of self-confidence in one's abilities apart from God.
3. In this walk those who are the persecutors of them that
are good, the haters of truth and lovers of lies, who do not know
the reward of righteousness, nor adhere to any thing that is
4. Who administer not righteous judgment to the widow and orphan; who examine wickedness, and not the fear of the Lord;
5. From whom gentleness and patience are afar off; who love vanity, and follow after rewards; who have no compassion upon the poor, nor take any pains for those who are burdened and oppressed.
6. They readily speak evil, not knowing him that made them; they are murderers of children, corrupters of the creatures of God; they turn away from the needy and oppress the afflicted; they are advocates of the rich, but unjust judges of the poor; they are altogether sinners.
7. It is therefore appropriate that, learning the just commands of the Lord we have before mentioned, we should walk in them. For he who does such things will be glorified in the kingdom of God.
8. But he who chooses the other part will be destroyed, together with his works. For this reason there will be both a resurrection, and a retribution.
9. I implore those that are in high estate among you (if you will take the counsel that with a good intention I offer to you), do not forsake those with you towards whom you may do good.
10. For the day is at hand in which all things will be destroyed, together with the wicked one. The Lord is near, and his reward is with him.
To destroy also means to utterly defeat and lay waste; the Bible nowhere specifically implies the actual annihilation of the wicked.
11. Therefore I ask you, again and again, be good lawgivers
to one another, continue to be faithful counselors to each
other, and remove from among you all hypocrisy.
12. And may God, the Lord of all the world, give you wisdom, knowledge, counsel, and understanding of his judgments in patience.
13. Be taught by God; seek what it is the Lord requires of you, and do it, so that you may be saved in the day of judgment.
14. And if there is any remembrance among you of what is good, think of me by meditating on these things, so that both my wishes and my watching for you may turn to a good account.
15. I beg you, I ask it as a favor of you, that while you are in this beautiful vessel of the body, be lacking in none of these things, but seek them without ceasing and fulfill every command, for these things are proper and worthy to be done.
16. Wherefore I have diligently written to you, according to my ability, that you might rejoice. Farewell, children, in love and peace.
17. May the Lord of glory and of all grace be with your spirit, Amen.
Although we find echoes in the New Testament of nearly all the exhortations in this General Epistle of Barnabas, we must remember that he is not so much quoting but expressing the same thoughts as his contemporaries, for all the books of the New Testament had not yet been written (certainly not the Epistle of Jude's Epistle or the works of John, which include his Gospel, his three Epistles, and Revelation), and it would be centuries before the canon was officially decided.
Cotelerius affirms that Origen and Jerome esteemed this Epistle genuine and canonical, although he himself did not believe it to be either one or the other; on the contrary, he supposes it was written for the benefit of the Ebionites (the christianized Jews) who were tenacious of rites and ceremonies.
It lays a greater claim to canonical authority than most others and was read in the churches at Alexandria, as the canonical scriptures were. It has been cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, and many ancient Fathers.
Go to the Chronological List of all Early Christian Writings
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