About the epistle of Barnabas.
7. The epistle of Barnabas, dependency and dating:
The epistle of Barnabas is in reality anonymous. The author never called himself "Barnabas" (a contemporary of Paul and also an apostle to the Gentiles) or even pretended to be an early Christian missionary. He was against Jewish Christians:
Barnabas12:10 "Behold again it is Jesus, not a son of man, but the Son of God, and He was revealed in the flesh in a figure. Since then men will say that Christ is the son of David, David himself prophesied being afraid and understanding the error of sinners ... David called Him Lord, and called Him not Son [of David]."
His letter to Gentile Christians was written after the temple & Jerusalem destruction (in 70C.E.):
Barnabas16:4-5 "... for because they went to war it [the temple] was pulled down by their enemies. Now also the very servants of their enemies shall build it up. Again, it was revealed how the city and the temple and the people of Israel should be betrayed."
The uncanonical long epistle is very much in line with the earlier one, 'to the Hebrews', but much more extreme in its "allegories", with noticeable lack of logic & clarity.
Note: chapter & verse according to J.B. Lightfoot's translation
For more translations and commentaries, go to Peter Kirby's page on the Epistle of Barnabas
7.2 Dependency on GMatthew:
The epistle has numerous quotes from the scriptures and also allegedly from Jesus, which are not known from any other early Christian texts. However, it is likely "Barnabas" knew about bits & pieces of GMatthew, probably by mouth to ears or recollection from past readings. Let's review the evidence:
- Barnabas7:3 "But moreover when crucified He had vinegar and gall given Him to drink ..."
Only in GMatthew, Jesus is given a mixture of vinegar and gall at his crucifixion:
Mt27:34 "they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink."
Note: the gall is not necessary for the argument developed by "Barnabas" in 7:3-5.
- Barnabas4:14 "as the scripture saith, many are called but few are chosen."
It appears "Barnabas" was confused about the origin of this citation, not appearing in the O.T. But in the N.T., it shows in GMatthew and only here:
Mt22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."
Furthermore, the saying is typically Matthean, and about the treatment of undesirables:
Mt7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven"
Also, the saying fits very well into the heavily "colored" all-Matthean ending (22:11-14) of the parable of the wedding banquet. More about Matthew's undesirables here.
7.3 Other dependencies:
a) 'Barnabas' and GMatthew or GMark
- Barnabas7:9 "... Is not this He, Whom once we crucified and set at nought and spat upon;"
Jesus is spat upon only in Mk15:19 & Mt27:30
- Barnabas5:9 "He came not to call the righteous but sinners"
Mk2:17 & Mt9:13 "... I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners ..."
b) 'Barnabas' and the gospels (generally):
- Barnabas5:8 "... He preached teaching Israel and performing so many wonders and miracles ... He chose His own apostles who were to proclaim His Gospel"
- Barnabas 12:10-11 "... David himself prophesies ..."The Lord said to my Lord sit thou on my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool." ... See how "David calls him Lord" and does not say Son."
This is very similar to:
Lk20:41-44 "... How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said ...: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' Therefore David calls Him 'Lord'; how is He then his Son?" (see also Mk12:35-37 and Mt22:42-45)
- Barnabas6:6 "What then saith the prophet again [about Jesus]? ... For My garment they cast a lot." as in:
Mt27:35: "And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots;" (see also Mk15:24, Lk23:34 & Jn19:23)
c) 'Barnabas' and GLuke?
Barnabas15:8 "... the eighth day [Sunday] for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens."
This is according to GLuke (24).
d) 'Barnabas' and 'Acts':
Barnabas7:2 "... the Son of God, who is Lord all things, and who will judge the living and the dead ..."
Ac10:42 "He [Jesus] who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead."
As we saw already, the epistle was written after the fall of Jerusalem in 70C.E.
Can we determine a more accurate dating?
Barnabas4:3-4 "The last offence is at hand, ... For to this end the Master has cut the seasons and the days short, that His beloved might hasten and come to His inheritance.
[the end" was expected soon, as also in 4:9 "... let us take heed in these last days ..." and 21:3 "The day is at hand ...". This is typical of 1st century Christian writings]
` ... Ten reigns shall reign upon the earth, and after them shall arise another king, who shall bring low three of the kings under one." ("Barnabas" obviously intended to have a prophecy from Daniel 7:7-8 (about ten horns (kings), three of them disposed off by a fourth horn (king)) applied to his present times)
Do these ten and three kings make sense in a 1st century context?
The three kings might be the Flavian dynasty (Vespasian and sons Titus & Domitian). It was ended by the accession to the Roman throne by Nerva (96-98), the same day of Domitian's murder. Nerva may have been thought to be the king who brought low the previous threesome.
Also, in chapter 16, "Barnabas" attacked the inadequacy of any man-made God's temple, past or future: did some Jewish Christians (or/and Jews) think Nerva, not from the same family of the ones who destroyed it (Vespasian & Titus), would allow its rebuilding?
Note: More so because Nerva abolished or greatly reduced the tax that was imposed on Jews. This is according to a coin minted under Nerva's reign, with the inscription: "malicious prosecution of the Fiscus Iudaicus has been abolished".
It is probable:
Barnabas16:1 "Moreover I will tell you likewise concerning the temple, how these wretched men being led astray set their hope on the building, and not on their God that made them, as being a house of God."
What about the other seven kings?
This series of kings, obviously Roman emperors (as the following four ones, Vespasian to Nerva), had just to make some sense in order to be believed as part of a fulfilled prophecy. Who are the candidates?
1) Julius Caesar (49-44)
2) Augustus (44-14)
3) Tiberius (14-37)
4) Caligula (37-41)
5) Claudius (41-54)
6) Nero (54-68)
7) Galba (Jun68-Jan69)
8) Otho (Jan69-Apr69)
9) Vitellius (Apr69-Dec69)
Out of these nine "kings", two of them never got to be emperor ("princeps"): Julius was dictator for life and Vitellius took only the title of consul for life.
Or one might keep Julius Caesar, the true founder of the imperial system, and remove Otho & Vitellius, because of their short-lived reign and the facts they were usurpers.
PS: Clement of Alexandria provided two lists of Roman emperors in 'Stromata', I, XXI. The first one excludes Julius, Otho and Vitellius; the second includes the three of them:
"And nothing, in my opinion, after these details, need stand in the way of stating the periods of the Roman emperors, in order to the demonstration of the Saviour's birth. Augustus, forty-three years; ... Galba, one year; Vespasian, ten years; ...
Some set down the dates of the Roman emperors thus: Caius Julius Caesar, three years, four months, five days; after him Augustus ... Galba, seven months and six days; Otho, five months, one day; Vitellius, seven months, one day; Vespasian ..."