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INTRODUCTION IIHE TRACT which goes by the name of the Letter of Barnabas is really anonymous. There is no indication that its author intended to pose as the Barnabas who was St. Paul's companion.1 How it came by this name is unknown , unless the author's name might also have been Barnabas. The Greek text is extant in two manuscripts, the Codex Hierosolymitanus, and the famous Codex Sinaiticus, once in St. Petersburg, now in the British Museum.2 An early Latin translation (Imperial Library at Leningrad) and a Syriac version (Library of Cambridge University) are incomplete. Two dates of composition are possible. The years A. D. 70-79 are suggested by a veiled reference to Vespasian (4.4)). This possibility is not contradicted directly by anything else in the letter. There is no explicit quotation of any writing of the New Testament and there is a hint that the destruction of the Temple was still a living memory. A second date is suggested by the reference to the rebuilding of the Temple (16.3-4). This could refer to the insurrection of Bar-Cochba against the Romans, when the Jews, for a brief time in 132, thought that the revolt might be successful and enable them to rebuild the Temple. It is now agreed that the Letter of Barnabas could not be any later than 150 and might be as early as 70 or 71. It is older than the present form of the Didache, which contains more New Testament quotations or allusions. I Eusebius (Historia ecrlesiastica 3.25.4) and St. Jerome (De viris illustribus 6) recognize the letter to be apocryphal. 2 See note I, p. 61. 187 188 THE LETTER OF BARNABAS The Letter of Barnabas was much read in the second and third centuries, and is quoted by the name of Barnabas by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen. This connection with writers of Alexandria suggests that this city is the probable place of its origin. Its peculiar method of interpreting the Old Testament has been called the allegorical method, proper to the Alexandrian School. It should rather be called a rabbinical method or a cabbalistic method. It finds a hidden meaning, not simply in certain sentences and words, but even under the single letters of certain words. The author's familiarity with the Old Testament suggests that he might have been a rabbi or rabbinical student. He was almost surely a convert from Judaism. The announced purpose of the 'epistle' is to warn Christian readers against accepting the Old Testament in its literal sense, particul'arly where that meaning seems to indicate the permanent validity of Jewish religious practices. The writer's tone is strong, but not bitter. There is no reference to any contemporary difficulty with the Jews, but the writer sets up as a thesis that the revelations in the Old Testament were misunderstood by the Jews from the beginning. The thesis, of course, is false, and the method of proof is extremely tortuous. This accounts for the difficulty of reading this epistle and for its many obscurities of meaning. Copyists have increased this difficulty by numerous attempts to correct it. To understand the writer's difficulty, we must remember that the divinely inspired Scriptures known to Christians at the moment were only the Old Testament, the writings of the New Testament not being yet collected into a canon. As the Jews were in possession of this Bible, and as its promises were quite plainly made to them, many uninstructed Christians were at a loss to understand their own relation to it. Some of them, as the heretic Marcion, threw the Old Testament over INTRODUCTION 189 altogether. Others, like Barnabas, relying on their own imagination , simply read an unhistorical meaning into it. But the Church, not forgetting that the Jews were the Chosen People and that the Savior would come from them, knew that the Old Testament was not a complete revelation, but only a preparation for the salvation, not only of a Chosen People, but of the whole world. The text followed in the present translation is that of Bihlmeyer , Die apostolischen Vater (Tiibingen 1924). Mention should be made of the English rendering of Kirsopp Lake, which in many instances has been of service. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Texts al1d Tram/ations: K. Bihlmeyer. Die apostolischen Vater, Neubearbeitung der FunkĀ· schen Ausgabe (Tiibingen 1924). G. Bosio, I Padri Apostolici, (Torino 1940) Parte 1. T. Klauser. Doctrina duodecim Apostolorum; Barnabae epistula (Florilegium Patristieum...


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