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    CHAPTER V. THE “EPISTLE OF BARNABAS.”

    The famous essay on “Snakes in Ireland” consisted of but three words, namely, “There are none.” In like manner might we dispose of the so-called “Epistle of Barnabas,” for there is no such thing. In proof of this statement we offer the following testimony:—
    “An epistle has come down to us bearing the name of Barnabas, but clearly not written by him.... The writer evidently was unacquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures, and has committed the blunder of supposing that Abraham was familiar with the Greek alphabet some centuries before it existed.”—McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia, art. Barnabas, Epistle of.
    FACC 74.1

    The “Encyclopedia Britannica” says:—
    “The internal evidence is conclusive against its genuineness.”
    FACC 74.2

    Mosheim says:—
    “The epistle that has come down to us with the name of Barnabas affixed to it, and which consists of two parts, the one comprising proofs of the divinity of the Christian religion derived from the books of the Old Testament, the other, a collection of moral precepts, is unquestionably a composition of great antiquity, but we are left in uncertainty as to its author. For as to what is suggested by some, of its having been written by that Barnabas who was the friend and companion of St. Paul, the futility of such a notion is easily to be made apparent from the letter itself; several of the opinions and interpretations of Scripture which it contains, having in in them so little of either truth, dignity, or force, as to render it impossible that they could ever have proceeded from the pen of a man divinely instructed.”—Eccl. Com., cent. 1, sec. 53.
    FACC 74.3

    Neander says:—
    “It is impossible that we should acknowledge this epistle to belong to that Barnabas, who was worthy to be the companion of the apostolic labors of St. Paul, and had received his name from the power of his animated discourses in the churches. We find a different spirit breathing throughout it, than that of such an apostolic man. We perceive in it a Jew of Alexandrian education, who had embraced Christianity, who was prepared by his Alexandrian education for a spiritual conception of Christianity; but who set too high a value on his Alexandrian and Jewish Gnosis, who looked for especial wisdom in a mystical and fanciful interpretation of the Old Testament, more resembling the spirit of Philo than that of St. Paul, or even that of the epistle to the Hebrews, and who indulged himself in such interpretations in a silly manner.”—P.407.
    FACC 75.1

    In his “Ecclesiastical History,” Mosheim again says:—
    “The epistle of Barnabas as it is called, was, in my judgment, the production of some Jewish Christian who lived in this century [the first] or the next, who had no bad intentions, but possessed little genius and was infected with the fabulous opinions of the Jews. He was clearly a different person from Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul.”—Book 1, cent. 1, part 2, chap. 2, sec. 21.
    FACC 75.2

    Yet so little is really known of the one who really wrote this epistle that while these writers suppose him to have been a Jew, and of the first century, the “Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia” says:—
    “The opinion to-day is, that Barnabas was not the author. The epistle was probably written in Alexandria, at the beginning of the second century, and by a Gentile Christian.”
    FACC 75.3

    Dr. Schaff, in his “History of the Christian Church” (section 121), says:—
    “The writings which have come down to us under the names of Barnabas and Hermas are of uncertain origin, and inferior to the other productions of the Apostolic Fathers in matter as well as in sound simplicity, and contain many elements which we must ascribe to a later generation.”
    FACC 76.1

    “A genuine production of Barnabas would doubtless have found a place in the Canon, with the writings of Mark and Luke, and the epistle to the Hebrews. Besides, the contents of this epistle are not worthy of him. It has many good ideas, and valuable testimonies, such as that in favor of the observance of the Christian Sabbath. But it goes to extremes in opposition to Judaism, and indulges in all sorts of artificial, sometimes absurd, allegorical fancies.”FACC 76.2

    To be sure he does, but what of it? What if the epistle is a forgery made by some unknown and irresponsible person? What if its writer was an ignoramus who indulged in the most absurd fancies? So long as it gives “valuable testimonies” in favor of the observance of the “Christian Sabbath,” it will undoubtedly be considered worthy of an honored place in “Christian literature.” The friends of the Sunday sabbath could not make a more perfect exhibit of the scarcity of argument in its behalf, than by saying that the so-called “Epistle of Barnabas” contains “valuable testimonies” in its favor. How valuable those testimonies are we shall soon see.FACC 76.3

    Kitto’s “Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge” (article Barnabas) says of the writer of this epistle:— “He makes unauthorized additions to various parts of the Jewish Cultus; his views of the Old Economy are confused and erroneous; and he adopts a mode of interpretation countenanced by none of the inspired writers, and to the last degree puerile and absurd. The inference is unavoidable, that Barnabas, ‘the son of prophecy,’ ‘the man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith,’ was not the author of this epistle.”FACC 76.4

    And in the article on “The Lord’s Day,” the so-called Epistle of Barnabas is spoken of as “probably a forgery of the second century.”FACC 77.1

    Bishop Arthur Cleveland Coxe, in his introductory note to the epistle as published by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, says:—
    “The writer of this epistle is supposed to have been an Alexandrian Jew of the times of Trajan and Hadrian. He was a layman; but possibly he bore the name of ‘Barnabas,’ and so has been confounded with his holy apostolic name-sire.”
    FACC 77.2

    And the original introductory note by the translators of the epistle for the Edinburgh edition, contains the following:—
    “Nothing certain is known as to the author of the following epistle. The writer’s name is Barnabas, but scarcely any scholars now ascribe it to the illustrious friend and companion of St. Paul.... On perusing the epistle, the reader will be in circumstances to judge of this matter for himself. He will be led to consider whether the spirit and tone of the writing, as so decidedly opposed to all respect for Judaism—the numerous inaccuracies which it contains with respect to Mosaic enactments and observances—the absurd and trifling interpretations of Scripture which it suggests—and the many silly vaunts of superior knowledge in which its writer indulges—can possibly comport with its ascription to the fellow-laborer of St. Paul. When it is remembered that no one ascribes the epistle to the apostolic Barnabas till the times of Clement of Alexandria, and that it is ranked by Eusebius among the ‘spurious’ writings, which, however much known and read in the church, were never regarded as authoritative, little doubt can remain that the external evidence is of itself weak, and should not make us hesitate for a moment in refusing to ascribe this writing to Barnabas the apostle.... In point of style, both as respects thought and expression, a very low place must be assigned it. We know nothing certain of the region in which the author lived, or where the first readers were to be found.”
    FACC 77.3

    It will now be in place to quote a few passages from the famous document, that our readers may judge for themselves of its character. And first we shall quote the “valuable testimonies” “in favor of the observance” of Sunday. All that is said on this subject is contained in chapter 15 of the epistle, which we quote entire:—
    “Further, also, it is written concerning the Sabbath in the decalogue which (the Lord) spoke, face to face, to Moses on Mount Sinai, ‘And sanctify ye the Sabbath of the Lord with clean hands and a pure heart.’ And he says in another place, ‘If my sons keep the Sabbath, then will I cause my mercy to rest upon them.’ The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation (thus): ‘And God made in six days the works of his hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.’ Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, ‘He finished in six days.’ This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with him a thousand years. And he himself testified, saying, ‘Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years.’ Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. ‘And he rested on the seventh day.’ This meaneth: when his Son, coming (again), shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day. Moreover, he says, ‘Thou shalt sanctify it with pure hands and a pure heart.’ If, therefore, anyone can now sanctify the day which God has sanctified, except he is pure in heart in all things, we are deceived. Behold, therefore: certainly then one properly resting sanctifies it, when we ourselves, having received the promise, wickedness no longer existing, and all things having been made new by the Lord, shall be able to work righteousness. Then we shall be able to sanctify it, having been first sanctified ourselves. Further, he says to them, ‘Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot endure.’ Ye perceive how he speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but that is which I have made (namely this), when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when he had manifested himself, he ascended into the heavens.”
    FACC 78.1

    That is the whole of it. It is useless to try to analyze it, because it doesn’t mean anything. The writer misquotes Scripture, and manufacturers it when he doesn’t find any to suit his purpose. He also allegorizes the plainest statements of fact, and strings words together in such a way as to defy comprehension by the most acute grammarian. But all of this can be overlooked so long as he mentions the “eight day,” and thus furnishes “valuable testimony” for the observance of Sunday.FACC 79.1

    This chapter alone sufficiently proves the truth of the statement that the epistle contains “absurd and trifling interpretations of Scripture,” but we will give a few more instances. In the last part of chapter 9 there is some information which the writer of the epistle considered the most valuable of any he had to bestow. We quote:—“Learn then, my children, concerning all things richly, that Abraham, the first who enjoined circumcision, looking forward in spirit to Jesus, practiced that rite, having received the mysteries of the three letters. For (the Scripture) saith, ‘And Abraham circumcised ten, and eight, and three hundred men of his household.’ What, then, was the knowledge given to him in this? Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred. The ten and the eight are thus donated—Ten by I, and eight by H. You have (the initials of the name of) Jesus. And because the cross was to express the grace (of our redemption) by the letter T, he says also, ‘Three Hundred.’ He signifies, therefore, Jesus by two letters, and the cross by one. He knows this, who has put within us the engrafted gift of his doctrine. No one has been admitted by me to a more excellent piece of knowledge than this, but I know that ye are worthy.”FACC 79.2

    This is truly an astonishing and most excellent piece of information! Archdeacon Farrar says of it:—
    “It never even occurred to Barnabas or to any who adopted this singular specimen of exposition that there was any absurdity in attributing to a Chaldean Emir an application of mystic processes and numerical values to the letters of an alphabet which had no existence till hundreds of years after he had returned to dust.”—History of Interpretation, p. 168.
    FACC 80.1

    But although the egotistical pseudo-Barnabas considered this the most “excellent piece of knowledge” that he had condescended to share with the common crowd, the chapter immediately following (chapter 10) certainly surpasses it in that sort of wisdom. Although it is quite long, we quote the whole of it, that the reader may see the caliber of the man who wrote this epistle.FACC 80.2

    The chapter is entitled, “Spiritual Significance of the Precepts of Moses Respecting Different Kinds of Food,” and reads as follows:—“Now, wherefore did Moses say, ‘Thou shalt not eat the swine, nor the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the raven, nor any fish which is not possessed of scales’? He embraced three doctrines in his mind (in doing so). Moreover, the Lord saith to them in Deuteronomy, ‘And I will establish my ordinances among this people.’ Is there then not a command of God that they should not eat (these things)? There is, but Moses spoke with a spiritual reference. For this reason he named the swine, as much as to say, ‘Thou shalt not join thyself to men who resemble swine.’ For when they live in pleasure, they forget their Lord; but when they come to want, they acknowledge the Lord. And (in like manner) the swine, when it has eaten, does not recognize its master; but when hungry it cries out, and on receiving food is quiet again. ‘Neither shalt thou eat,’ says he, ‘the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the kite, nor the raven.’ ‘Thou shalt not join thyself,’ he means, ‘to such men as know not how to procure food for themselves by labor and sweat, but seize on that of others in their iniquity, and although wearing an aspect of simplicity, are on the watch to plunder others.’ So these birds, while they sit idle, inquire how they may devour the flesh of others, proving themselves pests (to all) by their wickedness. ‘And thou shalt not eat,’ he says, ‘the lamprey, or the polypus, or the cuttle-fish.’ He means, ‘Thou shalt not join thyself or be like to such men as are ungodly to the end, and are condemned to death.’ In like manner as those fishes, above accursed, float in the deep, not swimming (on the surface) like the rest, but make their abode in the mud which lies at the bottom. Moreover, ‘Thou shalt not,’ he says, ‘eat the hare.’ Wherefore? ‘Thou shalt not be a corrupter of boys, nor like unto such.’ Because the hare multiplies, year by year, the places of its conception; for as many years as it lives so many [places of conception] it has. Moreover, ‘Thou shalt not eat the hyena.’ He means, ‘Thou shalt not be an adulterer, nor a corrupter, nor be like to them that are such.’ Wherefore? Because that animal annually changes its sex, and is at one time male, and at another female. Moreover, he has rightly detested the weasel. For he means, ‘Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth, on account of their uncleanness; nor shalt thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth. For this animal conceives by the mouth.’ Moses then issued three doctrines concerning meats with a spiritual significance; but they received them according to fleshly desire, as if he had merely spoken of (literal) meats. David, however, comprehends the knowledge of the three doctrines, and speaks in like manner: ‘Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly,’ even as the fishes (referred to) go in darkness to the depths (of the sea); ‘and hath not stood in the way of sinners,’ even as those who profess to fear the Lord, but go astray like swine; ‘and hath not sat in the seat of scorners,’ even as those birds that lie in wait for prey. Take a full and firm grasp of this spiritual knowledge. But Moses says still further, ‘Ye shall eat every animal that is cloven-footed and ruminant.’ What does he mean? (The ruminant animal denotes him) who, on receiving food, recognizes him that nourishes him, and being satisfied by him, is visibly made glad. Well spake (Moses), having respect to the commandment. What, then, does he mean? That we ought to join ourselves to those that fear the Lord, those who meditate in their heart on the commandment which they have received, those who both utter the judgments of the Lord and observe them, those who know that meditation is a work of gladness, and who ruminate upon the word of the Lord. But what means the cloven-footed? That the righteous man also walks in this world, yet looks forward to the holy state (to come). Behold how well Moses legislated. But how was it possible for them to understand or comprehend these things? We then, rightly understanding his commandments, explain them as the Lord intended. For this purpose he circumcised our ears and our hearts, that we might understand these things.”FACC 81.1

    Such is the nature of this epistle which even to-day is quoted as containing valuable testimony in behalf of Sunday observance. Certainly the thoughtful reader cannot fail to see that scarcely any stronger indictment could be brought against the Sunday institution than the fact that it draws testimony for its support from such a source. It is true that Sunday advocates say that they do not depend upon this testimony; but we notice that they never fail to quote it. The simple knowledge that the so-called “Epistle of Barnabas” is quoted in behalf of any doctrine or practice, should be sufficient evidence that such doctrine or practice is unworthy of belief. With this we leave the pseudo-Barnabas.FACC 83.1

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