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The Epistle Of Barnabas

Alternate title: The General Epistle of Barnabas

c. 100-150 C.E.

The Epistle of Barnabas appears to have been written in response to a Jewish resurgence in the first half of the second century, no doubt kindled by Emperor Hadrian's sympathy toward the vanquished nation. The author, perhaps fearing a loss of Jewish converts, goes to great lengths to explain the Judaistic misconceptions about Old Testament scripture.

Nearly all of the Jewish customs have been allegorically interpreted in relation to Christ and the New Covenant. The sacrificing of animals was a representation of the suffering Christ; now, sacrifices should only occur in your lives and hearts. Fasting should be an abstention not from food but from sin and injustice. The temple is not a building but the body of the Church. And the Sabbath is held in expectation of the Parousia. The letter ends with an explanation of Christian lifestyle, most likely borrowed from the Didache.

The epistle was highly regarded in the early church, included in the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Hierosolymitanus, and believed authentic and canonical by Clement, Origen and Jerome, though Eusebius regarded it as apocryphal. However, the general message of the epistle was largely supplanted by the Epistle to the Hebrews, which has also been attributed to Barnabas. The companion of Paul was most likely not the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, given its date of composition and hostility toward Mosaic law.