In my last post but one, in starting to talk about why the anonymous Letter to Barnabas was attributed by early Christians to Barnabas, best known as a one of the closest companions of Paul, I talked mainly about the mid-second century philosopher/theologian-eventually-branded-arch-heretic Marcion. You may have wondered why. In this post I’ll tell you why.
VERY brief review. Recall, the letter of Barnabas is stridently anti-Jewish, claiming that the Jews never were the people of God because they had broken the covenant as soon as God had given it to them on Mount Sinai (by worshipping the Golden Calf); they misunderstood the law, taking it literally, when it was meant figuratively. Even though Jews never realized it, the OT was not a Jewish book but a Christian book, that not only anticipated Christ but proclaimed the Christian message. END of review….
The first explicit reference to this anonymous letter is in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, writing around 200 who quotes it and claims it was written by Barnabas, who, he indicates, was one of the seventy apostles sent out by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:1) and a later co-worker with Paul (thus Clement, Miscellanies [otherwise known as the Stromateis] 2.6, 31; 2.7, 35; and 2.20).
A couple of decades later the church father Origen named the letter as a “Catholic epistle” (Against Celsus 1. 63) and called it “divine scripture” (On First Principles 3, 2, 47). Just over a century or so after that it was included among the writings of the New Testament in the famous Codex Sinaiticus, also closely associated with Alexandria. Almost certainly neither Origen nor Sinaiticus would have accepted it into the canon of Scripture if they had not thought it had an apostolic origin.
And so in at least one part of the church – that connected with Alexandria – there were Christians who thought that the book was written by an apostle; and since it never has been known by any other name, it almost certainly was always associated with Barnabas.
But why Barnabas in particular?
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