Epistle of Barnabas

The Epistle of Barnabas is a signature example of the early Christianity, and belongs to the corpus of the Apostolic fathers. It is not a letter in the proper sense, but rather a theological treatise. As with the early church letters otherwise often the case, it is not addressed to a community. The author is not specified. The font should not be confused with the so-called " Gospel of Barnabas ".


The author of the letter is unknown. His name may have been Barnabas, but the association with the New Testament, Barnabas is ruled out, since the work was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, the apostle did not live to Barnabas. The writing is anti-Jewish and used widely in the popular Alexandria means of allegory, to substantiate his arguments. In addition, the letter is first mentioned in Alexandria. It is therefore assumed that he had originated there.

The Letter of Barnabas may be due to historical references (Chapter 16, verses 3-4) be dated securely to the period between the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem ( AD 70 ) and the Bar Kochba revolt ( in 132). A more precise dating will become more difficult, with some theologians assume a relatively early date ( end of the 1st to early 2nd century AD) due to lack of quotes from the canon of the New Testament. A short, isolated reference in chap. 4, verse 14 to the Gospel of Matthew, chap. 20, 16, 22, 14, also part of the then popular oral tradition can be. Such oral traditions are as in Sect. 7, 3, and 7, 5 can be seen.

Classification and criticism

The letter was some church fathers ( Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome) as canonical and is also in the Codex Sinaiticus included without distinction from the other canonical books of the New Testament. In contrast, Eusebius of Caesarea rejected the Epistle of Barnabas from as heretical (different from the church doctrine, heretical ), was because the Jewish doctrine just not outdated and superseded by the Christian. The Jewish doctrine is, however, as described in some of the Gospels and Acts, has only been fulfilled by Christ. Thus, the Letter of Barnabas contradicts crucial biblical teaching.

Textual tradition

The Greek text is completely preserved (4th century) and Codex Hierosolymitanus (11th century) in the Codex Sinaiticus. There is also a partially preserved, but inaccurate Latin translation from the 4th or 5th century and some later manuscripts.


The content is divided into two parts: a dogmatic and moral part. In the first section, the paper sets with the conflict between the old covenant (Judaism ) and the new covenant (Christianity) apart. The author endeavors to present as obsolete and superseded the Jewish doctrine of the Christian. The Jews would not properly understand the Old Testament because of their literal interpretation; the correct interpretation is allegorical. The assemblies of God on victims, circumcision and food were meant from the beginning in a higher, spiritual sense, their physical implementation was never God's will even in pre-Christian times. In addition, the Jews would not understand the Scripture, because " an evil angel she coaxed. " You are " not worthy " "because of their sins " of the covenant with God. So Jerusalem and Israel would be " given over to destruction. " This may be a response to a resurgence of Jewish communities after the destruction of the Temple. In this respect, the letter provides insight into the theological debates in the early church.

The second section describes how the Didache, the two-way teaching.

In the Epistle of Barnabas is found for the first time a theological reasons why Christians keep Sunday and not the Sabbath as a holiday: The eighth day is the first day of the New Creation, which began Easter on a Sunday.

The Epistle of Barnabas has a number of theological and linguistic parallels to the Hebrews, so that has been speculated on a common authorship.

It is also interesting that the Old Testament Apocrypha are considered canonical writings: In Chap. 4 verse 3 and Chap. 16, verse 5 is quoted from the Book of Enoch, and chap. 12, verse 1, quoted from the fourth book of Ezra.