The Epistle of Barnabas
Written by: Unknown Posted on: 04/28/2004
THE EPISTLE OF BARNABAS
Translated by J.B. Lightfoot.
Adapt. and mod. (c) 1990. ATHENA DATA PRODUCTS
I Bid you greeting, sons and daughters, in the name of the Lord that
loved us, in peace.
Seeing that the ordinances of God are great and rich unto you, I
rejoice with an exceeding great and overflowing joy at your blessed
and glorious spirits; so innate is the grace of the spiritual gift
that ye have received.
Wherefore also I the more congratulate myself hoping to be saved, for
that I truly see the Spirit poured out among you from the riches of
the fount of the Lord. So greatly did the much-desired sight of you
astonish me respecting you.
Being therefore persuaded of this, and being conscious with myself
that having said much among you I know that the Lord journeyed with
me on the way of righteousness, and am wholly constrained also myself
to this, to love you more than my own soul (for great faith and love
dwelleth in you through the hope of the life which is
His)--considering this therefore, that,
if it shall be my care to communicate to you some portion of that
which I received, it shall turn to my reward for having ministered to
such spirits, I was eager to send you a trifle, that along with your
faith ye might have your knowledge also perfect.
Well then, there are three ordinances of the Lord; *the hope of life,
which is the beginning and end of our faith; and righteousness, which
is the beginning and end of judgment; love shown in gladness and
exultation, the testimony of works of righteousness.*
For the Lord made known to us by His prophets things past and
present, giving us likewise the firstfruits of the taste of things
future. And seeing each of these things severally coming to pass,
according as He spake, we ought to offer a richer and higher offering
to the fear of Him. But I, not as though I were a teacher, but as
one of yourselves, will show forth a few things, whereby ye shall be
gladdened in the present circumstances.
Seeing then that the days are evil, and that the Active One himself
has the authority, we ought to give heed to ourselves and to seek out
the ordinances of the Lord.
The aids of our faith then are fear and patience, and our allies are
long-suffering and self-restraint.
While these abide in a pure spirit in matters relating to the Lord,
wisdom, understanding, science, knowledge rejoice with them.
For He hath made manifest to us by all the prophets that He wanteth
neither sacrifices nor whole burnt offerings nor oblations, saying at
What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices, saith the Lord I am
full of whole burnt-offerings, and the fat of lambs and the blood
of bulls and of goats desire not, not though ye should come to be
seen of Me. or who required these things at your hands? Ye shall
continue no more to tread My court. If ye bring fine flour, it is
in vain; incense is an abomination to Me; your new moons and your
Sabbaths I cannot away with.
These things therefore He annulled, that the new law of our Lord
Jesus Christ, being free from the yoke of constraint, might have its
oblation not made by human hands.
And He saith again unto them; Did command your fathers when they
went forth from the land of Egypt to bring Me whole burnt offerings
Nay, this was My command unto them, Let none of you bear a grudge
of evil against his neighbor in his heart, and love you not a false
So we ought to perceive, unless we are without understanding, the
mind of the goodness of our Father; for He speaketh to us, desiring
us not to go astray like them but to seek how we may approach Him.
Thus then speaketh He to us; The sacrifice unto God is a broken
heart, the smell of a sweet savor unto the Lord is a heart that
glorifies its Maker. We ought therefore, brethren, to learn
accurately concerning our salvation, lest the Evil One having
effected an entrance of error in us should fling us away from our
He speaketh again therefore to them concerning these things;
Wherefore fast ye for Me, saith the Lord, so that your voice is
heard this day crying aloud? This is not the fast which have chosen,
saith the Lord; not a man abasing his soul;
not though ye should bend your neck as a hoop, and put on sackcloth
and make your bed of ashes, not even so shall ye call a fast that is
But unto us He saith; Behold, this is the fast which I have chosen,
saith the Lord; loosen every band of wickedness, untie the
tightened cords of forcible contracts, send away the broken ones
released and tear in pieces every unjust bond. Break thy bread to
the hungry, and if thou seest one naked clothe him; bring the
shelterless into thy house, and if thou seest a humble man, thou
shalt not despise him, neither shall any one of thy household and
of thine own seed.
Then shall thy light break forth in the morning, and thy healing
shall arise quickly, and righteousness shall go forth before thy
face, and the glory of God shall environ thee.
Then shalt thou cry out and God shall hear thee; while thou art
still speaking, He shall say 'Lo, I am here'; if thou shalt take
away from thee the yoke and the stretching forth of the finger and
the word of murmuring, and shalt give thy bread to the hungry
heartily, and shalt pity the abased soul.
To this end therefore, my brethren, He that is long-suffering,
foreseeing that the people whom He had prepared in His well-beloved
would believe in simplicity, manifested to us beforehand concerning
all things, that we might not as novices shipwreck ourselves upon
It behooves us therefore to investigate deeply concerning the
present, and to search out the things which have power to save us.
Let us therefore flee altogether from all the works of lawlessness,
lest the works of lawlessness overpower us; and let us loathe the
error of the present time, that we may be loved for that which is to
Let us give no relaxation to our soul that it should have liberty to
consort with sinners and wicked men, lest haply we be made like unto
The last offence is at hand, concerning which the scripture speaketh,
as Enoch saith. For to this end the Master hath cut the seasons and
the days short, that His beloved might hasten and come to His
And the prophet also speaketh on this wise; Ten reigns shall reign
upon the earth, and after them shall arise another king, who shall
bring low three of the kings under one.
In like manner Daniel speaketh concerning the same; And I saw the
forth beast to be wicked and strong and more intractable than all
the beasts of the earth, and how there arose from him ten horns,
and from these a little horn and excrescence, and how that it
abased under one three of the great horns.
Ye ought therefore to understand. Moreover I ask you this one thing
besides, as being one of yourselves and loving you all in particular
more than my own soul, to give heed to yourselves now, and not to
liken yourselves to certain persons who pile up sin upon sin, saying
that our covenant remains to them also.
Ours it is; but they lost it in this way for ever, when Moses had
just received it. For the scripture saith; And Moses was in the
mountain fasting forty days and forty nights, and he received the
covenant from the Lord, even tablets of stone written with the
finger of the hand of the Lord.
But they lost it by turning unto idols. For thus saith the Lord;
Moses, Moses, come down quickly; for thy people whom thou
broughtest out of the land of Egypt hath done unlawfully. And
Moses understood, and threw the two tables from his hands; and their
covenant was broken in pieces, that the covenant of the beloved Jesus
might be sealed unto our hearts in the hope which springeth from
faith in Him.
But though I would fain write many things, not as a teacher, but as
becometh one who loveth you not to fall short of that which we
possess, I was anxious to write to you, being your devoted slave.
Wherefore let us take heed in these last days. For the whole time of
our faith shall profit us nothing, unless we now, in the season of
lawlessness and in the offenses that shall be, as becometh sons of
God, offer resistance, that the Black One may not effect an entrance.
Let us flee from all vanity, let us entirely hate the works of the
evil way. Do not entering in privily stand apart by yourselves, as
if ye were already justified, but assemble yourselves together and
consult concerning the common welfare.
For the scripture saith; Woe unto them that are wise for
themselves, and understanding in their own sight. Let us become
spiritual, let us become a temple perfect unto God. As far as in us
lies, let us exercise ourselves in the fear of God, [and] let us
strive to keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His
The Lord judgeth the world without respect of persons; each man shall
receive according to his deeds. If he be good, his righteousness
shall go before him in the way; if he be evil, the recompense of his
evil-doing is before him; lest perchance,
if we relax as men that are called, we should slumber over our sins,
and the prince of evil receive power against us and thrust us out
from the kingdom of the Lord.
Moreover understand this also, my brothers. When ye see that after
so many signs and wonders wrought in Israel, even then they were
abandoned, let us give heed, lest haply we be found, as the scripture
saith, many are called but few are chosen.
For to this end the Lord endured to deliver His flesh unto
corruption, that by the remission of sins we might be cleansed, which
cleansing is through the blood of His sprinkling.
For the scripture concerning Him containeth some things relating to
Israel, and some things relating to us. And it speaketh thus; He
was wounded for your transgressions, and He hath been bruised for
our sins; by His stripes we were healed. As a sheep He was led to
slaughter, as a lamb is dumb before his shearer.
We ought therefore to be very thankful unto the Lord, for that He
both revealed unto us the past, and made us wise in the present, and
as regards the future we are not without understanding.
Now the scripture saith; Not unjustly is the net spread for the
birds. He meaneth this that a man shall justly perish, who having
the knowledge of the way of righteousness forceth himself into the
way of darkness.
There is yet this also, my brethren; if the Lord endured to suffer
for our souls, though He was Lord of the whole world, unto whom God
said from the foundation of the world, Let us make man after our
image and likeness, how then did He endure to suffer at the hand
Understand ye. The prophets, receiving grace from Him, prophesied
concerning Him. But He Himself endured that He might destroy death
and show forth the resurrection of the dead, for that He must needs
be manifested in the flesh;
that at the same time He might redeem the promise made to the
fathers, and by preparing the new people for Himself might show,
while He was on earth, that having brought about the resurrection He
will Himself exercise judgment.
Yea and further, He preached teaching Israel and performing so many
wonders and miracles, and He loved him exceedingly.
And when He chose His own apostles who were to proclaim His Gospel,
who that He might show that He came not to call the righteous but
sinners were sinners above every sin, then He manifested Himself
to be the Son of God.
For if He had not come in the flesh neither would men have looked
upon Him and been saved, forasmuch as when they look upon the sun
that shall cease to be, which is the work of His own hands, they
cannot face its rays.
Therefore the Son of God came in the flesh to this end, that He might
sum up the complete tale of their sins against those who persecuted
and slew His prophets.
To this end therefore He endured. For God saith of the wounds of His
flesh that they came from them; When they shall smite their own
shepherd, then shall the sheep of the flock be lost.
But He Himself desired so to suffer; for it was necessary for Him to
suffer on a tree. For he that prophesied said concerning Him, Spare
My soul form the sword; and, Pierce My flesh with nails, for the
congregations of evil-doers have risen up against Me.
And again He saith; Behold I have given My back to stripes, and My
cheeks to smitings, and My face did I set as a hard rock.
When then He gave the commandment, what saith He? Who is he that
disputeth with Me? Let him oppose Me. Or who is he that goeth to
law with Me? Let him draw nigh unto the servant of the Lord,
Woe unto you, for ye all shall wax old as a garment, and the moth
shall consume you. And again the prophet saith, seeing that as a
hard stone He was ordained for crushing; Behold I will put into the
fountains of Zion a stone very precious, elect, a chief
Then again what saith He; And whosoever shall set his hope on Him,
shall live forever. Is our hope then set upon a stone? Far be it.
But it is because the Lord hath set His flesh in strength. For He
saith; And He set Me as a hard rock.
And the prophet saith again; The stone which the builders rejected,
this became the head and the corner. And again He saith; This is
the great and wonderful day, which the Lord made.
I write to you the more simply, that ye may understand, I who am the
offscouring of your love.
What then saith the prophet again? The assembly of evildoers
gathered around Me, they surrounded Me as bees surround a comb;
and; For My garment they cast a lot.
Forasmuch then as He was about to be manifested in the flesh and to
suffer, His suffering was manifested beforehand. For the prophet
saith concerning Israel; Woe unto their soul, for they have
counseled evil counsel against themselves saying, Let us bind the
righteous one, for he is unprofitable for us.
What sayeth the other prophet Moses unto them? Behold, these things
saith the Lord God; enter into the good land which the Lord swear
unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and inherit it, a land flowing with
milk and honey.
But what saith knowledge? Understand ye. Set your hope on Him who
is about to be manifested to you in the flesh, even Jesus. For man
is earth suffering; for from the face of the earth came the creation
What then saith He? Into the good land, a land flowing with milk
and honey. Blessed is our Lord, brethren, who established among us
wisdom and understanding of His secret things. For the prophet
speaketh a parable concerning the Lord. Who shall comprehend, save
he that is wise and prudent and that loveth his Lord?
Forasmuch then as He renewed us in the remission of sins, He made us
to be a new type, so that we should have the soul of children, as if
He were recreating us.
For the scripture saith concerning us, how He saith to the Son; Let
us make man after our image and after our likeness, and let them
rule over the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the heaven and
the fishes of the sea. And the Lord said when He saw the fair
creation of us men; Increase and multiply and fill the earth.
These words refer to the Son.
Again I will shew thee how the Lord speaketh concerning us. He made
a second creation at the last; and the Lord saith; Behold I make
the last things as the first. In reference to this then the
prophet preached; Enter into a land flowing with milk and honey,
and be lords over it.
Behold then we have been created anew, as He saith again in another
prophet; Behold, saith the Lord, I will take out from these, that
is to say, from those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw, their
stony hearts, and will put into them hearts of flesh; for He
Himself was to be manifested in the flesh and to dwell in us.
For a holy temple unto the Lord, my brethren, is the abode of our
For the Lord saith again; For wherein shall I appear unto the Lord
my God and be glorified? I will make confession unto Thee in the
assembly of my brethren, and I will sing unto Thee in the midst of
the assembly of the saints. We therefore are they whom He brought
into the good land.
What then is the milk and the honey Because the child is first kept
alive by honey, and then by milk. So in like manner we also, being
kept alive by our faith in the promise and by the word, shall live
and be lords of the earth.
Now we have already said above; And let them increase and multiply
and rule over the fishes. But who is he that is able [now] to rule
over beasts and fishes and fowls of the heaven; for we ought to
perceive that to rule implieth power, so that one should give orders
and have dominion.
If then this cometh not to pass now, assuredly He spake to us for the
hereafter, when we ourselves shall be made perfect so that we may
become heirs of the covenant of the Lord.
Understand therefore, children of gladness, that the good Lord
manifested all things to us beforehand, that we might know to whom we
ought in all things to render thanksgiving and praise.
If then the Son of God, being Lord and future Judge of quick and
dead, suffered that His wound might give us life, let us believe that
the Son of God could not suffer except for our sakes.
But moreover when crucified He had vinegar and gall given Him to
drink. Hear how on this matter the priests of the temple have
revealed. Seeing that there is a commandment in scripture,
Whatsoever shall not observe the fast shall surely die, the Lord
commanded, because He was in His own person about to offer the vessel
of His Spirit a sacrifice for our sins, that the type also which was
given in Isaac who was offered upon the alter should be fulfilled.
What then saith He in the prophet? And let them eat of the goat
that is offered at the fast for all their sins. Attend carefully;
And let all the priests alone eat the entrails unwashed with
Wherefore? Since ye are to give Me, who am to offer My flesh for the
sins of My new people, gall with vinegar to drink, eat ye alone,
while the people fasteth and waileth in sackcloth and ashes; that He
might shew that He must suffer at their hands.
Attend ye to the commandments which He gave. Take two goats, fair
and alike, and offer them, and let the priest take the one for a
whole burnt offering for sins.
But the other one--what must they do with it? Accursed, saith He,
is the one. Give heed how the type of Jesus is revealed.
And do ye all spit upon it and goad it, and place scarlet wool
about its head, and so let it be cast into the wilderness. And
when it is so done, he that taketh the goat into the wilderness
leadeth it, and taketh off the wool, and putteth it upon the branch
which is called Rachia, the same whereof we are wont to eat the
shoots when we find them in the country. Of this briar alone is the
fruit thus sweet.
What then meaneth this? Give heed. The one at the alter, and the
other accursed. And moreover the accursed one crowned. For they
shall see Him in that day wearing the long scarlet robe about His
flesh, and shall say, Is not this He, Whom once we crucified and set
at nought and spat upon; verily this was He, Who then said that He
was the Son of God.
For how is He like the goat? For this reason it says the goats
shall be fair and alike, that, when they shall see Him coming
then, they may be astonished at the likeness of the goat. Therefore
behold the type of Jesus that was to suffer.
But what meaneth it, that they place the wool in the midst of the
thorns? It is a type of Jesus set forth for the Church, since
whosoever should desire to take away the scarlet wool it behoved him
to suffer many things owing to the terrible nature of the thorn, and
through affliction to win the mastery over it. Thus, He saith, they
that desire to see Me, and to attain unto My kingdom, must lay hold
on Me through tribulation and affliction.
But what think ye meaneth the type, where the commandment is given
to Israel that those men, whose sins are full grown, offer an heifer
and slaughter and burn it, and then that the children take up the
ashes, and cast them into vessels, and twist the scarlet wool on a
tree (see here again is the type of the cross and the scarlet wool),
and the hyssop, and that this done the children should sprinkle the
people one by one, that they may be purified from their sins?
Understand ye how in all plainness it is spoken unto you; the calf is
Jesus, the men that offer it, being sinners, are they that offered
Him for the slaughter. After this it is no more men (who offer); the
glory is no more for sinners.
The children who sprinkle are they that preached unto us the
forgiveness of sins and the purification of our heart, they to whom,
being twelve in number for a testimony unto the tribes (for there are
twelve tribes of Israel), He gave authority over the Gospel, that
they should preach it.
But wherefore are the children that sprinkle three in number? For a
testimony unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because these are mighty
Then there is the placing the wool on the tree. This means that the
kingdom of Jesus is on the cross, and that they who set their hope on
Him shall live for ever.
And why is there the wool and the hyssop at the same time? Because
in His kingdom there shall be evil and foul days, in which we shall
be saved; for he who suffers pain in the flesh is healed through the
foulness of the hyssop.
Now to us indeed it is manifest that these things so befell for this
reason, but to them they were dark, because they heard not the voice
of the Lord.
Furthermore He saith concerning the ears, how that it is our heart
which He circumcised. The Lord saith in the prophet; With the
hearing of the ears they listened to Me. And again He saith;
They that are afar off shall hear with their ears, and shall
perceive what I have done. And; Be ye circumcised in your
hearts, saith the Lord.
And again He saith; Hear, O Israel, for thus saith the Lord thy
God. Who is he that desireth to live forever, let him hear with his
ears the voice of My servant.
And again He saith; Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the
Lord hath spoken these things for a testimony. And again He saith;
Hear the words of the Lord, ye rulers of this people. And again He
saith; Hear, O my children, the voice of one crying in the
wilderness. Therefore He circumcised our ears, that hearing the
word we might believe.
But moreover the circumcision, in which they have confidence, is
abolished; for He hath said that a circumcision not of the flesh
should be practiced. But they transgressed, for an evil angel taught
He saith unto them; Thus saith the Lord your God (so I find the
commandment); sow not upon thorns, be ye circumcised in to your
Lord. And what saith He? Be ye circumcised in the hardness of
your heart; and then ye will not harden your neck. Take this
again; Behold, sayith the Lord, all the Gentiles are uncircumcised
in their foreskin, but this people is uncircumcised in their
But thou wilt say; In truth the people hath been circumcised for a
seal. Nay, but so likewise is every Syrian and Arabian and all the
priests of the idols. Do all those then too belong to their
covenant? Moreover the Egyptians also are included among the
Learn therefore, children of love, concerning all things abundantly,
that Abraham, who first appointed circumcision, looked forward in the
spirit unto Jesus, when he circumcised having received the ordinances
of three letters.
For the scripture saith; And Abraham circumcised of his household
eighteen males and three hundred. What then was the knowledge
given unto him? Understand ye that He saith the eighteen first,
and then after an interval three hundred In the eighteen 'I'
stands for ten, 'H' for eight. Here thou hast JESUS (IHSOYS). And
because the cross in the 'T' was to have grace, He saith also three
hundred. So He revealeth Jesus in the two letters, and in the
remaining one the cross.
He who placed within us the innate gift of His covenant knoweth; no
man hath ever learnt from me a more genuine word; but I know that ye
But forasmuch as Moses said; Ye shall not eat seine nor eagle nor
falcon nor crow nor any fish which hath no scale upon it, he
received in his understanding three ordinances.
Yea and further He saith unto them in Deuteronomy; And I will lay
as a covenant upon this people My ordinances. So then it is not a
commandment of God that they should not bite with their teeth, but
Moses spake it in spirit.
Accordingly he mentioned the swine with this intent. Thou shalt not
cleave, saith he, to such men who are like unto swine; that is, when
they are in luxury they forget the Lord, but when they are in want
they recognize the Lord, just as the swine when it eateth knoweth not
his lord, but when it is hungry it crieth out, and when it has
received food again it is silent.
Neither shalt thou eat eagle nor falcon nor kite nor crow. Thou
shalt not, He saith, cleave unto, or be likened to, such men who now
not how to provide food for themselves by toil and sweat, but in
their lawlessness seize what belongeth to others, and as if they were
walking in guilelessness watch and search about for some one to rob
in their rapacity, just as these birds alone do not provide food for
themselves, but sit idle and seek how they may eat the meat that
belongeth to others, being pestilent in their evil-doings.
And thou shalt not eat, saith He, lamprey nor polypus nor cuttle
fish . Thou shalt not, He meaneth, become like unto such men, who
are desperately wicked, and are already condemned to death, just as
these fishes alone are accursed and swim in the depths, not swimming
on the surface like the rest, but dwell on the ground beneath the
Moreover thou shalt not eat the hare. Why so? Thou shalt not be
found a corrupter of boys, nor shalt thou become like such persons;
for the hare gaineth one passage in the body every year; for
according to the number of years it lives it has just so many
Again, neither shalt thou eat the hyena; thou shalt not, saith He,
become an adulterer or a fornicator, neither shalt thou resemble such
persons. Why so? Because this animal changeth its nature year by
year, and becometh at one time male and at another female.
Moreover He hath hated the weasel also and with good reason. Thou
shalt not, saith He, become such as those men of whom we hear as
working iniquity with their mouth for uncleanness, neither shalt thou
cleave unto impure women who work iniquity with their mouth. For
this animal conceiveth with its mouth.
Concerning meats then Moses received three decrees to this effect and
uttered them in a spiritual sense; but they accepted them according
to the lust of the flesh, as though they referred to eating.
And David also receiveth knowledge of the same three decrees, and
saith; Blessed is the man who hath not gone in the council of the
ungodly--even as the fishes go in darkness into the depths; and
hath not stood in the path of sinners--just as they who pretend to
fear the Lord sin like swine; and hath not sat on the seat of the
destroyers--as the birds that are seated for prey. Ye have now the
complete lesson concerning eating.
Again Moses saith; Ye shall everything that divideth the hoof and
cheweth the cud. What meaneth he? He that receiveth the food
knoweth Him that giveth him the food, and being refreshed appeareth
to rejoice in him. Well said he, having regard to the commandment.
What then meaneth he? Cleave unto those that fear the Lord, with
those who meditate in their heart on the distinction of the word
which they have received, with those who tell of the ordinances of
the Lord and keep them, with those who know that meditation is a work
of gladness and who chew the cud of the word of the Lord. But why
that which divideth the hoof? Because the righteous man both walketh
in this world, and at the same time looketh for the holy world to
come. Ye see how wise a lawgiver Moses was.
But whence should they perceive or understand these things? Howbeit
we having justly perceived the commandments tell them as the Lord
willed. To this end He circumcised our ears and hearts, that we
might understand these things.
But let us enquire whether the Lord took care to signify before hand
concerning the water and the cross. Now concerning the water it is
written in reference to Israel, how that th
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