AS AN AUTHOR.
works have been attributed to Barnabas:
another short work ,‘The Acts of Barnabas’, but it was not written by Barnabas.
The work itself claims of having been written by John Mark , the cousin of St.
Barnabas , which is evident from the following:
since I have zealously served Him, I have deemed it necessary to give an account
of the mysteries which I have heard and seen.
accompanying the holy apostles Barnabas and Paul, (....), for assuredly thy name
shall be changed to Mark, and thy glory shall be proclaimed in all the world.
claim is controversial and ‘The Acts of Barnabas’ is said to be doubtlessly
‘originated at the end of the 5th or in the beginning of the 6th century.’
Epistle to the Hebrews
This is a
canonical book and is the 19th title of the New Testament of the Bible. Its
authorship is a disputed question, as is elaborated in W. Barclay’s ‘The Daily
most insoluble problem of all is the problem of its authorship. (...). The
title in the earliest days was simply, ‘To the Hebrews.’ No author’s name was
given, no one connected it directly with the name of Paul. Clement of Alexandria
used to think that Paul might have written it in Hebrew and that Luke translated
it, for the style is quite different from that of Paul. Origen made a famous
remark, ‘Who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews only God knows for certain.’ (...).
Jerome said the Latin Church did not receive it as Paul’s and speaking of the
author said, ‘the writer to the Hebrews whoever he was.’ Augustine felt the same
way about it. Luther declared that Paul could never have written it because the
thought was not his. Calvin said that he could not bring himself to think that
this letter was a letter of Paul.
At no time in
the history of the Church did men ever really think that Paul wrote Hebrews.
Can we guess
who the author was? Many candidates have been put forward. We can only glance at
three of the many suggestions.
Tertullian thought that Barnabas wrote it. Barnabas was a native of Cyprus; the
people of Cyprus were famous for the excellence of the Greek they spoke; and
Hebrews is written in the best Greek in the New Testament. He was a Levite (Acts
4:36) and of all men in the New Testament he would have had the closest
knowledge of the priestly and sacrificial system on which the whole thought of
the letter is based. (...). He was one of the few men acceptable to both Jews
and Greeks and at home in both worlds of thought. It might be that Barnabas
wrote this letter, (...).
was sure that Apollos was the author. (....).
(iii) The most
romantic of all conjectures is that of Harnack, the great German scholar. He
thought that maybe Aquila and Priscilla wrote it between them.
Commentary on Holy Scripture’ has also dealt with the subject in a bit detail.
Some excerpts are given below:
His[author’s] great interest in the details of the Law, and especially the
details of sacrifice, make it almost certain that he was a ýJew, and probable
that he was of a priestly family or connexion. If a Jew, he was a Hellenistic
Jew and highly educated. The arrangement of his argument is in the best
rhetorical style of the day; his Greek in language, grammar, and syntax is the
best in the New Testament, (....). The nearest approach to a ‘tradition’ is one
quoted by Tertullian as current in North Africa at the close of the 2nd century
ascribing the epistle to ýBarnabas. In the first three centuries the Eastern
Church generally --- probably in order to justify its inclusion in the canon ---
attributed it to St Paul, while the westerns denied the Pauline authorship,
(...). It was only after the 4th century that the Latin Western Church accepted
the Pauline authorship. ý(...) At the Reformation the Pauline authorship was at
first again disputed. (...) it came back into general acceptance, and so
remained until the 19th century. Today, however, it is almost universally
regarded on the grounds of style and subject matter as very improbable. (....).
indications all agree in placing the date of the epistle not later than 70
(earlier than 64, if written to Rome), but not earlier than about 55-60. In
any case it is certainly earlier than the letter of Clement of Rome (A.D. 95).
McKenzie’s Dictionary of the Bible asserts as follows:
modern scholars still maintain that Heb is the work of Paul. (....), and both
ancients and moderns have made various suggestions: Clement of Rome, Barnabas,
Jude, Apollos, and even Priscilla, the wife of Aquila. These are no more than
divergences from Paul in vocabulary, style, sentence structure, and patterns of
thought are more numerous and more notable than the resemblances. The style of
Heb is the most polished of all the NT writings. The author knows and uses the
rhetorical figures and periods of style.
Biblica has also dilated upon the subject. Some relevant excerpts would
further elaborate the point:
With this it
agrees that the early Roman church ---where the epistle was known about the end
of the first century, and where indeed the first traces of the use of it occur
(Clement, and Sheferd of Hermas) --- had nothing to contribute to the question
of authorship and origin except the negative opinion that the book is not by
Paul. (....); Hippolytus (like his master Irenaeus of Lyons) knew our book and
declared that it was not Pauline.
positive traditions of authorship to which we can point belong to Africa and
Egypt,(...). I. The African tradition preserved by Tertullian (De Pudicitia,
20), but certainly not invented by him, ascribes the epistle to Barnabas.
observed as follows:
have assigned it to Clement of Rome; others to Luke; and many to Barnabas,
thinking that the style and manner of expression is very agreeable to zealous,
authoritative, affectionate temper that Barnabas appears to be of, in the
account we have of him in the Acts of the Apostles; and one ancient father
quotes an expression out of this epistle, as the words of Barnabas.
views are held by most of the authorities. It shows that Barnabas admittedly
held the talent of an author. Some of the authorities are given below:
Stibbs, V. Principal, Oak Hill Theological College, London, the New Bible
Commentary, p. 1088
Allan J. McNicol, Prof. of N.T., Inst. for Christian Studies, Austin, Texas,
Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Bangalore, 1994, p. 94.
M. Bourke, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Bangalore, 1994, p.920.
Robert W. Ross, Dptt. of History, N. W. College, Minnipolis, Minn., The
Wycliffe’s Bible Commentary, 1987, p. 1403 f.
Smith, A Dictionary of the Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1988, p.238.
vi) Dr. F. F.
Bruce, Ryland’s Prof. of Biblical Criticism & Exegesis, Manchestor University,
in Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, Thomas Nelson Ltd, London, 1967, p. 1008.
From the above
data it is clear that:
attribution of the authorship of ‘The Letter to the Hebrews’ towards Paul is
catagorically ruled out by all the authorities. He could not have been the
writer of it.
2. If the
authorship of ‘The Letter to the Hebrews’ can be attributed to anyone, he can
only be Barnabas; and, that’s why, it has actually been attributed to him by so
attribution of ‘The Letter to the Hebrews’ to anyone else is not acceptable.
It can thus be
concluded that Barnabas was recognized as a scholar and as a writer from the
early centuries of Christianity, otherwise one of the best documents of the New
Testament could not have been attributed to him by a number of celebrities.
Epistle of Barnabas
This is not a
canonical book; it is an Apocryphal book. ‘Its Greek text was first discovered
entire in the Codex Sinaiticus.’
Its authorship is also a matter of dispute. Although, in view of the modern
scholarship, it is difficult to assert that Barnabas is the author of it, but
previuosly it was ascribed only to Barnabas, which is evident from the
writers who refer to this Epistle unanimously attribute it to Barnabas the
Levite, of Cyprus, who held such an honourable place in the infant Church.
Clement of Alexandria does so again and again (Strom.,ii. 6,ii. 7, etc.). Origen
describes it as ‘a Catholic Epistle’ (Cont. Cels., I.63 ), and seems to rank it
among the Sacred Scriptures(Comm. in Rom., I.24). Other statements have been
quoted from the fathers, to show that they held this to be an authentic
production of the apostolic Barnabas; and certainly no other name is ever hinted
at in Christian antiquity as that of the writer.
was first cited by Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, as a work of the apostolic
Barnabas, who plays so prominent a part in the early history of the Church.
Origen seems to rank it almost with the inspired Scriptures. In the Sinaitic
Bible, of the fourth century, it follows as the ‘Epistle of Barnabas,’
immediately after the Apocalypse (even on the same page 135, second column), as
if it were a regular part of the New Testament. (...). Eusebius and Jerome
likewise ascribe it to Barnabas, but number it among the ‘spurious,’ or
‘apocryphal’ writings. They seem to have doubted the authority, but not the
authenticity of the epistle. The historical testimony therefore is strong and
unanimous in favor of Barnabas, and is accepted by all the older editors and
several of the later critics.
From the Above
references it is abundantly clear that almost all the renowned Christian
scholars acknowledge and greet Barnabas as a competent writer. M. J. Shroyer,
Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington,
D.C. puts it as follows:
of the later Church gives Barnabas a role as writer. Tertullian assigned to him
the authorship of the letter to the Hebrews. Both Clement of Alexandria and
Origen gave him credit for the epistle which bears his name, and they gave it
canonical standing because they rated its author as an apostle. However, the
nature of both Hebrews and the Epistle of Barnabas is hard to reconcile with
the conservative tendencies of Barnabas as indicated in Galatians, and the
identification of Barnabas with Jerusalem in the book of Acts. Moreover, the
Epistle of Barnabas seems to be dated ca. A.D. 130 on internal evidence, and
too late for our Barnabas.
It can thus be
concluded from the above dissertations that although the attribution of the
above two books to Barnabas is not safe yet his potential, capability and talent
as a competent writer and author was universally admitted.
Gospel of Barnabas
the question of the Gospel printed at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, in 1907; only
the question whether a gospel had ever been written by Barnabas, would be
discussed in this section.
There are two
documents providing the lists of accepted (canonical) and rejected (apocryphal)
books of the Bible in which ‘The Gospel of Barnabas’ has catagorically been
recorded and described as APOCRYPHAL (rejected). A brief account is given below:
It was ‘An
early Latin document, handed down most frequently under the name of Pope
Gelasius (492-96), but in some MSS. as the work of Damasus (366-84) or Hormisdas
(514-23), containing inter alia a Latin list of the Books, of the Bible. Acc. to
E. von. Dobschutz, it is not a Papal work at all, but a private compilation
which was composed in Italy ( but not at Rome) in the early 6th century.’
W. Schneemelcher has provided some details of this Decree. Some of its
excerpts are given below:
In the so
called Decretum Gelasianum de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis, which upon
the whole is probably of South Gallic origin (6th century) but which in several
parts can be traced back to Pope Damasus [366-84 A.D.] and reflects Roman
Tradition, we have in the second part a canon catalogue, (...), and in the
fifth part a catalogue of the ‘aporypha’ and other writings which are to be
rejected. The canon catalogue gives all 27 books of the NT, the canon
therefore being settled definitely in this form. The list, already outwardly
and sharply separated from it, of the ‘apocrypha’, i.e. of the writings to be
rejected, is given here in translation (acc. to the edition of v. Dobschutz, see
Enumeration of Apocryphal Books:
Itinerary (books of travels) under the name of the apostle Peter, (...)
the name of the apostle Andrew,Thomas, etc. apocryphal
the name of Matthias apocryphal
the name of Barnabas apocryphal
These and the
like, what Simon Magus, (....), have taught or compiled, we acknowledge is to be
not merely rejected but excluded from the whole Roman Catholic and apostolic
Church and with its authors and the adherents of its authors to be damned in the
inextricable shackles of anathema forever.
OF THE 60 CANONICAL BOOKS
The heading of
this catalogue is quite misleading. True, it provides the names of 60 canonical
books of the Bible, but its author has recorded in it 25 names of apocryphal
books as well. Relevant excerpts are reproduced from W. Schneemelcher:
transmitted in several manuscripts (for information about these see Zahn, Gesch.
d. ntl. Kanons II I, pp. 289 f.) reflects the view, widely held in the Greek
Church, at a later time, of the canon of sixty books (34 OT and 26 NT, therefore
without the revelation of John). After the enumeration of the canonical books,
in which the complete silence observed regarding the Apocalypse of John is the
most serious matter, there follows that of the writings ‘outside the sixty’ and
following (writings) outside the 60:
1. The Wisdom
2. The Wisdom
of Sirach -----9. Tobit
following apocryphal (writings):
1. Adam ---
23. The Teaching of Polycarp
Gospel according to Barnabas
Gospel according to Matthias
It is thus
clear that ‘The Gelasian Decree’--- whosoever its writer and whatsoever its
status --- (a) had been written and physically existed before the advent of
Islam in the 7th centuryA.D.
would have been something in it unacceptable for the Church which was by that
time under complete hold of the Pauline Creed and, therefore, the Church
denounced it as apocrypha (literally meaning a hidden or secret thing ). Had it
not ever existed in written form, it could not have been declared as rejected.