Monday, July 23, 2012

Epistle of Barnabas (or pseudo-Barney)

Schaff and other scholars claim this to be written by a man during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian closer to the end of the first century.  Maybe his name was Barnabas, but he is not Paul’s companion, the son of Encouragement.  I think people wanted to attribute this to the later Barnabas, but that was at least a century after they could prove it, but this is still a widely used patristic source, and somebody wrote it.
2. “For He hath revealed to us by all the prophets that He needs neither sacrifices, nor burnt-offerings, nor oblations, saying thus, “What is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me, saith the Lord? I am full of burnt-offerings, and desire not the fat of lambs, and the blood of bulls and goats, not when ye come to appear before Me: for who hath required these things at your hands? Tread no more My courts, not though ye bring with you fine flour. Incense is a vain abomination unto Me, and your new moons and sabbaths I cannot endure.””  Clearly, the Judaizers were back, and Barnabas wrote to warn his audience against following them.  The Church is never quite free of people who want to insult the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice by adding one more thing you have to do to get or stay saved.  Again, Barnabas says that Christ is our “oblation.”
3. Barnabas continues that the Jewish fasts are blasphemous because they are not done for the Lord but so that they can look holy.
4. “And Moses understood [the meaning of God], and cast the two tables out of his hands; and their covenant was broken, in order that the covenant of the beloved Jesus might be sealed upon our heart, in the hope which flows from believing in Him.”
6. “This, that as the infant is kept alive first by honey, and then by milk, so also we, being quickened and kept alive by the faith of the promise and by the word, shall live ruling over the earth.”
7. Amazing exposition of the sacrificed goat and the scapegoat as pointing to Christ and when he’d do for us
9. “Therefore He hath circumcised our ears, that we might hear His word and believe, for the circumcision in which they trusted is abolished.”  This is also the chapter where he starts to allegorize the 318 men Abraham took to rescue Lot from Sodom.  The sacrifices and Levitical rituals definitely symbolize Christ.  There are many typologies in the lives of the Old Testament saints.  We still must beware of over-allegorizing.
10. Interesting take on the dietary laws, but I still prefer Dr. Schwab’s interpretation, that they were to help the Israelites distinguish death from life, the common from the holy, the profane to the pure.  The unclean animals were culturally disgusting to that culture, so God told them not to eat them so that they would not be cultish.  I don’t think Barney is entirely accurate on biology here, but he is right in noting that the Old Testament community would not know completely why God gave such laws until Christ comes to complete them.
13. While not dispensational, I cannot accept Barney’s claim that God meant to give the covenant to Christians and not to Jews as typified in Jacob blessing Joseph’s younger son over the older.  The covenant was made for the Jews, but they rejected Christ and we got the prize.
15. Very interesting take: the 7 days of creation, 6 plus a Sabbath, the standard for our week, typify that history will only last 6000 years and then Christ will usher in the eternal Sabbath.  I kinda like it but it will also confuse Old Earth Creationists.
16. Likewise, the original Temple only pointed to the permanent Temple that is Christ.  God had to destroy the first one because the Jews put so much faith in it and no faith in their actual God.
18. Part 2 of the epistle: foolishly comparing Christ and Satan in the same way he compares Christianity and Judaism; I hope that he fixes this unintended dualism…Uh, he doesn’t.
19. All the previous talk about not trying to work for salvation gives way to Barney urging people to walk in the light with specific rules and instructions.  Seriously, if they are saved, they will naturally walk in the light, but they cannot do that to be saved.  But they must do that if they are saved, so I think that is what Barney is saying.
21. “It is well, therefore, that he who has learned the judgments of the Lord, as many as have been written, should walk in them. For he who keepeth these shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; but he who chooseth other things shall be destroyed with his works.”  This is probably why James follows most of the New Testament.  After all the exhorting to trust in Christ alone to save you and keep you saved, James warns against easy-believism.  If you are saved, but your life does not show it, then are you really saved?  I think this is what Barney is doing, but it’s a good bridge into making people think that they have to work to keep their salvation.

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