EXCERPTS — “The Epistle of Barnabas” by Jonathon Lookadoo

The new Cascade volume, The Epistle of Barnabas: A Commentary, not only introduces readers to critical issues around the ancient epistle such as date, authorship, and opponents but also reflects on the multifaceted scriptural interpretations at play within the argument and sketches the theological beliefs that underlie the text. The commentary also provides a fresh English translation of the Greek text while endeavoring to highlight the internal literary connections within the Epistle of Barnabas. In so doing, this book provides a knowledgeable and accessible interpretation of a fascinating early Christian document. The book is part of Cascade’s Apostolic Fathers Commentary Series, co-edited by Paul A. Hartog and Shawn J. Wilhite.

[The following excerpt is pulled from Jonathon Lookadoo’s translation of the epistle of Barnabas, featured in the book’s front matter and preceding an extensive and rich commentary on the text. The excerpt includes the first two chapters (out of a total of twenty-one chapters) of the epistle itself.]

1

  1. Greetings in peace, sons and daughters, in the name of the Lord who loved us.
  2. Since God’s requirements are great and rich toward you, more than anything I am exuberantly and excessively overjoyed over your blessed and glorious spirits. You have thus received the implanted grace of the spiritual gift.
  3. For this reason, I also rejoice all the more in myself, hoping to be saved because I truly see in you the Spirit that has been poured out on you from the wealth of the Lord’s spring. I was thus overwhelmed on your account by the desire to see you.
  4. Therefore, I have been convinced of this and have become aware that, having said many things among you, I know that the Lord travels together with me in the way of righteousness. I am also completely compelled to this—to love you more than my own soul because great faith and love indwell you in the hope of his life.
  5. So, when I reckoned that there will also be a reward for me because I minister to such spirits, if I was concerned enough about you to send part of what I received, I hurried to send you a short piece so that you might have perfect knowledge with your faith.
  6. There are, then, three doctrines of the Lord: the hope of life, which is the beginning and end of our faith; righteousness, which is the beginning and end of judgement; and love of gladness and exultation, which is a witness of works in righteousness.
  7. For through the prophets the Master made known to us things that are past and present, and has given us a taste of the firstfruits of the things that will come. As we see how things are being effected one after the other just as he said, we ought to approach in fear of him in a richer and more exalted manner.
  8. I, then—not as a teacher but as one of you—point out a few things through which you will be glad about present matters.

2

  1. Because the days are evil and the one who is working has authority, we ought to be on the alert and seek the requirements of the Lord.
  2. The aides of our faith, then, are fear and endurance, and our allies are patience and self-control.
  3. Accordingly, when these things remain in purity in matters related to the Lord, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, and knowledge rejoice with them.
  4. For he has revealed to us through all the prophets that he does not need sacrifices, whole burnt offerings, or general offerings. For he said somewhere,
  5. “‘What is your multitude of offerings to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I am full of your burnt offerings and the fat of lambs. I do not want the blood of bulls and goats—not even if you come to appear before me. For who sought these things from your hands? Do not continue to trample my court. If you bring fine wheat flower or futile incense, it is an abomination to me. I have had it with your new moons and sabbaths.’”
  6. Therefore, he destroyed these things in order that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is without the yoke of compulsion, might have an offering that is not made by human beings.
  7. But it says somewhere to them, “‘Did I command your ancestors to offer whole burnt offerings and sacrifices to me when I brought them out of the land of Egypt?’
  8. Instead I commanded them, ‘Let none of you remember an evil deed in their heart against a neighbor, and do not love a false oath.’”
  9. Therefore, because we do not lack understanding of our Father’s good purpose, we ought to notice that he speaks to us and wants us to seek how we should bring him an offering while not being deceived like them.
  10. He thus speaks to us in this way, “A sacrifice to God is a broken heart; a sweet fragrance before the Lord is a heart that glorifies the one who has formed it.” We ought then to be accurate, brothers and sisters, concerning our salvation in order that the evil one not sling us away from our life by planting deceit in us.

Jonathon Lookadoo is Assistant Professor at the Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary in Seoul, South Korea. His books include The Shepherd of Hermas (2021) and The High Priest and the Temple (2018).

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