The Epistle of Barnabas

Barnabae epistula

Barnabas. The Apostolic Fathers with an English Translation In Two Volumes. Vol. I. Lake, Kirsopp, translator. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd. 1912.

Moreover he says to them in Deuteronomy, And I will make a covenant of my ordinances with this people. So then the ordinance of God is not abstinence from eating, but Moses spoke in the spirit.

He mentioned the swine for this reason: you shall not consort, he means, with men who are like swine, that is to say, when they have plenty they forget the Lord, but when they are in want they recognise the Lord, just as the swine when it eats does not know its master, but when it is hungry it cries out, and after receiving food is again silent.

Neither shalt thou eat the eagle nor the hawk nor the kite nor the crow. Thou shalt not, he means, join thyself or make thyself like to such men, as do not know how to gain their food by their labour and sweat, but plunder other people’s property in their iniquity, and lay wait for it, though they seem to walk in innocence, and look round to see whom they may plunder in their covetousness, just as these birds alone provide no food for themselves, but sit idle, and seek how they may devour the flesh of others, and become pestilent in their iniquity.

Thou shalt not eat, he says, the lamprey nor the polypus nor the cuttlefish. Thou shalt not, he means, consort with or become like such men who are utterly ungodly and who are already condemned

to death, just as these fish alone are accursed, and float in the deep water, not swimming like the others but living on the ground at the bottom of the sea.

Moreover,[*](The translation of sections 6-5 is editorial. Lake gave the Old Latin version.) thou shalt not eat the rabbit. For what reason? Because thou shalt not, he means, become a corruptor of the young, or become like such men; for the rabbit multiplies during every year its retirements by the way; for it has as many burrow-holes as it lives years.

Moreover thou shalt not eat the hyaena.[*](This prohibition is not in the O.T.) Thou shalt not, he means, become an adulterer or a corruptor nor shalt thou become like such men. For what reason? Because this animal in every other year changes its nature and becomes now male now female.

Moreover Moses abhors the weasel rightly. Thou shalt not, he says, become such a person—such men as we hear committing lawlessness in their mouths because of uncleanliness; nor shalt thou cleave to women who are unclean and who commit lawlessness in their mouths. For this animal gives birth with its mouth.

Moses received three doctrines concerning food[*](The explanation in the Psalter) and thus spoke of them in the Spirit; but they received them as really referring to food, owing to the lust of their flesh.

But David received knowledge concerning the same three doctrines, and says: Blessed is the man who has not gone in the counsel of the ungodly as the fishes go in darkness in the deep waters, and has not stood in the way of sinners like those who seem to fear the Lord, but sin like the swine, and has not sat in the seat of the scorners like the birds who sit and wait for their prey. Grasp fully

the doctrines concerning food.

Moses says again, Eat of every animal that is cloven hoofed and ruminant. What does he mean? That he who receives food knows him who feeds him, and rests on him and seems to rejoice. Well did he speak with regard to the commandment. What then does he mean? Consort with those who fear the Lord, with those who meditate in their heart on the meaning of the word which they have received, with those who speak of and observe the ordinances of the Lord, with those who know that meditation is a work of gladness, and who ruminate on the word of the Lord. But what does the cloven hoofed mean? That the righteous both walks in this world and looks forward to the holy age. See how well Moses legislated.

But how was it possible for them to understand or comprehend these things? But we having a righteous understanding of them announce the commandments as the Lord wished. For this cause he circumcised our hearing and our hearts that we should comprehend these things.