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.

Understand therefore, children of gladness, that[*](Fasting and the scapegoat) the good Lord made all things plain beforehand to us, that we should know him to whom we ought to give thanks and praise for everything.

If then the Son of God, though he was the Lord and was destined to judge the living and the dead suffered in order that his wounding might make us alive, let us believe tliat the Son of God could not suffer except for our sakes.

But moreover when he was crucified he was given to drink vinegar and gall. Listen how the priests of the Temple foretold this. The commandment was written, Whosoever does not keep the fast shall die the death, and the Lord commanded this because he himself was going to offer the vessel of the spirit as a sacrifice for our sins, in order that the type established in Isaac, who was offered upon the altar, might be fulfilled.

What then does he say in the Prophet? And let them eat of the goat which is offered in the fast for all their sins. Attend carefully,—and let all the priests alone eat the entrails unwashed with vinegar.

Why? Because you are going to give to me gall and vinegar to drink when I am on the point of offering my flesh for my new people, therefore you alone shall eat, while the people fast and mourn in sackcloth and ashes. To show that he must suffer for them.

Note what was commanded: Take two goats, goodly and alike, and offer them, and let the priest take the one as a burnt offering for sins.

But what are they to do with the other? The

other, he says, is accursed. Notice how the type of Jesus is manifested:

And do ye all spit on it, and goad it, and bind the scarlet wool about its head, and so let it be cast into the desert. And when it is so done, he who takes the goat into the wilderness drives it forth, and takes away the wool, and puts it upon a shrub which is called Rachel,[*](It is probable that Barnabas has mistaken a word meaning a hill for the name of a herb with which he was familiar; but it is not clear whether the confusion was made in Hebrew or in Greek (ῥαχός = a brier, and sometimes a wild-olive, and ῥάχις = a mountain ridge, seems to suggest some such possibility). But the identity of the herb is unknown. There is an interesting article on it in the Journal of Biblical Literature, 1890, by Rendel Harris.) of which we are accustomed to eat the shoots when we find them in the country: thus of Rachel alone is the fruit sweet.

What does this mean? Listen: the first goat is for the altar, but the other is accursed, and note that the one that is accursed is crowned, because then they will see him on that day with the long scarlet robe down to the feet on his body, and they will say, Is not this he whom we once crucified and rejected and pierced and spat upon? Of a truth it was he who then said that he was the Son of God.

But how is he like to the goat? For this reason: the goats shall be alike, beautiful, and a pair, in order that when they see him come at that time they may be astonished at the likeness of the goat. See then the type of Jesus destined to suffer.

But why is it that they put the wool in the middle of the thorns? It is a type of Jesus placed in the Church, because whoever wishes to take away the scarlet wool must suffer much because the thorns

are terrible and he can gain it only through pain. Thus he says, those who will see me, and attain to my kingdom must lay hold of me through pain and suffering.