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.

He says to them, Thus saith the Lord your God (here I find a commandment), Sow not among thorns, be circumcised to your Lord. And what does he say? Circumcise the hardness of your heart, and stiffen not your neck. Take it again: Behold, saith the Lord, all the heathen are uncircumcised in the foreskin, but this people is uncircumcised in heart.

But you will say, surely the people has received circumcision as a seal? Yes, but every Syrian and Arab and all priests of the idols have been circumcised; are then these also within their [*](I.e. of the Jews.) covenant?—indeed even the Egyptians belong to the circumcision.

Learn fully then, children of love, concerning all things, for Abraham, who first circumcised, did so looking forward in the spirit to Jesus, and had received the doctrines of three letters.

For it says, And Abraham circumcised from his household eighteen men and three hundred. [*](In Greek, which expresses numerals by letters, this is ΤΙΗ.) What then was the knowledge that was given to him? Notice that he first mentions the eighteen, and after a pause the three hundred. The eighteen is Ι (= ten) and Η ( = 8)—you have Jesus[*](Because ΙΗ are in Greek the first letters of the word Jesus.)—and because the cross was destined to have grace in the Τ he says and three hundred.[*](The Greek symbol for is Τ.) So he indicates Jesus in the two letters and the cross in the other.

He knows this who placed the gift of his teaching in our hearts. No one has heard a more excellent lesson from me, but I know that you are worthy.

Now, in that Moses said, Ye shall not eat[*](The Food-law of the Jews) swine, nor an eagle, nor a hawk, nor a crow, nor any fish which has no scales on itself, he included three doctrines in his understanding.

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.