Barnabas on Jesus the Messiah

The following is an excerpt from the Epistle of Barnabas, the companion of Paul. The full work will be available in the Library section of this website. I hope you enjoy this brief excerpt on Jesus the Messiah.

I bid you greeting, sons and daughters, in the name of the Lord that loved us, in peace. Seeing that the ordinances of God are great and rich unto you, I rejoice with an exceeding great and overflowing joy at your blessed and glorious spirits; so innate is the grace of the spiritual gift that ye have received. Wherefore also I the more congratulate myself hoping to be saved, for that I truly see the Spirit poured out among you from the riches of the fount of the Lord. So greatly did the much-desired sight of you astonish me respecting you. Being therefore persuaded of this, and being conscious with myself that having said much among you I know that the Lord journeyed with me on the way of righteousness, and am wholly constrained also myself to this, to love you more than my own soul (for great faith and love dwelleth in you through the hope of the life which is His)--considering this therefore, that, if it shall be my care to communicate to you some portion of that which I received, it shall turn to my reward for having ministered to such spirits, I was eager to send you a trifle, that along with your faith ye might have your knowledge also perfect. Well then, there are three ordinances of the Lord; the hope of life, which is the beginning and end of our faith; and righteousness, which is the beginning and end of judgment; love shown in gladness and exultation, the testimony of works of righteousness.

For the Lord made known to us by His prophets things past and present, giving us likewise the firstfruits of the taste of things future. And seeing each of these things severally coming to pass, according as He spake, we ought to offer a richer and higher offering to the fear of Him. But I, not as though I were a teacher, but as one of yourselves, will show forth a few things, whereby ye shall be gladdened in the present circumstances. Seeing then that the days are evil, and that the Active One himself has the authority, we ought to give heed to ourselves and to seek out the ordinances of the Lord. The aids of our faith then are fear and patience, and our allies are long-suffering and self-restraint. While these abide in a pure spirit in matters relating to the Lord, wisdom, understanding, science, knowledge rejoice with them. For He hath made manifest to us by all the prophets that He wanteth neither sacrifices nor whole burnt offerings nor oblations, saying at one time; What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices, saith the Lord I am full of whole burnt-offerings, and the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls and of goats desire not, not though ye should come to be seen of Me. or who required these things at your hands? Ye shall continue no more to tread My court. If ye bring fine flour, it is in vain; incense is an abomination to Me; your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot away with.

These things therefore He annulled, that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, being free from the yoke of constraint, might have its oblation not made by human hands. And He saith again unto them; Did command your fathers when they went forth from the land of Egypt to bring Me whole burnt offerings and sacrifices? Nay, this was My command unto them, Let none of you bear a grudge of evil against his neighbor in his heart, and love you not a false oath.

So we ought to perceive, unless we are without understanding, the mind of the goodness of our Father; for He speaketh to us, desiring us not to go astray like them but to seek how we may approach Him. Thus then speaketh He to us; The sacrifice unto God is a broken heart, the smell of a sweet savor unto the Lord is a heart that glorifies its Maker. We ought therefore, brethren, to learn accurately concerning our salvation, lest the Evil One having effected an entrance of error in us should fling us away from our life. He speaketh again therefore to them concerning these things; Wherefore fast ye for Me, saith the Lord, so that your voice is heard this day crying aloud? This is not the fast which have chosen, saith the Lord; not a man abasing his soul; not though ye should bend your neck as a hoop, and put on sackcloth and make your bed of ashes, not even so shall ye call a fast that is acceptable.

But unto us He saith; Behold, this is the fast which I have chosen, saith the Lord; loosen every band of wickedness, untie the tightened cords of forcible contracts, send away the broken ones released and tear in pieces every unjust bond. Break thy bread to the hungry, and if thou seest one naked clothe him; bring the shelterless into thy house, and if thou seest a humble man, thou shalt not despise him, neither shall any one of thy household and of thine own seed. Then shall thy light break forth in the morning, and thy healing shall arise quickly, and righteousness shall go forth before thy face, and the glory of God shall environ thee. Then shalt thou cry out and God shall hear thee; while thou art still speaking, He shall say 'Lo, I am here'; if thou shalt take away from thee the yoke and the stretching forth of the finger and the word of murmuring, and shalt give thy bread to the hungry heartily, and shalt pity the abased soul.

To this end therefore, my brethren, He that is long-suffering, foreseeing that the people whom He had prepared in His well-beloved would believe in simplicity, manifested to us beforehand concerning all things, that we might not as novices shipwreck ourselves upon their law. It behooves us therefore to investigate deeply concerning the present, and to search out the things which have power to save us. Let us therefore flee altogether from all the works of lawlessness, lest the works of lawlessness overpower us; and let us loathe the error of the present time, that we may be loved for that which is to come. Let us give no relaxation to our soul that it should have liberty to consort with sinners and wicked men, lest haply we be made like unto them.

The last offense is at hand, concerning which the scripture speaketh, as Enoch saith. For to this end the Master hath cut the seasons and the days short, that His beloved might hasten and come to His inheritance.

And the prophet also speaketh on this wise; Ten reigns shall reign upon the earth, and after them shall arise another king, who shall bring low three of the kings under one.

In like manner Daniel speaketh concerning the same; And I saw the forth beast to be wicked and strong and more intractable than all the beasts of the earth, and how there arose from him ten horns, and from these a little horn and excrescence, and how that it abased under one three of the great horns.

Ye ought therefore to understand. Moreover I ask you this one thing besides, as being one of yourselves and loving you all in particular more than my own soul, to give heed to yourselves now, and not to liken yourselves to certain persons who pile up sin upon sin, saying that our covenant remains to them also. Ours it is; but they lost it in this way for ever, when Moses had just received it. For the scripture saith; And Moses was in the mountain fasting forty days and forty nights, and he received the covenant from the Lord, even tablets of stone written with the finger of the hand of the Lord. But they lost it by turning unto idols. For thus saith the Lord; Moses, Moses, come down quickly; for thy people whom thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt hath done unlawfully. 

And Moses understood, and threw the two tables from his hands; and their covenant was broken in pieces, that the covenant of the beloved Jesus might be sealed unto our hearts in the hope which springeth from faith in Him. But though I would fain write many things, not as a teacher, but as becometh one who loveth you not to fall short of that which we possess, I was anxious to write to you, being your devoted slave. Wherefore let us take heed in these last days. For the whole time of our faith shall profit us nothing, unless we now, in the season of lawlessness and in the offenses that shall be, as becometh sons of God, offer resistance, that the Black One may not effect an entrance. Let us flee from all vanity, let us entirely hate the works of the evil way. Do not entering in privily stand apart by yourselves, as if ye were already justified, but assemble yourselves together and consult concerning the common welfare. For the scripture saith;Woe unto them that are wise for themselves, and understanding in their own sight.

Let us become spiritual, let us become a temple perfect unto God. As far as in us lies, let us exercise ourselves in the fear of God, [and] let us strive to keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. The Lord judgeth the world without respect of persons; each man shall receive according to his deeds. If he be good, his righteousness shall go before him in the way; if he be evil, the recompense of his evil-doing is before him; lest perchance, if we relax as men that are called, we should slumber over our sins, and the prince of evil receive power against us and thrust us out from the kingdom of the Lord. Moreover understand this also, my brothers. When ye see that after so many signs and wonders wrought in Israel, even then they were abandoned, let us give heed, lest haply we be found, as the scripture saith, many are called but few are chosen. For to this end the Lord endured to deliver His flesh unto corruption, that by the remission of sins we might be cleansed, which cleansing is through the blood of His sprinkling. For the scripture concerning Him containeth some things relating to Israel, and some things relating to us. And it speaketh thus; He was wounded for your transgressions, and He hath been bruised for our sins; by His stripes we were healed. As a sheep He was led to slaughter, as a lamb is dumb before his shearer. We ought therefore to be very thankful unto the Lord, for that He both revealed unto us the past, and made us wise in the present, and as regards the future we are not without understanding. Now the scripture saith; Not unjustly is the net spread for the birds. He meaneth this that a man shall justly perish, who having the knowledge of the way of righteousness forceth himself into the way of darkness.

There is yet this also, my brethren; if the Lord endured to suffer for our souls, though He was Lord of the whole world, unto whom God said from the foundation of the world, Let us make man after our image and likeness, how then did He endure to suffer at the hand of men? Understand ye. The prophets, receiving grace from Him, prophesied concerning Him. But He Himself endured that He might destroy death and show forth the resurrection of the dead, for that He must needs be manifested in the flesh; that at the same time He might redeem the promise made to the fathers, and by preparing the new people for Himself might show, while He was on earth, that having brought about the resurrection He will Himself exercise judgment. Yea and further, He preached teaching Israel and performing so many wonders and miracles, and He loved him exceedingly. And when He chose His own apostles who were to proclaim His Gospel, who that He might show that He came not to call the righteous but sinners were sinners above every sin, then He manifested Himself to be the Son of God. For if He had not come in the flesh neither would men have looked upon Him and been saved, forasmuch as when they look upon the sun that shall cease to be, which is the work of His own hands, they cannot face its rays. Therefore the Son of God came in the flesh to this end, that He might sum up the complete tale of their sins against those who persecute and slew His prophets. To this end therefore He endured. For God saith of the wounds of His flesh that they came from them; When they shall smite their own shepherd, then shall the sheep of the flock be lost. But He Himself desired so to suffer; for it was necessary for Him to suffer on a tree. For he that prophesied said concerning Him, Spare My soul form the sword; and, Pierce My flesh with nails, for the congregations of evil-doers have risen up against Me. And again He saith; Behold I have given My back to stripes, and My cheeks to smitings, and My face did I set as a hard rock.

When then He gave the commandment, what saith He? Who is he that disputeth with Me? Let him oppose Me. Or who is he that goeth to law with Me? Let him draw nigh unto the servant of the Lord, Woe unto you, for ye all shall wax old as a garment, and the moth shall consume you. And again the prophet saith, seeing that as a hard stone He was ordained for crushing; Behold I will put into the fountains of Zion a stone very precious, elect, a chief corner-stone, honorable. Then again what saith He; And whosoever shall set his hope on Him, shall live forever. Is our hope then set upon a stone? Far be it. But it is because the Lord hath set His flesh in strength. For He saith; And He set Me as a hard rock. And the prophet saith again; The stone which the builders rejected, this became the head and the corner. And again He saith; This is the great and wonderful day, which the Lord made. I write to you the more simply, that ye may understand, I who am the offscouring of your love. What then saith the prophet again? The assembly of evildoers gathered around Me, they surrounded Me as bees surround a comb; and; For My garment they cast a lot. Forasmuch then as He was about to be manifested in the flesh and to suffer, His suffering was manifested beforehand. For the prophet saith concerning Israel; Woe unto their soul, for they have counseled evil counsel against themselves saying, Let us bind the righteous one, for he is unprofitable for us.

What saith the other prophet Moses unto them? Behold, these things saith the Lord God; enter into the good land which the Lord swear unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and inherit it, a land flowing with milk and honey. But what saith knowledge? Understand ye. Set your hope on Him who is about to be manifested to you in the flesh, even Jesus. For man is earth suffering; for from the face of the earth came the creation of Adam. What then saith He? Into the good land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Blessed is our Lord, brethren, who established among us wisdom and understanding of His secret things. For the prophet speaketh a parable concerning the Lord. Who shall comprehend, save he that is wise and prudent and that loveth his Lord? Forasmuch then as He renewed us in the remission of sins, He made us to be a new type, so that we should have the soul of children, as if He were recreating us. For the scripture saith concerning us, how He saith to the Son; Let us make man after our image and after our likeness, and let them rule over the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the heaven and the fishes of the sea. And the Lord said when He saw the fair creation of us men; Increase and multiply and fill the earth.

These words refer to the Son.

Again I will shew thee how the Lord speaketh concerning us. He made a second creation at the last; and the Lord saith; Behold I make the last things as the first. In reference to this then the prophet preached; Enter into a land flowing with milk and honey, and be lords over it. Behold then we have been created anew, as He saith again in another prophet; Behold, saith the Lord, I will take out from these, that is to say, from those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw, their stony hearts, and will put into them hearts of flesh; for He Himself was to be manifested in the flesh and to dwell in us. For a holy temple unto the Lord, my brethren, is the abode of our heart. For the Lord saith again; For wherein shall I appear unto the Lord my God and be glorified? I will make confession unto Thee in the assembly of my brethren, and I will sing unto Thee in the midst of the assembly of the saints. We therefore are they whom He brought into the good land. What then is the milk and the honey Because the child is first kept alive by honey, and then by milk. So in like manner we also, being kept alive by our faith in the promise and by the word, shall live and be lords of the earth. Now we have already said above; And let them increase and multiply and rule over the fishes. But who is he that is able [now] to rule over beasts and fishes and fowls of the heaven; for we ought to perceive that to rule implieth power, so that one should give orders and have dominion. If then this cometh not to pass now, assuredly He spake to us for the hereafter, when we ourselves shall be made perfect so that we may become heirs of the covenant of the Lord. Understand therefore, children of gladness, that the good Lord manifested all things to us beforehand, that we might know to whom we ought in all things to render thanksgiving and praise.

If then the Son of God, being Lord and future Judge of quick and dead, suffered that His wound might give us life, let us believe that the Son of God could not suffer except for our sakes. But moreover when crucified He had vinegar and gall given Him to drink. Hear how on this matter the priests of the temple have revealed. Seeing that there is a commandment in scripture, Whatsoever shall not observe the fast shall surely die, the Lord commanded, because He was in His own person about to offer the vessel of His Spirit a sacrifice for our sins, that the type also which was given in Isaac who was offered upon the alter should be fulfilled. What then saith He in the prophet? And let them eat of the goat that is offered at the fast for all their sins. Attend carefully; And let all the priests alone eat the entrails unwashed with vinegar. Wherefore? Since ye are to give Me, who am to offer My flesh for the sins of My new people, gall with vinegar to drink, eat ye alone, while the people fasteth and waileth in sackcloth and ashes; that He might shew that He must suffer at their hands. Attend ye to the commandments which He gave. Take two goats, fair and alike, and offer them, and let the priest take the one for a whole burnt offering for sins. But the other one--what must they do with it? Accursed, saith He, is the one. Give heed how the type of Jesus is revealed. And do ye all spit upon it and goad it, and place scarlet wool about its head, and so let it be cast into the wilderness. And when it is so done, he that taketh the goat into the wilderness leadeth it, and taketh off the wool, and putteth it upon the branch which is called Rachia, the same whereof we are wont to eat the shoots when we find them in the country. Of this briar alone is the fruit thus sweet. What then meaneth this? Give heed. The one at the alter, and the other accursed. And moreover the accursed one crowned. For they shall see Him in that day wearing the long scarlet robe about His flesh, and shall say, Is not this He, Whom once we crucified and set at nought and spat upon; verily this was He, Who then said that He was the Son of God. For how is He like the goat? For this reason it says the goats shall be fair and alike, that, when they shall see Him coming then, they may be astonished at the likeness of the goat. Therefore behold the type of Jesus that was to suffer. But what meaneth it, that they place the wool in the midst of the thorns? It is a type of Jesus set forth for the Church, since whosoever should desire to take away the scarlet wool it behooved him to suffer many things owing to the terrible nature of the thorn, and through affliction to win the mastery over it. Thus, He saith, they that desire to see Me, and to attain unto My kingdom, must lay hold on Me through tribulation and affliction. But what think ye meaneth the type, where the commandment is given to Israel that those men, whose sins are full grown, offer an heifer and slaughter and burn it, and then that the children take up the ashes, and cast them into vessels, and twist the scarlet wool on a tree (see here again is the type of the cross and the scarlet wool), and the hyssop, and that this done the children should sprinkle the people one by one, that they may be purified from their sins?


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