The Gospel of Barnabas—Chps. 1–16

1. “Do you not know that the service of God ought to come before father and mother?”        [IX:9a, p.15]

        • Mt 10:37   “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…”
        • Cf. Bdst AN II.iv.2 “Even if one should carry about one’s mother on one shoulder and one’s father on the other… for a hundred years… one would not repay them… But anyone who rouses his ignorant mother and father, settles and establishes them in wisdom, to this extent one repays them and more than repays them for what they have done.” (Bhikkhu Bodhi translation.)

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2.“Even as a man cannot see with his eyes the heaven and the earth at one and the same time, so it is impossible to love God and the world… You cannot serve God and the world, for the world lies in falsehood, covetousness, and malignity. You cannot therefore find rest in the world, but rather persecution and loss. Wherefore serve God and despise the world, for from me you will find rest for your souls.”        [XVI:14b, p. 27]

        • Mt 6:24//Lk 16:10; 1 Jn 5:19; Mt 11:29           • Cf. Th 47
        • Bdst Dhp 174: “Blind is this world, how few see the light! Like a bird fleeing the net, rare is he who flies to heaven.”
           Sn 755: “What the world holds as true, the noble ones hold as false. They see correctly, with perfect insight.”

3.“Blessed are they who mourn this earthly life, for they shall be comforted.”        [XVI:14b, p. 29]

        • Mt 5:4

4. “Blessed are the poor who truly hate the delights of the world, for they shall abound in the delights of the kingdom of God.”
                                                [XVI:14b, p. 29]

        • Mt 5:3//Lk 6:20b, Th 54

5. “Truly, blessed are they that eat at the table of God, for the angels will minister to them.”        [XVI:15a, p. 29]

        • Cp. Mt 5:6; Jn 4:32; 6:33, 38

6. “You are journeying as pilgrims. Does the pilgrim encumber himself with palaces and fields and other earthly matters on the way? Assuredly not. But he carries [only] things that are light and prized for their usefulness and convenience on the road.”        [XVI:15a, p. 29]

        • Cp. Th 42; Mt 6:25 f; Bud-Chr Par chps. 13 & 55.

7. “The rich of the world, in their prosperity, are hungry and perish.”        [XVI:15a, p. 29]

COMMENT: This essentially dualist saying, as well as nos. 2–4 above, agrees with Buddhist, Gnostic, Ebionite, and Marcionite teaching disparaging the world.

        • Cp. Th 42; Mt 6:25 f; Bud-Chr Par chps. 13 & 55.

8.“Answer this, I say: Were you to lend your savings to a rich merchant, and he should [through trading] return it to you ten- or twenty-fold, wouldn’t you give such a man everything that you have? But I say to you that whatever you give, and whatever you give up, for the love of God you will receive back one hundred-fold, and life everlasting.”        [XVI:15b, p. 31]

        • Mk 10:29//Mt 19:29//Lk 6:38

COMMENT: The implication is that God is an infinitely better trader than even the best merchant. The canonical parallels seem to be inferior adaptations of the above, which is essentially a karmic saying: as you give, so you will receive (Bud-Chr Par chp. 27). Incidentally, I have paraphrased the English translation furnished in the Ragg edition for readability (but not for content).

9. “God has no body.”        [XVI:16a, p. 31]

COMMENT: This pithy declaration refutes the entire Catholic theology surrounding God incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, and also conforms to Marcionite dualism (as well as to Muslim belief).

10. “Truly, I say to you, that the scribes and doctors have made void the law of God with their false prophecies, contrary to the prophecies of the true prophets of God. Wherefore, God is angry with the house of Israel and with this faithless generation.”        [XVI:16b, p. 33]

        • “made void the law of God”—Mk 7:13; Mt 15:6
        • “this faithless generation”—Mk 9:19; Mt 17:17; Lk 9:41.

COMMENT: This is one of the first sayings in GBar that points to a tradition of “true prophets of God” in Jewish history. Some scholars have identified the true prophet tradition with the circle that originated around Elisha, who inherited [1] a double share of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kg 2:9), [2] the mantle of Elijah (2 Kg 2:13), and [3] who was leader of the “sons of the prophets” (2 Kg 2:15; the Aramaic name “Barnabas” literally means “Son of the Prophet”). The later heirs of this tradition appear to be the hermits of Mt. Carmel, of whom J. Bowman and R. Blackhirst have written in their books and articles. Blackhirst notes that “the primitive Carmelites—followers of John the Baptist (and therefore not actually within the ambit of the Christian Covenant, as the Carmelite’s enemies were wont to point out)–were heirs to the traditions of the Essenes and Rechabites” (J. of Higher Criticism 8:1 [Spring, 2001] p. 15).

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About René Salm

René Salm is the author of two books on New Testament archeology and manages the companion website


The Gospel of Barnabas—Chps. 1–16 — 2 Comments

    • Good question. Perhaps they came from the same early stratum (cf. the Dead Sea Sect, which might also be implicated here–see NazarethGate pp. 461–71), but if so the Carmelites/GBar and the Mandeans must have separated quite soon, probably before 100 CE. The surviving texts show that GBar and the Mandeans belong to two different historical branches: Jewish Christian and Gnostic. Some reasons: (a) John the Baptist is THE major figure in Mandeism, but John does not appear even once in GBar (this is quite amazing–and it requires explanation); (b) GBar is emphatically Jewish-Christian (lauding the prophets, Yahweh, and Jewish praxis) but Mandeism is flagrantly anti-Jewish; (c) GBar exhorts asceticism, while Mandeism is Gnostic (‘Manda’ = gnosis) but not ascetic.

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