The Gospel of Barnabas—Chps. 22–32

[Click HERE for the color coding scheme.
Opens a separate tab.]        

20.    Jesus answered, “Truly I say to you that a dog is better than an uncircumcised man.”         [XXII:21b, p. 45]

21. “And therefore if the flesh hinders the service of God it ought to be spurned like clay and trampled on, for he that hates his soul in this world will keep it to life eternal.”         [XXIII:23a, p. 49]

        • Mk 9:43 & par.; Jn 12:25.                   COMMENT: Cf. Marcionite dualism.

22. Jesus answered, “Keep your flesh like a horse, and you will live securely. For food is given to a horse by measure, yet labor without measure; and the bridle is put on a horse that it may walk at your will; and it is tied up that it may not annoy anyone; it is kept in a poor place, and beaten when it is not obedient. So do you also, O Barnabas, and you will always live with God.”         [XXV:24b, p. 53]

        • (No known parallel.)
         COMMENT: This astonishing simile/parable is new to GBar and quite remarkable. It enjoins one to (a) eat in moderation; (b) toil without measure; (c) be controlled (‘bridled’); (d) not annoy anyone; (e) live “in a poor place”; and (f) suffer immediate consequences when disobedient. These directives are strikingly Buddhist, and a comparison of Theravada (old-school) Buddhism and Ebionism would be a productive path forward in early Christian scholarship, for the foregoing points are also ‘Ebionite’ (literally “of the poor”), a Jewish-Christian sect of I CE. They are, of course, also contrary to the long-standing Western ethic of self-centeredness, enjoyment, and immoderation.

23a. “Tell me who is poorer: he who is content with little, or he who desires much?”          [XXV:25a, p. 53]
COMMENT: An incisive saying with the ring of authenticity.

23b. “Truly I say to you, that if the world had a sound mind no one would amass anything for himself, but all would be held in common. But here know its madness, that the more it amasses the more it desires… Therefore let a single robe suffice for you, cast away your purse, carry no wallet, no sandals on your feet… Truly I say to you that amassing much in this life is a sure guarantee of having nothing in the next.”         [XXV:25a, p. 53]

        • Cf. Mk 6:8 & par.

24. “If anyone is a stumbling-block in the service of God, be it even your father or mother, abandon them as enemies… Truly I say to you that he who prefers his father and mother, his children and wife and even his own life to the love of God, that such a one is also not deserving of the love of God.”         [XXVI:26a, p. 55]

COMMENT: This is a conflation and paraphrase of two sayings close to one another on the same page in GBar. My paraphrase conforms to the wording of Mt 10:37, though the original GBar wording has the negative phraseology of Lk 14:27.
        Note the strong Buddhist undertones of this passage. In the ‘Great Renunciation,’ Siddhartha Gautama famously abandoned father, mother, wife, child, and riches for the homeless life.

        • Bdsm. Sutta-Nipata 1.3.10: “Neither iron, nor wood, nor cord of rope bind so firmly as love of self, of precious stones and rings, of thoughts of children and wives.”         [Salm: Bdst–Chr Par, chp. 11, B7]

25. “You have forgotten the words of the prophet, ‘Present laughter is a herald of weeping to come,’ and further, ‘You shall not go where there is laughter, but sit where they weep, for this life passes in miseries.’ Then said Jesus, “Truly I say to you, every like loves his like and therein finds pleasure. Therefore, if you were not mad you would not laugh at madness.”          [XXVII:28a, p. 61]

COMMENT: The “words of the prophet” are not known (but cp. Eccl 7:2–3 and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 30:10). The statement “Present laughter is a herald of weeping to come” is fundamentally a statement of karma—lack of discretion today brings sorrow tomorrow. The concept is essentially Buddhist:

When a fool does evil work,
he forgets that he is lighting a fire
wherein he must burn some day. (Dhammapada 136.)
For one’s deeds are not lost, they will surely return,
Their master will meet with them.
The fool who commits sin
Will come to feel the pain himself. (Sutta-Nipata 666)

Cf. Salm, Bdst–Chr Par, chp. 27, “Karma, or the Golden Rule.”)

26.         One skilled in the law invited Jesus to supper in order to tempt him. Jesus came with his disciples, and many scribes waited to tempt him in the house. Then the disciples sat down to table without washing their hands. The scribes addressed Jesus saying, “Why don’t your disciples observe the traditions of our elders, that they don’t wash their hands before they eat bread?”
        Jesus answered, “And I ask you, for what cause have you annulled the precept of God to observe your traditions? You say to the sons of poor parents: ‘Offer and make vows to the temple.’ And they make vows of the little wherewith they ought to support their parents. And when their parents wish to receive money, the sons cry out: ‘This money is consecrated to God,’ whereby the parents suffer. O false scribes, hypocrites, does God need money? Assuredly not, for God does not eat, as He said by His servant David the prophet [Ps 50:13–14]: ‘Shall I then eat the flesh of bulls and drink the blood of sheep? Make me a sacrifice of praise, and offer me your vows,’ for if I should be hungry I would not ask of you, seeing that all things are in My hands, and the abundance of paradise is with Me.’ Hypocrites! You do this to fill your purse, and therefore you tithe dill and mint. Oh miscreants! You show the perfectly straight way to others, but on it you do not go.” [XXXII:32b, p. 71]

COMMENT: Alternate versions are found in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. I find it revealing that this pericope has far more elements in common with Mk 7:1 ff than with Mt 15:1 ff. It is as if certain elements in the Gospel of Barnabas hearken back to the very earliest canonical stratum—even before the Gospel of Matthew. The question then becomes which gospel came first, UrBarnabas or UrMark. I suspect the former: UrBarnabas –> UrMark. That is, GBar = the so-called lost “Hebrew Gospel” signaled by Papias and other early Christian Fathers.

27.         “Truly I say to you, that every evil has entered into the world under the authority of the elders. Tell me, what has made idolatry enter into the world if not the usage of the elders? [It is as if] there once was a king who exceedingly loved his father, and the father’s name was Baal. Whereupon, when the father had died, for his own consolation the son had an image of his father made and set it up in the marketplace of the city. And he decreed that anyone who approached that statue within the space of fifteen cubits should be safe, and no one on any account should harm him. Hence, the malefactors, by reason of the benefit they received therefrom, began to offer roses and flowers to the statue, and in a short time the offerings were changed into money and food, insomuch that they called it god, to honor it. Which thing from custom was transformed into a law, insomuch that idolatry of Baal spread through all the world. And how much does God lament this, saying by the prophet Isaiah [29:13]: ‘Truly this people worships me in vain, for they have annulled my law given to them by my servant Moses, and follow the traditions of their elders.’”         [XXXII: 33a, p. 73]

28.         “I know that in Israel there are not statues of wood; but there are statues of flesh… Truly I say to you, the precept does not say ‘You shall worship,’ but ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your heart, and with all your mind.’” [XXXII: 33b, p. 73]

        • The Shema: Dt 6:5; Mk 12 31 & par.

← Previous                    Next →

About René Salm

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *