The Gospel of Barnabas—Chps. 33–35

29.         Then Jesus said, “Truly all that which a person loves, for which he leaves all else but that, is his god. And so the fornicator has for his image [of god] the harlot, the glutton and drunkard have for image their own flesh, the covetous person has for his image silver and gold, and so likewise every other sinner.”         [XXXIII:34a, p. 75]

30.         “Master, what is the greatest sin?”
        Jesus answered, “What is the greatest ruin of a house?”
        Everyone was silent, and Jesus pointed with his finger to the foundation and said, “If the foundation gives way, then the house will quickly fall into ruin, and it will be necessary to completely rebuild it. But if any other part give way, then it can still be repaired.
        “Even so I say to you that idolatry is the greatest sin, because it deprives a person entirely of faith, and consequently of God, so that he can have no spiritual life. But any other sin leaves a person the hope of obtaining mercy. Therefore I say to you that idolatry is the greatest sin.”
        [XXXIII:34b, p. 75]

COMMENT: According to the preceding entry no. 29 (which occurs immediately before no. 30) each sinner’s “god” is his addiction: fornication, gluttony, etc. For Jesus, then, idolatry is the greatest sin because it replaces God with whatever addiction one possesses (or, more correctly, whatever addiction one is possessed by). This contrasts with normative Judaism, where idolatry is the worship of any god but Yahweh. In Jewish scripture, idolatry is false fealty, which has political, social, and even ethnic ramifications. Jesus does away with such a tribal view of god and replaces it with the spiritual dynamics operating within the individual—fealty to fornication, gluttony, etc.
        In fact, Jesus’ un-Jewish response conforms strikingly to the Buddhist view, where attachment/addiction/craving (tanha) constitute the greatest obstacles to happiness, peace, and enlightenment:

                Neither iron, nor wood, nor cord of rope—so the wise have seen—
                bind so firmly as love of self, of precious stones and rings,
                of thoughts of children and of wives. (Samyutta Nikaya 1.3.10)

                Put away anger and abandon the self, transcend all attachments to mind and body!
                Then totally unhampered, sorrow will torment you no more. (Samyutta Nikaya 1.1.3)

[On attachment, see Buddhist and Christian Parallels, chps. 11 & 17.]

31. [Though lengthy, I have decided to give the following in toto. It is a new and very interesting version of the story of human creation. Note, in the final paragraph, that man is created out of Satan’s spittle mixed with some earth. When reading this—and all the entries from this gospel—keep in mind the prevailing scholarly consensus that GBar is a creation of the 16th century. Ask yourself: Does that really make sense? I will continue this train of thought in the comment at the end of the entry…—R.S.]
        Jesus departed from Jerusalem and went to the desert beyond Jordan.
[Note: Even in the canonical gospels, Jesus’ most significant spiritual activities seem to occur either “beyond Jordan” or “on the other side” of a body of water (e.g., the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a part of the Jordan River).]
        And his disciples that were seated round him said to Jesus: O master, tell us how Satan fell through pride, for we have understood that he fell through disobedience, and because he always tempts man to do evil.”
        Jesus answered: “God having created a mass of earth, and having left it for twenty-five thousand years without doing anything else; Satan, who was as it were priest and head of the angels, by the great understanding that he possessed, knew that God of that mass of earth was to take 144,000 signed with the mark of prophecy,
and the messenger of God, the soul of which messenger [God] had created sixty thousand years before anything else. [The passage in black type is probably a late Islamic addition, in which case the “messenger of God” = Mohammed.—R.S.] Therefore, being indignant, [Satan] instigated the angels saying: ‘Look you, one day God will decide that this earth will be revered by us. Wherefore consider that we are spirit, and therefore it is not fitting so to do.’
        “Many therefore forsook God. Whereupon, one day when all the angels were assembled, God said: ‘Let each one that holds me for his lord straightway do reverence to this earth.’
        “They that loved God bowed themselves, but Satan, with them that were of his mind, said: ‘O Lord, we are spirit, and therefore it is not just that we should do reverence to this clay.’ Having said this, Satan became horrid and of fearsome look, and his followers became hideous; because for their rebellion God took away from them the beauty wherewith he had endowed them in creating them. Whereat, when lifting their heads and seeing how horrible a monster Satan and his followers had become, the holy angels cast down their face to earth in fear.
        “Then said Satan: ‘O Lord, you have unjustly made me hideous. But I am content at that, because I desire to annul all that you will do. And the other devils said: ‘Call him not Lord, O Lucifer
[Latin: lux + fero, “light bringer,” i.e., the Gnostic hero.—R.S.], for you are Lord.’
        “Then said God to the followers of Satan: ‘Repent, and recognize me as God your creator.’
        “They answered: ‘We repent for having ever given you reverence, for you are not just. But Satan is just and innocent, and he is our Lord.’
        “Then God said: ‘Depart from me, O you accursed, for I have no mercy on you!’
        “And as he departed Satan spat on the ground, and the angel Gabriel lifted up that spittle with some earth, so that therefore man now has a navel in his belly.”
        [XXXV:36a–37a, pp. 79–81]

        COMMENT: In this account, Satan is wholly just and God unjust. After all, God orders Satan and his followers to “do reverence to this earth,” requiring this servile gesture as proof of their loyalty to Him. Satan, being spiritual, naturally objects at the injustice of the demand: “It is not just that we should reverence this clay.” God then punishes Satan and his followers by making them appear hideous. Satan considers this also to be unjust, and he vows to undo all that God will decree henceforth, while Satan’s followers determine to call Satan “God.” God demands repentance, they refuse, and God finally expels them from His sight and curses them. On leaving, Satan spits on the ground, the angel Gabriel lifts up the spittle with some earth, and so is man created.
        Thus man is an offspring of Satan. The fact that Satan seems wholly justified and God seems unjust, petty, and vindictive—these do not exercise the author of GBar, for whom “Satan fell through pride” (first paragraph). In this account, then, obedience is the ultimate test, not ethics or morality.
        My own impression is that this account contains at least two mutually incongruent strata. The story itself is the valuable part. It is an mythological apology for Satan/Lucifer (“Light Bringer”) and seems to derive from Gnostic or Marcionite circles. The (fairly incompetent) compiler of GBar took this account and—with very little editing—prefaced it with an incongruent ‘frame’ that was congenial to Jewish Christians, namely, the first paragraph which accuses Satan of pride, disobedience, and of “always tempting man to do evil.” Finally, an Islamic editor much later added a sentence about the “messenger of God,” namely Mohammed, and his pre-existent soul.—R.S.]

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About René Salm

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

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