The Gospel of Barnabas—Chps. 43–64

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21. [His disciples asked Jesus] “Who is a hypocrite? Tell us plainly.”
        “Truly I say to you that he who does good in order that men may see him, he is a hypocrite. For his deed does not proceed from the heart that men cannot see, where exist every unclean thought and filthy lust.
        “And do you know who is a hypocrite? He who with his tongue serves God but with his heart serves man… As God lives, and in whose presence I stand, the hypocrite is a thief who commits sacrilege, inasmuch as he makes use of the law to appear good, but steals the honor of God to whom alone belong praise and honor forever.”
        [XLV:47b, p. 107]

22. “Furthermore I say to you that the hypocrite lacks faith, for if he believed that God sees all and will punish wickedness with judgment terrible, he would purify his heart which, because he lacks faith, he keeps full of iniquity. Truly I say to you that the hypocrite is as a sepulcher whose outside is white but whose inside is full of corruption and worms [Mt 23:27]. So then if you, O priests, do the service of God because God created you and asks it of you, then I do not speak against you, for you are servants of God. But if you do all for gain, and so buy and sell in the temple as in the marketplace, not regarding that the temple of God is a house of prayer and not of merchandise, which you convert into a den of robbers [Mt 21:23], if you do all to please men and have put God out of your mind, then I cry out against you that you are sons of the devil and not sons of Abraham, who left his father’s house for love of God and was willing to slay his own son. Wot to you, priests and doctors, if you be such, for God will take away from you the priesthood!”        [XLV:48, p. 109]

23. Some said, “He [Jesus] is our God who has visited us.” Others said, “God is invisible, so that no one has seen Him, not even Moses his servant. Therefore he is not God, but rather his son.” Others said, “He is not God, nor son of God, for God has no body to beget at all, but he is a great prophet of God.”        [XLV:49b, p. 115]

COMMENT: This passage offers three competing views of Jesus that must have been current at the time the passage was formulated: (1) Jesus is God; (2) Jesus is a “son” of God; (3) Jesus is a great prophet. These three views were in competition in the early second century, allowing us to date the passage. Chronologically, the appearance of these views occurred in reverse order. “Jesus is a great prophet” is Ebionism, in which Jesus was a latter-day Joshua—but with a difference: the second Joshua was a great prophet due to his acquisition of understanding. He crossed a spiritual Jordan (water=gnosis), not a physical Jordan. This view probably existed already in the first century BCE. “Jesus is a son of God” corresponds to what I term Stage II Christology: the actual spirit of God (Holy Spirit) indwells an exemplary (but not necessarily unique) human being. This view was extant in the first century CE. Finally, “Jesus is God” corresponds to nascent Catholicism. It does not predate the second century and presupposes the Incarnation.

24. He who judges without mercy will be judged without mercy.”        [XLIX:52a, p. 117]

COMMENT: This version may well be more authentic than Mt 7:1. As with many of the logia and beatitudes of Jesus in GBar and elsewhere, this is essentially a karmic saying: As you do to others, so it will be done to you (the “Golden Rule,” Mt 7:12). See Bdst–Chr Parallels chp. 27.

25. “False judgment is the father of all sins. For no one sins without first willing it, and no one wills what he does not understand.”        [XLIX:52b, p. 119]

COMMENT: This perceptive logion highlights (1) judgment, (2) will (intention), and (3) understanding. Linking these elements to ‘sin’ is not found in the Catholic tradition, where sinfulness is associated with unbelief in Jesus (Jn 16:9, “Concerning sin, because they do not believe in me”). GBar presents a pre-Catholic stratum where understanding –> correct judgment –> correct willing. This vocabulary is not at all ‘Christian’—but it is Buddhist. Ultimately, all begins with understanding, i.e. gnosis.
        The emphasis on the role of the will is also strikingly Buddhist, for in Buddhism the will (cetana) is the critical element determining whether an action or even a thought is sinful or wholesome. In Buddhism it is possible to sin without even carrying out the act at all. The intention alone (the “will”) determines sinfulness/goodness and creates either bad or good karma. The Gospel of Barnabas seems uncannily aware of this theology/psychology.

26. And having said this, [Jesus] went out of the synagogue and out of the city, and he retired into the desert to pray, for he loved solitude greatly.        [L:53a, p. 119]

COMMENT: Jesus’ love of solitude is common to all the gospels that survive, and that pervasiveness is remarkable. By the criterion of multiple attestation, we have here strong confirmation of this verse’s authenticity: Jesus/the original prophet who founded the Christian religion was a loner. Certainly, the man was voluntarily poor—poor unto homelessness. He was a nonconformist and probably even a misfit. After all, the man never married, never had children, never owned anything, and preached another world—a world not linked to materiality but, rather, a spiritual, unseen realm.

27. “Three times and four times blessed are the poor, who in true poverty have served God from the heart, for in this world they are destitute of worldly cares, and shall therefore be freed from many sins. And in that day [i.e. the day of judgment] they will not have to render an account of how they have spent the riches of the world, but they will be rewarded for their patience and their poverty. Truly I say to you, that if the world knew this it would choose the hair-shirt sooner than purple, lice sooner than gold, fasts sooner than feasts.”        [LVII:60a, p. 135]

–“Three times and four times blessed are the poor.” Such passages as this strikingly reveal that GBar is an Ebionite work (“Ebion”/אביון means “poor”). Over and over, this gospel lauds poverty and disparages the rich “who have received their reward” (Mt 6:2 etc).
–“The day of judgment” is not necessarily at the end of time, as commonly thought in later orthodoxy. For GBar it is at death. This view is consistent with ancient religion of the Bronze-Iron ages (e.g., cf. Egyptian religion).
–“they will be rewarded for their patience and their poverty.” Statements of future reward such as this are ultimately expressions of karma—you will reap what you now sow (in this case, patience and poverty lead to future richness in the spiritual realm).
–“if the world knew this.” Here is the key—the law of karma, and knowledge of it, will save. That is gnosis. But very few people know the law of karma, and fewer still live accordingly.

28. “Woe to those who call for vengeance, for on themselves it will come, seeing that every person has in himself cause for the vengeance of God.”        [LXIII:65b, p. 147]                COMMENT: Another karmic saying.

29. “As God lives, in whose presence my soul stands, a sinner is of infirm mind when he persecutes a man. For tell me, is there anyone who would break his head for the sake of tearing the cloak of his enemy? Then how can he be of sane mind who separates himself from God, the head of his soul, in order to injure the body of his enemy?”        [LXIV:66b, p. 149]
COMMENT: “As God lives, in whose presence my soul stands.” This reminds one of Simon Magus, “The Standing One.” Being worthy to stand before God was an old religious test of purity, known in the Old Testament and elsewhere. For the Gnostics, metaphorical standing was in the water of gnosis, and Gnostics accordingly reinterpreted passages such as Josh 4:9.

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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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