The Gospel of Barnabas—Chps. 65–72

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30. [Jesus] said, “The flesh attracts sin and sucks up iniquity even as a sponge sucks up water.”        [LXVI:68b, p. 155]

• No parallel.

COMMENT: Because ‘the flesh’ is irretrievably sinful, the implications of this logion are the way of asceticism: denial, renunciation of pleasure, and mortification of the flesh. This religious view is known as encratism (< Gk. egkrateia, continence). It had a profound effect on early Christianity, as witnessed not only by the many encratite logia found even in the canonical gospels (Mt 5:28 etc), but by works such as the apocryphal acts of the apostles (Acts of Thomas, Paul, etc) and the many encratite tractates from the Nag Hammadi Library. It can be argued that encratism ultimately derives from Buddhism:

        What taints, brethren, should be abandoned by removing? Here an aspirant, reflecting wisely, does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensual desire; he abandons it, removes it, does away with it, and annihilates it.        [Maj. Nik. 2.20]

31. [Jesus] said, “Beware of those who bless you, for they deceive you.”        [LXVI:68b, p. 155]                • No parallel
COMMENT: For the author/editor of GBar, people are irretrievably depraved and not to be trusted.

32. [Jesus] said, “You have the key and open not; rather, you block the road for those who would walk on it.”  [LXVII:69b, p. 157]
• Cf. GTh 102: “Cursed are they, the Pharisees, for they are like a dog that has lain the cattle manger but will neither eat [the food there] nor allow the oxen to eat it.”

33. [Jesus said] “You ask me… what God will give us in Paradise. Truly I say to you that those who think of the wages love not the master. Consider: A shepherd who has a flock of sheep, when he sees the wolf coming sets himself to defend them [and does not concern himself with wages]; but the hireling, when he sees the wolf coming leaves the sheep and flees.”        [LXVIII:69b, p. 157]

COMMENT: In this striking and probably authentic analogy “Jesus” points out that the shepherd serves the sheep while the hireling serves money/wages. The distinction is applicable to all of life in that most people do not serve Truth but serve money, status, advancement, and power.

34. [Jesus said:] “Once, a king encountered a man by the wayside who was almost fatally wounded and had been stripped by thieves. Having compassion on him, the king commanded his servants to bear the man to the city and to tend him. This the servants did with all diligence. Now, the king developed a great fondness for the sick man, so much so that later he gave [him] his own daughter in marriage and the prospect of becoming his heir.
        However, though the king had been most merciful, the once sick man beat the king’s slaves, despised the medicines offered, abused his wife, spoke evil of the king, and caused the king’s vassals to rebel. Furthermore, when the king required any service, the once sick man responded, “What will the king pay me as recompense?”
        And when the king realized all this, what did he do to the ungrateful man?”
        All replied: “Woe came to him, for [no doubt] the king cruelly punished him and deprived him of everything.”
        Then said Jesus, “O priests and scribes, Pharisees and you High Priest who hears my voice, I proclaim to you what God has told you by his prophet Isaiah, ‘I have nourished slaves and exalted them, but they have despised me.’” [Isa 1:2]
                        [LXVIII:70a, p. 157]

COMMENT: This parable is related to a number of familiar parables in the canonical gospels, suggesting that a ‘seed’ parable was adapted to different ends in the various texts.
        In the first instance, the parable in GBar is related to the Parable of the Royal Marriage Feast (Mt 22:1–7). In both cases a ‘king’ treats his lesser(s) well but receives rejection/ungratefulness in return, and in both cases the king exacts retribution (Mt 22:7). Interpreted theologically, we have here a rejection of the Messiah (GMt)/Servant of the Lord (GBar) and the judgment at the end times (GMt) or at death (GBar).
        The parable in GBar also has elements in common with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30–37). Both begin with a man by the wayside/highway who has been beaten and robbed, but then the accounts radically diverge. For GLk the parable is a lesson in love, while for GBar it is a lesson on the moral bankruptcy of the Jewish religious establishment (priests, scribes, Pharisees and High Priest).
        Less obvious is the relationship of the parable in GBar to the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11–32). In both cases an unworthy ‘son’ does not merit the inheritance that the father/king wishes to give him. The parable in GBar is one of just reward, while the Lukan parable is one of forgiveness. It is an important distinction, for the Great Church would make forgiveness a central pillar, one linked to the view that we are all fallen creatures in need of a Savior and Redeemer. GBar, however, does not know a Savior and Redeemer. For it, the foregoing parable is one of just desserts and, ultimately, of karma: one reaps what one sows.

35. And Jesus continued, saying, “O doctors, O scribes, O Pharisees, O priests, hear me! You demand horses like cavalrymen, yet you refuse to go to war; you demand fair clothing like women, yet you refuse to spin and nurture children; you demand the fruits of the field, yet you refuse to till the earth; you demand honor as citizens, yet you refuse the burdens of the state; you demand tithes and first fruits as priests, yet you refuse to serve God in truthfulness. What then will God do with you, seeing that you demand every good yet refuse every sacrifice? Truly I say to you that God will give you a place where you will have every sacrifice without any good.” [Paraphrased.]        [LXIX:71a, p. 159]

COMMENT: This extremely forceful diatribe has the ring of authenticity. It must go back to the earliest Christian stratum—if not to the prophet himself (d. c. 70 BCE), then to the first generation of followers (c. 50 BCE in Judea).
        What we have here—as in so many sayings from the Gospel of Barnabas—is deep, heartfelt anger directed at the Jewish establishment. This is firm evidence that the prophet himself opposed (and was opposed by) the traditional and vested Jewish power structure: sanhedrin, Pharisaic councils, Chief Priest, and Temple hierarchy. Such a situation in the first century BCE is clearly possible, for we now know that the Dead Sea Sect furnishes a remarkably close analogy. The relationship of Yeshu ha-Notsri to Qumran is still unclear to me. Yet it would not surprise me to learn that Qumran was populated by early Yeshuine followers (see NazarethGate pp. 461–71).

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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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