The Development of the Canon of the New Testament

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Apocryphal New Testament Writings

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Gospel of Truth
Gospel of the Twelve
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Basilides
Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of Matthias
Traditions of Matthias
Preaching of Peter
Acts of Andrew
Acts of Paul
Acts of John
Epistle to the Laodiceans
I Clement
Epistle of Barnabas
Shepherd of Hermas
Apocalypse of Peter

Epistle of Barnabas (Alexandria, 70-135 CE)

The Epistle of Barnabas is a theological tract (not an epistle) that discusses questions that have confronted the followers of Jesus since the earliest days of his ministry: How ought Christians to interpret the Jewish Scriptures? What is the nature of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism?

Writing at a time when the level of antagonism between church and synagogue still ran high, the anonymous author of the "epistle" is concerned to prove that the death of Christ on the cross is a sacrifice that fulfills a plan set forth in the Old Testament (9.7-9). Throughout his interpretation of the Old Testament he takes a radically anti-Jewish attitude that was unique in primitive Christian literature. In a sustained attack upon Judaism, the writer declares that the distinctive enactments of the Mosaic Law, including animal sacrifices and the material temple, are mistakes arising from Jewish blindness and reliance upon an evil angel (9.4). By means of allegorical interpretation he imposes upon the Old Testament, including even the dietary laws in Leviticus, a meaning totally foreign to the intention of the original authors. The author attempts to show that only Christians understand the true meaning of the Scriptures (10.12) and that they are the true and intended heirs of God's covenant. In short, the Epistle of Barnabas is a good and early example of what became the dominant method of interpreting the Bible in the early and medieval church.

It is generally agreed that the author was from Alexandria, in view of his fondness of the allegorical approach for which Alexandria was well-known and the fact that all the earliest evidence for the existence of the document derives from there. It appears to have been written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE (16.3-5) but before the city was rebuilt by Hadrian following the revolt of 132-135 CE. Within these limits it is not possible to be more precise.

The text has been reconstructed on the basis of the following witnesses:

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