Tertullian on “Barnabas’ Letter to the Hebrews” in De pudicitia 20.1-5

In: Vigiliae Christianae
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  • 1 Theological University Kampen—Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands—University of Free State, South Africa

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In De pudicitia Tertullian, quoting from Hebrews 6, refers to the Barnabae titulus ad Hebraeos. This piece of primary evidence on the authorship of the Letter to the Hebrews has not received the attention it deserves. Consideration of this piece of evidence serves to clarify our understanding of the development of the diverging ascriptions, and moreover reveals some possible reasons for this divergence. The Barnabas tradition can be followed until the end of the fourth century in Spain and France. Comparison of De paenitentia and De pudicitia shows that Hebrews features only late in Tertullian’s work. His growing conviction that a second repentance after baptism cannot be terminated by acceptance in the Church was strengthened by his appeal to Hebrews 6. Finally, Tertullian’s exposition of two chapters from Leviticus on purity illustrate his reading of Hebrew as the Letter by Joseph Barnabas, a Levite.

  • 1

    Timothy David Barnes, Tertullian. A Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 47.

  • 2

    Tertullian, De pudicitia 20.2: ‘Extat enim et Barnabae titulus ad Hebraeos, a Deo satis auctoritati uiri, ut quem Paulus iuxta se constituerit in abstinentiae tenore: aut ego solus et Barnabas non habemus operandi potestatem? Et utique receptior apud ecclesias epistola Barnabae illo apocrypho Pastore moechorum’ (CCSL 2, 1324).

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  • 11

    Antti Marjanen, ‘Montanism: Egalitarian Ecstatic “New Prophecy”,’ in A Companion to Second-Century Christian ‘Heretics’, eds. Antti Marjanen, Petri Luomanen (Leiden, 2008), 185-212.

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  • 15

    Tertullian, De pudicitia 20.3-5 (CCSL 2, 1325, ll. 22-24).

  • 24

    Riesner, ‘Der Hebräer-Brief nach Altkirchlichen Zeugnissen’, 21. On Gregory of Elvira see: Lexikon der Antiken Christlichen Literatur, Siegmar Döpp—Wilhelm Geerlings eds., 3 ed. (Freiburg / Basel / wien: Herder, 2002), 291.

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  • 27

    Riesner, ‘Der Hebräer-Brief nach Altkirchlichen Zeugnissen’, 23; Robert A. Kraft in The Apostolic Fathers. A New Translation and Commentary, vol. 3, ed. Robert A. Kraft (Toronto / New York / London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1965), 41. Linguistic research of the Latin text of this codex demonstrates that the text of Hebrews shows another translator than the Pauline letters and was added no later than the early fourth century to a corpus of thirteen letters, that is perhaps when the authorship of Paul became established in the West (cf. Reinhard Franz Schlossnikel, Der Brief aan die Hebräer und das Corpus Paulinum. Eine linguistische “Bruchstelle” im Codex Claromontanus und ihre Bedeutung im Rahmen von Tekst- und Kanongeschichte [Vetus Latina. Die Reste der altlateinischen Buibel 24] (Freiburg, 1991)).

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  • 30

    PL 12, 1165f; 1196.

  • 45

    Epiphanius, Panarion 4.1 (GCS 25, 231); 30.24-25 (366f).

  • 48

    W.H.P. Hatch, ‘The Position of Hebrews in the Canon of the New Testament,’ Harvard Theological Review 29 (1936), 133-51.

  • 50

    Cf. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London / New York: United bible societies, 1975), 661f. on the basis of Hatch, “The Position of Hebrews in the Canon of the New Testament.”

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  • 54

    Hilarius, De Trin. 4.11 (CCSL 62, 112).

  • 61

    Charles Kannengiesser, Handbook of Patristic Exegesis. The Bible in Ancient Christianity (Leiden – Boston: Brill, 2006), 358-61; Alexander Souter, Earliest Latin Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul. A Study (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1927; 1999). For the subscriptions see Metzger, A Textual Commentary, 678. On Pelagius see Ps-Pelagius, Fragmenta in epistulam ad Hebraeos, in PLS 1, 1685-87 (on Hebrews 2-3). Rainer Riesner, ‘Der Hebräer-Brief nach Altkirchlichen Zeugnissen’, European Journal of Theology 11/1 (2002), 21 (15-29).

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  • 64

    Souter, Earliest Latin Commentaries, 210. Cf. Ad Hebraeos divi Pauli epistola, in PL 68, 685-794 (Primasius of Hadrumetum); attributed to Cassiodorus by Kannengiesser, Handbook of Patristic Exegesis, 361.

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  • 65

    E.g. Augustinus, De Genesi ad litteram 10, 19.34; De civitate Dei XVI 22.

  • 68

    See Rothschild, Hebrews as Pseudepigraphon, 46-62.

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