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

In: Vigiliae Christianae
E.A. de Boer 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.

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