The Epistle of Barnabas and the Two Ways of Teaching Authority

in Vigiliae Christianae
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Although much attention has been given to the literary development of the Two Ways form of paraenesis within the Epistle of Barnabas, comparatively little analysis of its function within the letter’s argument has been undertaken. This lacuna in scholarship is addressed by (i) analyzing the function of Two Ways imagery in chs. 1-17 and (ii) investigating the relationship between the Two Ways form in chs. 18-21 and the preceding argument. The Two Ways imagery throughout the letter aims to strengthen the communal identity of the audience by fostering a strong sense of in-group awareness. That is, it sharpens the contrast between those who accept the author’s negation of Jewish identity through scripture and those who do not. The Two Ways form found at the end of the letter (chs. 18-21) both recapitulates this imagery and seeks to orient the audience’s identity around the author’s teaching authority.

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  • 2

    James N. Rhodes“The Two Ways Tradition in the Epistle of Barnabas: Revisiting an Old Question,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 73 (2011): 797-816.

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  • 5

    Carleton PagetOutlook and Background101.

  • 6

    Jonathan A. Draper“Barnabas and the Riddle of the Didache Revisited,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 58 (1995): 89-113.

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  • 8

    HvalvikStruggle201.

  • 10

    HvalvikStruggle195.

  • 11

    HvalvikStruggle195.

  • 12

    HvalvikStruggle199.

  • 17

    Jean-Paul Audet“Affinités littéraires et doctrinales du Manuel de Discipline,” Revue Biblique 59 (1952): 219-38. For a list of scholars supporting this view see Kraft Barnabas 4 n. 3.

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  • 18

    Robert A. Kraft“Early Developments of the ‘Two-Ways Tradition(s),’ in Retrospect,”in For a Later Generation: The Transformation of Tradition in Israel Early Judaism and Early Christianityed. Randal A. Argall Beverly Bow and Rodney Alan Werline (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International2000) 140.

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  • 19

    M. Jack Suggs“The Christian Two Ways Tradition: Its Antiquity, Form and Function,”in Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature: Essays in Honor of Allen P. Wikgrened. David Edward Aune Supplements to Novum Testamentum 33 (Leiden: Brill1972) 64.

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  • 24

    Suggs“Two Ways”67-68; so also John G. Gammie “Spatial and Ethical Dualism in Jewish Wisdom and Apocalyptic Literature” Journal of Biblical Literature 93 (1974): 357 381.

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  • 25

    Marianne Dacy“The Epistle to Barnabas and the Dead Sea Scrolls,”in The Dead Sea Scrolls Fifty Years After Their Discovery: Proceedings of the Jerusalem Congress July 20-25 1997ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman et al. (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society2000) 139-47.

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  • 26

    McKenna“Two Ways” 277.

  • 29

    HvalvikStruggle166-206. Many of the same divisions into thought units are found in Kraft Barnabas; Pierre Prigent and Robert A. Kraft Épître de Barnabé Sources chrétiennes 172 (Paris: Cerf 1971); Klaus Wengst ed. and trans. Didache (Apostellehre); Barnabasbrief; Zweiter Klemensbrief; Schrift an Diognet Schriften des Urchristentums (Munich: Kösel 1984); Ferdinand R. Prostmeier Der Barnabasbrief Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern 8 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1999).

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  • 35

    HvalvikStruggle173-77.

  • 36

    KraftBarnabas86-92; Prigent and Kraft Barnabé 93-105.

  • 39

    HvalvikStruggle177-84.

  • 40

    Prigent and KraftBarnabé120-21; Kraft Barnabas 98-99; Hvalvik Struggle 180-81. The cryptic reference to the suffering earth/humanity (Ἄνθρωπος γὰρ γῆ ἐστιν πάσχουσα 6:9) provides at least a thematic link to the previous thought units.

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  • 47

    See further Rhodes“Two Ways Tradition”805-8.

  • 49

    KraftBarnabas116-17.

  • 50

    Geoffrey D. Dunn“Tertullian and Rebekah: A Re-Reading of an ‘Anti-Jewish’ Argument in Early Christian Literature,” Vigiliae Christianae 52 (1998): 130.

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  • 56

    Dunn“Tertullian and Rebekah” 127 130.

  • 57

    Michael Kok“The True Covenant People: Ethnic Reasoning in the Epistle of Barnabas,” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 40 (2011): 88.

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  • 59

    ProstmeierBarnabasbrief534 563.

  • 63

    Leslie W. Barnard“The Epistle of Barnabas and the Tannaitic Catechism,” Anglican Theological Review 41 (1959): 178characterizes this method as gematria considering it to be evidence of the rabbinic character of exegesis in Barnabas. Reidar Hvalvik “Barnabas 9.7-9 and the Author’s Supposed Use of GematriaNew Testament Studies 33 (1987): 276-80 however argues convincingly that it is better understood as an example of nomina sacra the practice of contracting certain words in early Christian manuscripts. This should not be construed as evidence against the Jewish character of the author’s exegesis since the Christian practice of nomina sacra traces its roots to the Jerusalem church (Birger A. Pearson “Cracking a Conundrum: Christian Origins in Egypt” Studia Theologica 57 [2003]: 62).

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  • 70

    Colin H. RobertsManuscript Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt (London: Oxford University Press1979) 45-49 56; Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski The Jews of Egypt: From Ramesesii to Emperor Hadrian trans. Robert Cornman (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society 1995) 230; Pearson “Conundrum” 61-75; Jani Loman “The Letter of Barnabas in Early Second-Century Egypt” in The Wisdom of Egypt: Jewish Early Christian and Gnostic Essays in Honour of Gerard P. Luttikhuizen ed. Anthony Hilhorst and Geurt Hendrik van Kooten Arbeiten zur Geschichte des antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums 59 (Leiden: Brill 2005) 247-65. Although the letter’s provenance cannot be conclusively determined cogent arguments have been made for an Alexandrian locale: Leslie W. Barnard “The ‘Epistle of Barnabas’ and Its Contemporary Setting” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung Part 2 Principat 27.1 ed. Hildegard Temporini and Wolfgang Haase (Berlin: De Gruyter 1993) 159-72; Prostmeier Barnabasbrief 119-30.

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  • 71

    Dunn“Tertullian and Rebekah” 126-33. Although many scholars view Barnabas as a treatise or homily rather than an actual letter it nevertheless may be assumed that the author had in mind an actual audience of people he knew.

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  • 74

    Dunn“Tertullian and Rebekah” 132.

  • 75

    Luke Timothy Johnson“The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic,” Journal of Biblical Literature 108 (1989): 419-41. Although Ferdinand R. Prostmeier “Antijudaismus in Rahmen christlicher Hermeneutik: Zum Streit über christliche Identität in der Alten Kirche; Notizen zum Barnabasbrief” Zeitschrift Für Antikes Christentum 6 (2002): 53-56 is certainly correct to describe the controversy in Barnabas as an “innerchristliche Streit” it is nevertheless also an intra-Jewish one as well given that Jewish and Christian identities were not mutually exclusive. Eugene Mihaly “A Rabbinic Defense of the Election of Israel: An Analysis of Sifre Deuteronomy 32:9 Pisqa 312” Hebrew Union College Annual 35 (1964): 103-43 argues that the rabbinic exegesis of Deut 32:9 is a carefully crafted point-by-point response to the rejection of Israel’s election articulated in Barn. 13-16. The very fact that the rabbis regarded this claim as worthy of a response is at least suggestive of the proximity of the Christian Other and hence of an intramural debate. This seems especially likely since as P.S. Alexander demonstrates the general strategy of the rabbis was to ignore or diminish the existence of Christianity as much as possible (Philip S. Alexander “Jewish Believers in Early Rabbinic Literature [2nd to 5th Centuries]” in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries ed. Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik [Peabody Mass.: Hendrickson 2007] 665-87 708).

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  • 76

    Kok“True Covenant People” 92-93.

  • 77

    Johnson“Slander” 430 441.

  • 78

    HallEthnic Identity19; emphasis original.

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