Monday, May 26, 2014

Michuta on the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals in the so-called Epistle of Barnabas

Gary Michuta tries to argue that the (pseudographic) Epistle of Barnabas quotes from the apocryphal/deuterocanonical book of the Wisdom of Solomon (also pseudonymous).  At pages 59-60, he writes:
The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. AD 70)
The title of this work is something of a misnomer; modern scholars do not consider The Epistle of Barnabas to have been written by the great companion of St. Paul (largely because of marked differences in viewpoint). Nevertheless, the letter is very ancient, and it was highly regarded in the early Church; so highly, in fact, that many ancient writers considered it canonical New Testament book. Its author and place of composition are unknown; it may have originated in Alexandria, Palestine, or even Syria.

Are there Deuterocanonical references in 1 Clement -- in a work so highly honored in early Christianity that the famous Codex Sinaiticus included it right after the Book of Revelation? Yes. Barnabas 6:7 appears to be quoting Wisdom 2:12; as if Wisdom were part of Isaiah 3:9-10. If this identification is correct, then the intermixing of the two prophecies from Wisdom and Isaiah would strongly suggest that the author understood them both to be divine and prophetic in origin.[fn70]

FN70: The relationship between these two texts is disputed. Oesterley sees an intermingling of Ws 2:12 and Is 3:9-10 indicating that both were of equal authority. (Oesterley, Introduction, 125). Similarly, the [sic] The Ante Nicene Fathers, edited by Roberts and Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishers) acknowledges both passages. See ANF 1.140, FN. 19. Likewise, Migne, Muilenburg, Kraft, Goodspeed, Lake, and Sparks confirms this connection as does Brabban, who calls it a "loose paraphrase" (Brabban, "Use of the Apocrypha," 358-59). Westcott (Westcott, 84), Beckwith (Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 427, FN. 208) and Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie's Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995), 161) and others dispute this connection.
Readers of this blog may recall a rebuttal of this and related errors (link to previous post).  In summary, relevant to this particular point:

The Epistle of Barnabas 6:7 states:
Forasmuch then as He was about to be manifested in the flesh and to suffer, His suffering was manifested beforehand. For the prophet saith concerning Israel; Woe unto their soul, for they have counseled evil counsel against themselves saying, Let us bind the righteous one, for he is unprofitable for us.

ἐν σαρκὶ οὖν αὐτοῦ μέλλοντος φανεροῦσθαι καὶ πάσχειν, προεφανερώθη τὸ πάθος. λέγει γὰρ ὁ προφήτης ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραήλ· Οὐαὶ τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτῶν, ὅτι βεβούλευνται βουλὴν πονηρὰν καθ’ ἑαυτῶν, εἰπόντες· Δήσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον, ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστίν.

Septuagint Isaiah 3:9-10 states:
Wherefore now their glory has been brought low, and the shame of their countenance has withstood them, and they have proclaimed their sin as Sodom, and made it manifest. Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, saying against themselves, Let us bind the just, for he is burdensome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruits of their works.

καὶ ἡ αἰσχύνη τοῦ προσώπου αὐτῶν ἀντέστη αὐτοῖς· τὴν δὲ ἁμαρτίαν αὐτῶν ὡς Σοδομων ἀνήγγειλαν καὶ ἐνεφάνισαν. οὐαὶ τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτῶν, διότι βεβούλευνται βουλὴν πονηρὰν καθ᾽ ἑαυτῶν εἰπόντες Δήσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον, ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν· τοίνυν τὰ γενήματα τῶν ἔργων αὐτῶν φάγονται. 

The difference between the language of Barnabas 6:7 and the language of Septuagint Isaiah 3:9-10 is literally two letters of one word out of eighteen consecutive words. 

By contrast, Septuagint Wisdom of Solomon 2:12 states:
Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education.

ἐνεδρεύσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον, ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν καὶ ἐναντιοῦται τοῖς ἔργοις ἡμῶν καὶ ὀνειδίζει ἡμῖν ἁμαρτήματα νόμου καὶ ἐπιφημίζει ἡμῖν ἁμαρτήματα παιδείας ἡμῶν·

Thus, Wisdom (probably drawing from Isaiah) does have six of the eighteen words, and these do not include the one word that slightly differs between Barnabas and LXX Isaiah.

Thus, Michuta has undersold the degree of controversy over this erroneous assertion that Barnabas is "mixing" the text of Wisdom into that of Isaiah.  The presumable basis for this error is the use of a shorter rescension of Isaiah, such as that found in the Masoretic text, in Jerome's Vulgate, or in most English translations.

In short, it's definitely LXX Isaiah, not Wisdom, that the author of Barnabas is relying on.


N.B. As for the date of Barnabas, A.D. 80-120 is probably a more accurate range than A.D. 70.

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