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dianoigo blog
Showing posts with label early Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label early Church. Show all posts

Saturday, 28 July 2018

The Use of the Deuterocanonical Books in Early Christian Literature

1. Introduction
2. Some References to the Deuterocanonical Books in Ante-Nicene Christian Literature
2.1. Judith
2.2. Tobit
2.3. Baruch
2.4. 1 Maccabees
2.5. 2 Maccabees
2.6. Wisdom of Solomon
2.7. Sirach
2.8. Greek Additions to Esther
2.9. Greek Additions to Daniel
3. Conclusion


One of the theological differences between Catholics and Protestants concerns the boundaries of the biblical canon.1 The Catholic Bible contains 73 books, while the Protestant Bible contains 66. The respective New Testaments are identical, but seven books found in the Catholic Old Testament are not found in the Protestant Old Testament: Judith, Tobit, Baruch, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, and Wisdom of Sirach. These books are known to Catholics as the deuterocanonical books and to Protestants as apocrypha. Additionally, the books of Esther and Daniel in the Catholic Bible contain material not found in the Protestant versions of these books. 

To briefly rehearse the history, some regional—not ecumenical—councils in the West confirmed the 73-book canon in the late fourth century A.D. (see here for a list reflecting the decision of the Council of Carthage), as did Pope Innocent I in 405. St. Jerome, who at this time translated the Latin Vulgate, was one prominent voice holding that the books that were composed in Hebrew and considered canonical by the Jews were of first importance—though he deferred to the Church's judgment and thus included the deuterocanonical books in the Vulgate (which for many centuries became the Bible used liturgically in the West). In the East, the canon was never formalised, and to this day there is regional variation in which Scriptures are used liturgically in the Orthodox Churches (though, invariably, most or all of the seven deuterocanonical books are used, sometimes with others besides). The 73-book status quo continued unchallenged in the West for over a millennium until the Reformers rediscovered and augmented St. Jerome's position, aligning their Old Testament to the Jewish Bible and thus demoting the seven deuterocanonical books to the status of non-canonical apocrypha. The Catholic Church responded to the Reformers' move by reaffirming the long-standing 73-book canon in the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent (1546).

The purpose of this article is to offer a sampling of evidence related to one aspect of this canonical debate: the status of the deuterocanonical works in the early Church. In short, I will be quoting from early Christian writers of the ante-Nicene (pre-325 A.D.) period who quote from the deuterocanonical books as Scripture or call them Scripture. This in itself does not settle the debate—for instance, even the New Testament writers sometimes treat as Scripture works that did not finally make it into the canon (e.g., 1 Enoch in Jude 14 and an unknown text, probably the Book of Eldad and Modad, in James 4:5). However, ceteris paribus, that Christian writers of the first three centuries were treating the deuterocanonical books as Scripture supports the view that the Western consensus reached at the end of the fourth century was not a late innovation, but a formalisation of the tradition.


The seven deuterocanonical books were all written by Jews living before Christ (though some scholars date the Wisdom of Solomon as late as the early first century A.D.) Some of them were composed in Hebrew (much of Sirach and fragments of Tobit were preserved in Hebrew among the Dead Sea Scrolls and elsewhere) while others (2 Maccabees and Wisdom of Solomon) were unquestionably composed in Greek. At some point—it is difficult to say precisely when—these writings began to be transmitted together with the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures created in the third and second centuries B.C. The Septuagint was the Bible of the early Church throughout the Gentile (and Hellenistic Jewish) mission, where most of the faithful did not understand Hebrew or Aramaic. The Septuagint's importance is evident from New Testament writers' frequent reliance on it in their quotations of Scripture—even favouring it in some instances where its rendering diverges from the extant Hebrew text. The compilation of the deuterocanonical books with the Septuagint cannot be strictly equated with canonisation, since other books were, at least on occasion, so compiled (e.g., 3 & 4 Maccabees; the Prayer of Manasseh). Nevertheless, the transmission of the deuterocanonical books within the Septuagint meant that these books were part of the Scriptures used liturgically in churches throughout the ancient world (at least outside Syria-Palestine), which explains how they came to be regarded by Christians as Scripture.

We will now survey a couple of early Christian citations of each of the deuterocanonical books along with the Greek additions to Daniel and Esther. This survey is by no means comprehensive. St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen cite nearly all of the books, but I did not want to focus solely on them because this might give the incorrect impression that the use of the deuterocanonical books was a localised phenomenon in Alexandria (where the Septuagint had been created).


In 1 Clement, composed in the late first century A.D., the writer exhorts his readers with biblical examples of humility and faith in a section beginning, "For you know the sacred Scriptures, loved ones—and know them quite well—and you have gazed into the sayings of God. And so we write these things simply as a reminder" (1 Clem. 53.1).2 Thus the writer is appealing to a body of "sacred Scriptures" that he assumes is shared by his own congregation in Rome and his readers in Corinth. Within this extended reminder is the following passage:
Many women were empowered by the gracious gift of God to perform numerous 'manly' deeds. The blessed Judith, when her city lay under siege, asked the elders for permission to go out to the foreigners' camp. And so she handed herself over to danger, going out because she loved her homeland and the people under siege. And the Lord handed Holofernes over to the hand of a female. (1 Clem. 55.4-5)3
This story about Judith is taken from the Book of Judith chapter 8. It follows that the Book of Judith was part of the "sacred Scriptures" known to the churches of Rome and Corinth in the late first century.

A century later, around 200 A.D. Tertullian of Carthage mentions Judith in his work On Monogamy:
They will have plainly a specious privilege to plead before Christ — the everlasting infirmity of the flesh! But upon this (infirmity) will sit in judgment no longer an Isaac, our monogamist father; or a John, a noted voluntary celibate of Christ's; or a Judith, daughter of Merari; or so many other examples of saints. (On Monogamy 17.1)4
For Tertullian, then, Judith is one more of the many examples of saints down through the ages—a conviction he could scarcely have reached without regarding the Book of Judith as Scripture.


There is a possible, though not certain, allusion to Tobit in 2 Clement, a Christian work from the mid-second century. In 2 Clement 16.4, the writer states:
Giving to charity, therefore, is good as a repentance from sin. Fasting is better than prayer, but giving to charity is better than both. Love covers a multitude of sins, and prayer from a good conscience will rescue a person from death. How fortunate is everyone found to be full of these things. For giving to charity lightens the load of sin.5
Tobit 12:8-10 reads thus:
Prayer is good with fasting and almsgiving and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with injustice. It is better to give alms than to store up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who practice almsgiving will have fullness of life, but those who sin are enemies of their own life. (NETS)6
The three terms "prayer," "fasting," and "charity/almsgiving" are identical in the Greek. The confluence of these three virtues, the main emphasis on almsgiving, and the concern with deliverance from death combine to make literary dependence likely.

At the end of the second century, St. Clement of Alexandria paraphrases the same passage of Tobit and calls it "Scripture":
And first he will ask forgiveness of sins; and after, that he may sin no more; and further, the power of well-doing and of comprehending the whole creation and administration by the Lord, that, becoming pure in heart through the knowledge, which is by the Son of God, he may be initiated into the beatific vision face to face, having heard the Scripture which says, ‘Fasting with prayer is a good thing.’ (Stromateis 2.12)7
Earlier in the same book, St. Clement mentions Tobit by name and summarises the book's narrative (Stromateis 1.21).

At the beginning of the third century, St. Hippolytus of Rome alludes to Tobit 3:16-17 in his commentary on Daniel, making no distinction between the quality and authority of this material and that of the Book of Daniel (which is his main focus).
In which manner also happened to Tobit and Sarah. For they, after praying, in the same hour and the same day the entreaty of the two was heard and the angel Raphael was sent out to cure the two. (Commentary on Daniel 29.6-7)8

St. Clement of Alexandria, again writing at the end of the second century, quotes Baruch 3:16-19 and calls it "Divine Scripture":
Excellently, therefore, the Divine Scripture, addressing boasters and lovers of their own selves, says, ‘Where are the rulers of the nations, and the lords of the wild beasts of the earth, who sport among the birds of heaven, who treasured up silver and gold, in whom men trusted, and there was no end of their substance, who fashioned silver and gold, and were full of care? There is no finding of their works. They have vanished, and gone down to Hades.’ (Paedagogus 2.36)
A decade or so later, Tertullian quotes from Baruch 6:4-6 and refers to the material as "the words of Jeremiah." Chapter 6 of Baruch is an originally independent text that is known as the Letter of Jeremiah.
For they remembered also the words of Jeremias writing to those over whom that captivity was impending: ‘And now ye shall see borne upon (men's) shoulders the gods of the Babylonians, of gold and silver and wood, causing fear to the Gentiles. Beware, therefore, that ye also do not be altogether like the foreigners, and be seized with fear while ye behold crowds worshipping those gods before and behind, but say in your mind, Our duty is to worship Thee, O Lord.’ (Antidote for the Scorpion’s Sting 8.5)

Tertullian, writing around 200 A.D., writes generally of the Maccabees historically:
For in the times of the Maccabees, too, they did bravely in fighting on the sabbaths, and routed their foreign foes, and recalled the law of their fathers to the primitive style of life by fighting on the sabbaths. (Adversus Judaeos 4.10)9
St. Hippolytus, a decade or so later, refers explicitly to "the first book of the Maccabees" in his commentary on Daniel, alluding specifically to 1 Macc. 1:9:
For while dying, Alexander distributed it to his companions who were of his race, four men, Seleucus, Demetrius, Ptolemy, and Philip, and these all put on crowns, just as Daniel predicts and was recorded in the first book of the Maccabees. (Commentary on Daniel 3.810
In the mid-third century, St. Cyprian of Carthage alludes to the story of Mattathias (found in 1 Macc. 2) as authoritative and normative history:
 …bold and steadfast, they maintain the honour of the divine majesty and the priestly dignity, with full observance of fear. We remember and keep in view that, although others succumbed and yielded, Mattathias boldly vindicated God's law; that Elias, when the Jews gave way and departed from the divine religion, stood and nobly contended…” (Epistle 67 § 8)

In a general sense, it is likely that Christian concepts of martyrdom in the early to mid-second century, as captured for instance in the letters of Ignatius and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, were influenced by the martyrdom account in 2 Maccabees 7. As Jefford writes:
The early church, as first witnessed in the imagery of Ignatius, was greatly influenced by the famous martyrdom sequence of 2 Maccabees, a graphic accont of the struggle and persecution of pious Jews during the time of the Greek rule of Palestine under Antiochus Epiphanes IV.11
While both 2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees were attached to several LXX manuscripts, there seems to be little evidence of their influence in Jewish literature and tradition... However, there is a strong influence of the Maccabean martyr tradition upon the early Christian church in the second century and beyond. Familiarity with the Maccabean martyr tradition is seen in Shepherd of Hermas, To the Ephesians (Ignatius), Martyrdom of Polycarp, and Origen's Exhortation to Martyrdom.12
Indeed, the mid-second century Roman Christian work Shepherd of Hermas—itself a work so important to the early Church that it was considered quasi-Scriptural by some—may allude specifically to 2 Macc. 7:28 in Mandates 1.1. In 2 Macc. 7:28, we read how the mother of a young man facing martyrdom exhorts him by appealing to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo:
I implore you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. (NETS)
The angelic shepherd similarly exhorts Hermas:
First of all, believe that God is one, who created and completed all things, and made everything that exists out of that which did not, who contains all things but is himself, alone, uncontained. (Mandates 1.1)13
Nowhere in the Old Testament other than 2 Maccabees 7:28 is a doctrine of creation ex nihilo explicitly articulated. This makes it likely that The Shepherd of Hermas depended on this passage.

At the beginning of the third century, St. Hippolytus of Rome quotes from 2 Macc. 7:1-2 in his commentary on Daniel (just as he mentioned the first book of the Maccabees):
Be educated, O man, about the things which happen under Antiochus Epiphanes. While the seven brothers together with their mother were taken, they were struck with scourges and whips, but one of them answered the whips, and he said, ‘Why do you delay to ask and to learn? For we are prepared to die rather than to transgress our patriarchal laws.’” (Commentary on Daniel 20.3-4)14
Again, St. Cyprian of Carthage, in the mid-third century, quotes from 2 Macc. 7:16 and describes the words spoken by the martyr there as "animated...by the Spirit of divinity":
The fifth [brother], besides treading under foot the torments of the king, and his severe and various tortures, by the strength of faith, animated to prescience also and knowledge of future events by the Spirit of divinity, foretold to the king the wrath of God, and the vengeance that should swiftly follow. ‘Having power,’ said he, ‘among men, though you are corruptible, you do what you will. But think not that our race is forsaken of God. Abide, and see His great power, how He will torment you and your seed.’" (Treatise 11 § 11)

The Wisdom of Solomon may be alluded to already in the canonical Letter to the Hebrews. The Son is described in Heb. 1:3 as "the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being" (NABRE). This closely parallels Wisdom 7:26, which refers to Wisdom as "a reflection of eternal light and a spotless mirror of the activity of God and an image of his goodness" (NETS). What makes literary dependence particularly likely here is that both passages use the rare Greek word apaugasma ("refulgence"), which occurs nowhere else in the Septuagint or the New Testament.

Another book with a close literary relationship with Hebrews, the late-first century 1 Clement (already discussed in connection with Judith), quotes directly from Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 as an authoritative source demonstrating that death entered the world through jealousy:
Instead, each one walks according to the desires of his evil heart, which have aroused unrighteousness and impious jealousy—through which also ‘death entered the world’ (1 Clem. 3.4)15
The Muratorian Fragment is a fragmentary list of books accepted by the catholic Church for reading in church. It is generally dated to c. 200 A.D. The surviving portion of the text begins by mentioning Luke and John and only discusses Christian (what we would call New Testament) writings, with one notable exception: the Wisdom of Solomon.
Moreover, the epistle of Jude and two of the above-mentioned (or, bearing the name of) John are counted (or, used) in the catholic [Church]; and [the book of] Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. (Muratorian Fragment 68-70)
The Wisdom of Solomon was thus considered canonical by the end of the second century. The oddity of this "Old Testament" book appearing in what is otherwise a discussion of "New Testament" books may be due to the date when Wisdom of Solomon was written. It is widely considered the latest of the deuterocanonical books and is dated by some to the early first century A.D.


The Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (sometimes known as Ecclesiasticus) is the longest of the deuterocanonical books, and the only one that seems to have been considered at all for the Jewish canon: some rabbinical texts emphasise that this book does not "defile the hands" (is not sacred), which may imply that some Jews thought otherwise. The translator of this work into Greek was the grandson of the original author.

There are possible allusions to Sirach in the late-first-century Christian work The Didache and the early-second-century work The Epistle of Barnabas. Sirach 4:31 reads thus:
Do not let your hand be extended to receive and withdrawn when paying back. (NETS)
The Didache and Barnabas, in their "Two Ways" catechetical material that undoubtedly reflects a common source, state:
Do not be one who reaches out your hands to receive but draws them back from giving. (Didache 4.5; Barnabas 19.9)16
Although this ethical principle is general enough to have arisen independently in Sirach and the Two Ways tradition used by Didache and Barnabas, it is equally plausible that the Two Ways material took the idea from Sirach. Barnabas's Two Ways material may also quote Sirach in Barnabas 19.2: "Love the one who made you" (agapēseis ton poiēsanta se; the identical Greek clause occurs in Sirach 7:30). 

St. Clement of Alexandria, at the end of the second century, characterises the words of Sirach 19:22 as spoken by God:
For true above all is that Psalm, ‘The just shall live to the end, for he shall not see corruption, when he beholds the wise dying.’ And whom does he call wise? Hear from the Wisdom of Jesus: ‘Wisdom is not the knowledge of evil.’ (Stromateis 1.10)
Origen, in the mid-third century, quotes from Sirach 21:27:
For if Satan is one, how can he both be crushed under the feet of the servants of God and also take action again? For if he has been crushed, and crushed by God, he certainly is no longer able to act. Therefore, perhaps there must be as many Satans as there are those who do the works of Satan. For this seems to me to be indicated also in the book of Wisdom [i.e. of Sirach], where it is said, ‘The impious who curse Satan are cursing their own soul.’ But also in a certain other little book that is called the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, although it is not considered part of the canon, we nevertheless discover the same such meaning—that individual Satans ought to be understood in individual sinners.” (Homilies on Joshua 15.6)17
By referring to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs immediately after Sirach, and offering the qualification that the latter "is not considered part of the canon," Origen implies that the former (Sirach) is considered part of the canon.


At the end of the first century, in the same passage quoted above concerning Judith, the author of 1 Clement writes:
No less did Esther, a woman perfect in faith, put herself in danger to rescue the twelve tribes of Israel who were about to perish. For through her fasting and humility she petitioned the all-seeing Master, the God of eternity, who saw the humbleness of her soul and rescued the people for whom she put herself in danger. (1 Clem. 55.6)18
Now, it is well-known that the Hebrew Book of Esther never mentions God. It is only in the Greek additions that Esther petitions God (Esth. 4:17-5:1) and that God is said to have "rescued" (Greek: rhuomai) his people (Esth. 10:3). It is therefore obvious that 1 Clement is basing his account of Esther's faith on the Septuagint version of the book that included the Greek additions. Thus the earliest Christian writer to refer to the Book of Esther understands the Greek additions to be part of the "sacred Scriptures."

Two centuries later, St. Methodius of Olympus emphasised that Esther "filled her head with ashes and dung, when she prayed to the Lord for her fellow-countrymen" (De Cibis 14.7).19 Like 1 Clement, this work refers to a detail found only in the Greek additions to Esther (4:17).


St. Clement of Alexandria, at the end of the second century, recounted the stories of the fiery furnace and the lion's den from the Book of Daniel. He describes how "Daniel was thrown into the den of lions; but being preserved through the providence of God by Habakkuk, he is restored on the seventh day" (Stromateis 1.21). The involvement of Habakkuk in the rescue of Daniel from the lions' den is a detail found only in the Greek additions to Daniel (cf. Dan. 14:33-39), which shows that the Greek additions were part of the book read by St. Clement.

The earliest surviving commentary on Daniel is that of St. Hippolytus of Rome, dating from about the first decade of the third century. Here, too, it is evident that the book commented on by St. Hippolytus included the Greek additions, since for instance he refers to the story of Susanna (cf. Commentary on Daniel 29.6-7).

One might make an argument that material added to a divinely inspired book by a different, later writer in a different language could not possibly also be divinely inspired Scripture. However, this argument only works at a superficial level. It is well known to biblical scholars today that numerous Old Testament books are composite works that went through additions and redactions by multiple authors before reaching their canonical form (Isaiah is a prime example). Moreover, the Book of Daniel itself in the Hebrew Bible contains lengthy passages in Aramaic—a sure sign that it was already a composite book before Greek material was added.


There is ample evidence from the first three centuries of Christianity—including some from the first century—that the seven deuterocanonical books and the Greek additions to Esther and Daniel were being read and revered as Scripture. This tradition culminated in the formal recognition of these books as part of the canon of Scripture at the end of the fourth century—a recognition that the Catholic Church has upheld to this day.


Footnotes

  • 1 One should not overstate the theological significance of this canonical difference. 66 books in common out of 73 is still very high. Moreover, by calling the other books deuterocanonical ("secondly canonical") Catholics acknowledge that their status is in some sense secondary, although they are affirmed to be divinely inspired, true, and authoritative, just as the rest of Scripture. Conversely, although Protestants do not consider the "apocrypha" to be divinely inspired or canonical, many Protestants still revere these books as valuable repositories of wisdom, to the point of Protestant publishers sometimes including them in printed Bibles (e.g., some printings of the KJV; NRSV). Nevertheless, the point remains that Catholics and Protestants are not using the same biblical canon and differ on the inclusion of these books.
  • 2 trans. Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers (2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 1:128.
  • 3 trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:133.
  • 4 trans. J. J. Thelwall, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4 (accessed at http://tertullian.org/anf/anf04/anf04-17.htm).
  • 5 trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:191.
  • 6 This translation follows the GII text, regarded by most scholars as the older form. The GI text reads slightly differently but there are no important differences for our purposes here.
  • 7 My apologies to the reader that I have not had a chance to access some of the writings quoted herein in a recent critical text. St. Clement of Alexandria's works are quoted from the older public domain translation at NewAdvent.org.
  • 8 trans. T. C. Schmidt, Hippolytus of Rome: Commentary on Daniel (accessed at https://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/pdf/0205_hippolytus_commentary-on-daniel_2010.pdf).
  • 9 trans. Thelwall, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3 (accessed at http://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-19.htm).
  • 10 trans. Schmidt, Hippolytus of Rome: Commentary on Daniel.
  • 11 Clayton N. Jefford, The Apostolic Fathers: An Essential Guide (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005), 19.
  • 12 Bryan R. Dyer, "The Epistle of James and the Maccabean Martyr Tradition: An Exploration of Sacred Tradition in the New Testament," in The Language and Literature of the New Testament: Essays in Honor of Stanley E. Porter's 60th Birthday (ed. Lois K. Fuller Dow and Craig A. Evans; Leiden: Brill, 2017), 710.
  • 13 trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:237.
  • 14 trans. Schmidt, Hippolytus of Rome: Commentary on Daniel.
  • 15 trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:41 (quotation marks added).
  • 16 trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:423, 425; 2:79.
  • 17 trans. Barbara J. Bruce, in Origen: Homilies on Joshua (ed. Cynthia White; Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), 149.
  • 18 trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:133.
  • 19 trans. Ralph Cleminson, Methodius of Olympus: On the distinction between foods (De cibis) (accessed at https://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Methodius-De_Cibis_20151.pdf).

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Taking a Gamble On Church Leadership: What We Learn From the Early Church

This is a guest post by Matthew Farrar.

To the modern reader, perhaps one of the strangest parts of the pre-Pentecost narrative in Acts 1 is the selection of Judas’ replacement, Matthias, a figure nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament. Having narrowed the decision for Judas’ replacement down to two (Joseph called “Barsabbas” and Matthias), the decision is made by a combination of prayer–which agrees well with most Christian sensibilities–and the more dubious practice of casting lots. Indeed, despite early precedent, I am aware of no current Christian tradition in which Church leadership is decided by the practice of coin flips or shooting dice. So why, when the Church was literally in its infancy, was this all-important decision decided by means of what we would consider gambling? And why does the author of Acts1 include this story at all, given that Matthias plays no further role in the Acts narrative?

Let Another Take His Office

Perhaps the first question for us to consider is what exactly was being replaced. From the immediate context, it seems clear that he is being inducted into “the Twelve”, which had temporarily become the unofficial “Eleven”. This point in itself is significant for a number of reasons.

First, we note that the Twelve were chosen by Christ Himself (John 6:70). By way of contrast, we here (Acts 1:15-22) see Peter lay out the case that the assembly has an imperative to replace Judas. We must therefore ask the question, “If the authority to appoint the Twelve rested with Christ Himself, on what authority did Peter presume to be able to appoint a new Apostle?” For Catholics, the answer is clear: Christ effectively made Peter His viceroy (Matt. 16:19). Thus, Peter–of himself and not by an electoral process–assumes the authority to appoint a new Apostle, though he does not reserve the process of selection to himself.

Second, in quoting Psalm 69 (“Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it” (NASB), Peter makes clear that the legacy of Judas himself is ended, but in quoting Psalm 109 (“Let another man take his office”) shows that Judas occupied an office that was to continue beyond the life of the office holder. By extension, the other Apostles occupied this same office. The question then must be asked, “Did the Apostles see their offices as continuing beyond their natural life?” While the Bible itself offers little in the way of answer to this question directly, the late-first-century First Epistle of Clement (1 Clement)2 answers this question definitively:
1 So too our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that strife would arise over the office of the bishop. 2 For this reason, since they understood perfectly well in advance what would happen, they appointed those we have already mentioned; and afterwards they added a codicil, to the effect that if these should die, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. (1 Clement 44.1-2)3
From this quotation, it is not clear whose office it is that would continue by succession. However, the quotation in Acts 1:20 is from the Septuagint, and the Greek word in the psalm rendered “office” is episkopē, the same root word for the office of the New Testament overseer, or (traditionally) bishop, episkopos.4 Thus, the office of Judas–which was that of an Apostle–and the office of episkopos are at the very least, intricately linked.

However, what was the nature of the office of Judas? It is one thing to give the office a name, but that doesn’t tell us what the actual office entailed. As it happens, the method of selecting Matthias gives us a clue.
Decision By Lot

When the notion of decision by lot is floated out for consideration, my mind immediately goes to two places, both with negative connotations. The first is Jonah, who is identified by casting lots as the cause of a storm (Jonah 1:7-8). In this instance, pagan superstition appears to have been the instigating factor in the practice, since the text identifies the sailors as “each crying to his god” (Jonah 1:5). Not exactly a “go-to” reference for choosing Church leaders! The second place is at the crucifixion of the Lord, when the soldiers cast lots for ownership of his garments (Matt. 27:35, John 19:23-24). So example number two is an example of pagan Roman soldiers acting in an especially callous manner. Again, not a model to follow for guidance on Church leadership.

However, there is a third place where the casting of lots is used to make sacred decisions, and in fact, pertaining to an office. In 1 Chronicles 24, we find that the offices of the priesthood were decided by casting lots. We also see the use of lots in the assignment of particular priestly duties in the New Testament, where “according to the custom of the priestly office, he [Zacharias] was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:9). Thus, at the dawn of the early Church, it was common practice to cast lots as a means of making sacred decisions in the Jewish ministerial priesthood. Thus, the Apostles’ decision to use the casting of lots in the selection of Judas’ successor–which at first appears bizarre and arbitrary–suggests that the Apostles saw their office as that of a new order of ministerial priests, an office for which the casting of lots had significant precedent.

Conclusion

The narrative in Acts 1 give us insights into the early structure of the Church. In a definitive way, we see Peter exercising authority to appoint new Apostles, an authority that had previously rested only with Christ. Second, we see that the Twelve were particular persons who occupied offices that were not unique to their persons (i.e. Judas died; his office remained). Finally, the decision to choose Matthias over Barsabbas by the casting of lots is indicative of the priestly nature of the office being filled.

As a former Protestant, I can appreciate that the notion of the Pope–the successor of Peter–and the existence of a ministerial priesthood remain two significant barriers to Christian unity, with the paucity of Biblical support for these offices being cited as a reason for their rejection. My prayer is that this brief post might help close that gap, if only a little, so that we might all be one.


Footnotes

  • 1 Widely believed to be Luke.
  • 2 1 Clement is believed by many to have been written around the time of the persecution of Domitian (d. A.D. 96), and is thus possibly contemporary with Revelation. It thus represents a very early understanding of Church offices. The letter's content also has noticeable parallels with the canonical Epistle to the Hebrews, suggesting a similar date and setting.
  • 3 Trans. Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, 2 vols. (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 1:113).
  • 4 The word episkopē also occurs in 1 Clem. 44.1, where it is translated "bishop" above.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Shawna Dolansky on 'How the Serpent Became Satan'

In this post I want to offer a few comments on a recent article by Shawna Dolansky entitled How the Serpent became Satan from Biblical Archaeology magazine. In this article, Prof. Dolansky puts forth two main theses to a popular audience. First, she argues from a history of religions point of view that the serpent of Genesis 3 cannot be identified as Satan, 'for the simple reason that when the story was written, the concept of the devil had not yet been invented'.

She proceeds to describe in outline the development of the concept of Satan, beginning with the noun satan in the Hebrew Bible, and proceeding through intertestamental Judaism and early Christianity. She then arrives at her second thesis, that 'there is no clear link anywhere in the Bible between Satan and Eden’s talking snake'. She does not suggest a theory on when a 'clear link' was first made, but does note that Justin Martyr (died 160s C.E.) assumed this association. 

While some Christian readers may find Dolansky's article startling (or even offensive, judging from some of the comments), from a biblical studies point of view she is for the most part stating the obvious. Few biblical scholars today would defend an identification of the serpent with Satan using historical-critical exegesis of Genesis 3.

Dolansky's overview of the development of the Satan concept begins with the Hebrew Bible. She acknowledges, as is widely agreed among Old Testament scholars, that there are numerous passages where the Hebrew word satan simply means a human adversary, but that in four passages the word denotes a divine being. In particular, she acknowledges that in Job 1-2 and Zechariah 3:1-2, the satan is a member of YHWH's heavenly council, and also notes the debate around whether satan functions as a proper name in 1 Chronicles 21:1 (the weight of scholarly opinion today probably favours a 'no').

Hence, she rightly and uncontroversially asserts that 'the idea of an evil prince of darkness' was not in the consciousness of the Israelites in the Old Testament period. Referring to a handful of intertestamental texts, she traces out the development of the 'devil' concept. Dolansky is willing to allow that the serpent is linked with an angel in 1 Enoch and possibly with the devil in Wisdom of Solomon (though the meaning of diabolos in this text is very much debated). Her only contention is that the serpent is not yet linked with Satan. 

Again, her summary of the 'adoption' of the Satan/devil concept by the early church is brief but uncontroversial (though I would give the early church, and the historical Jesus in particular, more credit in founding a distinctly Christian concept of Satan than the word 'adopt' suggests).

Coming to Dolansky's second thesis, the statement that there is no 'clear link' between the serpent and Satan even in the New Testament turns on the qualifier 'clear'. Certainly there is no explicit assertion that the serpent of Eden was Satan or was used by Satan. However, there are a number of New Testament texts in which some link between the two seems to be presupposed. Of these, Dolansky mentions only Revelation 12:9 and 20:2, where the great red dragon of the apocalyptic vision is identified as 'the ancient serpent, called Devil and Satan'. While it is true that divine combat myths lie in the background of the dragon/serpent imagery, there is good reason to think that an allusion to the serpent of Eden is also in view. The picture of eternity in Revelation draws heavily on allusions to the Garden of Eden (Revelation 2:7; 22:1-2, 14, 19). The immediate context of the vision in which the dragon/serpent is introduced, moreover, is fairly laced with allusions to Genesis 3. The antagonists are a woman and a dragon/serpent. The serpent is identified as 'the one that deceives the whole world'; deceit is of course the serpent's modus operandi in the Garden of Eden ('the serpent deceived me', Genesis 3:13). Then, of course, there is the conflict between the dragon/serpent and the seed of the woman (the singular, male child and 'the rest of her seed', Rev. 12:5, 17), which can hardly be other than an allusion to Genesis 3:15. Hence, Dolansky's assertion that 'the reference in Revelation 12:9 to Satan as “the ancient serpent” probably reflects mythical monsters like Leviathan rather than the clever, legged, talking creature in Eden' (emphasis added) is a false dilemma. Both form part of the background. Hence, while it is debatable whether in Revelation the author seeks to actually identify the serpent of Eden with Satan, there certainly is a 'clear link' between the two.

There are a number of other passages in which a link is arguably presupposed between the serpent and Satan. Scholars debate the source of Paul's allusion in Romans 16:20 ('The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet'), but Genesis 3:15 is one of the primary candidates, along with Psalm 110 and Psalm 8 (the options may again not be mutually exclusive). In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul may reflect a Jewish tradition in which Satan disguised himself as an angel of light in the Garden of Eden (though the age of this tradition is debatable, since it is attested only in the later Life of Adam and Eve, which may be of Christian provenance). In John 8:44, the reference to the devil as the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning seems to implicate the devil in the events of Genesis 3 (the deceit of Eve) and possibly Genesis 4 (Cain's murder of Abel). Indeed, in 1 John 3:12 the same writer describes Cain as having been 'of that evil one', which clearly assumes the devil's existence in the primeval world. By ignoring the allusions to Genesis 3 in Revelation 12 and failing to take note of these other texts, Dolansky understates the evidence for a link between Satan and the serpent of Eden in the New Testament.

While Dolansky does not say so explicitly, her conclusion gives the impression that she thinks the direct identification of the Edenic serpent with Satan was a post-New Testament, Christian innovation. This is problematic not only because of the New Testament evidence summarized above, but also because such an identification can be found in rabbinic literature. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Genesis 3:6 describes an encounter between Eve and the serpent and then with Sammael, the angel of death (although no explicit link is made between the serpent and Sammael). In later rabbinic tradition, Sammael is closely associated or even identified with Satan. The ninth-century rabbinic work Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer clearly identifies the serpent with Samael, a satanic angel figure. Tracing out the tradition-history behind this identification, Dulkin writes that 'there exists sufficient cumulative evidence to prove that Samael/Satan is a known, recognizable figure in rabbinic sources generally and in the case of Gen. Rab. 20:5 is represented in early rabbinic depictions of Genesis 2–3'.1 The Jewish pseudepigraphon 2 Enoch, dated by some scholars to the first century C.E. (and by others much, much later), identifies a fallen angel named Satanail as the seducer of Eve. Hence, either an identification between Satan and the serpent developed separately in Judaism and Christianity, or this idea was present before the 'parting of the ways'. The evidence of the New Testament suggests that the latter is a more likely scenario.

Hence, it is plausible that later Church Fathers who place Satan in the Garden of Eden were not merely making a conflation that 'seemed natural', but were handing down a tradition received from the first century Church.

Returning to Dolansky's first thesis, if it is untenable for biblical scholars using modern exegetical methods to read Satan into Genesis 3, and if the early church nevertheless did read Satan into Genesis 3, where does that leave today's church? Enter theological interpretation. The Church does not limit her reading of Scripture to historical-critical interpretation, but reads Scripture through the lens of Christian faith. An analogy may help. There is a long and venerable tradition in the Church of reading Genesis 3:15 as a veiled Messianic prophecy. Yet if someone were to stand up at a Society of Biblical Literature meeting and suggest that the 'seed of the woman' refers to Jesus Christ, they would be met with disbelief and probably loud laughter - and rightly so, from a history-of-religions point of view. This interpretation is every bit as anachronistic as the interpretation that identifies or associates the serpent with Satan. The same is true of many other alleged Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 7:14. One must read the Old Testament with the eyes of Christian faith in order to find Christ there. The same is true (albeit on a far lesser scale) with Satan.


Footnotes

  • 1 Dulkin, Ryan S. (2014). The Devil Within: A Rabbinic Traditions-History of the Samael Story in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer. Jewish Studies Quarterly, 21(2), 153-175. Here p. 174.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Incipient Trinitarianism in first-century Jewish Christianity: The evidence of the Ascension of Isaiah

The unitarian narrative of early Christian theological development

Three of the pillars upon which the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity rest are the personal pre-existence of Christ, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and Trinitarian devotion (i.e. worship directed to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). These three ideas (or practices, in the third instance) are not sufficient to construct a Trinitarian view of God, but they certainly represent significant steps in that direction. Hence, in Trinitarian-unitarian debates (such as the online debate between Rob Bowman and Dave Burke a few years back), these three issues inevitably receive substantial attention.

One of the central claims of unitarian apologists in recent years has been that these ideas are fundamentally un-Jewish and thus could only have arisen in circles where the original Jewish context of apostolic teaching had been supplanted by Hellenistic thought. This line of argument comes out clearly from Burke's corner in the debate with Bowman.1 2 Hence, Dave refers in the debate to 'my template in which the Unitarian reading of the NT is Jewish and the Trinitarian reading is Hellenistic'. In similar fashion, Christadelphian writers James Broughton and Peter Southgate, in their book The Trinity: True or False? regard as pivotal to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity 'that Judaism had already become tainted with Greek thought; and it was inevitable that the newly founded Christian Church should be subject to a similar process'.

In addition to the cultural dichotomy between Jewish and Hellenistic thought, unitarian apologists stress a temporal barrier: first-century Christians were purely unitarian and it is only later that ideas such as the pre-existence of Christ and personhood of the Holy Spirit appeared. Broughton and Southgate write, 'So as the first century closes there is no evidence in Christian writing of belief in the personal pre-existence of Jesus, or that he was held to be equal to God or worshipped as God.' They locate the 'first references to Christ's personal pre-existence' during 120-150 A.D. Even more remarkably, their historical timeline of the development of Trinitarian doctrine first mentions the Holy Spirit in 381 A.D.: 'The hitherto unexamined position of the Holy Spirit settled by its inclusion in the co-equal trinity.' Burke, similarly, summarizing his 'historical argument' at the end of his debate with Bowman, states that one can see 'the doctrinal foundations of Trinitarianism in early extra-Biblical Christian writings from the 2nd Century AD' (he seems to regard the Epistle of Barnabas as the first Christian text containing the idea of personal pre-existence).3 Burke does not offer any comment concerning when a personal view of the Holy Spirit began to develop, except that he contrasts what 'first century Christians' thought with what 'later Christians developed... via philosophical speculations'.

So, unitarian apologists have nailed their colours to the mast, positing a sharp contrast between first-century Christians, who operated within a Jewish thought-world, and later Christians, who progressively veered off course due to the influence of Hellenistic philosophical speculation. Now, this 'template', as Burke describes it, becomes a lens through which he reads the New Testament, so that verses which seem to presuppose Christ's personal pre-existence, or a distinct personality for the Holy Spirit, or which mention the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together, must be interpreted through Jewish, i.e. unitarian, lenses.

The question is, what would it mean for the unitarian narrative described above if we could point to a first century Jewish Christian text that unquestionably declares the personal pre-existence of Christ and the personhood of the Holy Spirit and directs worship to God, Christ and the Spirit? In a word, it would explode it. Such evidence would prove that these ideas originated in a first century Jewish milieu and were not the results of second century (or later) Gentile Christian corruption of apostolic teaching. It would provide unitarians with a mandate to revisit the New Testament with new religion-historical possibilities in mind.

It may surprise the reader to learn that just such a text exists, namely, the Ascension of Isaiah. 

The Ascension of Isaiah: introductory issues

What is the Ascension of Isaiah? As Gieschen succinctly states:
The Ascension of Isaiah is a Jewish Christian apocalypse written from the perspective of the biblical prophet Isaiah in order to give expression to an angelomorphic Christology which is experienced through mystical ascent.4
Rowland5 and Knight6 also describe the work as a Jewish Christian apocalypse. Alexander states that 'This early Christian apocalyptic text draws on Jewish haggadic traditions'7 Gonzalez observes that 'The very close affinities between the Ascension of Isaiah with Jewish apocalyptic texts are undeniable.'8

Hall, after highlighting some Christological parallels between the Ascension of Isaiah and other ancient Jewish works, remarks:
Such references, too disconnected to establish that ancient Judaism knew a figure analogous to the Beloved, nevertheless adequately establish that the entire Vision can be read as a Jewish work; some ancient Jews understood Jesus in Jewish categories. The author of the Vision of Isaiah is no less Jewish than the authors of 11QMelch, the Prayer of Joseph, or the Similitudes of Enoch; the Vision of Isaiah is as Jewish as these other books.9
Hence, the Jewishness of this document is not in doubt. Where was this document written? According to Knight, 'The generally accepted provenance is Syria, and so presumably Antioch'.10 Antioch, as we know from Acts, was no backwater but had become 'a center of apostolic mission beside Jerusalem'11

The unity of the work has been much debated in the past, but a consensus has emerged over the past three decades: the 'dominant scholarly view' is that there are two parts to the Ascension of Isaiah, with chapters 6-11 written first and chapters 1-5 added later.12 Concerning date of composition, Knight summarizes the scholarly consensus:
the date of the apocalypse is now agreed within relatively close parameters. This consensus was reinforced at the very welcome conference which Tobias Nicklas organized in Regensburg in March 2013. The dominant view is that the apocalypse contains some first-century material, and that this first-century element is given by the substance of chs. 6-11. It is disputed whether the material in chs. 1-5 comes from the first or the second century CE, the greater weight of scholarship preferring the second century.13
In an earlier work, Knight states that this apocalypse 'by universal consent contains first-century elements'.14 Hence, we can affirm with overwhelming scholarly backing that at least chapters 6-11 of the Ascension of Isaiah consist substantially of first century Jewish Christian material. We can also note that within this early setting, the Ascension of Isaiah at least claims that its Christological teachings are apostolic.15

One further background observation should be made. Bauckham states, 'There are few signs that Ascension of Isaiah is dependent on any New Testament writings'.16 This means that the Christology of the Ascension of Isaiah probably does not represent a (mis)interpretation of apparent pre-existence passages in the New Testament. Rather, this document represents an independent witness to first century Christian theology against which the New Testament writings may be compared.17

The pre-existence of Christ in the Ascension of Isaiah

Both sections of the Ascension of Isaiah (chapters 1-5 and chapters 6-11) teach Christ's personal pre-existence. The reader is invited to read the following excerpts taken from Knibb's translation:18
For Beliar was very angry with Isaiah because of the vision, and because of the exposure with which he had exposed Sammael, and that through him there had been revealed the coming of the Beloved from the seventh heaven, and his transformation, and his descent, and the form into which he must be transformed, (namely) the form of a man, and the persecution with which he would be persecuted, and the torments with which the children of Israel must torment him, and the coming of the twelve disciples, and the teaching, and that before the sabbath he must be crucified on a tree, and be crucified with wicked men and that he would be buried in a grave, and the twelve who (were) with him would be offended at him; and the guards who would guard the grave; and the descent of the angel of the church which is in the heavens, whom he will summon in the last days; and that the angel of the Holy Spirit and Michael, the chief of the holy angels, will open his grave on the third day, and that Beloved, sitting on their shoulders, will come forth and send out his twelve disciples, and they will teach all nations and every tongue the resurrection of the Beloved, and those who believe in his cross will be saved, and in his ascension to the seventh heaven from where he came; and that many who believe in him will speak through the Holy Spirit, and there will be many signs and miracles in those days. (AscenIs 2.13-20)
And I heard the voice of the Most High, the Father of my LORD, as he said to my LORD Christ, who will be called Jesus, "Go out and descend through all the heavens. You shall descend through the firmament and through that world as far as the angel who (is) in Sheol, but you shall not go as far as Perdition. And you shall make your likeness like that of all who (are) in the five heavens, and you shall take care to make your form like that of the angels of the firmament and also (like that) of the angels who (are) in Sheol. And none of the angels of that world shall know that you (are) LORD with me of the seven heavens and of their angels. And they shall not know that you (are) with me when with the voice of the heavens I summon you, and their angels and their lights, and when I lift up (my voice) to the sixth heaven, that you may judge and destroy the princes and the angels and the gods of that world, and the world which is ruled by them, for they have denied me and said, 'We alone are, and there is no one besides us.' And afterwards you shall ascend from the gods of death to your place, and you shall not be transformed in each of the heavens, but in glory you shall ascend and sit at my right hand, and then the princes and the powers of that world will worship you. This command I heard the Great Glory giving to my LORD. (AscenIs 10.7-16)
AscenIs 10.17-31 then describes narrates the seer's vision of Christ's actual descent through the heavens; this is followed by an account of the virgin birth in chapter 11.19

Recent scholarship has described the Christology of the Ascension of Isaiah as angelomorphic.20 Gieschen defines what is meant by angelomorphic Christology:
ANGELOMORPHIC CHRISTOLOGY is the identification of Christ with angelic form and functions, either before or after the incarnation, whether or not he is specifically identified as an angel21 
Gieschen distinguishes angelomorphic Christology from angel Christology and specifically cautions, following Rowland, that 'angelic form, function, or terminology does not of necessity imply created ontology'.22

Knight argues that the religion-historical background to the Ascension of Isaiah's Christology is Jewish angelology, and that this text shows that 'it cannot be true to say that Jewish angelology contributed nothing or little to the earliest development of Christology',23 which specifically counters a premise of James D.G. Dunn's Christology in the Making. At the end of his paper, Knight briefly points out affinities between the Ascension of Isaiah and Phil. 2:6-11, wondering whether 'Jewish angelology might have influenced this strand in Pauline Christology'.24 He further calls for further research into 'the possibility of an intellectual connection between the Ascen. Isa. and Johannine Christology and the possibility of a wide-ranging angelomorphic understanding in the earliest Christianity.'25

As a side note on the Christology of the Ascension of Isaiah, it was previously commonly assumed that it was docetic, because of statements like 'they will think that he is flesh and a man' (AscenIs 9.14) and the odd account of the virgin birth in which Mary appears to find the infant Jesus rather than giving birth to him (AscenIs 11.1-16). However, recent studies by Hannah and Knight have challenged this interpretation. Hannah concludes that 'the Christology offered by the Ascension of Isaiah is not in any way docetic' and that 'the author's orthodox contemporaries would not have found his work objectionable, at least not on docetic grounds.'26 Knight concludes that the Christology of the Ascension of Isaiah is, if anything, anti-docetic.27 

The personhood of the Holy Spirit in the Ascension of Isaiah

In the Ascension of Isaiah, one encounters 'the consistent designation for the Holy Spirit as an "angel of the (Holy) Spirit"', reflecting 'an "angel pneumatology" in which the Holy Spirit is analogous, yet superior, to all the other angels.'28 This designation (similar to that which occurs in the Shepherd of Hermas) makes it obvious that the Holy Spirit is conceived of as a person. If that were not enough, the angel of the Holy Spirit receives worship (9.36), worships God (9.40), and sits on the throne at God's left hand (11.33).

Trinitarian devotion in the Ascension of Isaiah

Important to understanding the pneumatology of the Ascension of Isaiah is that, while the Holy Spirit is called an angel and is worshipped, no other angel receives worship. Indeed, angels refuse worship as they do in the Apocalypse of John: 'Whereas the seer is forbidden to worship other angels, in the seventh heaven the angel guide instructs him to worship the "angel of the Holy Spirit" (9:36).'29 Even concerning Michael, who seems to be on par with the angel of the Holy Spirit in AscenIs 3.15-17 (the risen Christ emerges seated on their shoulders), 'it remains that the Holy Spirit is superior, as nowhere is Michael said to be worshiped'.30

In the vision, Isaiah is commanded to worship Christ and the Holy Spirit in turn. He then observes Christ and the Holy Spirit worship the Great Glory, i.e. God. Hence, in the Ascension of Isaiah, 'three separate beings are rendered worship'31: God, the Beloved (Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, at the conclusion of the vision, Isaiah sees Christ sit down at the right hand of the Great Glory, while the Holy Spirit is seated on the left. Hence all three members of the 'Trinity' are depicted together on a throne. Stuckenbruck states:
Ascension of Isaiah constitutes our earliest evidence or worship being rendered to the Holy Spirit alongside Christ and God. From the above analysis it seems that this 'Trinitarian devotion' is a Christian development. While the function of the Holy Spirit reflects a development from ideas contained in the Jewish scriptures and angelological traditions, the worship of ‘the angel of the Holy Spirit’ is in the Ascension of Isaiah an extension of binitarian devotion which was so characteristic of Christian faith.32
This is not to suggest that the Ascension of Isaiah depicts a mature Trinitarian orthodoxy. Stuckenbruck stresses that the writer 'regarded Christ as superior to the Spirit'.33 Even more significantly, 'In the Ascension of Isaiah the unique position of God is undisputed.'34 Gieschen emphasizes the 'clear distinction between the two angelomorphic figures and the Great Glory: the former are subordinate to the latter'.35 Hence, there is evidently a hierarchy of persons: God - Christ - Spirit (cf. Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 13.3).36 Nevertheless, as Fatehi states:
Though the Spirit and the Lord Christ are clearly portrayed as inferior and subordinate to the Most high God, it is also clear that they are put on the side of God in contrast to all the other glorious angels. So one should understand the writer's portrait of the Spirit in Trinitarian terms.37
The hierarchy of persons, therefore, hardly diminishes the striking character of Trinitarian devotion found in this first century Jewish Christian text. It would surely have offended non-Christian Jews:
Non-Christian Jews would no doubt have considered Isaiah’s vision a breach of monotheism, as three separate beings are rendered worship; ‘three powers’ in heaven would simply have been too much! The author of the vision, however, drew on and elaborated Jewish cosmological tradition in order to substantiate the claim that, despite appearances, his understanding of Christian faith is very monotheistic after all.38
Conclusion

We have briefly considered certain aspects of the theology of the Ascension of Isaiah, which by scholarly consensus is a Jewish Christian apocalypse, the last six chapters of which dates to the late first century A.D. Within these chapters we have encountered clear evidence for (a) the pre-existence of Christ, (b) the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and (c) Trinitarian devotion, i.e. worship offered to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit that may not be offered to any other transcendent being.

The importance of these findings for the Trinitarian-unitarian debate is not that the theology of the Ascension of Isaiah should be considered normative as though it were a lost piece of the New Testament. Rather, the importance lies in the area of history of religions. Any reconstruction of early Christian theology presupposing that the pre-existence of Christ, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and Trinitarian devotion could not have arisen in a first century Jewish setting is shown to be flawed. These ideas unequivocally did originate within that very setting and not within a later Gentile Christian context. These ideas were seemingly contemporaneous with the time of composition of the later writings of the New Testament (e.g. Gospel and Letters of John, Epistle to the Hebrews, Revelation, Pastoral Epistles?) and thus provide valuable background for interpreting, for instance, apparent references to Christ's pre-existence in those documents. In short, the evidence of the Ascension of Isaiah demands a paradigm shift in the way we approach the New Testament.

Footnotes

  • 1 Concerning the Holy Spirit, Burke writes, 'The mainstream Trinitarian doctrine of the Holy Spirit bears no relation to the OT Jewish perspective which informed the NT understanding, because the mainstream doctrine is not derived from a Jewish context but a Hellenic one. First-century Christians found no need to elaborate upon their doctrine of the Spirit, and could speak of it in the same language that their forebears had used. Later Christians developed their doctrine of the Spirit via philosophical speculations predicated upon the same Hellenic ideas of essence and consubstantiality which had led so many of them to conclude that Jesus is God. Which position is more likely to be correct?'
  • 2 Burke quotes approvingly from Dewick in order to distinguish the concept of predestination, a Jewish idea, from pre-existence, a Greek idea. Elsewhere (not in the debate), Dave writes concerning Johannine Christology, 'The only way to reconcile the strict “Jewishness” of John’s gospel with his (apparent) references to Christ’s pre-existence, is to accept his words in the context of Jewish thought (as opposed to Greek philosophy) and realise that he speaks of a pre-destined Messiah, rather than the “Eternal Son” of modern Trinitarianism.'
  • 3 Burke continues: 'We saw that the heretical and apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas contains the very first example of Genesis 1:26 being used as a proof text for the pre-existence of Christ. This verse was not used by Jesus, his apostles, or the earliest post-Biblical Christians such as Polycarp, Clement of Rome and Ignatius.' As a side note, this is an odd statement, for several reasons. First, it makes it sound as though 'Genesis 1:26 being used as a proof text for the pre-existence of Christ' is the only kind of evidence that could qualify as doctrinal foundations of Trinitarianism. I don't think Dave is trying to say that, but still, odd. Second, the reference in the Epistle of Barnabas is, to my knowledge, the earliest direct quotation of Genesis 1:26 in Christian literature, so surely nothing can be made of it being the earliest use of this text as a proof text for Christ's pre-existence! Third, that Dave can build an argument from silence out of other writers' failure to use this specific text demonstrates only his unusual affinity for arguments from silence.
  • 4 Gieschen, Charles A. (1998). Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence. Leiden: Brill, p. 229.
  • 5 'the Jewish-Christian apocalypse the Ascension of Isaiah' (Rowland, Christopher. (1992). The Parting of the Ways: the Evidence of Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic and Mystical Material. In James D.G. Dunn (Ed.), Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135 (pp. 213-238). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 234.)
  • 6 Knight, Jonathan M. (1995). The Ascension of Isaiah. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, p. 9.
  • 7 Alexander, Loveday. (2010). Prophets and Martyrs as Exemplars of Faith. In R. Bauckham, D. Driver & T. Hart (Eds.), The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (pp. 423-439). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 430
  • 8 Gonzalez, Eliezer. (2014). The Fate of the Dead in Early Third Century North African Christianity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 183.
  • 9 Hall, Robert G. (1994). Isaiah's Ascent to See the Beloved: An Ancient Jewish Source for the Ascension of Isaiah. Journal of Biblical Literature, 113(3), 463-484. Here p. 470.
  • 10 Knight, Jonathan M. (2013). The Political Issue of the Ascension of Isaiah: A Response to Enrico Norelli. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 35(4), 355-379. Here p. 358.
  • 11 Löning, Karl. (1987/1993). The Circle of Stephen and Its Mission. In Jürgen Becker, Ed., Christian Beginnings: Word and Community from Jesus to Post-Apostolic Times (pp. 103-131). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p. 121.
  • 12 Knight, Jonathan M. (2015). The Christology of the Ascension of Isaiah: Docetic or Polymorphic? In J. Knight & K. Sullivan (Eds.), The Open Mind: Essays in Honour of Christopher Rowland (pp. 144-164). London: Bloomsbury, p. 154.
  • 13 op. cit., p. 155.
  • 14 Knight, Jonathan M. (2012). The Origin and Significance of the Angelomorphic Christology in the Ascension of Isaiah. Journal of Theological Studies, 63(1), 66-105. Here p. 70.
  • 15 Hall stresses that 'Asc. Is. 3:13-20 summarizes the doctrine of the descent and ascent and establishes it as the doctrine of the apostles. Asc. Is. 3:21-31 attacks those who reject this doctrine of the apostles (3:21) - that is, the vision of he descent and ascent of the Beloved ascribed to Isaiah (3:31).' (Hall, Robert G. (1990). The Ascension of Isaiah: Community Situation, Date, and Place in Early Christianity. Journal of Biblical Literature, 109(2), 289-306. Here p. 291.)
  • 16 Bauckham, Richard. (1981). The Worship of Jesus in Apocalyptic Christianity. New Testament Studies, 27(3), 322-341. Here p. 336 n. 6. The only suggestion for literary dependence he makes is that AscenIs 11.2-17 (Ethiopic version only) 'seems dependent' on Matthew's birth narrative.
  • 17 Other comments on the literary relationship between the Ascension of Isaiah and the New Testament writings include the following. Massaux notes 'the very great fidelity in the Christian parts of the Ascension of Isaiah to ideas and themes already present in the New Testament writings' and asserts its 'very probable dependence' on Matthew, while stressing that 'the absence of the original text does not allow us to affirm a definite literary dependence'. (Massaux, Edouard. (1950/1990). The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature before Saint Irenaeus, Vol. 2. Leuven: Peeters, p. 62.) Bauckham states, 'It is highly unlikely that the Ascension of Isaiah is dependent on the Apocalypse or vice versa, but the coincidence of ideas is striking. Both forbid worship of angels on the grounds that only God (in the seventh heaven) may be worshipped and that angels are not the seer's superiors but his fellow-servants.' (Bauckham, Richard. (1993). Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. London: Bloomsbury, p. 121). Nicklas cautions, 'it is not possible to state with certainty whether the Ascension of Isaiah is literarily dependent on the Gospel of Matthew.' (Nicklas, Tobias. (2015). 'Drink the Cup which I promised you!' (Apocalypse of Peter 14.4): Peter's Death and the End of Times. In Kevin Sullivan & Jonathan Knight (Eds.), The Open Mind: Essays in Honour of Christopher Rowland (pp. 183-200). London: Bloomsbury, p. 194). Lindgård states that the Ascension of Isaiah 'is probably not dependent on Paul.' (Lindgård, Fredrik. (2005). Paul's Line of Thought in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 134 n. 105.)
  • 18 Knibb, Michael A. (1983/2011). Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah. In James H. Charlesworth (Ed.), Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 2 (pp. 143-176). Peabody: Hendrickson. OTP Vol. 2, Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, pp. 156-176
  • 19 For other pre-existence texts, see AscenIs 1.7, 1.13, 8.25, 9.3-6, 9.12-15.
  • 20 E.g. Gieschen, op. cit.; Knight, 2012, op. cit.
  • 21 Gieschen, op. cit., p. 28.
  • 22 ibid.
  • 23 Knight, 2012, op. cit., p. 104.
  • 24 ibid.
  • 25 op. cit., p. 105.
  • 26 Hannah, Darrell D. (1999). The Ascension of Isaiah and Docetic Christology. Vigiliae Christianae, 53(2), 165-196. Here p. 195.
  • 27 'The present study has argued that the long-held assumption of a docetic Christology in the Ascen. Isa. will have to be revised on the grounds that this is not an accurate reflection of its contents. The text insists that Jesus really died, leaving open to question the manner of his earthly appearance but insisting nonetheless that the humanity is real. The Christology is, if anything, more obviously anti-docetic than docetic in terms of what it says about the passion in 3.13, 18 and 11.19-20.' (Knight, 2015, op. cit., p. 163.)
  • 28 Stuckenbruck, L.T. (1999). Worship and Monotheism in the Ascension of Isaiah. In C.C. Newman, J.R. Davila, & G.S. Lewis (Eds.), The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism: Papers from the St. Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus (pp. 70-89). Leiden: Brill, p. 78.
  • 29 op. cit., p. 78; similarly Fatehi: 'One should note that the angel of the Holy Spirit in Ascension of Isaiah is not an ordinary angel. While Isaiah is strictly forbidden from worshipping angels, he is encouraged, in fact commanded, to worship the angel of the Holy Spirit' (Fatehi, Mehrdad. (2000). The Spirit's Relation to the Risen Lord in Paul: An Examination of Its Christological Implications. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 137). Cf. Bauckham, 1993, op. cit.
  • 30 Stuckenbruck, op. cit., p. 80.
  • 31 op. cit., p. 89.
  • 32 op. cit., p. 82. Similarly, Bauckham remarks, 'The worship which is prohibited in the case of angels is commanded in the case of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The carefully structured form of the account of the trinitarian worship in the seventh heaven should be noticed.' (1983, op. cit., p. 333.) Again, Knight says that the 'vision of the three divine beings' stands 'at the heart of the apocalypse' (2013, op. cit., p. 367.)
  • 33 ibid.
  • 34 op. cit., p. 73.
  • 35 Gieschen, op. cit., p. 235.
  • 36 'And we will demonstrate that we rationally worship the one who became the teacher of these things to us, and who was born for this, Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judaea at the time of Tiberius Caesar. For we have learnt that he is the son of the true God, and we hold him in second place, with the prophetic Spirit in the third rank.' (Minns, Denis and Parvis, Paul. (2009). Justin, Philosopher and Martyr: Apologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 111, trans.)
  • 37 Fatehi, op. cit., p. 137.
  • 38 Stuckenbruck, op. cit., p. 89.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Supernatural Evil in the Apostolic Fathers (6): The Epistle of Barnabas

The Epistle of Barnabas (henceforth Barnabas) is an early Christian text generally dated to the 130s A.D., around the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt.1 Although traditionally ascribed to 'Barnabas', the document itself does not claim to have been written by Barnabas and never mentions Barnabas. There is near-universal agreement that the author was not Paul's companion of that name mentioned in the New Testament. The author and work will be referred to as Barnabas for sake of convenience.

This document is perhaps best known for its idiosyncratic answer to the question of why Christians are not bound to literal observance of the statutes of the Torah. In contrast to Paul, who had argued that literal Torah observance played a preparatory role in anticipation of Christ, Barnabas (who does not seem to be familiar with Paul's writings) holds that the Torah is eternally valid but was never meant to be followed literally.2 Moreover, he claims that God abrogated the Sinai covenant due to the golden calf incident and appears to hold out no enduring privileges for the Jewish people.3 These positions are unique among patristic writings.4 However, that Barnabas was regarded as generally theologically sound and valuable is evident from its inclusion after Revelation in Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest surviving complete New Testament manuscript.5

Paget stresses the writer’s use of Jewish exegetical methods6 and even allows the possibility that the writer was Jewish,7 although Skarsaune thinks his knowledge of rabbinic haggadah is only second-hand and that he was certainly Gentile.8 His antagonism toward Jews and Judaism should be understand in the context of fierce religious competition between the Church and Synagogue, and the probability that the former was losing proselytes to the latter.9 Horbury concludes that compared to Justin Martyr's writings, this document is 'more strongly Jewish as well as anti-Jewish.'10 It seems probable that he knew the Gospel of Matthew but otherwise shows no dependence on writings from what would become the New Testament.11

Barnabas is an important witness to the early Christian understanding of supernatural evil. Satan plays a prominent role in his theology, and he also refers to demons and bad angels.

Satanological Terminology in Barnabas

Barnabas uses a number of different terms to refer to Satan. Some are known from earlier Christian tradition. ho satanas (Satan; Barn. 18.1) is, with ho diabolos, the most widely used Satanological term in the New Testament.12 ho ponēros (the evil one;13; Barn. 2.10; 21.314) also occurs frequently in the New Testament as a designation for Satan.15 Barnabas' notion of Satan as a ruler is also commonplace in the New Testament.16 He refers to Satan as ho ponēros archōn (the evil ruler; Barn. 4.13) and as ho archōn kairou tou nun tēs anomias (the ruler over the present age of lawlessness; Barn. 18.2).

Other Satanological terms are used by Barnabas which do not occur in the New Testament. These include ho energōn (literally 'the one who is at work', Barn. 2.1), ho melas (the black one, Barn. 4.10; 20.1), and ho anomos (the lawless one, Barn. 15.5).

tou energountos (in lexical form, ho energōn) is a participial form of energeō. This verb is frequently used to refer to 'divine or supernatural action'17 in patristic literature. Gokey states that the use of energeō and its corresponding noun energeia 'for superhuman evil powers is common to the pagan, Jewish and Christian Hellenistic world.'18 On NT usage specifically, Gokey states that energeō, when used in the active voice, has a superhuman personal subject in all but one instance.19 As for the noun cognate, 'In the NT energeia only appears in Paul, where it always refers to the mystic supernatural power of divine or evil origin.'20 Forms of energeō or energeia are linked to Satan by Paul in Eph. 2:2 and 2 Thess. 2:9, and also by Justin Martyr in Dialogue with Trypho 69.1.21

One major lexical authority appears to take ho energōn in Barn 2.1 to refer to God.22 However, it is more likely that it refers to Satan,23 given the emphasis on 'evil days' just prior. Ehrman translates Barn. 2.1a, 'Since, then, the days are evil and the one who is at work holds sway.'24 Gokey renders ho energōn as 'the Agent'.25

The reference to ho energōn having exousia (power or dominion) in Barn. 2.1 parallels several New Testament texts which explicitly or implicitly attribute exousia to Satan.26

As for ho melas, Barnabas seems to be the first Christian writer to associate this term with Satan. What is the source of the imagery of Satan as 'the black one'? Based on the likelihood that Barnabas was written in Alexandria, where black-skinned Ethiopians would have been present, Byron argues that the use of this term for Satan 'as a trope within the ethno-political rhetorics about vices and sins.'27 However, Byron acknowledges that Barnabas never refers to 'blacks' as an ethnic group, and so his reconstruction of the background of ho melas is pure conjecture. Peerbolte is more likely correct that 'The use of melas for Satan originates in its use as a synonym of ponēros.'28 Hermas uses melas as a symbol of vice repeatedly in his Similitudes, with no hint of an ethnic connotation.29 Moreover, it is surely noteworthy that in Barn. 20.1, 'the path of the Black One' (tou melanos hodos)30 is explicitly contrasted, not with the colour white but with 'the path of light' (hodos tou phōtos) in Barn. 19.1, 12. The use of light/darkness imagery to draw a dualistic contrast is, of course, common in the New Testament, especially in the writings of John and Paul.31

Finally, tou anomou (in lexical form, ho anomos) in Barn. 15.5 could conceivably mean 'the lawless one' generically (as in Ezek. 18:24 LXX), or 'the lawless one' par excellence, i.e. Satan or the Antichrist. The expression ho anomos is used by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:8 of the Antichrist, whom Paul distinguishes from Satan but explicitly links with his activity.32 That Barnabas' tou anomou refers to Satan is probable for two reasons: firstly, generic wicked humans are referred to in the next phrase in the plural (krinei tous asebeis), making it unlikely that they are also referred to in the singular with a generic use of the article. Secondly, Satan is explicitly linked to 'the present age of lawlessness' in Barn. 18.2 as its ruler. The phrase 'age of lawlessness' or 'age of the lawless one' closely parallels the 'age of the lawlessness of Israel' (en kairō tēs anomias) mentioned in Testament of Dan 6.633 (a passage which also mentions 'Satan and his spirits'), suggesting some correspondence of thought.

Two main conclusions can be drawn from Barnabas' Satanological terminology. Firstly, while in certain respects his phraseology is unique (e.g. ho melas), broadly speaking his language and ideas about Satan closely parallel what we find in the New Testament. Secondly, it is clear that Barnabas regarded Satan as a supernatural, personal being. Further confirmation of this is seen in Barnabas' Two Ways material in Barn. 18.1-2, where he describes Satan as having angels who are set over against the angels of God.34

Other supernatural evil beings in Barnabas

Besides Satan, Barnabas knows of other supernatural evil beings. These include the angels of Satan just mentioned, as well as an evil angel (angelos ponēros) who, according to Barnabas, misled the Jews into practicing physical circumcision instead of spiritual (Barn. 9.4).35 Barnabas may be dependent upon the reference to angelōn ponērōn in Ps. 78(77):49 LXX for his terminology here.

Barnabas makes one mention of demons in the context of an argument spiritualising the Temple:
And so I conclude that a temple exists. But learn how it will be built in the name of the Lord. Before we believed in God, the dwelling place of our heart was corrupt and feeble, since it really was a temple build by hand; for it was full of idolatry and was a house of demons, because we did everything that was opposed to God. (Barn. 16.7)36
Gokey notes the 'strong affinities' between this passage and the Synoptic parable of the unclean spirit which goes out of a man and returns later to the 'house' with 'seven other spirits more evil than himself' (Matt. 12:45; Luke 11:24-26).37 By internalizing the temple of God within the heart, Barnabas' thought also closely parallels Paul's doctrine of the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.38 Wahlen states, 'The thought seems to be that demons, which rule the Jews as truly as they rule the Gentile nations, are expelled from the heart of the forgiven believer.'39 This contrasts with Kelly, who states that here 'there is no real indication that baptism has an exorcistic meaning.'40 Along the same lines, Russell thinks the idea expressed here is that of temptation from without, not demon-possession.41 Whatever the case, it is apparent that Barnabas believed in the real existence of demons.

Concluding observations

Two other observations will help illustrate how Barnabas uses language pertaining to supernatural evil. Firstly, despite his clear belief in supernatural evil beings, Barnabas also regards evil as having an anthropological dimension. He refers to 'the purification of our hearts' (8:3), to 'the one who is sick in the flesh' who is 'healed by the foul juice of the hyssop' (8:6). He writes of those who 'are reputed to perform a lawless deed in their mouth because of their uncleanness' (10:8), to those who 'received his words according to the desires of their own flesh' (10:9), to those 'full of sins and filth' (11:11), to those 'completely filled with sins' and 'hearts that were already paid out to death and given over to the lawlessness of deceit' (14:5). Moreover, Barnabas' main teaching on how to overcome Satan is not magical but ethical. This is evident from the extended ethical instruction which follows the pronouncement that Satan is set over the path of darkness (Barn. 19.1-12; 21.1-9).

Secondly, Barnabas offers no attempt to explain or justify his ideas about Satan, bad angels, and demons. He simply offers a series of passing allusions to these concepts. Evidently, these ideas are part of the Christian worldview which he can assume his audience shares with him, not a controversial claim for which he needs to make an argument. This suggests that Barnabas' beliefs about Satan and demons are not innovative but taken over from earlier Christian tradition. Further corroboration of this conclusion is found in the close conceptual and terminological parallel between Barnabas' beliefs and those in the New Testament, despite little evidence for Barnabas' direct dependence on New Testament writings.

Footnotes

  • 1 Paget, J.C. (2006). The Epistle of Barnabas. The Expository Times, 117(11), 441-446. Here p. 443.
  • 2 Skarsaune, O. (2002). In the shadow of the temple: Jewish influences on early Christianity. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p. 218.
  • 3Horbury, W. (1992). Jewish-Christian Relations in Barnabas and Justin Martyr. In J.D.G. Dunn (Ed.), Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135 (pp. 315-345). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 327-328.
  • 4Hvalvik, R. (1996). The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish-Christian Competition in the Second Century. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 331.
  • 5 Note: the Shepherd of Hermas is also included in this manuscript after the Epistle of Barnabas.
  • 6 'It has long been noted by scholars that Barnabas consists of material of a strongly Jewish character.' (Paget, J. C. (1996). Paul and the Epistle of Barnabas. Novum Testamentum, 38(4), 359-381. Here p. 377.)
  • 7 Paget, 2006, op. cit., p. 442.
  • 8 Skarsaune, op. cit., p. 220.
  • 9 Hvalvik, op. cit., pp. 324-326; Evans, C.A. (2000). Root Causes of the Jewish-Christian Rift from Jesus to Justin. In S.E. Porter & B.W.R. Pearson (Eds.), Christian-Jewish Relations through the Centuries (pp. 20-35). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, p. 22.
  • 10 Horbury, op. cit., p. 332.
  • 11 Hvalvik, op. cit., pp. 32-34.
  • 12 36 occurrences: Matt. 4:10, 12:26 (twice), 16:23; Mark 1:13, 3:23 (twice), 3:26, 4:15, 8:33; Luke 10:18, 11:18, 13:16, 22:3, 22:31; John 13:27; Acts 5:3, 26:18; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 5:5, 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:11, 11:14, 12:7; 1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:9; 1 Tim. 1:20; 5:15; Rev. 2:9, 2:13 (twice), 2:24, 3:9, 12:9, 20:2, 20:7.
  • 13 Byron suggests that ho ponēros here 'could refer to the devil, or more specifically to the Roman emperor Trajan' (Byron, G.L. (2002). Symbolic blackness and ethnic difference in early Christian literature. New York: Routledge, p. 64). In support of the latter proposal, he notes that Trajan is referred to as the 'evil one' in the Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkah 5.1, 55B: 'In the time of Trogianos, the evil one (טרוגיינוס הרשע), a son was born to him on the ninth of Av...' (ibid., p. 155 n. 68). He is dependent on Modrzejewski, J. (1997). The Jews of Egypt: from Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 209 (see also, e.g. Neusner, J. (Ed.). (1988). The Talmud of the Land of Israel (Vol. 17). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 118; Saldarini, A.J. (1975). The Fathers according to Rabbi Nathan. Leiden: Brill. 68; Goldberg, D. (1970). The Leaven of Judaism. Woodbridge: Twayne, p. 164.) In fact, not only Trajan but also Titus is referred to in Jewish literature as 'the evil one' (the latter for entering the Holy of Holies). However, two observations reduce the significance of this parallel with the satanic designation ho ponēros. In the first place, when applied to Trajan or Titus, 'the evil one' accompanies the emperor’s personal name: it is 'Trajan the evil one' or 'Titus the evil one'. 'The evil one' does not function as a stand-alone designation for either emperor. Secondly, הרשע need not even function as a substantive in these texts; one could also translate it as an attribute adjective: 'the evil Titus' or 'Trajan the Wicked' (Modrzejewski, op. cit., p. 207; Neusner, op. cit., p. 118; Dershowitz, N. & Reingold, E.M. (2008). Calendrical Calculations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 101; Alon, G. (1980). The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 383; Attias, J.-C. (2014). The Jews and the Bible. Redwood City: Stanford University Press, p. 38; Feldman, L.H. (1996). Studies in Hellenistic Judaism. Leiden: Brill, pp. 3-4; Holder, M. (1986). History of the Jewish People: From Yavneh to Pumbedisa. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, p. 29; Finkel, A.Y. (trans.) (1999). Ein Yaakov: The Ethical and Inspirational Teachings of the Talmud. New York: Aronson, p. 425; Zinberg, I. (1977). A History of Jewish Literature. New York: KTAV Publishing, p. 31.). In view of this, it is unlikely that the substantive ho ponēros in Barnabas or any other early Christian text refers to the Roman emperor. It is rather a designation for Satan.
  • 14 The gender of tō ponērō in Barn. 21.3 is ambiguous so this could refer to 'the evil one' or 'evil' abstractly. Only in Barn. 2.10 do we have unambiguous masculine usage. Holmes mistranslates to ponēron in Barn. 19.11 as 'the evil one' (Holmes, M.W. (2007) The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 437.). This expression is neuter and so can only refer to evil abstractly (Ehrman, B.D. (2003). The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. 2. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 79.)
  • 15 Certainly in Matt. 13:19; 1 John 2:13, 2:14, 5:18; probably in Matt. 5:37, 6:13, 13:38; Eph. 6:16; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 3:12, 5:19; possibly in Matt. 5:39.
  • 16 For the term, see Matt. 12:24-29; Mark 3:22-27; Luke 11:15-21; John 12.31, 14:30, 16:11; Eph. 2:2; for the concept, see Luke 4:5; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19.
  • 17 Lampe, G.W.H. (1961). A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 473.
  • 18 Gokey, F.X. (1961). The Terminology for the Devil and Evil Spirits in the Apostolic Fathers. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, p. 104 n. 1.
  • 19 Ibid.
  • 20 Ibid., p. 103 n. 1.
  • 21 For other early Christian texts where these words are used of demonic activity, see Lampe, op. cit., pp. 472-473.
  • 22 Arndt, W., Danker, F.W. & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 335.
  • 23 So Gokey, op. cit., p. 99; Ehrman, op. cit., p. 15 n. 1; Prostmeier, F.P. (1999). Der Barnabasbrief. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 182.
  • 24 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 15. Holmes, op. cit., p. 383 offers an identical translation of ho energōn.
  • 25 Gokey, op. cit., p. 99.
  • 26 Luke 4:6; 10:19; 22:53; Acts 26:18; Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13.
  • 27 Byron, op. cit., p. 65.
  • 28 Peerbolte, L.J.L. (1996). The Antecedents of Antichrist: A Traditio-Historical Study of the Earliest Christian Views on Eschatological Opponents. Leiden: Brill, p. 191.
  • 29 Hermas, Similitudes 9.1.5; 9.6.4; 9.8.1ff; 9.9.5; 9.13.8; 9.15.1, 3; 9.19.1; so Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 626.
  • 30 Since the gender of tou melanos is ambiguous, it is possible to render this as 'the path of blackness', which may make more sense given that the antithesis is impersonal ('light') (cf. 'the path of darkness' in Barn. 18.1). However, in Barn. 4.10 ho melas is unambiguously masculine and so refers to a personal being.
  • 31 e.g. John 3:19; 12:35; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thess. 5:5.
  • 32 It is not clear whether Barnabas' theology includes an eschatological Antichrist figure and, if so, whether this individual is distinct from Satan himself, as in 2 Thessalonians, or is Satan himself, as in the Ascension of Isaiah.
  • 33 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 86.
  • 34 For New Testament parallels to the idea of Satan having angels, see Matt. 25:41; 2 Cor. 12:7; Rev. 12:7-9.
  • 35 Paget takes this evil angel to be the devil himself (Paget, J.C. (1994). The Epistle of Barnabas: Outlook and Background. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 183). However, Russell more plausibly takes it to be an unspecified evil angel since it lacks the article (Russell, J.B. (1981/1987). Satan: The Early Christian Tradition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 39 n. 23).
  • 36 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 73, trans.
  • 37 Gokey, op. cit., p. 108 n. 5.
  • 38 Ibid.
  • 39 Wahlen, C. (2004). Jesus and the Impurity of Spirits in the Synoptic Gospels. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 63.
  • 40 Kelly, H.A. (1985/2004). The Devil at Baptism: Ritual, Theology, and Drama. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, p. 52.
  • 41 Russell, op. cit., p. 40.