The Pastoral Epistles in the Epistle of Barnabas, Part I

[This post is part of a series on The Pastoral Epistles in the Apostolic Fathers. RWB]


The discussion of the Epistle of Barnabas in The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers lists seven potential references to the Pastoral Epistles. The editors rate each of the Pastoral Epistles with a ‘D’, and each of the readings have a ‘d’ mark as well. This means the editors see some affinity between the two books in these seven instances, but no clear case for dependence can be made.


Ep. Barn 5.9 || 1Ti 1.15f.



(9) ὅτε δὲ τοὺς ἰδίους ἀποστόλους τοὺς μέλλοντας κηρύσσειν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον αὐτοῦ ἐξελέξατο, ὄντας ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν ἁμαρτίαν ἀνομωτέρους ἵνα δείξῃ ὅτι οὐκ ἦλθεν καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς, τότε ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν εἶναι υἱὸν θεοῦ. (Ep. Barn. 5.9)
(9) And when he chose his own apostles who were destined to preach his gospel (who were sinful beyond all measure in order that he might demonstrate that “he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners”), then he revealed himself to be God’s Son.
Holmes, M. W. (1999). The Apostolic Fathers : Greek texts and English translations (Updated ed.) (284). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.


15 πιστὸς ὁ λόγος καὶ πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος, ὅτι Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι, ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ. 16 ἀλλὰ διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθην, ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ ἐνδείξηται Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. (1Ti 1.15-16, NA27)
Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (1993, c1979). Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.) (543). Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies.
15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1Ti 1.15-16, ESV)


There is affinity between the two, but the likelier influence is that of Mt 9.13: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Holmes provides a footnote linking to this verse in his edition as justification for the quote marks in his text. And the Oxford committee also lists Mt 9.13 as a parallel (along with the synoptic parallels to this passage). But that’s only part of the story.


Unique in relation to 1Ti 1.15-16 is the idea that Paul was a vile sinner, and his calling to apostle served as an object lesson of the extent to which God’s grace can reach. Key to this is the use of the same word group (Barn: δείξῃ, NA27: ἐνδείξηται) for the verb that has Christ (either explicitly or via verb person/number reference) as subject.


Also interesting, at least to me, is the language used to describe the apostles (Ep.Barn.) and Paul (1Ti). It is not complementary. Ep.Barn. calls them “sinful beyond all measure”; Paul calls himself the foremost of sinners. The picture in both of these passages is clear. The most sinful have been redeemed. The degree of change was massive — from the worst sinner to an apostle of Christ. And the reason is the same: That Christ might demonstrate his power to save by using the worst sinners as his primary ambassadors.


Next up: Ep. Barn. 5.6

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