An Imaginary Conversation Between Barnabas And A Publisher

Thank you for coming into my office today.  Your name
is Barnabas, right?  I thought so.  Anyway, I think you
know why I invited you here to talk about the latest
book proposal that we have been working on.  Excuse
me, you don’t know?  After we had read some of your
blog posts relating to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple
and your thoughts on how it would impact Jewish-Christian
relations, we sent you a book contract so that you could
write an epistle that would explain your view of the law
and its continued validity for believers.  I must admit that
we are very concerned about what we have read so far
and we wanted to talk about the matter with you.  So far
we have read your proposed draft of this book idea and
we are very concerned about what you have said.  For
one, you appear to have grossly misinterpreted the Bible
in a way that is not in line with our audience’s expectation
about how the Sabbath day is to be remembered and
observed.  We know that you have stated that one of your
purposes is to “usher in the Eighth Day, the commencement
of a new world.”  We have even more concerns, though, about
the way you write about the food laws as relating to questions
of sexual morality.  We are most concerned about the way that
you compare the eating of a hare to the debauching of young
boys, something we absolutely do not stand for here at our
publishing company.  Now, what led you to think that such an
allegorical interpretation of the food laws of the Bible was
appropriate is unclear to us but this sort of reference is entirely
unacceptable to our publishing house.  We are sure that you can
self-publish whatever you like, but if this is the way that you seek
to view God’s law and promote yourself as some sort of
teacher of righteousness, we want no part in it.  We also think it
would be wise on your part that you absolutely disclaim that you
are the same Barnabas as the one who regarded the law highly and
that preached alongside Paul in order to help convert the people
of Cyprus and Cilicia to God’s ways.  We hope you understand
our position on this matter and that we mean no personal offense
to you even if we think that we must ask for you to repay your
advance and seek other options for publishing this letter of yours.

***

The Epistle of Barnabas is definitely one of the most problematic texts relating to the Apostolic Fathers [1].  The text is problematic for a variety of reasons.  For one, the author shows a strongly anti-Jewish interpretation of scripture that seeks to paint those who view God’s law seriously as Judaizers, thus delegitimizing practices that I hold near and dear to my heart.  For this reason alone I would find the Epistle of Barnabas to be a highly questionable writing at best and deeply objectionable at worst.  Unfortunately, as the poem above makes plain, it is not only the antinomian view of the writer of this letter about the Sabbath that is objectionable about the approach of Barnabas to the text but two other matters as well.  For one, the Barnabas of this text is not remotely similar to the Barnabas of the Bible who is consistently viewed in a noble fashion because of his kindness, his generosity, and his encouragement of others like Paul.  Likewise, the allegorical approach of Barnabas is problematic because he views the food laws of God as having rather disturbing sexual meanings, the meaning of prohibition of eating the hare being the most troublesome one.

One wonders why the approach of Barnabas was necessary in this fashion to deliberately write something that would inflame hostile readers.  It is unlikely that the Epistle to Barnabas would have survived, much less been well regarded, from antiquity unless it at some point had not been conflated with the much different biblical Barnabas, who was himself a pronomian Levite.  Even so, it is quite striking that the writing of the Epistle is so consistently hostile to God’s ways.  It may be possible that there are connections between the anti-Semitism of the letter and its rather bogus pseudoscientific discussion of hares and their reputed connection with pederasty.  For one, the pseudoscientific approach and the anti-Jewish perspective of the Epistle of Barnabas suggests that the book was written by someone who was in favor of or even engaged in the Hellenistic Christian project of seeking to appeal to philosophical Greeks and Romans rather than maintaining the integrity of the faith once delivered by the Apostles to the early Church of God.  In so doing, though, the Hellenistic Church had to deal with the fact that when one seeks to appeal to Greek philosophers with no moral interest in God’s laws that there is a lot of sexual immorality that comes with it, and it is very possible that Barnabas was seeking to use God’s laws in a way that would provide some leverage to work with in appealing to those for whom Greek philosophy was appealing but who wanted to seek a more upright and moral lifestyle similar to that which is still supported by many Hellenistic Christian churches to this day, without a full adoption of customs that were too odd and too Jewish for their tastes.

In order to deal humorously with this situation, though, I decided to imagine Barnabas as an early Hellenistic Christian leader seeking to make a reputation as a published author in the way that happens in the contemporary Hellenistic Christian world.  Instead of trying to pawn off some sort of book based on the Prayer of Jabez or the search for a purpose-driven life or the Calvinist interpretation of the obligation of happiness, though, we have Barnabas seeking to make his name known through publishing his letter in the contemporary world.  Needless to say, a publisher seeking to appeal to a Christian audience would find Barnabas’ letter rather too hot to handle as a book to be published by a mainstream press.  Not only would the anti-Sabbitarian or anti-Jewish angles be difficult enough, but the author’s discussion of rather grotesque habits among the people of the time would definitely be a deal breaker.  Now, the Epistle of Barnabas could have been published by some kind of Theonomist trade publication house, but since Barnabas sought to be published by a mainstream Christian press, I imagined the conversation as going downhill fast, ended by an appeal by the publisher for Barnabas to either drastically edit his work or (in light of the implied pushback from Barnabas) publish his writing in some sort of vanity press where he can say what he wants as long as he can pay for the publishing and promotion of his work.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/04/the-issue-of-identity-and-pseudonymity-in-the-epistle-of-barnabas/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/03/the-epistle-of-barnabas-and-the-perils-of-the-allegorical-approach-to-gods-laws/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/03/29/the-problem-of-anti-semitism-in-the-didache-and-the-epistle-of-barnabas/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/03/28/the-curious-connection-between-dualism-and-the-didache-and-epistle-of-barnabas/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Imaginary Conversation Between Barnabas And A Publisher

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Apostolic Fathers Series | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: An Imaginary Failed Book Proposal Conversation About The Didache | Edge Induced Cohesion

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