The Manuscripts of the "Letter of Barnabas"

The Epistle of Barnabas forms part of the Apostolic Fathers collection of early Christian literature.  The exact date of composition is unknown.  The work refers to 10 kings in chapter 6, which has been identified with the first 10 emperors of Rome, which would give a first century date, during the reign of Vespasian.  Another passage (ch. 16) refers to the rebuilding of the temple, which could refer to the events of 132AD.  However neither is conclusive.  The work is doubtless late first or early second century.



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /


London: British Library Codex Sinaiticus.  This is the famous biblical uncial manuscript.  It was discovered by Tischendorff at Mt. Sinai; given by the monks to the Tsar; sold after the Russian Revolution by the Bolsheviks to the British Museum for £100,000, raised by subscription by the Daily Telegraph.

ca. 350 AD

C or I or H Jerusalem Codex Hierosolymitanus / Codex Constantinopolitanus.  A Greek minuscule written by Leo the Notary in 1056AD, and discovered by Bryennius in Constantinople in 1875 in the library of the Patriarch monastery of Jerusalem.  The manuscript was in Jerusalem in 1967.  The Ms. also contains 1 Clement, 2 Clement, the Didache, and the Long version of the letters of Ignatius of Antioch. 

1056 AD

V Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 859.  This descends from a manuscript in which Barnabas 5:7b-21:9 followed without a break on Polycarp 1:1 -9:2, the combination passing under the name of Polycarp.  It also contains the letters of Ignatius.


L St. Petersburg, Biblioteca Publichnaya Codex Petropolitanus Lat. Q.v.I.n.38-39. A manuscript from Corbie, acquired via St.Germains-des-Pres by the Russian agent, Petrus Dubrowsky, during the French Revolution.  The manuscript has been split into two physical volumes; Barnabas is in the second.  This contains a Latin translation of Barnabas, but 18:1-29:9 are missing.

[Ganz:] Leningrad, Lat. Q v I 38-39, ff. 69, 178 x 138, 21 lines.  Philastrius, de Haeresibus. Quires signed Roman Q A-I Novatianus (here attributed to Tertullianus) de Cibis Judaicis Epistola Barnabae, Epistola Jacobi folia numbered 70-94, 1-24.  Novatianus, ed. CC IV; J.M.Heer, Die Versio Latina des Barnabasbriefes und ihr Verhältnis zur  altlateinschen Bibel (Freiburg 1908), with plate of fol. 8r; Staerk I, pp. 132, 223; II, pl. LIX, LXXII; Dobias-Rozdestvenskaia, p. 155; de Mérindol, pp. 1076-80.


P Florence: Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana [Unknown shelf-mark].  A fragmentary page from a papyrus codex containing Barnabas 9:1-6.  It dates from the late 4th-early 5th centuries.  The fragment is 6.3 x 11 cm, written in a flowing but irregular semi-uncial hand with frequent ligatures.  There must have been 21 lines per page. 

There is no word division, but a rudimentary punctuation does appear.   Accents appear, as do supra-linear corrections.  Nomina sacra are present.  On the recto, lines 17-18, there are indications of a break: a Δ with macron appears in the margin (indicating '4'?), punctuation before palin, a horizontal stroke separating line 18 from 17, and the extension of panta into the left margin (as in recto line 14, which may also be the start of a new quotation).


7 other manuscripts of the same type as V also exist, in two families (v o f p, and b c n).  Other mss. from the same mutilated archetype are known to exist (a s t), but of unknown classification.  The 10 mss. date from the 11th to the 17th century.  Gebhardt-Harnack describes b c f n o p v.   f is in the Laurentian library in Florence. (All these details from Kraft).

Indirect witness exists in Clement of Alexandria, mainly agreeing with H.

H and S have the same text throughout; G has the same text as the 7th century corrector of S.  L tends to side with G but is sometimes idiosyncratic or hopelessly corrupt.  The papyrus frequently supports the majority of witmesses against a unique reading in one of them.  It is perhaps closest to G or L, but has some unique readings of its own.


R.A.KRAFT, An unnoticed papyrus fragment of Barnabas, Vigiliae Christianae 21 (1967) pp.150-163.  Checked.  Includes photograph and further references.

O.De GEBHARDT & A. HARNACK, Patrum apostolicorum opera I.2 (1878 2).  Not checked -- details from Kraft.

David GANZ, Corbie in the Carolingian Renaissance, Beihefte der Francia vol. 20, Sigmaringen (1990), ISBN: 3-7995-7320-8. Checked

E. Ann MATTER, Barnabas Redux: the Medieval Fortunes of a Latin Apocryphon, pp.263-74 in "A Multiform Heritage: Studies on Early Judaism and Christianity in Honor of Robert A. Kraft", ed. Benjamin G. Wright (Scholars Press [now handled by Duke Univ. Press], Homage Series, 1999).  Checked.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse. Corrections and additions are very welcome.

This page has been online since 31st October 2003

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