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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I:
BARNABAS: Chapter IX.—The spiritual meaning of...

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.—The spiritual meaning of circumcision.

He speaks moreover concerning our ears, how He hath circumcised both them and our heart. The Lord saith in the prophet, “In the hearing of the ear they obeyed me.” 1548 And again He saith, “By hearing, those shall hear who are afar off; they shall know what I have done.” 1549 And, “Be ye circumcised in your hearts, saith the Lord.” 1550 And again He says, “Hear, O Israel, for these things saith the Lord thy God.” 1551 And once more the Spirit of the Lord proclaims, “Who is he that wishes to live for ever? By hearing let him hear the voice of my servant.” 1552 And again He saith, “Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for God 1553 hath spoken.” 1554 These are in proof. 1555 And again He saith, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of this people.” 1556 And again He saith, “Hear, ye children, the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” 1557 Therefore He hath circumcised our ears, that we might hear His word and believe, for the circumcision in which they trusted is abolished. 1558 For He declared that circumcision was not of the flesh, but they transgressed because an evil angel deluded them. 1559 He saith to them, “These things saith the Lord your God”—(here 1560 I find a new 1561 commandment)—“Sow not among thorns, but circumcise yourselves to the Lord.” 1562 And why speaks He thus: “Circumcise the stubbornness of your heart, and harden not your neck?” 1563 And again: “Behold, saith the Lord, all the nations are uncircumcised 1564 in the flesh, but this people are uncircumcised in heart.” 1565 But thou wilt say, “Yea, verily the people are circumcised for a seal.” But so also is every Syrian and Arab, and all the priests of idols: are these then also within the bond of His covenant? 1566 Yea, the Egyptians also practise circumcision. Learn then, my children, concerning all things richly, 1567 that Abraham, the first who enjoined circumcision, looking forward in spirit to Jesus, practised that rite, having received the mysteries 1568 of the three letters. For [the Scripture] saith, “And Abraham circumcised p. 143 ten, and eight, and three hundred men of his household.” 1569 What, then, was the knowledge given to him in this? Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred. 1570 The ten and the eight are thus denoted—Ten by Ι, and Eight by Η1571 You have [the initials of the, name of] Jesus. And because 1572 the cross was to express the grace [of our redemption] by the letter Τ, he says also, “Three Hundred.” He signifies, therefore, Jesus by two letters, and the cross by one. He knows this, who has put within us the engrafted 1573 gift of His doctrine. No one has been admitted by me to a more excellent piece of knowledge 1574 than this, but I know that ye are worthy.


Footnotes

142:1548

Ps. xviii. 44.

142:1549

Isa. xxxiii. 13.

142:1550

Jer. iv. 4.

142:1551

Jer. vii. 2.

142:1552

Ps. xxxiv. 11-13. The first clause of this sentence is wanting in Cod. Sin.

142:1553

Cod. Sin. has “Lord.”

142:1554

Isa. i. 2.

142:1555

In proof of the spiritual meaning of circumcision; but Hilgenfeld joins the words to the preceding sentence.

142:1556

Isa. i. 10.

142:1557

Cod. Sin. reads, “it is the voice,” corrected, however, as above.

142:1558

Cod. Sin. has, “that we might hear the word, and not only believe,” plainly a corrupt text.

142:1559

Cod. Sin., at first hand, has “slew them,” but is corrected as above.

142:1560

The meaning is here very obscure, but the above rendering and punctuation seem preferable to any other.

142:1561

Cod. Sin., with several other mss., leaves out “new.”

142:1562

Jer. iv. 3. Cod. Sin. has “God” instead of “Lord.”

142:1563

Deut. x. 16.

142:1564

This contrast seems to be marked in the original. Cod. Sin. has, “Behold, receive again.”

142:1565

Jer. 9:25, 26.

142:1566

Dressel and Hilgenfeld read, “their covenant,” as does Cod. Sin.; we have followed Hefele.

142:1567

Cod. Sin. has “children of love,” omitting “richly,” and inserting it before “looking forward.”

142:1568

Literally, “doctrines.”

143:1569

Not found in Scripture: but comp. Gen. 17:26, 27, Gen. xiv. 14.

143:1570

Cod. Sin. inserts, “and then making a pause.”

143:1571

This sentence is altogether omitted by inadvertence in Cod. Sin.

143:1572

Some mss. here read, “and further:” the above is the reading in Cod. Sin., and is also that of Hefele.

143:1573

This is rendered in the Latin, “the more profound gift,” referring, as it does, to the Gnosis of the initiated. The same word is used in chap. i.

143:1574

Literally, “has learned a more germane (or genuine) word from me,” being an idle vaunt on account of the ingenuity in interpreting Scripture he has just displayed.


Next: Chapter X.—Spiritual significance of...

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