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Barnabas 4.6b: the Exegetical Implications of a Textual Problem

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Among early Christian writings the Epistle of Barnabas is remarkable for the claim that Israel lost its covenant forever at Sinai because of its worship of the golden calf. What is less clear is whether Barnabas's interest in this event is driven primarily by polemical, paraenetic, or abstract theological concerns. Contributing to this uncertainty is a notorious text-critical problem at Barn. 4.6b where the author first raises the issue of Israel's debacle at Sinai. Although commentators have shown a pronounced preference for the reading preserved by the Latin version of Barnabas, this article concludes that the deference shown to the Latin reading is unwarranted. The author postulates a conservative emendation of the Greek text as superior to the Latin reading on both transcriptional and exegetical grounds.


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