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Ethiopianising the Devil: ὁ μέλας in Barnabas 4

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2019

Clare K. Rothschild*
5031 South Dorchester Ave., Chicago, IL 60615, USA. Email:


Although interpreters refer to the association between blackness and evil in ancient texts as essentially universal, specific reference by Christians to the counter-divine with the colour epithet ὁ μέλας is new with the Epistle of Barnabas. Black is applied as an honorific to certain Egyptian deities, but it is never used in Egyptian religion with reference to the counter-divine. Furthermore, black demons proliferate in late third- and fourth-century Egyptian monastic texts, but these witnesses postdate Barnabas. The first explicit reference to the devil as black after Barnabas is in Didymus the Blind, who interprets the reference as ‘Ethiopian’. Exploring the origin and background of this nickname for the counter-divine, this essay argues that Didymus accurately apprehends Barnabas’ intention: namely, that ‘the Black One’ does not merely reflect the universal association of blackness and evil in Roman antiquity, but, rather it reflects the appropriation of an ethnic stereotype in an apocalyptic context with distinctly anti-imperial resonances.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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1 I wish to thank David Brakke, Robert Matthew Calhoun and Henk Jan de Jonge for critical comments on an early draft of this essay. I also wish to thank Lourdes García Ureña, María Rodríguez de Velasco and all members of the EABS and ISBL session dedicated to the language of colour in the Bible (University of Helsinki, 2 August 2018) as well as SNTS Seminar #1 (Athens, August 8, 2018) for for the opportunity to present this paper in their seminar. On the provenance of Barnabas in Alexandria, see e.g. Kraft, R. A., Barnabas and the Didache (The Apostolic Fathers 3; New York: Nelson, 1965) 53–6Google Scholar; P. Prigent, with the collaboration of Kraft, R. A., Épître de Barnabé (SC 172; Paris: Cerf, 1971) 20–2Google Scholar; Prostmeier, F. R., Der Barnabasbrief (KAV 8; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999) 119–23Google Scholar.

2 See Gokey, F. X., The Terminology for the Devil and Evil Spirits in the Apostolic Fathers (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1961) ch. 8Google Scholar. Of twenty occurrences of μέλας as an adjective in the Apostolic Fathers, only two function substantivally. Black occurs as skin colour in the Hebrew Bible (שחורה, Cant 1.5) and with reference to sheep, birds, nighttime, clouds, hair, cumin and sometimes disease (Lev 13.37; Lam 5.10). Of six occurrences of μέλας in the NT, three denote ink (2 Cor 3.3; 2 John 12; 3 John 13), one refers to hair colour (Matt 5.36), and two refer to horses (Rev 6.5, 12; cf. Zech 6.2, 6).

3 Sobriquets are a feature of apocalyptic literature, although not exclusively. NT occurrences include: Luke 13.32, ‘that fox’; Mark 3.17, ‘Sons of Thunder’; Acts 1.23, ‘Justus’; 4.36, ‘Barnabas’; and 13.1, ‘Niger’. Nicknames in apocalyptic literature may replace names of historical personages (e.g. Satan, the ‘Spouter of the Lie’, the ‘Wicked Priest’, the ‘Teacher of Righteousness’). Collins, M. A., The Use of Sobriquets in the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls (LSTS 67; London: T&T Clark, 2009)Google Scholar. Apocalypticism, the Two Ways tradition, and anti-monasticism are aspects shared by Barnabas and the DSS. Μέλας appears as sobriquet in Diodorus Siculus 17.20.7: Κλεῖτος ὁ Μέλας ἐπικαλούμενος, the Greek warrior who severed the arm of a Persian in defence of Alexander the Great.

4 The counter-divine is referred to as ‘black’ (μέλας Ἅιδης) in Sophocles, Oed. tyr. 28–9.

5 Brakke, D., ‘Male Sexuality, the Black-Skinned Other, and the Monastic Self’, Journal of the History of Sexuality 10/3–4 (2001) 501–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 507 (emphasis added).

6 The argument of this article will focus on the colour black exclusively, that is, it will not conflate occurrences of blackness and darkness.

7 In Mark 9.3, Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white; and, in Mark 16.5, an angel is dressed in white. No such figures appear in Barnabas.

8 Barn. 18–20 represents a version of the so-called Two Ways tradition. Barn. 21.1–9 may involve a third hand. C. Jefford thinks that a final redactor also added Barn. 1.1–5 (Reading the Apostolic Fathers: A Student's Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 20122) 3–4). I am currently persuaded by interpreters arguing that Barn. 18–20 reflects its own (older) tradition over against the version attested by the Didache. Barn. 20.1 identifies ὁ μέλας as Satan, whereas the occurrence in Barn. 4.10 denotes an ‘evil archon’ (4.13). The epithet ὁ μέλας does not occur in the Didache's parallel section. Cf. Barn. 20.1, a passage that I view as replacing ὁ θάνατος in the tradition known to Did. 5.1 with ὁ μέλας (20.1) based on Barn. 4.10 – the goal being to bring the Two Ways tradition into correspondence with the oldest part of the letter.

9 See Prigent, Épître de Barnabé, 41.

10 R. P. C. Hanson sums up the current consensus: ‘The first seventeen chapters of Barnabas obviously come from an Alexandrian source’ (Allegory and Event: A Study of the Sources and Significance of Origen's Interpretation of Scripture (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003) 100). The assumption of Barnabas’ Alexandrian provenance is also based on manuscript evidence. Codex Sinaiticus – representative of the ‘Alexandrian’ form of the text – contains the oldest complete form of the text in Greek. Contra K. Wengst, Didache (Apostellehre); Barnabasbrief; Zweiter Klemensbrief; Schrift an Diognet (Schriften des Urchristentums 2; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1984) 117–18 (Asia Minor); and Prigent, Épître de Barnabé, 27 (Syro-Palestine).

11 The Nile received its name from the Greek word νεῖλος (‘valley’). Since the river deposits black sediment after it floods, the Egyptians called the river ‘Ar’ (‘black’). C. A. Diop, ‘Origin of the Ancient Egyptians’, in G. Mokhtar, General History of Africa, vol. ii: Ancient Civilizations of Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990) 27–83, at 41–2, 75–6. Black is used of Egyptian gods and goddesses as an honorific: kmwr = ‘Great Black One’ for Osiris and km as epithet used with the name of the god (e.g. Hathor, Apis, Min, Thoth, etc.) or kmt, goddess (e.g. Isis) (Diop, ‘Origin of the Ancient Egyptians’, 43). This word is realised in Greek as Χημία. Plutarch, Is. Os. 33: χημία (‘black’) said of Egypt.

12 Diop, ‘Origin of the Ancient Egyptians’, 43.

13 See Brakke, ‘Male Sexuality’, 501–35.

14 Such rhetoric spans the gamut beginning with Herodotus, who refers to Ethiopians with the Greek word αἰθιοπία (2.29). In 2.104, Herodotus uses μελάγχροος (μέλας ‘black’ + χρώς, ‘skin’). Cf. Martial 4.42.5; 10.12.12; TLL i.963. Αἰγύπτιος and Αἰγυπτιακός are synonyms of niger and ater. Pliny the Elder (Nat. 6.22.70) observes that the people living south of the Ganges River are brown not ‘burnt black’ like the Ethiopians. Cf. Nat. 2.80.18. Menander fr. 533 dismisses prejudice against both black and white skin (T. Kock, Comicoram Atticorum fragmenta (3 vols.; Leipzig: Teubner, 1880–8) iii.157). Eratosthenes rejects the division of human beings into Greeks and barbarians, arguing that the distinction should be between virtue and vice (Strabo, Geogr. 1.4.9; cf. Plutarch, Alex. fort. 1.6).

15 Kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, 27.

16 Kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, 27.

17 ‘Two alternative courses of action are now open, righteousness and lawlessness. “Each man will receive payment in accord with his deeds – if he was good his righteousness precedes him; if he was wicked, the reward of wickedness goes before him” (4:12)’ (Kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, 27).

18 ‘Apparently, at least for the traditional material used in chapters 7–8, the present time of struggle is thought of as the “kingdom” of Jesus in which there are “evil and foul days” (8:6) characterized by Jesus’ own suffering (8:5) and continued in the subsequent suffering of those who desire to appropriate the kingdom (= the church? [7:11]) for themselves. But “at the end of days” Jesus will be victorious over the forces of evil (12:9) and will “come to his inheritance” (4:3b; cf. 12:10f.). Pseudo-Barnabas does not elaborate in what sense Jesus has already, in his death and resurrection, defeated the adversary (see 10:5; 14:5), although he is definite that salvation is impossible apart from those events. In any case, the final victory, accompanied by judgment and re-creation of the universe, is yet future and ushers in the true “sabbath rest” for the Creator and his righteous people (15:5–7)’ (Kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, 28–9).

19 ‘The Christian's adversary is Satan (18:1), the “Black One” (4:10a; 20:1), the “Wicked One” (2:10b; 21:3), “Lawless One” (15:5 var.), “Wicked Archon (Ruler)” (4:13) who is in control of this “present lawless time” (2:1; 4:1; 18:2). He is able to “shove us away from the kingdom” (4:13) and “hurl us from our life” (2:10b) if he can ensnare us in the “error of the present time” (4:1; 5:4).’ See Kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, 27–8.

20 Kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, 27; cf. 28–9.

21 Prigent, Épître de Barnabé, 35.

22 Prigent, Épître de Barnabé, 100.

23 Prigent, Épître de Barnabé, 101 n. 4.

24 F. J. Dölger, Die Sonne der Gerechtigkeit und der Schwarze (Münster: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1918) 49–75. E. Kamlah's opinion relies on Dölger: Die Form der katalogischen Paränese im Neuen Testament (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1964). Dölger begins with the Stoic tradition that views the elements as objects of worship (citing Eph 2.2, 6). This is followed by the way in which Hellenistic Jews from Paul to Philo of Alexandria reflect ‘natural philosophy’ (50–1). Citing Philo, see Dölger, Die Sonne der Gerechtigkeit, 50. He includes discussion of Anubis and Pluto as black deities. Citing Dölger, Kamlah summarises the ancient position associating black and evil in which Pluto known as ‘black Jupiter’ (Die Form der katalogischen Paränese, 212). Cf. Dölger, Die Sonne der Gerechtigkeit, 64–5, citing Zimmerman, F., ‘Kleine Beiträge zur Religionsgeschichte. 1. Die schwarze Farbe des Teufels’, TGl 4 (1912) 631–4Google Scholar, at 634).

25 Dölger, Die Sonne der Gerechtigkeit, 49–75. Dölger views the two occurrences of ‘the Black One’ in Barnabas together as an aspect of the Two Ways tradition. Citing Cyril of Jerusalem, he writes, ‘Der Teufel wäre damit nach einem Worte Cyrills von Jerusalem der in der Finsternis Herrschende oder “der finstere und dunkle Herrscher”’ (49).

26 ‘Didym. comm. in Zech. 3.196; 4,312; Ps. 35–39 (Cod. 262,34) stellt unter Berufung auf Barn und Herm heraus, daß (ὁ) μέλας nichts anderes als σατανᾶς (vgl. Barn 18. 1) bzw. διάβολος meint und überhaupt für Unwissenheit und Übel steht; Näheres dazu gl. S. 48 und 554’ (Prostmeier, Der Barnabasbrief, 220 n. 123).

27 Flee from what is futile (v. 10), do not live alone (v. 10), be spiritual (v. 11).

28 Prostmeier, Der Barnabasbrief, 219–20.

29 Prostmeier also points out that they can occur as an element of popular literature (e.g. Physiologus) (Der Barnabasbrief, 219–20 n. 122). Prostmeier discusses ‘der Weg des Schwarzen’ again with regard to Barn. 20.1–2 (555–61). Barn. 20.1–2 is parallel to Did. 5.1–2, although in the Didache ‘the Black One’ replaces ‘death’ (i.e., Barn. 20.1, ‘But the way of the Black One is crooked and full of cursing’ (Ἡ δὲ τοῦ μέλανος ὁδός ἐστιν σκολιὰ καὶ κατάρας μεστή); Did. 5.1 ‘But the Way of Death is this: First of all, it is wicked and full of cursing …’ (Ἡ δὲ τοῦ θανάτου ὁδός ἐστιν αὕτη· πρῶτον πάντων πονηρά ἐστι καὶ κατάρας μεστή; trans. Kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, 156, emphasis added). Kraft interprets Barnabas’ version as ‘characteristically eschatological’ (156).

30 Bastide, R., ‘Color, Racism and Christianity’, Daedalus 96 (1967) 312–27Google Scholar.

31 Snowden, F. M. Jr., Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1970) 196215Google Scholar. Cf. also ‘Simeon called Niger’ in Acts 13.1. Snowden defends this position in ‘Some Greek and Roman Observations on the Ethiopian’, Traditio 16 (1960) 19–38, esp. 35.

32 J. M. Courtès, ‘The Theme of “Ethiopia” and “Ethiopians” in Patristic Literature’, The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. ii: From the Early Christian Era to the ‘Age of Discovery’, part 1: From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood (ed. D. Bindman and H. L. Gates, Jr.; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979) 199–214.

33 Thompson, L. A., Romans and Blacks (Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture 2; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989) 40Google Scholar.

34 The earliest datable reference to a black demon in monastic literature is the devil's appearance as a black boy in Athanasius, Life of Antony (ca. 357). As Brakke has demonstrated, the stereotype of the promiscuous homosexual Ethiopian underlies this characterisation. In Life of Antony, the first demon to confront the monk is a black boy who says to him, ‘I am the friend of fornication; I trap and seduce the young, and I am called the spirit of fornication’ (Mayerson, P., ‘Anti-Black Sentiment in the “Vitae Patrum”’, HTR 71 (1978) 304–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 307).

35 I am not persuaded that Barnabas was written in the first century, although the first-century authorial persona may be deliberate. I am currently working with the assumption that Barnabas was written before Clement of Alexandria (182–202 ce) cited it.

36 I have divided v. 9 into three parts. Verse 9a, which is not pertinent to the present discussion, nevertheless poses a significant exegetical challenge. Kraft, perhaps correctly, reads it as a ‘parenthetical personal note’. He translates v. 9a as follows: ‘But since I wish to write many things – not as a teacher would, but as is fitting for a friend to do – and to omit nothing of what we have received, I hurry along. I am your devoted slave’ (Barnabas and the Didache, 90). Prostmeier refers to v. 9a as a ‘captatio benevolentiae ab nostra persona und Autorität des Mitgeteilten’ (Der Barnabasbrief, 193).

37 Barn. 4.9c shares verbatim agreement with Did. 16.2b. See Prostmeier, Der Barnabasbrief, 218 n. 119. No evil figure occurs among the parallels.

38 Col 2.15; Eph 2.2. The Secret Book of John, Hypostasis of the Archons and Gospel of Judas propose that the god of the Old Testament and his angels were nothing but archons.

39 LXX Ps 101.8 (102.7). Verses 7–8: ‘I am like an owl in the desert. I am like a little owl in the wasteland. I lie awake. I am like a lonely bird at the housetop.’ PGL 876–77, s.v. μονάζειν.

40 Sifre Deuteronomy 320 (p. 367) according to D. M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press) 70. See also idem, ‘Rabbinic Knowledge of Black Africa’, JSQ 5/4 (1998) 318–28.

41 Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 70. Vasiliev, A. A. refers to this time as the ‘period of Blemmyan terror’ (Justin the First (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950) 286Google Scholar and n. 49). The Blemmyes’ period of political importance extended from 250 to 550 ce. (‘Rabbinic Knowledge of Black Africa’, 320–1; cf. 323; final quotation from T. Papadopoullos, Africanobyzantina: Byzantine Influence on Negro-Sudanese Cultures (Athens: Memoirs of the Academy of Athens, 1966) 23). See also Goldenberg, D. M., ‘Geographia Rabbinica: The Toponymn Barbaria’, JJS 50 (1999) 5373CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Βαρβαρία, sing., Ptolem. 1.17.6; 4.7.28 = ‘our Berber(se)’.

42 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 36.

43 Text F. Bucheler and A. Riese, eds., Anthologia Latina sive poesis Latinae supplementum (2 vols.; BSGRT; Leipzig: Teubner, 1894–72) i.155 (no. 183).

44 The expression sonare hominem means to sound human. Cf. nec vox hominem sonat (Vergil, Aen. 1.328).

45 English translations of both epigrams are my own – with gratitude to Frances Spaltro.

46 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 37. This depiction excludes the stereotype of Ethiopians as cowardly seen in, e.g., Aristotle and Philo. See Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 46–47. Goldenberg asks whether Origen drew on Philo, QG 2.82 for his interpretation (49). He might also have asked whether Origen drew on Barnabas, and if so, what source Barnabas used.

47 Text Bucheler and Riese, Anthologia Latina, i.155 (no. 182).

48 Juxtaposition of what is right ‘under the sun’ (i.e. on earth) and what is right ‘under the earth’.

49 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 39, citing Juvenal 5.54.

50 Cf. also cacabatus, adj., ‘black, sooty, besmeared like a cooking-pot’ (Lewis and Short s.v.). Since only a percentage of African languages utilise clicks, it may simply reflect the ‘bar-bar-bar’ sound to Greek or Roman ears of ‘barbarian’ languages. Thompson relates the sound to faex (‘shit’ in line 1 of the prior epigram), Romans and Blacks, 37. On the language of Kush as ‘barbaric’ (e.g. Sib. Or.), see Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 71–2; idem, ‘Geographia Rabbinica’, 53–73.

51 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 37. See also L. Foucher, Hadrumetum (Publications de l'Université de Tunis ser. 1, Archéologie, histoire 10; Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1964) 170–1, esp. plate 12d; Lonis, R., ‘Les trois approches de l'Éthiopien par l'opinion gréco-romaine’, Ktema 6 (1981) 6987Google Scholar, at 87; and J. Desanges, ‘The Iconography of the Black in Ancient North Africa’, The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. i: From the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Roman Empire (ed. D. Bindman and H. L. Gates, Jr.; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 20102) 246–68, 308–12, at 265.

52 John was a hermit of the Nitrean desert (Wadi el Natrun, aka Scetis).

53 Brakke, ‘Male Sexuality’, 512 (emphasis original).

54 Brakke, ‘Male Sexuality’, 512. With regard to Nubia, see N. M. Sherif, ‘Nubia before Napata (3100–750)’, General History of Africa, ii.245–77. Concerning the spread of Christianity in Nubia, see K. Michalowski, ‘The Spreading of Christianity in Nubia’, ibid., 326–40.

55 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 96.

56 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 140. Cicero, Off. 1.129–30 expresses a similarly derogatory concept, munditia … fugiat agrestem et inhumanam neglegentiam (‘human elegance should avoid rude and uncivilised carelessness’). Acts Pet. 22 also attests these categories: Peter dreams about a ‘most evil-looking woman, who looked like an Ethiopian, not an Egyptian, but was all black’ (trans. Brakke, ‘Male Sexuality’, 507).

57 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 140. P.Giess. 40.2 ll. 16–29 in Select Papyri: Official Documents: Edicts and Orders (ed. and trans. C. C. Edgar and A. S. Hunt; LCL; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934) 90–3 (no. 215). Caracalla's edict also specifies how to identify an ‘Egyptian’. Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 220 n. 205 offers the following comparative evidence: P.Yale 46 col. 1.13 (complaint of a victim of the contemptuous treatment that Aigyptioi were apt to suffer); P.Zen. 2.66 (victimisation owing to inability to ‘play the Hellene’, ἑλληνίζειν).

58 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 140, citing R. MacMullen, ‘Nationalism in Roman Egypt’, Aegyptus 44 (1964) 179–99, at 190. The Greek expression is in P.Giess. 40.2 ll. 16–29 (see previous note). Jews in Egypt were not, however, unanimously approved. CPJ 156c categorises Jews in Egypt as almost ‘Egyptian’ with an un-Hellenic mentality.

59 Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 141.

60 See Thompson, Romans and Blacks, 206–7; Bell, H. I., ‘Alexandria ad Aegyptum’, JRS 36 (1946) 130–2Google Scholar; Fraser, P. M., ‘Alexandria ad Aegyptum Again’, JRS 39 (1949) 56Google Scholar (raising one exception).

61 Brakke aptly describes Egyptians as ‘in-between’ (‘Male Sexuality’, 508).

62 The text was written by a census administrator. See MacMullen, ‘Nationalism in Roman Egypt’, 184.

63 Origen regarded Barnabas as a ‘general epistle’ (Cels., 1.63, citing Barn. 5.9; trans. H. Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953) 58). He may allude to Barnabas in Comm. Rom. 2.9 (Barn. 4.7–9) and 2.13 (Barn. 9.6; 15.9) (trans. T. P. Scheck, Origen: Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (2 vols.; FC 103, 104; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2002), although I do not find these allusions entirely convincing. See Hanson, Allegory and Event, 97–111, 311; J. N. Sanders, The Fourth Gospel in the Early Church: Its Origin and Influence on Christian Theology up to Irenaeus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1943) 14–15, 29, 42.

64 Origen, Princ. 2.9.5; trans. G. W. Butterworth, Origen: On First Principles (repr. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1973 [1966]) 133.

65 Origen, Comm. Cant. 2.1; trans. R. P. Lawson, Origen: The Song of Songs, Commentary and Homilies (ACW 26; New York: Newman, 1957) 91–113, at 106. Origen draws a connection between Cant 1.5 and Moses's marriage to an Ethiopian in Comm. Cant. 2.2. See J. C. King, Origen on the Song of Songs as the Spirit of Scripture: The Bridegroom's Perfect Marriage Song (Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs; Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) 87, 112 n. 88, 126–31.

66 Origen, Hom. Cant. 1.6. Cf. Paulinus of Nola, Carm. 28.249–51: qui [sc. draco] vorat Aethiopum populos non sole perustos | sed vitiis nigros et crimine nocticolores | tales Aethiopas serpens edit (text G. de Hartel, ed., Sancti Pontii Meropii Paulini Nolani Carmina (CSEL 30; Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1894) 302).

67 Origen, Hom. Cant. 1.6; trans. Lawson, Song of Songs, 276–7. Cf. also Cant 1.4 Vulgate (LXX 1.5): nigra sum sed formosa. Origen, Comm. Cant. 2.9; trans. R. S. J. Daly, Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity (Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009) 122. Origen, Comm. Cant. 2.2; trans. Lawson, Song of Songs, 107. Following Origen, Jerome advances a similar argument: ‘At one time we were Ethiopians in our vices and sins. How so? Because our sins had blackened us. But afterwards we heard the words: “Wash yourselves clean!” And we said: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” We are Ethiopians, therefore, who have been transformed from blackness into whiteness’ (Jerome, Tract. Ps. 18 (Ps 86); trans. M. Liguori Ewald, The Homilies of St. Jerome (2 vols.; FC 48, 57; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1964–6) i.135–45, at 140).

68 In Comm. Cant. 2.2, Origen writes: ‘Although we may seem to have dealt with these matters at too great length we adjudged the opportunity afforded by these passages such as should certainly not be missed; especially because they bear a certain likeness to this saying of her who is darkened because the sun has looked askance at her. And we have shown that this takes place wherever a sinful condition has previously obtained, and that a person is darkened or scorched by the sun where the ground of sin exists …’ (trans. Lawson, Song of Songs, 112).

69 Origen's interpretation is important for subsequent patristic interpretation, including Peter of Alexandria, Didymus the Blind (see below), Apollinaris, Ambrose, Paulinus of Nola, Ephrem, Apponius, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, Cassiodorus, Cyril of Alexandria, Faustus, bishop of Riez, Gregory the Great, Ennodius and Theodoret of Cyrrhus (Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 49).

70 For Brakke's masterful interpretation of the passage as sexually charged, see ‘Male Sexuality’, 515. The colour black occurs in the apocalyptic contexts of Vision 4 and Similitude 9 in the Shepherd of Hermas: Vis. 4, 1[22].10, the beast's head is partly black; 3[24].2, the world is described as black; Sim. 9, 1[78].5, 19[96].1, the first mountain is black; 9, 6[83].4 and 8[85].1, 2, 4, 5, 7; 27[104].2, stones are black; 9[86].5, 13[90].8, 15[92].1, 3, women are dressed in black. According to C. Osiek, images may correspond across the text (e.g. first black stones may correspond to first black mountain) (The Shepherd of Hermas: A Commentary (ed. H. Koester; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999) 223). Osiek notes that the use of colour is traditional in apocalyptic literature, especially black, red, white and a variant fourth colour (93).

71 The language is masculine, but undoubtedly implies no gender restriction.

72 As David Brakke, from whom I have borrowed the expression ‘Ethiopianize’ (‘Male Sexuality’, 503) has demonstrated, ‘Ethiopianizing’ frequently involves hypersexualization. Barnabas’ characterisation of ‘the Black One’ as infiltrating the community and costing believers their salvation may reflect a specific set of ascetic ideals. Prohibitions against deviant sexual behaviours (e.g. Barn. 10.6–8) might be seen to undergird this assumption, likewise, the exhortation against ‘dwelling alone’ (4.10).

73 Association of black with mourning and (thus) earthly existence is ubiquitous across time, locations and culture.

74 Origen seems to share this emphasis on the counter-divine's permanence, overturned only in repentance. Origen, Comm. Cant. 2.2, trans. Lawson, Song of Songs, 107–9.

75 Hero performed some of the first formal research into cybernetics. J. P. Oleson, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), esp. 24–5.

76 Trans. B. Woodcroft, The Pneumatics of Hero of Alexandria (London: Taylor, Walton & Maberly, 1851).

77 The Shepherd of Hermas implies a similar mechanism in its discussion of spirits in the vessel of the soul.

78 Holes created by gnawing or nibbling (τρώγω) as by a mouse. LSJ s.v. τρωγλοδυτέω, ‘dwell in holes’, e.g. ‘Troglodytes, Cave-men, an Aethiopian tribe’.

79 Text T. W. Lumb, J. Maillon and R. M. Rattenbury, eds. and trans., Héliodore: Les Éthiopiques (Théagène et Chariclée) (3 vols.; Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 19602); trans. M. Hadas, Heliodorus : An Ethiopian Romance (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957) 214 (ch. 8). Cf. also, ‘The Troglodytes and those who lived near the cinnamon country, who were light-armed, nimble, and excellent archers, he assigned to harry the slingers and javelin throwers on the enemy's left’ (trans. ibid., 231). On the Troglodytes, see Herodotus 2.161, 4.183; Strabo, Geogr. 1.1; Pliny, Nat. 6.34. ‘A late rabbinic anthology of earlier material, Leqah Tov, authored by Toviah b. Eliezer of Bulgaria at the end of the eleventh century, contains a unique text that associates the twelve signs of the zodiac with twelve specific peoples or lands. In what may be an echo of the ancient Kushite reputation with the bow, Sagittarius the Archer is associated with the Kushites’ (Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 68).

80 The counter-divine figure is an evil archon, implying qualities borrowed from a range of natural and supernatural foes including corrupt Roman officials, angels, demons, the devil, Satan and planetary deities. DDD 2 has no entry for ‘the Black One’. The colour ‘black’ does not even appear in the index. On archons, see D. Aune's discussion of ‘archon’ vis-à-vis Satan, noting Barn. 18.2 (‘Archon’, DDD 2 82–5, at 83).

81 J. R. Asher discusses ‘slinging’ as a cowardly battle tactic applied to the devil in Eph 6.11, 16 (‘An Unworthy Foe: Heroic Ἔθη, Trickery, and an Insult in Ephesians 6:11’, JBL 130 (2011) 729–48).

82 Portraying the counter-divine with the qualities of one's human adversary, together with the use of a sobriquet, confirms Kraft's evaluation of ch. 4 as apocalyptic.

83 Before he died he had an ominous dream involving an Ethiopian soldier, who had become famous as a jester. When this soldier greeted Severus with a garland of cypress-boughs, the emperor flew off in a rage ordering that the man be removed from his sight ‘troubled by the man's ominous color and the ominous nature of the garland’. Foretelling the emperor's death, the Ethiopian cried out, ‘You have been all things, you have conquered all things, now, O conqueror, be a god.’ When the emperor arrived in town he wanted to perform a sacrifice. In error, he was led to the Temple of Bellona, and given black victims. Abandoning the sacrifice, he returned to the palace but the black victims followed him there (SHA, Sept. Sev. 1.22.4–7, trans. D. Magie, The Scriptores historiae Augustae (3 vols.; LCL; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1921–32) i.424–7).

84 Richardson and Shukster argue that the excrescence humiliates the ‘other three’, where the more natural reading of the Greek is that one of three takes over. P. Richardson and M. B. Shukster, ‘Barnabas, Nerva, and the Yabnean Rabbis’, JTS 34 (1983) 31–55, at 40.

85 L. de Blois, ‘The constitutio Antoniniana (ad 212): Taxes or Religion?’, Mnemosyne 67 (2014) 1014–21.

86 As mere claimants to the title, Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus do not count; however, the black and white imagery of their names is duly noted.

87 Cf. ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω (Mark 13.14).

88 Temples to Serapis were often oriented on astrological principles.

89 Although certain modern Afrocentric groups have attempted to see him as such. A. R. Birley, Septimius Severus: The African Emperor (New York: Routledge, 19992).

90 Plutarch, Is. Os. 27–9. E. R. Bevan, The House of Ptolemy (London: Methuen, 1927) ch. 2. Chthonic deities were often associated with the colour black (Dölger, Die Sonne der Gerechtigkeit, 67–8). Suetonius, Cal. 57.4: ‘A nocturnal performance besides was rehearsing, in which scenes from the lower world were represented by Egyptians and Aethiopians’ (trans. J. C. Rolfe, Suetonius (rev. edn; 2 vols.; LCL; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950–1) i.502–3). On ‘black Pluto’, see Dölger, Die Sonne der Gerechtigkeit, 69–70.

91 Clement of Alexandria, Protr. 4; trans. W. Wilson, ANF iv/1.54).

92 A. Bauer and J. Strzygowski, Eine alexandrinische Weltchronik. Text und Miniaturen des griechischen Papyrus der Sammlung W. Goleniščev (Vienna: Gerold, 1905) 224, Tafel 6 verso; discussion at 49–75. The image is based on the Christian destruction of the Serapeum in Alexandria in 391 ce. On the grandeur of this temple, see Ammianus Marcellinus 22.16.12, trans. J. C. Rolfe, Ammianus Marcellinus (3 vols.; LCL; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950–2) ii.300–3. Rufinus (402 ce) describes the Serapeum as a temple elevated on a platform one hundred plus steps high (Hist. eccl. 11.23; trans. P. R. Amidon, S.J., The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia: Books 10 and 11 (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) 80–1.

93 Strabo mentions the Serapeum in Canopus renowned for curing the sick (Geogr. 17.1.17; trans. H. L. Jones, The Geography of Strabo (8 vols.; LCL; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1949–54) viii.62–5).

94 Attesting the Serapeum in Alexandria: Tacitus, Hist. 4.84; Strabo, Geogr. 17.1.6. Strabo reports that the Serapeum had fallen into neglect (Geogr. 17.1.10). Philo of Alexandria described the grandeur of the sanctuary and library ca. 38 ce (Legat. 22.151). In 181 ce, the temple burned down (Jerome, Chron. according to Jerome's version of Eusebius’ Chronicle: Helm, R. W. O., ed., Eusebius: Werke, vol. vii: Die Chronik des Hieronymus (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte 47; Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1956)Google Scholar; Clement of Alexandria, Protr. 4.47) and was rebuilt on a much grander scale by Septimius Severus. It was this new temple about which Ammianus wrote, ‘the whole world beholds nothing more magnificent’ (22.16.12). See also McKenzie, J. S., Gibson, S. and Reyes, A. T., ‘Reconstructing the Serapeum in Alexandria from the Archaeological Evidence’, JRS 94 (2004) 73121Google Scholar, at 86 n. 43). It was completed sometime before 215, when Caracalla sacrificed there before ordering his army to slaughter a group of Alexandrians (Herodian 4.9.1–9; trans. Whittaker, C. R., Herodian, History of the Empire, vol. i (LCL; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969)Google Scholar. According to Aphthonius, the books of this library were located in the colonnaded stoa (other rooms served as shrines to honour the gods) (Aphthonius, Prog. 10, according to Kennedy, G. A., ed., Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric (WGRW 10; Leiden: Brill, 2003) 118–20Google Scholar). The libraries seen by Tertullian were probably also in the stoa surrounding a stone courtyard in the centre of which was the temple. According to Tertullian, the sanctuary contained an important library that housed (among other holdings) the LXX (Apol. 18.8). Aristeas relates how Ptolemy II Philadelphus agreed to a request by his librarian Demetrius to translate the Torah housing it in the book collection at the Library of Alexandria (Let. Arist. 9; Philo, Mos. 2.31, Josephus, Ant. 12.2; Irenaeus, Haer. 3.21.3; Clement, Strom. 1.22; Eusebius, Praep. ev. 5.8.2). John Chrysostom evidently also saw this copy of the LXX (Adv. Jud., 1.6.1; trans. Harkins, P. W., Saint John Chrysostom: Discourses against Judaizing Christians (FC 68; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1979) 21–2Google Scholar). After the library was destroyed, the Serapeum would have been the main book repository until it too was destroyed. C. Rowan spells out the evidence for Severan worship of Serapis (Under Divine Auspices: Divine Ideology and the Visualisation of Imperial Power in the Severan Period (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012) 137–9). See also Manders, E., Impact of Empire: Coining Images of Power: Patterns in the Representation of Roman Emperors on Imperial Coinage, ad 193–284 (Leiden: Brill, 2012) 226CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ando, C., Imperial Rome ad 193 to 284: The Critical Century (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012) 57Google Scholar.

95 For this point on Septimius Severus, see SHA, Sept. Sev. 17.4; trans. Magie, Historia Augusta (LCL), i.410–11; on Caracalla, see Cassius Dio 78.22.1; trans. Cary, E., Dio's Roman History (9 vols.; LCL; London: Heinemann/New York: MacMillan, 1914–27)Google Scholar ix.332–5. The Historia Augusta emphasises Caracalla's import of the Isis cult to Rome (SHA, Sept. Sev. 9.10–12; trans. Magie, Historia Augusta (LCL), ii.24–7).

96 Rowan, Under Divine Auspices, 142–3.

97 Cassius Dio 78.22.1; trans. Cary, Dio's Roman History (LCL), ix.332–5.

98 Cassius Dio (78.23; trans. Cary, Dio's Roman History (LCL), ix.334–7) also reports that Caracalla consecrated to Serapis the sword he used to kill his brother Geta in his mother's arms.

99 The assumption that Clement of Alexandria and Origen could not regard Barnabas as scripture and cite it in their writings if the text had not been written many years before is flawed. Pseudepigraphical writers, such as Barnabas, did not write for the future but for the present. A successful pseudepigraphon is persuasive the moment it appears. When Clement of Alexandria and Origen cite Barnabas, they attest not its much earlier date, but its success as a fake. With gratitude to Henk Jan de Jonge for raising this possible objection.

100 The Venice manuscript states that the Basilideans celebrated the night before the Epiphany singing and flute-playing in a heathen temple at Alexandria.

101 During the second century, popularity of the cult of Serapis increased. In Alexandria, Serapis and Christ existed side by side and were frequently seen as interchangeable. Some early Christians made no distinction between Christ and Serapis, worshipping both. Both cults practised baptism. In 134, after a visit to Alexandria, Hadrian wrote a letter to his brother-in-law, Servianus, attesting the interchangeability of these two groups: ‘There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis (SHA, Firmus etc. 29.8.1–10; trans. Magie, Historia Augusta (LCL), iii.398–401).

102 P.CairoZen. 59034. Rostovtzeff, M., ‘Ptolemaic Egypt’, The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. vii: The Hellenistic Monarchies and the Rise of Rome (ed. Cook, S. A., Adcock, F. E. and Charlesworth, M. P.; London/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1954 [1923]) 109–54Google Scholar, at 145–6.

103 Writing under the pseudonym of a Cypriote Levite convert from the Pauline historical stratum of the Christ-belief movement as the author of Barnabas does, his various ostensibly anti-Jewish (e.g. supersessionist) arguments must be interpreted as emerging from within a Christian community and directed at it. This contrasts with Justin Martyr whose arguments against Trypho come from outside the Jewish community and are directed at it. The writings of Athanasius and Origen at times reveal a similar aim. It is shadow-boxing to reinforce ideals already in place; it is not authentic Christian-Jewish dialectic. See Romm, J., The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) 4960CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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