Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Amillennialism of Barnabus [A.D. 100]

Barnabus is touted by many to be a premillennialist, and no less of an authority then Phillip Schaff has stated as much.

"Among the Apostolic Fathers BARNABAS is the first and the only one who expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth. He considers the Mosaic history of the creation a type of six ages of labor for the world, each lasting a thousand years, and of a millennium of rest; since with God “one day is as a thousand years.” The millennial Sabbath on earth will be followed by an eighth and eternal day in a new world, of which the Lord’s Day (called by Barnabas “the eighth day”) is the type.” (Phillip Schaff – History of the Christian Church Vol. II, p. 617)

Barnabus seems to be the first to adopt the “day is a thousand years” theory to the entire scope of world history, and the assumption is that the seventh “day” would be the millennial reign of Christ. However, while it is fair to say that the writings of Barnabus hint at a millennium, I can find no evidence that Barnabus “expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth”. In fact, what we see is quite the opposite.

“Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. “And He rested on the seventh day.” This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day.” (The Epistle of Barnabus, Chap. XV. — The False and the True Sabbath)

Barnabus places the Advent and the judgment of the ungodly at the Second Advent, whereas Premillennialism requires a thousand year earthly reign between the Advent and the judgment of the ungodly. Barnabus has “all things” being finished "in six thousand years", thus bringing into question whether or not the seventh day is a millennium, or eternity.

Barnabus is a futurist regarding antichrist, though he considered antichrist to be imminent. Like almost all of the church fathers, Barnabus held to what has been called “replacement theology”. Both of these points are made clear in Chap. IV. — Antichrist Is at Hand: Let Us Therefore Avoid Jewish Errors, and Chap. V. — The New Covenant, Founded on the Sufferings of Christ, Tends to Our Salvation, but to the Jews’ Destruction.

In conclusion, there is a hint of chiliasm in Barnabus, but his eschatology can best be described as amillennial futurist, possibly postmillennial.

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