Barsabas of Jerusalem, On Christ and the Churches:
Its Genre and Liturgical Contents
After the publication, in 1972, of the Georgian fragments of Melito of Sardis, it became widely known that some parts of the earliest Christian literary heritage is now available only in Georgian. About ten years later, the same Michel van Esbroeck who published these Melito’s fragments, provided the editio princeps of another early Christian text attributed to some otherwise unknown Barsabas of Jerusalem. In this case, the scholarly community was absolutely unprepared to such a discovery. Unlike the name of Melito, the name of Barsabas was saying nothing to anybody. But the worst problem of this text was its unfamiliar genre. It isits genre that will be the main goal of my present communication.
The early Christian text OnChrist and the Chrurches (late 2nd or early 3rdcent.) attributed to some Barsabas of Jerusalem is known only in Georgiantranslation, in the only manuscript Iviron 11 (10th cent.,going back to an earlier asomtavruli model; translation can be dated to thesecond half of the 5th cent.). The first study of this text together with the editio princeps was prepared in 1982 by Michel van Esbroeck. Since then, only two particular topics of this work were studied: exegesis of Josephus (F. Manns, 1984) and anti-Jewish polemics (D. Bumazhnov, 2009 and two other papers). The peculiar composition of the work and its genre remain unexplained.
In the present study I propose an interpretation of the text as a Christian reworking of a Jewish Second Templeapocalyptic frame especially close to that of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra andalso used in the early Christian Apocalypse of John. The structural similarity of the three latter apocalypses is well known; elsewhere, I proposed a reconstruction of the calendrical scheme which was, in slightly different modifications, used in 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra (Lourié 2011). These apocalypses contain an exact specification of the temporal intervals betweenthe visions and other important acts of revelation.
Unlike them, the Apocalypse of John does not contain an explicit calendrical calibration in time intervals (save the mention of “Lord’s Day” in 1:10) but it also contains seven great visions sometime subdivided into seven episodes; thus, its structure isespecially close to that of 2 Baruch.
The sermon of Barsabas is, too, composed from seven major parts dedicated to the seven great prophets. These parts are subdivided into 28 “mysteries” (საიდუმლოჲ) in an uneven way. The resulting structure turns out to be especially close to that of the 2 Baruch. The similarity between both structures is especially remarkable in respect of the implied weekdays (s. the Table).
The weekdays for 2 Bar are taken from my own reconstruction of its calendar (Lourié 2011). The weekdays for Barsabas are calculated from two presumptions:
(1) The starting point is Sunday (I will discuss this point below),
(2) One“mystery” corresponds to one day. — This presumption is analogous to that whichis used to establish the structural correspondence between the Apocalypse ofJohn and 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra.
The differences are explainable by the calendrical motives; van Esbroeck’s supposition that one or two “mysteries” were dropped out during the manuscript transmission of the text is unnecessary.