I remember one of my first conversations with a Muslim very well.
This is what he said to me:
“The Church hid the Gospel of Barnabas until the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 AD. It was part of the Injil (New Testament), but then the Church suppressed it. You can read there that Jesus predicted the coming of the prophet Muhammad. This Gospel tells the true story of the life of Jesus Christ. The Christians hid it because it shows that Jesus is indeed the prophet as described by Islam.”
Maybe you’ve heard that kind of question before, or you’ve asked yourself that question. I had never heard of the “Gospel of Barnabas”, so I could not answer the question of this Muslim friend. “You see,” he said, “your ignorance is proof that the Church has suppressed it. ”
I wanted to know whether the “Gospel of Barnabas” was genuine or not. On the Internet, I found a copy of this “Gospel” and began to study it. Here are the conclusions I have drawn.
A) The history of the “Gospel of Barnabas”
George Sale published his translation of the Koran in English in 1734, and in the introduction he referred to the “Gospel of Barnabas”. He wrote that there existed a translation in Spanish (which no longer exists, apart from a few excerpts), and one in Italian. It was in the library of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
In the preface to the Italian version it was said that a Catholic monk named Fra Marino (1590) had found the “Gospel of Barnabas” in the library of Pope Sixtus V. The monk had seized the book, had read it and had converted to Islam.
According to Sale, the way in which the “Gospel of Barnabas” relates the life of Jesus is very different from that of the four Gospels of the Bible. In many aspects, this Gospel agrees with the Quran and the Hadith in the following ways:
– Jesus denies that he is the Son of God (Gospel of Barnabas, chapter 70)
– Judas is crucified in the place of Jesus (Gospel of Barnabas, chapter 216)
– Jesus announces the coming of Muhammad (Gospel of Barnabas, chapter 112)
Sale did not think that this book was a true Gospel.
In 1907, the English translation of the “Gospel of Barnabas” was published by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg. For them too, it was a false “Gospel.” Their translation was distributed for the first time in the Muslim world in 1973; Since then, the number of printed copies is estimated at 100,000, in Pakistan alone.
It has been translated into Arabic and other languages. The media made it into a sensation among Muslims, who believed they had finally found a document – of supposedly Christian origin – which proved that Jesus is the Issa Al-Massih of Islam and that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah who had been announced.
B) Evidence that the “Gospel of Barnabas” is not genuine
Many Muslims believe that Christians reject the “Gospel of Barnabas” only because of its Islamic character. There are, however, internal and external reasons that provide a much stronger basis for such rejection. What are those reasons.
1. It is impossible for Barnabas to be its author
Muslims say that the “Gospel of Barnabas” was written in the first century AD. By a Jewish man who travelled with Jesus, and that this is a true Gospel.
If we were to accept the internal claims of the book, it would have been written by one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. However, the Barnabas mentioned in the Bible does not appear until after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Here is what we read in the Bible:
Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Injil, Acts 4: 36-37)
It is therefore the apostles who gave this man the name of Barnabas. He was certainly not one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus, whose names are quoted in two of the Gospels (Matthew 10: 2-4 and Luke 6: 14-16). Barnabas is not on any of the lists, and his name appears nowhere in the four Gospels.
The “Gospel of Barnabas”, however, contradicts this fact, since it affirms that Jesus called Barnabas by his name on various occasions, as is the case in the following example:
Jesus replied, “Do not be sad, Barnabas, for those whom God has chosen before the creation of the world will not perish! Rejoice, because your name is written in the book of life. “(Gospel of Barnabas, chapter 19).
Jesus could not have called Barnabas by his name, since he received it only some time after Jesus ascended to heaven! Here is additional evidence that this book was not written by Barnabas:
2. The linguistic, historical and geographical errors found in the book
If Barnabas had indeed been the author of the book, he should have known the essentials of Jewish life in his time. Let us see if this was the case.
The word χριστός (Christ) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word מָשִׁיח (Messiah). When translated into English, both words mean The Anointed. They are the same word! And this word is not unusual, or only used by the intellectual or religious elite. It is one of the most common words used by Jews and Christians. The Biblical Barnabas, obviously a religious Jew, simply would not have been able to ignore it.
The significance of this issue is Jesus is called Christ at the very beginning of the “Gospel of Barnabas”: “God has visited us these past days through his Prophet Jesus Christ “(prologue).
Nevertheless, in this book, Jesus repeatedly denies being the Messiah: “Jesus confessed and said the truth: ‘I am not the Messiah.’ (Chapter 42). How could Jesus be Christ and yet, at the same time and in the same book, deny being the Messiah when both terms mean exactly the same thing?
Whoever the author of this book was did not even know that the Greek word Christ means Messiah. The real Barnabas was a Hebrew, and he also knew Greek and could not possibly have made this mistake.
B) The leaders in the first century AD.
In chapter 3 of the book we read that Herod and Pilate reigned over Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus: “At that time Herod reigned in Judea by decree of Caesar Augustus; Pilate was governor.”
This is a complete error of proven history. It alone proves that this book cannot have been inspired by God. God’s word and God’s world must always agree. The Christian faith is built on facts.
Pilate did not hold power when Jesus was born. It was King Herod who reigned alone at that time, after taking power in 37 BC¹ until his death in 4 AD.
Pilate didn’t become governor until thirty years later, from 26 to 36 AD. It has been historically proven that King Herod and Pilate never ruled Judea at the same time. If the true Barnabas, who lived at the time when Pilate was in power, was the author of this Book he would have known.
In chapters 20-21 we read that Jesus went to Nazareth by boat and that he was welcomed by the sailors who were there. lived. He then leaves Nazareth to go up to Capernaum:
“Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee; He got into a boat and sailed to Nazareth, his city. (…) When they arrived at Nazareth, the sailors filled the city with the account of what Jesus had done. (…) Jesus went up to Capernaum.” (chapters 20-21) .
The Biblical account tells us that Jesus often visited Nazareth and Capernaum, so all his disciples must have know these cities well. The author of this book could not possibly have been a disciple of Christ, or known anything about the geography of Palestine! Nazareth was not a fishing village, and never had or has been. It was, rather, a village nestled in the foothills of a mountain range 14 km from the Sea of Galilee!
The fishing village where Jesus went with his disciples is Capernaum and not Nazareth. There was no way to sail between Nazareth and Capernaum! The author of this book could not have been a disciple of Jesus. He could not even have lived in that region.
What conclusions can we draw from this?
In the “Gospel of Barnabas” we find basic errors about the language, history and geography of the Jewish world in the first century AD. These errors do not simply imply that this book was not written by Barnabas in the first century, it demands that we reject the Biblical Barnabas as its author.
When was it written?
The book was evidently written in the Middle Ages. If this can be shown to be true, it means that it was written long after Mohammed’s life.
Numerous elements prove that this false “Gospel of Barnabas” dates from the fifteenth century. The Raggs, in their introduction, asserted that it is a document produced in the Middle Ages – as mentioned above. According to them, it is the work of an apostate of Christianity, produced between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Mr. Khalil Saada, who translated the “Gospel of Barnabas” into Arabic in 1908, writes in his introduction:
“All historians agree that the” Gospel of Barnabas “was written in the Middle Ages.”
Surprisingly, this introduction was removed from the copies that were subsequently published. If we consider the following facts, it is not difficult to prove that this “Gospel” was written several centuries after the time of Jesus and Muhammad:
A) The Manuscripts
The earliest documents available to us have been written in Italian and Spanish and date from the fifteenth century, or centuries thereafter.
B) The year of the jubilee
In the time of Moses, God commanded the Jews to observe the year of jubilee every fifty years:
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. (Torah, Leviticus 25: 10-11)
In the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII declared that the year of the jubilee should be celebrated every hundred years, which is false. After his death, his successor, Pope Clement VI issued the bull Unigenitus Dei filius on 27 January 1343, reducing the interval between one Great Jubilee and the next from 100 years to 50 years.
The significant point is that there has therefore been a short period of less than 45 years during which it was taught that the year of jubilee was held every hundred years.
In the “Gospel of Barnabas,” Jesus is said to utter the following words:
“In the days of the Messiah, Messenger of God, this night will be the jubilee, every year, every year when it comes back every hundred years.”
The author of the “Gospel of Barnabas” has therefore unwillingly accepted and included in this book the inaccurate decree of the Pope. Therefore, he must have lived sometime in that 40-50 year period. The evidence is overwhelming.
Is there any other evidence that the “Gospel of Barnabas” was written in the fourteenth or fifteenth century? Yes, there is.
C) The influence of Dante
Dante was a celebrated and popular poet who lived in the fourteenth century, at about the same time as Pope Boniface.
In Dante’s work we find a poem called The Divine Comedy, in which Dante describes his ascension to the tenth heaven, paradise, passing through nine other skies.
In many passages of the “Gospel of Barnabas” we can see the influence of Dante. For example, the author affirms, like Dante, that there are nine levels of the skies but that paradise is greater than all of them.
“Paradise is so great that no man can measure it. I tell you in truth, there are nine heavens between which the planets are. They are separated from each other by five hundred years’ march. (…) Well, I tell you the truth, the earth and the sky together are in relation to paradise as a grain of sand in comparison with all the earth. (Chapter 178)
The author of this ‘Gospel’ was therefore not alive and influenced by the teaching of Jesus, but informed and inspired by the idea of the nine skies of Dante.
4. The “Gospel of Barnabas” contradicts certain principles of Islam
The “Gospel of Barnabas”, in many respects, is in harmony with the principles of Islam, but it contradicts some. For instance:
A) Who is the Messiah — Jesus or Muhammad?
In John 1:20 (Injil), John the Baptist declares that he is definitely not the Messiah. The author of the “Gospel of Barnabas”, makes Jesus says the same thing using almost the same words:
Jesus confessed and said the truth: “I am not the Messiah. (…) I am truly sent by God to the house of Israel, as a prophet of salvation, but after me the Messiah will come” (chapters 42 and 82) … The priest then said: What is the name of the Messiah? (…) Jesus answered (…): “Muhammad is his blessed name. (97)
This is in fact a complete error on the part of the author of the “Gospel of Barnabas,” since the Koran, as well as the Bible, teaches that Jesus alone is the Messiah. The Koran has never claimed that Mohammed is the Messiah:
“Verily, God is telling you the good news of His Word. His name is the Messiah Jesus son of Mary” (Quran 3:40, E.Montet)
B) The birth of Jesus.
In the Koran we read that Mary bore Jesus in sorrow:
“And Mary conceived it And she withdrew with him to a secluded place. The pains of childbirth took her from the trunk of a palm tree.” Nevertheless, the “Gospel of Barnabas” teaches the contrary:
“The virgin was surrounded with immense splendour, and she gave birth to her son without pain” (chapter 3) .
This is an assertion that goes against both the Bible and the Koran. It also shows that this “Gospel” was written in the fifteenth century, since it echoes Catholic beliefs in the Middle Ages.
C) The skies
According to the Koran, there are seven heavenly signs:
“The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise.” (Koran 17:44, E. Montet).
The “Gospel of Barnabas” affirms that there are nine:
“I tell you in truth, there are nine heavens between which the planets are.”
D) the end of time.
While the Koran says that men will live until the Day of Judgment, when the trumpet sounds (Surah 80:37), the “Gospel of Barnabas” declares that all men and all living beings will die on the thirteenth day of the period before the end of time (chapter 53). The author of the “Gospel of Barnabas,” says, “the holy angels shall die, and God alone shall remain alive” (chapter 53) at the time preceding the day of judgment.
TheKoran, on the other hand, never mentions the death of angels, but teaches that on the day of judgment eight angels will carry the throne of Allah (Sura 69:17).
Marriage as defined in the Koran binds a woman to a man, but not necessarily a man to a woman. Muslims are allowed to have several wives (Koran 4:3) and may have unlimited number of maidservants (Koran 70:30). Nevertheless, the “Gospel of Barnabas” reproduces the biblical idea of marriage: woman and man are linked in the same way by marriage, saying:
“Let man content himself with the wife whom his creator has given him and forgetting all others!” (Chapter 115).
In many respects, the “Gospel of Barnabas” contradicts both the Bible and the Koran, but it also contradicts itself.
I have already mentioned the example in which Jesus is described as Christ, but as not being the Messiah.
Here is another: Jesus predicted his death. In chapter 193, the author recounts his own version of the moment when Jesus resurrected his friend Lazarus from the dead. Towards the middle of the chapter we read:
“When we came to the sepulchre where everyone was crying, Jesus said,” Do not cry, for Lazarus is asleep and I have come to wake him up! “The Pharisees said,” Please God you sleep in this way. Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come, but when it comes, I will fall asleep in the same way, and I shall soon be awakened.” Jesus said again, “Remove the stone from the sepulchre!”
In other words, Jesus affirms that he will die and then rise again from the dead a few days later, just like Lazarus.
The author of the Gospel of Barnabas contradicts himself by making Jesus prophesy his own death and then the same author says that Jesus never died! How can Jesus announce his death in one place in the “Gospel” when in chapters 216 and 217 of the same book, we read that it is Judas who is arrested and crucified in the place of Jesus?
6. The writings of the first teachers of the Church do not mention it anywhere.
There is no mention of the “Gospel of Barnabas” by Christian teachers between the first and the fourteenth century. If its authenticity had been recognized, it should have been cited often during this long period of time. All the other books of the Scriptures are quoted many times. If this “gospel”, genuine or not, had even existed, someone would certainly have referred to it. But it is not mentioned once during the 1500 years of its supposed existence!
7. The early Islamic writings do not mention it.
Muslim apologists make extensive use of the “Gospel of Barnabas” today, but no Muslim mention of it occurs until the fifteenth or sixteenth century, when they would have used it exist. There is no doubt that many Muslim writers such as Ibn Hasm (d. 456 A.H.), Ibn Taimiyyah (d. 728 A.H.), and Hajji Khalifah (1067 A.H.) used the “Gospel of Barnabas”. But while there was a strong opposition between Christians and Muslims between the seventh and fifteenth centuries, not one person ever made reference to it.
8. Modern Muslim scholars reject it.
There is not much left to allow Muslims to continue to believe that the “Gospel of Barnabas” is a genuine Gospel that would be in harmony with the Koran and the Islamic tradition. It is not surprising that many Muslim scholars have recently rejected the book, calling it false. They understood that to claim that this book has a divine origin is actually a hindrance to the cause of Islam. According to the simplified Arabic encyclopaedia, published in 1965 in Cairo by Dar Al-kalam publishing house, p.354:
The book of Barnabas is a false Gospel which was written by a European in the fifteenth century. Moreover, there are serious errors in the account he makes of the political and religious situation as it was in Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. The book asserts that Issa proclaimed that he was not Christ but that he had come to announce the good news of the coming of Muhammad who would be the Christ.
No one can believe in both the “Gospel of Barnabas” and the Koran, for those who adhere to this “Gospel” can neither be a true Muslim nor a true Christian. It is therefore logical that the great modern professor Dr. Abbas Mahmoud Al Aqqad, who previously taught at the Islamic university Al Azhar Al Sharif, advises Muslims not to read this false “Gospel”. This professor said—and the facts give him good reason—that the “Gospel of Barnabas” has an effect that is just as destructive, if not more, on Islam than on Christianity. (Read, for example, his article published on 26 / 10/1959 in the newspaper Al-Akhbar)
Who is the author of the “Gospel of Barnabas”?
The big question is: Who is the author of this book? We have seen that the author did not master the language, history and geography of the time of Jesus. We have also seen that the book contains several ideas dating from the fourteenth century, and that the evidence furnished by the manuscripts takes us back to the fifteenth century. We can therefore reasonably conclude that the “Gospel of Barnabas” was written in the fourteenth century AD, and definitely not in the first century by a disciple of Jesus.
Who is the author? It is probably an apostate from Christianity. According to one scholar, the author could be a Spanish Muslim converted to Christianity by force during the Spanish Inquisition and who would have avenged himself by creating an Islamic “Gospel”.
Another suggests that the author was the Catholic monk Fra Marino himself, who, it is said, had converted to Islam (to avenge himself for having been disgraced by Pope Sixtus V). He then fabricated the manuscript and invented the story of its “discovery.”
We can not be sure of the identity of the author of the book. What we know is that it could not have been written by Barnabas.
The facts mentioned here are just a small part of the evidence which ridicule the “Gospel of Barnabas.” Those who have have any understanding of its contents and continue to use it against the Bible as a true account of Jesus’ life are as guilty as the author. This work is far from being an authentic narrative of the life of Jesus written in the first century, it is a document made during the Middle Ages. The only true accounts of the life of Jesus we have are found in the New Testament. The four Gospels of the Bible are reliable and historically accurate records, carefully copied and preserved through the centuries so that we can have confidence in knowing who the Saviour is and what He has done to save us.
The “Gospel of Barnabas” would rob us of a Saviour who loves us and gave Himself for us. It presents us with a set of historical inaccuracies and a self-contradicting fraud dressed up as a gospel.
¹ In Luke 23: 7 there is another Herod who reigned at the time of Jesus’ death. It is not the same as King Herod who reigned when Jesus was born.
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