The Gospel Of Barnabas

Does it compare with the real Gospels?
J.C.T.


Muslim propaganda often proposes the Gospel of Barnabas as being on a level with the standard Gospels of the New Testament. This a simple attempt to undermine the Bible, but it is one which greatly undermines the Muslim position. In fact the Gospel of Barnabas is a mediaeval forgery by Muslims; it was made with the specific intention of undermining the Gospels, but in doing so it illustrates the poverty of the Muslim argument and shows the strength of the real Gospel records.

The evidence is quite clear and unequivocal. The Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery (not just an apocryphal gospel), and it is being pushed by people who are either deliberately and knowingly misleading their readers, or are claiming knowledge where they have not bothered to check the facts.

Claims of Ancient Origin

As a first point, Muslim propaganda often claims that the Gospel of Barnabas was available in the fourth century, and was removed from the Canon by some historical figure (details vary from one presentation to another). This is wrong. There was an Epistle of [psuedo] Barnabas written in the late second century which was never accepted as canonical by anyone; possibly it was a forgery by heretics. This is a completely different document from the Gospel of Barnabas and is essentially an exhortation to Christian virtue. It hasn‘t any connection with the Apostle Barnabas either.

A claim that the two are the same is simply a lie. It relies on the fact that most people who hear it won‘t know enough about apocryphal literature to realise that the Gospel of Baranabas is not the same as the Epistle of [psuedo] Barnabas. To present the Gospel of Barnabas as being the same as the epistle is either very slipshod research or an attempt to mislead the reader with falsehood. If you read a document which presents the Gospel of Barnabas in this way, then you can be certain that the rest of the document is also untrustworthy.

Evidence for Authenticity

It is worth thinking what evidence one might expect to show that a Gospel was a genuine record of what is in it. The obvious evidences are:-
  • Geographical Accuracy - The account should describe the place in which the narrative takes place accurately. The Gospels can be compared with the archaeology of the area and are found to be completely accurate.
  •  Undesigned Coincidences - These are tiny details in the account which are meaningless in themselves but which can be compared to other insignificant details in the same or parallel accounts to give a picture which would otherwise be hidden. If the account is anything but completely accurate down to details these would be lost.
  •  Linguistic Fossils - One would expect the account to contain evidence of the linguistic background of the area and time where it was written.
All these are present in quantity in the real Gospels; look at Blunt‘s undesigned scriptural coincidences if you need an introduction. They are completely absent from the Gospel of Barnabas (and interestingly from the Qur‘an and hadith material - but that is another story)

One would also expect manuscripts to tie the record to the period when it was written. Again there are manuscripts of the New Testament back to the second century, but not of the Gospel of Barnabas, and there are problems with the manuscripts of the Qur‘an.

Examining the Gospel of Barnabas

Manuscript Evidence

The oldest manuscript of the "Gospel of Barnabas" is a 15 or 16th century Italian document in Vienna. No earlier manuscripts exist, and there are no citations from earlier times. One would have expected the Gospel of Barnabas to have been used in the written debates between Muslims and Byzantines in the seventh and eighth centuries, but it is never cited. The Gospel of Barnabas is never cited by any of the Church Fathers (by comparison there are more than 20,000 citations of the New Testament before the Council of Nicea). The manuscript evidence does not look promising; why is it never mentioned by Muslim propagandists?

Errors in the Gospel of Barnabas

The Gospel of Barnabas contains many gross errors of history and geography:-
  •  It says that Jesus was born when Pilate was governor of Judea
  •  It tells us that Nazareth is a seaport and has Jesus sail there from Jerusalem
  •  It has Jesus preaching from the pinnacle of the Temple
  •  It describes Jesus as going UP to Capernaum from Nazareth
  •  It describes Elisha talking to the Pharisees, despite the centuries between them
  •  Similarly it has Hosea talking to Haggai
  •  It describes Herod as an infidel, whereas he was actually Jewish by religion
  •  It describes Summer as a time of fruit and harvest - In Israel it is too hot for these.

Anachronisms in the Gospel of Barnabas

The Gospel of Barnabas also contains many anachronisms:
  •  It contains short quotations from Dante
  •  It describes the Jubilee as taking place every hundred yrs - correct in Catholic Italy and Spain but not in classical Judea
  •  The social environment is a mediaeval feudal system, not first century Palestine.
  •  It has wine stored in casks, not amphorae or wineskins
  •  Men wear "hosen", mediaeval leggings, rather than tunics and cloaks.

Origins of the Gospel of Barnabas

The manuscript of the Gospel of Barnabas was originally produced by one Mustafa of Aranda who had been forced to convert to Catholicism by the inquisition. He claimed to have translated it from a manuscript given to him by one Fra Marino, a person who was never produced. In view of the failings of the document, it is almost 99.9% certain that it was Mustafa of Aranda who invented the whole document as a way of getting at the Catholics who had forced him to convert. Certainly the language and history in it identifies southern Europe, and probably Spain, as the place of origin of the work.

Conclusion

It leaves one to wonder why the Gospel of Barnabas is so frequently found in the more extremist Muslim propaganda. The document is clearly spurious. One feels it could be exposed by a moderately industrious Sunday school scholar. It clearly has no value as genuine evidence in an argument.

When does one put rubber teeth in the mouth of a tiger? Only if the tiger has no real teeth. The fact that such an impressively false argument is raised shows that the Muslims have no real evidence on which to work to undermine the real Gospels.

When you see the Gospel of Barnabas raised as alleged evidence in a Muslim document then you can be quite certain that the document contains at least one lie. Be on your guard; it is very likely that the rest of the document is also full of misleading statements.

Incidentally, did you know that the Qur‘an really does endorse the canonical Gospels?

Let the people of the Gospel (Injil) judge by what God has revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by what God hath revealed they are those who rebel. (Q 5:50)

If thou wert in any doubt as to what we have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book before thee (Q10:94)

see also Q5:46,47; 7:169,170; 40:69,70.

These passages are very clear in what they say. The Gospels were available at the time of Muhammad, and they were considered to be inspired by God. We know from manuscript evidence that the New Testament of the 7th century was the same as the current New Testament (and the Old Testament is similarly unchanged). Thus the Qur‘an tells us that our current Bible is inspired by God.



Comments