Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gospel of Barnabas: Medieval Muslim Forgery

Here are some exerpts from a booklet examining the question of
the authenticity of the so-called Gospel of Barnabas.

It exists in Italian and Spanish, and has been translated into English, and Arabic.

It has been circulated widely in the Muslim world, particularly in places
like Pakistan and India, where copies are printed.

It is claimed to be "the original gospel", but like so many others,
is a lame forgery, by a Medieval muslim, probably a Spanish Moor.

What Muslims don't know, but should be aware of, is that it not only
contradicts the New Testament and Old Testament, but also the Quran!

Barnabas Preaches against Paul:
The author of this book uses strong language to denounce the teaching of Paul in particular, especially regarding circumcision; the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus; and the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The whole book abounds in discourses levelled against those things which the author particularly takes Paul to task for, and there can be no doubt that the author of this book is poles apart from Paul and his doctrine and is diametrically opposed to his preaching and teaching.
There is such a contrast between the real Barnabas who through all these events chooses Paul as his companion, and the pseudo-author of the Gospel of Barnabas, who has a positive antagonism to Paul and his teaching, that we cannot help but conclude that the Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery. It was not written by Barnabas but by someone else who made a major tactical blunder in choosing a close companion of Paul as the author of this book.

Barnabas is made into an Apostle:

Here the author of the Gospel of Barnabas makes his first serious blunder for he suggests throughout his book, not only that Barnabas was actually one of the twelve disciples of Jesus during his ministry on earth, but also that he was known by this name “Barnabas” throughout that period of ministry. On more than one occasion in the book we find that Jesus allegedly addressed him by name and the first occasion, which comes particularly early in the book, is this one:
Jesus answered: ‘Be not sore grieved, Barnabas; for those whom God hath chosen before the creation of the world shall not perish’ (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.21).
Now we have here a patent anachronism which destroys the possibility that this book was really written by the Apostle Barnabas. The apostles only gave him the name “Barnabas” (Son of encouragement) after the ascension of Jesus because of the generous act he had done which had heartened the spirits of the early Christians. But the Gospel of Barnabas makes Jesus call him by this name some three years before he ascended to heaven.

Barnabas makes Circumcision Necessary for Salvation:

in the Gospel of Barnabas, we read that one of the “impious doctrines” that Paul was holding to was repudiation of circumcision. That he repudiated it as an essential element of salvation we will readily concede (Galatians 5. 2-6) – but his chief partner in this repudiation is none other than Barnabas! Once again the author has blundered in making Barnabas the author of his deplorable forgery. Indeed, according to the Gospel of Barnabas, Jesus is alleged to have said to his disciples:

‘Leave fear to him that hath not circumcised his foreskin, for he is deprived of paradise’ (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.26).
Thus circumcision is an essential element and a prerequisite of salvation in the Gospel of Barnabas and the author obviously assents to this doctrine. But of the real Barnabas we read that he joined with Paul in furiously debating against the doctrine of the Judaisers that circumcision was necessary for salvation.

Barnabas doesn't know what "Christ" means:
Two points from within the Gospel of Barnabas also show that the author could not be the real Apostle Barnabas.

Firstly, this book makes Jesus constantly deny that he is the Messiah ...and yet the same book calls Jesus himself the “Christ” (p.2). Now any man with a basic knowledge of Greek knows that “Christos” is the Greek translation of Messiah (a Hebrew word) and that “Jesus Christ” is an anglicised form of the Greek “Iesous Christos”, meaning “Jesus the Messiah”. The very real contradiction that exists here in the Gospel of Barnabas is further evidence that the author was not Barnabas himself. He came from Cyprus, an island where Greek was the common tongue, and Greek would have been his home language. The real Barnabas would never have made such a mistake as to call Jesus the Christ and deny that he was the Messiah!

Barnabas doesn't know the Quran endorses John
the Baptist:

Secondly, the author ...has deviously taken the testimony of John to Jesus in the Bible and changed it into a supposed testimony of Jesus to Muhammad. Whether Jesus ever predicted the coming of Muhammad or not is not at issue here. What is obvious, however, to anyone who has read the life of Jesus in the Bible, is that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas has tried to make Jesus a herald of the coming of Muhammad in the very mould of John the Baptist who was a herald of the coming of Jesus, and to achieve this he has put Jesus in the shoes of John and has made him say of Muhammad what John really said of him!
Accordingly the author has had to omit the person and ministry of John from his book altogether. But there is clear and plain endorsement in the Qur’an of the ministry of John the Baptist as a herald of Jesus (Surah 3.39)

Medieval Origin of Gospel of Barnabas:

(a) Barnabas mistakes Jubilee of Pope Boniface (c. 1300 AD) for Jewish Jubilee:

A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you. Lev. 25.11
About 1300 AD Pope Boniface the Eighth gave a decree that the jubilee should be observed once every hundred years. This is the only occasion in all history that the jubilee year was made to be only once every hundred years. After the death of Boniface, however, Pope Clemens the Sixth decreed in 1343 AD that the jubilee year should revert to once every fifty years as it was observed by the Jews after the time of Moses. Now we find in the Gospel of Barnabas that Jesus is alleged to have said:
‘And then through all the world will God be worshipped, and mercy received, insomuch that the year of jubilee, which now cometh every hundred years, shall by the Messiah be reduced to every year in every place.’ (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.104).
The author of the Gospel of Barnabas could only have quoted Jesus as speaking of the year of jubilee as coming “every hundred years” if he knew of the decree of Pope Boniface. This is a clear anachronism.

(b) Quotations from Dante.

Dante was an Italian who, significantly, also lived about the time of Pope Boniface and wrote his famous “Divina Comedia” in the fourteenth century. This was basically a fantasy about hell, purgatory and paradise according to the Roman Catholic beliefs of his times.
Now in the Gospel of Barnabas we read that Jesus allegedly said of the prophets of old:
‘Readily and with gladness they went to their death, so as not to offend against the law of God given by Moses his servant, and go and serve false and lying gods’. (Gospel of Barnabas, p.27).
The expression “false and lying gods” (dei falsi e lugiardi) is found elsewhere in the Gospel of Barnabas as well. On one occasion it is Jesus again who supposedly uses these words (p.99) and on another it is the author himself who describes Herod as serving “false and lying gods” (p.267). Nevertheless this expression is found in neither the Bible nor the Qur’an.What is interesting, however, is that it is a direct quote from Dante! (Inferno 1.72).

Likewise the expression “raging hunger” (rabbiosa fame) is also reminiscent of the first canto of Dante’s Inferno. Both speak of the “circles of hell” and the author of the Gospel of Barnabas also makes Jesus say to Peter:
‘Know ye therefore that hell is one, yet hath seven centres one below another. Hence, even as sin is of seven kinds, for as seven gates of hell hath Satan generated it: so there are seven punishments therein’. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.171).
This is precisely Dante’s description found in the fifth and sixth cantos of his Inferno. We could go on and quote many more examples

One striking quote must be mentioned, however, because in this case the Gospel of Barnabas agrees with Dante while contradicting the Qur’an. We read in the Qur’an that there are seven heavens:
He it is who created for you all that is in the earth. Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens. (Surah 2.29)
On the contrary we read in the Gospel of Barnabas that there are nine heavens and that Paradise like Dante’s Empyrean – is the tenth heaven above all the other nine. The author of the Gospel of Barnabas makes Jesus say:
‘Paradise is so great that no man can measure it. Verily I say unto thee that the heavens are nine … I say to thee that paradise is greater than all the earth and all the heavens together’. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.223).

(c) The Mediaeval Environment of the Barnabas Gospel:

Again we read in the Gospel of Barnabas that Martha, her sister Mary, and her brother Lazarus were the overlords of two towns, Magdala and Bethany (GB, p.242). This proprietorship of villages and towns belongs to the Middle Ages when the system of feudalism was rooted in European society. Certainly no such practice was known at the time of Jesus when the occupying Roman forces controlled most of the land of Palestine.
A similar example of the mediaeval environment of this Gospel is the reference in it to wine casks (p.196), for wine was stored in skins in Palestine (Matthew 9.17) while wooden casks were used in Europe in the Middle Ages.

It does well appear to be a forgery of the Middle Ages written by a Muslim who, probably frustrated at being unable to prove that the true Gospels in the Bible are corrupted, wrote a false Gospel.

Ignorance of Palestinian Geography:
Having arrived at the city of Nazareth the sea-men spread through the city all that Jesus had wrought. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.23).
In this passage Nazareth is represented as a coastal city, a harbour on the lake of Galilee. After this we read that Jesus “went up to Capernaum” (p.23) from Nazareth, as though Capernaum was in the hillside near the sea of Galilee. But ... Capernaum was the coastal city and Nazareth is believed to be up in the hills, if it indeed existed in the time of Jesus.

Barnabas contradicts Quran about the Jesus as Messiah:

Jesus confessed and said the truth: ‘I am not the Messiah … I am indeed sent to the house of Israel as a prophet of salvation; but after me shall come the Messiah’. (The Gospel of Barnabas, pp.54, 104).
Other passages in the Gospel of Barnabas contain similar denials by Jesus that he was the Messiah. It is clearly one of the express purposes of this book to establish Muhammad as the Messiah and to subject Jesus to him in dignity and authority. Here, however, the author of this book has overreached himself in his zeal for the cause of Islam.

For the Qur’an plainly admits that Jesus is the Messiah on numerous occasions and in doing so it confirms the teaching of Jesus himself that he was indeed the Messiah (John 4.26, Matthew 16.20). One quote from the Qur’an will suffice to prove this:
‘O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter’. - (Surah 3.45)

Barnabas Contradicts the Quran on the Virgin Birth:
The virgin was surrounded by a light exceeding bright and brought forth her son without pain. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.5).
This is a clear repetition of Roman Catholic beliefs of the Middle Ages. The bright light and the painless birth find parallels in the beliefs about the Virgin Mary in the churches of Europe in Mediaeval times. No such details are found in the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus but the Qur’an directly contradicts the Gospel of Barnabas when it says:
And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. - (Surah 19.23)
The Gospel of Barnabas was obviously written as an ideal “Islamic” Gospel, setting forth a life of Christ in which he is made to be the Isa of the Qur’an rather than the Lord Jesus Christ of the Christian Gospels. But since it so hopelessly contradicts both the Qur’an and the Bible on the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and does this so often and so consistently, it must be rejected as a forgery by Christian and Muslim alike. There is no room here for apologetics or efforts to reconcile this book with the Qur’an or the Bible.

It is a (Medieval) counterfeit.


What Should Muslims Do?

...this book is truly a “bare-faced forgery” as George Sale so succinctly put it but the evidence given [here] should be sufficient to convince any reasonable Muslim that, while he might feel it would be very useful for a Gospel to be discovered wherein Jesus foretells the coming of Muhammad, the Gospel of Barnabas just does not provide him with the honest evidence he needs.

Muslim interest in this book is understandable but, in the name of truth and honesty, the Muslims of the world should admit that it is not a book contemporary with the life of Jesus, which proves that he really was the Isa of the Qur’an, but rather a lamentable forgery which, far from promoting the cause of Islam, must ultimately damage it if foolish men continue to propagate it as a true account of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

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