The Gospel of Barnabas

The following chapter is taken from this book. More info about this book is available here.The Bible and the Qur'an

Topic Outline

Introduction

And when Jesus, son of Mary said, "O children of Israel, I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was revealed before me in Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the 'Praised One' " (Surah 61:6).

Muslims who read and recite this verse in the Qur'an, work backwards to decide what they think the 'original Gospel' must have said. They claim that it would have clearly predicted the coming of Muhammad. It could not have called Jesus the Son of God and must have denied the death of Jesus by crucifixion. In their efforts to discredit the Christian scriptures, some Muslims look for documents which may fit their argument, no matter if these have been declared as spurious by the whole Christian Church. One such document is the so-called "Gospel of Barnabas". In this 'gospel', as some Muslims claim, there is much which contradicts the canonical gospels but does fit in with Muslim beliefs. In their discussions with Christians, they go so far as to claim this gospel to be the original gospel that descended upon Jesus from heaven and which he dictated to Barnabas. Some Muslims base their presentation of the life and teaching of Jesus upon this document, rather than on the Qur’an, the Bible or the traditions.

A Pakistani Muslim, Attaur Rahim, who took great pains to introduce this ‘gospel’ into Pakistan, had this to say:

The gospel of Barnabas is the only known surviving gospel written by a disciple of Jesus, that is by a man who spent most of his time in the actual company of Jesus during the three years in which he was delivering his message. Therefore he had direct experience and knowledge of Jesus’ teaching, unlike all the authors of the four accepted Gospels [1].

He totally ignores the fact that John was a disciple from the beginning of Jesus' ministry and Matthew shortly after. He offers no evidence that Barnabas was a disciple during Jesus' three year ministry. Another Muslim, Ali Akbar, made the following comments:

Christians do not regard the gospel of St. Barnabas as an integral part of the New Testament and it is not often preached in their churches. This Gospel was condemned by the Christian council three hundred years before the prophet Muhammad. The reason for this is, no doubt, that the advent of the prophet Muhammad is predicted therein in very clear words [2].

No evidence is given of this book's condemnation at any Christian council. Similar claims are made by Abdu L-Ahad Dawud in his popular book, Muhammad in the Bible:

This Gospel has been rejected by Churches because its language is more in accordance with the revealed Scriptures and because it is very expressive and explicit about the nature of Jesus Christ’s mission, and above all because it records the exact words of Jesus concerning Muhammad [3].

What is the truth? Why do Christians reject this gospel? Is it because this gospel has certain alleged prophecies about Muhammad or because they have more solid arguments against the credibility of the document?

References

  1. Rahim, "Jesus, a Propet of Islam", p.37
  2. Akbar, "Israel and the Prophecies of the Qur'an", p.6
  3. Abdul-Ahad Dawud, "Muhammad in the Bible", p.89

The Background

Muslims first became aware of the existence of this gospel through the work of George Sale who mentioned it in his translation of the Qur’an into English in 1734. In his preface, Sale mentions a Spanish version written by a Mostafa de Aranda, who claimed to have translated it from Italian. It was alleged that an Italian Christian monk, Fra Marino, had stolen it from the library of Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) while the pope was asleep in his library and that Marino became a Muslim after reading it[1]. This translation has somehow perished, although various fragments of the Spanish text are still available. The Italian version found its way to Holland and was found in 1709 in the possession of J.F. Cramer, a councillor to the King of Prussia (Germany). He, in 1713, gave it to Prince Eugene of Savoy and over the next few years it passed from one hand to another until it reached Vienna in 1738 and was deposited in the Imperial Library where it stays to this day[2].

Injil BarnabaLonsdale and Laura Ragg were responsible for translating it into English and printing it in 1907 with 70 pages of introduction giving convincing reasons why various scholars believed that this was a fake Gospel written in the Middle Ages. In 1908, an Arabic translation with a new introduction was published in Cairo and in 1916 two Urdu editions were published, which were based on the Arabic version.

Between 1960 and 1980, translations of this gospel appeared in many of the languages of the Muslim majority countries. The reprinting, in Pakistan in 1973, of the English translation by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg was much publicised by Islamic Missions[3]. injil-barnabas-urduTheir Urdu and English presses promoted it and Muslim religious leaders introduced it as the true Gospel of Jesus[4]. The same year, a new Urdu translation was published by Jama’at-e-Islami, Lahore, with an introduction by the founder of the organisation, Maulana Abul Ala Mawdudi (Islamic Publications Ltd. Lahore) Asi Zia-ai, 1974; "Barnabas ki Injil" (Islamic Publications Ltd. Lahore), 3rd. Edition. 1981)[5].

Both the English and Urdu translations were reprinted several times. By 1990 there were 203,000 English copies printed by one publisher alone, Aisha Bahwany, in Pakistan. The interesting thing is that none of these reprints included the 70 pages of introduction by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg, because in their introduction they provide evidence to the effect that the book is a medieval forgery. The facsimile of the original title page, in some of the English editions, gives the misleading impression that one is dealing with the complete text of the original book by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg. The English translation of the document has now been printed by several Muslim publishers in Britain and America without any acknowledgement to previous publishers or to Lonsdale and Laura Ragg, the translators into English.

References

  1. Sale, George, "Preliminary Discourse to the Koran", pp. ix-x & 58
  2. Barnabas-Evangeliums, Codex No. 2662, Handschriften-und Inkunabelsammlung, Austria National Library, Vienna
  3. Rahim, M A, "The Gospel of Barnabas" (Qur’an Council of Pakistan, Karachi, 1973)
  4. "The Gospel of Barnabas", 3rd Edition, with introduction (Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf, 1974); "The Gospel of Barnabas", 6th Edition, with appendix (Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf, 1977)
  5. "Barnabas ki Injil" (Islamic Publications Ltd. Lahore) Asi Zia-ai, 1974; "Barnabas ki Injil" (Islamic Publications Ltd. Lahore), 3rd. Edition. 1981

Its Contents and the Message

Its Contents and Message

The gospel of Barnabas can be divided into several sections of which the following is a brief description:

CHAPTERS 1-9:  The birth of Jesus; his childhood and his "disputation" with the doctors concerning the law.

CHAPTERS 10-47:  Jesus receives a book, the Injil from God. He begins his ministry and performs miracles. He preaches, "I am not the messiah, the messiah will be born of the Ishmaelites".

CHAPTERS 48-98:  The Roman soldiers worship him as God but Jesus tells them that he is not the son of God. He has come to give the glad tidings of the coming of Muhammad.

CHAPTERS 99-126:  A crowd gathers to appoint Jesus as king but Jesus leaves for Damascus and then travels to some other cities.

CHAPTERS 127-153:  Jesus teaches his disciples about penitence, fasting, prayer, fear of God and high morals.

CHAPTERS 154-191:  Jesus teaches about the sinful world, the nature of sin, restoration, freedom, paradise and predestination. A scribe is also mentioned who claims that he saw a secret book of Moses which declares that the "Messiah springeth from Ishmael and not from Isaac".

CHAPTERS 192-222: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and predicts the judgment of Jerusalem. The Jews attempt to stone him but he vanishes. He is betrayed by Judas. Jesus is taken into heaven and Judas’ face is made to look like that of Jesus. Judas is mistakenly crucified in place of Jesus. Jesus appears to his friends and his mother and tells them that he was not crucified. He charges Barnabas to write the gospel (Injil) after which he returns to heaven.

The message of this gospel

Muslims value this gospel highly because it teaches against the doctrine presented in the New Testament. The following are the main points of this gospel which may affirm some of the Muslim beliefs but contradicts the teaching of the New Testament:

1. Jesus is a servant and only a messenger of God (Barnabas, chapter 55). He is not God, nor the Son of God, nor a god (Barnabas, chapters 53 and 100).

2. Jesus predicts the coming of the Messiah who is Muhammad (Barnabas, chapters 42-44). He himself refuses to be a messiah but gives this title to Muhammad. It was Ishmael who was to be sacrificed, not Isaac (Barnabas, chapter 44).

3. Jesus ascended to heaven before the crucifixion and Judas was made to look like Jesus (Barnabas, chapter 220). Jesus did not die on the cross (Barnabas, chapter 215). It was Judas Iscariot who died on the cross (Barnabas, chapter 216). The disciples stole the body of Judas and claimed that Jesus was risen. Many of the disciples have taught this deception, including Paul.

The Write

Was Barnabas the writer of this gospel? Muslims say, "yes" to this question and call upon the book of Acts for evidence where Barnabas is mentioned. However, our investigation reveals that the Barnabas of Acts and the Barnabas of this gospel are two different people who lived at different times.

According to the New Testament, Barnabas was not present during the ministry of Jesus. He is first mentioned in Acts after the church was already established. He, like other disciples, sold his property to raise money for distribution to the poor (Acts 4). He was a Jew from Cyprus named Joseph whom the apostles called Bar-nabas, which means "son of encouragement" (Acts 4:36).

According to the document in question, however, Barnabas was an apostle of Jesus and known by this name throughout Jesus' ministry. On many occasions Jesus is reported to have called him Barnabas instead of Joseph. This weakens the credibility of this gospel because Barnabas was never called to be an apostle by Jesus, according to all the available lists in the other Gospels.

The Barnabas of this gospel rejects the deity of Christ. Jesus is alleged to have denied being equal with God and to have claimed that he was only a messenger and servant of God. However, in the New Testament in Acts, Barnabas was the one who introduced Paul to the apostles at Jerusalem and encouraged them to trust him. The first thing Paul had preached after his conversion was that Jesus was the Son of God (Acts 9:20) and no doubt Barnabas was well aware of it. If Paul was preaching something unacceptable would Barnabas not have called for him to be silenced rather than fighting for his acceptance as a preacher of God’s word?

This Gospel denounces the teaching of Paul regarding circumcision, the crucifixion, the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, the book of Acts shows that Paul and Barnabas had a joint ministry for one full year. They both preached the same thing concerning Jesus’ resurrection and his deity (Acts 13:33). Here, Barnabas along with Paul can be seen in debate with some who insisted on circumcision. This debate was not between Paul and Barnabas but between the people from Judea on one side and Paul and Barnabas on the other (Acts 15). Thus it is illogical to accept that the Barnabas of the New Testament is responsible for a document that rejects the very teachings he proclaimed and defended.

Muslims quote from Galatians 2:13 and Acts 15:38-40 as proof that there was a disagreement on doctrinal matters between Paul and Barnabas. According to the first reference Barnabas was reprimanded for religious discrimination. Just to avoid offending some Jewish Christians, Barnabas and Peter did not sit at a meal with gentile converts. Paul censured this behaviour. Acts 15:2 shows that Peter and Barnabas later realised their error and accepted Paul’s argument. Muslims may ask, "Was not the root problem an issue of doctrine, namely, justification by faith, not by observing the works of the law, as the rest of Galatians chapter 2 reveals?" The answer is that although it is a doctrinal issue, it does not leave Paul in the wrong. Also, I Corinthians 9:6 which was written after the split, shows that Paul and Barnabas were back on good terms again. We should appreciate that the split reported in Galatians chapter 2 was only momentary.

The case in Acts 15:38-40 relates how Paul did not want to take John Mark with them on their next journey because he remembered how John Mark had abandoned them in Pamphilia in the middle of the first journey (Acts 12:12; 13:13). Paul was concerned that John Mark might do the same again and cause further problems. Later, however, the same Paul commends John Mark in his letters and expresses his need for him in his ministry (Colossians 4:10; II Timothy 4:11).

The evidence reveals that the dispute here was a personal matter and not doctrinal. There is no evidence that Paul and Barnabas had split because of a doctrinal clash. In fact investigation in this case reveals the unity that was between these two men rather than discord.

So why should Barnabas suddenly change his belief? Muslims offer rather fanciful explanations. A favourite theory, for example, is offered by Rahim, who tried his best to propagate this gospel with great zeal in Pakistan and wrote about the life of Jesus as portrayed in this gospel. He says:

Paul was a Roman citizen. He must have learned the language of Rome. He probably spoke Greek as it was the official language of the area in which he was born. The epistles he later wrote to the Christian communities in Greece must have been written in their native language. This meant he could travel in Greece and probably Italy without any language difficulty. Barnabas, on the other hand spoke neither of the two languages. John Mark, who spoke Greek, had accompanied him on the first missionary journey into Greece, to act as his interpreter. If Barnabas was to go there by himself, he would not be able to make himself understood. Thus Paul’s refusal to travel with Mark may have been a round about way of ensuring that Barnabas would refuse to travel with him. [1]

His statement is riddled with unsupported claims, many of which are easily refuted. The conclusion cannot hope to be valid on such defective premises. It is also inconsistent with the statement in the same book that Barnabas was born in Cyprus. His native tongue would therefore have been Greek and the argument is rendered invalid by his own words. Also, Rahim says that Paul and Barnabas were fellow students under Gamaliel. If such was the case, this would mean that both were educated men who had learned the teaching of the Old Testament and the traditions. The Old Testament was translated into Greek in 250 BC, making it available to the Greek speaking world. If it was so important that there was a need for a translation into Greek three hundred years before Barnabas and Paul, how much greater would be the need of the Greek-speaking Jewish scholars who lived in 30-40 CE? Evidently then, being an educated Jew, Barnabas would not need an interpreter. He would have fully understood what Paul and the other apostles were preaching. Hence there would be no conflict or misunderstanding regarding the deity of Christ, his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

 


References

  1. Rahim, "Jesus, a Propet of Islam", p.63

Evidence of Authority

Christians claim that this gospel did not exist during the time of the apostles, their pupils, the church fathers or their pupils. Almost every book of the New Testament is mentioned and quoted in the writings of the early Christians but no reference whatever is made to the gospel of Barnabas. However, Muslims claim a long, colourful history for this manuscript going back to Irenaeus (130-200). For example Rahim says that Irenaeus "quoted extensively from the Gospel of Barnabas in support of his views. This shows that the Gospel of Barnabas was in circulation in the first and second centuries of Christianity"[1]. On examination one finds that Irenaeus in his writings quoted from the Epistle of Barnabas and not from what Rahim calls the Gospel of Barnabas. (An 'Epistle' is a letter and usually explains doctrine, while a 'Gospel' is an account of Jesus' life).

Rahim claimed that during Emperor Zeno's rule in 478, the remains of Barnabas were discovered, and a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas, written by his own hand, was found on his breast. According to him it is recorded in the Acta Sanctorium, Boland Junii, Tome II, pages 422-450, published in Antwerp in 1698 [2]. However, the record actually says that a copy of the gospel according to Matthew, copied by Barnabas himself, written in his own hand, was found on his breast. This deliberate alteration of the record reflects little credit on Rahim's integrity. He omitted the words "according to Matthew, copied by Barnabas himself" and instead inserted "Gospel of Barnabas".

Evidence from Muslim History

Since the evidence from Christian history is sometimes rejected by some Muslims, we must also look at the evidence from Islamic history. The study of Muslim traditions and Muslim historical accounts suggest that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, had good relations with the Christian ruler at Najran. At the time of Muhammad's birth, Arabs were in contact with Christians in Abyssinia, and also with the three major sections of the Church in the Middle East i.e. Byzantine, Nestorian and Jacobite-Monophysites. The Nestorians exercised the most influence over the Arabs. According to Ibn Ishaq, pictures of Mary and Jesus were to be seen on one of the Ka'ba walls "[3].

Muslim traditions tell us about various Christian delegations that came to visit Muhammad for discussion. On one occasion, a group of sixty people headed by Abd al-Masih, bishop of the Najran Christians, met Muhammad in the mosque at Madina to discuss the deity of Christ. Muhammad related to them that Jesus was not God. The incident is said to be recorded in the Qur'an (Surah 3:40-70). Here was an excellent opportunity to mention the gospel of Barnabas as evidence against the Christian' claim, if it was in existence, but not so. Neither did Allah reveal to Muhammad any verse with regard to it.

John of Damascus (d. 753), known as Yahya b. Mansur, the son of a civil servant who had been a treasurer to Caliph Muawiya and Abdul Malik, wrote on many subjects including the deity of Christ. Surely he would have also mentioned this gospel if it had been in existence then?

Bishop Timotheos (d. 823), whose term of office spans the high point of Abbasid power at Baghdad under Harun al-Rashid (786-809), held debates in the court of Khalifa Musa al-Hadi (785-6). Discussions were held not only in defence of what was held to be Islamic orthodoxy against free thinkers and heretics, but also about the four gospels. However, according to the transcripts, nobody mentioned the gospel of Barnabas. Muslim scholars debated the Godhead and the person of Jesus, yet they never mentioned this gospel. Caliph Jafar al-Mutawakal (847-861), who abolished the right of religion and the construction of churches and introduced discriminating laws against Christians and Jews [4], held debates in his court with people like Bishop Elijah. However, again, no one suggested the gospel of Barnabas as a reference.

The book Al-Fihrist of Abu al-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Nadim (935-990), which is claimed by Muslims to deal with every phase of medieval culture, has long lists of books and authors. He gives a list of all the books that are part of the Bible but nowhere mentions the gospel of Barnabas [5].

For several centuries Muslims ruled Spain (756-1492 CE) and there were many dialogues between Muslims and Christians, yet no Muslim ever presented this gospel as evidence against orthodox Christian belief. In this period there were Muslim writers, historians and philosopher like al-Farabi (d.950), al-Masudi (d. 956), al-Kindi (d. 961), Ibn Hazm (d. 1063), al-Ghazali (d.1111), Abu al-Abbas al-Arif (d. 1141); Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), Muhyi’l Din Ibn al-Arabi (d.1240), and Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406). However not one of them mentioned this document. Furthermore, in none of the commentaries on the Qur’an, prior to 1700 CE can any reference to this gospel be found. Therefore it is extremely difficult to believe that this gospel could possibly have been in existence before the fourteenth century, as discussed below.

Evidence from the document

The physical appearance of the manuscript of the Gospel of Barnabas in existence today suggests, in terms of its binding, the style of writing and its language, that it was written between 1500 and 1590.

Let us consider first the evidence within the text. In the Torah, God ordered the Israelites to observe a Jubilee year. "A Jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you" (Leviticus. 25:11). However the gospel of Barnabas mentions this Jubilee but gives the interval of one hundred years (Barnabas, chapter 82). Where did the author get this figure from?

Around the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII decreed the one hundred year interval for the church. In 1343, Pope Clemens VI changed it back to fifty years and later Pope Paul II (1464-1471) reduced it to twenty-five years. It would appear that the writer knew about the decree of Pope Boniface but thought it had been instituted by Jesus. This compels us to think that this gospel cannot be dated earlier than 1300 CE.

One finds several quotations of the writer Dante are attributed to Jesus in this gospel. For example, Dante's expression, "false and lying gods" in chapters 23, 78, 217 is not found in the Bible nor in the Qur'an, but shows up only in this gospel. The description of hell in this gospel is also remarkably similar to Dante's fantasy about hell, purgatory and paradise. In chapter 178, this gospel tells us that there are nine heavens, again reminiscent of Dante. It is interesting to note that Dante was an Italian who lived about the time of Boniface VIII. He started writing his famous "Divina Comedia" in 1300.

There are other medieval elements in this gospel. To mention just a few, in chapter 194, it is said that the family of Lazarus were overlords of two towns, Magdala and Bethany. Roman forces controlled most of the lands of Palestine in those days, so no such system of overlord rule was known. This is the kind of feudal rule which became common in the Middle Ages.

The reference to wine casks in chapter 152 is an obvious anachronism. The court procedures described in chapter 121 demand that the author would have had to be familiar with a medieval society. In the light of the preceding evidences and many other such evidences not listed here, both external and internal, it can be seen that this gospel must have been written by someone living many centuries after the Barnabas of the New Testament.


References

  1. "The Gospel of Barnabas", p.xv, (Lahore, Islamic Publications, 1982)
  2. Rahim, "Jesus a Prophet of Islam", p.37
  3. Ibn Hisham: Sira (trans.), Gulliam, "Life of Mahammad", p.522
  4. H.U. Rahman, "A Chronology of Islamic History, p.188
  5. "The First of alNadim", Vol. 1, pp.40-46

Errors and Contradictions

  1. This gospel states that Jesus was born while Pilate was a governor in Palestine. According to history, however, Pilate did not become a governor until 26 CE. Also, in chapter 3, the birth of Jesus is placed during the time of the high priesthood of Annas (6-15 CE) and Caiaphas (18-36 CE), which contradicts not only history but the gospel itself. Neither of them was in power when Jesus was born. The Barnabas gospel is wrong by about ten years with Annas, by twenty-two years with Caiaphas and by thirty years with Pilate.

  2. Herod (Antipas) is mentioned as having power and many soldiers at his command in Jerusalem and Judea (Barnabas, chapter 214). This is a blunder because he ruled only in Galilee some sixty miles away. This gospel calls him a Gentile (Barnabas, chapter 217), although he was a practising Jew. He was only in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover, which is why he was able to be consulted during Jesus' trial.

  3. In chapter 80 it is stated that Daniel was only two years old when he was captured by Nebuchadnezzar. This conflicts with the account in the Bible (Daniel chapter 2), which says that Nebuchadnezzar consulted Daniel in the second year of his reign concerning his dream. He was so impressed by Daniel's wisdom that he appointed him a ruler over the province of Babylon. If the testimony of this gospel is accepted then Daniel would have to be three years old at this point.

  4. Chapter 91 relates the account of the amassing of three armies, each of 200,000 armed men in a battle over the question of Christ's deity. Under Roman rule at that time both the possession of arms and the manufacture of arms were strictly controlled. Also, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the whole Roman regular army only numbered 300,000 at this time and half of these were reserves. There was only a small garrison in Judea until the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 68-70 CE.

  5. In chapter 127 of this gospel, Jesus is mentioned as preaching from the pinnacle of the Temple. This was hardly a suitable place from which to preach as it was about two hundred meters above the ground and so he would not have been heard.

  6. Nazareth is described as a coastal city on the sea of Galilee, in chapter 20 and 21. This town still exists but is thirteen hundred feet above sea level and twenty kilometers from the sea. In chapter 99 Tiro (Tyre/Tyrus) is presented as being close to the Jordan, which is not correct. Tyrus is fifty kilometers away on the shore of the Mediterranean sea in present day Lebanon. If the writer walked these areas with Jesus, why does he confuse such facts? Zacchaeus is said to have encountered Jesus in Nazareth, while the gospel according to Luke says this happened in or near Jericho (Luke 19).

  7. Chapter 169 of this gospel portrays a European summer. This contrasts with the Palestinian summer where rain falls in winter and fields are parched in summer, it is anything but green as portrayed in the text. According to the context, Jesus was in the wilderness of Jordan where he certainly would not be enjoying beautiful European-type summer scenery.

  8. Haggai and Hosea are two separate prophets whose revelations are separately recorded in two books in the Old Testament but this gospel says that their story is related in the book of Daniel (Barnabas, chapter 185). His confusion concerning Bible references is further demonstrated in chapters 165 and 169 where he mixes quotations together.

  9. The writer claims that Jesus is not the Messiah and yet uses the messianic title "Son Of David" for him (Barnabas, chapters 11,19,21 and so on). In chapter 19 the primacy of Jesus is taught but refuted in chapters 54 and 55, where Muhammad is stated as having the primacy at the last judgement.

In Conflict with Islam

The Qur'an expects a Muslim to believe in the books of God which he gave to Moses, David, Jesus and other prophets. According to Islamic teachings, these books should in no way contradict each other. Muslims believe that if the Bible differs it must be because it has been corrupted. Many Muslims think that the Gospel of Barnabas is in harmony with the Qur’an in its teaching about the crucifixion and other matters. Therefore, they claim, it must be the one and only true Gospel, the original.

Here are a few important points about which the Qur’an and this gospel are not in harmony:

  1. According to some Muslims understanding the original Gospel descended upon Jesus. While the Gospel of Barnabas does indeed claim that it descended into the heart of Jesus (Barnabas, chapter 10), it does not specify that Jesus received God’s words precisely from a heavenly copy of the book. The writer does not appear to subscribe to this Muslim view of inspiration.

  2. Christ is portrayed as having voiced and believed the Muslim creed, Shahada, "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet". This creed was not laid down until 600 years after Jesus. Even in the Qur’an it is never given as one complete statement at one time.

  3. This Gospel presents Jesus and his mission as being identical to that of John the Baptist in the role of forerunner to the Messiah, who is Muhammad (Barnabas, chapters 42-44 and 220). The author has completely omitted John the Baptist and his ministry, whilst both the Qur'an and the New Testament acknowledge John's prophethood and teach that he was a forerunner of Jesus. Moreover, the Qur'an accepts Jesus as the Messiah but the Jesus in this gospel refuses to accept this title. In several passages this gospel openly suggests that Jesus is not the Messiah (Barnabas, chapters 42, 82, 83, 96, 97, 198, 206).

  4. This Gospel portrays Mary as giving birth to Jesus without pain (Barnabas, chapter 3) and that his birth took place in a shepherd’s house or shelter. However, the Qur’an relates the pangs of childbirth, which drove Mary to cry out in pain and that Jesus was born under a palm tree in the wilderness.

  5. Many Muslims believe that Allah has sent 124,000 prophets into the world, but this Gospel places the count at 144,000 (Barnabas, chapter 17).

  6. It tells us that God sent a group of believers to hell for 70,000 years (Barnabas, chapter 137), whereas the Qur’an says that God would not harm a believer even so much as by the weight of an ant (Surah 4:40).

  7. According to the teaching of this Gospel when the Tawrat became contaminated, God sent another book, the Zabur or Psalms. When this was altered by people, God gave the Injil - the Gospel to replace it. This theory holds that when a divine book is altered or corrupted, God sends another book. Consequently, when the Gospel was corrupted God sent the Qur’an. This raises an important question with regard to the Gospel of Barnabas. If, as many Muslims believe, this is an unaltered version of the true and original Gospel, then there was no need to send the Qur’an to replace it.

  8. According to this gospel, there are nine heavens and ten hells (Barnabas, chapters 52,57,178). However, the Qur'an teaches only seven heavens (Surah 2:29).

  9. This Gospel teaches that Satan is the creator of hell (Barnabas, chapter 35), whereas the Qur’an teaches that God is Creator of hell (Surah 25:11).

  10. In this Gospel, it is stated that before the last day there will be a fifteen-day schedule of step-by-step destruction (Barnabas, chapter 53). It further states that on the thirteenth day the heavens shall be rolled up like a book and every living thing shall die. All this is in clear contradiction with the Qur’an, which states that men will be alive until the last day (Surah 80:33-37). Nowhere does the Qur'an mention the death of the holy angels, but asserts that they will still perform their duty (Surah 69: 15-17).

  11. Jesus is alleged to have said that a man should content himself with one wife, whereas the Qur'an permits up to four wives (Surah 4:3; Barnabas, chapter 115).

  12. In chapter 32, 66 and 67 of this gospel Jesus is reported to have said that offerings and sacrifices are not part of God's command but are man made traditions. In other words this gospel denies that God ordered burnt sacrifices in the Torah. However the Qur'an confirms that God did order the Israelites to offer sacrifices (Qur'an, Surah 2:67-72; Bible, Numbers 19:1-10).

It is obvious that although these two documents, and the people who support them, share the same theology concerning the crucifixion of Jesus, there is very little else upon which their teachings coincide.

 

Ahmadiyya

In India around the year 1879 a Muslim, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), came to believe that he had been chosen by God as a reformer of Islam. He established his own movement, Ahmadiyyat, and very soon promulgated many changes to the beliefs of orthodox Muslims. He believed that he himself was the Mahdi - the reviver of Islam and the second coming of Jesus in the Spirit. Orthodox Muslims were incensed but could not stop him. According to Ahmadiyya sources there are about twelve million adherents of this sect in the world today.

Ahmad, influenced perhaps by western philosophies, announced a new doctrine, foreign to Islam, that Jesus had indeed been crucified. He went on to claim that Jesus was rescued from the cross in a state of collapse, recovered in secret, and after passing through India he reached Kashmir, where he died at the age of one hundred and twenty. Ahmad argued vociferously against orthodox Muslims, saying: "Those Muslims who believe Jesus to be in heaven in his physical body, are guilty of uttering an absurdity against the Qur'an." It is surprising, however, to find that Ahmad and his followers support this gospel of Barnabas. He wrote, "the gospel of Barnabas, which contains the prophecy about the latter day prophet, is declared by Christians to be forged, because it contains a clear prophecy about the Holy prophet." He gives two reasons why Christians reject this gospel: —"that the book or the story happens to contradict the Gospels in use;" and "that the book or the story happens to agree with the Holy Qur’an" [1]. To what extent the gospel of Barnabas is in conflict with the Qur'an is discussed in the In Conflict with Islam section. So, how does this gospel compare with the Ahmadiyya sect?

  1. The Ahmadiyya movement believes that their leader was a prophet of God after Muhammad. In contrast this gospel states that "there shall not come after him true prophets sent by God, but there shall come a great number of false prophets..." (Barnabas, chapter 97).

  2. The gospel of Barnabas relates the stories of the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead by Jesus. The Ahmadiyya movement does not believe in these miracles. Mirza Ahmad wrote in one of his books, "... a thing which is not possible for the Holy prophet (Muhammad) - the best of prophets ... how can it be so for the Messiah (Jesus)!" [2]

  3. This Gospel denies Jesus the title of Messiah and yet the Ahmadiyya accept it as a fact, as seen from the above quote.

  4. Mirza Ahmad is very suspicious about the authenticity of the four gospel accounts in the New Testament. He says that these gospels contain many things which show that they have not been preserved in their original form. For example, he refers to Luke 7:36-50 and comments that no prophet "had ever set such an example of freedom that he would allow an impure and adulterous woman, a noted sinner, to touch his body with her hands, to let her rub oil into his head - bought out of her immoral gains - and to rub her hair on his feet.." [3].

    On this he bases his conclusion that the four gospels are not in their authentic form. Yet the very same story is recounted in the gospel of Barnabas (Barnabas, chapters 129-130).

  5. Mirza Ahmad believes that just as John the Baptist was Elijah in the spirit, (Matthew 11:14;17:12), so he himself is Jesus in the spirit. Where does he get his knowledge of John the Baptist being Elijah in the Spirit? Certainly not from the Qur’an because it does not mention him being Elijah and certainly not from the "one true gospel" - the gospel of Barnabas where the Baptist is never once mentioned. He took it from the Bible (Malachi 4), which he says he does not believe.

  6. This Gospel says that Judas was crucified in the place of Jesus, while the Ahmadiyya movement believe that it was really Jesus. Further, this Gospel would have us believe that Jesus was taken into heaven bodily before the crucifixion, while the Ahmadiyya believe that he was crucified but did not die on the cross. They say, "... it is impossible for us to think that Jesus the Messiah is alive in heaven while Muhammad, our Holy prophet lies buried in the earth. We cannot think so..." [4]. So, as in the case of the orthodox Muslims, the Ahmadiyya movement is in a very precarious position, if they depend on this gospel to confirm Mirza Ahmad’s teachings.

 


References

  1. Ghulam Ahmad, "Chashma Masihi", p.6
  2. Ghulam Ahmad, "Tawzih Maram", (English tr.) pp.6-7
  3. Ghulam Ahmad, "Jesus in India", p.47
  4. Bashir-ud-din, "Invitation to Ahmadiyyat", p.15

Conclusion

Conclusion

We have shown that the history and authenticity that Muslims attribute to the Gospel of Barnabas hold no credibility. Evidence from history, and from the document itself, show that it could have been written no earlier than the fourteenth century. The writer of the gospel could not have been the Barnabas of the New Testament. It is full of errors and contradictions and much of it is in conflict with Islam and the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya movement.

This gospel of Barnabas is a prime example of what happens when a spurious work is subjected to critical review. When all the errors and inconsistencies are considered, this gospel is exposed as a product of a ‘Pseudo-Barnabas’ who was never a first-century disciple of Jesus nor been in the land where Jesus walked and taught.