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. 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.
Lonsdale 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. Their Urdu and English presses promoted it and Muslim religious leaders introduced it as the true Gospel of Jesus. 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).
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.
- Sale, George, "Preliminary Discourse to the Koran", pp. ix-x & 58
- Barnabas-Evangeliums, Codex No. 2662, Handschriften-und Inkunabelsammlung, Austria National Library, Vienna
- Rahim, M A, "The Gospel of Barnabas" (Qur’an Council of Pakistan, Karachi, 1973)
- "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)
- "Barnabas ki Injil" (Islamic Publications Ltd. Lahore) Asi Zia-ai, 1974; "Barnabas ki Injil" (Islamic Publications Ltd. Lahore), 3rd. Edition. 1981