Friday, 17 April 2009

The Gospel of Barnabas

More evidence added

Muslims like to challenge Christians again and again with the so-called "Gospel of Barnabas". Mr. Adam Peerbhai of
South Africa has published a booklet in which he considers the "discovery" of the "gospel" to be one of the greatest finds of mankind. In a very eloquent way he states that the "Gospel of Barnabas" is the greatest of all truths (as though there is more than one Truth about God and Jesus), and that it was history's greatest tragedy that it was suppressed for nearly 2,000 years. To Mr. Peerbhai it appears fantastic that though Saint Barnabas was one of the disciples of Christ (which he actually was not!), yet his Gospel does not appear in the New Testament, whilst less important ones like Mark, Luke and St. Paul (!?) do.

"The Gospel of Barnabas" is described as a document that the Church rejected and destroyed, because it did not agree with the rest of the body of Christian teaching on Jesus. According to this Gospel the coming of Mohammed was clearly foretold. One of the copies of this Gospel was rediscovered in a unique way and thus bears witness, so it is claimed, to the falsification of the Bible. We shall now investigate these claims objectively:


The "Gospel of Barnabas" (G.o.B.) first appeared in
Holland in 1709. This manuscript was written in Italian and supplied with footnotes in poor Arabic. The sources of the "Gospel" are unknown. This document is now preserved in the Imperial Museum in Vienna.

George Sale translated the Qur'an from Arabic into English in 1734. In his preface, he mentions another copy of the same "Gospel" in Spanish. This document is lost and all we know about it is what
Sale wrote down. It says in a statement on the title page that it was a translation from the Italian by a Spanish Muslim named Mostafa de Aranda (Aranda is a town in Spain). It further mentions that the Italian text had been stolen by a monk, Fra Marino, from the papal library, while Pope Sixtus V was having a little nap. After reading it Fra Marino became a Muslim. Since that time, Muslims have claimed that the "Gospel of Barnabas" is an authentic Gospel, perhaps even the "original" one. In 1907 the G.o.B. was translated into English by Laura and Lonsdale Ragg. In the introduction, they provide internal and external evidence to the effect that the G.o.B. was a Medieval forgery.

Since then Arabic and Urdu translations have been produced, all, however, without the introduction by the Raggs. Lt.-Col. M.A. Rahim (
Pakistan) reprinted the G.o.B. in English in 1973, again omitting the introduction, but substituting another one written from the Islamic point of view. This has been extensively used to demonstrate that the Bible has been corrupted, when measured against a Gospel that was hidden away for nearly two millennia. Needless to say, the G.o.B. largely confirms the teaching of Islam concerning Jesus.


Of the G.o.B. presents another Gospel narrative, i.e. another record of the life and ministry of Christ. On most doctrinal points it differs widely from the accepted Gospel account and in such a way that the Islamic version of Jesus is emphasized:

Jesus Christ is neither the Son of God, nor divine. He is rather: "the voice crying in the wilderness" to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, Mohammed. In the G.o.B.
Christ is not the Messiah, but assumes instead a role similar to that of John the Baptist in our Gospel account. John the Baptist is not mentioned in the G.o.B. Consequently, the emphasis in the G.o.B. is on the coming of Mohammed, the saviour of the world (Chapter 96b and 97b, etc.). As might be expected, Christ was not crucified (in agreement with Sura 4:156), but instead Judas was killed in His place. During the period of His supposed arrest, Christ was hiding in a house in the garden of Gethsemane from where He was taken out by four (!) archangels (a much later tradition or legend) through the window and ascended into the third of seven heavens.

The entire G.o.B. endeavours to show the superiority of Mohammed over Jesus.


i. It is alleged that the existence of the "Gospel of Barnabas" before the Middle Ages is confirmed by the "Gelasian Decree" (Pope Gelasius A.D. 492-495). In this decree the G.o.B. is rejected by the Church as apocryphal with ten other writings under the names of Thaddaeus, Matthias, Peter, James (the younger), Thomas, Bartholomew, Andrew etc. This G.o.B. was written in Greek. The date of the decree, which is attributed to Gelasius, is; however, much disputed. It could well be a hundred years later.

ii. Muslims claim that the Decree of Pope Sixtus I A.D. 465 also mentions the above apocryphal writings. He was Pope from A.D. 402-417 There is, however, no mention of the G.o.B. in this decree.

iii. Muslims also claim that the "Decree of the Western Church" likewise mentions the G.o.B. in A.D. 382. This obviously refers to the "Council of Rome". All that we know of this Council comes from the Gelasian Decree, and this is the same source as (i).

We acknowledge that a G.o.B. was mentioned. There is no trace of it today, but it was certainly not by Barnabas, else the Church would not have rejected it. The above-mentioned "Gospels" were banned as heretical books, because they were forged. Barnabas was held in high esteem everywhere. Statements to the contrary and about continuing disputes between Paul and Barnabas, are untrue. Decrees at Church Councils were not arbitrarily issued by individuals, but by the leaders of the local churches, who were very much concerned about the Apostolic origin of any writing proposed for canonization.

Whatever writing lacked this, was rejected. There is
evidence that the G.o.B. of Fra Marino is definitely not related in any way to the rejected G.o.B. of the Gelasian Decree.

iv. A
copy of the G.o.B. was found in the arms of Barnabas when his tomb was discovered in Cyprus A.D. 478. A legend has it, that Barnabas appeared in a vision to the Bishop of Salanus (Cyprus) and said: "You will find a cave and a coffin, because there my whole body has been preserved and a Gospel written in my own hand."

Unfortunately, the above quotation ends only halfway through the sentence, which continues in the original:

"Which I received from the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew."

So he was supposed to have held in his arms a Gospel according to Matthew written by himself. Besides all this we find it strange that the republishers of the G.o.B. reprinted the book without the permission of the translators (plagiarism) and omitted the explanatory notes, which were the outcome of their research work. Furthermore, we would reply that
all Biblical (New Testament) writings had been accepted in practice and circulated among the churches everywhere by A.D. 200. Disputed were the books Hebrews, I and II Peter and James, but all were accepted before the Council of Rome in A.D. 382. Up to that time and thereafter, no mention was made by any of the Church Fathers, of a G.o.B., whereas all other New Testament books are referred to extensively by name or through quotations. Historically, it is unacceptable that another Gospel narrative that existed and was genuine, could have been squashed and lost without trace.

This is neither in keeping with the practice of the early church, nor possible in view of its system of government. Muslims like to claim that the G.o.B. is the original Gospel. They reason that if there are four Gospel narratives there must surely be one original and they happily accept that this has been rediscovered.


The reply that it is impossible that a Gospel could be left out without it being carefully scrutinised.

The books of the New Testament were selected by the early church leaders, only if they met the criterion of being
Apostolic, i.e. corresponding to the teaching of Christ as the Apostles knew them, and contemporary to them. The G.o.B. does not meet these requirements.

External Evidence

may be defined as
proof of the existence of a book gathered from sources outside itself (W.H.T. Gairdner, page 9). The only mention of a G.o.B. is in the Gelasian Decree which proves that it was rejected a considerable time after the canonization of the New Testament, because of its lack of Apostolic evidence and heretical content. The following facts show that there is no external evidence for the existence of the G.o.B.:

i. Neither from the time of the Apostles to the Gelasian Decree, nor thereafter was there any mention of a G.o.B.

ii. The fact that certain Muslim scholars proved dishonest by removing the evidence in the Raggs' translation that proved the G.o.B. to be a forgery; that they omitted half of a sentence supposed to be about Barnabas' tomb and a Gospel in his arms; and that they promoted the G.o.B. as an anti-Christian argument, does not constitute external evidence either, but raises instead suspicion as to their bona fides.

There is, in fact, no acceptable evidence for the existence of a genuine "Gospel of Barnabas".

Fra Marino's account of his discovery of the G.o.B. in the library of Pope Sixtus V (A.D. 1585-1589) is not a story likely to be believed:

"... having accidentally met with a writing of Irenaeus (a Church Father) wherein he speaks against Paul, alleging for his authority the Gospel of Barnabas, he became exceeding desirous to find this Gospel"; and that God ... "made him very intimate with Pope Sixtus V. One day as they were in that Pope's library, His Holiness fell asleep and he, reaching down for a book to read, the first he laid his hand on proved to be the very Gospel he wanted. Overjoyed ... he scrupled not to hide his prize ... and on the Pope's awakening, took leave of him, carrying with him that celestial treasure, by reading of which he became a convert to Mohammedanism."

We note that Irenaeus never mentioned a G.o.B., nor spoke against Paul. He recognized Paul's writings as inspired and claimed that our known four Gospel narratives were the only ones ever given by God (Gairdner, page 12). If we have a trustworthy piece of literature this would be self-evident.
It would not need any lies to substantiate its trustworthiness. Mr. Adam Peerbhai writes of Barnabas (in "Islamiscope"):

"His name is omitted from the New Testament for obvious reasons."

Mr. Peerbhai has overlooked the fact, that Barnabas' name is mentioned 28 times in the New Testament, though not in the Gospels, because he was converted only after Pentecost. Lt.-Col. Rahim, in the foreword to his edition, reports on Paul and Barnabas as follows:

"They returned to Jerusalem and from then onwards they parted company and Barnabas mysteriously disappeared from the Bible pages." (Kritzinger, page 9).

This is incorrect again, for nine years later he makes mention very positively of Barnabas in I Corinthians 9:6. Paul also restored his relationship with Mark (Colossians 4:10 and II Timothy 4:11), the nephew of Barnabas. He had been the object of a dispute between Paul and Barnabas, which made them decide to part as associates on Paul's second missionary journey

Internal Evidence
supplied by the content of the book itself. Any writing is sure to bear the mark of a particular age. The style, language and subject matter of the book will betray it (Gairdner, page 9).

First we should like to observe that all quotations in the G.o.B. from Old and New Testament are taken from the Vulgate translation. (Approximately 380 A.D.) This Latin Bible has been used in the Catholic Church ever since. The above is an example of an
anachronism because the G.o.B. is supposed to date from before the Vulgate was written.

If someone brought you a film which he claimed to have been made in 1905 and started to screen it and it looked every bit like an old film, with old clothes and fashions, you might believe him. If, however, in the middle of a scene ... you saw a Concorde going across the sky, you would say ... 'This film is a fabrication.'" (John Gilchrist).

Such is an anachronism. How does the G.o.B. measure up to this and other tests?

i. In the G.o.B. (Chapter 1) "Barnabas" is called an Apostle. This is not correct in its implication. Although Barnabas is referred to as an Apostle (Acts 14:4,14), the G.o.B. concept is quite different. The conversion of Barnabas took place after the Day of Pentecost and consequently he does not qualify for apostleship as outlined in Acts 1:21-22 (and bearing in mind I Corinthians 15:8, 9:1-2, 1:1, Romans 1:1 etc.).

ii. The surprised reader of the G.o.B. finds Nazareth on the shore of Lake Galilee (Chapter 20), whereas it is a town miles away from the Lake, surrounded by mountains.

iii. In the next chapter, we see Jesus going UP to Capernaum, whereas Capernaum is situated right on the shore of the Lake.

iv. In Chapter 151 we are told that Jesus embarked on a ship (from Nazareth?) and next we read that he arrived in Jerusalem. We might well ask whether this was also done by boat?

v. In Chapter 6 another interesting common error is found. It speaks here of the three Magi or wise men coming from the East. The New Testament does not specify the number, but gives a list of three gifts that were brought by the Magi, namely gold, myrrh and frankincense. This later led to the assumption that there were three wise men from the East. But this belief certainly does not derive or date from the New Testament.

vi. In Chapters 91-92 we are told that Jesus and His disciples kept "the 40 days". The context clearly shows that this refers to the period of Lent before Easter, celebrated by the church, but from a very much later period than the days of the early church. (The church meditates at this time on the suffering of Christ, which was obviously unknown when Christ was still alive). We find that Lent was celebrated only from the fourth century A.D. onwards. Jesus and His disciples are said to have gone for the 40 day fast to Mount Sinai. which is some 450 km away. There is no report in the New Testament to confirm this.

vii. We are further informed that a certain dispute would have ended in war, but the Romans assembled three armies each numbering 200,000 men at Mizpeh (Chapter 91). The entire Roman army at that time numbered only 300,000, however. (Encyclopædia Britannica).

viii. "Jesus drew near to the Priest (High Priest) with reverence, but he was wishful to bow himself down and worship Jesus, when Jesus cried out: 'Beware of that which thou doest, Priest of the Living God! Sin not against our God!" (Chapter 93). This statement is so contrary to the New Testament, that it needs no explanation.

ix. In Chapter 3 of the G.o.B. the birth of Christ is described as having been painless. This belief was not current in the Church before Thomas Aquinas (died 1278) but is mentioned in Sura 19:23

x. According to the G.o.B. Jesus was born when Pilate was governor, but in fact he only became governor between A.D. 26 and 27.

xi. Jesus prayed five times a day according to the G.o.B. and all the Muslim prayer times are mentioned. (Drs. J. Slomp, page 128).

xii. Not before the Fourth Century A.D. was the title "Virgin" given to Mary, yet it appears in the G.o.B.

xiii. Origen A.D. 184-254 was the first scholar to assume that Mount Tabor was the Mount of Transfiguration. The Bible does not confirm this. The Christian tradition that it was Mount Moriah begins only in the Third Century, and yet the G.o.B. contains this information.

xiv. The G.o.B. mentions four archangels, which is also a tradition of the church that dated from the early Medieval period.

xv. The Islamic concept of "the Book" is found in Chapter 10, where we read that the angel Gabriel presented to Jesus as it were a shining mirror, a book, which descended into the heart of Jesus. This corresponds very well with Suras 5:49 and 2:97.

xvi. In Chapter 54, the Italian text mentions a denarius, which is made up of 60 minuti. These gold coins were used only in Spain under Khalif Abdul Malik (in 685 A.D.).

xvii. In Chapter 152 we are informed that soldiers were "rolled out of the temple as one rolleth casks of wood when they are washed to refill them with wine." Wooden barrels were invented in Gaul and were not used in the East in New Testament times. Wine and other liquids were stored in skins.

xviii. In Chapter 97 Mohammed is clearly called the Messiah. The Qur'an, as well as the Bible confers this title on Jesus. It is somehow strange to realize that in the introduction of the G.o.B. Jesus is called Christ and in Chapters 42 and 82 "Barnabas" denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Only a theologically very ignorant person could have made such statements, because "Christos" is the Greek word for the Hebrew "Messiah".

xix. In "the true book of Moses ... (it) is written that Ishmael is the father of Messiah, and Isaac the father of the messenger of the Messiah" (Chapter 191).

xx. In Chapter 222, the last chapter of the G.o.B., we read: "After Jesus had departed (after having been raised from his hiding place through the window of the house in the Garden of Gethsemane) the disciples scattered through the different parts of Israel and of the world, and the truth, hated of Satan, was persecuted, as it always is, by falsehood. For certain evil men, pretending to be disciples, preached that Jesus died and rose not again. Others preached that he really died, but rose again. Others preached and yet preach that Jesus is the Son of God, among whom is Paul deceived." The G.o.B. herewith endeavours to correct preceding Gospels and Paul. We wish to ask the question when and how was the writer aware that the disciples had scattered throughout the different parts of the world? This question is left open, but easily answered by us, for we believe that it is yet another anachronism.

xxi. The Italian poet Dante lived about the time of the composition of the G.o.B. (1265-1321) and it is interesting to notice a number of quotations from Dante's works in the G.o.B. There are many and they can hardly be regarded as coincidences. The G.o.B. quotes Jesus as saying 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 has Satan generated it: So are seven punishments therein." (Chapter 135a). This is exactly what Dante says in Cantos V, VI, etc. of his "Inferno". Again "Barnabas" says that God, having created the human senses, condemned them "to hell and to intolerable snow and ice" (Chapter 106, which corresponds with Cantos XXVIII and III of the "Inferno"). The description of human sins and their returning at the end like a river to Satan, who is their source, is another indirect quotation from Dante's description of the rivers of hell. Similarly, the passages about the believers going to hell, not to be tortured, but to see the unbelievers in their torments, recalls to mind Dante's picture of the same. The differentiation between degrees of glory, and the absence of all feuds and jealousies in heaven, are taken entirely from Dante's "Paradise", Canto III. But still stronger evidence that "Barnabas" quotes directly or indirectly from Dante is his description of the "Geography of Heaven". There "Barnabas" agrees with Dante and contradicts even the Qur'an itself. The Qur'an (Sura 2:29) says that the heavens are seven in number, while "Barnabas" gives the number as nine (Chapter 178a) (Gairdner, pages 19-21). These few indications are sufficient evidence that the writer of the G.o.B. must have been acquainted with the writings of Dante and consequently must have I lived after Dante, or else been a contemporary of his.

xxii. In Chapter 145 of the G.o.B. Pharisees date back as far as the time of Elijah and there were supposed to have been 17,000. In fact, history first knows about Pharisees seven centuries later, in the period between 135-104 B.C

xxiii. In Chapter 82 mention is made of the "Years of the Jubilee, which now cometh every 100 years." The Year of Jubilee, according to the Old Testament, was every 50th year (after seven times seven years). The origin of this faulty information is as follows: In the year A.D. 1300 Pope Boniface the VIII instituted the Jubilee as a centenary event. Owing to its financial success, however, Pope Clement VI reversed Boniface's decision and celebrated the next Jubilee in 1350. This was thus the only time that the Year of Jubilee was intended as a centenary occasion - it never was in practice. (Gairdner, page 19).

xxiv. Eve is said to have eaten an "apple" in Paradise (Chapters 40 and 41). We are well aware that Eve ate an unspecified fruit, but the belief that this was an apple dates from a very much later date.

xxv. Another proof of the G.o.B. being Medieval in origin, is that we have a report (Chapter 99) of a duel between two rival lovers. This type of chivalry was a creation of Medieval society (Gairdner, page 24).

xxvi. In Chapter 80 of the G.o.B. we find a story about Daniel, which has it that he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar while he was yet two years old. This statement, it will be observed, is incompatible with what may be inferred from the Bible narrative. According to the latter, it was in the second year of his reign that Nebuchadnezzar had his famous dream, which Daniel interpreted. "Then the King gave Daniel high honours and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief prefect over the all-wise men of Babylon." (Daniel 2:48). Now if we suppose that Nebuchadnezzar captured Daniel in the first year of his reign (the earliest possible date, which could be assigned to Daniel's captivity) and that, according to "Barnabas", Daniel was then two years old, it would follow then that in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Daniel was only three years old (Gairdner, page 26). Daniel was in fact born in 621 B.C. and the captivity began in 605 B.C., so he was 16 years old when taken prisoner

xxvii. We read that Ishmael was offered on the altar by Abraham (Chapter 44). This is clearly an Islamic concept.

xxviii. God is said to be the God of Abraham, ISHMAEL and Isaac in Chapter 212. It should read, according to the O.T. the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

xxix. We find it highly suspicious and wrong to read that the Torah was written by an Ismaelite (Chapter 192).

xxx. Most suspicious of course, is any mentioning of the name of Mohammed. (In Chapters 44, 54, 112, 97 and 163, etc.) It is particularly suspicious, since all the other evidence points to the fact that the whole of the G.o.B is a Medieval forgery. But other Islamic thought is also reflected in the G.o.B.

xxxi. In Chapter 39 Adam sees bright writing and the content is none other than the Kalimah. There is only one God" and "Mohammed is the Messenger of God."

xxxii. Muslims who accept the G.o.B. ought to consider the fact that in Chapter 115 it very strongly endorses monogamy.

xxxiii. Likewise we refer to Chapter 38, in which the Islamic principle of abrogation is rejected


After examining the text, the external and internal evidence, and after having discovered its medieval character and the obvious attempt to islamise this "Gospel", we conclude that the Gospel of Barnabas was written by a Muslim to convince Christians of "the truth of Islam". Instead of propagating Islam, he disguised the message and used the name of Barnabas to make his claims seem authentic. It is therefore, a forgery and a lie. It aims at destroying faith in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, including the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Christians disapprove for obvious reasons to such methods as forgery and lies.

We are bewildered that serious Muslims can devise such a book and promote it on such flimsy grounds, knowing it is a lie. Even when it is tempting to be used and expedient, this approach must be rejected. We regard it as a feeble effort to disguise the truth. We conclude that only when at a loss for better arguments could a dishonest man resort to such methods.

The Bible teaches us to:

"Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead, expose them!" (Ephesians 5:11).

"We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's Word, but by the open statement of the truth we could commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God!" (II Corinthians 4:2).


1. "The Gospel of Barnabas" edited and translated by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg (1907), published by Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf,
  Bank House No. 1 Habib Square M.A. Sinnah Road Karachi - Pakistan

2. "The Gospel of Barnabas, an Essay and Inquiry" by Selim 'Abdul-Ahad and W.H.T. Gairdner. (1975) Publishers: "Henry Martyn Institute of Islamic Studies". P.O. Box 153, Hyderabad, India.

3. "Pseudo-Barnabas in the context of Muslim-Christian Apologetics" by Dr. Jan Slomp. (1974) Published by: "Christian Study Centre" 126-B Murree Road, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
4. A paper by J.N.J. Kritzinger entitled "The Gospel of Barnabas Carefully Examined"
"Origins and Sources of the Gospel of Barnabas" by John Gilchrist
6. "Missing Documents from the Gospel of Barnabas" by Adam Peerbhai


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