An historical detailed analysis
3. Other Evidences against its Authenticity
Let us consider some of the other evidences that prove that the Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery. Firstly, this book makes Jesus often state that he is not the Messiah but that Muhammad would be the Messiah. It is a constant, recurring theme in the Gospel of Barnabas. Here, we show, not only that Jesus did not consider himself the Messiah, but preached that Muhammad was to be the 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
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 as 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 counterfeit.
Secondly, it is alleged that the Romans stirred up the Jews to such an extent about the real nature of Jesus that "all
The story betrays itself as a phenomenal myth and fantasy by its hopeless overstatement of the number of men gathered for battle. (The author often resorts to wild exaggerations of facts and numbers in his book in an apparent attempt to create a wondrous impact on his readers). Where did the Jews suddenly find six hundred thousand swords at a time when the Romans not only suppressed but also prevented the manufacture of military hardware by this nation? Rather than fight one another, this whole army could with ease have driven the Romans right out of Palestine for the Roman army throughout the world numbered less than half this figure. Only a small garrison controlled Judea and secular history knows of no such monumental preparation for a three-cornered contest of such gigantic proportions!
The Gospel of Barnabas furthermore suggests that Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas went to great pains to prevent the pending holocaust. We find this hard to believe. If indeed the Jews were six hundred thousand strong, Pilate would have been only too delighted to see them decimate one another in a three-cornered contest!
The Gospel of Barnabas also clearly contradicts the Qur'an about the birth of Jesus when it says:
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
Because the Gospel of Barnabas purports to be an account of the life of Jesus written by one of his disciples, and further because it has been clearly composed to synchronise with the Qur'an in its concept of Jesus as a prophet of Islam, the Muslim world has not hesitated to foist this book on the Christian world as the "true Gospel". But we are constrained to ask how this book can be true in Muslim eyes if it contradicts the Qur'an which the Muslims believe to be the Word of God.
In the Gospel of Barnabas we read that Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea both at the time of the birth of Jesus (p.4) and during the time of his ministry thirty years later. Palestine was a particularly difficult trouble-spot for the Romans and no governor was sent there for long - let alone thirty years. We know from history in any event that Pilate was only appointed governor in 27 AD - more than a generation after the birth of Jesus. This is another faux pas - one of many in the pages of this Gospel
Another contradiction between the Gospel of Barnabas and the Qur'an is found in their respective accounts of the end times. According to the Gospel of Barnabas, on the thirteenth day of a fifteen day climax leading to the end of all things, " the heaven shall be rolled up like a book, and it shall rain fire, so that every living thing shall die" (p.70). The Qur'an, however, says of the Last Day:
But when the shout cometh on the day when a man fleeth from his brother and his mother and his father and his wife and his children, every man will have that day concern enough to make him heedless of others. Surah 80.33-37
There is a clear contradiction here. The Gospel of Barnabas states that two days before the end all shall perish but the Qur'an states that men will still be alive until the last day when the trumpet shall sound from heaven. The Muslim world must choose between the Qur'an and the Gospel of Barnabas - no man can sincerely believe that the latter book is a true account of the life of Jesus Christ if he still believes that the Qur'an is the Word of God.
Furthermore according to the Gospel of Barnabas all angels shall die on the last day (p.70) but the Qur'an knows nothing of the death of angels but states that eight of them will bear the Lord's throne on the last day (Surah 69.17). Any Muslim who believes that the Qur'an is the Word of God and any Christian who believes that the Bible is the Word of God must reject the Gospel of Barnabas as a hybrid composition of no literary or religious value at all.
We could go on and produce even further proofs that this book is truly a "bare-faced forgery" as George Sale so succinctly put it but the evidence given in this booklet 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. We shall conclude with a brief study of the likely origin and author of the Gospel of Barnabas from the evidence we possess at the present time.
4. Who Really Composed this Forgery?
There are only two known manuscripts of the Gospel of Barnabas which existed before any copies were made from the texts available to us. The Italian version is in a library today in Vienna whereas only fragments remain of the Spanish version. George Sale, in his comments on the Gospel of Barnabas in his "Preliminary Discourse to the Koran" and a further short preface in his book, speaks of a complete Spanish version in his lifetime which he saw for himself. It appears that the Spanish version may well have been the original one. In the introduction to this version it is claimed that it is a translation of the Italian version but numerous spelling errors in the Italian version - typical of an author using Italian as a second language - certainly show at least that the author was more at home in Spain than Italy. Nevertheless this does not prevent the possibility that someone from Spain tried his hand at composing an original in Italian. This possibility is made all the more real by two considerations.
Firstly, as the author often quotes the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible) and has borrowed many of his stories from the Scriptures, he might well have found it more convenient to use the Italian language medium for his own contrived composition.
Secondly, he might have thought that his book would look far more authentic if it was written in Italian. It would serve to substantiate the introduction of the Spanish version where it was alleged that the Gospel of Barnabas was originally hidden in the Pope's library before it was discovered in rather questionable circumstances by a certain Fra Marine who allegedly became a Muslim after reading it. The Italian text may have been written to give some credence to this story - if the Gospel was to appear in Spain first of all, it would be far more suitable to have it written in the foreign tongue in the land of its alleged origin, rather than in the local dialect. This latter alternative might have cast immediate suspicion on its real origin - especially if an Italian version could not be produced to verify the claim that the original came from Italy.
Certain features, however, substantiate the suggestion that this book was first written in Spain by a Spaniard, no matter what language he originally wrote it in. The Gospel of Barnabas makes Jesus say:
'For he who would get in change a piece of gold must have sixty mites'. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.71).
The Italian version divides the golden "denarius" into sixty "minuti". These coins were actually of Spanish origin during the pre-Islamic Visigothic period and openly betray a Spanish background to the original Gospel of Barnabas.
No one knows who actually wrote the Gospel of Barnabas but what is known, without shadow of doubt, is that whoever it was, it most certainly was not the Apostle Barnabas. It was most probably a Muslim in Spain who, possibly the victim of the reconquest of his country, decided to take private revenge by composing a false Gospel under the assumed name of Barnabas to give his obnoxious forgery some measure of apparent authenticity. He probably first composed the Italian script to maintain this appearance of genuineness but simultaneously composed (or arranged for such a translation) a Spanish version for distribution in his own country. He may well have been the notorious Fra Marine (or Fra Martino) or he may have been the translator Mustafa de Aranda, or indeed he may well have been both - using the two names for the same expedient ends as those he sought to achieve through using the name of Barnabas as the author of his book. He most certainly was someone far more at home in Spain in the Middle Ages rather than in Palestine at the time of Jesus Christ.
A recent book, gives a thoroughly researched presentation of the history of the text of the Gospel of Barnabas in comparison with certain developments in the Roman Catholic Church at the time of Pope Sixtus V and suggests the possibility (already suggested by others) that Fra Marino, the supposed discoverer of the Gospel in the Pope's library, was himself the author of the book. The writer begins by saying "there is considerable evidence that we are dealing with an Italian author" (Sox, The Gospel of Barnabas, p. 65), and he goes on to outline the actual history of the real Fra Marino who at one time had close contact with Fra Peretti (who later became Pope Sixtus V) and was a key figure in the Inquisition. He simultaneously quotes a strikingly coincidental note in the preface to the Spanish version of the Gospel not quoted by Sale where the Fra Marino who "discovered" the Gospel was said to be "in the office of defining papal cases and had a hand in the inquisition" (op. cit., p. 65).
The real Fra Marino, although a companion of Peretti during his pre-papal days, fell into disfavour with him as a result of certain questionable practices in his administration as an inquisitor. As a result, although Peretti went on from one post to another until he obtained the papacy, Marino was deprived of further advancement. His fate at Peretti's hand may have led him to compose the Gospel of Barnabas as an act of jealousy with the purpose of undermining his integrity particularly if, as is possible (although there is no evidence of this), he himself converted to Islam. The introductory statement that he had found the original Gospel of Barnabas concealed in the Pope's library strengthens this possibility considerably.
Almost every analyst of Barnabas has noted the motive of revenge against Sixtus V in the writing of the gospel. There are many portions of the work which can be read as slaps at the hierarchy. The author speaks of 'True Pharisees' in opposition to the false ones which read like assaults on his contemporaries. (Sox, The Gospel of Barnabas, p. 68).
The author himself comes to no definite conclusion regarding the authorship of the Gospel but his research suggests very strongly that Fra Marino was somehow involved in its authorship. It does seem that Sox's work has probably pinpointed the likely environment of the origin of the Gospel of Barnabas (Catholic Italy) and the time of its compilation (the sixteenth century). We will probably never know precisely what the origin of the Gospel really was but there is abundant evidence to show what it most certainly is not - an authentic contemporary record of the life of Jesus Christ compiled by the Apostle Barnabas.
Whatever the Gospel of Barnabas may claim to be, whatever it may appear to be, whatever the Muslim world would like it to be, a general study of its contents and authorship shows that it is a poor attempt to forge a life of Jesus consonant with the profile of Jesus in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition. The Muslim world will do well to reject this book as a clear forgery - for that is what it unmistakably proves to be.
Other contradictions between "Barnabas" and the Qur'an:
1) According to "Barnabas", man is endowed with a free will (164). On the contrary, man only does what Allah wills him to do (Quran - 76:30, 37:96, 17:13, 10:99-100).
2) Adam was not the first man circumcised (23). Abraham was.
3) the Quran follows the Mosaic law of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth", whereas "Barnabas" says " ye shall not overcome evil with evil, but rather with good" (81). "Woe unto them that call for vengeance ..." (63). " kiss the hand of those who revile thee, and present gifts to those who persecute thee and strike thee much" (64).
4) the Quran approves of the teaching of abrogation. "Barnabas" condemns it (38).
5) the Quran condemns eating pork but "Barnabas" says "that which entereth into the man defileth not the man, but that which cometh out of the man defileth the man" (32).
6) Stranger is the statement of "Barnabas" that the high priest wished "to bow himself down and worship Jesus ..." (93). The high priest, it will be remembered, was the chief enemy of Jesus and one of his accusers who condemned Jesus because Jesus used to convict the high priests of hypocrisy.
Bibliography -- Books and Articles:
Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf - The Gospel of Barnabas. (3rd Edition, with introduction). (Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf, Karachi, Pakistan, 1974).
Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf - The Gospel of Barnabas. (6th Edition, with appendix). (Bawany Islamic Literature Trust Ltd., Karachi, Pakistan, 1977).
Durrani, M H - Forgotten Gospel of St Barnabas. (International Islamic Publishers, Karachi, Pakistan. 1982).
Durrani, M H - In Defence of Gospel of St Barnabas. (Muslim Digest, April 1975, Durban, South Africa).
Gairdner, W H T and Abdul-Ahad, S - The Gospel of Barnabas - An Essay and Enquiry. (Henry Martyn Institute of Islamic Studies, Hyderabad, India, 1975).
Gilchrist, J D - The Gospel of Barnabas - Is this "The Amazing Truth''? Or is it a "Bare-faced Forgery"? (Jesus to the Muslims, Benoni, South Africa, 1976).
Jadeed, I - The Gospel of Barnabas: A False Testimony. (The Good Way, Rikon, Switzerland. 1980).
Kritzinger, J N J - A Critical Study of the Gospel of Barnabas. (Benoni, South Africa, 1979).
Kritzinger, J N J - The Gospel of Barnabas Carefully Examined. (Pretoria, South Africa, 1975).
Peerbhai, A - Missing Documents from Gospel of Barnabas. (Islamic Institute, Durban, South Africa, 1967).
Peerbhai, A - World Seminar on the Gospel of Barnabas. (Al-Jihaad International Islamic Movement. Cape Town, South Africa, 1975).
Ragg, L and L - The Gospel of Barnabas. (Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, 1907).
Rahim, M A - The Gospel of Barnabas. (Qur'an Council of Pakistan, Karachi, Pakistan, 1973).
Slomp, J - Pseudo-Barnabas in the Context of Muslim-Christian Apologetics. (Christian Study Centre, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 1974).
Slomp, J - The Gospel in Dispute. (Pontifico Institute Di Studi Arabi, Rome, Italy, 1978).
Slomp, J - The Pseudo-Gospel of Barnabas. (Bulletin, Secretariatus pro non Christianis. Citta del Vaticano, 1976).
Sox, D - The Gospel of Barnabas. (George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London. England. 1984).
Wadood, A C A - The Holy Prophet Foretold by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of St Barnabas. (Ceylon Muslim Missionary Society, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1973).