Thursday, 30 January 2014

Appendix I: The Prophet and the Prophets

By Anthony Rogers

The Prophets

In its grammatical-historical context, Deuteronomy 18 doesn’t directly predict the coming of one specific individual, at least not in the way that many people surmise.

Whereas Deuteronomy 18 speaks of a “prophet”, singular, the grammatical-contextual usage, in full harmony with the exigencies of Israel’s historical situation, indicates that the word is being used in a collective or distributive rather than in a simple sense, and therefore points not to just one person but to many prophets or an entire order of prophets. In other words, the prophecy/promise of Deuteronomy 18 is about the prophetic office, and is, at least initially, as will be shown, fulfilled in the case of Joshua, Moses’ immediate successor, as well as the long train of Hebrew prophets that God would raise up after him, from Samuel to John the Baptist.

The Modern Consensus
As Driver and Kaiser, both quoted later, point out, this view is held by the overwhelming number of modern commentators, whether Jewish, Christian, or otherwise. The following quotes are some representative examples of this:

According to the Jewish Study Bible:
A prophet, while grammatically singular, is distributive in its meaning: “
I will repeatedly raise up for you a prophet.More than one prophet is clearly intended.2 (Italics in original)

Christian scholar Tremper Longman III (Ph.D.), professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, said:

Deuteronomy 18:15-22
announces that God will raise up a prophet like Moses for the people of Israel. While the expectation is expressed in terms of a singular prophet, this singular is rightly understood as a collective singular since the people’s request for a mediating spokesperson that leads to this promise is a constant need. In other words, Deuteronomy 18 understood within its ancient context may be perfectly explainable in terms of the rise of the prophetic movement and prophets like Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and so on.3

Scholar Gerhard von Rad, a prominent twentieth century advocate of the “tradition-historical” approach to the Old Testament, said:
The comprehensive law concerning the prophets is quite clearly arranged: it deals first in verses 9-14 with mantic practices, which were not permissible, then positively with the office of a prophet itself, actually founded at Sinai (vv. 15-18), and finally with disobedience to the prophet’s word and with possible corruption of the prophet’s office itself (vv. 19-22).4 (Italics mine)

The Textual and Historical Evidence
This understanding is confirmed by the historical context, which is the impending death of Moses, something that naturally raised the question of how Israel was going to hear from God, since Moses was God’s chosen mouth-piece. The death of Moses would create a prophetic vacuum, and this would be of immediate concern to God’s people, not simply to a generation of Jews who would be living two-thousand years in the future, when Jesus came, or five centuries after that in Arabia, when Muhammad is believed to have existed.

As the verses preceding the promise indicate, rather than leave Israel to the sort of devices seized upon by pagans in their futile efforts to discern the divine will, God instituted the prophetic order:

When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For those nations which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so. The LORD your God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him… (Deuteronomy 18:9-15)

The following commentary catches the drift of this:

The insertion of this promise [i.e. “
The Lord thy God shall raise up unto thee a prophet], in connection with the preceding prohibition, might warrant the application which some make of it, to that order of true prophets whom God commissioned in unbroken succession to instruct, to direct, and warn His people; and in this view the purport of it is, “There is no need to consult with diviners and soothsayers, as I shall afford you the benefit of divinely-appointed prophets, for judging of whose credentials a sure criterion is given” (vs. 20-22).5

The verses immediately following the promise point up the collective nature of this as well, for they speak of the need to test and reject “a prophet” if he speaks presumptuously, i.e. without divine authority:

But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ ‘When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

This test, along with the one provided in Deuteronomy 13, was obviously given to ferret out any and all false prophets, not just one special or particular false prophet.

Finally, it is evident from Deuteronomy itself that the promise was already being fulfilled in at least an initial sense in the raising up of another prophet to replace Moses as the leader of the people of Israel. This comes acutely to the fore in Deuteronomy 31 and 34 and also can be seen in Joshua chapter 1.

So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them, "I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, 'You shall not cross this Jordan.' It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken. "The LORD will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them." The LORD will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you He will not fail you or forsake you." Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance." The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." ….Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, the time for you to die is near; call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him." So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. The LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent….Then Hecommissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you." (Deuteronomy 31:1-8, 14-15, 23)
Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants'; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated. So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. NowJoshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:1-9)

Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, "Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:1-9)

The leading facts demonstrating Joshua to be a prophet “like Moses” are:

- God Himself chose Joshua to replace Moses
- God commissioned Joshua as Moses’ successor
- Moses laid his hands on Joshua, which is an act of identification and transfer of authority
- The same promises originally made to Moses are given to Joshua
- The work initiated by Moses is to be completed by Joshua

Several other facts serve to identify Joshua in this regard as well. For example,

Even as Moses’ mission begins with a theophany, an appearance of the Malakh Yahweh, who tells Moses to take off his sandals, “for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3), so Joshua’s mission also begins with a theophany, and he is likewise told to remove the sandals from his feet (Joshua 5).

Even as Moses spear-headed the deliverance of Israel from Egypt attended by signs and wonders, so Joshua successfully led the people to take possession of the land of Canaan attended by signs and wonders similar in some cases to those performed under Moses.

For an example of one such sign/wonder, at Joshua’s behest the people of Israel cross the Jordan River on dry ground, it having been stopped up by the Lord, a fact that is reminiscent of the Red-Sea crossing under Moses:

For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4:23-24).

Other points of correspondence between Moses and Joshua can be found at almost every turn, just as many points of correspondence can be found between Moses and all the other prophets who came after him. All of this serves to show that Moses was the exemplar of an entire order of prophets, and that this is part and parcel of what is being spoken of in Deuteronomy 18.

The Prophet
The Modern Witness
Yet, as many have rightly pointed out, the foregoing does not mean that there is no indication in Deuteronomy 18 of the coming of a particular prophet who would be uniquely like Moses. This, too, has been recognized by many modern commentators.

And so, for example, Samuel Rolles Driver, after saying,

The exclusively Messianic reference of v. 15-18, adopted by many of the older expositors (cf. Acts 3:22ff, 7:37), is inconsistent with the context; and has been deservedly abandoned by the great majority of modern commentators and theologians… The promised prophet is to meet a continuous and permanent need of the people, after they are settled in Canaan (v. 9): he is to supersede the necessity either of God’s addressing Israel directly Himself (v. 16-18), or of Israel’s having recourse, like their neighbors, to the arts of divination (v. 14f.); and a criterion is even added enabling the Israelites to distinguish the true prophet from the false (v. 21f). The argument of the passage shows that the “prophet” contemplated is not a single individual, belonging to a distant future, butMoses representative for the time being, whose office it would be to supply Israel, whenever in its history occasion should arise, with needful guidance and advice: in other words, that the reference is not to an individual prophet, but to a prophetical order. The existence of such an order in Israel, forming a permanent channel of revelation, was, of course, a signal mark of distinction between Israel and other nations of antiquity.

Goes on to say,

At the same time the terms of the description are such that it may be reasonably understood as including a reference to the ideal prophet, Who should be “like” Moses in a preeminent degree, in whom the line of individual prophets should culminate, and Who should exhibit the characteristics of the prophet in their fullest perfection (so Hengst., Keil, Espin, al.).
6 (Emphasis in original)

As well, F. C. Cook said:
In fact, in the words before us, Moses gives promise both of a prophetic order, and of the Messiah in particular as its chief; of a line of prophets culminating in one eminent individual. And in proportion as we see in our Lord the characteristics of the Prophet most perfectly exhibited, so must we regard the promise of Moses as in Him most completely accomplished.

The Textual and Historical Evidence
The fact that the prophecy is to be understood in a collective sense does not rule out reference to a particular prophet, especially for those who hold the Messianic interpretation, for the very sufficient reason that many of the Messianic predictions of the Old Testament, e.g. those pertaining to the promised seed, i.e. Genesis 3:15, 22:18, etc. (cf. Galatians 3:16), do so in this very way. As Walter Kaiser said:

The key interpretive crux, however, is whether the term nabi, "prophet," is a collective singular or a simple singular. Does it refer to the institution of the prophetic order, or to an individual prophet? Jewish and most recent commentators regard the term "prophet" in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 as a collective and generic term. This, of course, must be admitted, for the context of Deuteronomy 17-18 speaks of classes or groups of leaders such as the priests and Levites. However, most of the previous Old Testament messianic prophecies are generic and collective in nature. And the context definitely favors an individual prophet in that the prophet is not only represented as coming out of Israel, but is compared to the individual Moses. Presumably, therefore, he too will be an individual. Therefore, this passage at once provides for a whole order, or institution of prophets, while it incorporates within that same seminal thought the provision for one who would be the representative of all of [sic] prophets par excellence....

Furthermore, the very fact that the passage uses the singular, collective though it may be, is surely significant; for whereas a plural form would rule out reference to an individual altogether, the use of the singular at least allows for it. As O. Palmer Robertson said:

The use of singular “prophet,” while not in itself sufficient for expecting one prophetic figure uniquely like Moses, allows this possibility much more than would a plural form, in which it would be difficult to suppose a reference to a singular prophetic figure that God would raise up in the future.

With these considerations out of the way, the following are among the many reasons why the collective use of the noun in Deuteronomy 18 is rightly understood to include within it a reference to a specific prophet.

1) Although the noun is being used collectively, it does so in an otherwise peculiar way. The use of collective nouns usually alternate back and forth between both singular and plural forms, but the word prophet, used here in Deuteronomy 18, always takes a singular form. The Semitic philologist and Biblical expositor E. W. Hengstenberg points this out in the following words:

“… the Hebrew word employed is always used in the singular, and with singular suffixes, whereas in the case of collective nouns, it is usual to interchange the singular and the plural … the word does not occur elsewhere as a collective noun, nor are the prophets anywhere spoken of in the manner alleged [in Deuteronomy 18].”

If the divine intention was at once to point to the prophetic order and also to a specific prophet, then the above oddity goes away.
2) The fact that the word “prophet”, in both instances where it occurs (vs. 15 and 18), is put in the emphatic position, before the verb in Hebrew, would seem to indicate that more is afoot than just referring to many prophets, and that a preeminent, individual prophet may also be in view.

3) According to the inspired, prophetic-redactor of Deuteronomy 34, probably Joshua or Samuel, no prophet ever exhausted or filled up the measure of Mosaic-likeness, not even Joshua himself, directly commissioned though he was by Moses.

One of the same passages quoted earlier, about the death of Moses, and Joshua succeeding him as the prophet-leader of God’s people, concludes in this wise:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

This passage highlights two of the ways in which Moses was utterly unique from all other prophets: first, that he knew God “face to face”, a figure that is explained in greater detail in Numbers 12; and second, that he publicly displayed the mighty power of God as no other, as may be seen by reading the entire book of Exodus.

And so, for as much as Joshua and the prophets who came after him may be seen as fulfilling in some way the prediction of Deuteronomy 18, none of them can claim to fill up the full measure of what is in view, each of them being more like the shadow of what God promised then the reality itself.

4) Whether or not the collective sense was always understood, the relevance of the passage to a specific, archetypical prophetic figure was readily understood by both Jews and Christians in antiquity, as is borne out by the New Testament (e.g. John 1:19-21, 6:14-15, 7:40; Acts 322-26: and 7:35-37), as well as early rabbinic and patristic sources.

5) The case for recognizing Jesus as the fulfillment of this prediction, as
part two of this series contends, also argues in favor of viewing the passage as a reference to a specific individual.


So, the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18 clearly indicates that God would send many prophets to the Jewish nation, and also that he would send one specific prophet to be the culmination of them all.

[But this means, in so far as this was a uniquely Israelite institution and office, that not only would each prophet necessarily be of Jewish stock – as indeed we also know to be the case from other lines of evidence that derive from Deuteronomy 18, not to mention from a survey of Israel’s history – but so would the prophet, as the head and culmination of the institution itself, the archetype and end to which all the prophets pointed, be of Jewish stock as well. The same parameters that circumscribe the passage in its collective reference to the prophetic order also circumscribe the passage when it comes to pointing to an individual who will fulfill the prophecy to the hilt. If the prophets were to be Israelites – and, again, we know on independent grounds, both exegetically and in hindsight, that they were – then so necessarily would the prophet be an Israelite.]

1 This is especially true of Muslim apologists, who, in their haste to make Deuteronomy 18 a prophecy about Muhammad, neglect the duty of careful exegesis.
2 This source is available online: here.
3 Stanley E. Porter, ed., “The Messiah: Exploration in the Law and Writings,” The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), p. 28. This source is available online, see here.
4 Von Rad, Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press, 1966), p. 122-123. Available online: here.
5 A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Vol. 1 (Hartford: The S. S. Scranton Company, n.d.), p. 133
6 Rev. Samuel Rolles Driver, The International Critical Commentary: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy, Vol. 5 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), p. 228-229; for online source, see here.
7 F. C. Cook, gen. ed., The Bible Commentary, Exodus – Ruth, abridged and edited by J. M. Fuller (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, [1953], 1980) p. 307
8 The source of this citation is from the following: here. For Kaiser’s fuller treatment, consult hisMessiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p. 57ff., which is part of the Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology series.
9 O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2004), p. 59
10 E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, [1847], 1970), p. 54-55. Incidentally, the reader may be interested to know that Hengstenberg’s dissertation for the Doctor of Laws degree, which demonstrated his competence as a Semitic philologist, and also showed that his competence in this area ranged well beyond Hebrew, was a Latin translation of the Arabic Moallakat (or Mu'allaqat) of Amrulkeisi/Amrulkais (alt., Amru’lQais or Imru'l Qais). For more on Imru'l Qais, see here.



Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Submitted to a Medieval Forgery, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1

Seventh, the medieval Gospel of Barnabas is much better than the Islamic scripture with regard to the prediction of Mohammad’s prophetic ministry. In the entire Qur’an, there is only one verse in which Jesus allegedly predicts Mohammad’s advent:

And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the PraisedOne. Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic. (Surah 61:6 Pickthall)

This verse, which belongs to the late Medina period of the Qur’an, seems a bit troublesome for a few reasons. Although the adjective occurring in this verse corresponds to the name Ahmad in Arabic and thus links the supposed prophecy with Mohammad due to the similarities between the Arabic names Ahmad and Mohammad, the statement supposedly uttered by Jesus addresses the Jewish community. Accordingly, the reader may get the impression that Ahmad will be sent to Israel because Jesus appeals primarily to the Israelites. However, Mohammad claimed to be a prophet primarily sent to Mecca in Arabia. Further, Jesus’ alleged prediction seems to draw a parallelism between the Torah and Ahmad, for Jesus claims to stand between the Torah and Ahmad and represent present time whilst Torah represents the past and Ahmad the future. Consequently, Ahmad is expected to come to Israel in the same way as the Torah and Jesus.

Keeping this problem aside, Muslim scholars rushed to search for some verses in the New Testament that could possibly confirm Jesus’ prediction in the Qur’an verse. The only Gospel they could abuse for the sake of verifying the Islamic allegations was the one written by John the Apostle. Jesus’ farewell discourse in John 14-16 became the subject of a lackluster controversy between Islamic scholars and Christian apologists since the former focused on Jesus’ promise of a Comforter and astonishingly concluded that the promised Comforter was Mohammad:

“If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you
another Advocate to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)

Even though the description of the Advocate (Comforter/Counselor) in the above verse as an eternal spirit rather than a human being brings the Islamic assertions to naught, Muslim scholars argue that the Greek word for “advocate” is Parakletos, which is very similar to Periklytos, the Greek equivalent of the name “Ahmad”. The supposition that the writers of the Qur’an insisted on identifying Mohammad as Ahmad because they were aware of the similarities between the Greek word for advocate and for “the praised one” and thus aimed to raise doubts concerning the promise in John’s Gospel cannot be dismissed altogether. However, the context of the verse in the 61st chapter of the Islamic scripture denies any such affiliation and reduces the issue to coincidence. In John’s Gospel Jesus promises the Comforter only to His followers in return for their faith in and love for Him whereas in the Qur’an Jesus promises Ahmad to all the Israelites during His prophetic ministry, disregarding the condition of belief in Him for Ahmad’s advent. This difference turns the Islamic assertions into a legend having no basis in the New Testament.

The writer of the medieval Gospel of Barnabas, on the other hand, is not pleased with the cryptic and vague prediction of Mohammad’s name in the Qur’an verse. Therefore, he repeats his basic strategy with regard to Mohammad’s prediction by overtly distorting the Gospels and implicitly correcting and ameliorating the Islamic scripture. The outcome of this habitual perversion is the new teaching that Jesus is not the Messiah, but His forerunner. Pseudo Barnabas attributes all the statements originally uttered by John the Baptist in John’s Gospel to Jesus in his forgery, replacing John the Forerunner with Jesus in the canonical writings. For instance, the account below is the altered version of John’s Gospel 1:19-27:

Then the disciples wept after this discourse, and Jesus was weeping, when they saw many who came to find him, for the chiefs of the priests took counsel among themselves to catch him in his talk. Wherefore they sent the Levites and some of the scribes to question him, saying: "Who are you? Jesus confessed, and said the truth: "I am not the Messiah." They said: "Are you Elijah or Jeremiah, or any of the ancient prophets?" Jesus answered: "No." Then said they: "Who are you? Say, in order that we may give testimony to those who sent us." Then Jesus said: "I am a voice that cries through all Judea, and cries: "Prepare you the way for the messenger of the Lord," even as it is written in Esaias." They said: "If you be not the Messiah nor Elijah, or any prophet, wherefore do you preach new doctrine, and make yourself of more account than the Messiah?" Jesus answered: "The miracles which God works by my hands show that I speak that which God wills; nor indeed do I make myself to be accounted as him of whom you speak. For I am not worthy to unloose the ties of the hosen or the ratchets of the shoes of the Messenger of God whom you call "Messiah," who was made before me, and shall come after me, and shall bring the words of truth, so that his faith shall have no end." (Gospel of Barnabas 42:1-3)

Fake Barnabas’ manipulation of the original narrative necessitates the deletion of John the Baptist from his own history and gospel. The Gospel of Barnabas seemingly corrects the Qur’an too and saves it from the problems caused by the occurrence of John’s name in it as Jesus the Messiah’s forerunner:

Then Zachariah prayed unto his Lord and said: My Lord! Bestow upon me of Thy bounty goodly offspring. Lo! Thou art the Hearer of Prayer. And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) John, (who cometh) to confirm a word from Allah lordly, chaste, a prophet of the righteous. (Surah 3:38-39 Pickthall)

And remember) when the angels said: 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, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). (Surah 3:45 Pickthall)

The fact that the Qur’an says nothing about John’s prophetic ministry and does not relate the fulfillment of the divine promise that he will confirm Jesus is a big problem for Muslim scholars.
10. More to the point, Jesus’ alleged prediction in the 6th verse of the 61st chapter would perfectly solve this problem if Jesus’ name were simply changed to John’s. This was because John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah and predicted His coming to Israel. More interestingly, the structure of the Qur’an verse looks like the perversion of the Baptist’s testimony to Jesus in John’s Gospel:

On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one about whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is greater than I am, because he existed before me. (John 1:29-30)

In the canonical account John the Forerunner says that Jesus was before him and came after him. This is similar to Jesus’ defining Himself in the Qur’an verse as a man between the Torah and Ahmad. Last of all, the statement in the Qur’an verse following Jesus’ prediction is more applicable to Jesus than to Mohammad:

And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the Praised One. Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic. (Surah 61:6)

In another Qur’an verse Jesus’ miracles are enumerated and the Israelites are accused of considering Jesus’ work mere magic:

When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and thou didst heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how thou didst raise the dead by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) thee when thou camest unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is naught else than mere magic. (Surah 5:110 Pickthall)

In the light of this verse it is more reasonable to think that the person predicted as a prophet in Surah 61:6 was Jesus rather than Ahmad because Jesus went to the Israelites and performed many miracles, all of which were called mere magic by the Israelites. Mohammad neither went to Israel nor performed any miracles. This supports the idea that the writers of the Qur’an started a chain of mistakes when they transformed John the Baptist into Jesus while trying to claim that Mohammad was prophesied by Jesus. The result of this mistake is not only a verse with an awkward structure, but also the sudden disappearance of John’s ministry and testimony from the Qur’an.

Pseudo Barnabas does not repeat the mistakes of the authors of the Qur’an, but goes ahead to correct and improve the Islamic scripture by simply turning Jesus into John the Forerunner and Mohammad into the promised Messiah.

Additionally, Pseudo Barnabas objects to the cryptic presentation of Mohammad’s name as Ahmad in the Qur’an. In order to clear all the doubts and convince Christians that Jesus uttered the name Mohammad, fake Barnabas refers to the Islamic messenger’s personal name. For instance:

Then said the priest: "How shall the Messiah be called, and what sign shall reveal his coming?” Jesus answered: "The name of the Messiah is admirable, for God himself gave him the name when he had created his soul, and placed it in a celestial splendour. God said: "Wait Muhammad; for your sake I will to create paradise, the world, and a great multitude of creatures, whereof I make you a present, insomuch that whoever shall bless you shall be blessed, and whoever shall curse you shall be accursed. When I shall send you into the world I shall send you as my Messenger of salvation, and your word shall be true, insomuch that heaven and earth shall fail, but your faith shall never fail." Muhammad is his blessed name." Then the crowd lifted up their voices, saying: "O God send us your Messenger: O Muhammad, come quickly for the salvation of the world!" (Gospel of Barnabas 97:6)

Finally, some Muslim scholars love and praise the Gospel of Barnabas because they know that its writer forged it to save Islam from the trouble and burden of looking for a ghost-like book that was supposedly revealed by Allah to Jesus. Being aware of the fact that such a book never existed in history, Pseudo Barnabas decided to write that kind of a book himself and gave hope and joy to the Muslims who had become desperate after seeing that their prayers and implorations to Allah for the discovery of Jesus’ original Gospel had fallen on deaf ears. When fake Barnabas witnessed this Islamic despair, he decided to interfere and help Muslims by forging a Gospel and ascribing it to Jesus. Relevantly, fake Barnabas named his forgery the “true Gospel of Jesus” right in its first sentence:

True Gospel of Jesus, called Christ, a new prophet sent by God to the world: according to the description of Barnabas his apostle. (Prologue to the Italian manuscript)

In order to present his writing as the true Gospel of Jesus, pseudo Barnabas did not forget to consolidate the supposed authenticity of his forgery by putting the following words into Jesus’ mouth just before His ascension:

Jesus turned himself to him who writes, and said: "Barnabas, see that by all means you write my gospel concerning all that has happened through my dwelling in the world. And write in a similar manner that which has befallen Judas, in order that the faithful may be undeceived, and every one may believe the truth." (Gospel of Barnabas 221:1)

Clearly, spurious Barnabas preferred adapting the Islamic concept of the Gospel to the purely Christian understanding when he endorsed the idea that Gospel (Injil in Arabic) is not the name of a book given to Jesus from above, but the good news written by Jesus’ disciples who wanted to give testimony to His words and acts. This he did by being sure of the fact that the Islamic definition of the word “Gospel” would add nothing good to Islam and the Qur’an.


Submission to the medieval forgery named the Gospel of Barnabas is still common among Muslims no matter how many books are published to prove that the medieval forgery ascribed to Apostle Barnabas has several discrepancies with the Qur’an and contains gross examples of anachronism. In this paper I have tried to reckon the major reasons for the Islamic submission to the medieval Gospel of Barnabas and compared this forgery with both the Qur’an and the canonical Christian scripture.

The answer to the question WHY Muslims submit themselves to the Gospel of Pseudo Barnabas reveals the mistakes and deficiencies of the Qur’an on the basis of the perversion of the Christian scripture for its adaptation to Mohammad’s teachings. Of the two scriptures that aim to distort the Holy Bible, the Gospel of Barnabas is much better in form and content than the Qur’an as it serves to correct the mistakes of the Islamic scripture with the help of the traditional Islamic teachings and commentaries unknown to Mohammad. In short, the medieval Gospel of Barnabas can be considered a corrected and improved version of the Qur’an.

Fake Barnabas’ zeal to replace Jesus the Messiah, an Israelite, with Mohammad, an Arab, is manifested in his forgery in the form of a supposed enmity and conflict between the Israelites and Ishmaelites. Since spurious Barnabas believes that Mohammad is a descendant of Ishmael (an Ishmaelite), he modifies some of the canonical accounts as a result of his will to present Ishmael’s descendants as the counterpart of the Samaritans in the original Gospels. For example:

Now on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance, raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went along, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He fell with his face to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. (Now he was a Samaritan.) Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to turn back and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to the man, “Get up and go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-18)

Having finished his devotions Jesus came down from the mountain with his disciples, and met ten lepers, who from afar off cried out: "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus called them near to him, and said to them: "What will you of me, O brethren?" They all cried out: "Give us health!" Jesus answered: "Ah, wretched that you are, have you so lost your reason for that you say: "Give us health?" See you not me to be a man like yourselves. Call to our God that has created you: and he that is almighty and merciful will heal you. With tears the lepers answered: "We know that you are man like us, but yet an holy one of God and a prophet of the Lord; wherefore pray you to God, and he will heal us. Thereupon the disciples prayed Jesus, saying: "Lord, have mercy upon them." Then groaned Jesus and prayed to God, saying: "Lord God almighty and merciful, have mercy and hearken to the words of your servant: and for love of Abraham our father and for your holy covenant have mercy on the request of these men, and grant them health." Whereupon Jesus, having said this, turned himself to the lepers and said: "Go and show yourselves to the priests according to the Law of God." The lepers departed, and on the way were cleansed. Whereupon one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned to find Jesus, and he was an Ishmaelite. And having found Jesus he bowed himself, doing reverence to him, and saying: "Truly you are an holy one of God" and with thanks he prayed him that he would receive him for servant. Jesus answered: "Ten have been cleansed; where are the nine?" And he said to him that was cleansed: "I am not come to be served, but to serve; O wherefore go to your home, and recount how much God has done in you, in order that they may know that the promises made to Abraham and his son, with the kingdom of God, are drawing nigh." The cleansed leper departed, and having arrived in his own neighbourhood recounted how much God through Jesus had wrought in him. (Gospel of Barnabas 19:3-5)

Obviously, spurious Barnabas does not only change the Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel into an Ishmaelite in his, but also binds this modification to his basic argument concerning the identity of Abraham’s son to whom the promises were made. The Qur’an, however, never makes the claim that God’s promises were made in Ishmael or that God tested Abraham through Ishmael. This is mainly because the writers of the Qur’an found another way of making an association between Ishmael and Mohammad. Instead of basing his theories on a racial affinity, Mohammad asserted that Abraham and Ishmael had been to Mecca and constructed the Cube. The insertion of this allegation into the Islamic scripture illustrates Mohammad’s desire to narrate the so-called construction of the Cube by Abraham and Ishmael as hard evidence not only for the sanctity of the cube and the rituals of pilgrimage, but also for the veracity of his prophetic ministry:

And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower. Our Lord! And make us submissive unto Thee and of our seed a nation submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and relent toward us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful. Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Thy revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, Wise. And who forsaketh the religion of Abrahamsave him who befooleth himself? Verily We chose him in the world, and lo! in the Hereafter he is among the righteous.
(Surah 2:127-130 Pickthall)

Since spurious Barnabas was unaware of these Qur’an verses, he talked of neither Mecca nor the Cube in his forgery.


1 Several articles analyzing the forgery named "Gospel of Barnabas" can be found here.
2 All the references come from the Gospel of Barnabas on R. Blackhirst's website (*), the English translation having been made by Canon L. Ragg in 1907.
3 The high priest's statements here remind Jesus of His previous confession and revelation of His identity, which is narrated in chapters 92-93.
4 Surah 2, 4, 5, 21, 23, 43, 57 and 61. Most of these references appear in the form of repetitions and pairs.
5 This summary recurs in the 5th Surah with slight variations, forming another pair with the verse in Surah 3.
6 For example, this article discusses at length how the Quranic narratives about Jesus and His mother in Surah 19 came into existence.
7 This article examines the errors of the Qur'an concerning the Christian Trinity.
8 This is one of the several articles that discuss and respond to the Islamic claims on the identity of Abraham's son.
9 This topic is further discussed in the Appendix.
10 On this problem, see the article here.
11 It is highly disputable if the content of the medieval Gospel of Barnabas is compatible with the Christian definition of the word “Gospel” - good news - though. This is primarily because fake Barnabas’ assertions concerning the distortion of Jesus’ teachings have nothing to do with the concepts of joy and glad tidings.



Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Submitted to a Medieval Forgery, Part 1

Masud Masihiyyen

Say: “We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was forged by fake Barnabas. We definitely make a distinction between our scripture and the scripture fabricated by a supposed Muslim as we consider the Gospel of Barnabas better and worthier than the Qur’an.”

It is quite baffling to see some Muslims believe in the Gospel of Barnabas although this particular Gospel was proven to be a forgery1 and to overtly contradict several teachings of the Islamic Scripture. This is why it is a matter of wonder that some Muslims insist on using the fraud named “the Gospel of Barnabas” in their theological and historical debates with Christians. What could be the source of this unconditional Muslim love for this fake document dating back only to the Middle Ages and containing obvious mistakes? In order to answer this question and thus solve the mystery of some Muslim scholars’ adherence to the Gospel of Pseudo Barnabas at the expense of their Islamic creed, we should make a comparison between the allegations and teachings of the fake Gospel of Barnabas and those of the Qur’an. This comparative analysis will lead us to the reasons underlying many Muslims’ baffling reliance on a forgery and in a text unauthorized by the Qur’an.

Some Muslims submit themselves to the fake Gospel of Barnabas because they know that this text is the only document to support their allegations concerning the authenticity of the canonical Gospels and of the basic Christian tenets. In this respect, it is possible to say that the Islamic scripture fails to provide any evidence for the assertion that Isa (Jesus) of the Qur’an was but a messenger of Allah sent to the house of Israel and taught the Islamic creed six centuries before Mohammad. The fallacious contention that the Qur’an itself sufficed to prove what it claimed with regard to the condition of the former religions and scriptures had caused much trouble and stress for Islamic scholars, who were not taken seriously because of their erroneous argument that the assertion of the claimant should be considered equal to evidence. The Gospel of Barnabas meant a unique gift and blessing for such Muslim scholars because it was presented as an additional piece of evidence illustrating the supposed corruption of the New Testament. This makes it partly understandable why some Muslim scholars became willing to defend and propagate a religious text that contradicted their Qur’an in both form and content: the fake Gospel of Barnabas – far from perfection though – backed up Islam and came to represent a book without which some teachings of the Qur’an remained weak and lacked testimony.

Moreover, Pseudo Barnabas was careful and intelligent enough not to repeat the statements about the former revelations in the Qur’an, which had bothered Muslim scholars by giving birth to controversies between Muslims and Jews/Christians with regard to the confirmation of the Holy Bible by the Islamic scripture. Interestingly, the writers of the Qur’an taught that Allah revealed the final scripture to confirm and support the Holy Bible. For instance:

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. (Surah 10:94 Pickthall)

He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. (Surah 3:3 Pickthall)

Let the People of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are evil-livers. And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. (Surah 5:47-48 Pickthall)

Say O People of the Scripture! Ye have naught (of guidance) till ye observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto you from your Lord. (Surah 5:68 Pickthall)

These remarks in the Qur’an are problematic for many Muslim scholars; for they disregard the discrepancies between the Islamic and Judeo-Christian scriptures and state that the Qur’an came not to correct or replace, but to confirm and preserve the Bible. Being aware of this problem and crisis, Pseudo Barnabas sided with later Muslim scholars and supported their allegations by putting into Jesus’ mouth the claim that the Bible had to be corrupted for the revelation of the Qur’an:

Jesus answered: "Everything that conforms to the Book of Moses, that receive you for true; seeing that God is one, the truth is one; whence it follows that the doctrine is one and the meaning of the doctrine is one; and therefore the faith is one. Truly I say to you that if the truth had not been erased from the Book of Moses, God would not have given to David our father the second. And if the book of David had not been contaminated, God would not have committed the Gospel to me; seeing that the Lord our God is unchangeable, and has spoken but one message to all men. Wherefore,when the Messenger of God shall come, he shall come to cleanse away all wherewith the unGodly have contaminated my book." (Gospel of Barnabas 124:2)

Second, the Gospel of Pseudo-Barnabas is based on a well-developed conspiracy theory that concurred with the Muslim allegations upon the origin of Christianity and Apostle Paul’s involvement in the spread of the Christian faith. Right in the prologue to this so-called Gospel fake Barnabas argues that Jesus was a pathetic messenger whose true teachings had been perverted by some disciples that were led astray by Satan to teach false doctrines:

Dearly beloved, the great and wonderful God has during these past days visited us by His prophet Jesus Christ in great mercy of teaching and miracles, for which reason many, being deceived of Satan, under pretence of piety, are preaching most impious doctrine, calling Jesus son of God, repudiating the circumcision ordained of God for ever, and permitting every unclean meat: among whom also Paul has been deceived, whereof I speak not without grief. (Prologue to the Italian manuscript)

Additionally, Pseudo Barnabas contends that some of Jesus’ disciples who did not fear God stole Judas Iscariot’s body in order to proclaim that Jesus had risen:

Those disciples who did not fear God went by night [and] stole the body of Judas and hid it, spreading a report that Jesus was risen again; whence great confusion arose. (Gospel of Barnabas 218:1)

Above all, fake Barnabas’ addiction to anachronism compels him to suppose that Jesus’ true teachings were twisted and contaminated during His prophetic ministry. This is why we read in the medieval forgery that Jesus once overtly denied being the Son of God, God, and the Messiah when questioned by the high priest, who was astoundingly aware of these doctrines:

When day was come, Jesus went up to the Temple  with a great multitude of people. Whereupon the high priest drew near, saying: 'Tell me, O Jesus, have you forgotten all that you did confess, that you are not God, nor son of God, nor even the Messiah?' Jesus answered: 'No, surely, I have not forgotten; for this is my confession which I shall bear before the judgment seat of God on the day of judgment. For all that is written in the Book of Moses is most true, inasmuch as God our creator is [God] alone, and I am God's servant and desire to serve God's Messenger whom you call Messiah.' (Gospel of Barnabas 206:1-2)

The Qur’an, on the other hand, is unaware of all these assertions as no verse in it claims that Jesus’ genuine teachings were already twisted during his prophetic ministry. Accordingly, the Jesus in “Mohammad’s Gospel” is made to repudiate the doctrine of the Trinity and His divinity on the Day of Judgment (Surah 5:116-117) rather than during His ministry. Further, there is no implicit or explicit reference in the entire Islamic scripture to a disciple or apostle named Paul. In contrast to the accusations presented by the author of the Gospel of Barnabas, the authors of the Qur’an never taught that some of Jesus’ disciples were deceived and led astray by Satan. For the Qur’an, there were only two groups of people, who fell into disagreement on the basis of their faith: those who believed in Jesus and became His disciples versus those who rejected Jesus and opposed Him. Strikingly, the writers of the Qur’an said that the party of Jesus’ disciples (all of them) had become triumphant against the party of the unbelievers:

O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah. As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah." Said the disciples, "We are Allah.s helpers!" then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed. (Surah 61:14 Yusuf Ali)

Although most of the Islamic scholars blame Paul for contaminating the supposed true Gospel named Injil and inventing today’s Christianity, the Qur’an is not only ignorant of these harsh accusations, but also fails to explain why Christianity in Mohammad’s time had major discrepancies with the Islamic message allegedly delivered by Jesus. Consequently, some Muslim scholars submitted themselves to the fake Gospel of Barnabas because the author of this forgery supposedly knew something that was both beneficial and additional to the Qur’an.

Third, as a massive book consisting of 222 chapters the Gospel of Barnabas gives an enormous amount of information about Jesus and His teachings. Besides, in this so-called Gospel Jesus’ words and acts are narrated in an organized way with more than enough details. The life of Jesus from the period of His annunciation to that of His ascension is explained pretty well and meticulously so as not to leave place for doubts or vagueness. Certainly, the Gospel of Barnabas owes this detailed information about Jesus and its organized form of narration to the author’s deliberate plagiarism from the New Testament: particularly from all of the four canonical Gospels and some other parts of the canonical scripture (Acts of the Apostles, Peter’s First Universal Letter, and even some verses of the Old Testament). However, the Qur’an almost presents zero data about Jesus’ life and His teachings when compared to the Gospel of Barnabas. It will not be unfair or an exaggeration to say that the things stated about Jesus in the Islamic scripture would not exceed four pages if they were extracted from the Qur’an and written on sheets of paper. Actually, the organized and partly flowing narratives about Jesus in the Qur’an occur in two chapters: Surah 19 and 3. Apart from these, there are short verses describing Jesus’ prophetic ministry in a few chapters.
4 In sharp contrast to the detailed and recurrent narration of Jesus’ various kinds of miracles in the Gospel of Barnabas, the Qur’an summarizes Jesus’ miracles into one sentence5:

And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message): 'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah’s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe’. (Surah 3:49 Yusuf Ali)

More to the point, the verses about Jesus in the Qur’an mostly remain silent on various historical and geographical issues and thus appear in the form of obscure and incomplete accounts. For instance, the writers of the Qur’an chose to hide from the readers the name of the place where Jesus was born. Likewise, it is impossible to know the name of a single disciple of Jesus by reading the Islamic scripture. As a result of these deficiencies, some Muslims submit themselves to the fake Gospel of Barnabas because they know that they need it as a primary book of reference with regard to Jesus.

Relevant to the above point, every honest Muslim scholar that reads the Gospel of Barnabas and the Qur’an comparatively is supposed to confess that the former is superior to the latter in both form and content when the Islamic denial of Jesus’ crucifixion is in view. In the entire Qur’an, which contains 114 chapters, there is only one single verse that denies the reality of Jesus’ passion by presenting it as an optical illusion:

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God"; - but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not: - (Surah 4:157 Yusuf Ali)

This single verse, which belongs to the late period of the supposed revelation of the Qur’an, fails to answer the following questions and leaves its readers in constant suspense, making one also suppose that the Islamic objection to Jesus’ crucifixion is based on nothing but conjecture:

- Was someone else crucified and killed in Jesus’ stead?
- Did the supposed illusion or appearance have a miraculous nature or was it simply the result of a misunderstanding?
- Why was such a deceptive miracle needed?
- Why was someone killed in Jesus’ stead? What made this substitution crucial?
- Who was the person that was allegedly crucified in Jesus’ place?
- What happened to that person’s corpse?

The Islamic scripture cannot answer any of these questions, for it lacks a narrative concerning Jesus’ passion even though it dedicates many verses to the narration of Jesus’ miraculous birth from a virgin in two chapters (Surah 19 & 3). The reason underlying this inconvenience is the fact that the non-canonical Gospels of Jesus’ infancy, which the hands that wrote the Qur’an plagiarized from, were confined to the narratives prior to Jesus’ prophetic ministry and thus lacked the accounts concerning His passion. Seemingly, the hands that devised the Qur’an had no access to either canonical or apocryphal Gospels that contained long and detailed narratives of Jesus’ passion.

In contrast to the inadequacy of the Qur’an in this respect, the Gospel of Barnabas provides answers for all of the questions stated above by simply substituting Judas Iscariot for Jesus and perverting the passion narratives in the canonical Gospels. This is why two long chapters (216-217) in the book of Pseudo Barnabas relate the supposed arrest, crucifixion, and death of Judas the betrayer. In the rest of the chapters until the final one (222) Pseudo Barnabas endeavors to fabricate philosophical and theological reasons for the necessity of Jesus’ seeming death and the deceitful miracle transforming Judas the betrayer into Jesus. The admittance of the medieval Gospel of Barnabas by some Muslims as a reliable religious text indicates those Muslim believers’ gratefulness to Pseudo Barnabas for his favor of saving the Qur’an from deficiencies and vagueness on the subject of Jesus’ passion.

Fourth, some Muslims submit themselves to the Gospel of Barnabas and keep praising it at the expense of the Qur’an because Pseudo Barnabas proved to be a cleverer and more cunning person than the authors of the Islamic scripture. The stories recounted in the Qur’an in association with basic Christian tenets are actually the distorted versions of Jesus’ infancy stories plagiarized from a few non-canonical Gospels.
6 For instance, the 19th chapter of the Qur’an, which is named after Jesus’ mother Mary, relates baby Jesus’ miraculous speech in the cradle at the time of Mary’s return to her folk after the delivery:

Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet, And hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive, And (hath made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! (Surah 19:29-33 Pickthall)

Certainly, this account is not included in any of the canonical Gospels, but can be found in an apocryphal writing named “Arabic Infancy Gospel”:

We find what follows in the book of Joseph the high priest, who lived in the time of Christ. Some say that he is Caiaphas. He has said that Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world. (Arabic Infancy Gospel chapter 1;

The comparison of these two accounts reveals how the authors of the Qur’an made vain efforts to pervert the narrative in the Arabic Gospel of Infancy for the sake of adapting it to the major tenets of Islam and denouncing some of the basic Christian doctrines concerning Jesus’ identity. It is blatant that the falsified Jesus in the 19th chapter of the Qur’an implicitly denies being the Son of God and makes a miraculous speech in the cradle not to manifest His divinity, but to serve the Islamic presentation of the Messiah as but one of the past prophets. The forced inclusion of Jesus into the alleged chain of Islamic messengers in Mohammad’s fantasy through the modification of the phrase “Son of God” in the original source to “servant of Allah” in the 19th chapter also turns the words “Logos” and “savior” in the original source into “scripture” and “prophet” in Mohammad’s book, respectively. More to the point, this purely Islamic identification ascribed to Jesus by Mohammad, which exists in the form of a miraculous speech delivered by infant Jesus, is followed by an assertion that aims to rebuke Christians for identifying Jesus as the Son of God:

Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him! When He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. (Surah 19:34-35 Pickthall)

This intrusion, which betrays the flow of the Islamic narrative, proves that the authors of this chapter tried to present the falsified and distorted version of the story of baby Jesus’ speech as the original account revealed by Allah. In other words, the writers of the Qur’an targeted the authenticity of the Arabic Gospel of Infancy because they presumed that Christians relied on this scripture while worshipping Jesus as the Son of God and Savior. However, the Arabic Gospel of Infancy has never been regarded as an authentic and apostolic writing by any of the Christian Churches. The universal Church in the early era of Christianity considered all of the Gospels of Jesus’ Infancy apocryphal, which meant that such writings – no matter that they did not support heretical doctrines – were not included into the New Testament canon. Consequently, the Qur’an tries to distort an apocryphal Gospel and mistakenly supposes that the textual perversion of the original accounts in such Gospels will cast doubts upon the authenticity of the Christian scripture and tenets. In this respect, the writers of the Qur’an could be likened to a person who goes to a dueling with a knife instead of a gun.

Pseudo Barnabas, on the other hand, is clever and crafty enough not to fall into the same kind of an error; for he dedicates his time and energy to the systematic perversion of the canonical Gospels instead of the apocryphal ones! This is why Pseudo Barnabas attacks the authenticity of the Christian scripture in a far better and more reasonable way than the Qur’an and strives to convince the reader of his basic allegation that his Gospel alone contains the original teachings of Jesus whilst the rest of the writings are falsified and inauthentic. Fake Barnabas’ aim to overshadow the authenticity of the canonical Gospels is mostly reflected in the perversion of the canonical accounts that overtly contradict the Islamic designation of Jesus as the messenger of Allah. For instance, the Gospel of Matthew relates the dialog between Jesus and His apostles with regard to His identity. As the spokesperson of the apostles, Peter responds and says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus endorses this identification and binds it directly to God:

When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! (Matthew 16:13-17)

To compare and contrast this canonical narrative with the medieval Gospel of Barnabas:

Jesus departed from Jerusalem after the Passover, and entered into the borders of Caesarea Philippi. Whereupon, the angel Gabriel having told him of the sedition which was beginning among the common people, he asked his disciples, saying: "What do men say of me?" They said: "Some say that you are Elijah, others Jeremiah, and others one of the old prophets." Jesus answered: "And you; what say you that I am?" Peter answered: "You are Christ, son of God." Then was Jesus angry, and with anger rebuked him, saying: "Begone and depart from me, because you are the devil and seek to cause me offences. And he threatened the eleven, saying: "Woe to you if you believe this, for I have won from God a great curse against those who believe this." And he was fain to cast away Peter; whereupon the eleven besought Jesus for him, who cast him not away, but again rebuked him saying: "Beware that never again you say such words, because God would reprobate you!" Peter wept and said: "Lord, I have spoken foolishly; beseech God that he pardon me." (Gospel of Barnabas 70:1-2)

Apparently, spurious Barnabas twists this account in accordance with the Islamic repudiation of Jesus’ divinity and craftily combines it with the verses in the same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel which recount Peter’s reprobation on the occasion of his objection to Jesus’ passion:

From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.” (Gospel of Matthew 16:21-23)

This ability to abuse the canonical Christian writings for the sake of propagating Islam and backing the alleged falsification of Jesus’ teachings is peculiar to the medieval Gospel of Barnabas, which marks its superiority to the Islamic scripture.

Fifth, the Gospel of Barnabas does not reiterate the gross mistakes and false accusations of the Islamic scripture, being a comparatively more accurate document. We do not mean that the medieval Gospel of Barnabas is free of error, far from it, but for the sake of honesty it should be made plain that most of the mistakes in the medieval Gospel are a direct result of Pseudo Barnabas’ intention to work the four canonical Gospels into one single book and add into his forgery all the cultural peculiarities of his era. The errors in the Gospel of Barnabas become apparent only if the text is analyzed by an objective reader who has enough knowledge of history and geography to compare first century Palestine with the Europe of the Middle Ages. The errors in the Qur’an, on the other hand, stem from its authors’ hasty and rough combination of the data concerning biblical figures and events with the help of faulty and exaggerated analogies. For example, the writers of the Qur’an mistook Jesus’ mother Mary with the Miriam of the Old Testament (Exodus 15:20), who was the daughter of Amram and sister of Aaron. This is why the following verses astonishingly teach that Jesus’ mother Mary was the same person as the daughter of Imran (biblical Amram) and sister of Aaron:

And Mary, daughter of 'Imran, whose body was chaste, therefore We breathed therein something of Our Spirit
. (Surah 66:12)

Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot. (Surah 19:27-28 Pickthall)

This Qur’anic confusion of the two women bearing the same name most probably resulted from the assimilation of the account about Miriam in the book of Exodus to the non-canonical account concerning Jesus’ mother Mary in the apocryphal Gospels of Infancy. However, Pseudo Barnabas did not repeat this mistake and proved to be both different from and superior to the Islamic scripture when he wrote – in accordance with the traditional teachings of the Church! – that Jesus’ mother Mary was from the tribe of Judah:

In these last years a Virgin called Mary, of the lineage of David, of the tribe of Judah, was visited by the angel Gabriel from God. (Gospel of Barnabas 10:1)

More, fake Barnabas exposed the mistake of the Qur’an writers when he talked of Aaron’s sister Miriam as a distinct woman of the Old Testament era:

How nearly then the good approached to ruin by judging falsely, is shown by the brethren of Joseph, who sold him to the Egyptians, by Aaron and Miriam, sister of Moses, who judged their brother. (Gospel of Barnabas 50:3)

As for the false accusations in the Qur’an targeting basic Christian tenets, these owe their existence either to the scribes’ ignorance of the genuine and universal teachings of the Church or to the deliberate perversion of the truth for the sake of slandering Christians and making them equal to pagans. The prevalent example of such false accusations is the contention that Christians worshipped three distinct gods and Mary was a part of the Trinity.
7 The Qur’an seems so sure of this contention that Allah deems it crucial to rebuke Christians through Jesus’ speech:

And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden? (Surah 5:116 Pickthall)

The medieval Gospel of Barnabas, however, is unaware of this accusation and never claims that Christians worshipped Mary as a part of the Trinity. This is why Jesus is made to deny and rebuke genuine Christian tenets in the Gospel of Barnabas rather than a tenet that Christians were mistakenly presumed to embrace:

And though I have been innocent in the world, since men have called me "God," and "Son of God," God, in order that I be not mocked of the demons on the day of judgment, has willed that I be mocked of men in this world by the death of Judas; making all men to believe that I died upon the cross. (Gospel of Barnabas 220:4)

Sixth, another good reason that some Muslims have for submitting themselves to the medieval forgery of fake Barnabas is that it endorses some of the traditional Islamic teachings and commentaries which are not supported by the Qur’an. For instance, the Islamic scripture confirms the biblical teaching that God tested Abraham’s love when He asked him to offer his son as a holocaust. To compare the original account in the Bible with the one in the Qur’an:

Some time after these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” Abraham replied. God said, “Take your son – your only son, whom you love,Isaac – and go to the land of Moriah! Offer him up there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will indicate to you.” Early in the morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him, along with his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he started out for the place God had spoken to him about. On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place in the distance. So he said to his servants, “You two stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go up there. We will worship and then return to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” “God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together. When they came to the place God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand, took the knife, and prepared to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s angel called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not harm the boy!” the angel said. “Do not do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.” Abraham looked up and saw behind him a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. So he went over and got the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son And Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord provides.” It is said to this day, “In the mountain of the Lord provision will be made.” (Genesis 22:1-13)

So We gave him tidings of a gentle son. And when (his son) was old enough to walk with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice thee. So look, what thinkest thou? He said: O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast. Then, when they had both surrendered (to Allah), and he had flung him down upon his face, We called unto him: O Abraham! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision. Lo! thus do We reward the good. Lo! that verily was a clear test. Then We ransomed him with a tremendous victim. And We left for him among the later folk (the salutation): Peace be unto Abraham! (Surah 37:101-109 Pickthall)

Apart from being a summarized version of the long biblical narrative, the story in the Qur’an differs from the one in the Bible when it teaches that Abraham revealed his dream to his son, who agreed with his father and willingly submitted himself to Abraham’s plan. This kind of an alteration to the biblical account is rather understandable if the reader of the Qur’an takes into account Mohammad’s wish to make far-fetched associations between the basic Islamic concept of submission (which means “Islam”) and major biblical figures/patriarchs. Nonetheless, Muslims scholars do not give priority to this discrepancy in their religious debates with Jews and Christians, but drastically change the course of dissention when they claim that the son whom Allah asked Abraham to sacrifice was Ishmael rather than Isaac.

Clearly, the account in the 37th chapter of the Qur’an extends zero support to such Muslim scholars by keeping silent on the identity of Abraham’s son. Oddly enough, the writers of the Islamic scripture were not interested in the name of the child that Abraham attempted to offer, and it is not impossible or unreasonable to construe their indifference as the implied endorsement of the name given in the Bible. After all, the Islamic version of the story does not insist on the child’s identification as Ishmael, which would be inevitable if Mohammed had been bothered by and objected to the existence of Isaac’s name in Ishmael’s stead. However, the fact that Ishmael’s name is missing from this account in the Qur’an causes much trouble for Muslim scholars who object to Isaac’s existence in this particular narrative. Most probably, the reason underlying Muslim scholars’ desire to replace Isaac with Ishmael is the link drawn between Abraham’s offered son and the divine promise in the following verses of the Bible:

The Lord’s angel called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “‘I solemnly swear by my own name,’ decrees the Lord, ‘that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the strongholds of their enemies. Because you have obeyed me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants.’” (Genesis 22:15-18)

Muslim scholars’ aim to replace Isaac with Ishmael is significant because it also indicates the Islamic zeal for replacing Israel with Arabs, which perfectly fits Mohammad’s identification as the last messenger and seal of all the prophets. Even though the Islamic form of the narrative about Abraham’s test by God in the Qur’an seems unaware of these aspirations and abandons Muslims in their traditional comments and teachings that the Jewish rabbis distorted the Torah and changed Ishmael to Isaac to negate Mohammad, the medieval Gospel written by Pseudo Barnabas overtly endorses all these allegations. Strikingly, fake Barnabas refers in many places of his book to the traditional Islamic teaching that the son Abraham was asked to offer was Ishmael rather than Isaac. Even at the beginning of Jesus’ prophetic ministry fake Barnabas highlights his disagreement with the biblical account:

The angel Gabriel answered: "Arise, Jesus, and remember Abraham, who being willing to sacrifice his only-begotten son Ishmael to God, to fulfill the word of God, [when] the knife [was] not able to cut his son, offered a sheep in sacrifice at my word. (Gospel of Barnabas 13:3)

Later, fake Barnabas takes the same traditional Islamic comment one step further and links it to the other Islamic charge against the authenticity of the Torah. It is not surprising to see that Pseudo Barnabas reiterates in his medieval forgery all the Islamic interpretations and accusations developed later than the compilation of the Qur’an:

The disciples said: "O master, it is written in the Book of Moses, that the promise was made in Isaac." Jesus answered with a groan: "It is so written, but Moses did not write it, nor Joshua, but rather our rabbins, who do not fear God! Truly I say to you, that if you consider the words of the angel Gabriel, you shall discover the malice of our scribes and doctors. For the angel said: "Abraham, all the world shall know how God loves you; but how shall the world know the love that you bear to God? Assuredly it is necessary that you do something for love of God." Abraham answered: 'Behold the servant of God, ready to do all that which God shall will.' Then spoke God, saying to Abraham: "Take your son, your firstborn Ishmael; and come up the mountain to sacrifice him." How is Isaac firstborn, if when Isaac was born Ishmael was seven years old? Then said the disciples: "Clear is the deception of our doctors: therefore tell us you the truth, because we know that you are sent from God." Then answered Jesus: "Truly I say to you, that Satan ever seeks to annul the laws of God; and therefore he with his followers, hypocrites and evil-doers, the former with false doctrine, the latter with lewd living, to day have contaminated almost all things, so that scarcely is the truth found. Woe to the hypocrites! For the praises of this world shall turn for them into insults and torments in hell. (Gospel of Barnabas 44:1-2)

On another occasion fake Barnabas forces Jesus to designate the Torah as a corrupted scripture and declare Ishmael superior to Isaac in terms of Mohammad’s allegedly being a descendant of the former:

Whereupon said the scribe: I have seen an old book; written by the hand of Moses and Joshua ;(he who made the sun stand still; as you have done), servants and prophets of God, which book is the true Book of Moses. Therein is written that Ishmael is the father of Messiah, and Isaac the father of the messenger of the Messiah. And thus says the book, that Moses said: "Lord God of Israel, mighty and merciful, manifest to your servant the splendour of your glory." Whereupon God showed him his Messenger in the arms of Ishmael, and Ishmael in the arms of Abraham. Near to Ishmael stood Isaac, in whose arms was a child, who with his finger pointed to the Messenger of God, saying: "This is he for whom God has created all things." Whereupon Moses cried out with joy: "O Ishmael, you have in your arms all the world, and paradise! Be mindful of me, God's servant, that I may find grace in God's sight by means of your son, for whom God has made all." (Gospel of Barnabas 191:2)

The eagerness to mark Ishmael as the child of the promise compels Pseudo Barnabas to conclude that the promised Messiah cannot be Jesus on the basis of His being an Israelite
9. This conclusion also explains why fake Barnabas makes efforts to replace Jesus the Messiah with Mohammad the supposed Messiah:

When day was come, Jesus went up to the Temple with a great multitude of people. Whereupon the high priest drew near, saying: 'Tell me, O Jesus, have you forgotten all that you did confess, that you are not God, nor son of God, nor even the Messiah?' Jesus answered: 'No, surely, I have not forgotten; for this is my confession which I shall bear before the judgment seat of God on the day of judgment. For all that is written in the Book of Moses is most true, inasmuch as God our creator is [God] alone, and I am God's servant and desire to serve God's Messenger whom you call Messiah.' (Gospel of Barnabas 206:1-2)

In fake Barnabas’ eyes Ishmael’s alleged superiority to Isaac is inextricably bound to the identity of the Messiah due to the racial affiliation of the divine promise with the identity of the son whom Abraham wanted to offer as a sacrifice to God:

The high priest answered: "This I ask of you, and I do not seek to slay you, wherefore tell us: Who was this son of Abraham?" Jesus answered: "The zeal of your honour, O God, inflames me, and I cannot hold my peace. Truly I say, the son of Abraham was Ishmael, from whom must be descended the Messiah promised to Abraham, that in him should all the tribes of the earth be blessed." Then was the high priest wroth, hearing this, and cried out: "Let us stone this impious fellow, for he is an Ishmaelite, and has spoken blasphemy against Moses and against the Law of God." Whereupon every scribe and Pharisee, with the elders of the people, took up stones to stone Jesus, who vanished from their eyes and went out of the Temple (Gospel of Barnabas 208:1-3)

It is clear like daylight that Pseudo Barnabas forged the narrative above through the perversion of the dialog between Jesus and the Jewish authorities in John’s Gospel 8:48-59. Barnabas’ systematic perversion is not confined to the New Testament text, for his new teaching that the true Messiah must be a descendant of Ishmael instead of Isaac is bound to the supposed correction of the account of Abraham’s sacrifice in Genesis. This is not the end of the story yet! The doctrines in the Gospel of Barnabas about the identity of the Messiah and the emphasis it lays on the name of the son that Abraham was asked to offer as a holocaust go beyond the Bible and threatens the integrity of the Qur’an. Spurious Barnabas argues that the true book of God must openly deny the statements in the Torah that the son Abraham offered was Isaac and that the promised Messiah is an Israelite. Since the Qur’an fails to do any of these, fake Barnabas implies that the Qur’an cannot be a true book from above and must therefore be rewritten for correction. Muslims scholars who embrace the Gospel of Barnabas as a reliable document know that it is a revised and updated version of their Qur’an in that it includes in the most organized form all the traditional Islamic comments and teachings missing from the Qur’an. All these teachings, which aim to strengthen and defend the Islamic scripture in religious and political debates with Jews, can be found in the medieval Gospel of Barnabas, which functions as the trouble-shooter for Islam and Muslims.

Continues on Part 2