A Critique of the Gospel of Barnabas


The caption was framed to gain attention: “1500 Year Old Bible Confirms that Jesus Christ was not Crucified.”

Some Muslim propagandists shamelessly embellished an article on the Internet to say that the gospel of Barnabas was discovered in Turkey containing the “scary truths” that Jesus is not the Son of God; that He was not crucified; that the apostle Paul was an impostor and Muhammad was a prophet of God.

Read the original article here

The gospel of Barnabas (first published in the 1970s in Pakistan) was alleged to be the “lost book” of the Bible written by Barnabas, a disciple and eyewitness of Christ 2000 years ago.

In this book, we find Jesus purportedly say to him:

Be not sore grieved Barnabas for those whom God hath chosen before the creation of the world shall not perish” (Gospel of Barnabas, London, 1907, p. 21).

Now, this is a patent forgery. Barnabas became one of the apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven. He was not even called Barnabas until when he gave his field to the apostles. (Acts 4:36).

It says: “Others preached that he [Jesus] really died but rose again. Others preached, and yet preach that Jesus is the Son of God, among whom is Paul deceived” (p. 273)

This is also false. Barnabas was the one who went to the great extent of showing the early Church that Paul (who was formerly an enemy) was a true Christian (Acts 9:27).

When the church in Antioch was growing, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas there to instruct the new believers, but he rather chose to go to Asia Minor to assist Paul (Acts 11:26). Both men returned to Antioch together (Acts 12:35) and Barnabas proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 13:33).

When the issue of circumcision as a condition for salvation came up among Jewish Christians, both Paul and Barnabas repudiated the doctrine (Acts 15:1-2).

The only disagreement they had was the decision to take Mark with them (vs 38-40) and this was resolved later as the epistles show (Col. 4:10, 2 Tim. 4:11).

What a shame that the author of the gospel of Barnabas chose a wrong name to use for his forgeries.

This “gospel” calls Jesus “the Christ” (Chrissto) on page 2, yet denies Jesus as the Messiah! The author didn’t know that Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for the “Messiah.”

The gospel of Barnabas rehashes the hoary Islamic canard that the Old Testament was falsified:

“As God liveth, in whose presence my soul standeth, if the book of Moses with the book of our father David had not been corrupted by the human traditions of false Pharisees and doctors.” (Ch. 189, p. 424)

This is an obvious falsehood since the Pharisees (the doctors of the Law) only emerged between 135-104 B.C., whereas the Old Testament had been well preserved many centuries prior.

The book exposes itself as a late work when it quotes from the Latin Vulgate (translated in 405 A.D.) and makes reference to “the golden jubilee” which was invented by Pope Boniface about 1300 AD (p. 104).

That implies that the book of Barnabas was written about 700 years after Muhammad.

The gospel of Barnabas also plagiarized the works of Dante, a Medieval Italian poet. His descriptions of hell, paradise and purgatory in his book, Divina Comedia, was smoothly plagiarized.

The expression “Moses, his servants and go and serve false and lying gods” (p. 27) was directly lifted from Dante’s Inferno (vol. 1, p. 72).

On page 217 (Ch. 169) we read:

“Behold, then how beautiful is the world in summer-time, when all things bear fruit! The very peasant, intoxicated with gladness by reason of the harvest that is come, maketh the valleys and mountains resound with his singing, for that he loveth his labours supremely. Now lift up even so your heart to paradise, where all things are fruitful with fruits proportionate to him who hath cultivated it.

The background described here fits that of Medieval western Europe (Italy/Spain) in summer, not of Palestine where rain falls in winter and fields are parched in summer.

This “gospel” also says wines are stored in wine casks (p. 196), but in first century Palestine, wines were stored in skins (Matthew 9:17). Wooden casks were used in medieval Europe.

It says that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were overlords of two towns – Bethany and Magdala (p. 242), but the concept of feudalism was a medieval European custom.

At the time of Christ, much of Palestine was controlled by the Romans, so it would have been impossible for Lazarus to own towns.

In pg. 71, the book quotes Jesus saying “60 mites.” This is ridiculous because mites are coins of Spanish origin. Evidently, this “gospel” is a late European Islamic forgery.

The book also makes some wild-eyed claims such as the statement that the Romans stirred up 600,000 Jews against 200,000 Jews over the case of Jesus (p. 115). Historically, the Jews were not up to that number in the first century.

Interestingly, there are several areas where the gospel of Barnabas contradicts the Quran.

It says Jesus is not the Messiah but Muhammad is (p. 54), but the Quran says Jesus is the Messiah (sura 3:45).

The Quran says there are “seven heavens” (sura 2:29) but the book says “the heavens are nine” (p. 223).

The gospel of Barnabas teaches monogamy: “Let a man content himself therefore with the wife whom his creator hath given him, and let him forget every other woman.” (ch. 115, p. 266)

But in Sura 4:3, the Quran says “Marry such women as seem becoming unto you, two, three or four.”

In chapter 3 p. 5, the book of Barnabas, reflecting the medieval Catholic belief in the painless birth of Christ, says:

The Virgin was surrounded by a light exceeding bright and brought forth hers son without pain.”

But the Quran says the opposite: “And the pangs of childbirth drove her [Mary] unto the trunk of the palm tree” (Sura 19:23).

No honest Muslim can believe both accounts as truth. Logically, you can’t have two contradictory “truths.”

It says angels will die on the last day (p. 70) while the Quran says 8 angels will carry Allah’s throne on that day (69:15-17). The Quran says that men will still be alive on the last day (80:33-37), but this book says “every living thing shall die” at that time (p. 70).

Dear Muslims, you can’t have it both ways. This book is utterly spurious. If you use it against the Bible, we can as well use it to refute your Quran.