Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Gospel of Barnabas

The Gospel of Barnabas, which purports to depict the life of Jesus is currently widely published in Islamic circles. Though it was never mentioned by Islamic writers, and though claims that it was mentioned by Irenaeus cannot be tied any text, and though no early manuscripts exist or even any early references to such a gospel, it existed in at least two manuscripts, the Italian and the Spanish.

The Italian manuscript survives in a library in Austria, while the Spanish manuscript was lost in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries; however an eighteenth century copy of the original Spanish manuscript was discovered in the 1970s in the University of Sydney's Fisher library. The Italian manuscript contains chapter rubrics and margin notes in Arabic; the margin notes form a rough Arabic translation of selected passages.

The Gospel of Barnabas was little known outside academic circles until recent times, when a number of Muslims have taken to publishing it in order to attempt to refute Christianity. It resonates better with existing Muslim views than with Christianity because it foretells the coming of Muhammad by name, and reports that Jesus was not the Messiah but rather a "prophet of salvation" whose mission was restricted to the "house of Israel". Rather than describing the crucifixion of Jesus, it describes him being raised up into heaven, similar to the description of Elijah in 2 Kings, Chapter 2. Furthermore, some Muslims claim that Barnabas himself wrote the Gospel, and that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by followers of Paul long after the events they describe, and that therefore the Gospel of Barnabas is more authentic than the other Gospels. There is some difficulty reconciling the Gospel of Barnabas (which asserts that Muhammad is the Messiah) with the Qur'an (which gives this title to Jesus).

The Gospel of Barnabas makes naive errors in geography, has Barnabas sailing to land-locked Nazareth, had Jesus born and current politics of Palestine, does not realize that 'Christ' means 'anointed.'

'Jesus confessed and said the truth, "I am not the Messiah"' (''Barnabas, ch. 42)

'Then said the priest: "How shall the Messiah be called?" {Jesus answered} "Muhammed is his blessed name" ' (ch. 97).

Christians who have studied this work believe it to be a Medieval Muslim forgery, made for the purposes of Muslim propaganda. They point to phrases in Barnabas which are very similar to phrases used by Dante, suggesting that the author of Barnabas borrowed from Dante's works. Also, there is reference to a jubilee which is to be held every hundred years, rather than every fifty years as described in Leviticus, Chapter 25. They see this as an anachronism, for it wasn't until about AD 1300 that Pope Boniface VIII decreed the jubilee was to be held every hundred years, rather than every fifty.

It should not be confused with the Epistle of Barnabas, which may have been written in 2nd Century Alexandria. There is no link between the two books in style, content or history. On the issue of circumcision, the two authors clearly hold very different views, that of the 'Epistle' in rejecting Jewish practices and that of the 'Gospel' in promoting Muslim ones.

External links