The Gospel of Barnabas is a book depicting the life of Jesus , which claims to be by the biblical Barnabas who in this work is one of the twelve apostles. Two manuscripts are known to have existed, both dated to the late 16th or early 17th centuries, with one written in Italian and the other in Spanish, its text surviving only in a partial 18th-century transcript. In some key respects, it conforms to the Islamic interpretation of Christian origins and contradicts the New Testament teachings of Christianity. The text of this Gospel is late and pseudepigraphical.
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Although the Gospel of Barnabas has in recent years been distributed fairly widely throughout the Muslim world in many languages, most Muslims have not as yet seen a copy of this book. Nevertheless the knowledge of its existence is fairly widespread in the Muslim community. Since the English translation of the Gospel of Barnabas by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg has been reprinted in large numbers by the Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf in Pakistan and a number of these reprints have come into worldwide circulation.
The general position, however, is that most Muslims remain largely ignorant of the book and its contents as a whole. It has been a blissful ignorance. For too long many Muslims have been persuaded that this book tells the ultimate truth about the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.
It alleges that Jesus was not the Son of God, that he was not crucified, and that he foretold the coming of Muhammad. As a result some Muslims believe that this is the true Injil that was given to Jesus. The Gospel of Barnabas, however, does not claim to be the Injil but actually distinguishes itself from the book allegedly given to Jesus. In the following passage we find this distinction very clearly brought out:.
Other Muslims believe that the Gospel of Barnabas is the "original testament" and that the Christians have substituted it with the "New Testament". Such an attitude betrays a woeful ignorance, not only of the Gospel of Barnabas, but also of the structure of the Christian Bible as a whole. Because we are persuaded, however, that ignorance is a great evil - no matter how blissful it may be - and because ignorance is the handmaid of error, we deem it necessary to set out the true facts about the Gospel of Barnabas so that it may be clear to Muslim peoples everywhere that this book is a patent forgery of the Middle Ages and that the Muslims will be doing the cause of truth a great service by admitting once and for all that the Gospel of Barnabas is of no historical value at all and that it is to be rejected as a genuine account of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.
This booklet does not purport to be a contribution to the ongoing scholarly study that is being conducted in the Christian world into the background and origins of the Gospel of Barnabas.
For this we are chiefly indebted to the Raggs, who first translated the Gospel into English, and to men like Gairdner, Jomier and Slomp who have gone to great lengths in the cause of truth to provide substantial evidence of the falsehood of the Gospel of Barnabas.
Rather we have endeavoured to produce here in summary form some of the clear proofs which have come from these studies so that our Muslim friends may see that the Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery which has become a lamentable red-herring across the trail of Christian-Muslim apologetics in the modern world. It has been our purpose in some small measure to convey to the Muslim community worldwide some of the fruits of these studies.
We have done this purely because we believe that it is deeply regrettable that men should believe that this book is a true account of the life of Jesus Christ. Because we believe that no lover of truth will wish to be deluded by a counterfeit for long, we have elected to reveal briefly to our Muslim readers some of the origins and sources of the Gospel of Barnabas.
We trust that our readers will peruse this booklet with a genuine desire to know where the Gospel of Barnabas really came from and when it was really written - and that they will draw a fair conclusion from the evidence set forth in the following pages of this booklet. This book professes to be a Gospel and alleges that its author was the Apostle Barnabas. We must therefore begin by enquiring who the man Barnabas really was and at the same time must decide whether he is the author of the book we are considering in this booklet.
To do this we must make some comparisons between the knowledge that we have of the real Apostle Barnabas in the Bible and the professed author of the Gospel of Barnabas. At the beginning and end of this book two comments appear which immediately assist us in our quest.
They are these:. The author of this book uses strong language to denounce the teaching of Paul in particular, especially regarding circumcision; the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus; and the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God.
The whole book abounds in discourses levelled against those things which the author particularly takes Paul to task for, and there can be no doubt that the author of this book is poles apart from Paul and his doctrine and is diametrically opposed to his preaching and teaching. This is the first of many evidences against the authenticity of this book for whoever wrote it expediently appended the name "Barnabas" to it as its author, whereas only a brief reflection on the actual profile of the real Apostle Barnabas will show that he cannot possibly be the author of this book.
Let us briefly go through the history of Barnabas in the Bible. He only appears among the apostles after the ascension of Jesus to heaven when the early Christian Church was taking root in the land of Palestine. As a gesture of faith and love towards his brethren, he sold a field he owned and gave the proceeds to the apostles for distribution at their discretion to those who were in need among the brethren.
This gesture of kindness was a great source of encouragement to the believers and the apostles accordingly named him "Bar-nabas", which means "Son of encouragement". Before this he had been known only by his common name Joseph Acts 4. Here the author of the Gospel of Barnabas makes his first serious blunder for he suggests throughout his book, not only that Barnabas was actually one of the twelve disciples of Jesus during his ministry on earth, but also that he was known by this name "Barnabas" throughout that period of ministry.
On more than one occasion in the book we find that Jesus allegedly addressed him by name and the first occasion, which comes particularly early in the book, is this one:. Now we have here a patent anachronism which destroys the possibility that this book was really written by the Apostle Barnabas. The apostles only gave him the name "Barnabas" Son of encouragement after the ascension of Jesus because of the generous act he had done which had heartened the spirits of the early Christians.
But the Gospel of Barnabas makes Jesus call him by this name some three years before he ascended to heaven. This is a serious - in our view fatal - objection to the claim that this book was written by the Apostle Barnabas. As we press on in our study of the life of Barnabas, however, we find further proofs that destroy the claim that this book was really written by him.
The next time he appears in the early events of the Church was on the occasion of Paul's first visit to all the apostles in Jerusalem. Because the apostles knew that Paul had in previous years been a relentless persecutor of the early Christians primarily because they believed that Jesus was the Son of God!
It is indeed a revelation to discover, in the light of the vehement attacks made on Paul in the Gospel of Barnabas, just who it was who went to great pains to assure the brethren in Jerusalem that Paul was really a disciple:.
We are now confronted with a second serious chain of evidence against the suggestion that Barnabas was the author of the "Gospel" attributed to him. Only seven verses earlier we read that when Paul engaged in public preaching in the synagogue of Damascus, "immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, 'He is the Son of God'.
When this same Paul came to Jerusalem, it was Barnabas who vigorously defended him as a true disciple of Jesus. What a contrast we have here with the book we are considering where the author, supposedly Barnabas, takes Paul to task for the very fact that he was proclaiming that Jesus was the Son of God. The true Barnabas was the right-hand man of this very Paul who publicly taught that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. It is this same Barnabas who represented him at Jerusalem and who spared no effort in persuading the disciples there that Paul really was a disciple of Jesus.
Later on in this booklet we shall show that the Gospel of Barnabas was first written not earlier than fourteen centuries after Christ and that the author, whoever he was, simply chose to make Barnabas the alleged author of his obnoxious forgery. The men we referred to earlier, who have made much in-depth study into the origins and sources of the Gospel of Barnabas, have also tried to ascertain why the real author of this book chose to make Barnabas its supposed author.
One or two plausible theories have been suggested, but to this day we have not been able to discover why he did this. But one thing we do know - the actual author of the Gospel of Barnabas could not have made a worse choice for the "authorship" of his book than Barnabas. He has written this book ostensibly as a defence against "Pauline Christianity" as some put it and yet he has, probably without serious reflection, chosen as his author the one man we always find at the side of Paul - recommending him at all times as a true disciple of Jesus and endorsing his preaching wherever he went.
To put it plainly, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas has chosen as the alleged author of the book he has composed against the teaching of Paul the very man who supported that teaching more actively than anyone else during his ministry. Barnabas was the spiritual blood-brother of Paul. Our real author has, in a second awful manner, made another calamitous blunder by suggesting that the Apostle Barnabas - of all people!
As we go further into the life of Barnabas this fact comes out even more clearly. When the church in Jerusalem heard that the church in Antioch was growing well, the apostles decided to send Barnabas there to take over the teaching and instruction of the new believers. But Barnabas, of his own volition, decided that he could not handle this by himself, and decided to obtain the assistance of another fellow-believer well-grounded in the faith for this work.
Without hesitation Barnabas went all the way to Tarsus in Asia Minor to find Paul and immediately he brought him to Antioch to assist him in the instruction of the church in the city.
We read the following of their ministry:. Under the joint ministry of Paul and Barnabas, the disciples were first called Christians - because Barnabas was a true champion of the very "Pauline Christianity" that the Gospel of Barnabas sets out to refute. After this Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem with aid for the brethren because of a famine that was taking place in the days of the Roman emperor Claudius Acts After this Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch Acts They continued to lead the church there and were subsequently sent out by the church to preach the Gospel in the provinces of Galatia in what is part of Turkey as we know it today.
Wherever they went Paul and Barnabas preached that Jesus was the Son of God and that God had raised him from the dead cf. Acts And yet, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas would have us believe that Barnabas was an archenemy of Paul on these matters!
We even find them both proclaiming that the restrictive ordinances of Judaism e. A very interesting event in their joint ministry is recorded in these words:. Certain Judaisers had come among the early Christians stating that circumcision was necessary for salvation.
Who do we find debating hotly with them on this point? None other than Paul and Barnabas! And yet, in the Gospel of Barnabas, we read that one of the "impious doctrines" that Paul was holding to was repudiation of circumcision. That he repudiated it as an essential element of salvation we will readily concede Galatians 5.
Once again the author has blundered in making Barnabas the author of his deplorable forgery. Thus circumcision is an essential element and a prerequisite of salvation in the Gospel of Barnabas and the author obviously assents to this doctrine.
But of the real Barnabas we read that he joined with Paul in furiously debating against the doctrine of the Judaisers that circumcision was necessary for salvation. It is quite clear that the real Barnabas was not the author of the book that bears his name and that someone else not only forged this book but misrepresented the name of its author as well.
In an appendix entitled "Life and Message of Barnabas" they allege that the passage about the debate on the issue of circumcision reveals a growing rift between Paul and Barnabas. They quote Acts But it is quite obvious that the rift was not between Paul and Barnabas on the issue but between the men from Judea on the one hand who were glorifying circumcision and Paul and Barnabas on the other who were furiously against perverting the freedom of the religion of Jesus with legalistic traditions and restrictions that could save nobody.
Because this appendix appears in all editions of the Gospel of Barnabas published today we must say that the whole article is a brazen misrepresentation of the true relationship between Paul and Barnabas.
The writer of the article has had to disown conscience in trying to force the theory of the Gospel of Barnabas that Paul and Barnabas disagreed on doctrinal matters. At no stage is there any evidence that Paul and Barnabas ever disagreed on a matter of doctrine.
They once had a minor personal dispute when Paul did not wish to take John Mark on a missionary journey, as he had fallen back on a previous one, to the provinces of Galatia Acts This, however, was purely a personal matter which was clearly resolved as we see in other passages of Scripture Colossians 4. On one other occasion Barnabas was guilty of some religious discrimination with other Jewish Christians in Antioch when they would not eat with the Gentile Christians Galatians 2.
Paul censured this strongly but this was also not about a doctrinal matter but one of common fellowship between all Christians no matter what their background. None of these minor disputes had anything to do with the fundamental doctrines Paul and Barnabas so rigidly promoted - the repudiation of circumcision as necessary for salvation, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the basic doctrine that Jesus is the Son of God.
Rather we have extensive evidence that Barnabas was the prime vindicator of all these doctrines that Paul taught. Paul's later letter to the Christians of Galatia helps us even more to perceive the truth of this fact. In the second chapter we read that Paul went up to Jerusalem - with Barnabas of course - taking Titus, an uncircumcised Greek, with him as a test case against the necessity of circumcision Galatians 2.
But Titus, however, was not compelled to be circumcised - obviously as a result of the persuasive arguments of Paul and Barnabas against circumcision as an essential element of salvation.
Not only did the apostles at Jerusalem agree with Paul and Barnabas that circumcision was unnecessary but, as Paul said, they "gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship" Galatians 2. Once again the sympathy and unity of Barnabas with Paul is plainly revealed and it is obvious that in the early church, whenever the Christians at Jerusalem thought of Barnabas, they must have immediately associated him with Paul.
In the third chapter of Galatians we have further evidence that Barnabas was a Christian in every way and not one who was opposed to Christianity as the author of the Gospel of Barnabas is. Paul, aggrieved that the Galatians were considering such a trivial matter as circumcision as essential for salvation, openly censured them for losing sight of the wondrous and all-sufficient work of Jesus who alone made salvation a reality for men through his atoning death on the cross.
Gospel of Barnabas
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