Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog


In these days of greater mixing of peoples, Christians and Muslims sometimes sit around comparing their beliefs. In such discussions it is natural for each person to quote from his own sacred book – Christians from the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, and Muslims from the Qur'an. Since for Christians the only authentic Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it comes as a great surprise to them when a Muslim is suddenly heard to say, "But the true Gospel is the Gospel of Barnabas." Such a statement brings a new basic document into the discussion. Most Christians have never even heard of the Gospel of Barnabas, and very few Muslims have ever read it, so almost everyone needs a detailed evaluation of this book which many Muslims claim to be "the true and original Gospel."

Here is my attempt at such an evaluation.

The oldest known, and the only complete copy of the Gospel of Barnabas is found in the Austrian National Library in Vienna as Codex No. 2662.1 Since 1709 when it was mentioned by Mr. John Toland in Holland, it was known only to European scholars,2 all of whom judged it to have been written toward the end of the Middle Ages. Then in 1907 an English translation from the Italian original was made by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg.3

This made it available to Muslims of Egypt and India where English was the main foreign language of educated people. The Gospel according to Barnabas was immediately translated into Arabic. The first edition appeared in Cairo in 1908. It was used up and several more small editions have been printed since then.

In addition to these Arabic editions, the English version has been reprinted a number of times, including a 1974 edition in which the introduction is signed by Lt. Col. (Retired) M. A. Rahim, the Secretary General of the Qur'an Council of Pakistan. He closes with this wish,

I pray that this (edition) may lead you from darkness into light and to a new spiritual and more satisfying life. Amen.

Do we conclude therefore, that the Gospel of Barnabas has been widely read? Probably not. The successive Arabic editions have not totaled more than 10,000 copies. During more than 25 years in North Africa, I have seen only one copy in any language. It was an Arabic copy owned by an Imam in Tangier. Five English editions, printed between 1973 and 1980, totaled only 28,000 copies, and the French translation by Luigi Cirillo and Michael Freman, Paris, Beauchesne, only became available in 1977. However, several books of Islamic apologetics base one or another of their statements on it. It is. known widely among religious Muslims because of quotations which are given here and there. Therefore it is hardly an exaggeration to say that multitudes, who have never read it, know of its existence and speak of it.

In summary, the Gospel of Barnabas has exercised a definite influence during these last 80 years.

Before considering the Gospel of Barnabas itself, it may be helpful to explain to Christian readers why Muslims would be looking for some other Gospel. Why are they so convinced that the Injîl,4 or Gospel, mentioned in the Qur'an is not the Christian one? Why are they willing to spend time and money making the Gospel of Barnabas available – even though all western scholars and even some Muslim scholars have judged that it was written long after the first century AD? It is because of certain difficulties in reconciling the Qur'an, written in the 7th century AD, with the New Testament Gospel written 600 years before. For example, the Qur'an says in the Sura Al-Saff (Battle Array)5 61:6, from 3 AH,

And remember Jesus, the son of Mary, said: ‘O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of God (sent) to you, confirming that which is between my hands from the Torah, and giving glad tidings of an apostle to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.’ But, when he came to them with clear signs, they said, ‘this is evident sorcery.’

In Arabic, the word Ahmad and the word Muhammed are built on the same three-letter root ‘H M D’ meaning to praise. Muslims believe that Ahmad is a slightly veiled prophecy in the mouth of Jesus that Muhammad will come after him, so they expect to find such a prophecy in the Gospel. When they read the Gospel of Jesus according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they do not find any obvious prophesy of Muhammad. So they conclude that Christians have changed (harraf حَرَّف) the Gospel. On the other hand, when they find passages in the Gospel of Barnabas where Jesus says that he is glad to be a servant of Muhammad who is still to come, many Muslims become convinced that this must be the true, unchanged Gospel.

A second, and much more important difficulty, is that the Gospel found among the Christians claims that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. Muslims cannot accept this central Christian idea because in the Sura Al-Nisâ' (The Women) 4:157 the Qur'an says,

They (the Jews) did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to appear this way to them.

When we examine the Gospel of Barnabas, we find it claiming that Judas Iscariot was placed on the cross and crucified in place of Jesus. Again this agrees with the Qur'an and sounds very convincing to many Muslims. When Christians have answered that this is not the true Gospel because it denies that Jesus died for our sins, the Muslims have naturally reacted by saying, "bring the proofs." Cheikh Mohammed Abu Zahra, who used the Gospel of Barnabas in his course in 1940 at Al-Azhar University, gave to Christians the following challenge,

The most significant service to the religions and to humanity would be that the church take the trouble to study the gospel according to Barnabas and refute it and to bring us the proofs on which this refutation is based.

This is a valid challenge, and is the reason for writing this book.

Some Results from the Assumption that Barnabas is the True Gospel

Before looking at a summary of the Gospel of Barnabas and then considering some of its details in depth, we must examine this assumption that it is the true Gospel and clarify some of the results that follow, especially the relationship between a true Gospel of Barnabas and the Qur'an.

First Result

If the Gospel of Barnabas was written in the first Christian century as many Muslims believe, then it should reflect an accurate knowledge of 1st century Palestinian history and social customs. (This would not prove a 1st century date of composition, of course. A careful author from a later epoch might write a very accurate work.) If, on the other hand, it has serious errors concerning first century Palestinian history and geography, and mentions customs and ideas which were not known until a later date, this will be proof that it is not an original document from the time of Christ and his disciples.

Second Result

If Barnabas is the true Gospel, the Qur'an would have to agree that there could be a true unchanged Gospel. That may seem rather obvious to some readers, but when it is remembered that Muslims almost always charge that Christians have changed their Gospel, it is very valid to ask the question, "Will the Qur'an support the possibility that there is an unchanged Gospel?"

It may come as a surprise to Muslim readers that, in fact, the Qur'an does seem to support the idea that the true Gospel was present while Muhammad was alive. In the Sura Yûnus (Jonah) 10:94, from just before the Hejira, the following words are addressed to Muhammad:

If you are in doubt as to what we have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before you.

In the Sura Al-Nisâ' (The Women) 4:47, from 3-5 AH we read:

Oh you to whom the Scriptures have been given. Believe in what we have sent down confirming that which is with you (مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَكُمْ) (the Torah and the Gospel) from before.

And in the Sura Al-Mâ'ida (The Table) 5:50, written in AH 10, near the end of Muhammad's life, we read:

And let the people of the Gospel judge according to what God revealed (sent down) in it (the Gospel).

Since, according to the Qur'an, God told Muhammad to ask information of "those who have been reading the book before you", sent the Qur'an to confirm what was present "with" the Christians in 3 AH, and told the Christians in the year 10 AH to "judge according to what (He, God) had revealed in it (the Gospel)", we may conclude that the Qur'an supports the idea that the true Gospel was present at the time the Qur'an was given.

Third Result

If the Gospel of Barnabas is the true Gospel, then it must be added to the Qur'an. By that I mean it ought to be printed with the Qur'an as the true Word of God. Unless abrogated by the Qur'an every word and sentence would be binding on the Muslim as well as the Christian, and Muslims would wash before reading it as they do for the Qur'an. It would also mean that any contradictions or errors in historical facts would be added to the Qur'an. This is very important. With worldly books we can quote one sentence which pleases us and ignore the rest of the book. But with a book which comes from God, the believer must take the whole book.

Furthermore this is not just my private idea. The Qur'an states it in the Sura Al-Baqara (The Heifer) 2:85, from 2 AH where the following accusation is brought against the Jews in regard to their own Torah:

Then it is only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this? but disgrace in this life, and on the day of resurrection... grievous penalty.

This particular group of Jews is being blamed because they pick and choose what pleases them rather than obeying the whole Torah. But the opposite is also true. If a book has many errors proving that it did not come from God, then it is wrong to pick out verses which pleases one from the midst of the mistakes and quote them as having come by revelation.

In summary then, if the Gospel of Barnabas is the true Gospel it means:

1. That the details of history, geography, and social customs found in the Gospel of Barnabas must be correct for the first Christian century and not reflect the customs and ideas of another time.

2. That the relevant Qur'anic texts agree that a true Gospel has been preserved, and that if the Gospel of Barnabas is this true Gospel then it must not contradict the Qur'an in matters of fact.

The Gospel of Barnabas

What does the Gospel of Barnabas actually say about itself? In his introduction the author claims to be Barnabas, the friend of Paul. He is writing what he heard and saw when he was with Jesus because some, including Paul, have been deceived by Satan for they deny the necessity of circumcision and allow the eating of unclean meats.

In the following outline summary the chapter numbers from the Gospel of Barnabas are on the left. After many sections there is a reference which shows where the same passage is found in the Bible. These are references where 50% or 80% or, in a few cases, 100% of the material is exactly like the Biblical passage. In addition there are hundreds of shorter allusions to Biblical prophets, stories and sayings. I have mentioned these only where they form the basis of a discussion. For example God's statement to Abraham "I will be thy great reward" from Genesis 15:1 is the basis of a discourse extending from Chapter 180 to 182.

Outline Summary

1  Gabriel tells Mary she will bear Jesus. (Luke 1:26-33, 46-55)
2  Gabriel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife even though she is pregnant. (Matthew 1)
3  Jesus' birth in a manger. There is no room in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
4  The angels appear to the shepherds. (Luke 2:8-20)
5   Circumcision and presentation at the temple combined. (Luke 2:21, 22)
6-9a  The wise men come to worship the newborn king of the Jews. King Herod wants to kill Jesus. Joseph is warned and taking his family flees to Egypt. (Matthew 2)
9b  Jesus talks with the temple leaders at age 12. (Luke 2:40-52)
10  Jesus begins his ministry at age 30 after a book, as a mirror, descends into his heart. (Luke 3:23)
11  Jesus heals a leper.
12  Jesus gives a sermon at the temple from the pinnacle.
13  Gabriel, after telling of Abraham being willing to offer, "his only begotten son, Ishmael," orders Jesus to also offer a sheep and provides a sheep for him.
14  Jesus fasts 40 days, then drives the devil away by the power of the words of God and angels come to strengthen him. (Matthew 4)
Jesus chooses 12 disciples. The list includes Thaddeus as mentioned in Matthew 10:3 and the second Judas as mentioned in Luke 6:16. Barnabas, the author, is one of the twelve.
15  Jesus changes water into wine. (John 2)
16  Jesus preaches from the mountain. Teachings from Matthew 5-7.
17  Philosophical discussion that God is one and that there are 144,000 prophets. (Matthew 5-7)
18  If given a blow on one side of the face, offer the other: be ye perfect. (Matthew 5-7)
19  Jesus heals ten lepers, one returns to thank him. (Luke 17:12-19)
20  Jesus calms the storm and arrives at Nazareth on the shore. (Luke 8:22-25)
21  Jesus heals the wild demoniac. (Luke 8:26-37)
Jesus heals the daughter of a Canaanite woman. The fact that he answered not a word is from Matthew 15:21-28. The fact that she went home to find her daughter healed is from Mark 7:24-30.
22  Condition of the uncircumcised before God.
23  Origin of circumcision. Adam wanted to punish his own flesh because of having sinned through the flesh. Gabriel showed him where to cut.
24  The rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31)
25  How one ought to despise the flesh; one should bridle it like a horse.
26  Abraham's contention with his father about idols.
27  Laughter is improper.
28  Abraham cuts off feet of all idols but one.
29  God calls Abraham, Gabriel takes the form of a man and shows him how to wash and calls him to another land.
30  Love God and thy neighbor; story of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)
31  Give to Caesar that which is Caesar's. (Luke 20:20-26) Healing of the centurion's "son". Combination of facts from Matthew 8:5-13 and John 4:43-54.
32-33  On idolatry – particularly idolatry of the appetites; includes Jesus' teaching that sin, not food, defiles. (Mark 7:1-23)
34  Jesus heals a man with a shrunken hand, and teaches that one ought not take the highest place at a feast. (Luke 14:8-11)
He speaks of pride and quotes Isaiah 14:12 on Lucifer falling.
35 Jesus tells how Satan fell and repeats there will be 144,000 with the mark of prophecy, plus the Messenger of God who was created 60,000 years before anything else.
36-38  On prayer, Jesus claims that without washing, no prayer is pleasing to God, though washing is useless if you love your sin. Lord's prayer as in the Bible except that instead of, "Our Father who art in heaven." the prayer starts, "O Lord our God." (Matthew 6:9-13)
39-41  Creation of Adam. The first thing Adam sees are the words, "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." Chapters 40b-41 are essentially like the Bible. (Genesis 3)
42  The Jews ask Jesus if he is the Messiah and he says, "No." (John 1:15, 19-27)
Jesus goes up to Mt. Tabor with Peter, James, John and Barnabas and is transfigured. Voice of God says, "Behold my servant," instead of "this is my Son." Matthew 17:1-8 plus one fact from Luke 9:31.
43-44  Disciples ask about the Messiah. Jesus says that he is the messenger of God who will come – the seal. Psalm 110 is quoted as being about the Messiah, the messenger of God through Ishmael. (Psalm 110, Matthew 22:42-45)
45-46  On hypocrites, including Jesus being rebuked for healing on the Sabbath, although the Jewish leaders would pull their ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath.
47  Healing of widow's son from Nain. (Luke 7:11-17)
48  Discussion of others about Jesus as God, or the Son of God, with some saying that God can have no son because God has no body.
49-50  Jesus' preaching in a synagogue.
51  Jesus asks God to forgive Satan. God agrees if Satan will repent. He won't.
52-58  Long discourse on what will happen during the last 15 days of world history ending with only God alive for 40 years. Then judgement with Muhammad raised first. He asks for justice. The names of the elect are in a book and on their forehead the mark of the Messenger of God, every idle word shall be judged. People shall be rewarded for the hair-shirt they have worn and each louse they have born. (A number of facts from Revelation.)
59-60  Description of hell as 7 parts, but each sin is rewarded as a hell.
61-62  Therefore, be on guard as one expecting a thief. "Satan is as a roaring lion that goes about seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8)
Adaptation of the parable of the talents and rich man who sold all to buy a field.
63-64  On vengeance, from James and John wanting to bring fire on the Samaritans. Enemy is not human beings, but our own bodies. "You do not know by what spirit you are led." (Luke 9:52-56)
65  Jesus heals the man by the pool of Bethesda, found at the sheep-gate. (John 5:1-16)
66-69  Jesus preaches in the temple that we should ask what we can do for God, rather than what reward God will give us. Chapter 68 has one of the rare parables original to the Gospel of Barnabas. Jesus heals a deaf and dumb man and the Pharisees say it is by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus says blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:22-32)
70  Jesus asks, "Who do men say that I am," and rebukes Peter severely when he answers, "You are the Christ, Son of God". (John the Baptist omitted from list that people say Jesus is.) (Matthew 16:13-23)
71  Healing of man sick with palsy. Jesus says, "thy sins are forgiven," and then qualifies it by explaining that as a servant of God he can beseech for the sins of others. (Luke 5:17-26)
72  Jesus foretells that he will be betrayed and depart from this world. Then, later, the Messenger of God will come to slay the idolaters and barely 30 true Christians will be left at that time.
73-75  How Satan tempts.
76-77  Man's laziness. It is not enough to know but one must also act.
78-79  Andrew then concludes that perhaps it is better not to know. Jesus disagrees and says that the knowledge which comes by the prophets is to be obeyed.
80  Even if a few people are the only ones with faith, they should obey the revelation they have. He then mentions Job, Noah and Daniel.
81-83  Samaritan woman at the well almost exactly as it is in the Bible, except that Jesus says that he is not the Messiah. (John 4)
84-86  Disciples ask what to do if a friend calls while they are praying. Jesus says finish your prayers; if he is offended he is not a valuable friend. Then a long discussion of friendship.
87  Verses concerning offenses which must come and cutting off hand or foot if they offend and ending with, "If your brother offend you..." (Matthew 18:6-18)
88-89  Jesus speaks of pardon, including forgiving 70 times 7, and that we should be very patient in waiting for others to repent. (Matthew 18:21-22)
90  Jesus speaks of faith.
91  The Romans say Jesus is God come to visit. The discussion is so heated that Pilate, Herod and the high priest, each with an army of 200,000 are ready to go to war about it; but they decide instead to ask Jesus.
92-95  They seek Jesus and find him near the Jordan and he denies that he is God. The Romans say no mere man could do these signs. He reminds them that Moses and the prophets did signs.
96-97  Priest asks, "who are you, then? Are you the Messiah?" Jesus says, "I am not the Messiah." The Messiah shall be called Muhammad.
98  Roman senate passes an imperial decree that no one may call Jesus God or Son of God. 5000 people are left from the three armies and Jesus feeds them with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. (John 6:5-13)
99-111  Jesus sends the 72 to preach "penitence" and gives a long exhortation about repentance and penitence and that tears must be shed with fasting and little sleep.
112  Jesus foretells that Judas will betray him for 30 pieces of silver and Jesus will abide in dishonor because people called him God. When Muhammad, the Messiah, comes, he will remove this infamy.
113  Jesus speaks again of penitence.
114-115  Jesus praises work and says that man should content himself with one wife.
116-117  Jesus tells of a blind man who wanted to see Elijah. Elijah rebukes him for not using all his desire to see God.
118-119  Human beings must guard against lust by praying.
120  Jesting is wrong.
121  Every person has 2 angels: one to write his good deeds, and one the bad.
122-125  On avarice.
126  Jesus sends his disciples two by two; they return praising because they have thrown out demons. Jesus says, "I have seen Satan fall." (Luke 10:17-18)
127-129a  Jesus preaches on pride from the pinnacle where prayer was wont to be made. Includes the two men who went up to the temple to pray. (Luke 18:10-14)
129b-130  Jesus eats at Simon's house and allows a sinful woman to touch him. When Simon is shocked Jesus speaks of two debtors and then tells her, "God has pardoned your sins," rather than, "Your sins are forgiven." (Luke 7:36-50)
131  On the dangers of pride.
132  Jesus gets into a boat and addresses the crowd giving the parable of the sower and the field. Then there are three original parables about people who prefer bad figs, apple peels, and who refuse to use good water. (Mark 4:1-9, Matthew 13:24-29)
133-134  The explanation of the above parables.
135  The 7 carnal sins of envy, gluttony, etc., lead to the 7 levels of hell.
136-137  Description of grades of punishment. Everyone must go to hell. Muhammad will successfully intercede so that no one with faith will stay more than 70,000 years.
138-141  Jesus and the people pray 19 days and ripe wheat is found the 20th day in the fields eaten previously by worms (one of the two original miracles). Therefore the people want to make Jesus king.
142  Judas decides Jesus is no prophet or he would know that Judas was stealing the money. Therefore he talks with scribes and Pharisees about betraying Jesus.
143 and 146a Jesus eats with Zaccheus, the tax collector. (Luke 19:1-10)
144-145  The doctrine of the true Pharisees. Elijah as the first one.
146-147  Parable of the Prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32)
148-151  Long story describing true Pharisees who give up everything for the love of God.
152  Jesus challenges the Roman soldiers and says that if their gods can make even one fly, he will worship them. The soldiers try to attack Jesus and are rolled out of the temple.
153  Discourse on stealing including that if we do not say, "if God wills," then we are stealing from God.
154  Even worse than stealing things is stealing a person's honor.
155  Why God created human beings free.
156-157  The healing of the man born blind. (John 9)
158-162  Long discussion about how God might use a lie with sinful people. It includes the story of King Ahab and Jehoshaphat who lived around 800 B.C., exactly as recorded in 2 Chronicles but says that Daniel wrote it down. (2 Chronicles 18)
163-167  Jesus speaks of predestination ending with the statement that if their minds will not rest content with his explanation they should not be surprised since, even though the whole earth rests on water, a human being cannot make a single stone float.
168  Jesus again claims that his teaching was given to him by God as a book like unto a clear mirror which came down into his heart.
169-179  Jesus speaks about paradise saying that the food of those in paradise is the glory they will see there. There will be no light because God is the sun of paradise and his Messenger, Muhammad, is the moon. (Revelation 21:23)
180-182  A scribe asks Jesus what God meant when He said to Abraham, "I will be thy great reward," for how can God owe us anything? Jesus answers that for Abraham God is his gift and his debt. (Genesis 15:1)
183-189  Jesus speaks of humility including a very nice story about two true Pharisees, Haggai and Hosea.
190-192a  A scribe speaks of seeing an old book – the true Book of Moses – which described Muhammad in the arms of Ishmael and Ishmael in the arms of Abraham. Next to Ishmael stood Isaac holding Jesus in his arms, with Jesus pointing toward Muhammad and saying "This is he for whom God has created all things."
192b-193  Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. (John 11)
194-198a  The disciples say that if each person could die and be raised everyone would repent. Jesus answers that every person sees the dead carried away and this is enough so that each one can know and repent.
198b-199  Jesus prophecies that a wicked one will suffer in his place.
200  Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The account speaks of an ass and its colt as in Matthew but concludes with Jesus saying that if he rebuked the crowd even the stones would cry out, as found in Luke. (Matthew 21:1-9, Luke 19:39-40)
201  The woman taken in adultery, followed by the parable of the lost sheep. (John 8:1-11, Luke 15:1-7)
202a  Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and calls them the righteous unrighteous.
202b-204  Jesus cries over Jerusalem. The author combines phrases found in Luke with those found in the parallel passage in Matthew. (Luke 19:41, Matthew 23:37)
205  Mary anoints Jesus' head but the detail that it is for his death is omitted. Judas, angered that he didn't get hold of the money and had thus lost 30 of the 300 pieces (for he always stole a tenth), goes to the high priest and agrees to deliver him up for 30 pieces of gold. (John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:14-16)
206-208  Jesus is again questioned as to who is the Messiah. As before he denies that he is the Messiah who must be descended from Ishmael.
209  The angel Gabriel speaks to Mary and tells her to fear not, for God will protect Jesus.
210  The high priest agrees with Herod and Pilate on the necessity of getting rid of Jesus.
211-212  After stating that he must depart to a place where he will not feel any tribulation, Jesus prays a high-priestly prayer. (John 17)
213  Jesus greatly desires to have the last supper, eats it and washes the disciples' feet. (Luke 22:15, John 13)
214  Jesus goes to a garden to pray.
215  When the soldiers come God commands the ministering angels, Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel to take Jesus out of the world.
216  "The wonderful God acted wonderfully," and Judas was changed to look like Jesus so that even the other disciples thought he was Jesus.
217  Arrest and trial of Judas (who now looks like Jesus). Judas is tried before the Jews, appears before Pilate and King Herod. (John 18:28-19:12, Luke 23:6-11)
Judas' crucifixion when he cries out, "God, why have you forsaken me, seeing the malefactor has escaped and I die unjustly." (Matthew 27:46)
Judas is buried by Nicodemus and Joseph. (John 19:38-41)
218  Some of the disciples who did not fear God went at night and stole the body and said that Jesus was risen. (Matthew 28:13)
219  Mary's guardian angels go to the third heaven and tell Jesus that his mother and disciples are weeping. Jesus asks God, who allows him to return to earth for three days to show himself to his disciples.
220  Jesus prays for permission to show his disciples the four angels, and again explains that God has decreed that people should believe the infamy of his crucifixion so that he won't be punished in the next world.
221  Jesus orders Barnabas to write what he has seen. He shows himself to more than 60 people. On the third day they go to the Mount of Olives where the angels carry him to heaven. (Acts 1)
222  The disciples scatter and preach the truth, but other disciples, especially Paul, preach that Jesus rose again and is the Son of God.

Some Observations

For those readers who have read the Bible, it will be clear that the outline format of the Gospel of Barnabas is almost exactly the same as that found in the Gospels. Except for one miracle and one prophecy, all of the miracles recorded by Barnabas are found in the Canonical Gospels. Almost all the Old Testament prophets and many kings and ordinary people from the Bible are mentioned. What is noteworthy is that no non-Biblical people are included. One might expect an original first century witness to speak of someone not mentioned by the others. For example, in the New Testament, John alone mentions the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

In between these "Biblical" passages are long philosophical discourses on humility, on faith, on the qualities of true Pharisees. As we shall see later, these discourses reflect the language, style, and beliefs of Christian Europe of the Middle Ages. The ascetic life of monks is greatly praised and two chapters declare laughter to be unspiritual.

The author of Barnabas knew the present New Testament exceedingly well. His history of the actual events in the life of Christ follows the Canonical Gospels very closely, and he even takes care to gather together the small details from the different Gospel accounts. Chapters 21, 31, 42, 200 and 204 are examples which have been noted in the summary above.

In other places he interweaves long passages or whole chapters dealing with the same subject. Chapters 1 to 9a include all the information that the Bible gives about the birth of Jesus with nearly the same wording. Chapter 1 tells how Gabriel told Mary she would have a son as recorded in Luke 1. Then Joseph's dream is included from Matthew 1. Next Luke 2 up to verse 22, then Matthew 2, and finally back to Luke 2:40-52. Chapter 217 on the trial of Judas (Jesus) includes passages worked together from the trial accounts of Matthew, Luke, and John.

In addition quotations are occasionally made from other New Testament books. In Chapter 61 words from 1 Peter which were written at least thirty years after Jesus' ascension are placed in Jesus' mouth.

Finally, it must be pointed out that almost all the statements and facts which support the Christian beliefs that God loves us as a Father, and that Jesus died for our sins, have been removed or given other meanings.

With this summary in our minds we shall now evaluate the Gospel of Barnabas:

  1. In relation to the Qur'an.
  2. In relation to the history, geography, and customs of Palestine at the time of Christ.
  3. In relation to the way Christian religious ideas are expressed.
  4. In relation to medieval and modern science.
  5. What can be learned from the history and description of the document itself.



1 Barnabas-Evangelium, Cod. 2662, Handschriften- und Inkunabelnsammlung, Austrian National Library, Vienna. (*)

2 For more information on the manuscript, see Chapter V.

3 The Gospel of Barnabas, Edited and Translated from the Italian MS. in the Imperial Library at Vienna, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907).

4 Arabic word for the Gospel derived from the Greek euangelion which means good news.

5 The system for transcription of the Arabic words into English is shown at the back of the book. All quotations from the Qur'an are taken from the translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (The Holy Qur'an. Text, Translation and Commentary, 1938). Bible quotations are from the Revised Standard Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983).

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