Appendix H: ‘The Gospel of Barnabas’
‘The Gospel of Barnabas’
Some people claim that the true Injīl is contained in what is known as the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’.
This book is not to be confused with the Epistleof Barnabas which is an early Christian document dated between 70 and 200 AD. The earliest manuscript of the Epistle of Barnabas is from the fourth Century AD. The Epistle of Barnabas does not provide an account of the life of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu), but contains exhortations to believers.
The ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ must be distinguished from the Epistle of Barnabas. The earliest manuscripts from the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ are as late as the 16thCentury AD, written in Italian. There is no evidence that the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ existed in the 7thCentury AD and thus it cannot be equated with the Injīl referred to in the Qur’an.
There are other good reasons for rejecting the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ as inauthentic.
On a superficial reading, the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ appears to be in line with mainstream Islamic belief, with Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)predicting the coming of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)after him. However, upon closer inspection, the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ contradicts the Qur’an’s teaching. It claims that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)is the Messiah (Masīh) and that Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)denies that he himself is the Messiah. This clearly contradicts the Qur’an which attributes the title Masīh to Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)alone.
The ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ was written by someone who did not know the geography of Palestine. It speaks of embarking a ship and sailing to Nazareth (chapter 20). Nazareth is in actual fact land-locked, being about 12 miles from the Lake of Galilee
The ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ also makes basic historical errors. For example, it states that Pilate was Governor at the time of Sayyidnā ‘Īsā’s birth (chaper 3), whereas in actual fact he was not Governor until 26 AD.
In addition, the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ displays ignorance of 1stCentury Palestinian customs. For example, it speaks of wine being stored in casks of wood (chapter 152). This was the custom in southern Europe but in Palestine wine was stored in animal skins.
These and many other basic errors provide clear evidence that the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ is not authentic. It was not, as it claims, written by a companion of Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu), but by someone many centuries later, who did not know Palestine or its 1stCentury history and customs, and who seems to have claimed to have been a Muslim but was ignorant of the Qur’an’s teaching.