This non-canonical gospel is vital to support the Muslim claim that the Gospel has been changed by Christians. This gospel presents a Jesus happy to be a servant of Muhammad and a Judas Iscariot who was placed on the cross instead of Christ.
1) The author claims to be a friend of Paul but Paul has been deceived and along with others now denies the need for circumcision and refrains from eating unclean animals.
2) The Nativity Account. It confirms the Biblical account of the manger scene; the absence of room in the inn; the Wise Men’s appearance and the flight of Jesus into Egypt. These four areas are in contradiction to the Quran. The circumcision of Jesus at the Temple is also mentioned.
3) The ministry of Jesus begins at the age of thirty years soon after a book, as a mirror descends into his heart. He gives a sermon at the Temple from the pinnacle and presents the Sermon on the Mount teaching.
4) Amongst the teaching given by Jesus is the aspect that God is One and that there are 144,000 prophets. He teaches to forgive others 70 times and be patient until they repent. He teaches the crowds the Parable of The Sower from a boat and explains its meaning. He teaches that the seven carnal sins of envy, gluttony etc lead to the seven levels of Hell. There are grades of punishment and everyone must go to Hell yet Muhammad will successfully intercede so that no one with faith will stay there for more than 70,000 years.
5) Jesus is rebuked for healing on a Sabbath. He heals the widow’s son from the village of Nain. He meets a Samaritan woman at a well and tells her he is not the Messiah.
6) Other items that match up with The Gospel are that Jesus eats with Zacchaeus; He teaches the Prodigal Son and the Lost Sheep parables; The woman taken in adultery; Jesus weeps over Jerusalem; Mary anoints Jesus ( yet it’s purpose for the anointing of his death is omitted ); The High Priestly prayer (John 17); Jesus prays in the garden, the soldiers come yet in the Gospel of Barnabas God commands the angels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel to take Jesus out of the world.
7) Judas is changed to look like Jesus and in this state he is tried before the Jews where Judas cries out “God, why have you forsaken me, seeing the malefactor has escaped and I die unjustly“. Judas is later buried by Nicodemus and Joseph and soon after some disciples who did not fear God went at night and stole the body announcing that Jesus had risen. Mary’s guardian angels go to the third heaven and tell Jesus that his mother and his disciples are weeping. Jesus asks God, who allows Jesus to return to the earth for three days to show himself to his disciples. Jesus orders Barnabas to write what he has seen and finally the angels take Jesus to heaven from the Mount of Olives. The disciples scatter and preach the truth, but other disciples especially Paul preach that Jesus rose again and that he is the Son of God.
8 Gabriel told Jesus that Abraham willingly offered “his only begotten son Ishmael“ and so orders Jesus to also offer a sheep which he provides. Gabriel is also to be found explaining the origin of circumcision. Asserting that Adam wanted to punish his own flesh because of having sinned through the flesh; Gabriel showed him where to cut.
9) Abraham is shown as a contender against idols and in a related incident in opposing his father he cuts off all the feet of the idols except one. In another situation Gabriel appears to him in the form of a man and shows him how to wash and calls him to another land.
10) In connection with washings, Jesus states that washing is useless if you love your sin. The Lord’s Prayer is quoted with a change in its beginning from “Our Father “ to “O Lord our God”. The first thing Adam sees are the words “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.“. The Jews ask Jesus if he is the Messiah to which he replies “No”. Jesus is transfigured on Mount Tabor in the presence of Peter, James, John and Barnabas and they hear the voice from heaven saying “Behold my Servant”. (cp Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:31 – “This is my Son“).
The Format of the Gospel of Barnabas
The layout of the Gospel of Barnabas is very similar to that of the Gospels: all incidents except for one miracle and one prophecy are found in the Canonical Gospels. Most of the Old Testament prophets and kings are mentioned. Between the Biblical passages long philosophical discourses are given on such issues as humility, faith, qualities of true Pharisees and the ascetic life of monks is greatly praised.
The extant copy of the Gospel of Barnabas is found in the Austrian National Library in Vienna and is classified as Codex No 2662. In 1907 an English translation was made from the Italian original and it was made available to the English speaking Muslims of Egypt and India. An Arabic translation was made in 1908 in Cairo.
The Gospel of Barnabas: A spurious gospel
The Rev Sale inspected a Spanish translation of the Italian copy of this apocryphal gospel, of which he gives the following account:—
“The book is a moderate quarto, in Spanish, written in a very legible hand, but a little damaged towards the latter end. It contains two hundred and twenty-two chapters of unequal length, and four hundred and twenty pages; and is said, in the front, to be translated from the Italian by an Aragonian Muslim named Mustafa de Aranda. There is a preface prefixed to it, wherein the discoverer of the original manuscript, who was monk called Fra Marino, tells us that, having accidentally met with a writing of Irenaeus (among others), wherein he speaks against St. Paul, alleging for his authority the gospel of St. Barnabas, he became exceedingly desirous to find this gospel; and that God, of his mercy, having made him very friendly with Pope Sixtus 5, one day, as they were together in that Pope’s library, his Holiness fell asleep, and he, to employ himself, reaching down a book to read, the first he laid his hand on proved to be the very gospel he wanted; overjoyed at the discovery, he scrupled not to hide his prize in his sleeve, and on the Pope’s awaking, took leave of him, carrying with him that celestial treasure by reading of which he became a convert to Muhammadism.”
“This Gospel of Barnabas contains a complete history of Jesus Christ, from His birth to His ascension, and most of the circumstances of the four real gospels are to be found therein, but many of them turned, and some artfully enough, to favour the Muslim system. From the design of the whole, and the frequent interpolations of stories and passages, wherein Muhammad is spoken of and foretold by name, as the messenger of God, and the great prophet who was to perfect the dispensation of Jesus, it appears to be a most bare-faced forgery. One particular I observe therein induces me to believe it to have been dressed up by a renegade Christian, slightly instructed in his new religion, and not educated as Muslim (unless the fault be imputed to the Spanish or perhaps, the Italian translator, and to the original compiler). I mean the giving to Muhammad the title of Messiah, and that not once or twice only, but in several places; whereas, the title of Messiah, or as the Arabs write it , al-Masih, i.e. Christ, is appropriated to Jesus in the Quran, and is constantly applied by the Mohammedans to him, and never to their own Prophet. The passages produced from the Italian manuscript by M de la Monnoye are to be seen in this Spanish version almost word for word.”
A brief overview of the Gospel of Barnabas:
Examples from the text of the Gospel of Barnabas: 1) The supposed crucifixion of Judas
The Rev. Joseph White, D.D., in his Bampton Lectures of 1784, gives a translation of those chapters in this spurious Gospel of Barnabas, which relate to the supposed crucifixion of Judas in the place of our Lord, and which we insert:—
“Judas came near to the people with whom Jesus was; and when He heard the noise He entered into the house where the disciples slept. And God, seeing the fear and danger of His servant, ordered Gabriel and Michael and Rafael and Azrail to carry Him out of the world” ……………….. “And they came in all haste, and bare Him out of the window which looks towards the south. And they placed Him in the third heaven, where He will remain blessing God, in the company of angels till near the end of the world.” (Chapter 216).
“And Judas the traitor entered before the rest into the place from which Jesus had just been taken up. And the disciples were sleeping. And the wonderful God acted wonderfully, changing Judas into the same figure and speech with Jesus” ………………….. “We believing that it was He, said to him, Master, whom seekest thou? And he said to them, smiling, ye have forgotten yourselves, since ye do not know Judas Iscariot.” …………………………………. “At this time the soldiery entered; and seeing Judas so like in every respect to Jesus laid hands upon him,” (Chapter 217.)
“The soldiers afterwards took Judas and bound him, notwithstanding he said with truth to them that he was not Jesus. And the soldiers mocked him saying. Sir. Do not be afraid; for we are come to make thee King of Israel; and we have bound thee, because we know thou hast refused the kingdom. And Judas said. Ye have lost your senses” ………………… “I came to show you Jesus, that ye might take Him; and ye have bound me, who am your guide. The soldiers lost their patience, hearing this, and they began to go with him, striking and buffeting him, till they reached Jerusalem,” etc (Chapter 218).
“They carried Him to Mount Calvary, Where they executed, criminals, and crucified him stripping him asked for the greater ignominy. Then he did nothing but cry out, 0 my God, why hast thou forsaken me that I should die unjustly, when the real malefactor hath escaped? I say in truth that he was so like in person, figure, and gesture to Jesus, that as many as knew Him, believed firmly that it was He, except Peter; for which reason many left his doctrine, believing that it had been false; as He had said that He should not die till the end of the world”……………………. “But those who stood firm were oppressed with grief, seeing him die who they understood to be Jesus: not recollecting what He had told them. And in company with His mother, they were present at his death, weeping continually. And by means of Joseph of Abarimatheas (sic), they obtained from the president the body of Judas. And they took him down from the cross, burying him with much lamentation in the new sepulchre of Joseph; having wrapped him up in linen and precious ointments,” (Chapter 219).
“They all returned, each man to his house: and he who writeth with James and John, went with the mother of Jesus to Nazareth. And the disciples, who did not fear God with truth, went by night and stole the body of Judas, and hid it; spreading a report that He (i.e. Jesus) had risen again, from whence sprung great confusion among the people“.
Examples from the text of the Gospel of Barnabas: 2) Jesus appears saying he did not suffer the disgrace of the cross
“And the High Priest commanded, under pain of anathema, that no one should talk of him ; and on this account raised a great persecution, banishing some, tormenting others, and even stoning some to death: because it was not in the power of anyone to be silent on this subject. And then came news to Nazareth that Jesus had risen again. And he that writeth desired the mother of Jesus to leave off her lamentation. And Mary said. Let us go to Jerusalem, to see if it is truth. If I see Him I shall die content“. (Chapter 220).
“The Virgin returned to Jerusalem with him that writeth, and James and John, the same day that the decree of the High Priest came out” …………………… “And as she feared God, though she knew the command was unjust, she entreated those who talked with her not to speak of her Son who can say how we were then affected? God, who knows the heart of man, knows that between the grief for the death of Judas, whom we understood to be Jesus and the pleasure of seeing him raised again, we almost expired. And the angels who were the guardians of Mary went up to heaven the third day, and told Jesus what was passing. And He moved with compassion for His mother, entreated of God that He might be seen by His disciples. And the Compassionate God ordered his four favourite angels to place Him within his own house and to guard Him three days; that they only might see Him, who believed His doctrine …………………….. Jesus descended, surrounded with light, into the house of His mother, where were the two sisters, Martha and Mary and Lazarus and he that writeth, and John and James and Peter. And when they saw Him, they fell with their faces on the earth as if dead. And Jesus lifted them up, saying Fear not, for I am your Master. Lament not henceforth, for I am alive. They were astonished at seeing Jesus, because they though Him dead. And Mary weeping said, Tell me, my Son, why if God gave Thee power to raise up the dead, did He consent that Thou shouldest die, with so much reproach and shame to Thy relations and friends, and so much hurt to Thy doctrine, leaving us all in desolation? Jesus replied, embracing His mother, Believe me, for I tell thee the truth, I have not been dead; for God has reserved me for the end of the world. In saying this He desired the angels to manifest themselves, and to tell how he had passed through everything. At the instant they appeared like four suns; and all present prostrated themselves on the ground, overcome by the presence of the angels. And Jesus gave to all of them something to cover themselves with that they might be able to hear the angels speak”……………………………
“And Jesus said to His mother, these are the ministers of God. Gabriel knows His secrets; Michael fights with His enemies; Asraiel will cite all to judgement; and Azrael receives the souls. And the holy angels told how they had, by the command of God, taken up Jesus, and transformed Judas, that he might suffer the punishment which he wished to bring on Jesus. And he that writeth said, is it lawful for me to ask of Thee, in the same manner as when thou wast in the world? And Jesus answered, Speak, Barnabas, what thou wishest”……………………….. “And he said, I wish that Thou, wouldest tell me how God, being so compassionate could inflict so much in giving us to understand that Thou wast he that suffered, for we have been very near dying. And Thou being a prophet, why did He suffer Thee to fall under disgrace, by (apparently) placing Thee on a cross, and between two robbers? Jesus answered, Believe Me, Barnabas, let the fault be ever so small God chastiseth it with much punishment. And as my mother and faithful disciples loved me with a little earthly love, God chastised that love by this grief; that He might not chastise it in the other world. And though I was innocent, yet as they called Me God, and His Son, that the devils might not mock Me on the Day of Judgment, He has chosen that I should be mocked in this world“…………………. “And this mocking shall last till the holy Messenger of God (i.e. Muhammad) shall come, who shall undecieve all believers. And then He said, Just art Thou, 0 God! and to Thee only belongeth the honour and glory, with worship, for ever,” (Chapter 221.)
Examples from the text of the Gospel of Barnabas: 3) Barnabas told by Jesus Christ to write his gospel rectifying the truth
“And then He said, Barnabas, that thou by all means write my gospel, relating everything which has happened in the world concerning Me; and let it be done exactly; on order that the faithful may be undeceived, knowing the truth. He that writeth said, Master, I will do it as Thou commandest me, God willing; but I did not see all that happened with Judas. Jesus answered, here stand Peter and John, who saw it, and will relate it to thee ………………. “And He told James and John to call the seven apostles who were absent and Nicodemus and Joseph of Abarimatheas (sic) and some of the seventy-two disciples. When they were come, they did eat with Him; and on the third day He commanded them all to go to the Mount of Olives with His mother: because He was to return to heaven. All the apostles and disciples went, except twenty-five of the seventy-two, who had fled to Damascus with fear. And exactly at mid-day, while they were all in prayer, Jesus came with many angels (blessing God), with so much brightness that they all bent their faces to the ground. And Jesus raised them up, saying Fear not your Master, who comes to take leave of you and to recommend you to God our Lord, by the mercies received from his bounty: and be He with you! ………… “And upon this He disappeared with the angels: all of us remaining amazed at the great brightness in which he left us.” (Chapter 222).