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Don Stewart :: Why Do Muslims Accept the Authority of the Gospel of Barnabas over the Four Gospels?

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Why Do Muslims Accept the Authority of the Gospel of Barnabas over the Four Gospels?

Islam – Question 10

Islam accepts Jesus as the Messiah to the Jews but not to the entire world. In fact, it rejects the authority of the four gospels. Indeed, Islam does not believe the gospel accounts that say that Jesus died on a cross for the sins of the world. What it does accept as an accurate account of Jesus’ life is a work known as the “Gospel of Barnabas.”

What has caused this particular work to become accepted as the true account of Jesus rather than the four gospels? We can state the answer as follows.

What Is the Gospel of Barnabas?

The Gospel of Barnabas is a document that claims to have been written by the New Testament character Barnabas. Muslims claim that this is the only written gospel that gives us authentic information about the life of Jesus Christ. They say that it was accepted by believers in Egypt as an authoritative gospel at an early date. However, this work was lost to the world for a number of years and was suppressed by certain church authorities. It only came to light again in the 15th or 16th century.

Among other things, the Gospel of Barnabas says that Jesus did not claim to be the Messiah of the Jews. In addition, it claims that He did not die on the cross but rather Judas Iscariot was substituted in His place. This idea that Jesus was not crucified is almost universally believed by Muslims.

The Gospel of Barnabas is used as an authoritative source of Jesus’ life and ministry in place of the four gospels. Should we believe it instead of the testimony of the four gospels?

Why Muslims Accept This Work

The reasons as to why Muslims would embrace this work instead of the four gospels are not hard to find. As the four gospels now stand, they refute the testimony of Muhammad and Islam. Jesus was the virgin-born Son of God who has existed for all eternity. He is the living God who became a human being. He lived a sinless life while here upon the earth.

Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world on Calvary’s cross and rose from the dead three days later. He then ascended into heaven as the glorified and risen Christ. Islam denies each of these truths that are so clearly taught in the four gospels. Consequently, if Islam is going to accept Jesus as some sort of prophet, yet deny what the New Testament has to say about Him, then they must put something in its place. The Gospel of Barnabas fits their needs. Yet the evidence says otherwise.

Problems with the Gospel of Barnabas

While Muslims generally believe that the Gospel of Barnabas is an authentic account of the life and ministry of Jesus, all the evidence says otherwise. Simply put, the Gospel of Barnabas is a fraud. it is not an early, authentic account of the life of Jesus. This can be seen in a number of ways. They include the following.

All Scholars Conclude It Is a Fraud

The view of scholarship is unanimous when it comes to the authenticity of the Gospel of Barnabas; it is a fraud. The evidence is that this so-called gospel of Barnabas was composed in the 15th or 16th century and not by the first century character of that name. There is no evidence that it existed before this time.

For one thing, no one in the ancient church cites the work. There is nothing found in the writings of Christians, or non-Christians, that give any testimony to such a work existing. The work is not referred to by anyone. We would expect someone to cite this work had it existed. Yet, we find nothing.

While a Gospel of Barnabas is placed in a fifth century list of written works, the contents of this gospel are not stated. Thus, we have no way of knowing that this is the same work that presently bears its name.

In addition, the Gospel of Barnabas finds itself on this list of works that were rejected by all Christians as being authentic. So whatever this Gospel of Barnabas may have been, it was rejected by all as being an inauthentic account of the life of Christ.

Furthermore, there is total silence among the early Muslim writers as to the existence of such an alternative gospel to the authoritative four gospels. While there are a number of defenses of Islam, written from the seventh through the fourteenth century, none of them mention such a work.

Since the Gospel of Barnabas contains an Islamic explanation of Jesus’ non-death on the cross, it is remarkable that it is never mentioned in any of the written works defending Islam against Christianity. It is first mentioned by Muslim writers in the 15th century. The only reason for this earlier silence is that it did not exist at this time.

The idea that it was somehow suppressed by religious authorities also does not make any sense. There were many gospels that were circulating among believers as well as unbelievers. They were well-known by those in the church and were rejected as authentic. However, there was no attempt to suppress the fact of their existence. To the contrary, they were listed so that believers could be aware of them.

The Earliest Manuscript Is from the Middle Ages

There is something else that all sides agree upon; the earliest manuscript of the Gospel of Barnabas which still exists is a 15th or 16th century Italian manuscript. Everyone recognizes this fact. There is no physical evidence that such a work existed before this time. None.

It Is Admitted to Be a Fraud by Some Muslim Scholars

There are some Muslim scholars who also realize that the evidence is unmistakable that the work is a fraud. They admit the fraudulent nature of the work. However, these are in the minority. Most Islamic scholars reject the obvious conclusion; the work is fraudulent.

It Is Not the Same as the Letter of Barnabas or the Acts of Barnabas

The Gospel of Barnabas is often confused with two other ancient works that have the name “Barnabas” in the title. These are the letter, or epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas, and the Acts of Barnabas. Each of these works is entirely different from the so-called Gospel of Barnabas.

The letter of Pseudo-Barnabas was written in the first or second century. However, the contents of this work are known and it is not the same as the Gospel of Barnabas. Furthermore, all agree that the writer was not the Barnabas of the New Testament.

The so-called Acts of Barnabas was written in the 5th century A.D. It is an apocryphal work. Interestingly, this writing mentions the Gospel according to Matthew but makes no mention of the Gospel of Barnabas. If such a work as the Gospel of Barnabas existed, we would expect this work that bears the name of Barnabas would at least mention it. Yet, instead it mentions the Gospel of Matthew as being used by Barnabas. This is another indication that this work was unknown in the 5th century.

There Are Internal Evidences That Show Its Late Date

When one reads the Gospel of Barnabas its fraudulent nature becomes apparent from a number of internal references. A few examples can be given.

For one thing, the setting for the Gospel of Barnabas is not first century Palestine, but rather life in Western Europe in medieval times. According to the Gospel of Barnabas, it quotes Jesus as saying that the year of Jubilee was observed every one hundred years. However, the year of Jubilee was observed every fifty years until a papal declaration was issued in the year 1343. At that time, the Pope changed the time of observation from fifty years to one hundred years. The fact that the Gospel of Barnabas says the observation of Jubilees was every one hundred years demonstrates that it was written after this papal declaration.

Add to this the fact that this fraudulent work refers to wooden wine casks, something that was used in medieval Europe, rather than the wineskins that were employed in biblical times. This is another sign of its late composition.

When Scripture is cited in the Gospel of Barnabas, it is cited from the Latin Vulgate translation, the official Roman Catholic translation made in the fourth century. This is three hundred years after this book was supposedly written. This is a further example of the lateness of its composition. The list of problems goes on and on.

There Are Historical and Geographical Errors in This Work

There are historical and geographical errors in this work that make it impossible to have been composed by someone who lived in first century Palestine. It speaks of Jesus sailing to Nazareth. Yet Nazareth is not located on any body of water. Pontius Pilate is said to have been governor of Judea when Jesus was born. However Pilate did not actually assume that position until a few years before Jesus’ death. No one who was familiar with the events of Jesus’ life and ministry could make such obvious mistakes.

These types of obvious mistakes are not found in the four gospels. The writes of the gospels knew the geography of first-century Palestine as well as who served in which political office. They could do this because they were living at that time.

It Contradicts the Eyewitness Testimony of the Four Gospels

Finally, and most devastating, is that this work is contradicted by the four independent works which do give us authentic information about the life of Jesus Christ, the four gospels. The four gospels are supported by early manuscript evidence. Ancient testimony as to the authorship of these works is unanimous. Matthew was written by one of Jesus’ disciples, a tax collector or customs official. Mark actually transcribed the spoken messages of Simon Peter who was one of Jesus leading disciples. Luke records eyewitness testimony to the life and ministry of Jesus and John wrote as one who was an eyewitness to the main events in the life and ministry of Jesus.

They all tell the same basic story as to what Jesus said and did. Their testimony refutes the fraudulent Gospel of Barnabas that Jesus did not die on Calvary’s cross or that He did not come back from the dead. They also testify, as does the Quran, that Jesus was promised Messiah.

Furthermore, all of the historical evidence that exists, whether from believers and unbelievers, testifies to the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts. Everything we know about it encourages us to trust it. Its accuracy has been confirmed time and time again.

This is in contrast to the fraudulent Gospel of Barnabas. It provides no basis whatsoever for being any type of authoritative work on the life and ministry of Jesus. Consequently, any unbiased objective person will reject the testimony of this fraudulent work and accept the testimony of those who were actually there when the events transpired.

Summary – Question 10
Why Do Muslims Accept the Authority of the Gospel of Barnabas over the Four Gospels?

The Islamic faith has a different view of Jesus Christ than is found in the New Testament. While they say they accept the testimony of the four gospels, in reality, they do not. They give more weight to a work called the Gospel of Barnabas. Among other things, this work claims that Jesus did not die upon the cross and that He did not claim to be the Messiah.

Muslims accept this work as being authentic because it fits their view of Jesus. If they accepted the four gospels at face value they would have to believe that Jesus is the Messiah of not only Israel but also the Savior of the entire world. They would also have to confess Him as Lord and God. This is something they are not willing to die. Yet, they do accept Him as some sort of prophet. The Gospel of Barnabas allows them to understand Jesus as an actual prophet without Him being whom the New Testament says that He is, God the Son.

While this work claims to be an authentic account of the life of Jesus from one who was there, all of the evidence speaks otherwise. It is obviously a fraudulent work written in Western Europe in the 15th or 16th century. There are a number of reasons as to why we can come to this conclusion.

Not once, do we find Christian, unbeliever, or Muslim citing this work before the 15th century. There is no evidence that it existed before this time.

The author does not know the geography or the customs of first century Palestine. He makes obvious mistakes in the area of geography and history. This shows that he did not live at that particular time in history.

This work is in direct contrast with the four gospels which give us a firsthand account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The evidence is that the writers of the four gospels were either eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus, or recorded eyewitness testimony. Their testimony must be dealt with. It claims that Jesus Christ is God the Son and that the eternal destiny of each one of us depends upon how we view Him. This is the accurate portrayal of Jesus. The Gospel of Barnabas is not.

Is the God of Islam the Same as the Biblical God? ← Prior Section
How Does Islam View the Person of Jesus Christ? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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