The Gospel of Barnabas (not to be confused with the Acts of Barnabas or Epistle of Barnabas) is a book that claims to be written by the New Testament church leader Barnabas and offers alternative accounts of important biblical events. It is nearly as long as the four Gospels of the New Testament put together, offering a large wealth of information that can appear to harmonize Gospel accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The Gospel of Barnabas – What is it?
The earliest known copies are in Spanish and Italian, with the Spanish version now lost. The Gospel of Barnabas is believed to have been written sometime in the 16th century. Muslim apologists often use the Gospel of Barnabas because of its alleged prediction of Muhammad.
Muslim influence is seen throughout the text. The shahadah prayer is mentioned directly (chapter 39). Muhammad is noted by name. The Trinity is spoken against (a major Muslim criticism of Christianity), and Jesus is noted as a prophet rather than the Messiah or Son of God consistent with Muslim teachings. Differences in the Italian version of the Gospel of Barnabas appear to support Muslim beliefs, leading some to argue that it was first written in Spanish, while many others argue that it was first written in Italian.
Other concerning teachings inconsistent with the Bible are mentioned. God is said to have a soul (6:82), the circumcised will not enter paradise/heaven (17:23), and nine heavens are mentioned (3:105). These erroneous concepts each conflict with the Bible's teachings of an uncreated God (Genesis 1:1), salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and only one heaven (Revelation 22).
Historical inaccuracies have been found within the Gospel of Barnabas. For example, it teaches Jesus was born in the time of Pilate (though Pilate became leader in AD 26), that Adam and Eve ate an apple as the forbidden fruit (the fruit is unspecified in the Bible), and that Jesus sailed across the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth (though Nazareth is not a coastal town).
Both Muslim claims of the Gospel of Barnabas supporting its teachings and the acceptance of the Gospel of Barnabas as accurate, inspired writing are to be rejected. The book came about 1,500 years after the New Testament and includes clearly inaccurate information. While it remains interesting in terms of historical and literary study, its claims of authorship dating to the biblical Barnabas or of being inspired are not trustworthy.
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