Is the Gospel of Barnabas the true story of Isa / Jesus? Should Muslims learn about Jesus by reading the Gospel of Barnabas?
The so-called Gospel of Barnabas should only be read as the true story of Jesus if it can be shown that it was written by the Barnabas of the New Testament and during the time period when he lived. Research shows that neither is true.
The earliest document to mention the Gospel of Barnabas was in 1634. A second account, written in 1717, mentioned the Gospel of Barnabas as a work written in Arabic that also existed in Spanish and Italian. Even in this work, it was noted as of late origin and not authored by Barnabas.
The Gospel of Barnabas clearly contradicts the New Testament account of Jesus and His work. Instead, it conforms to some Muslim teachings, including the shahadah and references speaking against the Christian teaching of the Trinity. Further, this writing refers to Jesus escaping crucifixion by being raised to heaven and the traitor Judas Iscariot taking His place on the cross.
The Gospel of Barnabas shows Jesus rejecting worship as Deity. For example, one reference alleges Jesus taught, "Cursed be every one who shall insert into my sayings that I am the son of God." However, this is problematic in many regards. Of foremost importance, this contradicts many occasions in the biblical Gospels when Jesus was referred to as God's Son. Second, as an early follower of Christ as depicted in the Book of Acts, Barnabas himself accepted Jesus as God's Son and as Divine. Why would a man who accepted Jesus as God and worshiped Him write that Jesus was not God and was not to be worshiped?
Numerous factual and historical errors reveal that the Gospel of Barnabas is an inaccurate portrayal of the life and teachings of Jesus. For example, the Gospel of Barnabas states Jesus was born during the rule of Pontius Pilate. However, Pilate began ruling in 26 AD, long after the birth of Jesus. Chapter 82 mentions the Jewish festival of Jubilee, saying it was to be held every one hundred years. However, Leviticus 25 in the Old Testament clearly commands Jubilee was held every 50 years. These are but two of several such inaccuracies that help affirm the late date of the writing.
In contrast, the New Testament (Injils in Arabic) provides an accurate picture of what Jesus did and taught during His time on earth. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1; Luke 2:1-20), taught both His disciples and large crowds of people, performed miracles, was crucified on a Roman cross, died, was buried, and literally rose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus proved His claim as God's Son, resulting in many people worshiping Him as Lord.
While the Gospel of Barnabas is not an accurate account of Jesus, the New Testament Gospels are. Those who read them can learn about the One who can offer abundant life now (John 10:10) and eternal life (John 3:16).
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