The Gospel of Barnabas: Six Problems

Sometimes in our discussions our Muslim friends will bring up the topic of the Gospel of Barnabas. Some feel that the Gospel of Barnabas is the true Injil (New Testament). However, there are six problems with the Gospel of Barnabas of which Muslims are usually unaware. If they were, they would not be so quick to assert that it is the true Injil.

1. In the Gospel of Barnabas Jesus did not consider himself the Messiah, but preached that Muhammad was to be the Messiah:

Jesus confessed and said the truth: ‘I am not the Messiah … I am indeed sent to the house of Israel as a prophet of salvation; but after me shall come the Messiah’. (The Gospel of Barnabas, see 82:3, 96:2-3, 97:1, 97:6).

However, the Qur’an states that Jesus was the Messiah.

‘O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter’. Surah Al Imran [3].45

2. The Gospel of Barnabas contradicts the Qur’an about the birth of Jesus. It says:

The virgin was surrounded by a light exceeding bright and brought forth her son without pain. (The Gospel of Barnabas, 3:3).

This reflects Roman Catholic beliefs in the Middle Ages. The bright light and the painless birth find parallels in the beliefs about the Virgin Mary in the churches of Europe during the Medieval times. No such details are found in the biblical account of the birth of Jesus. In addition, the Qur’an directly contradicts the Gospel of Barnabas. It says:

And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. Surah Al Maryam [19].23

3. According to the Gospel of Barnabas, on the thirteenth day of a fifteen day climax leading to the end of all things, the heaven shall be rolled up like a book, and it shall rain fire, so that every living thing shall die (p.70). The Qur’an, however, says of the Last Day:

But when the shout cometh on the day when a man fleeth from his brother and his mother and his father and his wife and his children, every man will have that day concern enough to make him heedless of others. Surah ‘Abasa [80].33-37

4. The Quran condemns eating pork. Yet, eating pork is not wrong in the Gospel of Barnabas. It says:

Truly I say to you, that to eat bread with unclean hands defiles not a man, because that which enters into the man defiles not the man, but that which comes out of the man defiles the man.” Thereupon, said one of the scribes: “If I shall eat pork, or other unclean meats, will they not defile my conscience?” Jesus answered: “Disobedience will not enter into the man, but will come out of the man, from his heart.  And therefore will he be defiled when he shall eat forbidden food?” (32:5).

5. There are two historical problems in the Gospel of Barnabas. First, the Gospel of Barnabas asserts that Jesus sailed to Nazareth from Galilee.  Yet, Nazareth was not on the seashore, it was inland (20:1).

6. Second, The Gospel of Barnabas says that Jesus was born when Pilate was governor (3:1). Pilate was governor when Jesus was 30 years old, not when he was born.

Finally, there are no early manuscripts in existence. The Italian translation could be as old as 1400 CE. That is the earliest possible date for its genesis. No earlier copies exist, and there are no references of it from anyone before the 1500’s CE.