The Gospel of Barnabas1 has been used by Muslims to argue against Jesus’ death on the cross. According to Jan Slomp,
- Raḥmatullāh al-Kayrānawī mentioned the Gospel of Barnabas in a debate with Karl Pfander in 1854.
- The Gospel of Barnabas was mentioned in T.P. Hughes Dictionary of Islam in 1885.
- In January 1973, Muḥammad ‘Ata ur-Rahim, assisted by K.A. Rashid, launched a campaign to spread the Gospel of Barnabas in Pakistan.
- In 1974, the Gospel of Barnabas was translated into Urdu.
- Between 1973-1974, The Pakistan Times printed the text of the Gospel in nine installments.2
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and The Gospel of Barnabas
In 1899, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, appealed to the Gospel for support of his views.
in the Gospel of Barnabas…it is written that he was not put on the cross, nor did he die thereupon. We could very well point out that though this book is not included in the Gospels and has been rejected summarily, but there is no doubt that it is an ancient book, and was written at the same time as the other Gospels. Can’t we, therefore, view this book as an ancient chronicle and make use of it as an historical document? And can’t we conclude from this book that at the time when the event of the cross took place, people were not unanimous as to Jesus having died on the cross? (Jesus in India, 22-23)
The Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery
The fact is that the “Gospel of Barnabas” used by Muslims and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is a fake.
“the Gospel of Barnabas has been shown to have its origins in the western Mediterranean world, probably in Spain, in the 16th century.” 3
“The so-called Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery by all definitions.”4
The Gospel of Barnabas is an example of Islamic tampering with Scripture (tahrif) and trying to rewrite the Christian gospels, which give a true account of Jesus Christ.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and Yuz Asaf’s “Gospel”
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad not only mislead millions with his teachings about the Gospel of Barnabas. He wrongly taught that there was another gospel written by Jesus in India after His crucifixion,
“Another incredible fact is that the ancient book of Yuz Asaf (which most English scholars believe to have been published before the birth of Jesus), and which has been translated in all European countries, is so similar to the Gospels that many of their passages are identical. The parables used by the Gospels are also found word for word in this book. Even if the person reading it were so ignorant as to be practically blind, he would still be convinced that the Gospels have been borrowed from the same book. Some people, including some English scholars, believe that this book belongs to Gautama Buddha, and that it was originally in Sanskrit and was later translated into other languages. If this is true, the Gospels would lose all their credibility and Jesus would be considered a plagiarist in all his teachings—God forbid. The book is available for everyone to see. My own opinion, however, is that this book is Jesus’ own Gospel which was written during his journey to India. I have proved with many arguments that it is indeed the Gospel of Jesus, and is purer and holier than the other Gospels” (pp.9-10 “Fountain of Christianity)
It appears that the “Gospel” Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is referring to in the above quote is “Barlaam and Josaphat.” This is not a work dating back to the time of Jesus. Rather, it is a Christianized version (written centuries after Jesus’ ascension to heaven) of the life of Siddhartha Gautama.5
Furthermore, one must conclude that the Yuz Asaf of the Ahmadis is not the Jesus of history but legend,
Also to be rejected is the Aḥmadi doctrine which identifies with Jesus Christ the holy Yuz Asaf whose shrine is venerated at Srinagar in Kas̲h̲mir. Many of the legends concerning the Yuz Asaf of the Aḥmadis are simply extracts borrowed from the Kitab Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf, with “Kas̲h̲mir” substituted for “Kusinara”, the traditional place where the Buddha died.6
Why does this matter?
The Qur’an speaks about “the Gospel” (al-injīl) as a holy book sent from heaven to Jesus, which He gave to His followers (Qur’an 5:46-47; 57:27). Some Muslims have looked for other “gospels” that agree with the Qur’anic teaching about Jesus, since Matthew, Mark, Luke and John present a different Jesus than the Qur’an. No such first century sources have been found by Muslims, although they have put forward corruptions like the ones mentioned above.
This is problematic for Islam because the Christian gospels are rooted in history. The Qur’an was written many centuries after Jesus and the Qur’anic Jesus is not the Jesus of history.
An invitation to read about and believe in the real Jesus.
Sin and death are a part of your history. Resurrected life can be a part of your (and your family’s) history through faith in Jesus (John 11:25-26).
You may also be interested to learn more about:
- Sometimes the Gospel of Barnabas is confused with the Epistle of Barnabas. They are different documents.
- Slomp, Jan, “The Gospel of Barnabas”, in: Christian-Muslim Relations 1500 – 1900, General Editor David Thomas.
- “Gospel.” Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe; Brill [Leiden and Boston], 2005. CD-ROM version
- Jan Slomp, The Gospel of Barnabas in Recent Research; https://www.chrislages.de/barnarom.htm; accessed March 16, 2019
- “The documents used by Ahmad were reviewed by the German indologist Günter Grönbold in Jesus in Indien. Das Ende einer Legende (Munich, 1985), with Grönbold concluding that Ahmad had misidentified material from the Barlaam and Josaphat texts relating to a Christianized version of the life of Siddhartha Gautama, not of Jesus. Another German scholar Norbert Klatt in Lebte Jesus in Indien? (1988) examined the same Muslim and Christian source texts and came to the same conclusions as Grönbold.”
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 12). Jesus in India (book). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:23, September 11, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jesus_in_India_(book)&oldid=859225986
- Lang, David Marshall, “Bilawhar Wa-Yūdāsaf”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs.