What’s this about a Gospel of Barnabas? Who wrote it and why? Was
Barnabas an apostle or not?


The New Testament speaks of a 1st Century Jew named Joseph, a Levitical
priest from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, who became a follower of
Jesus. He “was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts
11:24) and was nicknamed Barnabas (“son of encouragement”) by his fellow
Christians (Acts 4:36-37). The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to
Antioch to investigate the stories of Gentiles becoming Christians (Acts
11:19-30), and later the Holy Spirit would send Barnabas and the apostle
Paul out from Antioch on a missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3). This might
be why Barnabas seems to be called an apostle in Acts 14:14 (the word
apostle means “sent one,” from the Greek apostolos).

Over the centuries, many legends arose concerning Jesus and his apostles
and early disciples, and often their names would be attached to spurious
Christian documents. Barnabas was no exception. There was a letter
called The Epistle of Barnabas that might have been written in 2nd Century
Alexandria, but there is no known connection to the actual Barnabas in the
1st Century. A 4th Century copy of The Epistle of Barnabas was found in

Cyprus would become known as the island of St. Barnabas, and a tale of his
adventures called The Acts of Barnabas was probably written there in the
5th Century. Once again, there is no historical connection between the
real Barnabas? life in the 1st Century and these stories being written
about him hundreds of years later.

Although a false gospel called the Gospel of Barnabas is mentioned on a
late 5th Century list of forbidden books, no ancient manuscript has ever
been found. The Gospel of Barnabas we have today is based on Spanish and
Italian manuscripts that most likely date to 14th Century Spain, not the
1st Century. Some scholars believe that this gospel was forged by Muslims
(the Moors) to bridge the theological gaps between the Bible and the

After surveying the current scholarship on The Gospel of Barnabas, former
missionary Jan Slomp concluded, “The so-called Gospel of Barnabas?is a
forgery by all definitions.”

Muslim scholar Cyril Glasse writes in the The Concise Encyclopedia of
Islam that “As regards the “Gospel of Barnabas” itself, there is no
question that it is a medieval forgery … It contains anachronisms which
can date only from the Middle Ages and not before, and shows a garbled
comprehension of Islamic doctrines, calling the Prophet the “Messiah”,
which Islam does not claim for him. Besides it farcical notion of sacred
history, stylistically it is a mediocre parody of the Gospels, as the
writings of Baha Allah are of the Koran.”

Researcher Samuel Green concludes: “The Gospel of Barnabas is not an
authentic Gospel of Jesus. The author does not understand the language,
history or geography of the 1st century A.D., and there is no ancient
evidence for the book. The internal evidence of the book suggests it was
written in the 14th century and there are Muslim scholars who agree with
this dating. The book is a rewrite of the Biblical Gospel most likely by a
Muslim who wanted to show that Jesus taught Islam and predicted the coming
of Muhammad. This type of rewriting has been done elsewhere by Muslims in
the Gospel According to Islam. This type of behaviour is disgraceful, and
it is disgraceful for Muslims to continue to publish, promote and
distribute this false Scripture.”

Regardless of who wrote The Gospel of Barnabas and why, there is no reason
to believe that it traces back to the real Barnabas.

Barnabas was a remarkable man of God, but the only accurate record we have
of him is Luke?s Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, not The
Epistle of Barnabas or The Acts of Barnabas. Jesus is more than
remarkable, but the most accurate historical records we have of Him are
the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not The Gospel of Barnabas.

Dan Conder

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