- The Gospel of Barnabas was found in the Vatican library during the reign of Pope Sixtus V (Pope from 1585 to 1590).
- It is the closest to the Quran in several of its statements about God and Jesus, Muslims may consider it closer to the original Injil of Isa (Jesus) than the four canonical gospels.
- But to conclude that this gospel is the original Injil of Isa (Jesus) would be too hasty, especially when we consider the conditions of preservation this Gospel (like the other gospels) has passed through.
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The Gospel of Thomas
The discovery of the Gospel of Thomas in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt has generated quite an uproar in Christian circles. One discussion centered around the relationship between this gospel and the ‘Q document’, which many scholars believe was the source material used by the authors of ‘Matthew’ and ‘Luke’.
The Gospel of Thomas is certainly one of the earliest accounts of the teaching of Jesus outside the canonical gospels, and is said to contain revelations and parables known only to the apostle Thomas.
It is noteworthy that this gospel does not speak of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And quite unlike the other gospels, the Gospel of Thomas does not see Jesus as “the Messiah who came to die for our sins that we might be saved through by faith in his resurrection.” Nor does it say anything about Jesus as “a divine heir of the godhead” or about “the sacrament of holy communion.” In Thomas’ gospel, Jesus is just a spiritual teacher and role model, like Prophet Abraham or Moses.
Furthermore, the Gospel of Thomas clearly mentions James the Just, “the Lord’s brother” as the leader of the Church, and not Peter.
No major Christian church accepts this gospel as authoritative; but the Jesus Seminar [i] an association of noted biblical scholars, includes it as the “Fifth Gospel” in its deliberation on the historical Jesus.
There is another work called “the Infancy Gospel of Thomas” which describes the miraculous childhood of Jesus; which according to scholars is distinct from the Gospel of Thomas. It is this Infancy Gospel that narrates the miracle of Jesus speaking as an infant in the cradle, and of giving life to a bird.
Was a Copy of the True Injil Hidden in The Vatican?
Let us come to the Gospel of Barnabas: This was found in the Vatican library during the reign of Pope Sixtus V (Pope from 1585 to 1590).
George Sale (1697-1736), who published a translation of the Quran in 1734, has written in his preface as to how the original MS of the Gospel of Barnabas was discovered in the papal library.
He quotes a Christian monk called Fra Marino who was looking for this gospel: because he had read about it in the writings of Irenaeus (130-200).
Marino was an intimate friend of Pope Sixtus V, (pope 1585-1590). One day he was in the Pope’s library together with the Pope and it so happened that “his holiness fell asleep, and the monk, to occupy himself, reaching down for a book to read, the very first he laid his hand on proved to be the very Gospel history that he was seeking. Overjoyed at the discovery, he scrupled not to hide his prize discovery in his sleeve; and, on the Pope’s awakening, took to leave of him carrying with him that celestial treasure, by reading of which he became a convert to Muhammedanism”
Irenaeus was an influential Greek bishop who opposed Paul, who according to him injected into Christianity the doctrines of pagan religion. To support his views he quotes extensively from the Gospel of Barnabas. This shows that the Gospel of Barnabas was in circulation in the early centuries of Christianity.
The Council of Nicea
In 325 C.E., the Council of Nicea was held, where it was ordered that all original Gospels in Hebrew script should be destroyed.
In 383 the Pope secured a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas and kept it in his private library. It was this copy that Fra Marino smuggled out of Vatican.
The Italian manuscript passed through different hands till it reached Hofbibliothek in Vienna. This was translated into English by Mr Lonsdale Ragg and Mrs. Laura Ragg and the Oxford University Press published it in 1907.
Since the Gospel of Barnabas is the closest to the Quran in several of its statements about God and Jesus, Muslims may consider it closer to the original Injil of Isa (Jesus) than the four canonical gospels.
But to conclude that this gospel is the original Injil of Isa (Jesus) would be too hasty, especially when we consider the conditions of preservation this Gospel (like the other gospels) has passed through.
[i] The Jesus Seminar refers to a group of “scholars with advanced degrees in biblical studies, religion or related fields [as well as] published authors who are recognized authorities in the field of religion”…One of the most active groups in biblical criticism, the Seminar has popularized the quest for the historical Jesus. They produced new translations of the New Testament plus the Gospel of Thomas to use as textual sources.
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