Decisively against the theory of an apostolic or Palestinian origin to this "Gospel" is the number of blunders made by its author in elementary matters of Palestinian geography and history.
The real Barnabas, the man who lived in the first century A.D., knew this country and his age. And the Barnabas of this forgery claims to know them both. Let the reader judge whether or not he does.
The first thing that staggers us is to find that "Barnabas" imagines Nazareth, and most probably Jerusalem also, to be on a sea or lake. Nazareth, we know, is on a hill some 2,000 feet above the Sea of Galilee and half a day's march removed from it. The site today is the same as it has always been for over 2000 years. The location and elevation of Jerusalem is common knowledge also.
In "Barnabas" we have these astonishing words: "Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee, and having embarked on a ship sailed to his city of Nazareth" (20). This is clear enough! Yet in defense of Barnabas someone might say that this is merely a way of speaking; it is only as though someone in London should say: " I am sailing to Cairo or Allahabad", knowing that his actual voyage by sea must come to an end at Alexandria or Bombay respectively. Still this defense will not hold; for after recounting the incident of the storm, the narrative proceeds; "Having arrived at the city of Nazareth the seamen spread through all the city all that Jesus had wrought" (2). Here it is clearly meant that immediately on touching land (Nazareth), the seamen landed and spread their news in that (seaport) town!
The next sections confirms our suspicion of this confusion, for "Barnabas" say: "Jesus went up to Capernaum" (from Nazareth) (21). Of course, it is just the reverse. He would have landed at Capernaum, Jesus gone up to Nazareth and then gone down to Capernaum.
The same error occurs again later. We are told that one Sabbath morning Jesus came to Nazareth (143). After several chapters giving His conversation there (144-151), we read: "Jesus then embarked on a ship….." (151). This is further evidence for "Barnabas" wrong notion that Nazareth was on the lake.
There is still more. The ship leaves the port of Nazareth and sails away. Where do we find Jesus next: At Jerusalem. In the very next section we read: "Jesus having come to Jerusalem…." (152). No interval has elapsed and no detail has been omitted; there can be little doubt that as the ship weighed anchor at Nazareth, so it cast the same at Jerusalem!
Next we come to some incidents recorded by "Barnabas" which are historically untenable. There is the story of Daniel, who, according to "Barnabas" 80, was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar while he was yet two years old. The statement, it will be observed, is incompatible with what may be inferred from the Bible narrative. According to the latter, it was in the second year of his reign that Nebuchadnezzar had his famous dream which Daniel interpreted.
Then the king gave Daniel high honours and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief prefect over all wise men of Babylon. (Daniel 2:48).
Now, if we suppose that Nebuchadnezzar captured Daniel in the first year of his reign (the earliest possible date which could be assigned to Daniel's captivity), and that, according to Barnabas, Daniel was then two years old, it would follow that in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign (the year in which he had his dream), Daniel was three yea4s old. In this very year, it will be remembered, he was promoted by Nebuchadnezzar to the rank of a ruler "over the whole province of Babylon". According to "Barnabas , therefore, his age would be three, at most four years!
Josephus' statement coincides with the Bible narrative. Those who do not have confidence in the latter may accept the testimony of the secular Hebrew historian. (Josephus, History of the Jews, Book X, chapter 10).
Further, "Barnabas" tells us that a great sedition broke out in all Judea on account of Jesus:
….some said that Jesus was God come to the world; others said: "nay, but he is a son of God; and others said: "Nay…..Jesus of Nazareth is a prophet God "…..(91).
These disputes would have ended in a great war, for there assembled at Mizpeh.
three armies, each one of two hundred thousand men that bare sword.
Herod spoke to them, but they were not quieted. Then spake the governor and the high priest, saying: "Brethren, this war is aroused by the work of Satan, for Jesus is alive, and to him ought we to resort, and ask Him that
He give testimony of himself, and then believe in Him, according to his work
So at this they were quieted, everyone; and …….they all
embraced one another, saying one to the other: "Forgive me, brother."
It is unnecessary to remark that this incident finds no place in the pages of any historian, whether Josephus, or any other ancient or modern historian. Besides, it is absurd to believe that three armies, numbering 600,000 men, could gather in the twinkle of an eye and disperse as quickly. And is the gathering of 6000,000 soldiers for the purpose of making war so insignificant an event that Josephus should fail to record it, whereas he has recorded for us many other trifling and unimportant derails? And how can we believe that Herod, an enemy of Christ according to history, would attempt to quiet a riot which arose on account of Christ? Would it not have been more natural for him to stir up a riot in order that he might have a better pretext for condemning Him?
Besides we know from history that the whole of the Roman legions in those parts at that time did not amount to a total of 600,000 soldiers. To say that this number was stationed in Judea alone would simply that Rome had a regular standing army of several millions. Moreover, such a big army would hardly disperse at a single word spoken by Pilate. Could not Pilate have said his word of peace before the three armies met for war?
This story also fails to mention the preliminary details which precede wars, the recording of which is quite indispensable on such possessions. The whole account of "Barnabas" seems to be a fairy-tale, and the appearance of the three armies at Mizpeh a sort of spontaneous generation.
Stranger is the statement of "Barnabas' that the high priest, perhaps also Herod and Pilate, wished "to bow himself down and worship Jesus….." (93). The high priest, it will be remembered, was the chief enemy of Jesus and one of His accusers who condemned Him, because Jesus used to convict the high priests of hypocrisy.