OTHER STRANGE OBSERVATIONS IN THE GOSPEL OF BARNABAS

The most important part of our study is over.  For, having shown in the last section that "Barnabas" knowledge of Palestine was defective, we have demonstrated that he was neither on Apostle of Jesus Christ nor, in all probability, even a Jew.  So we may say that the case is over. 

Still, in this section we shall point out other difficulties for anyone to accept "Barnabas" or to appeal to him.  In the next section we shall show that no Moses Muslim can appeal to him, except on penalty of citing a book which on occasions conflicts with the Qur'an.

"Barnabas" relates some stories which recall to us the myths and legends of old times. Thus he writes:

God having created a mass of earth, and having left it for twenty-five thousand years without doing aught else; Satan, who was as it were priest and head of the angels…..knew that God of that mass of earth was to take one hundred and forty and four thousand signed with the sign of prophecy, and the messenger of God (Muhammad), the soul of which messenger he had created sixty thousand years before aught else. (35)

"Barnabas" seems to have been quite familiar with the Divine history, for he seems to have known that God created a mass of earth and left it twenty-five thousand years and that, after so doing, He did nothing else.  In regard to these years we wonder whether "Barnabas" follows the Gregorian or the Hijrah calendar.  Neither can we understand the secret behind the number 144,001 prophets (which is not a sacred one):  not do we believe that either Muslims or Christians can give the names of a fraction of them. 

Can our Muslim friends reveal to us the secret of God's creating Muhammad's soul sixty thousand years before creating anything else?  If they say that this was to do Muhammad honour, we would reply that in the eyes of God sixty thousand years need not be more than one single day.  Besides, does the fact that Adam, for example, was created thousands of years before "Isa render the first superior to the second? These "sixty thousand years" have also been mentioned in a later passage, which quotes God as saying that Muhammad's "soul was set in a celestial splendour sixty thousand years before I made anything". (39). 

But this minute chronology of 'Barnabas" is not to be compared with the minuteness of his details of the events which will take place in the fifteen days previous to the Day of Reckoning.

 

The first day the sun shall run its course in heaven without light…..The second day the moon shall be turned into blood, and blood shall come upon the earth like dew.  The third day the stars shall be seen to fight amount themselves like an army of enemies…..The fifth day every plant and herb shall weep blood.  The sixth day the sea shall rise without leaving its place to height of one hundred and fifty cubits….The seventh day it shall on the contrary sink so low as scarcely to be seen….." (53)

 

The strange thing in this passage is not its prodigious features (for we may well believe that the Last Day will be far more dreadful than "Barnabas" describes), but the literal, chronological fashion in which the writer records these minute details.

True, a series of numbers are found also in the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation of St. John.  Then why should the numbers found in "Barnabas" be considered strange, if those in Daniel and Revelation are not considered strange? The difference lies in their respective use of numbers.  In Daniel and Revelation numbers are used in a figurative sense, a manner of use which is intelligible in the case of prophecies, visions, revelations, etc.  On the other hand, it seems that "Barnabas" records numbers with the confidence of an historian recording any ordinary chronology of events and that his numbers are to be taken literally.

Another legend-like story in "Barnabas" is his account of the creation and fall of man (40,41).  "Barnabas" says that at the gate of Paradise stood a horrible serpent, "which had legs like a camel", too guard the gate.  To this serpent Satan came and said: 

            Open thy mouth and I will enter into thy belly, and so thou……shalt place me near to those two lumps of clay that are newly walking upon the earth. (50) 

The serpent did so, and Satan induced Eve to disobey God by eating of the forbidden "apples and corn".  She ate and induced her husband to do likewise.  But as Adam was eating the food, he remembered the words of God and put his hand into his throat, "where every man has the mark (of the apple)".  Thereupon, God commanded the angel Michael to cut off the legs of the serpent so that, while walking "he must trail his body upon the earth".

Such is the story in brief.  Some of its details are known in some countries in the East. How widely they diverge from the Bible record, and how irrational the story is! Does the serpent really crawl today on its belly because the first serpent had its legs cut off in punishment? The law of heredity covers only the field of character, not that of physical accidents.  In other words, if a father loses one of his arms by an accident, it does not follow that his issue will be one-armed like him. 

Yet, even if we grant that the law of heredity plays a part in the role of accidents, we cannot escape the fact that it has failed to do so with regard to circumcision.  For "Barnabas" says that Adam circumcised himself in fulfillment of an oath, which he swore upon discovering that he had disobeyed God (23).  Here, obviously, the law of heredity has failed to work in Adam's issue.  In any case, according to the Bible the first man circumscribed was Abraham.