THE GOSPEL OF BARNABAS OR THE QUR'AN: WHICH?
We now turn to some doctrines in "Barnabas" which appear to be inconsistent with teachings set forth in the Qur'an. Already noted is the discrepancy between the Qur'an and "Barnabas" in regard to the topography of heaven (compare "Barnabas" 188 with the Qur'an 2:29).
Regarding the birth of Jesus.
The virgin……brought forth her son without pain……("Barnabas" 3)
The pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. She said:
Oh, would that I had died ere this….(Qur'an 19:23)
Then there is the doctrine of love to one's enemy, Jesus which replaced the old Mosaic law of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth".
The Qur'an, it will be remembered, follows closely the Mosaic law, whereas "Barnabas" says:
…..ye shall not overcome evil with evil, but rather with good. (18)
Woe unto them that call for vengeance……..(63)
…..Kiss the hand of these who persecute thee and strike thee much. (64)
At one point "Barnabas" apparently tolerates unclean flesh:
….That which entereth into the man defileth not the man, but
that which cometh out of the man defileth the man. (32)
It seems, however, that "Barnabas" remembered the Muslim attitude towards pork and therefore added:
Disobedience will not enter into the man, but will come out of the man from his heart; and therefore will he be defiled when he shall eat forbidden food. (32)
In other words, he is defiled not because the food is defiled in itself but because he who eats it eats forbidden food.
About marriage "Barnabas" says:
Let a man content himself…….with the wife whom his creator hath given him, and let him forget every other woman. (115)
This prohibition appears to contradict both Muslim teaching and occasional practice.
It may be argued that the Qur'an does not command polygamy; it only tolerates it. However, "Barnabas" does not even tolerate the practice.
Here we anticipate an objection. Some Muslim friend might suggest that there is no objection to one inspired Book forbidding some practice, and a succeeding Book permitting that same practice, or vice versa; therefore it is perfectly possible for Jesus in the "Barnabas" account to forbid polygamy and for the Qur'an to permit it. This kind of response, of course, is in accordance with the Muslim doctrine of abroation. But is not in accordance with the teaching of "Barnabas" , who condemns this convenient theory of abrogation itself in the following passage:
For every prophet hath observed the law of God and all that God by the other Prophets hath spoken". (38)
Thus, "Barnabas" is utterly incompatible with the Qur'an and Islam itself. And even apart from this, the theory of abrogation cannot affect questions of fact, as distinct from commands or prohibitions, like the question about the number of Heavens.
Moreover, "Barnabas" accuses the Jewish rabbis of having corrupted the text of the Tawrat (44). His charge, of course, must have reference to rabbis living at, or before the time of Jesus. This charge, however, was never imputed to the rabbis of that time. Nor does the Qur'an make this charge, for it openly confesses that the Bible is light and guidance to mankind (Qur'an 2:113; 3:3,4). On the basis of the above, we are left with the following possible conclusions:
- If we accept "Barnabas" statement that the rabbis at, or before, the time of Jesus corrupted the Tawrat, then the Qur'an bears witness to a corrupted Tawrat.
- If the Qur'an, whose advent is some six centuries later, bears witness to the genuine Tawrat, then the charge of "Barnabas" is invalid.
If, however, it be argued that Muhammad's witness was confined to a special copy of the bible, then the following two facts must be taken into consideration:
1. The Bible copies which were extant at the time of Muhammad were all similar and their texts coincided closely. If, therefore, Muhammad had a special copy which was safe and sound, and to which he witnesses (to the exclusion of all other copies), why did he not allude to such a vital matter and warn his followers against the corrupt copies?
2. Can our Muslim friends produce that copy to which Muhammad
witnessed: They cannot; for the reference in the Qur'an is to The Book
(universal) and not to a book (particular). We must not forget,. too, that
the Qur'an makes it beyond human power "to change the Word of God".
Besides, it is not thinkable that the Jews and the Christians, so widely separated by different beliefs, should agree to blot out or corrupt a single letter of the Bible.
"Barnabas" claims that the promise to Abraham was made in his son Ishmael, not Isaac. The Qur'an, it will be remembered, is silent on this matter and the commentators confess that they do not know the truth. The best and earliest of them are on the side of Isaac. Razi reserves his opinion. It is only the later ones who dogmatically insist that the victim was Ishmael. But "Barnabas" roundly asserts that the Jews (and apparently the Christians also) have corrupted the Bible and substituted the name of Isaac for that of Ishmael!
Most amazing of all "Barnabas" totally ignores the existence of the prophet John the Baptist (Yahya ibn Zakariyya) and his function as the Forerunner to Jesus. According to "Barnabas" Jesus expressly denies that He Himself is the Messiah and declares that Muhammad, who is yet to come, is the Messiah. Thus,
Said the woman: "O, Lord, perchance thou are the Messiah." Jesus answered "I am indeed….a prophet…..but after me shall come the Messiah…." (82) The priest answered: "…I pray thee tell us the truth, art though the Messiah of God whom we expect?" Jesus answered: "…indeed I am not he, for he is made before me, and shall come after me." (96) Jesus answered: "…I…have confessed also that I am not the Messiah." (198)
Need we add that in the Qur'an the only Messiah is Jesus ("Isa)? Here also "Barnabas" explicitly contradicts both the Bible and the Qur'an.
Still, "Barnabas" further compounds his confusion. For while he has Jesus denying that He is the Messiah, yet, amazingly, the first words of "Barnabas", following his introductory title, read:
Barnabas, apostle of Jesus the Nazarene, called Christ …..(cf. his introductory title)
In another passage he writes:
Herod therefore called together the priests and the scribes, saying: "Where should Christ be born:" They answered that he should be born in Bethlehem; for thus it is written by the prophet…(6; cf. Matthew 2:5,6 and the Old Testament prophet Micah 5:2).
According to "Barnabas", then, Jesus is called "Christ", but He is not called "Messiah"! Despite his obvious familiarity with the Bible, "Barnabas" does not know that Messiah" (Hebrew) and "Christ" the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "Messiah"!
From all this it is surely clear that the ""The Gospel of Barnabas" cannot be considered to be genuine from the point of view of either the Qur'an or the Bible. Both Muslim and Christian are bound to insist that it is a forgery. Otherwise it will become a weapon as equally dangerous to one as to the other.
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