Is The Gospel Of Barnabas An Eyewitness Account?
In order for the Gospel of Barnabas to have been an eyewitness account, it would need to have been written during Jesus’ lifetime in the first century. Since we don’t have the original writings for either the Gospel of Barnabas or the New Testament, we need to verify their dating by both historical evidence and the evidence from ancient manuscript copies.
There are only two ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Barnabas other than the one discovered in Turkey: an Italian manuscript which dates to the fifteenth or sixteenth century, and a Spanish copy from around the same period which has been lost. The text in the newly discovered Turkish manuscript is in Aramaic. None of these copies are in Greek, the language of Barnabas and the apostles.
Two early Christian lists of apocryphal works, one from the fifth century and one from the seventh century, mention “A Gospel of Barnabas.” If these refer to the same Gospel, it would place its writing 400-500 years after Christ or earlier. But that still is several hundred years after the first century.
The Acts of Barnabas is a fifth-century apocryphal work directed to the church of Cyprus that is sometimes mistakenly confused with the Gospel of Barnabas.
The only book from the first century attributed to the apostle Barnabas is the Epistle of Barnabas, which is an apocryphal writing not in the New Testament. This first-century letter speaks of Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Lord. Scholars believe it was written by Barnabas between A.D. 70 and 90.
But if Barnabas writes of Jesus as Lord in the first century Epistle of Barnabas, why would he then write of Jesus as merely a prophet in the Gospel of Barnabas? Why would he write two contradictory accounts of Jesus?
The Epistle of Barnabas is accepted by scholars as an authentic first-century account of Jesus that agrees with the New Testament. However, the Gospel of Barnabas is a completely different book with a completely different timeline.
The following evidence suggests that the Gospel of Barnabas wasn’t recognized as a first-century gospel by early Christians or non-Christians:
- No non-Christian writer refers to it until the fifteenth or sixteenth century.
- No Christian writer refers to it from the first to the fifteenth century.
- The earliest reference to it was made in the fifth century, but it is in doubt.
- It cites historical facts that didn’t exist until hundreds of years later.