The “Barnabas Gospel” cited by Iran’s Basij Press as proof Islam is the “righteous” religion because it foretold Muhammad’s coming has as much historical accuracy as the “DaVinci Code,” according to an author and researcher who spent 12 years in Turkey and has seen a copy of the ancient text.
The “DaVinci Code,” a 2003 bestselling mystery-detective novel by Dan Brown, fantasizes that Jesus was an ordinary man who married Mary Magdalene and produced offspring who became the kings of France. The book has been widely criticized for historical inaccuracies.
The Barnabas Gospel drew attention Thursday when Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reported on the claims by Basij Press.
The Iranian news organ asserted the book is being suppressed by Christians who don’t want it revealed that their beliefs are based on lies. The Basij report cited a passage from chapter 41 of the text: “God has hidden himself as Archangel Michael ran them (Adam and Eve) out of heaven, (and) when Adam turned, he noticed that at top of the gateway to heaven, it was written ‘La elah ela Allah, Mohamad rasool Allah,’” meaning Allah is the only God and Muhammad his prophet.
The Turkish army took possession of the book in 2000 during an anti-smuggling operation.
Basij Press contends the text was written in the 5th or 6th century and predicts the coming of Muhammad and the religion of Islam. The Christian world, Basij says, denies the existence of such a gospel. But there are other known versions of the “Barnabas Gospel” from the 16th century, post-dating Muhammad’s development of Islam by centuries, experts confirm.
Luke Montgomery, who uses a pseudonym because of his business dealings in the country, told WND that whatever the Turkish army has, it “is almost certainly not the Gospel of Barnabas, or even connected to it.”
Montgomery, with a master’s in linguistics, says on his Washington Times Communities profile that after obtaining his advanced degree he spent more than a decade “combing Hittite, Phrygian, Lycian, Greek and Roman ruins on the shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean.” He now consults with public and private institutions with interests and operations in the Middle East.
He told WND that he spent years researching the Barnabas Gospel, visiting museums and historic sites as part of his work.
He said the story of the Barnabas Gospel “gets trotted out” every so often by Muslims who want to stir passions by claiming Christians are trying to conceal the truth.
Montgomery said his research indicated the first modern references to the Barnabas Gospel were made in 1634 by Muslims fighting the Roman Catholic Church’s power in Spain.
It was not referenced again for several decades then suddenly was mentioned in Amsterdam.
Currently, he’s aware of two copies that exist, in Vienna and in Spain.
He told WND that the claims that the document promotes Islam are accurate.
“In the extant Gospel of Barnabas, John the Baptist is everywhere replaced by Jesus. (There is no John the Baptist at all), so you have the Pharisees asking Jesus in John 1, ‘Are you the Messiah,’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ and Jesus answers, ‘No, but there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not even worthy to untie.’”
Muslims say Jesus was referring to Muhammad, and later in the book, Muhammad is even mentioned by name, Montgomery pointed out.
He noted the Gospel of Barnabas also has Jesus predicting that His message would be distorted and that people would later blaspheme by calling Him the Son of God.
An authentic copy of the Barnabas Gospel, in Italian, in an image Montgomery obtained from the Austrian National Library in Vienna:
He said his research indicated the document was created by Muslims in Spain in what could have been an attempt to rally the Islamic faithful against the Catholic church, although the uprising never fully developed
Montgomery said it would have been logical for Muslims to pick Barnabas, who, the Bible records, had a disagreement with the Apostle Paul.
“They would want to say the argument was over the nature of the Gospel, and that’s the reason [the two men separated ways], not because they couldn’t agree about John Mark,” he said.
Curiously, Montgomery said, some of the earliest references say the Gospel of Barnabas originally was in Arabic.
He said there also is a 4th century reference to a “Gospel of Barnabas” in a list of books that were banned by the church for their heresies, but no trace of that book exists. It is 1,200 years later when the Barnabas Gospel appears, he said.
Montgomery told WND a similar claim was made in 1986, when the Turkish community was reeling back from the brink of a communist revolution.
He described the Vienna copy as handwritten on cream pages with a leather binding. He noted the image presented of the Turkish document, on rawhide, further undermines its claim to validity. Such a document would not have been put on rawhide because it deteriorates over time, he argued.
On his blog, Montgomery wrote: “The Iranian mullahs are claiming that this gospel hidden by the church is about to cause the total collapse of the Christian faith as it records Jesus prophesying the coming of Muhammad and the Muslim Messiah. For those of us who know the truth, it is a ridiculous bit of grandstanding and buffoonery. However, I have no doubt that it plays well in the Middle East and has plenty of pious followers puffing out their chest in anticipation of the imminent victory of their faith.”
But he said, “The sad fact … is that this little ‘factoid’ about the evil church suppressing the Gospel of Barnabas and covering up the fact that Jesus predicted the coming of Muhammad has been trotted out with amazing regularly for decades. Of course, the intent is clear. Keep the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ game going and constantly sling mud at the only monotheistic faith that could possibly compete with Islam.”
The Basij report claimed the “discovery of the original Barnabas Bible will now undermine the Christian Church and its authority and will revolutionize the religion in the world.”
“The most significant fact, though, is that this Bible has predicted the coming of Prophet Muhammad and in itself has verified the religion of Islam, and this alone will unbalance the powers of the world and create instability in the Christian world,” the report said.
The Barnabas Gospel contends Jesus never was crucified and He’s not the Son of God.
The Basij report said the discovery is so immense, it will affect world politics and that the world powers have become aware of its impact.
On the release of the original report, Erick Stakelbeck, host of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “Stakelbeck on Terror” show and a close observer of Iranian affairs, said Iran is highlighting the book because it sees Christianity as a threat.
“The Iranian regime is committed to stamping out Christianity by any means necessary, whether that means executing Christian converts, burning Bibles or raiding underground churches,” he explained.
“In promoting the so-called Barnabas Bible – which was likely written sometime in the 16th century and is not accepted by any mainstream Christian denomination – the regime is once again attempting to discredit the Christian faith. Record numbers of young Iranians are leaving Islam and embracing Christ, and the mullahs see Christianity as a growing threat to their authority.”
Montgomery’s new book, “A Deceit to Die for,” has been out only weeks. It focuses on the myth of the Gospel of Barnabas and is getting stellar reviews on Amazon. Montgomery, who lived in Turkey for 12 years, has interviewed Mustafa Akyol, one of the Gulen movement’s stealth spokesmen. He also has translated “The Imam’s Army” into English. He writes occasionally at the Washington Times Communities.