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1.0 out of 5 stars
Useful for understanding medieval Muslim apologetics not for the historical Jesus, 22 Sep 2012
The Gospel of Barnabas is not an early Christian non-canonical text (which is why I think other reviewers seem to like it) but it is very interesting for other reasons. If you want to read an early gospel that is not in New Testament then turn to the Gospel of Peter, Pseudo-Matthew, or the collection of texts found at Nag Hammadi in 1945 - all readily available online. If you want to read a very early non-canonical text then look at the Gospel of Thomas, possibly written as early as the 50CE and known from second century manuscripts. All these texts can be dated to the first few centuries of the Christian era, as can the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The Gospel of Barnabas here is something only known from an Italian medieval manuscript - so more than a thousand years later than any of these - and is clearly a harmony of the New Testament gospels written so that Jesus predicts Mohammad. This is a work that emerged from the intense conflict between Christians and Muslims in the Mediterranean world of the medieval period in which members of both religions regularly changed faiths, some as a result of coercion, some voluntarily, and some tried to undermine their former beliefs by making various claims and forgeries. In this case a former Christian, familiar with the gospels, has clearly written a gospel so that Islamic claims about Jesus predicting Mohammad could find some justification outside of much later claims by Muslims.
The fact that the Gospel of Barnabas is treated by some people who do not know about the historical context of early Christianity as a text that confirms their beliefs is a real shame - not because those beliefs are a problem (you can believe what you like) but beliefs should not make someone ignore historical data and willing to accept forgeries because you like the idea of what they say. Most serious Muslims recognise this for what it is - an interesting medieval forgery.