These pages concern the medieval Gospel of Barnabas, one of the strangest and most controversial texts in Western religious literature. It is sometimes referred to as the 'Muslim gospel' because it presents the life and teaching of Jesus in a manner that conforms, in its general outlines, to Muslim expectations. It therefore figures in Islamic/Christian polemical disputes with Muslim apologists proclaiming it as the "true gospel" of Jesus and Christians denouncing it as a "Muslim forgery." The fact is, though, that we do not know who wrote it, where, when or why, and efforts to investigate these questions continue to be thwarted by the polemical atmosphere that surrounds the text.
It exists in two versions, an Italian manuscript and a transcription of a Spanish manuscript that is now lost. Both are clearly works of the late Middle Ages but there remains the tantalizing possibility that the text includes or draws upon earlier material, perhaps even from the early Christian period. It contains many remarkable intertextual encounters with earlier gospel literature. We can safely say that it is not the long lost "Injil of the Prophet Isa" as Muslim externalists propose, but nor, it seems, is it a "worthless fabrication" as Christian apologists insist.
I have studied the Gospel of Barnabas for over twenty years. Many of my studies and notes - some previously published but most not - are collected here in order to assist other students of this curious work and above all to help move the study of the work beyond the stifling confines of religious dispute. My concern is to investigate the history and content of the work, not to advance some religious agenda, for or against. I am, all the same, in the camp of those who find fascinating consonances of early Christian literature in this medieval pastiche. All of my studies point in that direction.
Many years ago I established the context for the production and appearance of the two version of the work in the papal politics of the 1590s. The Spanish text is accompanied by a Preface that provides many important clues to the riddle of where this work came from. My studies of the Preface are a feature of these pages and the cornerstone of my research.
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Dr R. Blackhirst, 2015.
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