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Novel Promotes Gospel of Barnabas Conspiracy Theory

Glenn Beck’s “End-Times Prophet” Joel Richardson has commended a novel by a certain Luke Montgomery, entitled A Deceit to Die For. From the author’s website:

When history professor Ian O’Brien purchases an old collection of letters and books, he unknowingly steps into the world of a shadowy organization. His family is soon caught up in a web of intrigue and deceit spun out of a 16th century Muslim conspiracy that somebody still wants to keep secret… Meticulously researched and drawing on historical facts, Luke Montgomery’s fast-paced, thought-provoking thriller exposes the dark history behind the cultural and religious challenges we face today.

The author also discusses the alleged conspiracy on his blog, promising us that

…the more-than-400-year-old conspiracy is alive and well.

The story revolves around the Gospel of Barnabas, a really-existing medieval forgery which promotes the Islamic version of the life of Jesus, and which includes a supposed prediction of Muhammed. Textual evidence proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the book, which exists in Spanish and Italian, was composed between the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries, and the author was probably a European Christian convert to Islam (assuming he wasn’t just a troll). The text has sometimes been cited as genuine by Islamic polemicists (particularly following references by western Orientalists in the eighteenth century); Montgomery’s claim of a “400-year-old conspiracy” refers to a new forgery of the manuscript which showed up in Turkey earlier this year, provoking excitement that included a ludicrous claim in Iranian media that the book would bring about the “collapse” of Christianity.

Montgomery has also discussed the Gospel of Barnabas on WorldNetDaily, in conversation with the absurd Bob Unrah:

[Montgomery] 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.

This theory was discussed in a general way in a 2002 Harvard Theological Review article by Jan Joosten (available here). He writes:

During the last twenty-five years or so, the hypothesis that the Gospel of Barnabas was created by a Morisco [i.e. a formally ex-Muslim Roman Catholic convert in Spain or Portugal] around the year 1600 in Spain has been gaining support. The Spanish context would explain the peculiar mixing of Islamic and Christian elements as well as some other particularities. Moreover, an explicit reference to the Gospel of Barnabas occurs in a Morisco manuscript dating from 1634. This hypothesis is attractive, but there are several reasons to remain cautious.

Joosten argues that the Italian manuscript appears to have priority over the Spanish version, based on gospel quotations and allusions to Dante’s Inferno that have been abbreviated in the Spanish text. Further, the connections to Dante, and a reference to a hundred-year jubilee, make a fourteenth-century context more likely.

But what of Montgomery’s claim of a “conspiracy”? Someone created a bogus text; some other people living in later periods have promoted it, either opportunistically or in the genuine belief that it supports their religious beliefs. I fail to see why we need to posit a “conspiracy” in order to make sense of things. Montgomery himself writes:

…In one respect, Muslims are no different from people anywhere. They are predisposed to believe any report that confirms what they already believe and will do no research to verify the authenticity of the claims being made.

Maybe the question for us today is what have we believed without conducting proper intellectual due diligence?

That’s actually a good question for anyone taken in by Joel Richardson’s crank claim that the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ; yet Montgomery proudly displays Richardson’s endorsement.