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.

6 Responses

  1. How interesting. A copy of the Gospel of Barnabas just came into my hands when an old comrade passed on and his library was up for grabs. Published by the Millat Book Centre in New Delhi, with an introduction by one MA Yusseff which attests to its authenticity and dismisses claims to the contrary as “mistaken”…

    • The facts surrounding the Gospel of Barnabas have been known by serious scholars for at least the last quarter of a century and readily available. The Italian theory was the dominant one for a long time, but now the preponderance of the evidence points to a Spanish origin. This supposed “gospel” is widely believed to be the truest copy of the words of Jesus in Muslim countries like Pakistan and Turkey.

      @Adrian Why address the subject in novel form? For the same reason that Les Miserables addressed the issues of crime, punishment, and humanity in novel form. Because that is what Hugo wanted to do. He was the writer and could do whatever he pleased.

      Zevkler ve renkler tartışılmaz ki! :-)

  2. I remember when a friend converted to Islam in the late 1980s – soon one of the books that he was proud to show off to me was a hardback copy of the Gospel of Barnabas. I never had time to really look at it, though he had bookmarked certain “relevant” passages.

    But more recently I have downloaded pdf versions and find the material to be obviously hokum. However, though I detest conspiracy theories if this Luke Montgomery really wants to attract interest in the supposed whys and wherefores surrounding the creation of the text, why is he choosing to do so in the form of a novel?

    He is obviously trying to go down the Dan Brown route, where he can throw in any amount of bollocks that he so chooses, to patch up any glaring holes in his theorising.

    It seems a cheap and exploitative device to deal with presenting a case to the public by dressing it up as a novel, to attract readers.

    If one’s readership is too stupid to follow rational argument, perhaps they do not need to be fed such material in the first place. And perhaps this Montgomery fellow is more interested in trying to make a “best-seller” rather than opening anyone’s eyes to facts, or possible scenarios.

    There is something about religion and history that seems to warp the minds of some folk who are so far removed by space and time from the events they obsess about that they have to add various layers of romance. Walter Scott did it with the Medieval period and with the Crusades, and when I recently did a search on the Internet Archive for 19th century published histories of the Crusades, I came across a fair few books that purported to be accounts of “Heroes” or “Heroines” of the Crusades. Theset turned out to be romanticised flights of fancy, where for every paragraph of fact, there were at least five of verbose descriptive passages and “conversations” that owed nothing to history. No wonder the character of Berengaria of Navarre (and, indeed, the entire 3rd Crusade) is portrayed in such an unrealistic “folksy” manner by Cecil B. DeMille in his 1935 movie, “The Crusades,” when such 19th century books abounded in respectable American libraries.

  3. I note that the Daily Mail account on the Turkish finding reports as fact that it is 1,500 years old, and doesn’t mention the forgery claims until well into the story…

  4. Before commenting any about the Gospel of Barnabas you should read the book. I don’t find any forgery attempts as it is completely different with the gospel of Luke, Mathew, John & Mark that we have. No doubt those who claiming it as forgery are surely liar.

    • Dear mkfaruk,

      You really should look at the evidence for forgery. As far as I know, there are no serious scholars which have attempted to defend its authenticity and answer the many different question raised by those who claim it is a forgery. Would love to see any sources you have.

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