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Abrahamic Religions - History, Theology and Texts

Gospel of Mary / Berlin Gnostic Codex
Nag Hammadi Library
Gospel of Barnabas

Last Updated: 21 May 2014  

Gospel of Mary (Magdalene)

The Gospel of Mary was acquired by a German scholar in 1896 in Cairo, Egypt. It is known as the Berlin Gnostic Codex. It is written on a 5th Century papyrus but may have originally been written in the 2nd Century AD. It could be viewed as evidence of the Catholic Church suppressing the truth about the role of women in the early church, as evidence of the political struggle between recognition of the Apostles after the death of Christ, or alternatively as total rubbish and a fabrication (wishful thinking). Some regard it as a 'evidence' of Jesus having a relationship and children but this is pure speculation and has no basis in any historical evidence whatsoever.



Nag Hammadi Library

The Nag Hammadi Library was discovered at Nag Hammadi, which is close to the River Nile in Egypt, in 1945. Many of these were damaged in storage by white ants who ate parts of the scrolls, but all in all they have been preserved in remarkable condition considering the time elapsed. These scrolls date back roughly to 4th Century (at the time of writing of these copies), although the exact date of the writing of the original versions is a matter of debate and could be much earlier, for example the 2nd Century. They were written in Coptic and not Aramaic like the original synoptic gospels. A list of Codexes and scrolls of the NH library can be found at the Nag-Hammadi web site below. The translated versions of the Nag Hamadi library, can be found on the Gnosis.org web site below and on various other web sites.

The Nag Hamadi Library contains 'lost' gospels. Some argue that they are 'lost' and others that they were purposely excluded from the Biblical Canon because they deviated with the accepted view of Jesus and the Trinity in Christian tradition and existing texts of the time. Many of the Gnostic Codexes arrived much later than the synoptic gospels for example. Some of gospels, like The Gospel According to Thomas ('The Secret Sayings of Jesus'), contain minor Gnostic references and some Gnostic concepts and elements (more than in the Gospel of John in the Bible for example), but certainly not the whole gnostic cosmology. Whilst still contested, they are not considered as controversial as some of the others. An analysis of the Gnostic content and ideas in the Gospel of Thomas can be found in the Gnosticism section below. The Gospel According to Thomas is probably the most widely accepted scroll of the Nag Hammadi library and certainly the most complete, accessible and readable.

Other gospels of the Nag Hammadi library are more contentious and contain more controversial Gnostic elements, and more clearly contradict the teachings of the Bible. Some are clearly dualistic or even pagan in interpretation. Some, like the Gospel of Philip, focus more on Jesus' humanity and his relationship with Mary Magdalene, which contradicts the account in the Canonical Gospels - this is in a sense more controversial and political than those texts with a just few Gnostic Elements in them. This is discussed below.

The Nag Hammadi Library is clearly very diverse, and it is up to the individual as to which are given any credibility and which are to be ignored as just someone's opinion and idealised view of how they would like the teachings of Jesus to be (i.e. an excuse to promote the Gnostic message). The Nag Hammadi library has been adopted by Gnostics and Gnostic Christians, but also by many Christians who are not Gnostic Christians.

The Nag Hammadi library is defined and translated below.





Gospel of Barnabas

The disciple Barnabas is reputed to have written a gospel documenting the 'real' Jesus. Muslim academics claim that the Gospel of Barnabas dates back to perhaps the first century, and claim it was accepted as Canonical Gospel in the Churches of Alexandria until 325 AD. Saint Iranaeus (130-200 AD) is claimed to have been a staunch opponent of Paul and his ideas about Jesus and is claimed to have quoted frequently from this gospel in his writings.



The Gospel of Barnabas can be read at the link below.


Two versions of the Gospel of Barnabas have been found, one in Spanish and one in Italian, not Aramaic or Hebrew. Experts have dated it to the 14th or 16th Century at the earliest. The text contains a number of anachronisms and geographical errors. It is generally believed to be a Medieval forgery, a pseudepigraphical work.


It is likely that Muslim academics are confusing the Gospel of Barnabas with the Epistle of Barnabas, written in the first Century, or perhaps even the Acts of Barnabas, or have not paid any attention to the document's analysis and associated scrutiny thereof.

The Epistle of Barnabas was written between AD 70 and 135. It is traditionally ascribed to the Barnabas who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, though some ascribe it to another apostolic father of the same name, a 'Barnabas of Alexandria', or simply attribute it to an unknown early Christian teacher. Toward the end of the second century Clement of Alexandria cites the Epistle. It is also appealed to by Origen. Eusebius, however, objected to it and ultimately the epistle disappeared from the appendix to the New Testament, or rather the appendix disappeared with the epistle. The epistle generally sided with the Pauline view of Christianity and is not considered Gnostic in general. Perhaps the association of the Epistle of Barnabas with Clement of Alexandria is behind the Muslim academic claim that the 'Gospel of Barnabas' was part of the accepted canon of the Churches of Alexandria at this time.


The Acts of Barnabas has been identified by its use of language as a 5th Century AD work. The text of the pseudepigraphical (falsely attrituted work of the) Acts of Barnabas claims to identify its author as 'John Mark', the companion of Paul, as if writing an account of Barnabas, the Cypriot Jew who was a member of the earliest church at Jerusalem. The convert Saul was welcomed into the apostolic community through the services of Barnabas.


Saint Irenaeus was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, now Lyons, France. He was an early church father and apologist, and first great Catholic theologian. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, who was said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. His most famous book 'Against Heresies' (180 AD) was a detailed attack on Gnosticism. More recent findings from Nag Hammadi however show that Irenaeus' view of Gnosticism and his claims were highly inaccurate. Perhaps Muslim academics believe he quoted from the Epistle of Barnabas, which they are perhaps confusing with the Gospel of Barnabas.


This is not to say that the Muslim view of Jesus is necessarily wrong, but that the evidence cited could be considered as highly flawed and inaccurate.

Muslims deny the divinity of Jesus and the concept of the Trinity, but believe Jesus to be a prophet, a man born of immaculate conception of Mary and the Holy Spirit; a man who was miraculously endowed by God and able to perform miracles; and who did not die on the cross; there being no physical resurrection but Jesus was carried up to God in a spiritual resurrection.

Qur'an 4:156-157: (156)And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. (157) But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise.

Muslim academics claim that Paul changed Christian doctrines and incorporated Pagan Roman Traditions and Platonic philosophy. Paul is considered to have added the following ideas to Christianity:

1) That Jesus is the Son of God
2) The concept of Atonement
3) The renunciation of the Law of the Torah

It is claimed that Paul did this to try to win over the Gentiles (non-Jews) and that the actual followers of Jesus and those who had known Jesus strongly resisted these ideas. This does not sound implausible, however, the evidence cited is flawed. Muslim academics often point to the Gospel of Barnabas as evidence of the above. 

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