I’m a couple years late to this story; the original article is from 2012.
The bible had been seized in 2000 when a group of smugglers were charged with illegal evacuations, smuggling antiques and being in possession of explosives as well. A manuscript had been tucked inside the bible with gold lettering spelling out various verses. The thought at the time was that the manuscript could be anywhere from 1500 to 2000 years old. The bible sat in Ankara until 2012 before getting transferred to the Ankaran Ethnography Museum via police escort. Nobody stepped up to claim either piece. The Vatican was very interested in getting a look at it, for obvious reasons.
Experts were however divided over the provenance of the manuscript, and whether it was an original, which would render it priceless, or a fake. Other questions surround the discovery of the ancient bible, whether the smugglers had had other copies of the relic or had smuggled them from Turkey.
Let’s move forward to the article linking to the National Turk article I already quoted. This one’s from May 2014 at Higher Perspective:
This discovery turns modern Christianity on its head! This bible, dating as far back as 2,000 years, details the Gospel of Barnabas, a disciple of Jesus Christ, which shows that Jesus wasn’t actually crucified and doesn’t claim him to be the son of God, but instead a prophet. The book charges that Apostle Paul was “The Impostor.” The story is completely different. In the Book of Barnabas, Jesus wasn’t crucified, but ascended to heaven alive, and Judas Iscariot was crucified instead.
The Turk didn’t have any mention of what books were included in that old tome so I have no idea where HP found this nugget of Wow.
Barnabas is available to read at Sacred Texts but in an ugly format. The fun starts at chapter 215 where Judas is bringing the soldiers to where Jesus is. God and his angels come to collect Jesus and take him to the “third heaven” before the soldiers get there. God then gets back at Judas by transforming him to look and sound like Jesus. Judas doesn’t realize it and is in the room where he last saw Jesus. As the disciples wake, he asks where their “master” is and the disciples find that kind of hilarious since Judas is currently the spitting image. The soldiers then assume he’s Jesus and the rest of the disciples escape with their lives. In 217, Judas gets crucified instead and utters the famous line, ‘God, why hast thou forsaken me, seeing the malefactor hath escaped and I die unjustly?’
Verily I say that the voice, the face, and the person of Judas were so like to Jesus, that his disciples and believers entirely believed that he was Jesus; wherefore some departed from the doctrine of Jesus, believing that Jesus had been a false prophet, and that by art magic he had done the miracles which he did: for Jesus had said that he should not die till near the end of the world; for that at that time he should be taken away from the world.
I have to break in here to remind readers that Barnabas, “He who writeth” this version of events, should have also been tricked into thinking Judas was Jesus because no one saw the transformation occur. See how it’s foolish to think of these stories as first hand accounts of real events? Interesting as literature, though. I’d never come across this version before.
I suppose that false prophet notion is part of why Barnabas is considered a Muslim gospel in some circles. Also, nobody can conclusively determine, Christian or Muslim, whether the Barnabas book is a product of fraud or an authentic record. I suppose the jury is still out on that. Read more about Barnabas from an Islamic point of view at Answering Islam.
Back to HP:
Experts believe that during the Council of Nicea, the Catholic Church went through and hand picked the gospels that form what we know the bible to be today and omitted the Gospel of Barnabas (among others) in favor of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These original texts surfaced over time, and this new discovery is especially worrying to the Catholic church.
Believe? I thought the hand picking was an established fact, although maybe this author meant nobody’s sure if Barnabas’ version was known of at the time of the Council and purposefully omitted by them or if it turned up years later.
Barnabas is not a new discovery, though. Sacred Texts notes that Spanish and Italian manuscripts of the book date back to the 14th century and experts uniformly agree it’s probably fraudulent. The Catholic Church is hardly shaking in their boots because of Barnabas.
As an antiquity, though, that bible is one hell of a find and it’s great that a museum was able to procure it for study. Its value is its history and whatever books are within it might illustrate very nicely how the bible itself has altered over time. It was written in a dialect of Aramaic that would have been spoken around the time Jesus supposedly lived. If people can still decipher it, that’s pretty nifty. Every translator from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to whatever you’re speaking today would have put his own spin on the text and worked hard to bring it to their audience in the most understandable and hopefully accurate way. It’d be fascinating to see a good translation of the 1500 beside an NIV or King James now and really see how it varies from how we interpret the bible today.