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Breaking the Codes of the Gospel of Barnabas

The Mystery of Pseudo-Barnabas’ List of the Apostles

Masud Masihiyyen

We have analyzed in two articles so far how Pseudo-Barnabas’ various mistakes stemmed from his dependence on the canonical Gospels (1, 2). This dependence sounds rather natural when it is remembered that fake Barnabas wrote his forgery in the Middle Ages, aiming to prove –through the systematic perversion of the canonical accounts – his basic allegation that the New Testament writings were not authentic. Medieval Barnabas’ dreams to produce an Islamic Gospel ended in failure and gave birth to a book full of errors and absurdities as his deceptive strategy compelled him to draw heavily from the canonical Christian scripture and roughly reconcile the accounts in the four Gospels by disregarding the significance of the Evangelists’ peculiar writing styles and the relevant textual coherence in each Gospel.

In some cases spurious Barnabas encountered serious problems while trying to alter and combine different canonical accounts. In order to overcome such problems, he worked out simple and silly solutions that gained his forgery the flavor of mystery since it was not easy for scholars to understand the source of these modifications. Particularly, people who were not aware of Pseudo-Barnabas’ dependence on the canonical Gospels and the curse imposed on him by the Evangelists rushed to make faulty conclusions about the origin of a seemingly independent and authentic account in the Gospel of Barnabas.

The list of the apostles given in the Gospel of Barnabas is a remarkable example for the accounts that were misunderstood by Rodney Blackhirst, a scholar doing research on this medieval work. In this paper we shall examine the list of Jesus’ twelve apostles in fake Barnabas’ version and compare it with the lists in the synoptic Gospels to break a code of the Gospel of Barnabas by revealing the true motives causing the medieval author to reshape the list in its current form in his forgery.

Of the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give the list of Jesus’ twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16). Considering this list an indispensable part of Jesus’ Gospel because of its occurrence in all the synoptic accounts, Pseudo-Barnabas deemed it crucial to present a similar list in his peculiar Gospel version. Accordingly, he claimed that Jesus went up to a mountain to pray and then chose His twelve disciples:

Jesus, seeing that great was the multitude of them that returned to their heart for to walk in the law of God, went up into the mountain, and abode all night in prayer, and when day was come he descended from the mountain, and chose twelve, whom he called apostles, among whom is Judas, who was slain upon the cross. Their names are: Andrew and Peter his brother, fisherman; Barnabas, who wrote this, with Matthew the publican, who sat at the receipt of custom; John and James, sons of Zebedee; Thaddaeus and Judas; Bartholomew and Philip; James, and Judas Iscariot the traitor. (GOB 14)1

Naturally, the major differences between the lists in the synoptic Gospels and the one in the Gospel of Barnabas are the direct result of the medieval author’s wish to sound authentic in order to mark the canonical accounts as unreliable and corrupted. Before starting to compare the names of the twelve apostles as given by spurious Barnabas and the three Evangelists, it is necessary to highlight the first significant detail that displays medieval writer’s dependence on Luke in regard to the time of twelve apostles’ selection by Jesus. In both accounts Jesus selects the Twelve after He spends the whole night in prayer on a mountain. To compare:

Jesus, seeing that great was the multitude of them that returned to their heart for to walk in the Law of God, went up into the mountain, and abode all night in prayer, and when day was come he descended from the mountain, and chose twelve, whom he called apostles. (GOB 14)

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray: and he passed the whole night in the prayer of God. And when day was come, he called unto him his disciples: and he chose twelve of them (whom also he named apostles). (Luke 6:12-13)

This structural parallelism might give the impression that medieval Barnabas plagiarized the list of the apostles from Luke’s Gospel with no textual modifications. However, already the comparison of the first name on Luke’s list (Simon Peter) with the one on that of spurious Barnabas’ (Andrew) reveals the fallaciousness of this conclusion. The peculiar list in the Gospel of Barnabas does not only omit Peter’s original name, Simon, but also changes the order of the names in Luke. As a result of this introductory modification, the Gospel of Barnabas contradicts all of the lists in the three synoptic Gospels, since Matthew, Mark, and Luke concur on the primacy of Peter among the apostles and place him first on the list.

At this point, it will not be wrong or naïve to speculate that Pseudo-Barnabas moved Peter to the second position because he insisted on referring to Andrew as the first chosen apostle. In so doing, he imitated John the Evangelist, who designated Andrew as the first called of the twelve apostles in the first chapter of his Gospel (John 1:40-41). This hypothesis is not altogether unreasonable when it is realized that in the Gospel of Barnabas the list of the twelve is immediately followed by the narrative of Jesus’ miraculously turning water into wine at a wedding, which is related only in John’s Gospel. Thus, medieval Barnabas managed to combine the synoptic Gospels with the Gospel of John by simply placing the list of the apostles in his Gospel right before the narrative of Jesus’ miracle at a wedding after replacing John 1:35-51 with the synoptic accounts of Jesus’ selecting the twelve. (Compare GOB 14-15 with John 1:35-2:11.)

Nonetheless, the comparative study of Pseudo-Barnabas’ full list with the lists of the synoptic Evangelists reveals that he re-wrote almost all of the names in reverse order, systematizing his first peculiar act of making Andrew the first apostle on his list:

Barnabas’ list Matthew’s list Luke’s list Mark’s list
Andrew Simon Peter Simon Peter Simon Peter
Peter Andrew Andrew James
Barnabas James James John
Matthew John John Andrew
John Philip Philip Philip
James Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew
Thaddeus Thomas Matthew Matthew
Judas Matthew Thomas Thomas
Bartholomew James James James
Philip Thaddeus Simon the Zealot Thaddeus
James Simon Judas, son of James Simon
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot

This comparative table also makes it clear that spurious Barnabas mostly tended to copy and modify the lists in Matthew and Luke, for the names of the first pair of apostles on Mark’s list are Simon Peter and James rather than Simon Peter and Andrew. In short, fake Barnabas apparently maintained the pair of the apostles on Matthew and Luke’s list although he changed their order for the sake of pretending to be authentic.

The prevalent distinctive feature of the list in the Gospel of Barnabas is undoubtedly the occurrence of the name “Barnabas” in the third place and as the first person of the second pair of apostles. The uncanny insertion of Barnabas’ name to the list of the twelve apostles mirrors the medieval author’s preoccupation about the supposed originality and reliability of his material. In order to convince the reader that his Gospel version was authentic and of apostolic origin, he felt obliged to identify Barnabas as one of the Twelve and overtly wrote his name whenever he referred to the writer of the Gospel. For instance:

True Gospel of Jesus, called Christ, a new prophet sent by God to the world: according to the description of Barnabas his apostle. Barnabas, apostle of Jesus the Nazarene, called Christ, to all them that dwell upon the earth desireth peace and consolation. (Prologue to the Italian manuscript)

Their names are: Andrew and Peter his brother, fishermen; Barnabas, who wrote this, with Matthew the publican ... (GOB 14)

The disciples were sore grieved at this word; whereupon he who writeth secretly questioned Jesus with tears, saying: ‘O master, will Satan deceive me, and shall I then become reprobate?’ Jesus answered: ‘Be not sore grieved, Barnabas; for those whom God hath chosen before the creation of the world shall not perish. Rejoice, for thy name is written in the book of life.’ (GOB 19)

With tears drew near unto Jesus he who writeth this, saying: ‘O master, tell me, who is he that should betray thee?’ Jesus answered, saying: ‘O Barnabas, this is not the hour for thee to know him, but soon will the wicked one reveal himself, because I shall depart from the world.’ (GOB 72)

And they questioned him who writeth this, saying: ‘Hath there been anyone here, O Barnabas, who might have brought food to the master?’ Then answered he who writeth: ‘There hath not been here any other than the woman whom ye saw, who brought this empty vessel to fill it with water.’ (GOB 83)

There remained with Jesus he who writeth; whereupon Jesus, weeping, said: ‘O Barnabas, it is necessary that I should reveal to thee great secrets, which, after that I shall be departed from the world, thou shalt reveal to it.’ (GOB 112)

Then said he who writeth: ‘O Master, is it lawful for me to question thee now, as it was lawful for me when thou dwelledst with us?’ Jesus answered: ‘Ask what thou pleasest, Barnabas, and I will answer thee.’ (GOB 220)

While repeating these assertions throughout the book, Pseudo-Barnabas seemed unaware of the fact that not every apostle of Christ was automatically inspired to write a Gospel, and that not every writer of a canonical Gospel was automatically of the Twelve. Accordingly, the Church tradition attributed two of the four canonical Gospels to Mark and Luke, who were not considered of the Twelve. If the authors of the canonical Gospels had imitated fake Barnabas’ strategy, they would have added their names into the group of the twelve apostles in their peculiar accounts.

More, the four evangelists neither gave their names in their writings nor felt a need to answer the question who the Gospel was recorded by, which is in sharp contrast to fake Barnabas and many other spurious Evangelists who abused the name of an apostle or a significant figure while struggling to authorize their forgeries.2

Barnabas versus Thomas: A case of replacement

Evidently, the addition of Barnabas into the group of the Twelve necessitated the exclusion of a certain apostle from the lists of the canonical Gospels. This apostle turns out to be no one else than Thomas, who is consistently paired with Matthew on all of the lists of the synoptic Gospels. Actually, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas confirmed this traditional pairing when he claimed that it was Matthew who made a couple with Barnabas, underscoring Thomas’ deletion from the list.

The list of the apostles in the Gospel of Barnabas does not attract much attention from academic circles, and few theories are put forward as to the reasons underlying its discrepancies with the canonical lists. A short article on Prof. Blackhirst’s website presents the following comment about the replacement of Thomas with Barnabas in the medieval work:

Barnabas’ list of the twelve disciples contains some significant variations on the canonical lists and makes a fascinating comparison with them. The most significant difference to the canonical accounts is in Barnabas listing himself as one of the twelve, evidently in place of Thomas. This is a highly suggestive choice in a docetic work since Thomas is the Twin - bringing into play the ‘doppleganger’ motif in Barnabas’ docetic Passion narrative - and also the ‘Doubter’ - underlining the fact that our author was probably an apostate from orthodox Christianity. (Source)

We cannot know for sure if Pseudo-Barnabas took into account these motifs or was even aware of the fabricated connections between Thomas and the writings of docetic nature. After all, his peculiar passion narrative owed its existence to the combination of the Islamic denial of Jesus’ passion in the Qur’an with Judas Iscariot’s depiction as the betraying apostle in all canonical accounts. In the light of this observation, it is more probable that fake Barnabas chose to delete Thomas from the list primarily because he was bothered by Thomas’ depiction in John’s Gospel as the apostle who exclaimed Jesus’ divinity and who became the instrument of clearing the doubts about Jesus’ bodily resurrection. By putting Barnabas in Thomas’ place, the medieval author did not only emphasize his objection to the Christian doctrine of Jesus’ divinity, but also aimed to detach it from the other major Christian doctrine of Jesus’ resurrection since Islam necessitated the denial of both of these tenets.

As a person having access to the canonical Gospels and being familiar with Thomas’ significant role in the proclamation of both Jesus’ resurrection and divinity, medieval Barnabas did not replace Thomas with Barnabas only in the list of the apostles, but applied this modification also to his passion narrative. The result of this extension is the claim that it was Barnabas who posed a great question and became the instrument of clearing the doubts about Jesus’ supposed rescue from the cross. Thus, as Thomas in the Gospel of John helped others be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection in association with Jesus’ divinity, Barnabas in the medieval Gospel helped others understand the “mystery” of Judas Iscariot’s substitution for Jesus in association with the denial of Jesus’ divinity:

Then said he who writeth: ‘O Master, seeing that God is merciful, wherefore hath he so tormented us, making us to believe that thou wert dead? And thy mother hath so wept for thee that she hath been nigh to death; and thou, who art an holy one of God, on thee hath God suffered to fall the calumny that thou wert slain amongst robbers on the Mount Calvary?’ Jesus answered: ‘Believe me, Barnabas, that every sin, however small it be, God punisheth with great punishment, seeing that God is offended at sin. Wherefore, since my mother and my faithful disciples that were with me loved me a little with earthly love, the righteous God hath willed to punish this love with the present grief, in order that it may not be punished in the flames of Hell. And though I have been innocent in the world, since men have called me “God”, and “Son of God”, God, in order that I be not mocked of the demons on the day of judgment, hath willed that I be mocked of men in this world by the death of Judas, making all men to believe that I died upon the cross’. (GOB 220)

In short, the medieval author of the Gospel of Barnabas decided to sacrifice Thomas for Barnabas’ illegitimate inclusion into the list as he presented the latter as the foremost apostle denying Jesus’ crucifixion and divinity in sharp contrast to Thomas in John 20:24-29.

Blackhirst’s same article suggests that Barnabas’ occurrence in the list of the apostles with Matthew is highly meaningful in association with the Church tradition:

Otherwise, we see that our “Barnabas” lists himself “with Matthew”. This is suggestive too. Throughout early sources there is a persistent configuration of associations involving the characters: Barnabas/Barabbas - Matthew/Matthias. According to tradition Barnabas communicated the ancient text of the Gospel of Matthew to the Middle Ages.

Although this may be a plausible theory, we tend to believe that Pseudo-Barnabas did not take into consideration what the Church tradition taught about the relation between Matthew and Barnabas, for there is no evidence in the medieval forgery that wants us to pay particular attention to the pair of Matthew and Barnabas. Thus, the only reason for Pseudo-Barnabas’ listing himself with Matthew is most likely the fact that in the synoptic lists of the apostles it is Matthew who forms a pair with Thomas, the apostle chosen by fake Barnabas for exclusion. Had the synoptic Gospels taught that Thomas formed a pair with Philip instead of Matthew, in the Gospel of Barnabas Philip’s name would probably appear along with that of Barnabas’ in the form of a couplet.3

Another significant point illustrated by our comparative analysis is that on Mark and Luke’s lists Matthew precedes Thomas although on Matthew’s list these two names are given in reverse order.4 Some readers may accordingly presume that the innovated pair of the two apostles in the Gospel of Barnabas (Barnabas and Matthew) is derived from both the replacement of Thomas with Barnabas and the rearrangement of this certain pair of apostles in Luke and Mark. However, we later understand that Pseudo-Barnabas does not follow this strategy, but is satisfied with the replacement. This hypothesis is proven true when a rather interesting link between the list in the Gospel of Barnabas and the one in the Gospel of Matthew is discovered. Fake Barnabas’ list contains additional information about Matthew’s profession, and this reference appears to have been copied from Matthew’s Gospel:

Barnabas, who wrote this, with Matthew the publican, who sat at the receipt of custom ... (GOB 14)

… Thomas and Matthew the publican … (Matthew 10:3)

Unsurprisingly, on the list of the medieval forgery, Barnabas’ name appears in the second of the six pairs of apostles in sharp contrast to Thomas’ occurrence with Matthew in the fourth pair on the lists of the synoptic Evangelists. This drastic change in the order of pairs is a result of the medieval author’s wish to introduce Barnabas as an apostle in the top three. However, while copying and distorting some synoptic accounts, fake Barnabas had to include himself into the group of the apostles as the fourth person rather than the third due to his dependence on the canonical Gospels. All synoptic Gospels identify Peter, James and John as the three privileged apostles who could witness some private miracles and events. (The first three names on the list of the twelve apostles in Mark correspond to these top three apostles.) For instance, Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate Jesus’ transfiguration on a mount and state that this miraculous incident was witnessed by Peter, John, and James:

Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them privately up a high mountain. And he was transfigured before them. (Matthew 17:1-2)

Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and led them alone up a high mountain privately. And he was transfigured before them. (Mark 9:2)

Now about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up the mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became very bright, a brilliant white. (Luke 9:28-29)

Pseudo-Barnabas partly kept faithful to this narrative as he did not have the courage to alter or delete this remarkable event altogether, but made sure to add his name into it as the fourth apostle that was supposedly taken by Jesus along with Peter, John, and James:

And having said this, Jesus departed and went to the mount Tabor, and there ascended with him Peter and James and John his brother, with him who writeth this. Whereupon there shone a great light above him, and his garments became white like snow and his face glistened as the sun, and lo! there came Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus concerning all that needs must come upon our race and upon the holy city. (GOB 42)

This simple example displays how fake Barnabas’ tampering with the canonical accounts led him into inconsistencies. Although he inserted the name Barnabas into the third position of the list of the apostles, he sometimes depicted Barnabas as the fourth person abruptly added to the foremost three apostles in the synoptic accounts. More, he sometimes implied Barnabas’ primacy by portraying him as the only apostle whom Jesus revealed great secrets to and commanded to write His true Gospel:

So all the disciples and apostles departed by fours and by sixes and went their way according to the word of Jesus. There remained with Jesus he who writeth; whereupon Jesus, weeping, said: ‘O Barnabas, it is necessary that I should reveal to thee great secrets, which, after that I shall be departed from the world, thou shalt reveal to it.’ (GOB 112)

And Jesus turned himself to him who writeth, and said: ‘See, Barnabas, that by all means thou write my gospel concerning all that hath happened through my dwelling in the world. And write in like manner that which hath befallen Judas, in order that the faithful may be undeceived, and every one may believe the truth.’ (GOB 221)

In order to stress Barnabas’ primacy, he in some cases replaced Peter with Barnabas by claiming that Barnabas was the first of the three apostles, the other two being James and John:5

Then returned each man to his house. He who writeth, with John and James his brother, went with the mother of Jesus to Nazareth. (GOB 218)

The Virgin returned to Jerusalem with him who writeth, and James and John, on that day on which the decree of the high priest went forth. (GOB 219)

As if struggling to further contradict himself, he later asserted that Barnabas was again the fourth apostle to whom Jesus appeared, the other three being Peter, James, and John:

Jesus came, surrounded with splendour, to the room where abode Mary the Virgin with her two sisters, and Martha and Mary Magdalen and Lazarus, and him who writeth, and John and James and Peter. (GOB 219)

All these discrepancies and absurdities, of course, came into existence because Pseudo-Barnabas was torn between following the canonical narratives and modifying them for their adaptation to his false Gospel. With the same ideal in mind, he even contended that Barnabas was the second apostle who went to the cross with John (!):

As God liveth, he who writeth forgot all that Jesus had said: how that he should be taken up from the world, and that he should suffer in a third person, and that he should not die until near the end of the world. Wherefore he went with the mother of Jesus and with John to the cross. (GOB 217)

Consequently, fake Barnabas’ making efforts to present himself as the third of the Twelve in the list of the apostles does not make much sense since it is not fully compatible with what was taught about Barnabas in the rest of this medieval Gospel: we sometimes see Barnabas in top three (the list of the apostles), sometimes in top four (whenever the canonical accounts are followed and Barnabas is added into the inner circle of Jesus’ apostles), sometimes as the apostle having primacy in Peter’s place, and sometimes as the second apostle after John (making addition to the Church tradition that says, of all the apostles, only John was present at the scene of the crucifixion). These inconsistencies, of course, resulted from fake Barnabas’ aim to simultaneously accommodate his forgery to the canonical Gospels and teach innovated doctrines that are alien to those writings.

The cause of other modifications

After replacing Thomas with Barnabas and placing Barnabas and Matthew in the third and fourth place on his list, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas resumed inverting the names of pairs and first applied this to John and James (sons of Zebedee), who appear in the third and fourth place on Matthew and Luke’s list as James and John. At this stage of the rearrangement, spurious Barnabas somehow skipped Philip and Bartholomew, whose names come right after James and John in Matthew and Luke. Instead of writing Philip and Bartholomew in reverse order, he got down to the pair of the apostles following Thomas and Matthew on Matthew’s list. This was mostly likely because he wanted to repeat with Philip and Bartholomew what he primarily did with James and John. As he changed the place of James and John for the sake of Barnabas’ priority on the list, he also changed the place of Philip and Bartholomew by giving priority to the pair of the apostles coming right after Thomas and Matthew on Matthew’s original list: James and Thaddeus.

Simon the Zealot missing from the list (!)

Strikingly, fake Barnabas’ list has the names Thaddeus and Judas although the basic and systematic method of inversion is expected to create the pair of Thaddeus and James. This kind of a major change makes the list in the Gospel of Barnabas more baffling and mysterious. Neither Thomas’ replacement with Barnabas nor Barnabas’ taking the third place in the list of the twelve apostles has an effect on the odd exclusion of another canonical apostle (Simon the Zealot) from Pseudo-Barnabas’ list and on the puzzling designation of Thaddeus Judas, an apostle with two names, as two distinct people. Blackhirst interpreted this as an expression of fake Barnabas’ particular objection to the list given by Evangelist Luke:

On close examination of Barnabas’ list we discover that Barnabas’ quarrel is with Luke, particularly regarding the so-called Zealot party among the Twelve. (Simon the Zealot is missing from Barnabas) Moreover, Barnabas wants to insist that Jude and Thaddeus are different people, not the same as Luke’s list suggests. On yet closer examination we discover that the whole organizing principle of Barnabas’ list is contra-Luke. Working in couplets, or pairs of disciples, he inverts Luke’s arrangement systematically. Thus Luke has Peter and Andrew: Barnabas has Andrew and Peter in the inverse order. Luke has James and John: Barnabas has John and James. Luke has Matthew and Thomas: Barnabas has Thomas (Barnabas) and Matthew.

However, it is not possible to accept this theory due to a few reasons. First, as we stated above, fake Barnabas imitated only Luke when he said that Jesus chose the Twelve after spending the whole night in prayer on a mount. Thus, he at least confirmed Luke with regard to the time of the apostles’ selection. Second, he inverted not only Luke’s, but also Matthew’s list systematically, for both Matthew and Luke have the same order and pairs of apostles until the pair of Thomas and Matthew:

In Matthew and Luke In Pseudo-Barnabas
Simon Peter and Andrew Andrew and Peter
James and John John and James
Philip and Bartholomew Bartholomew and Philip

Third, in order to create the pair of Barnabas and Matthew, the writer of the medieval forgery only put Barnabas in Thomas’ place, but did not necessarily invert the pair of Matthew and Thomas in Luke. The seeming inversion arose not because of fake Barnabas’ aversion to Luke’s list, but from his copying that particular pair from Matthew:

Luke Matthew Pseudo-Barnabas
Matthew and Thomas Thomas and Matthew Barnabas (Thomas) and Matthew

Fourth, the absence of Simon the Zealot from the Gospel of Barnabas and the contention that Thaddeus and Judas are two different apostles are inextricably bound together in that the former argument caused the latter. However, none of these was linked to Pseudo-Barnabas’ quarrel with Luke. The reason for these baffling variations can be understood only if the list of the apostles in Pseudo-Barnabas is compared with the lists in the synoptic Gospels horizontally rather than vertically. The horizontal comparison reveals that spurious Barnabas excluded Simon the Zealot from his peculiar list and divided Thaddeus Judas into two people because this was the only solution he could work out while trying to reconcile the differing lists of the Twelve in the synoptic Gospels.

In the process of reconciliation, medieval Barnabas first copied only Thaddeus’ name from the other lists, quitting his strategy of writing the names of the pairs in reverse order, for he came across a serious problem while comparing the three lists in the synoptic accounts. When he realized that the name Thaddeus was missing from Luke and the name Judas from both Matthew and Mark, he had to suggest that Thaddeus was the same person as Simon the Zealot because in Luke’s Gospel Simon the Zealot occurs in the same place as Thaddeus in Matthew and Mark:

Original lists viewed horizontally

Matthew Mark Luke
Thaddeus Thaddeus Simon the Zealot
Simon Simon Judas, son of James

After assimilating Luke’s list to Matthew and Mark’s list by reading Luke’s Simon as Thaddeus, he assimilated both Matthew and Mark’s text to Luke’s by reading Simon in their text as Judas (son of James) because Matthew and Mark have Simon where Luke has John, the son of James. In so doing, he thought he could reconcile the texts by having the new pair of Thaddeus and Judas:

The lists after Pseudo-Barnabas’ supposed correction

Matthew Mark Luke Pseudo-Barnabas
Thaddeus Thaddeus Simon Thaddeus
Simon Simon Judas Judas

The funny thing is that spurious Barnabas tried to supposedly correct and reconcile the lists in the canonical Gospels only horizontally by assimilating Simon to both Thaddeus and Judas, erroneously suggesting that Simon was the same person as Thaddeus and Judas. In fact, the vertical rather than the horizontal comparison of the canonical lists implies that Thaddeus and Judas are one and same. However, Pseudo-Barnabas’ systematic inversion of the pairs of the apostles was coupled with his horizontal comparison of the lists and resulted in his odd exclusion of an apostle (Simon) whose name appears in all the synoptic lists.

Finally, Pseudo-Barnabas made a new pair with Judas Iscariot and James, whose name he set aside while focusing on the reconciliation of the differing names and thus made a new pair with Thaddeus and the other Judas. To understand the source of the peculiar pair of James and Judas Iscariot in the Gospel of Barnabas, it will suffice to read the underlined names in the lists of the synoptic Gospels below as a pair:

Matthew Mark Luke
James James James
Thaddeus Thaddeus Simon the Zealot
Simon Simon Judas, son of James
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot


Our meticulous examination has shown that of the list of the apostles in the Gospel of Barnabas was devised through the systematic distortion of the lists in the synoptic accounts. Even the variations that at first appear baffling and are accidentally considered a result of fake Barnabas’ objection to Luke’s material are proven to have stemmed from the incompetent author’s absurd modifications that actually aim the reconciliation of the synoptic Gospels for a more consistent text. However, this evil plan of distortion turns out to have ended in failure through the production of a list containing errors when compared to the lists in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In short, the list of the apostles in the medieval Gospel of Barnabas is not exempt from the curse of the Evangelists imposed on the owner of this forgery.



1 For all the references to the Gospel of Barnabas, Lonsdale & Laura Ragg’s English translation (1907) is used. For online availability see Editions of the Gospel of Barnabas.

2 For instance, the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas opens with this line: “These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.” (Source) Similarly, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew has the following statements: “Here begins the book of the Birth of the Blessed Mary and the Infancy of the Saviour. Written in Hebrew by the Blessed Evangelist Matthew, and translated into Latin by the Blessed Presbyter Jerome.” (Source) The writer of the Gospel of Nicodemus identifies himself as a Jew named Aeneas and claims that his account was translated by Nicodemus: “A narrative about the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His holy resurrection. Written by a Jew, Æneas by name, and translated out of the Hebrew tongue into the Romaic language by Nicodemus, a Roman toparch.” (Source)

3 In addition to this main reason, Pseudo-Barnabas may have cherished another aspect implicit in listing himself as a pair with Matthew: Matthew is always placed as the first of the canonical Gospels, and thus it was highly attractive to fake Barnabas to list himself together with Matthew, giving an extra push for his claim to primacy for his own gospel.

4 This may be viewed as a sign of humility on Matthew’s part, who places himself after Thomas in his own account, but keeps the pairs, since they may well have been grouped in these pairs by Jesus himself when he sent out his disciples as pairs. See Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1, where Jesus is said to have sent also His seventy disciples in pairs.

5 This replacement could be seen in connection of fake Barnabas’ removal of Peter from the top of the list of the apostles.

Examining the Gospel of Barnabas
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