The Gospel of Barnabas contends that Jesus denied his divinity and didn’t die on the cross. Conspiracy theories have revolved around this manuscript for centuries.
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In Amsterdam in 1709, philosopher John Toland set his eyes upon a remarkable manuscript—what he described in Nazarenus as “a Mahometan [i.e., Muslim] Gospel, never before publicly made known among Christians.”
Associated with the apostle Barnabas, the text essentially retold the life of Jesus in terms familiar from the New Testament, but with some major departures. It contended that Jesus denied his divine status; that he had predicted the coming of the prophet Muhammad; and that Judas died in his place on the cross. Combing Christian canon lists and literature, Toland found references to an otherwise unknown “gospel under the name of Barnabas,” and he concluded that this “Gospel of the Mahometans… very probably is in great part that same book.”
For Toland, this was not just another apocryphon.