What did Jesus really say?

by Misha'al Abdullah Al-Kadhi

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Chapter 7: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of Barn (Part 1)

Many of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity which have been for many centuries accepted on blind faith (those which differ from the beliefs of Muslims) are now beginning to be challenged by some of the foremost scholars and religious leaders of Christianity today.

As we have previously seen in section, only one of the most glaring example of this can be found in the British newspaper the "Daily News" 25/6/84 under the heading "Shock survey of Anglican Bishops" We read that a British television pole of 31 of the 39 Anglican Bishops in England found 19 to believe that it is not necessary for Christians to believe that Jesus (pbuh) is God, but only "His supreme agent" (his messenger)

Indeed, this was testified to by Jesus in John 17:3

"And this is life eternal, that they might know YOU the ONLY true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

With every passing day, the learned among Christendom are drawing ever closer to Islam

"I shall turn away from my signs those who are arrogant in the earth unjustifiably, and if they see all the signs (in creation) they believe them not, and if they see the path of righteousness they do not take it as (their) path, and if they see the path of misguidance they take it as (their) path. That is because they deny our signs and are used to disregarding them"

The noble Qur'an, Al-Aaraf(7):146.

"They are not all alike. Of the people of the book are a portion whom stand (for that which is right), who recite the revelations of Allah throughout the night while prostrate (before Him)"

The noble Qur'an, A'al-Umran(3):113.

"And Lo! Of the people of the Scripture are those who believe in Allah and that which was sent down to you and that which was sent down to them, humbling themselves before Allah. They purchase not a trifling gain at the price of the revelations of Allah. Verily, their reward is with their Lord, and Lo! Allah is swift to take account."

The noble Qur'an, A'al-Umran(3):199.

The choice of the present four Gospels (including the writings of St. Paul who is credited with single-handedly writing the majority of the books of the New Testament) was imposed in the conference of Nicea 325 C.E. under the auspices of the Pagan Emperor Constantine for political reasons. Literally hundreds of gospels and religious writings were considered "Apocrypha" (which actually means "hidden from the people") and destroyed. Some of these were written by disciples of Jesus (pbuh), and not disciples of disciples who had never met Jesus (pbuh), such as Paul. If they were not more authentic than the current selection then they were at least of equal authenticity. Some of these are still available, such as the "Gospel of Barnabas" which agrees with the Qur'an and even mention Muhammad (pbuh) by name. Modern discoveries such as the discovery of the dead sea scrolls (Qumran scrolls) have also confirmed the claims of the Qur'an (such as their claim that no nail shall touch the Messiah). The most ancient copies of the Greek Gospels available today date fully three to four centuries after the departure of Jesus(pbuh). The Dead sea scrolls, however, coincide historically with the time of John the Baptist. They were quickly dated from the 2nd century BC through the 1st century C.E. by the script in which they were written and by archaeological investigations of the settlement near the Qumran caves. They were discovered alongside the most ancient copy of the Old Testament available today.

In an effort to defend the teachings of the current Greek gospels, Mr. F.F. Bruce has the following to say in his book "The New Testament documents. Are they reliable?":

"It is worth mentioning here that striking affinities of thought and language have been recognized between the Gospel and the Qumran texts. These affinities must not be exaggerated; the Qumran literature comes no where near presenting us with such a figure as the Jesus of this Gospel (John)"

Christian scholar of history readily confirm that after the famous council of Nicea (325 C.E.), the church of St. Paul (The Trinitarian Church) selected out of the over three hundred Gospels in their possession the four that most closely conformed to their doctrines. All others, including the Gospel of Barnabas, were ordered completely destroyed. They also ruled that all Gospels written in Hebrew were to be destroyed. This practice continued until at least the year 1616 C.E.

Well then, how did the Gospel of Barnabas reach us? It is well known and recorded that the Gospel of Barnabas was accepted as Canonical in the Churches of Alexandria till 325 C.E. Pope Damasus (304-384 C.E.) issued a decree that the Gospel of Barnabas should not be read. This decree was supported by Gelasus, Bishop of Caesaria who died in 395 C.E. Pope Demasus, however, did secure a personal copy of the Gospel of Barnabas for himself in 383 C.E. and placed it in his private library. Many decrees make mention of the Gospel of Barnabas, such as the decree of the Western churches in 382AD, Pope Innocent in 465C.E., the Glasian Decree of 496C.E., Pope Hormisdas, and it is mentioned in the Stichometry of Niceophorus. There are many others who made note of this Gospel throughout history or obtained their own copies.

In 478AD, the fourth year of Emperor Zeno, the remains of Barnabas were discovered and there was found on his breast a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas written by his own hand. (Acia Sanctorum Borland Junii Tom II, pages 422 and 450. Antwerp 1698) The famous Vulgate Bible appears to have been based upon this Gospel.

Among the early Christians was a man named Irenaeus (130-200 AD). According to the book "Jesus, Prophet of Islam," by Muhammad Ata' Ur Rahim, Irenaeus quoted extensively in his writings from the Gospel of Barnabas. In the sixteenth century C.E. a close friend of Pope Sextus (1589-1590) called Fra Marino, became extremely interested in the writings of Irenaeus. One day he was invited to visit the Pope and lunch with him. After eating with him, the Pope became drowsy and fell asleep. Father Marino took to browsing through the various books and manuscripts in the private library of Pope Sextus and happened upon an Italian translation of the Gospel of Barnabas. Father Marino concealed it in his sleeve and left the Vatican with it. This Gospel passed through many hands until it reached the hands of "a person of great name and authority" in Amsterdam "who during his lifetime, was often heard to put a high value on this piece." After his death, it came into the possession of J.E. Cramer, Councilor of the King of Prussia. In 1713, Cramer presented this Gospel to the famous connoisseur of books, Prince Eugene of Savoy. In 1738, the library of the Prince, including this Gospel was incorporated into the Hofbibliothek in Vienna where it now rests.

Mr. Sale in his preface "To the Reader" of his translation of the meanings of the verses of the noble Qur'an says:

"… the discoverer of the original M.S., who was a Christian monk called Fra Marino, tells us that having accidentally met with a writing of Irenaeus (among others), wherein Irenaeus spoke against Paul, alleging, for his authority, the Gospel of St. Barnabas, he became exceedingly desirous of finding an existing copy of this Gospel, and that God of His mercy, having made Fra Marino an intimate friend of Pope Sixtus V, (pope 1585-1590), one day, as they were together in the Pope's library, his holiness fell asleep, and the monk, to occupy himself, reaching down for a book to read, the very first he laid his hand on proved to be the very Gospel history that he was seeking. Overjoyed at the discovery, he scrupled not to hide his prize discovery in his sleeve; and, on the Pope's awakening, took to leave of him carrying with him that celestial treasure, by reading of which he became a convert to Muhammedanism [sic]"

The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Barnabas, and the New Testament, by M. A. Yusseff, p. 119) (also see Jesus a Prophet of Islam, by Muhammad 'Ata ur-Rahim, pp. 39-44, 76-77)

Only the popularity of this copy of the Gospel of Barnabas saved it from the fate of most other copies. Most copies of the Gospel of Barnabas had a tendency of mysteriously disappearing into oblivion. This was the case with a Spanish copy which mysteriously disappeared from the College Library in England around the same time period. The Gospel of Barnabas was translated into English by Mr. and Mrs. Ragg and published in the Clarindon Press in Oxford in 1907. Dispite the fact that the authors disallowed the authenticity of this Gospel, still, mysteriously all copies disappeared from the market. Only two copies are known to have escaped this mysterious fate. One copy is housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The other is located in the British museum. A new printing has been made off of these copies and this printing is available today.

Many attempts have been made since the Gospel of Barnabas was first inadvertently smuggled out of the Vatican vaults and unveiled to the public to disprove it's authenticity. This Gospel was found to support the Muslim Qur'an so strongly that it was quickly recognized that Father Marino must have stumbled upon a fabricated Gospel written by Muslims which Muslims had later managed to cleverly conceal in the Christian Vatican. Much has been written on this topic, however, for those who would like to see strong evidence of the great antiquity and authenticity of this Gospel, they are directed to obtain a copy of the book "The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Gospel of Barnabas, and The New Testament", by M. A. Yussuff.

Some quotations from the Gospel of Barnabas:

In reply to a question by Philip, Prophet Jesus said:

"God alone hath no equal. He hath had no beginning, nor will he ever have a end, ... He hath no sons, nor brethren, nor companions."

Gospel of Barnabas:17

"... Verily ye have erred greatly, O Israelites, in calling me(Jesus), a man, your God. ... I confess before heaven, ... that I am a stranger to all that ye have said; seeing that I am man, born of a mortal woman, subject to the judgment of God, suffering the miseries of eating and sleeping, of cold and heat, like other men,. Whereupon when God shall come to judge, my words like a sword shall pierce each one (of them) that believe me to be more than man,"

Gospel of Barnabas: 93

Regarding the apostle Barnabas himself, the Bible commands:

"if he comes to you, receive him."

Colossians 4:10

(For more quotations from the Gospel of Barnabas, please read the end of the following section titled …)

The Dead Sea Scrolls:

I have just alluded to the Dead Sea Scrolls in the quotation by Mr. F. F. Bruce. Even with his staunch defense of the text the New and Old Testament, even with that, we find him saying "It is worth mentioning here that striking affinities of thought and language have been recognized between the Gospel and the Qumran texts. These affinities must not be exaggerated; the Qumran literature comes no where near presenting us with such a figure as the Jesus of this Gospel (John)"

What is so noteworthy about this quote? Well, to answer this question we need to begin with the story of the scrolls themselves:

In 1947 a group of children stumbled upon the first set of scrolls in a cave on the shores of the Dead Sea. These scrolls were immediately identified as the work of a very devout sect of the Jewish community that lived centuries before the birth of Jesus (pbuh). Hershel Shanks says in his book Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls:

"Such was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts a thousand years older than the oldest known Hebrew texts of the Bible, manuscripts many of which were written a hundred years before the birth of Jesus and at least one of which may have been written almost three hundred years before the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem"

Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hershel Shanks, pp. 7-8

An immediate frantic search ensued through the remaining caves in the region in order to find what other ancient scrolls could be discovered therein. A small group of "international" scholars in Israel were given exclusive access to them and the rest of the world was all but totally barred from gaining even the slightest glimpse of the texts (Prof. Eisenman observes that one of the major stumbling blocks for the publication of the scrolls was that "in the first place, the team was hardly international") . Prof. Robert Eisenman was one of the key players in the drama that finally lead to the release of the scrolls. In his book "The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered" we read:

"In the spring of 1986, at the end of his stay in Jerusalem, Professor Eisenman went with the British scholar, Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield, to see one of the Israeli officials responsible for this - an intermediary on behalf of the Antiquities Department (now 'Authority') and the International Team and the Scrolls Curator at Israel Museum. They were told in no uncertain terms 'You will not see the Scrolls in your lifetimes'"

This stung them into action, and as a result of this statement, a massive effort was launched and five years later through a whirlwind of media publicity, absolute access to the scrolls was attained. Prof. Eisenman eventually received 1800 pictures of the previously unpublished scrolls. The book goes on to describe how

"Eisenman was preparing the Facsimile Edition of all unpublished plates. This was scheduled to appear the following spring through E. J. Brill in Leiden, Holland. Ten days, however, before it's scheduled publication in April 1991, after pressure was applied by the International Team, the publisher inexplicably withdrew and Hershel Shanks (author of Biblical Archeology Review) and the Biblical Archeology Society to their credit stepped in to fill the breach".

However, finally in September 1991, the archives were officially opened and two months later the 2-volume Facsimile Edition was published.

We have already read the words of Mr. Tom Harpur in the preface to his book:

"The most significant development since 1986 in this regard has been the discovery of the title "Son of God" in one of the Qumran papyri (Dead Sea Scrolls) used in relation to a person other than Jesus...this simply reinforces the argument made there that to be called the Son of God in a Jewish setting in the first century is not by any means the same as being identical with God Himself."

For Christ's Sake, Tom Harpur, pp. xii.

So why don't we study these scrolls in a little more detail and see what else we can learn?

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of fragments from many manuscripts, however, some of the most interesting among them are the Pesher texts. The Pesher texts are strings of interpretations of Biblical verses compiled by the most knowledgeable among the Jews. The word itself is derived from the Hebrew root word p-sh-r, which means, "to explain". The texts consist of Biblical passages followed by the words pesher ha-davar "the interpretation of the matter is," and then the interpretation itself.

The basis of all of these texts is the notion that all of history is preordained by God. In other words, God is not restricted to looking at matters as "past", "present", or "future", rather, all of time is an open book to God (please read the verification of this concept in Islamic belief in chapter 11). Indeed, this is the essence of how prophets receive "prophesies", because God "sees" the future.

So, remembering that we are henceforth quoting from texts that have been carbon dated at about 100 years or more before the coming of Jesus (pbuh), and that this dating is confirmed by literary analysis, and that the authors were a sect of very religious and devout Jews, considering all of this let us see what they have to say:

Those who have studied the scrolls have noticed a common theme prevalent throughout these manuscripts, that is, most of the pesher texts prophesise the coming of a "Teacher of Righteousness" who will be sent by God to the Jews. This "Teacher of Righteousness" will be opposed by the "Teacher of Lies" and the "Wicked Priest." These scrolls also predict the coming of TWO messiahs. These two messiahs are referred to as a priestly and a temporal messiah. What we had here was a society of very devout Jews who were convinced that the time of the coming of the two messiahs was at hand, therefore, they set about preparing for their advent by detaching themselves from the mainstream society, and dedicating their lives to their worship and the preparation for their imminent arrival.

"According to the dominant view in the sectarian texts from Qumran, two messiahs were to lead the congregation in the End of Days, one priestly, and the other lay"

Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, pp. 321-322

In The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, we read that the early scrolls spoke of TWO messiahs, but that later on, the communities of the Jews began to combine them into one messiah:

"As we have suggested, contrary to the well-known 'two-Messiah' theory of early Qumran scholarship, these references to the 'Messiah of Aaron and Israel' in the Damascus Document are singular not plural... and one possible explanation for it is that it is evoking a Messiah with both priestly and kingly implications, like the somewhat similar recitations of Hebrews"

The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, p. 162

The Jews had prophesies of two messiahs. The first was best known to them for his "priestly" or "ecclesiastic" works which he would perform. The second was best known to them for his "kingly" or "military" works. These two prophesies refer to Jesus (pbuh) and Muhammad (pbuh). Jesus (pbuh) was best know for his "priestly" works. However, unlike prophets such as David and Moses (pbut), he never lead an army, he never established a kingdom or a government, nor did he call his followers to wage war. Quite the opposite, he always called to peace and submissiveness and to leave the rule of the land to others (Matthew 22:21). He told his followers that he yet had many things to teach them but they could not bear them yet and that another would be coming after him who would teach them the complete truth (John 16:7-14). Muhammad (pbuh) too began by preaching submissiveness and passiveness. However, his ministry was allowed by God Almighty to mature to a point where it was able to defend itself and establish justice in the earth and abolish evil. Thus, just as many Old Testament prophets had waged many wars against the pagans of the surrounding nations, so too Muhammad's followers fought many wars in the name of God and the Islamic empire finally stretched from China to Spain. Even those who did not follow Muhammad (pbuh) knew him well. However, what did they know him for? They knew him for his "kingly" actions and not for the "priestly" side of him that his followers knew.

"And fight against them until persecution is no more and religion is for God alone. But if they desist then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers"

The noble Qur'an, Al-Bakarah(2):193.

"Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognize him (Muhammad) as they recognize their sons. But verily, a party of them conceal the truth while they know it"

The noble Qur'an, al-Baqarah(2):146

Over time, the prophesies of the Jews began to become a little blurred, and this in addition to the continuous persecution of many nations towards the them eventually lead to their blending of these prophesies such that we find them in our present day to have combined them into one single prophesy wherein they await this one all-conquering wondrous event that would finally relieve them of their persecution and pave the way for them to march forth conquering all nations and establishing themselves as the protectors of the kingdom of God. However, as we can see from their prophesies, it was the second messiah who was to be known for his "kingly" works, not the first.

For this reason, when we read the Gospel of Barnabas we find that when the Jews ask Jesus (pbuh) whether he is "the messiah" he responds to them that he is not "the messiah" that they are expecting. This appears to be because Jesus understood their question to be deeper than a mere search for a title. They were not asking how to address him, rather, they wanted to know whether he was the one who would lead them in fulfillment of their hopes for leadership, power, and grandeur that they had been waiting for for so many centuries. For this reason, he told them that he was not "the Messiah", but that "the Messiah" they were waiting for would not come until later. He was referring to the SECOND messiah in their prophesies (please go back and read chapter 6.1 of this book). Indeed, both Muslims as well as Christians are unanimous that Jesus was the "Messiah" of God, however, Jesus appears in his response to have applied his wisdom and knowledge of his people and their expectations when answering their question.

Lawrence Schiffman says regarding Pesher Habakkuk:

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