A 1,500-year-old Bible in which Jesus is believed to have foretold the coming of the Prophet Muhammad to Earth has attracted attention from the Vatican this week.
Pope Benedict XVI has reportedly requested to see the book, which has been hidden in Turkey for the last 12 years, according to the Daily Mail.
The text, reportedly worth $22 million, is said to contain Jesus’ prediction of the Prophet’s coming but was suppressed by the Christian Church for years for its strong resemblance to the Islamic view of Jesus, Turkish culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay told the newspaper.
“In line with Islamic belief, the Gospel treats Jesus as a human being and not a God. It rejects the ideas of the Holy Trinity and the Crucifixion and reveals that Jesus predicted the coming of the Prophet Muhammad,” the newspaper reported.
“In one version of the gospel, he is said to have told a priest: ‘How shall the Messiah be called? Muhammad is his blessed name.’
“But in another, Jesus denied being the Messiah, claiming that he or she would be Ishmaelite, the term used for an Arab.”
According to the report, Muslims claim the text, which many say is the Gospel of Barnabas, is an addition to the original gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.
St. Barnabas is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Church, an early Christian later named an apostle.
Gunay said the Vatican has officially requested to see the book, which Turkey had discovered during a police anti-smuggling operation in 2000.
The gang was reportedly convicted of smuggling various items seized during the operation, including the Bible, and all the artifacts were kept in a safe at an Ankara courthouse.
It remained closely guarded by authorities before being handed over to the Ankara Ethnography Museum where it will soon be put on show.
A photocopy of a single page from the leather-bound, gold-lettered book, penned in Jesus’ native Aramaic language is reportedly worth about $2.4 million.
But skepticism over the authenticity of the ancient handwritten manuscript has arisen.
Protestant pastor İhsan Özbek has said this version of the book is said to come from the fifth or sixth century, while St. Barnabas had lived in the first century as one of the Apostles of Jesus.
“The copy in Ankara might have been written by one of the followers of St. Barnabas,” he told the Today Zaman newspaper.
“Since there is around 500 years in between St. Barnabas and the writing of the Bible copy, Muslims may be disappointed to see that this copy does not include things they would like to see … It might have no relation with the content of the Gospel of Barnabas,” Özbek added.
But suspicions could soon be laid to rest.
The real age of the Bible could soon be determined by a scientific scan, theology professor Ömer Faruk Harman told the Daily Mail, possibly clarifying whether it was written by St. Barnabas or a follower of his.