Not-a-1500 Year Old Bible in Turkey

Seems this stuff comes up every week, but this picture is apparently that of an alleged 1500 year old Bible that is now being kept in Ankara. The story is that Turkish police seized it in an anti-smuggling operation in 2000. It is only now coming to light because the Vatican is asking for it. It apparently contains the Gospel of Barnabas, which scholars almost unanimously date to the 16th century as a late pseudo-gospel that was written to give the impression that it was the work of Barnabas. Why is this gospel so potentially valuable to Turkey? It contains within it some material that seems to predict the coming of Mohammed, and generally follows the standard Muslim account of early Christianity. So if Turkey can prove it is from 500 AD it obviously scores a huge point since Mohammed doesn’t come until the end of that century, and thus the book would clearly be a prophecy about his coming. Lots at stake then, and no surprise the Turkish authorities are not so readily handing it over to the Vatican and are instead keeping it under military control.

I just spoke with my colleague about this, and after both of us have had the chance to look at it we concur it is impossible this is a 1500 year old Bible. What could be really funny is that at the bottom it appears to read something like 1500 AD. It is admittedly tough to read, but it would quite a mistake to claim it is 1500 years old when it was produced in 1500. This date would also conform to what most scholarship believes anyway, that this gospel was produced around this time.

Please do chime in if you have a better read on this, but I think this is another phony.

UPDATE: Another colleague just wrote:

Another modern fake, I’m afraid – hence the gold ink, and the uncured skins. (Forgers are obsessed with using skins instead of vellum or paper.) For once the forger seems to know some Syriac, but not very well. Not sure about the last date –  looks like 1500 of ‘our Lord’, which is itself very dubious!

Anyway, this is interesting but read it with discernment:

Aydoğan Vatandaş, a Today’s Zaman journalist and author who has written two books on the Gospel of Barnabas, said there is no clue that the Bible mentioned in the Turkish press dates back to 1,500 years ago, but he said it is sure that the Gospel of Barnabas had been written in the Aramaic language and Syriac alphabet.

“There is only one Gospel that exactly matches this definition: the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ that was found in a cave in Uludere in Hakkari [now of Şırnak] in the early 1980s by villagers, which I told the story of first as a screenplay in 2005 for a film project, then in my novel in 2007, ‘The Secret of Gospel of Barnabas’ and my investigative journalism book, ‘Apokrifal’ in 2008.”

As a result of his research, Vatandaş said he found that this Gospel was actually preserved by the Special Armed Forces intelligence unit in the 1990s and that some parts of this Gospel were translated by an Aramaic language expert Dr. Hamza Hocagil under the control of the intelligence unit. He said Dr. Hocagil was asked to stop translating it by the Special Armed Forces when it turned out that he had shared sensitive information with journalists at the time.

“Since then we did not know where this Gospel was. After my book about the entire story of this Gospel and the criminal incidents surrounding it, the public’s interest and curiosity has increased and the Turkish military has been the target of several questions about the case. Therefore, I believe that the emergence of this Gospel again is very timely,” he said. Vatandaş also claimed that three other copies of this Gospel written by St. Barnabas are hidden in different locations in the region, so the Gospel in Ankara might be one of these as well.