A so called ‘secret Bible’ which has been the subject of a great deal of rumour and speculation, may be only 500 years old, experts think.
The battered leather document, which is inscribed with gold ink, has reportedly become the subject of an official request for analysis from the Vatican.
Numerous claims have been made about it, with some reports saying that it is 1500 years old, and others that it contains an early set of teachings from Jesus, which predict the coming of the Prophet Muhammed.
The document, which was seized by Turkish authorities from a gang of antiquities smugglers twelve years ago, has been referred to in some media outlets as ‘The Gospel Of Barnabas.’
In fact experts say that it appears to be an old copy of the New Testament, written in Syriac, which may or may not include a copy of the apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas.
The book has become the subject of widespread and frenzied ‘Da Vinci Code’ style speculation, over both its contents, and its reported multi-million pound value.
But scholars have poured cold water on the flames, pointing out that nothing much can be ascertained until proper study has been carried out.
Dr Paul Foster of the Univerity of Edinburgh, an expert on extra canonical books, said: “At this stage we do not know what this codex contains.
“The few lines that have been translated suggest that what can be seen might be a text of the Peshitta. This is the common translation of the bible into Syriac. The New Testament was originally translated around the 5th century.
“There is a colophon, a brief note about the codex, which seems to say that the book was written 'in the year 1500 of our Lord'. That would imply it is 16th century.
“If this codex also has a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas this would be interesting. Our only two manuscripts are written in Italian and Spanish, apparently the Spanish manuscript has become lost since the time when the text was published.
“If there is a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas in Syriac, then this might give a clue to the language of composition, or at least put another possibility on the table.
“It is hard to explain the motivation for the composition of this text, especially since the uncertainty about dating means one does not know the context in which it was written. The lost Spanish manuscript claimed to have been written in Istanbul, which would put it close to Syria.
“However, it is premature to say too much about the Gospel of Barnabas at this stage, as one does not even know if this text is in the codex under discussion.
“The sober reality is that until the manuscript is studied, its contents identified, its text transcribed and translated everybody is guessing. At this stage patience is required.”
According to reports the book was seized by Turkish police in an anti smuggling sting operation in 2000, it has been kept under wraps by the Turkish government ever since.
The book, which has been valued at up to $28 million, has been handed over to the Ankara Ethnography Museum where it will go on public display.
Experts say the only way to be able to properly check its authenticity is to subject it to a detailed scan.
February 29th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross