The Vatican has made an official request to gain access to a 1500-year-old Bible worth $28 million currently held by the Turkish government in Ankara, Turkey. There is speculation that the Bible may be a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas – a telling of Jesus’ ministry Muslims believe is part of the original Gospels.
Photocopies of the holy book’s pages are reportedly worth about $1.7 million, but the relic isn’t so extremely valuable just because of its age, but also because of its construction and its contents. The Bible is handwritten in gold lettering on loosely strung together animal hide and written in Syriac. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic – Jesus’ native language. Aramaic itself is rarely present in today’s society, as it is now only spoken in a small village near Damascus.
The Gospel of Barnabas is not included in the New Testament alongside Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and in fact Barnabas opposes the New Testament and rather has clear similarities to the Muslim interpretation of Jesus. Barnabas even contains a story in which Jesus predicts the coming of Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe this original gospel has been suppressed.
However, theology professor Ömer Faruk Harman told Today Zaman, “Muslims may be disappointed to see that this copy does not include things they would like to see and it might have no relation with the content of the Gospel of Barnabas.”
The Turkish government gained possession of the Bible back in 2000 when they caught a band of thieves and smugglers cutting through Turkey with the bible as well as other antiques, illegal excavations, and explosives.
The tome has been kept at the courthouse until recently, and is set to make its way, under heavy security, to Turkey’s Ankara Ethnography Museum. But before it settles there, the Vatican is hoping to get a chance to study and investigate the extremely valuable book.