Tehran, Iran - Tehran says a religious text containing verses attributed to Jesus Christ, proves Islam is the righteous religion and will cause the downfall of Christianity. The Christian world denies the existence of such a gospel and calls it a fake.
The book thought by some to date from the fifth or sixth century was confiscated in Turkey in 2000. It was seized during a crackdown on a gang charged with smuggling antiquities, illegal excavations and the possession of explosives, the Daily Mail reports.
Turkish authorities believe it could be an authentic version of the Gospel by Jesus's disciple Barnabas, known for his travels with the apostle Paul.
It took Turkey 12 years to present the find to the world.
Iran has called the text written on animal hide in golden letters a Barnabas Gospel. Tehran insists the text proves Jesus was never crucified, was not the Son of God and in fact predicted the coming of the Prophet Mohammed and the religion of Islam, Iran’s Basij Press says.
According to Basij Press, the text even predicts the coming of the last Islamic messiah – a passage that highly inspires the report’s authors.
“The discovery of the original Barnabas Bible will now undermine the Christian Church and its authority and will revolutionize the religion in the world,” the Basij report says.
No media outlet has published a facsimile of the verses. The released photo of the front cover shows only inscriptions in Aramaic and a drawing of a cross.
Turkey plans to put the book on public display, which is likely to spark fierce debate as many scientists believe the text is a fake.
The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) says the inscription on the photo can easily be read by an ordinary Assyrian. The Assyrians have traditionally lived all over what is now Iraq, northeast Syria, northwest Iran, and southeastern Turkey.
The translation of the bottom inscription, which is the most clearly visible says: “In the name of our Lord, this book is written on the hands of the monks of the high monastery in Nineveh, in the 1,500th year of our Lord.”
Nineveh is the ancient Assyrian capital, located in present-day northern Iraq.
The agency says the text contains spelling errors and moreover, the writing is in Modern Assyrian, which was standardized in the 1840s.
It says both the data from the inscription and the language prove the text couldn’t have been written in the 5th century, as Iran claims.
The authenticity of the book has yet to be proved.
Some experts say Iran is highlighting the book because it sees Christianity as a threat.
Erick Stakelbeck, a TV host and a close observer of Iranian affairs, told WND.com: “In promoting the so-called Barnabas Bible – which was likely written sometime in the 16th century and is not accepted by any mainstream Christian denomination – the regime is once again attempting to discredit the Christian faith.”
Many experts say mullahs see Christianity as a growing threat to their authority, as record numbers of young Iranians are leaving Islam and embracing Christ.
Last year, Iranian authorities confiscated and burned some 6,500 Bibles under the order of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The mullah said the Bible is not a holy book, and its burning is morally acceptable.
As Iran sees tough times following trade and financial sanctions imposed by the West, its religious leaders seem to be bracing for a confrontation with Christianity.