Editions BEAUCHESNE

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ÉVANGILE DE BARNABÉ

ÉVANGILE DE BARNABÉ

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Date d'ajout : mercredi 19 août 2015

par Jan SLOMP

REVUE : ISLAMOCHRISTIANA, VOL. 25, 1999

This is the second edition of Évangile de Barnabé. Recherches sur la composition et l'origine par Luigi Cirillo. Texte et traduction par Luigi Cirillo et Michel Fremaux. Préface d'Henry Corbin, which was published by Beauchesne in 1977. This book was reviewed by J. Slomp, The Gospel in dispute. A critical evaluation of the first French translation with the Italian and introduction of the so-called Gospel of Barnabas, in Islamochristiana (Rome), 4 (1978), pp. 81-109, and by J. Jomier, Une énigme persistante, l'évangile dit de Barnabé, in MIDEO (Le Caire), 1980, pp. 271-300.Those looking for a detailed critical analysis of this important book are kindly referred to these two reviews. A reader who compares the first and the second editions will notice some striking differences between the two. The 1977 edition has 598 pages, the new edition only 363. The section written by Luigi Cirillo is missing. Does that imply that Cirillo is admitting that his efforts to find a supposedly early Judeo-Christian pre-islamic Urtext were foiled and deadlocked by more research by among others Luis Bernabe Pons (Alicante), and Gerard Wiegers (Leiden) about the Morisco origins of the Gospel of Barnabas (GB) ? Whatever the reason may be, Cirillo did not join his name to this new edition. What we have in hand can hardly be considered as a rejoinder by Michel Fremaux in the current debate, which in many ways outdistanced their research of 1977. This state of affairs leaves as the sole explanation for the new edition the obvious conclusion that a reprint was necessary for apologetic and consequently commercial reasons. This may also partly explain the reluctance of Cirillo to lend his cooperation. There happens to be a demand for the simple text of the French translation for Muslim apologetic purposes, a fact towards which J. Jomier has drawn attention in a recent article in Se Comprendre, n° 98/05, mai 1998 (11p.), Une énigme qui commence a être déchiffrée : l'evangile de Jesus-Christ selon Barnabé. A brochure of four pages by Alex Bricet, in Versailles, confirms this impression, L' évangile de Barnabé, un élément de confrontation ou de division ? (about 1997).
We welcome this new edition by Fremaux for making the GB available again in French. I mention some of the merits of this edition and add some critical remarks. The edition corrects errors of the English translation of 1907 of Lonsdale and Laura Ragg. Fremaux states (p. V): « Unfortunately the translation (of Lonsdale and Laura Ragg) is defective in more than one place ». This statement has of course serious consequencess for all the translations published by Muslim editors, which are without exception based on the English rather than on the 'original' Italian text : Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Indonesian, Turkish, Gennan, Dutch and Spanish (not the same as the one by Luis Bernabe ; see below). It would have been helpful if those corrections had been marked in the copious footnotes or been listed in a special paragraph. I discovered a few by comparing the two translations with the Italian original. But I did not use the Photocopy of the manuscript in Vienna which Fremaux prints on the even pages but the new Italian transcription with a rendering into modern Italian on the opposite page which Eugenio Giustolsi and Giuseppe Rizzardi made (II Vangelo di Bamaba. Un vangelo per i musulmani?, Milano, Istituto Propaganda Libraria, 1991). One can not expect from the average reader that he/she takes the trouble to decipher the almost illegible handwriting of the manuscript. It took me a while to get used in this peculiar handwriting. I fail to see therefore the purpose of reprinting the original Italian edition. It only adds to the price of the book. Fremaux mentions references to the OId- and New-Testament in the GB and adds parallels and differences between the GB and the Qur'an. He offers no theory for explaining these discrepancies. The bibliography is to some extent updated but neither Muslim authors are mentioned nor the research done by Van Koningsveld and Wiegers, not even those recent authors who assume with Cirillo and Fremaux an early Judeo-Christian core text are listed. He leaves, however, no doubt about a Muslim provenance of the present text. Reprinting selections from the 'preface' by Henry Corbin should have been omitted. They have nothing substantial to contribute about the character or origin of the text but add only to the confusion already existing about it. But the description which Fremaux gives of the manuscript, its page-numbering, binding, its paper, watennark, Ink, spelling, grammar, punctuation marks, corrections in the text, omissions, blanks, pencilmarks, Arabic notes are elucidating. The Arabic notes, so he discovered, are by the same hand as the rest of the manuscript.
These material characteristics confirm in his view on the basis of internal evidence a dating of this Vienna manuscript around 1590. This comes close to the dating of the forgeries discovered in Granada (see L. Bernabe, EI Evangelio de San Bernabe, un evangelio islamico espanol, Alicante, Universidad, 1995) and my own research on the Venitian milieu for the Italian text (see above). In my opinion Fremaux rightly concludes on the basis of the fact that the type of handwriting is older than the paper used that the author or copier was an elderly person. I do not follow Fremaux when he assumes a multiple authorship. Assuming an elderly person as the author/translator of the Italian text, the age of the author could easily explain why one person by himself who had amassed much knowledge during a lifetime could have used it for writing a text as the GB which contains such rich strands of medieval lore and spirituality. Neither do I follow him when Fremaux assumes that both the Italian and the Spanish texts should have a common 'ancestor'. Assuming Luis Bernabe Pons is right when he argues that for the Morisco author an Italian text coming from Rome and discovered in the library of Pope Sixtus V (I59G-1595) as essential in order to give the text some 'Roman' authority among credulous Spanish Catholic believers and thus creating confusion in their minds, then a complete Italian version had to have priority. It is weB conceivable though that the GB was first conceived in a Spanish draft than written in Italian thus preceding the Spanish 'translation'. De Epalza showed that the Italian contains many mistakes which are typical for a Spanish person writing Italian. I know of so many Dutch scholars, who first make a draft of a book in Dutch, then write it in English and have finally the fully developped English text translated into Dutch. If this method was followed while writing the GB than this would explain why as Fremaux noticed (p. 15) the Spanish version used a more recent language than the Italian version, is correcter and to some extent completer than the Italian, with a preface but leaving the Arabic notes which would make it suspect in the eyes of Christian readers. These Arabic notes are in my view an indication that we have to do with an autograph of the author himself. The Italian copy, when first found, was not bound, but contained loose sheets of four or five pages. I possess an author's copy of a book by the late great tradition scholar A.J. Wensinck which is full with marginal notes in the author's own handwriting !
This new French edition has two appendices, one on John Toland and the discovery of the GB, the other about Bernard de La Monnoye, the first scholar who described it (1715). The appendix on Toland contains the following sentence (p. 324), which is worth quoting, taking into account that at present there is no doubt left about the Morisco Origin of the GB. I quote in my own translation : « The Jesuit Michael Denis thinks of a Spanish or African hypothesis before the expUlsion of the Moriscos… ». Fremaux adds (p. 324) : « All these hypotheses hardly elucidate us about the immediate origins of the GB ». After the breakthrough concerning the Spanish origins of the GB the Moriscoo author stares the informed reader in the face ! Since my latest survey about The Gospel of Barnabas in RecenT Research (Is1amochristiana 23 (1997), pp. 81- 109), Luis Bernabe Pons published EI texto morisco del Evangelio de San Bernabe, Granada, 1998. The Spanish text he reproduces from the Sydney manuscript is not complete. It only contains chapters 1-120 (first half) and 20G-221. Luis Bernabe translated the missing chapters, 120 (second half) through 199 and 222. But is it sure they ever existed ? Did Sale who mentioned the Spanish text in his Qur'an commentary have a complete or a truncated text ? What is important anyhow is that the Spanish text in Sydney contains the clue which is at the end. Without this end, in which Judas takes Jesus' place, the GB would miss its point. In that sense the Spanish manuscript is not incomplete. See about this clue at the end : Stefan Ritter, Der Ausgang des Lebens Jesu nach dem Barnabasevangelium (paper for Tübingen University, Deartment of Church History, 1998, pp. 53, wih an excellent bibliography). Finally, it is to be regretted that Muslim scholars so far have not seriously taken note of the recent development in the research about the GB. Copies of offprints of my essay in Islamochristiana 23 (1997) were sent to all Muslim defenders of the authenticity of the GB whose addresses could be secured. The only reply came from the director of Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan, which follows the ideas of the late Maulana Mawdudi of the Jama'at-e-Islami. He answered that the article was interesting and well researched. Is that all ?


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