The word ‘gospel’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term ‘god-spell’, meaning ‘good story’, a rendering of the Latin ‘evangelium’ and the Greek ‘euangelion’ (Arabic; Injil), meaning ‘good news’ or “good telling”. The 73 or 66 books of New Testament include four Gospels. The Gospel, is any of four biblical narratives covering the life, the person, death (according to Christian belief) and the teachings of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), as he was remembered by the Christian community. Traditionally their authorship (highly speculative) is attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the four evangelists), they are placed at the beginning of the New Testament and make up about half the total text.
Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) conveyed orally to the people what God had originally revealed to him. His disciples, too, propagated it among the people by the spoken words in such a manner that they presented an admixture of their Prophet’s life-story and the verses revealed to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). None of this material was put into writing during the lifetime of Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) or even in the period immediately following him. It fell to the lot of the Christians whose vernacular was Greek to transform the oral traditions into writing. It must be borne in mind that Christ’s native tongue was Syriac or Aramaic and his disciples, too, spoke the same language. Most Greek-speaking authors heard these traditions in the Aramaic vernacular and committed them to writing in Greek. The oral traditions have been put into writing from Aramaic to Greek from 50-70 C.E.
Ever since the period of Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), there have been people who tried to follow the message preached by Prophet Jesus i.e. To worship one God, adhere to the basic teachings of Moses and follow the Law (Torah). They considered Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) as a human, Messenger of God, not God. These groups survived in good numbers up to 4th Century, after Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) till the Trinitarians got upper hand by winning over Emperor Constantine of Roman Empire in early 4th century C.E.
The Council of Nicaea (Iznik-Turkey) in 325 C.E, besides declaring these groups illegal, selected four Gospels out of a minimum of three hundred available and the rest, including the Gospel of Barnabas (most authentic), were ordered utterly destroyed. However amazingly some copies of Gospel of Barnabas survived, one recently discovered from a cave in Oloderay, a village of Turkey. A copy is also reported to have been found at the Vatican’s library. It has been prohibited by the church, because it is against the doctrine of Christianity which contradict the teachings of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him) and the unambiguous prophecies mentioned in his Gospel regarding the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). All Gospels written in Hebrew were also ordered to be destroyed.
Council of Laodicea (364 C.E) added six books as believable, later in 397 C.E another conference at Carthage, added six more Books. Three more conferences were held after this in Trullo, Florence and Trent (1545-63 C.E). They confirmed the decision of the Council of Carthage and included nearly all the previously doubtful books in the list of acknowledged books. The status of these books remained unchanged until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.
The Protestants repudiated the decisions of the councils and declared that there are only 66 truly “inspired” books of God, and not 73 as claimed by the Catholics. If it is blasphemy to take even a word from the Bible (Revelations:22:18-19), who is blaspheming? Those who added these seven books from the very beginning or those who expunged them.
Since the late 18th century the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) have been called the Synoptic Gospels, because the texts, set side by side, show a similar treatment of the life of Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). The four New Testament Gospels compiled as a single narrative by Tatian about 150 C.E is called Diatessaron. It was the standard Gospel text in the Syrian Middle East until about 400 C.E, when it was replaced by the four separated Gospels. Quotations from the Diatessaron appear in ancient Syriac literature, but no ancient Syriac manuscript now exists. A 3rd-century Greek papyrus fragment was discovered in 1933 at Doura-Europus, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Whether the original writing was done in Greek or Syriac is unknown. There are also manuscripts in Arabian and Persian and translations into European languages made during the Middle Ages.
The Christian scholars, with extensive research are uncovering extensive evidence that these Gospels were not even written by their claimed authors. Bultmann, Rudolf (1884-1976), a German Protestant theologian and New Testament scholar carried out the analysis of the Gospels in ‘History of the Synoptic Tradition’(1921). He also examined the New Testament using historical criticism to demythologize it. He held that Christian faith should focus less on the historical Jesus and more on the transcendent Christ. John Biddle (1615-62 C.E), an English theologian was involved in English translation of Bible from Greek. His knowledge of the Greek text of the New Testament convinced him that the doctrine of the Trinity was not of scriptural origin, he published his Unitarian convictions in ‘Twelve Arguments Drawn out of Scripture’ . . . (1647 C.E). He was repeatedly imprisoned and persecuted. Even the Popes themselves would sometimes recognize the falsehood about the dual nature of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and the fact that it was a later fabrication. One of these popes, Honorius I (Pope from 625 to 638 C.E), was officially cursed due to similar views forty eight years after his death by the Synod (council) which was held in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 680 C.E.
The first English version of the Scriptures made by direct translation from the original Hebrew and Greek, and the first to be printed, was the work of William Tyndale(1490-1536 C.E). He was of the view that the Bible alone should determine the practices and doctrines of the church and that every believer should be able to read the Bible in his own language. Fearing as an effort to undermine their monopoly and deceit, the church authorities in England prevented him from translating the Bible, thus he went to Germany. His New Testament translation was completed and printed in 1525, which was ordered to be burnt. He was finally betrayed into the hands of his enemies, and in October 1536, was publicly executed and burned at the stake.
Tyndale’s work became the foundation of subsequent English translations, beginning with the King James Version of 1611. Ever since the Bible has been translated in almost all the languages of the world. Yet the King James Version has grave defects. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of Biblical studies and the discovery of many manuscripts more ancient than those upon which the King James Version was based, made it manifest that these defects are so many and so serious as to call for revision of the English translation. The task was undertaken, by authority of the Church of England, in 1870. The English Revised Version of the Bible was published in 1881-1885; and the American Standard Version, its variant embodying the preferences of the American scholars associated in the works was published in 1901. Thirty-two scholars have served as members of the Committee charged with making the revision, and they have secured the review and counsel of an Advisory Board of fifty representatives of the co-operating denominations. If in the judgment of the Committee the meaning of a passage is quite uncertain or obscure, either because of corruption in the text or because of the inadequacy of present knowledge of the language, that fact is indicated by a note. It should not be assumed, however, that the Committee was entirely sure or unanimous concerning every rendering not so indicated.
The Revised Standard Version Bible Committee is a continuing body, holding its meetings at regular intervals. It has become both ecumenical and international, with Protestant and Catholic active members, who come from Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. There are over forty different major versions of Bible, suitable to the doctrine of different followers, one claiming to be batter and more accurate than other. The main versions are: The King James (Authorized) Version, The English Revised Version, The American Standard Version, The Revised Standard Version, Jewish Versions, The New English Bible and The Catholic Versions. Encyclopedia Britannica, mentions that; There is no reliable evidence of any pre-Islamic Arabic translation of Bible. Only when large Jewish and Christian communities found themselves under Muslim rule after the Arab conquests of the 7th century did the need for an Arabic vernacular Scripture arise. The first and most important was that of Sa’adia ben Joseph (892-942 C.E), made directly from Hebrew and written in Hebrew script, which became the standard version for all Jews in Muslim countries.
The Gospel (Injeel) – Islamic Perception:
According to Islamic traditions, Injeel (Gospel) is the name given to those revealed discourses and sayings of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) during the last two and half or three years as prophet of God for the Israelites. There is no authentic information available about their recording and compilation before his accession. The Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are not actually Gospels but Gospel (Injeel) is the sayings and discourses of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) recorded in these books in uncorrupted form. The only method to distinguish them from other narratives, comments and exegesis is that wherever the author writes, “Jesus said…” or “Jesus taught..” may help to extract part of Gospel i.e. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”(Matthew;22:37); “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. . . . Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these Commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;” (Gospel-Mathew;5:17-20).
Qur’an calls the original revelations (now almost extinct, distorted) of God to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) as Injeel (Qur’an;5:46). Hence some parts of original Injeel (Gospel) may be retrieved through critical comparison of selected sayings of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) matching with the narratives in Qur’an on similar subject being the standard Criterion (Al-Furqan) (Qur’an;25:1, 2:185, 3:4)