The Da Vinci Code Bible
Dr. Jim Denison
Did you know that some airlines refuse to allow a Christian pilot and co-pilot to fly together, for fear that if the rapture occurs the plane will crash? You didn’t know that because it’s not true. But it’s making the rounds. Did you hear about the Little Rock woman who jumped from her speeding car’s sunroof because she was convinced that Jesus was coming back? That’s because it never happened. But the story is still being published today.
What about this one: “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 231). That’s more than obscure urban legend–it’s been read by 40 million people. If it’s true, you and I are wasting our time and our lives today.
We need to know why we can trust the Bible. Then we need to trust it today. Where do you most need to hear from God this morning? Let’s see if you can.
How did the Bible come to be?
Historian Teabing calls the creation of the Bible “The fundamental irony of Christianity!” and asserts, “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great” (p. 231). If this is true, the Bible we have today was produced by a process which occurred around AD 325. Let’s look at the actual facts.
The Old Testament canon was finalized by two councils held at the city of Jamnia, one in AD 90 and the other in AD 118. Constantine had absolutely nothing to do with the process.
So perhaps Teabing means the canonical process of the New Testament. Here the facts are just as damaging to his case. The early Christians quickly developed four criteria for accepting a book as Scripture.
First, it must have been written by an apostle or based on his eyewitness testimony. This criteria alone exempted the second-century Gnostic books like the so-called Gospel of Judas.
Second, the book must possess merit and authority in its use. For instance, The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ tells of a man who is changed into a mule by a bewitching spell but converted back to manhood when the infant Christ is put on his back for a ride (7:5-27). In the same book, the boy Jesus causes clay birds and animals to come to life (ch. 15), stretches a throne his father had made too small (ch. 16), and takes the lives of boys who oppose him (19.19-24). It was easy to dismiss such fiction.
Third, a book must come to be accepted by the entire church, not just a single congregation or area.
And last, a book must be approved by the decision of the larger church, not just a few advocates.
In the first century, a number of books were soon produced in response to the ministry of Jesus. Other, less reputable books, began to appear as well. However, by the mid-second century only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were accepted universally by the church. The other “gospels” simply did not meet the four criteria for acceptance set out above.
Note that this process was completed two centuries before Constantine. For example, in AD 115 Ignatius referred to the four gospels of our New Testament as “the gospel”; in AD 170, Tatian made a “harmony of the gospels” using only these four; around AD 180, Irenaeus referred to the four gospels as firmly established in the church.
The Muratorian Canon was established around AD 200, representing the usage of the church at Rome at that time. It lists only the four gospels in our Bible today, more than a century before Constantine.
Constantine and the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 had absolutely nothing to do with the formation of the biblical canon. I have no idea why Brown would make such a fallacious assertion.
F. F. Bruce was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the creation of the Bible. His opinion should be considered: “One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect…what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities” (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?).
Can we trust the Bible?
Next we turn to the trustworthiness and authenticity of the Bible as we have it today. “Historian” Teabing claims, “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history…Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned” (p. 234, emphasis his). Remember what we have already noted–that Constantine had nothing to do with a “new Bible.”
Teabing continues: “Fortunately for historians…some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms…The scrolls highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda–to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base” (p. 234). Teabing later calls the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea scrolls “the earliest Christian records” (p. 245).