The Bible: Its Genesis and Revelation
In the same chapter that Dan Brown makes his ludicrous claims about Jesus Christ's divinity, he makes similar claims regarding the origin and content of the Bible:
"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." -Leigh Teabing, p. 231Brown claims that the Bible "didn't arrive by fax from heaven" (p.231) as if this is something new to Christians. We know this. We hold, rather, that God divinely inspired the many authors of the Bible to write the historical record of tumultuous times. And yet, that is not all that the Bible is, either. It is also theological reflection on those same tumultuous times, as well as moral instruction for how to be have at any time, tumultuous or not. Notably, the Bible also records non-tumultuous times!
Brown throws in another half-truth when he discusses that the Bible "evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions." Obviously the Bible has been translated. It has also been added to. It was, after all, written over a period of 1500-odd years! As for revisions, when it comes to the Catholic Church, this is simply not the case. Any time revisions were undertaken, the Catholic Church reacted strongly against it, such as St. Polycarp (a disciple of St. John the Apostle), who called the heretic Marcion, "the first-born of Satan" because Marcion removed the entire Old Testament, as well as Matthew, Mark, and John, and anything not written by St. Luke or St. Paul--even then, he felt that he understood things better than St. Paul. Later, when dissenters like Wycliffe and Huss published their own translations of the Bible, the Catholic Church again decried their revisions, as they did with the translation by Martin Luther the reformer.
Finally, Brown makes the claim that "history has never had a definitive version of the Bible." Well, that is simply absurd. Notably, he contradicts even himself in his lies, when later he makes the claim that the version of the Bible that we know was "collated" by Constantine 1650-odd years ago! So which is it, Brown, have we never had a definitive Bible, or have we had an allegedly rewritten one for 1650 years?
Well, actually, it's neither, as we'll discuss later.
"Jesus was a historical figure of staggering influence....His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land." Teabing paused to sip his tea and then placed the cup back on the mantel. "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them."Here's some more fun with illogic. A "Gospel" is defined as a record of Christ's life. Brown says that "thousands" of people recorded His life. In other words, thousands of people wrote Gospels. Yet, in the very next sentence, Brown mentions "more than eighty." Well, yeah, if it's true that more than a thousand people wrote a gospel, there would be "more than eighty." But I wonder why the conservative number of eighty, if there should have been upwards of 2000? Probably because even Dan Brown was aware of the absurdity of that claim!
"Who chose which gospels to include?" Sophie asked.
"Aha!" Teabing burst in with wild enthusiasm. "The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great." -ibid.
Here's another thing I love. Out of the 80, a "relative few" were chosen, "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them" (emphasis mine). Hold on. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were "among" the Gospels that were chosen to be included? No, they were not "among", they were it! These four and no more!
But besides being illogical to the point of idiotic, Brown's claims simply aren't true. There were only around fifty, not 80, gospels floating around in and before Constantine's time. Of those 50, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were authoritative almost as soon as they were written, and all others were rejected! Writings from around the year 100 already testify to the unsurpassed quality of the fourfold Gospel. After Marcion decided to chop things up around AD 140, the Church decided to put out an authoritative list, which included 22 or 23 of the 27 books that we have today. It wasn't until AD 367 (well after Constantine's time) that St. Athanasius listed out the 27 books, And this list was decided at the Councils of Hippo (AD 393) and Carthage (AD 397), and ratified by popes Innocent I (AD 405) and Gelasius (AD 495). In 1546, the Council of Trent again confirmed, and infallibly defined, that the Bible that we use is indeed the Bible, because the Reformers, like Luther, decided to do away with 7 books of the Old Testament, and Luther tossed around the idea of losing the Epistle of James and the Book of Revelation.
"The twist is this," Teabing said, talking faster now. "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." Teabing paused, eyeing Sophie. "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 gathered up, outlawed, and burned...Again, Dan Brown borders on the ridiculous here. Constantine had nothing to do with the Canon of Scripture. He did not have anything rewritten. There is documentary evidence in support of the veracity of the Scriptures. There are more than 5000 copies of the New Testament books, many of which predate Constantine, which agree with incredible accuracy with the Bible that we have. That is, there is only about a 200 year difference between our earliest copies and when the Bible was written, and when we compare what we have with those, there are only about 400 differences, total, and not only do they not affect any major Christian doctrine at all, most of them are pronoun differences (he or it?) or verb tenses.
"Fortunately for historians," Teabing said, "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...[T]hese documents speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms. Of course, the Vatican, in keeping with their tradition of misinformation, tried very hard to suppress the release of these scrolls. And why wouldn't they? 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." -Ibid, p. 234.
That might sound like a lot (200 years? 400 differences?) but consider this comparison. Outside of the Bible, the oldest manuscript that we have is Homer's Iliad. It was written around 800 BC. Scholars have only around 400 or so copies of it, and these copies date to around AD 200. That's a 1000 year gap! Yet historians consider these copies to be very reliable, even though there are thousands of discrepancies between each copy. Compared with the New Testament, where our earliest copies are only 200 years after it was written (instead of 1000!) and we have upwards of 5000 copies (compared to 400) and there are only 400 very minor discrepancies (compared to many thousands), considering the fact that historians consider the Iliad to be a reliable historical document, how much more reliable can we consider the Bible?
Brown goes on to claim that the Gospels that were omitted talked about a very human Jesus, but the Gospels that were kept talk about a more godlike one. I wonder if Brown has read the Bible? Jesus' humanity and His divinity are stressed throughout! In fact, many people have read the Bible and decided that Jesus in fact was not God based on their reading (misinformed as it is).
Finally, in his defence, Dan Brown tries to introduce the Dead Sea Scrolls and the texts of Nag Hammadi to give evidence. But even here he fails to prove anything beyond how illiterate his research is. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which he claims tell the truth about who Jesus was, don't say one word about Him! They were Jewish documents that were written between 100 and 300 years before Jesus was born! As a matter of fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls have gone a long way to authenticate our version of the Old Testament, showing that it is as reliable as the New Testament!
As for the texts of Nag Hammadi, these are not Christian texts at all, but Gnostic ones. Gnosticism was a religion in the early days of Christianity that gained popularity (or notoriety) by stealing the important religious figures of a religion and making them out to teach Gnostic ideas. And they didn't do it exclusively with Christianity, and the so-called "Gnostic Gospels", but with Judaism and even the pagan Greek and Roman religions! Moreover, these so-called gospels were not written before the Gospels, but over 100 years after! As such, they do not hold deep insights into Christ's true history, but are cultic fabrications with little to nothing to do with Christianity. As far as the Vatican trying to suppress these documents, they have not. In fact, they hardly said a word when one of them, the "Gospel of Judas", was "unveiled" by National Geographic just before last Easter, and heralded to be a "controversial" document in Christianity. The Church yawned and simply reminded everyone that it's all old news to them: St. Irenaeus around the year AD 180 had referred to this very text as pure fiction, and in 1800 years, we've got nothing to add.
Dan Brown attempts to undermine a book, and he certainly does. Only, he just manages to undermine his own book by spouting ridiculous lies about the Bible. With just a little bit of historical research, these facts are verifiable. For Dan Brown to deny history is just plain silly. But according to him, remember, "all descriptions of...documents...are accurate." Right. And I'm Leonardo Da Vinci.
For more information on where the Bible came from, I'd recommend reading Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church by Rev. Henry G. Graham. You can read it online at that link.
The wonderful thing about people trying to undermine the Catholic Faith, is that it gives us the terrific opportunity to reexamine it, and remind ourselves about the facts, that Jesus is God, the Church is Good, and the Bible is reliable.