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Pagan Goddess Worship, Gnosticism, Feminism, and the Da Vinci Code

Pagan Goddess Worship, Gnosticism, Feminism, and The Da Vinci Code

Does Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code contradict the Bible? Should we worship goddesses or a masculine God? Did Mary Magdalene marry Jesus and serve as head of the church? Are Gnostic gospels accurate history?

This is part of a whole series of articles. Click here to go to the beginning of the series.


V. Religious Authority and the Bible


Consider some of the "evidence" Brown cites for his views and compare his "evidence" to the Bible.

A. Historic Evidence and the Bible

The Priory of Sion

Much of Brown's theory is based on documents from an organization call the Priory of Sion, which Brown claims was an organization formed in the Middle Ages to protect the thousands of documents that supposedly prove Mary's relationship with Jesus. They are waiting till the proper time to reveal them. Supposedly, Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Joan of Ark, Nostradamus, and other famous people were masters in this organization. This is supposedly not a matter of fiction. His "fact page" claims that the Priory was founded in 1099.

However, there is no evidence this group existed before it was originated by Pierre Plantard in 1956. If so, obviously Da Vinci, Newton, etc., could never have been members of it.

Documents called the "Dossiers Secret," produced by the Priory of Sion, were made public in the 1960's, but none of them are ancient records on parchment. All were typewritten in the twentieth century. The originator Pierre Plantard has openly disavowed that the group had any documents declaring Mary Magdalene to be married to Jesus. And the group itself has been declared a hoax by the men who began it. [Kirkwood, pp. 35-37; Olson, pp. 234-239]

Even the authors of The Templar Revelation, one of Brown's main sources, have concluded that the Priory of Sion was based on fabrications. [Olson, pp. 227,228]

Plantard's claims are the basis for the whole concept of the Priory of Sion, yet he served prison time in 1953 for fraud and embezzlement. Plantard's supposed predecessor died under strange circumstances, leading to an investigation of the Priory. The result revealed documents in Plantard's house that claimed he was the "true king of France." Eventually, Plantard swore under oath that the whole Priory story was a hoax. [Olson, pp. 236-238]

These facts have been repeatedly exposed in France and on British TV. A primary investigator concluded: "The whole history of the Priory of Sion is one of deception and confidence trickery - it was a fake society that never existed." [Olson, pp. 238,239] Yet, this organization is the basis for Brown's book, and his "fact page" affirms it to have been a real organization. And we are supposed to believe all this, instead of the Bible!

If this organization really existed, and if they really are devoted to Mary Magadalene as Brown claims, then why have they waited nearly 1000 years to reveal the evidence in their documents? Why have they allowed Bible believers to be deceived all this time about the Bible and about the Deity of Jesus, let alone about Mary Magdalene? Some of the greatest men of history were supposed to be members. What kind of men would they be to allow such deceit to prevail, when they had in their possession conclusive evidence of the truth?

The novel ends by revealing that the vicious murders in the book were perpetrated by the "expert" Leigh Teabing himself. Supposedly, he was angry with the Priory for failing to make their evidence public, he was convinced he knew where to find their documents, and he was determined to find and publicize them. This justified murder, if necessary. When the book ends, he dies having never found the documents.

But if the Priory really existed and had these documents, why would they wait 900 years refusing to reveal them? Why not reveal the evidence, as Teabing thought they should? The only reasonable answer is that the Priory never did exist till recent times and never did have the documents.

Modern books cited as authority for Brown's views

The Da Vinci Code claims that there is a whole bookshelf full of books containing "substantial" historical evidence for its views. But the book lists only four of these source books (pp. 253-255), as follows:

Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln (published 1982)

These authors base their book on myths, legends, and traditions, not historical fact. They admit: "techniques of academic scholarship were sorely inadequate" to the writing of their book. They say, "it is not sufficient to confine oneself exclusively to facts." So the book is filled with words like "perhaps, if, suppose, possibly, and it seems to us."

The authors admit they are agnostics, though claiming to be balanced in their approach. But they claim Jesus' crucifixion was staged on private property in front of a private audience. They doubt that Jesus even died on the cross and claim the resurrection was a complete hoax. They claim the New Testament is filled with contradictions, but offer no proof or specific examples.

Most of their views are based on the documents "Dossiers Secrets" placed in the library of Paris in 1956 by the Priory of Sion. But we have already documented that those documents are fraudulent (see our notes on the Priory of Sion). Therefore, the tenets of this book also are fraudulent.

[Above points from Kirkwood, pp. 23-26]

The Woman With The Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail (pub. 1993) and The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine (pub. 1998), both by Margaret Starbird

The author acknowledges that her writing was inspired by Holy Blood, Holy Grail (which we have already demonstrated to be fraudulent).

She claims she received "direct revelation" and "prophetic revelations" and was "given the gift of interpreting the symbols and the knowledge" to decipher hidden codes in the New Testament. As a result, she is "certain" that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. In all this, she assumes that Mary Magdalene was the same woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (which we have shown to be false). [Kirkwood, pp. 26-28]

She claims that Mary Magdalene was more than an apostle, "not merely equal in status to Peter." As the bride of the king (Jesus), she acted as a priestess, anointing him in a sexual rite called heiros gammos or sacred marriage. Mary "even conferred kingship" on the bridegroom. [Kirkwood, pp 53,54] (Note that the consequence of this view is that, without the sexual rituals performed by Mary Magdalene, Jesus could never have reigned as King.)

In Woman with the Alabaster Jar, p. xxi, she admits: 

"I have operated on the assumption that where there is smoke, there is fire ... Of course, I cannot prove that the tenets of the Grail heresy are true - that Jesus was married or that Mary Magdalene was the mother of his child. I cannot even prove that Mary Magdalene was the woman with the alabaster jar who anointed Jesus at Bethany. But I can verify that these are tenets of a heresy widely believed in the Middle Ages; that fossils of the heresy can be found in numerous works of art and literature; that it was vehemently attacked by the hierarchy of the established Church of Rome; and that it survived in spite of relentless persecution." [Olson, pp. 106,107]

So once again Brown's major sources are admittedly not historical, not documented, and not capable of being documented. But we are supposed to believe them without proof, just because lots of other people throughout history believed them without proof!

The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ -- Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince (pub. 1997)

These writers were inspired by all the previously discussed books (which we have proved to be fraudulent). (Though they have concluded the Priory of Sion was fraudulent.)

The authors believe that Jesus and John the Baptist were such rivals that Jesus' disciples murdered John because he was becoming too popular! Regarding Jesus' miracles, they say He "entertained people with his magic" that He learned in Egypt. Jesus staged His death and resurrection according to things He learned from Egyptian mythology. They claim Mary Magdalene was a representative of the Egyptian goddess Isis and served like a temple prostitute. She, John the Baptist, and Jesus initiated disciples through "sexual ecstasy."

They refer to the New Testament as "propaganda" having "glaring contradictions." Paul's fellow-workers are called his "henchmen," and Peter is said to have hated women. Yet, they still rely on the parts of the Bible that they think support their theories.

[The above is from Kirkwood, pp 28-32.]

The Da Vinci Code claims that its descriptions of documents and rituals are "accurate," and that they are based on substantial ancient historical evidence. In fact, it is based on books, all of which were written since 1982, and none of which even begin to constitute scholarly history. Instead, they admit they rely on speculation, supposition, and supposedly inspired interpretations of signs and symbols, etc.

And all these "scholars," on which Brown based his book, have in turn been influenced directly or indirectly by the documents of the Priory of Sion. But we have shown that those documents were no more ancient than the twentieth century, they disavow having evidence Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus, and the group has declared itself a hoax! Yet, this is the evidence we are supposed to believe instead of the eyewitness testimony of Bible writers!

The works of Leonardo Da Vinci

Langdon claims that the Catholic Church forbade people to mention Mary Magdalene, so her story was perpetuated in symbols in art and music. This includes playing cards, the grail stories, King Arthur, the works of Da Vinci, and many others. Also included are Walt Disney movies Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and especially The Little Mermaid. All these are symbolic stories of the grail story, which the book assures us is the story of Mary Magdalene. (pp. 261,262,391)

The book focuses on Leonardo Da Vinci. It contains numerous claims about Da Vinci that are false or incapable of proof. [Olson, pp. 244-250] We will focus on three of his paintings, which are the basis of the book's claims about Jesus and Magdalene. Remember that Brown's "fact page" says, "all descriptions of artwork ... are accurate."

Madonna (Virgin) on the Rocks

Brown mistakenly says Da Vinci painted this for a group of nuns. Actually, membership in the group was restricted to men. [Olson, p. 253]

This pictures Jesus' mother Mary, two infants, and an angel. Brown assumes John is blessing Jesus and Jesus is submitting to John the Baptist. Both Mary and the angel are making threatening gestures toward John. (pp. 138,139) Brown leaves the impression that Da Vinci portrayed John as greater than Jesus, and Jesus' mother is angry, even threatening toward John.

In fact, most likely Brown has confused the two infants. They are the opposite. John is paying homage to Jesus. [Kirkwood, p. 45; Olson, pp 251-258]

Mona Lisa

Brown claims the name Mona Lisa is an anagram, whose letters can be rearranged to refer to the name of the male and female Egyptian gods of fertility. But the only fertility here is Brown's fertile imagination. The fact is that Da Vinci himself never named the picture; it was not named till after he died. So, the name proves nothing about what Da Vinci intended. [Kirkwood, p. 46]

The Last Supper

This is the only important painting in Brown's theory. Brown claims that the person sitting on Jesus' right hand is Mary Magdalene. The person has feminine appearance, and the separation from Jesus makes "her" form a V shape with Jesus, which is a symbol for femininity. Supposedly Peter is making angry, threatening gestures toward "Mary." And an unattached hand holds a dagger that is supposed to be threatening "Mary." [And the mirror images of Jesus and "Mary" form an M shape that stands for Magdalene.] (pp. 242-245)

However, the people at the last supper were Jesus and the apostles. According to the Bible, no woman was there. If a woman is in the picture, then one of the apostles is missing. Further, if the person pictured is a woman, why assume it is Mary Magdalene? Why not Jesus' mother, or some other woman?

The person appears feminine because of the long hair, lack of a beard, and feminine facial features. But other men in the picture have some of these characteristics, and "Phillip" has all these characteristics. Da Vinci's painting of John the Baptist also portrays him with all these feminine characteristics, so why be surprised if he portrayed other men with feminine appearance? [Olson, pp 268-270]

In fact, the person on Jesus' right hand is most likely the apostle John, who was often portrayed with feminine characteristics. The usual explanation of the picture is that it shows the reaction of the apostles immediately after Jesus revealed that one of them would betray Him (John 13:21). The three apostles seated to Jesus' right have always been identified (seated from our left to right) as Peter, Judas (grasping the money bag) and John. If this is correct, then Peter is communicating to John to get him to ask Jesus who would betray Him, as described in John 13:21-25. [Olson, pp. 266-269]

The other points are mere speculation and prove nothing [the hand with the knife is probably Peter's, but it is not threatening "Mary" or anybody].

Conclusions regarding Da Vinci

There is no real reason to believe Da Vinci intended his works to convey the ideas Brown claims. But suppose Da Vinci did believe them and meant his works to portray them. So what?

Who was Da Vinci? Was he a prophet? Was he inspired by God? Did he do miracles and prophesy the future infallibly, like Bible writers did? Was he an eyewitness of the life of Christ and Mary Magdalene? He was born in 1452 - 1400 years too late to have seen Jesus or to have spoken to any eyewitnesses of Jesus or to have received direct inspiration from the apostles. Why should we believe any of these theories about Jesus and Mary, even if Da Vinci did believe them?

Suppose it could be proved that Da Vinci was a faithful, devout Roman Catholic. Would that prove that we should all become devout Catholics, just because he was? Would Dan Brown be a devout Catholic, if Da Vinci was? If he had been a Buddhist or Hindu, should we do the same? He was a fallible human being, subject to error just like all the rest of us.

The fact is that there is no real proof the Da Vinci believed what Brown attributes to him; and if he did believe it, it would prove nothing about what we should believe. It is nothing but a bunch of silly speculation proving absolutely nothing.

So at this point, Brown's "evidence" consists of: (1) a fraudulent organization which is an admitted hoax, (2) books that were based on that fraudulent organization and that admittedly consist of speculation, supposition, and myth, and (3) speculations about works of art produced by an uninspired man who lived 1400 years after the time of Christ!

The Bible as history

In evaluating the Bible as evidence, the main issue to consider is Divine inspiration. If the Bible is God's word, then everything it says about these and all other issues is true. But aside from the issue of inspiration, the Bible has been repeatedly proved to be reliable history. Consider the evidence for the Bible as history as compared to these sources Brown cites.

The writers claim to be eyewitnesses or to record the testimony of eyewitnesses

Notice just a few of the many passages showing that Bible writers were first-hand eyewitnesses of the events they described or else they carefully recorded accounts they heard or read from those who were eyewitnesses.

Luke 1:1-4 - Luke wrote a history of the life of Christ and a history of the early church in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 1:1-3). He did not claim to be a personal eyewitness of Jesus' life, but he served as an historian to record events that were witnessed by the apostles and others. He was, however, an eyewitness of many events in the early church, recorded in Acts.

Acts 1:1-3,21,22; 2:32; 10:39-41 - The apostles followed Jesus personally, traveling with Him for more than three years. They personally observed His miracles and saw Him alive again after His death. They repeatedly claimed that their statements were based on personal eyewitness testimony, and that in fact God chose them specifically for that purpose.

John 20:30,31; 21:24 - John recorded Jesus' miracles in writing so we could believe and have life in His name. The miracles were done in the very presence of the disciples, so John had personally witnessed them. [1 John 1:1-3; 19:35; 20:19,20; 21:1]

2 Peter 1:16-18 - Peter testified that, rather than following fables about Jesus, the apostles were eyewitnesses of His majesty. [5:1]

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 - Paul declared the gospel he had preached, including the resurrection of Jesus and his appearances. Paul lists various appearances, including the one to him. Paul's testimony is also that of an eyewitness. [15:14,15; Acts 13:31; 22:15; 26:16]

Contrast this to Brown's evidence, which is speculation and supposition, not even claiming to be eyewitness testimony. Where do we find the Bible writers expressing speculation or supposition, using terms like "perhaps, if, suppose, possibly, and it seems to us," such as are found in Brown's sources? Bible writers claimed to write what they personally witnessed or what they had personally heard from eyewitnesses.

Bible writers often appealed to other witnesses.

Besides giving their own personal testimony, the Bible writers appealed to other eyewitnesses that people could consult. Consider some examples:

Acts 2:22 - Peter and the other apostles began giving their testimony as eyewitnesses just fifty days after Jesus' death and resurrection. Peter claimed that the people in the audience had witnessed Jesus' signs, wonders, and miracles. If the people did not know these things, why did they not speak out against Peter's message? Instead, many were cut to the heart, asked what to do about their guilt, and 3000 obeyed the gospel.

Acts 26:26 - Paul expressed confidence that King Agrippa knew about Jesus, because he said "these things were not done in a corner." So even many years after Jesus' death, Paul could speak with confidence that events involving Jesus were well known, even among important civil rulers.

1 Corinthians 15:6 - Paul said that, on one occasion, Jesus appeared to over 500 people, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote. The clear implication is that people could go to these people and question them about these events.

2 Corinthians 12:11,12 - Paul claimed that he did signs, wonders, and miracles in the presence of the people to whom he wrote; so they would have known whether or not his testimony was accurate.

Quotations such as these demonstrate that the apostles gave their testimony even while other people were alive who could verify their testimony. They were not citing legends that had developed gradually over many generations. People in their audience could personally speak to other witnesses to substantiate the apostles' claims. Why would they make such statements, unless they knew people could really verify their accounts? If instead, people were alive who could falsify the apostles' claims, why did those people not speak up?

The historical accuracy of Bible writers has been repeatedly confirmed.

Here are a few examples that pertain especially to the life of Christ:

Sir William Ramsay was a skeptic who sought to disprove Acts by studying the record of Paul's journeys. The result of his examination made him a firm believer in the accuracy of the book! The turning point came when he proved that, contrary to accepted scholarship, the Bible was right when it implied Iconium was in a different region from Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:6). This confirms the accuracy of Luke as an historian, but Luke also wrote one of our four gospel accounts of Jesus' life. (See Archaeology and Bible History, Free, p. 317.)

Gary Hberman stated:

Within 100 to 150 years after the birth of Christ, approximately eighteen non-Christian, extrabiblical sources from secular history ... mention more than one hundred facts, beliefs, and teachings from the life of Christ ... [including] almost every detail of Jesus' life, including miracles, the Resurrection, and his claims to be deity. (via Chumbley, p. 32)

For further examples of similar evidence, see our study of Biblical Evidence at our Bible Instruction web site at https://www.gospelway.com/instruct/.

Brown urges his readers to question and even doubt historical evidence, especially the Bible. But instead, he expects his readers to accept as fact books written nearly 2000 years later and filled with unfounded and unproved speculation and supposition. Yet, he presents them as gospel truth and never even suggests that his readers should question or doubt their accuracy!

Besides their claim to inspiration, the Bible writers claimed that they wrote eyewitness testimony at a time when it could easily be confirmed (or disproved) by other eyewitnesses. Why should anyone accept unfounded pagan perversions instead of Bible evidence?

B. The Gnostic Gospels and the Bible

Brown's view of the Bible

When Sophie says, "you told me the New Testament is based on fabrications," Langdon responds: "...every faith is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith - acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove." (p. 341)

Teabing quotes with approval a statement Da Vinci allegedly made about the Bible: "Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!" (p. 231).

Teabing adds: "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" (p. 231).

He says: "...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 make Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned" (p. 234).

Langdon and Teabing: "It was man, not God, who created the concept ... whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race ... Genesis tells us that Eve was created from Adam's rib. Woman became an offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess" (p. 238).

Teabing says historians cannot "confirm the authenticity of the Bible" because "history is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books - books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe ... By its very nature, history is always a one-sided account" (p. 256).

They proceed to claim that, with the remains of Mary Magdalene, are buried four huge trunks filled with "thousands of pages of unaltered, pre-Constantine documents, written by the early followers of Jesus, revering Him as a wholly human teacher and prophet." Included is "rumored to be" a book written by Jesus Himself (p. 256). But tragically, no one knows where all this material is, even when Brown's book ends!

So, even though the Bible claims to be written by eyewitnesses, the "experts" tell us not to believe it because history is unreliable evidence. Yet, these "experts" claim to base their whole position on historical evidence, including documents that no one can find and are only "rumored" to exist. So, the eyewitness testimony in the Bible must be rejected, but "rumor" constitutes "substantial historic evidence"!

The Gnostic gospels as authority for the views in the Da Vinci Code.

Teabing claims: "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion ... The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great" (p. 231).

He claims there were "thousands of documents" written before Constantine "chronicling [Jesus'] life as a mortal man." The Catholic Church outlawed them, gathered them up and burned them. "...some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950's ... 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..." (p. 234).

He calls these scrolls the "earliest Christian records" (p. 245).

He states there are "countless references to Jesus and Magdalene's union," implying these references are in these ancient gospels. He decides not to "bore" us with the evidence, so he cites only two examples.

The Gospel of Phillip

This "gospel" supposedly says: "And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, 'Why do you love her more than all of us?'" Teabing claims that any Aramaic scholar knows that the word "companion" means "spouse," but he offers no proof. (p. 246)

Bock, however, shows that much of this is missing from the actual text, which reads: "And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [...]" The brackets indicate missing words, and even the inserted words are assumed by translators. [Bock, p. 21; Cf. Kirkwood, p. 91] It could say someone kissed on the cheek or even on the hand!

The word for "companion" is koinonos, the Greek word for fellowship or sharing. [Olson, p. 94] The Greek Concordance shows that the New Testament uses this word to refer to business partners (Luke 5:10), mutual suffering (2 Cor. 1:7), and spiritual fellowship or sharing (Philemon 17; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Cf. Matthew 23:30; 1 Corinthians 10:18,20; Hebrews 10:33; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:4). There is no instance in which it refers to marriage. Teabing is wrong when he says the word must mean "spouse." [Olson mistakenly says Matthew 2:14 uses it for a spouse, but the Greek actually uses a different word.]

Elsewhere in the Gospel of Phillip, kissing refers to a spiritual greeting, not sexual or romantic. Another Gnostic text describes Jesus as kissing James on the mouth in a non-sexual act symbolizing that Jesus gave James spiritual revelation and a privileged position. [Olson, p. 95]

The Gnostic gospels possess no religious authority whatever; nevertheless, even the Gnostics believed these passages described only a spiritual relationship between Jesus and Mary, not a marriage relationship. [Cf. Olson, p. 96]

[Kirkwood also supplies another reference to Jesus and Mary in the Gospel of Phillip, which reads: "Three women always used to walk with the Lord, Mary, his mother, his sister, and the Magdalene who is also called his companion. For Mary is the name of his sister and his mother and it is the name of his partner." - p. 91]

The Gospel of Mary

"And Peter said, 'Did the Saviour really speak with a woman without our knowledge? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?' And Levi answered, 'Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like an adversary. If the Saviour made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us.'" (p. 247)

Note that this example says only that Jesus spoke to Mary without the knowledge of the apostles, and that He loved her more than He did the apostles. It does not say in what sense this was true. It neither mentions nor implies marriage.

So, the facts regarding the Gnostic gospels and Brown's claims are as follows:

* These "gospels" include at most only three or four references that mention Mary Magdalene in connection with Jesus. [Kirkwood, pp. 54,55,91,93]

* The Gnostics themselves believed these references referred to a spiritual relationship.

* None of them actually say Jesus and Mary were married.

* None state or even remotely hint that Mary had a child by Jesus.

* None state or remotely hint that Jesus appointed Mary to be head of the church!

Brown is simply wrong when he says these writings include "countless" references that confirm his statements about Jesus' relationship to Mary Magdalene. Even aside from the question of the inspiration of these Gnostic "gospels," they offer no real evidence for Brown's claims. He and others like him have read their entire agenda into the Gnostic gospels, apparently hoping most people will never bother to check them out.

C. The Preservation of Scripture

Brown states repeatedly that our copies of the Gnostic "gospels" are more reliable than those of the New Testament gospels. He calls them the "earliest Christian records," and says they are "unaltered." But he claims the Catholic Church altered the Bible and especially the gospel accounts of Jesus' life.

This raises the issue of the preservation of Scripture. Specifically, do we have copies of the New Testament books that predate the Council of Nicea? If so, how do they compare? Is there evidence of change?

God intended for the Scriptures to guide future generations.

This would make it necessary to preserve the Scriptures accurately.

Deuteronomy 31:9-13,24-29 - The law was written down and kept available to the people. Every seven years all the laws should be read to the people so they and their children could learn and obey them.

Psalm 102:18 - The psalmist wrote "for the generation to come."

John 20:29-31 - John wrote so people, who had not seen Jesus or His miracles, could read the eyewitness record, believe on Jesus, and have eternal life.

2 Peter 1:12-15 - Peter wrote so people could have a written record of his teachings to remind them in the future, even after he was dead. (3:1,2)

2 Timothy 3:16,17 - "Scripture" - the written word - was inspired by God to instruct people and provide them to "all good works."

2 Peter 3:15,16; 1 Timothy 5:18 - First-century Christians studied New Testament writings and cited them as authority. These writings are classified alongside other "Scripture."

God intended for the Scriptures to be circulated and studied as Divine authority to guide people's lives even in future generations (cf. Col. 4:16; Acts 2:39; Mark 14:9; 1 Thess 5:27.)

[See also Deuteronomy 17:18-20; 28:58,59; Psa. 78:1-7; Ex. 17:14; Isa. 30:8; 29:20,21,27; 30:9,10; Jer. 30:1-4.]

God promised to preserve His word for people of all ages.

In order for the Scriptures to guide future generations, God would have to preserve them. So, He promised that He would do so.

Psalm 119:152,160 - Every one of God's ordinances endures forever.

Isaiah 30:8 - God's words were written in a book that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.

Isaiah 40:8 - God's word is not like a flower that blooms and then dies. God's word will stand forever.

John 12:48 - Jesus' words will judge us at the last day. This means they must endure till the judgment and must be available to men, so we can know what to do to prepare for the judgment.

2 Peter 1:15 - Peter wrote so that, after he died, people would be able to remember these teachings "always" (KJV, NKJV) or "at every time" (ASV).

1 Peter 1:22-25 - The gospel will live, abide, and endure forever. It will not be like grass or a flower that springs forth then dies. This quotes Isaiah 40:8, but applies it to the gospel.

2 John 2 - The truth will be with us forever.

[Psalm 12:6,7 (?); Deut. 31:9-13,24-26; Matt. 24:35; Heb. 13:20]

If we believe that God is an all-powerful Supreme Being who always keeps His promises, then we must believe that He has accurately preserved His will for man in the Scriptures. Brown's claims directly contradict God's promises.

The Old Testament demonstrates God's preservation of His word.

For both the Old and the New Testaments, similar methods were used to write, collect, copy, and make a list of canonical books. Brown claims we cannot trust the New Testament because of the way it has been transmitted through the years. But the same methods were used to transmit the Old Testament, and we can trace the history of Old Testament Scriptures from their writing till the time of Christ and His apostles. We can see whether or not they were accurately preserved. If they were, then we can trust God to keep His promise to preserve the New Testament by using these same methods. (Dates cited here are approximate.)

Old Testament evidence

The oldest Old Testament books were written by Moses about 1400 years BC.

Joshua 23:2,6 - About 60 years after Moses wrote, just before Joshua died, he charged Israel to exactly keep all Moses wrote.

1 Kings 2:3 (about 960 B.C.) - About 400 years after Moses wrote, David charged Solomon to keep God's commands as written in the Law of Moses. The Scriptures were still accurate and authoritative.

2 Chronicles 34:14-19,29-31 (about 605 B.C.) - About 800 years after Moses, Josiah found Moses' book of the law. He restored the worship and service of God by obeying the commands he found written there. [Cf. chap. 35; 2 Kings 22,23.]

Nehemiah 8:1-3,8 (about 450 B.C.) - Some 900 years or more after Moses, the people of Israel again re-established the service of God in Palestine by following the Scriptures. [Cf. vv 13-18; 9:3.]

Note that Scripture was still accurate and authoritative, even though it had been preserved for centuries and though God's people had neglected it for years.

New Testament evidence

Now we come to the lifetime of Jesus and His disciples, about 1400 years after Moses began to write, and over 400 years since the last Old Testament Scripture had been recorded. At this time, copies of the Old Testament were widely circulated and studied as revelation from God (Luke 4:16-21; Acts 8:28-35; 15:21). How did these New Testament teachers view Old Testament Scripture?

Matthew 4:4,7,10 - Jesus quoted Scripture to defeat Satan's temptations.

Matthew 15:1-9 - Jesus quoted the Old Testament as being the commandment of God, and He rebuked those who did not obey it.

Luke 24:27,44-46; John 5:39,45-47 - Jesus claimed He fulfilled Moses, all the prophets, and the psalms.

Acts 17:2,3 - Paul demonstrated that Jesus was the Christ by reasoning with people from the Scriptures.

Acts 17:11 - The Bereans were noble-minded, because they searched the Scriptures to determine whether or not they were being taught the truth.

1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4 - Paul said the Old Testament Scriptures were written for the learning and admonition of people in his day.

Matthew 22:29-33 - Jesus rebuked people for not knowing the Scriptures. He then quoted Moses, saying that God spoke this to the people in Jesus' day. Then He proved the resurrection because God said, "I am the God of Abraham ..." - a quotation from Moses, the oldest part of the Scriptures. The proof depended on the accuracy of the verb tense and would have meant nothing had there been any possibility the written word had become inaccurate.

Jesus and His apostles rebuked the Jews of their day regarding any error of which they were guilty. Surely, they would have pointed out any problems in the Jewish Scriptures, if such problems existed. Instead, they quoted Old Testament Scriptures, and expected people to study and respect them as accurate, authoritative revelation from God.

But the New Testament was written, copied, circulated, collected, translated, and preserved in exactly the same way as the Old Testament had been. God described the New Testament as "Scripture," just like He did Old Testament. He promised to preserve the New Testament, exactly as He had promised to preserve the Old Testament. If God accurately preserved the Old Testament multiplied centuries till Jesus' day, in fulfillment of His promises, who can doubt that He has likewise preserved the whole Bible through the centuries till today?

Brown's claims deny the faithfulness of God to keep His promises regarding His word.

[See also John 10:35; Luke 10:25-28; 16:29-31; Matt. 22:41-45; 21:13; 13:13-15; Mk. 12:10,11; Rom. 11:2-4; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Neh. chap. 13; Ezra 3:2ff; 7:10; Dan. 9:2,11-13; 2 Kings 17:37; 1 Chron. 16:40; 2 Chron. 17:9; 25:4; 31:3,4; Psa. 1:1,2; 19:7-11; chap. 119; Luke 7:24-27; 18:31; 22:37; John 13:18; 19:24,28,36f; Acts 18:28; 2:16-36; 15:13-21; Rom. 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:1-4.]

Ancient manuscripts and other evidence confirm the preservation of Scripture.

We accept our modern Bible as an accurate record of God's word, because of our faith in God's power and His promises to preserve His word. The actual fulfillment of these promises regarding the New Testament, however, had to occur after the New Testament was completed. Our faith does not stand in men; however, history shows that God has kept His promises to preserve the New Testament, just as He did the Old Testament.

Scribes, who copied Scripture, were fanatically precise.

We today do not have any of the "autographs" - the original manuscripts of the Bible in the very handwriting of the authors. But as mentioned earlier, men carefully copied, quoted, circulated, and translated God's word through the years. As a result, we today have volumes of evidence to establish what the original texts said.

These manuscripts were copied by men such as the "Scribes" of Jesus' day, who were fanatically precise in their work. They checked their work by counting number of letters and words per line, per page, etc. No errors were tolerated. While Jesus often disagreed with these men about their personal beliefs, He never criticized the accuracy of their copies of the Scriptures.

The Dead Sea scrolls, discovered in 1947, include portions of nearly every Old Testament book - no New Testament books. But they are dated to 200-100 BC. Comparing them to our existing copies showed essentially no change in the Old Testament text over a span of nearly 1000 years!

This illustrates the extreme care scribes took in copying the Scriptures. It also demonstrates the fulfillment of God's promise to protect His word. But remember, that similar methods were used to copy and protect the New Testament.

A summary of ancient evidence for the New Testament text

* We have more than 4500 ancient hand-written copies of New Testament Scriptures in the original Greek (some manuscripts are complete, others are partial or fragments).

Our oldest complete (or nearly complete) manuscripts are dated to the mid 300's: Vatican - 350 AD, Sinaitic - 350 AD, Alexandrian - 375-450 AD. This would be after the Council of Nicea.

But the Chester Beatty papyri, found in Egypt in the 1930's contain portions of almost every New Testament book, including large portions of some of them. It is dated to the 200's - before the Council of Nicea. While somewhat incomplete, it still gives us a way to compare to later manuscripts and prove that they were not changed!

* We have many ancient translations of the Bible into other languages.

The Old Syriac and Syriac Peshitto are two translations from Greek to Syriac, made in the 100's, containing nearly all the New Testament.

The Old Latin translation from Greek to Latin was made about 150 AD and contains portions of nearly every New Testament book.

Again, these translations were made before the Council of Nicea.

* We have thousands of Scripture quotations found in the writings of early "Christians." In fact, we have 32,000 quotations of the New Testament books written prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. [Kirkwood, p. 109]

As a result, we have sufficient evidence that we can easily compare the Scriptures from before Nicea to those afterward. If the Catholic Church changed the teaching at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD or afterward, we would know it.

By contrast, we had virtually no copies of the Gnostic writings till some were discovered in the 1900's. Till then, all we had were quotations by ancient Christians who opposed and refuted the Gnostic writings. And for many of these writings, the only copies we have now are fragmentary.

Why should we take the Gnostic writings as authority, when they were unavailable to guide people for over 1000 years? Now we have a few copies, but still only fragments for some of the texts. Why should we consider them to be more authoritative than the Bible, when we have thousands of Bible manuscripts dated within 1000 years of when they were written, many manuscripts dated within a few centuries, and even some texts and many quotations dated within a century? God promised to preserve His word on earth to guide men. He did preserve the Bible, but He did not preserve the Gnostic texts in a form so they could guide men.

Sir Frederic Kenyon, who served 21 years as Director and Principal Librarian of the British Museum (which houses many significant ancient manuscripts of the Bible) said: "The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries." Many similar statements can be quoted from other such men.

(Material in this section is gathered mainly from: How We Got the Bible, by Neil Lightfoot; The Theme of the Bible, by Ferrell Jenkins; and A Book about the Book, by John Jarrett.)

That the Catholic Church did not rewrite the Bible is proved beyond doubt by the fact that the Bible repeatedly condemns Catholic doctrine!

If the Catholic Church rewrote the Bible to defend their doctrine, then shouldn't we expect it to agree with their doctrine? If in fact it repeatedly contradicts Catholic doctrine, then this is proof positive that they did not rewrite it to defend their doctrine!

Brown claims that the Catholic Church forbade all mention of Mary Magdalene, yet she is mentioned a number of times in the Bible! Either he is wrong when he says they forbade all mention of her, or else he is wrong when he says they rewrote the Bible to express their view of her.

Brown claims that the Catholic Church rewrote the Bible to defend Peter as the head of the church, but that doctrine is nowhere found in Scripture. The Bible says Christ is head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22,23; 5:22-25). It presents Peter as a married man, contrary to Catholic requirements of Popes (1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 8:14). He refused to allow anyone to bow to honor Him religiously (Acts 10:25,26). Jesus said to call no one on earth "Father" ("Pope" means "Father") - Matthew 23:9. Nowhere is the office of Pope or even a bishop of Rome mentioned in Scripture, let alone is he said to be infallible. If the Catholic Church had rewritten the Bible to defend their view of Peter, it would read considerably different!

Furthermore, Brown neglects to point out that the Catholic Church has exalted Mary the Mother of Jesus to the position of a virtual goddess. They pray and bow to her, claim she was sinless, call her "Mother of God," and claim she was co-redemtrix and co-mediatrix with Christ. Yet, not one of these doctrines or practices are mentioned anywhere in Scripture! If the Catholic Church rewrote the Bible to conform to their views of Mary Magdalene, why did they not rewrite it to conform to their view of Jesus' mother?

Whole hosts of Catholic doctrines are not found in Scripture, and many are flatly contradicted by Scripture. The truth is that the Catholic Church has never felt a need to argue their beliefs strictly on the basis of Scripture. They are content to defend their views by the decrees of councils, Popes, and tradition, so why would they try to rewrite the Bible?

In any case, the fact that the Bible so repeatedly contradicts their doctrine proves beyond doubt that Brown is wrong when he says they rewrote it to teach their doctrine.

The Bible has been accurately preserved and transmitted through the years to today. We can know this, because we have God's repeated promise that He would preserve it. We have the Old Testament to demonstrate His faithfulness to that promise. And we have many ancient Bible manuscripts and uninspired records to confirm that He has kept His promise to preserve it. Brown is wrong again.

D. The Inspiration and Canon of Scripture.

The canon of the New Testament was not determined by Constantine or the Council of Nicea.

Again, I feel no need to defend the Council of Nicea. Nevertheless, it is a fact that neither that council nor Constantine settled the New Testament canon, nor did they order the burning of New Testament books.

The question of what books belonged in the New Testament, was largely settled (with the exception of a handful of books) in the second century AD, long before the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. This included the four gospels, Paul's epistles, and most other books [Kirkwood, p. 73] Bock and Olson cite several second-century writers who defend the four gospels (as well as most other New Testament books) as being settled as Scripture. [Bock, pp. 102,110-123; Olson, pp. 64-66,176]

The Gnostic gospels had been rejected long before Nicea. All Constantine did was commission the copying of fifty manuscripts (in 311 AD) for churches in Constantinople. Neither he nor those he commissioned made any effort, official or unofficial, to determine what books should be in the Bible. [Kirkwood, p. 72]

Some basic facts about the Gnostic gospels

1) The Dead Sea scrolls prove nothing about the Gnostic gospels.

Brown cites the Dead Sea scrolls as support for his views about Mary and Jesus. But the Qumran community was destroyed before any New Testament events were recorded. Their scrolls include many Old Testament books, but no references to Jesus or to any New Testament writings. They prove nothing whatever for Brown's views. [Olson, p. 177]

2) There are only a few Gnostic "gospels," none of which are narratives of Christ's life (like the New Testament "gospels").

Rather than "thousands" or even eighty of these Gnostic gospels, as Brown claims, only a handful have been found. The Nag Hammadi texts, that Brown refers to, included 45 titles, only five of which are classed as gospels (Bock, pp. 61,62; cf. Olson, pp. 174,175). Even these are not "gospels" in the sense of the four New Testament gospels, since they are not narratives of Christ's life.

3) The Gnostic writings were written anonymously, not by the Bible characters whose names are attached to them!

The writers adopted the names of Bible characters, such as Adam, Seth, Mary, etc., but these Bible characters did not write the books! The author of the Gospel of Phillip, for example, is completely unknown. It is not a narrative of Jesus' life and does not give details about His life or teaching. [Kirkwood, pp 80-82,91,92; Olson, pp. 62,66,67]

Brown cites the "Gospel of Mary Magdalene" and claims it is written in the Magdalene's words (p. 247). But we do not know who actually wrote the book. We do not even know that the "Mary" referred to is Mary Magdalene. [Kirkwood, pp. 96.97] It was written so long after the first century that Mary Magdalene could not have been alive to write it.

4) The Gnostic writings were written after the New Testament books, being dated from the early second century to the fourth or fifth century.

Most of them quote the New Testament, so must have been written afterward. The main texts were written in the second century to the middle of the third century AD. [Kirkwood, p. 91; Bock, p. 64] The earliest possible dates for a few Gnostic writings may be the early second century, but a few are dated as late as fourth, or even fifth century. [Olson, p. 64]

The two Gnostic texts that Brown cites are the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. The oldest existing copy of the Gospel of Phillip is dated 350 AD and directly quotes the New Testament thirteen times. [Kirkwood, pp. 92,93]

We have only two ancient copies of the Gospel of Mary, both very fragmentary, dated in the early third century. It also quotes the New Testament. [Kirkwood, pp. 96.97]

Another Gnostic text, the Gospel of Thomas, is believed to have been written before 200 AD, but quotes the New Testament 166 times. [Kirkwood, p. 94]

To state that these are the "earliest Christian records," as Brown does, is an absolute falsehood. They were written after the New Testament records, and in many cases much later.

The determination of what books belong in the New Testament

2 Timothy 3:16,17 - All Scripture is inspired by God to instruct us in righteousness and define what constitutes good works. To be part of the Bible, the true authority in religion, a writing must have been directly inspired by God.

2 Peter 1:20,21 - No prophecy (of Scripture) ever came by will of man. Rather, Holy men of God spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit. A defining characteristic of Scripture is that it must have been written by direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Except for several claims that the Bible was written by men, not God, Brown effectively ignores this issue. He never directly mentions the subject of inspiration, ignores the Bible writers' repeated claims of Divine guidance, and never touches the evidence for Bible inspiration. He cites the Gnostic writings as authority; but he never claims, let alone presents evidence, that they were inspired.

Yet, this is the fundamental and defining issue of this study! If the Bible writers were directly guided by God, then their teachings constitute absolute authority in spiritual matters. If the Gnostic writers were not guided by God, then they have no religious authority whatever, and we are free to ignore them. Yet, Brown totally ignores this issue!

Four specific questions should be considered in deciding whether or not any writing belongs in the New Testament [see Bock, pp.110-123]:

1) Was the book written by an apostle or an associate of an apostle?

Apostleship is an essential issue, since (after Jesus' death) inspiration was given only to apostles or to people in their direct, immediate association.

Consider Bible statements that the apostles were inspired:

John 16:13; 14:26 - Jesus promised the apostles that the Spirit would guide them into all truth. This was fulfilled in Acts 1:2-8; 2:1-11,14ff. [John 15:27 shows that this was addressed to the apostles.]

Matthew 10:19,20 - The Holy Spirit would tell them what and how to speak. [This was directed to the twelve apostles - v5.]

1 Corinthians 14:37 - What Paul wrote was the commands of the Lord.

Ephesians 3:3-5 - The Spirit revealed to the apostles and prophets the mystery of the gospel. These men then wrote it down so others could know.

[Luke 10:16; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 2:3-5; Galatians 1:8-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13]

Consider Bible statements about the laying on of apostles' hands:

Acts 8:14-21 - The Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of apostles' hands (v18). Although Philip could do miracles (vv 6-13), yet the people he converted did not receive the Holy Spirit till the apostles came from Jerusalem and laid hands on them (vv 14,15). [Cf. Acts 6:6.]

Acts 19:1-7 - Men received the Holy Spirit when Paul laid his hands on them.

Romans 1:8-11 - Paul desired to come and see the Romans to impart some spiritual gift. An apostle had to personally visit them, in order for a gift to be imparted to them. [2 Timothy 1:6]

Since Scripture must be written by men directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, it necessarily follows that New Testament books could be written only by an apostle or by someone an apostle had personally met and laid hands on.

2) Was the book written within a lifetime of Jesus' death?

This follows from the first point: Only apostles and those on whom apostles personally laid hands were inspired. Since the apostles were all alive in Jesus' lifetime, they and all on whom they laid hands would have passed away by about the end of the first century. After that, no New Testament books could be written, because there would be no inspired people alive.

A consequence of these first two is that all New Testament books were written by eyewitnesses of Jesus or people closely associated with eyewitnesses. This means that, not only were the gospel writers inspired, but they were qualified to testify about what they had personally witnessed or what they had personally heard from those who were eyewitnesses.

3) Does the teaching of the book agree with other inspired books?

This is necessary since all inspired writing must agree with all other inspired writing.

Galatians 1:8,9 - If any man taught a different gospel, he was accursed.

2 John 9-11 - Anyone who did not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. And any who brought a different doctrine should not be supported or encouraged.

1 John 4:1,6 - Since there are many false prophets, we should test to see whether or not they are from God. This is determined by comparing them to the teachings of the apostles.

1 Timothy 1:3 - Faithful preachers will charge men not to teach another other doctrine.

Jesus promised that the apostles would be guided to speak all spiritual truth. So, if any book teaches a doctrine different from what the apostles taught, that book cannot be inspired and does not belong in Scripture.

[Revelation 22:18,19; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Timothy 1:13; John 5:43; Matthew 7:15-27; 1 Corinthians 14:33; John 16:13; Acts 17:11]

4) Was the book generally and widely recognized by churches soon after the first century?

This point involves conclusions reached by humans. But the early church had people with the spiritual gift of discerning spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). And those churches personally knew the apostles and prophets. They would have seen their miracles and could know whether or not they were inspired (2 Corinthians 12:12). If the first-century Christians considered a book to be inspired or uninspired, how are we going to disprove them 2000 years later?

And remember that God promised to make sure His true gospel would be preserved in writing, like the Old Testament was. And this same method was used to determine what books belonged in the Old Testament. Jesus agreed and accepted the result in the Old Testament, so we should likewise agree and accept the books handed down from the early church.

Evidence for the inspiration of New Testament books

Do the books, as we have them today, belong in the New Testament?

All New Testament books were written by apostles or personal associates of apostles.

We already cited passages in which Jesus confirmed that the apostles would be directly guided by the Holy Spirit.

(See above.)

The inspiration of these writers is confirmed by miracles done by God through them:

Mark 16:20 - Jesus sent apostles to preach (vv 14,15), and as they did so, He worked with them, confirming the word by the signs He gave them (vv 17,18).

Acts 14:3 - God bore witness to the word, granting signs and wonders to be done by the hands of the inspired teachers.

Hebrews 2:3,4 - God bore witness to the message of salvation by signs, wonders, etc.

2 Corinthians 12:11,12 - Paul claimed that the signs, wonders, and miracles he did confirmed his apostleship.

Various New Testament writers/witnesses confirmed the inspiration of other New Testament writers:

Matthew 10:1-4,8; Mark 16:14,17-20; Luke 6:13-16; 9:1,2 - Matthew, Mark, and Luke testified to the miracles done by the original apostles:

In Acts, Luke recorded miracles done by Peter and John (Acts 3:1-10; Acts 4:10,14-16; 9:32-43) and by Paul (Acts 13:6-12; 14:8-20; 16:16-19; 19:11-17; 20:9-12; 28:2-10).

1 Timothy 5:18 - Paul quotes a passage written by Luke and calls it "Scripture," right alongside Old Testament Scripture.

2 Peter 3:15,16 - Peter cites all the letters of Paul, calling them "Scripture" like "other Scripture."

So Peter testified to the inspiration of Paul, Paul testified to the inspiration of Luke, Luke testified to the inspiration of Paul, Peter, John, and all the apostles. And the inspiration of all the apostles was confirmed by Jesus and by miracles.

This process gives evidence for the inspiration of all books written by the apostles Peter, Paul, Matthew, and John. It also gives evidence for the writings of Luke and Mark, who were close associates of the apostles. This is the overwhelming majority of the New Testament! This illustrates the process used in the early centuries to determine what books would be included in the New Testament.

All New Testament books were written in the first century by eyewitnesses or personal acquaintances of eyewitnesses.

All New Testament books were written in the first century, within a lifetime of Jesus' death. And the apostles repeatedly claimed that they were eyewitnesses of Jesus and His teaching.

Acts 10:39-41 - Peter said he and the other apostles were witnesses of all things Jesus did. They traveled with Him for three years, observing His miracles, hearing his teaching, and learning from His example.

Acts 1:1-3,8 - The apostles saw and spoke with Jesus for forty days following His death. He promised they would be His witnesses throughout the earth.

Acts 1:21,22 - To be an apostle one had to be an eyewitness of Jesus' resurrection. [2:32]

John 20:30,31; 21:24 - John wrote his personal testimony about Jesus' teaching and miracles. He testified that it was true. [Cf. 19:35; 1 John 1:1-3]

2 Peter 1:16-18 - Peter testified that, rather than following fables about Jesus, the apostles were eyewitnesses of His majesty. [5:1]

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 - Paul claimed He was an eyewitness of the resurrection, right alongside other witnesses. [15:14,15; Acts 13:31; 22:15; 26:16]

Luke 1:1-4 - As an historian, Luke recorded the life of Christ based on eyewitness testimony from those whom he personally knew. He likewise wrote a history of the early church (cf. Acts 1:1-3), but he himself was an eyewitness of many events in the early church.

All New Testament writers meet the requirement of being apostles or personally knowing apostles. This means they all lived in the first century, and all were witnesses or knew witnesses of Jesus' life and the events in the early church.

All New Testament books harmonize in their doctrinal teaching.

Since the apostles were all guided by the Holy Spirit, they all taught the same doctrine. The writings of those who were associates of apostles can easily be confirmed by comparing them to the writings of the apostles.

A few attempts have been made to claim that Paul's teaching conflicted with that of Peter. But Peter himself endorsed Paul's letters and stated that their teaching harmonized (2 Peter 3:15,16).

All New Testament books were included in lists of inspired books within a few generations of the first century.

As already discussed, the list of inspired books was well known even in the second century, with only a handful of books in doubt. These doubts were resolved by the fourth century (not at the council of Nicea). But there was never any doubt that the four books in our New Testament were inspired, and there was never any doubt that the Gnostic gospels were not inspired.

As discussed earlier, this process was guided by God, not by direct revelation, but by providence in fulfillment of His promises. He promised that His word would be protected and preserved. He demonstrated His power to keep that promise by preserving the Old Testament. And the means used to preserve the Old Testament were the same means used for the New Testament. We can be sure we have the proper books in the New Testament because of God's Divine promise.

The Gnostic gospels fail the tests of inspiration.

Compare the evidence for the inspiration of the New Testament books to the evidence for the Gnostic writings, especially the ones Brown cites.

1) Gnostic books were not written by apostles or associates of apostles.

At no point does Brown ever claim inspiration or miraculous confirmation for any of these books.

As already stated, the books were not written by the Bible characters whose name they wear. This is understood even by those who accept the Gnostic gospels as valid. No one knows who the writers were, so how can we establish their inspiration?

Where is the evidence of miracles done by Gnostic writers to confirm their inspiration, like the evidence we have for the miracles of New Testament writers?

The Gnostic gospels cannot have been written by apostles or associates of apostles, because they were written too late! To qualify, they had to be written by the end of the first century. But none of them were. All were written in the second century or after!

2) The Gnostic writings were not written by eyewitnesses of New Testament events nor by people associated with eyewitnesses.

Unlike the New Testament writers, the Gnostic writers cannot even claim the authority of eyewitness testimony. They were simply written too late! As a result, they cannot claim any serious historic value, let alone the authority of inspiration. 

3) Gnostic teaching does not harmonize with the Bible but contradicts Bible teaching on many points.

Gnosticism is extremely difficult to define. Gnostics differ widely in their views. [Olson, pp. 48ff] They combine mythology, astrology, and the Occult, much like the New Age Movement. [Olson, pp. 54,55] But here are a few beliefs that generally characterize Gnostics.

* "Gnosticism" means knowledge. Gnostic texts claim to contain mysterious, secret truths that other Christians simply did not possess (let alone understand). (Bock, p. 65) This contradicts the Bible teaching that God revealed all truth and all good works through the Scriptures revealed by the apostles (John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16,17). God wanted all men in the whole world to know these truths (Mark 16:15,16; 1 Timothy 2:4). Any later writings, claiming to reveal secret knowledge unknown to earlier Christians, cannot be from God and cannot be true.

* Docetism: the doctrine that Christ and Jesus are two separate entities. God can have nothing to do with the physical, material world. So, the real Christ did not live on earth in the flesh and did not die on the cross. Jesus only appeared to be the Christ, but was not really Christ or God in the flesh. [Kirkwood, pp. 84,87; Olson, pp. 50,67,68; Bock, pp. 76-80] The Gospel of Phillip specifically denies that Mary conceived Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and denies that Christ died and then arose. [Kirkwood, pp. 92,93] Note 1 John 1:1-4; 4:2-4; 5:6; 2 John 7; John 1:1-18; Hebrews 2:9-18; Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:3-11.

* The Supreme God of Gnostics, called "the first principle" or "Ultimate Reality," is not the Creator God of the Old Testament. He has nothing to do with the physical world, because the physical world is evil. The Old Testament God who created the world is wicked or evil, is equated with Satan, and only mistakenly thinks he is the one true God. Adam was born as the result of sexual intercourse between Jehovah and Sophia (wisdom). Cain and Abel were not sons of Adam and Eve, but were conceived when Jehovah forced himself sexually on Eve. [Kirkwood, pp. 84-86; Olson, p. 52,71; Bock, pp. 68-73]

* God is not masculine. God is androgynous - neither male nor female or possessing both male and female characteristics, both god and goddess, both Father and Mother. [Olson, pp. 50-52] At one point, Jesus is quoted as saying, "I am the Father, I am the Mother, I am the Son." [Bock, p. 74]

* Reincarnation. Salvation does not come by means of Divine forgiveness but only through gnosis, or secret knowledge. [Olson, pp. 49,50] When this is achieved, one is free from the bonds of humanity and materiality and the cycle of reincarnation. [Kirkwood, p. 86] Note the similarity to Hinduism.

Brown's book describes enough Gnostic teaching for us to see that it contradicts true Christianity. But if he would tell the whole story of the Gnostic texts, the gulf would be shocking. Contrary to his claims, these are not the earliest Christian writings. They are anti-Christian to the core, totally incompatible with the Bible.

4) The early Christians did not accept the Gnostic gospels but expressly rejected them.

Both the early Christians and the early Gnostics recognized that their views were mutually incompatible. When the Gnostic texts were written, instead of including them in the New Testament, Christian writers of that day refuted them as heresy.

In short, true Christians believed the Gnostics were wrong, and the Gnostics believed the Christians were wrong. To characterize Gnosticism as true Christianity or to promote some broad "Christianity" that embraces them both is to misrepresent both true Christianity and true Gnosticism. [Bock, pp. 89-97]

It follows that the Gnostic writings were rejected from the Bible, because they were not inspired. They are entirely human in origin! When it suits his purposes, Brown rejects Bible teaching, claiming it was written by mere men. But then he advocates and defends the Gnostic texts, which truly were written by uninspired, fallible humans!

Conclusion

The issues raised in the Da Vinci Code are pervasive and serious. Despite Brown's claims, no one can accept his views and be a true follower of the New Testament. The ultimate resolution of these issues stands of falls on the basis of the inspiration of the New Testament. Those who believe the New Testament must reject as false doctrines those unique views Brown advocates.

For a study of the evidence that demonstrates the inspiration of the New Testament, please go to our Bible Instruction web site at https://www.gospelway.com/instruct/.

Bibliography

Breaking the Da Vinci Code, Darrell L. Bock; Nelson Books, 2004 (cited in these notes as "Bock")

The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown; Doubleday publishers, 2003

The Da Vinci Hoax, Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel; Ignatius Press, 2004 (cited in the notes as "Olson")

Unveiling the Da Vinci Code, Bo Kirkwood; Selah Publishing Group, 2005 (cited in these notes as "Kirkwood")

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

(C) Copyright 2007, David E. Pratte
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