Upon announcing his sweeping attack upon the validity of the Bible, Brown continues his work through the dialogue of his characters. Sophie’s in-depth response, “Okay,” then leads to these claims by Teabing:
“Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land….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.
“Who chose which gospels to include?” Sophie asked.
“Aha!” Teabing burst in with enthusiasm. “The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great.” (231)
This is quite the mixture of claims, some of which are not overly consistent with others, and this gives us a possible “hook” in talking to devotees of the book and opening up a dialogue on the errors and inconsistencies of Brown’s position. Brown says Jesus was the promised Messiah. That would mean the Old Testament, at the very least, contains valid prophecy, divine prediction of future events, and that Christ fulfilled those prophecies. Well, obviously, if the Old Testament is accurate enough, “inspired” enough, to contain true prophecy, then would it not follow that God could protect the New Testament as well? Once Brown opens the door on that level, we might as well step through and begin to press the same claims that the Lord taught us to use:
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)
I am uncertain how Jesus toppled kings, of course: His influence, over history, has certainly done so, but Jesus’ ministry was only noticed by men as high as Pilate and Herod, surely not Caesar in far away Rome. He has indeed inspired hundreds of millions, but only through the testimony of His teachings as recorded in the very documents Brown has already undercut and will soon identify as little more than politically-motivated lies.
Now, though at other points Brown will compete with the Jesus Seminar in promoting the most radical viewpoints of the corruption of the text of the New Testament, here he goes the other direction and goes far beyond anything the most conservative Christian could ever assert regarding the ministry of Christ: specifically, he claims that Jesus’ life was recorded by “thousands” of His followers. We need to realize how utterly outside the realm of any kind of published scholarship this perspective is. Thousands of literate, writing followers of Christ recording His ministry? Where is the historical evidence for this? There is none, of course. It is wishful thinking at best—and self-contradictory wishful thinking, too, since he then insists that eighty gospels were considered for inclusion in the New Testament, itself a completely bogus claim, but still, one wonders what happened to the “thousands” of others recorded by these anonymous followers of Jesus? The willy-nilly methodology used by Brown is simply beyond belief, and once again, he hides behind the “fiction” claim so as to claim he spent years “researching” the book and “studying” the subject—but he doesn’t have to provide references to back up such outrageous claims as these.
The next line has caused me to chuckle every time I have addressed it in my seminars… “yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them? Hmm…what others once were in these relative “few” that were “chosen” outside of the four canonical gospels? Is he seriously suggesting that Thomas, or Mary, or any of the others were “chosen”? No, for he goes on to say that it was Constantine who chose which gospels would be in the canon, and then he argues Constantine specifically repudiated those works. So, what other gospels did Constantine choose? We aren’t told. This is probably just a mistake that the copy editors did not catch (since it would require some level of biblical knowledge to recognize it, and that is surely not something that marks off The Da Vinci Code).
Now let’s remember a little history here. Between the death and resurrection of Christ (appx. AD 33) and the Council of Nicea (AD 325) almost a full three centuries passed. During the vast majority of that time the Christian church was a religio illicita, an illegal or banned religion, under the persecution of the Empire. That does not mean there was empire-wide persecution at all times. In fact, there were period of peace, depending on who was Emperor and how much they wished to pursue the issue. Often persecution was locally severe in one area, and non-existent in another. It all depended on circumstances. But early Christians were writing during this time, and we have sufficient amounts of their writings to get a pretty good idea of what they believed and what they viewed as Scripture. Brown will ignore all of this material and simply make things up as he goes along when it comes to this topic and especially to the issue of the deity of Christ.
The claim that Constantine “collated” the Christian Scriptures, though tremendously common, is likewise just as tremendously wrong. That is why I wrote “What Really Happened at Nicea?” for the CRI Journal (July/August, 1997). I kept running into Mormons who claimed Constantine had determined the canon at Nicea as well: and of course, there isn’t a shred of historical basis for making such a claim. The closest you can possibly come is to note that Constantine paid to have a number of Bibles copied (possibly the occasion for the production of a, Codex Sinaiticus). This hardly means he had the slightest interest whatsoever in the canon of Scripture, the content of Scripture, etc. The fact of the matter is the canon was not an issue of discussion at Nicea, and would not take a center stage for many more decades, long after Constantine’s death.
The reason Brown is going this direction will become evident as soon as his conspiracy theory unfolds. He has to have Constantine in a position to radically corrupt the Scriptures to make his story about the “Holy Grail” work.