Summary: An answer to Dan Brown’s attack on the reliability and authenticity of Scriptue in "The Da Vinci Code."
Cracking the Da Vinci Code:
Man-made or God Breathed?
Sir Leigh Teabing is one of Dan Brown’s main characters in The Da Vinci Code. Teabing is a British knight who has spent his entire adult life in search of the Holy Grail. It is Teabing who reveals the secrets of the Da Vinci Code to the uninitiated Sophie, and one of the secrets he reveals deals with the authenticity and reliability of the Bible, particularly the New Testament. That is the issue we explore this morning as we continue to crack The Da Vinci Code.
Listen to what Dan Brown has to say about the reliability and authenticity of the New Testament:
“The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.”(250)
“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.” (250-251)
“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.” (251)
“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.” (254)
Brown’s novel raises the question: Is the Bible God’s inspired Word that reveals the creator, or a cruel hoax that has deceived followers for thousands of years?
So, just how did we get the Bible? What made up the canon of Scripture that has come down to the church today, and who made the decisions about what books would be included and which would not? Let’s look this morning and see what we can discover.
First, we all must admit that the Bible did not fall magically from the clouds, and that it was written within a historical context, which at times were very tumultuous. But if we are going to be intellectually honest, we must admit that those very reasons alone make the Bible so much more than just another man-made book. Consider with me for a moment that the Bible is a book compiled over a period of approximately 1,500 years, over 40 different generations. Over 40 authors wrote it from all walks of life on three different continents, in different moods, and in three different languages. Think of a servant, a king, a military general, a doctor, a fisherman, a tentmaker, a poet, a farmer, and a tax collector all writing from places such as a prison, a dungeon, a pastoral hillside, a palace, and a ship during times of war and times of peace. Yet they all tell the same story--the story of God’s activity in redeeming humanity. Factor in the evidence that there are over 5,300 pieces of preserved text from the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and over 10,000 from the Latin Vulgate, and at least 9,300 other early versions of the Bible, and we have more external evidence for the trustworthiness of the Bible than any ancient writings. More than Homer, more than Aristotle or Plato, more than William Shakespeare himself. Yet we do not question the validity of their writings. Certainly God was at work through those generations to breathe life into the Bible as we know it.
The Da Vinci Code focuses on the New Testament’s development, and so we will focus our discussion there. Dan Brown would have us believe that the decision as to what books were included or excluded was made by a church council that met behind closed doors, accepting some books and rejecting others, and all motivated by power and politics. As we saw with the issue of the divinity of Jesus Christ, this is simply not true, either.
The canon (canon means “rule”) of Scripture was being developed even as Jesus was carrying on his earthly ministry. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament (from the prophets, and the Law, and the writings) thus validating its authenticity as conveying the message and the character of God. Jesus, in essence, commissioned his disciples to pass on the truth he taught them:
I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.  But when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative—and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you.
Christianity, as it grew, became an international religion; there was no place that served as a central location. It spread from Asia to Europe in the first century alone, and persecution of the church hastened it spread. As the early disciples wrote, they wrote to gatherings of believers spread out geographically. They also wrote to individuals in various regions. They all did, however, write in the latter half of the first century. The latest any book included in the canon of the New Testament is dated is 95-96 A. D. With such geographical and social diversity, it is understandable that not every church immediately had copies of these various documents. There were no fax machines or e-mail in the late first century. It did take time before the number of books regarded as authoritative was finally settled. But that time was not the fourth century as Brown leads us to believe.