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Chapter by Chapter

This is an index of the chapters in the novel which contain substantial claims about history. Those chapters which contain only action scenes or plot elements have been ommited.

Each chapter is sub-divided into topic headings analysing the claims made in that section of the novel and their associated subjects.

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Leonardo on the Bible

The Formation of the Christian Bible

The Historical Jesus

Constantine, Christianity and the New Testament

The Beginnings of the Christian Canon

Marcion and his Canon

Early Canon Lists

The Final Formation of the Christian Canon

The Conversion of Constantine

The Conversion of the Roman Empire

Christianity and Pagan Borrowings

Jesus made into a God?

The Council of Nicea

The Vatican

Early Christianity and Political Power

Constantine and 'Heresy'

Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Leonardo's The Last Supper

Leonardo on the Bible

"From Da Vinci's notebook on polemics and speculation," Teabing said, indicating one quote in particular. "I think you'll find this relevant to our discussion."

Sophie read the words.

Many have made a trade of delusions
And false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitude.


"Here's another," Teabing said, pointing to a different quote.

Blinding ignorance does mislead us.
O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!


Sophie felt a little chill. "Da Vinci is talking about the Bible?"

Teabing nodded.
(Chapter 55, pp. 230-231)

Actually, Leonardo is not 'talking about the Bible' here at all. Whether deliberately, through laziness or through complete ignorance, Brown has taken these two quotes out of context and is presenting them as meaning something they definitely do not mean.

The first quote is Section 128 of Leonardo's Notebooks. This passage and the one before it (Section 127) come under the heading 'Against Alchemists'. Section 127 reads: "The false interpreters of nature declare that quicksilver is the common seed of every metal, not remembering that nature varies the seed according to the variety of the things she desires to produce in the world." The 'false interpreters of nature' are clearly alchemists, as are those who have 'made a trade of delusions'. Put back in their context, the idea that this is somehow referring to Christianity or the Bible is clearly complete and utter nonsense.

The same can be said of the second out-of-context quote. It is one of a number on the deadly nature of ignorance and any wasting of the intellect - Sections 1165-1182. They include other sayings such as "Just as iron rusts unless it is used, and water putrefies or, in cold, turns to ice, so our intellect spoils unless it is kept in use." (1177) and "The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions." (1180). None of these related sayings have anything at all to do with the Bible and there is absolutely no reason to think that they are even hinting at anything to do with Christianity or religion at all.

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The Formation of the Christian Bible

Teabing cleared his throat and declared, "The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven."

"I beg your pardon?"

"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."
(Chapter 55, p. 231)

This is more or less correct, as far as it goes. Throughout the novel, however, Brown has his characters speak of the Bible as though it is a single book. In fact, the Bible is a collection of many books, though it is generally printed and bound in one volume these days for convenience's sake. Before the advent of printing, single volume Bibles were extremely rare on account of the expense involved in making and copying them by hand and the sheer bulk that such a volume would have.

So the Bible is not 'a book' that man created, it is a collection of books that was settled on as definitive over a long period. Some of the details of which books belonged in that collection differed slightly at differing times, which is why Catholic and Protestant Bibles vary slightly in the (Old Testament) books they include.

It is not true to say that the Bible 'evolved through countless translations'. While the books of the Bible have been translated many times, the modern text of the Old Testament is translated directly from the original Hebrew, using the earliest available manuscripts, and the modern text of the New Testament is translated directly from the original Greek; again, from the earliest available manuscripts. Brown's phrase 'evolved through countless translations' suggests a 'Chinese whispers' transmission of information, with the insinuated implication that original meanings may have been lost in these 'countless translations'. While it is sometimes difficult to get to precisely what the original Hebrew or Greek is saying, translations of the Bible have always been directly from those original languages.

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The Historical Jesus

"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."
(Chapter 55, p.231)

It is difficult to know precisely what Teabing is saying in parts of this passage. He seems to be talking about the historical figure of Jesus - the preacher Yeshua bar Yosef who existed in the early First Century AD and who Christians worship as 'Jesus Christ'. But the idea that this wandering teacher and healer from Galilee 'toppled kings, inspired millions and founded new philosophies' is quite fanciful. Despite the gospels' claims of thousands of followers, he does not seem to have attracted a very large following at all. He certainly did not 'topple' any kings and his 'philosophy' may have been a radical interpretation of Judaism, but he was a devout Jew not a founder of 'new philosophies.

It could be, however, that Teabing is talking about the figure that 'Jesus Christ' became over the twenty centuries after his death.

His final sentence is, however, completely incorrect. Jesus' life was not 'recorded by thousands of followers across the land'. It seems no-one at all recorded his career during his lifetime and that the first records of his life were made from oral traditions, memories and folk stories 30-90 years after his death. There were only a handful of these accounts and there is no evidence whatsoever that there were 'thousands' of them.

"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.
(Chapter 55, p 231)

While there were certainly more than just four gospels in circulation in the first four centuries of the development of Christianity, the idea that there were 'more than eighty gospels … considered for the New Testament' is pure fantasy. We have copies of, references to and fragments of about 18-20 gospels dating from the First to the Third Centuries - the other 60 suggested by this statement of Teabing's simply do not exist and there is no evidence for them at all. Even taking into account various the 'Acts' and Epistles (as opposed to 'gospels' per se) that were not included in the New Testament, the count is still nowhere near 'eighty'.

Teabing is also wrong when he says that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were 'among' the gospels which found their way into the final canon of the New Testament - they were the only gospels included.

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Constantine, Christianity and the New Testament

"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."
(Chapter 55, p. 231)

The long process by which Christianity settled on the canon of the New Testament - the books which were included in the Bible and regarded as definitive, authoritative and divinely inspired - began long before the time of Constantine the Great and continued for some time after he died. Contrary to what Brown has Teabing declare here, Constantine was not involved in this process in any way whatsoever.

The earliest Christian communities of the First Century relied entirely on the memories of Jesus' first followers. As these people died, an oral tradition of stories and sayings of Jesus developed and began to be written down in books. The four gospels which are now found in the modern Bible - the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - were amongst these earliest collections of accounts of Jesus' life and teaching. Other early writings also circulated amongst these early communities, including the letters or 'Epistles' of Paul to various early churches, letters by Peter and James and letters attributed to them but probably written by other people. Some accounts of the earliest followers, like the 'Acts of the Apostles', also came to be used as sources of information, inspiration and authority by these earliest communities.

But, at this stage, there was no definitive list or 'canon' of these writings. Any given isolated Christian community may well have known of some of them but not others. They may also have had copies of a few of them, but have only heard of others (since copies of any books were expensive and precious). And they may also have used a variety of other writings, many of which did not find their way into the Bible. There was no single, central 'Church' which dictated these things - each community operated in either relative isolation or intermittent communication with other communities and there were no standardised texts or a set list of which texts were authoritative and which were not at this very early stage of the Christian faith.

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The Beginnings of the Christian Canon

But the idea of such a definitive list was not totally foreign to early Christianity. Its parent religion, Judaism, had already wrestled with the problem of a large number of texts all being claimed to be 'scriptural' and inspired by God. Judaism generally agreed on the heart of its canon: the Torah, also called the 'Pentateuch', or 'five scrolls' because it was made up of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Judaism later developed a wider canon called the 'Tanakh': twenty-four books, including the five books of the Torah and adding the books of the prophets, the Psalms and the historical books that can be found in the Old Testament of Christian Bibles today.

Long before Christians began to go through a similar process of determining which texts were 'Scripture' and which were not, it is clear that they already regarded some Christian texts as being on par with those of the Jewish books of the Torah and the Tanakh. The Second Letter of Peter was probably not written by Peter at all and was most likely written in his name by someone around 120 AD; about 60 years or so after Peter died. But its author refers to certain 'false teachers' who misinterpret 'the letters of Paul' he says, 'just as they do with the rest of the Scriptures' (2 Peter 3:16). So, as early as the beginning of the Second Century, the letters of Paul were being regarded as 'Scripture', or divinely inspired and authoritative works on the same level as the books of the Jewish Bible.

As the Second Century progressed there was more incentive for early Christianity to define precisely which Christian texts were 'scriptural' and which were not. In the Second Century a wide variety of new and different forms of Christianity began to develop. The various Gnostic sects were one prominent example, but it seems that it was the Marcionites which gave the impetus for the first formulation of a Christian canon of Scripture.

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Marcion and his Canon

Marcion was born around 100 AD in the city of Sinope on the southern coast of the Black Sea. After a falling out with his father, the local bishop, he traveled to Rome in around 139 AD. There he began to develop his own Christian theology; one which was quite different to that of his father and of the Christian community in Rome. Marcion was struck by the strong distinction made by Paul between the Law of the Jews and the gospel of Christ. For Marcion, this distinction was absolute: the coming of Jesus made the whole of the Jewish Law and Jewish Scriptures redundant and the 'God' of the Jews was actually quite different to the God preached by Jesus. For Marcion, the Jewish God was evil, vengeful, violent and judgmental, while the God of Jesus was quite the opposite. Marcion decided that there were actually two Gods - the evil one who had misled the Jews and the good one revealed by Jesus.

This understanding led Marcion to put together a canon of Christian Scripture - the first of its kind - which excluded all of the Jewish Scriptures which make up the Old Testament and which included ten of the Epistles of Paul and only one of the gospels: the Gospel of Luke.

Marcion tried to get his radical reassessment of Christianity and his canon accepted by calling a council of the Christian community in Rome. Far from accepting his teachings, the council excommunicated him and he left Rome in disgust, returning to Asia Minor. There he met with far more success, and Marcionite churches sprang up which embraced his idea of two Gods and used his canon of eleven scriptural works. Alarmed at his success, other Christian leaders began to preach and write vigorously against Marcion's ideas and it seems that his canon of eleven works inspired anti-Marcionite Christians to begin to define which texts were and were not Scriptural.

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Early Canon Lists

By around 180 AD the influence of Marcion, the growth of the various Gnostic sects and the circulation of radical new 'gospels' began to be recognised as a genuine threat to those Christians who considered these groups fringe sects and heretical. It is around this time that we find Irenaeus declaring that there are only four gospels which derive from Jesus' earliest followers and which are Scriptural. These are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: the ones found in the Christian Bible today. Irenaeus makes it clear that these four had always been regarded as the earliest and most authoritative and were therefore the ones to be trusted as true accounts of Jesus' life, works and teachings. Interestingly, after two centuries of sceptical analysis, the overwhelming majority of historians, scholars and textual experts (Christian or otherwise) actually agree with Irenaeus and the consensus is that these four gospels definitely are the earliest of the accounts of Jesus' life.

Not long after Irenaeus' defence of the four canonical gospels we get our first evidence of a defined list of which texts are scriptural. A manuscript called the Muratorian Canon dates to sometime in the late Second Century AD and was discovered in a library in Milan in the Eighteenth Century. It details that the canonical four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - along with most of the other books found in the modern New Testament, as well as a couple which are not (the Wisdom of Solomon and the Apocalypse of Peter) are 'scriptural' and authorative. It also gives some approval to other, more recent works like The Shepherd of Hermas, but says they should not be read in church as scripture.

The Muratorian Canon document accepts twenty-three of the twenty-seven works which now make up the New Testament in the Bible. It also explicitly rejects several books on the grounds that they are recent and written by fringe, heretical groups and it specifically singles out works by the Gnostic leader Valentius and by Marcion and his followers.

It seems that the challenge posed by Marcion and other dissident groups caused the early Christians to determine which books were scriptural and which were not. And it also seems that recent works, whether they were 'heretical' (like the Gnostic gospels) or not (like The Shepherd of Hermas), did not have the status of works from the earliest years of Christianity. It was only these earliest works which were considered authoritative.

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The Final Formation of the Christian Canon

It is clear that the process of deciding which texts were canonical and which were not was already well under way over a century before the Emperor Constantine was even born. It also continued for a long time after he died. Constantine's contemporary, the Christian historian Eusebius, set out to 'summarise the writings of the New Testament' in his Church History; a work written towards the end of Constantine's reign. He lists the works which are generally 'acknowledged' (Church History, 3.25.1), including the four canonical gospels, Acts, the Epistles of Paul, 1 John, 1 Peter and the Apocalypse of John/'Revelation' (though he says this is still disputed by some). He gives other texts which he says are 'still disputed'; including James, Jude, 2 Peter and 2 and 3 John. He gives other books which are probably 'spurious' and then lists others which are definitely considered heretical, including the Gospels of Peter, Thomas and Matthias and the Acts of Andrew and John.
So not only did the process of deciding the canon begin long before Constantine, there was still debate within the Church about the canon in his time.

And it continued. In 367 Athanasius wrote his 39th Festal Letter in which he laid out the current twenty-seven books of the New Testament - the first time this canon had been definitively stated by any churchman. A synod convened in Rome by Pope Damasus in 382 AD also considered the question of the canon and, with the help of the great scholar Jerome, settled on the same twenty-seven books set out by Athanasius. At this stage there was still no central authority which could compel church communities in any way (despite Dan Brown's frequent anachronistic references to a central 'Vatican'), but councils and synods in Hippo and Carthage in north Africa and later ones in Gaul also settled on the same canon.

Despite Brown's totally erroneous claim that the canon was determined by Constantine in 325 AD, there was actually no definitive statement by the Catholic Church as to the make-up of the New Testament until the Council of Trent in 1546: a full 1209 years after Constantine died. The full development of the canon took several centuries, but the basics of which gospels were to be included was settled by 200 AD at least.

And Constantine had absolutely nothing to do with any of this process. This claim by Dan Brown is completely incorrect in every way.

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The Conversion of Constantine
"I thought Constantine was a Christian," Sophie said.

"Hardly," Teabing scoffed. "He was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on
his deathbed, too weak to protest."

(Chapter 55, p. 232)

Constantine lived most of his life as a worshipper of Sol Invictus - a state-approved Roman sun-god cult closely aligned with the originally Persian cult of Mithras, but which was originally quite separate from it. Mithras had long been a popular cult amongst Roman soldiers, since it was exclusively male, highly selective about whom it admitted and involved at least seven secretive levels of initiation.

Constantine's family, however, included several Christians, notably his mother Helena and his sister. Teabing's scoffing suggestion that Constantine was baptised against his will 'too weak to protest' ignores Constantine's obvious alignment with Christianity long before his death; from his victory at the Milvian Bridge onwards. Deathbed baptisms were actually very common at this time and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that it was somehow against the Emperor's will or that he wanted to 'protest'. Evidence about Constantine's beliefs are confused, probably because he himself was fairly unclear about which God or gods he worshipped. As a soldier and politician, he was quite unsophisticated about religion and probably considered Jesus, God, Sol Invictus and, perhaps, Mithras to be all the same being. His mind was on more earthly concerns.

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The Conversion of the Roman Empire

In Constantine's day, Rome's official religion was sun worship--the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun - and Constantine was its head priest. Unfortunately for him, a growing religious turmoil was gripping Rome. Three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Christ's followers had multiplied exponentially. Christians and pagans began warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it threatened to rend Rome in two. Constantine decided something had to be done. In 325 A.D., he decided to unify Rome under a single religion. Christianity."
(Chapter 55, p. 232)

There are several blatant historical mistakes in this passage. In Constantine's time Rome's official state religion was still the worship of the old Roman gods, headed by Jupiter Optimus et Maximus ('Jupiter Best and Greatest'). The cult of Sol Invictus, which was closely aligned with but not identical to the originally Persian cult of Mithras, was certainly popular, especially in the army. Constantine seems to have been a worshipper of Sol Invictus - the Unconquered Sun - and probably also of Mithras, though whether he was an initiate of Mithras' seven levels of 'mysteries' is unknown. He depicted the god Sol Invictus on his coins, with the inscription 'SOLI INVICTO COMITI', and he declared 'Dies Solis' (Sunday) as a day of rest.

It is certainly true that in the three centuries leading up to Constantine's reign Christianity had been growing in popularity. Unlike many of its rival religions, like Mithraism, Christianity was completely non-exclusive, being open to anyone, including women and slaves. Official cults, like the old Roman religion and the cult of Sol Invictus, were hierarchical and heavily politicised. And 'mystery cults', like Mithraism and the cult of Cybele, were exclusive clubs open by invitation only. Christianity, on the other hand, was open to all. Its creed, with its emphasis on equality, justice and regard for the poor and oppressed, made it popular, as did the social and economic support networks it offered in the form of charity for the poor.

That said, Christians were by no means the majority in the Empire when Constantine came to the throne. It is estimated that they formed no more than 5-10% of the total population. Despite this, there were Christians in positions of influence, including in the Imperial family: Constantine's mother Helena was probably born a Christian, was famously devout and had a definite influence on her son.

But it is not true that 'pagans and Christians began warring' or that this supposed conflict 'threatened to 'rend Rome in two'. There was conflict between pagans and Christians before Constantine's accession, but it was almost entirely one sided: pagan Emperors persecuting Christians. Christians had been persecuted on and off since the earliest days of their religion. As a misunderstood minority group, and one with Jewish origins, they were often scapegoated when things went wrong. As Tertullian wrote:

'If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile fails to rise to the fields, if the sky doesn't move or the earth does, if there is famine or plague, the cry is at once: "The Christians to the lions!"'

The other reason for the persecutions was that religion in the Roman Empire was intimately linked to the state. All cults, official or not, were supposed to offer prayers and sacrifices for the good of the Emperor and his regime. Some 'legal religions' - such as Judaism - were exempt, but 'cults' like Christianity were not. Christians, however, found sacrifices on behalf of or even to the Emperors totally unacceptable, and this was considered not just treasonous, but actually dangerous to the well-being of the Empire.

The persecutions came to a climax in the reign of Diocletian, though it was his eastern sub-Emperor Gallenius who made them particularly systematic and savage. Christians were forced to sacrifice to show their loyalty to the state and those that refused were imprisoned, tortured and, in many cases, savagely executed. Many others were exiled and church property was confiscated in a campaign of persecution which went on for nearly ten years.

Constantine brought this to an end when he became Emperor. In 313 AD he passed the 'Edict of Milan' which ordered the tolerance of all religions in the Empire, commanded the end of the persecution of Christianity and the return of confiscated church property.

This ended the persecutions, but it definitely did not 'unify Rome under a single religion'. Christianity certainly gained favour and benefits after 313 AD, but Constantine did not make it the official state religion - that did not happen until the reign of Theodosius, in 381 AD.

Sophie was surprised. "Why would a pagan emperor choose Christianity as the official religion?"

Teabing chuckled. "Constantine was a very good businessman. He could see that Christianity was on the rise, and he simply backed the winning horse. Historians still marvel at the brilliance with which Constantine converted the sun-worshipping pagans to Christianity. By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties."

(Chapter 55, p. 232)

We know that Constantine did not make Christianity 'the official religion'; he simply ended its official persecution. And it is also wrong to depict Christianity in this period as 'the winning horse', since Christians still formed a minority in the Empire. We know that Constantine had been personally attracted to Christianity for some time. Eusebius tells the story of how he had a vision of Jesus before the key battle for supremacy against his Imperial rival at the Milvian Bridge and his troops carried shields with the Christian 'Chi-Ro' symbol long before the Edict of Milan in 313 AD.

That said, it is hard to say precisely how Christian the Emperor was. He seems to have been an immensely superstitious man and probably shared the view of many Roman soldiers that it was unwise to anger any gods, lest they turn against you in battle. Constantine was a soldier, a politician and an administrator, not a devout believer or a theologian. To him, the sun-god, Sol Invictus, and the Christian God were probably the same being, so the adjustment from being a pagan with Christian sympathies to a Christian with some pagan attitudes would not have been a large one. He proved to be a ruthless and sometimes savagely cruel ruler, ordering massacres and executing several of his own family, so it would be wrong to see him as some pious and holy convert. Long after he made his attraction to Christianity clear, he still raised a statue of Sol Invictus in his new capital of Constantinople and, in a typically egomaniacal gesture, gave it his own facial features.

Teabing's depiction of his adoption of Christianity and his sponsoring of that religion after 313 AD as a purely cynical, political and totally artificial affair is a distortion of a much more complex picture. Constantine's Christianity, such as it was, seems to have been entirely sincere, if slightly unsophisticated or even rather confused. There is no evidence he deliberately set out to create a cynical synthesis of paganism and Christianity for his own ends. Any fusing of 'symbols, dates and rituals' from the two religious traditions had been happening for some time already. If Constantine's toleration of and sponsorship of Christianity added to this, it was accidental, not cynically deliberate.

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Christianity and Pagan Borrowings

"Transmogrification," Langdon said. "The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable. Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints. Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus."
(Chapter 55, p. 232)

It is certainly undeniable that some aspects of Christian iconography (there is no such thing as 'symbology') were derived from pre-Christian art. The halos found in Christian depictions of saints are most likely to be derived from Roman depictions of Emperors with a 'nimbus' around their heads, which was in turn derived from Greek depictions of gods and demi-gods with a similar radiance. It is actually unlikely that much earlier 'Egyptian sun disks' had anything to do with any of these artistic conventions. These traditions were far from the only ones which associated radiance of the face and head with holiness. Christianity had its own tradition of this - Matthew 17:2 describes the 'Transfiguration' of Jesus where, it is said, his 'face shone like the sun'. Jewish tradition had a similar story of Moses, whose face was said to have radiated light after he came down from Mount Sinai (Exodus 34: 29-35). So while it is likely the Christian artistic convention of the halo came from Greek and Roman conventions, it was also in keeping with a long standing Christian and Jewish association of holiness with a shining face and head.

It is also true that depictions of Isis and the child Horus probably did influence the later depictions of Mary and the baby Jesus. What is totally unlikely, however, is Langdon's implication that these borrowings and influences were part of some deliberate attempt (by Constantine, apparently) to fuse Christianity with paganism. This is pure fantasy.

"And virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual - the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of "God-eating"-were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions."
(Chapter 55, p.232)

This statement is completely incorrect. The mitre (or 'miter', to use Brown's American spelling) was not used in the Western (ie Catholic) Church until the Tenth Century and so could not have had anything to do with pagan mystery cults which had died out over 600 years previously. Altars have been a part of many religions, but the altars in Christian churches owe more to the altars of Christianity's progenitor faith, Judaism, than any pagan practice. There are over 300 references to altars in the Jewish scriptures and many important references to altars in the Christian New Testament, including no less than six references to a heavenly altar before the throne of God himself (Revelation 6:9; 8:43; 9:13; 11:1; 14:8 and 16:7)

A 'doxology' is a hymn of praise, though Brown here seems to be referring to the 'Great Doxology' which forms part of the Catholic mass liturgy. But this prayer is made up, like most Catholic liturgy, of phrases from the Old and New Testaments and was not derived from any known pagan prayers at all.

The same goes for the reference in The Da Vinci Code passage above to 'the act of "God eating"'. Several pagan mystery cults, including Mithraism, included a communal meal, often of bread and wine. This is unsurprising, as bread and wine were staple foods in the Roman period. None of these cult meals, however, had any association with 'God eating' and bore no resemblance to the beliefs surrounding the Christian meal of bread and wine regarding Jesus' body and blood. Paul refers to this sacred meal as early as 50 AD (1 Corinthians 11:23-25) and makes it clear that it derived from the meal Jesus shared with his followers before his arrest. Any similarity with the cult meals of the pagan mystery religions is purely co-incidental.

Interestingly, this passage in The Da Vinci Code is actually taken directly, almost word for word, from an evangelical Protestant pamphlet attacking the Catholic Church, associating it with pagan practices and arguing that, as such, Catholicism is not truly Christian. 'Bible Prophecy for the World Today', in a pamphlet reproduced on the Web, describes Catholicism in this way:

'Constantine converted sun worshipping pagans to Christianity by fusing pagan symbols, rituals and dates into a hybrid religion. The marks or symbols from pagan religion in Christianity today are undeniable. Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints, pictograms of Isis nursing her reborn son, Horus, became a symbol of modern images of Mary nursing baby Jesus. Nearly all the elements of the Roman Catholic rituals, the miter, doxology, the alter, and communion were taken directly from earlier pagan religions.'
('Bible Prophecy for the World Today - 'Constantines (sic) Destruction of Christanity (sic)')

The section in bold from this pamphlet is actually almost word for word what Brown puts in the mouth of Langdon in The Da Vinci Code. Brown clearly cut and pasted this passage, unchanged, from this online religious pamphlet. This anti-Catholic document, in turn, takes its information from Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons: Or The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife, first published back in 1858. Hislop was a fanatical anti-Catholic who set out to 'prove' that Catholicism was simply paganism in disguise.

His book was, and continues to be, very influential in some highly conservative, anti-Catholic, fundamentalist Protestant circles and it heavily influenced a young evangelical preacher called Ralph Woodrow, who used it as the basis for his own book Babylon Mystery Religion. When a history teacher challenged Woodrow on the accuracy of his research and called Hislop's scholarship into question, Woodrow set about checking the accuracy of Hislop's research. He found it was completely fraudulent, riddled with misquotations and misrepresentations and totally lacking in any historical integrity. To his credit, Woodrow promptly withdrew his own book from publication, wrote another book exposing Hislop's many errors and became a strident critic of Hislop's ideas. He wrote:

'[The Two Babylons] claims that the very religion of ancient Babylon, under the leadership of Nimrod and his wife, was later disguised with Christian-sounding names, becoming the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, two "Babylons"-one ancient and one modern. Proof for this is sought by citing numerous similarities in paganism. The problem with this method is this: in many cases there is no connection.'

(Ralph Woodrow, 'The Two Babylons: A Case Study in Poor Methodology')

So Langdon's statement here is lifted by Brown directly from an online fundamentalist Christian pamphlet, which in turn is basing its information on a Nineteenth Century piece of anti-Catholic polemic which has not only been discredited by historians, but has been rejected by other Protestant evangelicals.

Teabing groaned. "Don't get a symbologist started on Christian icons.
Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras-called the Son of God and the Light of the World--was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

(Chapter 55, p. 232)

Everything in this set of assertions by Teabing seems to be based on Kersey Graves, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, published in 1875. Graves was writing with a clear anti-Christian agenda and while his book remains popular in certain circles, it has been comprehensively rejected by historians as an amateurish pastiche of fantasy and misinterpreted evidence. Graves rarely actually gives any sources or supporting evidence for his assertions about the pagan roots of Christianity and it is regarded by scholars, whether Christian or otherwise, as an inventive but baseless piece of junk pseudo-scholarship of no value.

For example, the atheist web-site 'Secular Web' includes a link to an online edition of Graves' book but prefaces it with the following warning:

'Note: the scholarship of Kersey Graves has been questioned by numerous theists and nontheists alike; the inclusion of his The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors in the Secular Web's Historical Library does not constitute endorsement by Internet Infidels, Inc. This document was included for historical purposes; readers should be extremely cautious in trusting anything in this book.'

Given the lack of credibility of this source, it is not surprising that the statements that Teabing makes above do not stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.

For example, no-where in any of the material we have regarding Mithras is he called 'the Son of God' or 'the Light of the World' - this comes from Graves' imagination. Similarly, the idea that Mithras, Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus all had 'birthdays' on December 25th is pure fantasy. Most of these deities were regarded as eternal beings who had no 'birthday' at all and the others had no dedicated day of birth. All this, once again, comes from Graves, probably via Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, as Brown gets most of his 'information' second hand from dubious, unscholarly sources.

The Roman solar cult of Sol Invictus, however, did have December 25th as the central feast day of the sun god. Since this cult and the cult of Mithras were closely aligned, it may be that Roman Mithraism also held this day in high regard. Christian tradition did not record on what day Jesus was born, so it certainly seems be true that Christianity took December 25th as the day on which Jesus' birth should be celebrated largely because of its association with the holy day of the Sol Invictus cult. In other words, just as Mithraism took December 25th from the Sol Invictus cult, so Christianity took it from Mithraism. That is how ancient religion tended to work.

There are other possibilities, however. There was a belief in Judaism that great prophets died on the date of their birth or of their conception. Most Christians believed that Jesus was conceived on March 25th, so it could have been argued, then, that he was born on December 25th.

That aside, according to Roman-era Mithraism, Mithras was born fully formed out of a rock. There are, despite Teabing's assertions, no legends about Mithras dying, being buried in a rock tomb or rising again. This is pure fantasy with no foundation whatsoever.

Teabing's statement that 'The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh' is also taken directly from Graves and is, like most of his assertions, supported by no evidence at all. The First Century Hindu scripture, Bhagavad-Gita, makes no mention of Krishna's birth or childhood at all. The first mentions of his childhood come in the Harivamsa Purana (circa 300 AD) and the Bhagavata Purana (circa 800-900 AD), neither of which mention any gifts for the baby Krishna, let alone 'gold, frankincense and myrrh'. Once again, this claim is completely baseless.

Even Christianity's weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans."

"What do you mean?"

"Originally," Langdon said, "Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of
Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun." He paused, grinning. "To this day, most churchgoers attend services on Sunday morning with no idea that they are there on account of the pagan sun god's weekly tribute--Sunday."

(Chapter 55, pp. 232-233)

The historical evidence clearly indicates that this claim is totally incorrect. Christians were worshipping on Sunday rather then the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday long before Constantine was even born. The practice of gathering for worship on Sunday is referred to in 1 Corinthians 16:2 (dated to 50-60 AD) and Acts 20:7 (circa 80-100 AD). Sunday was called Dies Domini or 'the day of the Lord' and is mentioned as the day for Christian worship by Ignatius of Antioch around 110 AD, who specifically states 'we no longer observe the Jewish Sabbaths, but keep holy the Lord's day.'(Epistle to the Magnesians, Ch. 9). This practice of worshipping on 'the Lord's day' rather than Saturday is also mentioned in The Epistle of Barnabus (circa 90 AD), the Didache (50-110 AD) and by Justin Martyr (circa 150 AD).

Tertullian, writing around 200 AD, talked of Sunday being a day of rest as well as worship, and this was also stated by the local church Council of Elvira in Spain in 303 AD. What Brown seems to be basing his assertions in this passage on is an edict by Constantine in 321 AD which made Sunday an official day of rest for all citizens of the Empire. But his statements in this passage make it sound as though Christians worshipped on Saturday up to this point and only changed at Constantine's (pagan) insistence. This is completely incorrect.

As is his statement that modern church-goers attend worship on 'Sunday' unaware that the change was made by Constantine to put a veneer of Christianity over a day of pagan sun-worship. Not only was the change not made by Constantine, but Christians actually worshipped on Sundays despite that day's association with sun-worship. They chose that day because that was the day they believed Jesus rose from the dead. As Jerome wrote in the early Fifth Century:

The Lord's Day, the day of Resurrection, is our day. It is called the Lord's day because on it the Lord rose victorious to the Father. If pagans call it the 'day of the sun', we willingly agree, for today the light of the world is raised, today is revealed the sun of justice with healing in his rays.
(Paschal Sermons, CCL 78, 550)

Constantine did not change the Christian day of worship from Saturday to Sunday; that had happened at least 200 years before he was even born. And the reason for the change was that Sunday was the day Christians believed Jesus rose from the dead; it had nothing to do with it being the 'day of the Sun'.

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Jesus made into a God?

Sophie's head was spinning. "And all of this relates to the Grail?"

"Indeed," Teabing said. "Stay with me. During this fusion of religions, Constantine needed to strengthen the new Christian tradition, and held a famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicaea."

Sophie had heard of it only insofar as its being the birthplace of the Nicene Creed.

"At this gathering," Teabing said, "many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon--the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus."

"I don't follow. His divinity?"

"My dear," Teabing declared, "until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."

"Not the Son of God?"

"Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea."
(Chapter 55, p. 233)

Of all the assertions made by the characters in The Da Vinci Code, this is probably one of the ones which has caused the most real controversy. Many of the statements that Brown claims or insinuates are credible are dubious at best, but this one is particularly contentious. Christians, naturally, object to the idea that their Messiah was considered as simply a mortal prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, since they regard him as God in human form. But non-Christian historians also find this particular assertion totally objectionable to the point of being laughable, since it flies in the face of a vast body of historical evidence.

Put simply, what Brown has Teabing state here is completely and categorically wrong in every way.

While Christians reject the idea that Jesus was 'turned into a God' at any point as a matter of faith, non-Christian historians accept that 'Jesus' was a First Century Jewish preacher and healer who later became regarded as, somehow, God in human form. Where they differ from what Brown is implying through Teabing is when and how this occurred.

According to Brown, via Teabing and Langdon, this transition happened abruptly in 325 AD, when (by their account) the pagan Emperor Constantine co-opted Christianity for his own political ends and imposed various pagan elements on it which did not exist before. The most important of these, according to Brown's narrative, was turning Jesus from a mortal prophet into a God-Man. As Brown tells it, "until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."

This is contrary to the evidence in every possible respect.

We have no shortage of writings from Christians of the Second, Third and Fourth Centuries AD and they regularly tell of their perception of who and what Jesus was. If Teabing, Langdon (and Brown) are correct, we should see a sharp break around 325 AD, with earlier writers referring to Jesus only as a mortal prophet and later ones adopting this 'pagan' idea of him being a god in human form. But we do not see this at all.

The evidence from all Christian writings prior to 325 AD, right back to the late First Century and within a generation or two of Jesus' own time, indicates clearly that the overwhelming majority of Christians regarded Jesus as God long before 325 AD, before the Council of Nicea and centuries before Constantine was even born. Non-Christian historians agree that the process of turning the mortal Jewish preacher, Yeshua bar Yosef, into the divine being 'Jesus Christ' was well underway as early as 90 AD and was more or less complete by the middle of the Second Century.

A sample of the writings about the nature of Jesus from Christians from the late First Century to Constantine's time shows exactly how totally ridiculously wrong The Da Vinci Code's claims are in this respect:

Ignatius of Antioch (50 AD-117 AD)

"Ignatius ... to the Church which is at Ephesus, ... united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God."
(Letter to the Ephesians, Prologue)

"There is one physician who is possessed of both flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in the flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 7)

"Do everything as if he (Jesus) were dwelling in us. Thus we shall actually be his temples and he will be within us as our God - as he actually is .... For our God, Jesus Christ .... was born and baptised, that by his passion he might purify the water."
(Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 15)

"Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time"
(Letter to the Magnesians, Chapter 6)

"...I pray for your happiness for ever in our God, Jesus Christ, ..."
(Letter to Polycarp, Chapter 8)

" "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that willeth all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, which ... is named from Christ, and from the Father, which I also salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father: to those who are united, both according to the flesh and spirit, to every one of His commandments; who are filled inseparably with the grace of God, and are purified from every strange taint, [I wish] abundance of happiness unblameably, in Jesus Christ our God."
(Letter to the Romans, Prologue)

Aristides (123-4 or 129AD)

(Aristides was a non-Christian philosopher from Athens. In a letter to the Emperor Hadrian he describes what various religions believe about God and the gods):

"The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished."
(Letter to Hadrian, Chapter 2)

Polycarp (110-130 AD)

"...to all under heaven who shall believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead."
(Letter to the Phillipians, Chapter 12)

" 'For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist;' and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil."
(Letter to the Phillipians, Chapter 7)

Justin Martyr (165 AD)

"The Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is also God."
(First Apology, Chapter 63)

"...which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts..."
(Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 36)

"And there are some who maintain that even Jesus Himself appeared only as spiritual, and not in flesh, but presented merely the appearance of flesh: these persons seek to rob the flesh of the promise."
(Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 2)

"For if you had understood what was written by the prophets, you would not have denied that he (Jesus) was God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God."
(Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 126)

Melitio of Sardis (170 AD)

"Born as a son, led forth as a lamb, sacrificed as a sheep, buried as a man, he rose from the dead as a God, for he was by nature God and man. He is all things: he judges, and so he is Law; he teaches, and so he is Wisdom; he saves, and so he is Grace; he begets, and so he is Father; he is begotten, and so he is Son; he suffers, and so he is Sacrifice; he is buried, and so he is man; he rises again, and so he is God. This is Jesus Christ, to whom belongs glory for all ages."
(Apology, 8-10)

"Being God and likewise perfect man, he (Jesus) gave positive indications of his two natures: of his deity ... and of his humanity ..."
(Apology, 13)

Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD)

"He (Jesus) alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things."
(Exhortation to the Greeks, 1:7:1)

"(Jesus is) the expiator, the Saviour, the soother ... quite evidently true God."
(Exhortation to the Greeks, 1:7:1)

Tertullian (193 AD)

"God alone is without sin. The only man who is without sin is Christ, for Christ is also God."
(The Flesh of Christ, 41:3)

"The origins of both his substances display him as man and as God."
(The Flesh of Christ, 5:6-7)

Origen (225 AD)

"Although (Jesus the Son) was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was: God."
(The Fundamental Doctrines, I, Preface, 4)

It is perfectly clear from these and many other such quotes from the first three centuries of Christianity that the idea that Jesus was God had been well established over 200 years before the Council of Nicea. The idea that it began then, in 325 AD, contradicts masses of evidence about what Christians believed in this period.

This is one of the most fundamental errors of fact made in the whole of The Da Vinci Code and it is one of the reasons why historians, non-Christian and Christian, regard the novel's historical claims as utterly ridiculous.

The Council of Nicea

"Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"
"A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added.

(Chapter 55, p. 233)

There certainly was a vote at the Council of Nicea, but it was not (contrary to Teabing's claims) on whether Jesus was God. When Constantine became Emperor in 312, he attributed his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge to a vision he saw of Jesus Christ before the battle. While not a Christian himself, he was heavily influenced by his devoutly Christian mother and sister and, like many superstitious soldiers, he was not keen to antagonise a god. But he was also a canny politician and he saw that decades of oppression and persecution had failed to suppress Christianity. Christians still formed a minority in the Empire's population, but it was a sizeable and active minority, so in 313 AD Constantine passed the Edict of Milan which ended the persecution of Christianity and made the religion entirely legal and legitimate. Constantine saw the political benefit of working with Christianity and harnessing it to assist his goal of uniting his fractured Empire. He did not, as is often claimed, make Christianity the 'official religion of the Empire' however: that happened at the end of the Fourth Century under the Emperor Theodosius in 381 AD.

After the passing of the Edict of Milan Constantine quickly realised that Christianity itself was far from united. The faith was torn by internal doctrinal and theological disputes which, with the end of state persecution, now came to the fore. The most divisive of these was the 'Arian Dispute' - a heated debate within the churches over the nature of Jesus' divinity.

Christians by this stage all agreed that Jesus was both God and Man, but there was a bitter dispute raging about how he could be both and how he, as God, stood in relation to the first person of the Trinity, God the Father. Saint Alexander of Alexandria led the majority faction that believed Jesus was both fully God and Man and was 'of one substance with the Father', being entirely equal to him in every way. He was opposed by the popular and eloquent presbyter Arius, who maintained that Jesus was both God and Man, but argued that Jesus 'proceeded from the Father' and so was, in a sense, lesser than or subordinate to him.

To Constantine, this tiny theological difference was 'trifling' and he was frustrated by the way this seemingly small difference in semantics was causing bitter disputes and dissent within Christianity. His rule was based on an often ruthless policy of 'unity at all costs' - coming as it did after a period of bitter divisions and bloddy civil war. He also prided himself on his ability to conciliate between disputing parties and create a consensus so, in 325 AD, he called all the bishops of the Empire to a council at his lakeside palace in Nicea (now Iznik in modern Turkey) to settle the problem once and for all.

Somewhere between 250 and 318 bishops attended, accompanied by hundreds of attendants. Constantine opened the proceedings but, being easily bored by theological debate, rapidly lost interest in the days of complex theological dispute and actually played little role in the proceedings of the Council itself. In the end, Alexander won the day and, in the final vote on the question of Jesus' divine substance, only two bishops of the 250 voted in favour of Arius.

So the Council of Nicea was not called to vote on 'whether Jesus was God', but on how, as God, he stood in relation to God the Father. And there was no 'relatively close vote' either - 99% of the bishops voted against Arius. Yet again, Brown completely misrepresents history.

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The Vatican

"Nonetheless, establishing Christ's divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base. By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable. This not only precluded further pagan challenges to Christianity, but now the followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves only via the established sacred channel-the Roman Catholic Church."

Sophie glanced at Langdon, and he gave her a soft nod of concurrence.
(Chapter 55, p.233)

Clearly part of Constantine's motives was political and he certainly did see the advantages of having a united Christianity as a political ally. But, as can be seen above, the Council did not invent the idea of Jesus as God and that was not what was discussed there and voted on.

This is also one of the passages where Brown makes anachronistic use of the word 'Vatican'. Throughout the novel he uses 'the Vatican' to mean the Catholic Church, but it actually makes no sense to refer to any 'Roman Catholic Church' in the Fourth Century or to refer to such a Church as 'the Vatican'. In Constantine's time there actually was no single 'Church' at all, let alone one that was 'Roman'. Christianity, at this time, consisted of a loose collection of church communities, each headed by their bishop, archbishop or patriarch and, as the dispute which led to the Council of Nicea shows, these communities were far from united. The Bishop of Rome, whose successors were to become the popes of later centuries, claimed a certain authority as successors of Saint Peter, but he was seen as no more prestigious in rank as the other great patriarchs: the bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople. It was only centuries later, when Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem had fallen to the Muslims and Constantinople and Rome separated over doctrine, that the Popes began to claim 'primacy' over other bishops. To talk about a 'Roman Catholic Church' in the Fourth Century is ridiculous.

As is using the word 'Vatican'. In the Fourth Century the Vatican was simply a hill in Rome; one dominated mainly by a small church and an overgrown graveyard. The Bishops of Rome came to live in the Lateran Palace - a gift from the Emperor - until the Fourteenth Century when the Papacy fled Rome for the French city of Avignon. On returning to Rome in 1378 the papal administration became established on the Vatican Hill, but the Pope lived on the Quirinal Hill. The Vatican only became the home of the Pope in 1871.

The term 'the Vatican' is often used as a shorthand for the modern government of the Catholic Church and the Papacy in general. But talking about 'the Vatican' doing anything in the Fourth Century is rather like talking about US Congress establishing Jamestown in the Sixteenth Century. It is anachronistic to the point of being totally nonsensical.

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Early Christianity and Political Power

"It was all about power," Teabing continued. "Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power. I've written several books on the topic."

"And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?"

"Why would they?" Teabing countered. "The vast majority of educated Christians know the history of their faith. Jesus was indeed a great and powerful man. Constantine's underhanded political maneuvers don't diminish the majesty of Christ's life. Nobody is saying Christ was a fraud, or denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives. All we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Christ's substantial influence and importance. And in doing so, he shaped the face of Christianity as we know it today."
(Chapter 55, pp. 133-34)

Here Brown has Teabing assure Sophie that his distorted version of the history of the Council of Nicea is actually unremarkable and that 'the vast majority of educated Christians' would happily accept it. Not only is it nonsense that any educated Christian would accept the fantasy version of history Teabing relates, but any non-Christian with a grasp of history would do so as well.

Constantine's sponsorship of Christianity certainly did have a profound effect on the development of that religion, but not in the way or for the reasons that Brown's characters give.

Sophie glanced at the art book before her, eager to move on and see the Da Vinci painting of the Holy Grail.

"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 outlawed, gathered up, and burned."

(Chapter 55, p. 134)

The idea that 'Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible' is pure nonsense. The canon of the Christian Bible was well established long before Constantine was even born and does not differ in any substantial way from the Bible used by Christians today ( see above).

Brown seems to have derived the idea that Constantine 'commissioned' a 'new' Bible from the fact that the Emperor did commission Eusebius to oversee the production of fifty copies of the accepted 'scriptural' texts - texts "of the sacred scriptures which you know to be especially necessary for the restoration and use in the instruction of the church." (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 4.37) This was not 'a new Bible', simply the production of fifty copies of the Christian texts which had come to be considered 'Biblical' long before Eusebius' and Constantine's time. The Emperor commissioned and funded these copies not as part of some attempt to impose a new collection of texts on Christianity but simply because, in an age where book production was expensive and a copy of just one text cost the modern equivalent of a new car, the production of fifty full copies of all the already accepted texts was a massively expensive undertaking.

Brown totally misrepresents this enterprise as creating 'a new Bible', whereas, in fact, the texts Eusebius oversaw had already been accepted for over 150 years. These texts included the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which had long been considered the oldest and most authentic accounts of Jesus' life. These gospels actually emphasised both Jesus' human aspects and his supposed supernatural nature and they did not, as Brown claims, emphasise the latter over the former. Many of the books the accepted canon rejected, on the other hand, (such as the Gnostic works) portrayed Jesus was purely spiritual and not human at all; despite Brown's claim that they presented a 'more human' Jesus. On the contrary, they were actually rejected largely because they portrayed a Jesus who was not human enough. Once again, Brown gets his history backwards.

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Constantine and 'Heresy'

"An interesting note," Langdon added. "Anyone who chose the forbidden gospels over Constantine's version was deemed a heretic. The word heretic derives from that moment in history. The Latin word haereticus means 'choice.' Those who 'chose' the original history of Christ were the world's first heretics."
(Chapter 55, p. 234)

This claim is incorrect. 'Heresy' does derive from a word meaning 'choice', 'a thing chosen', 'an opinion (through choice)', but it is derived from the Greek word 'hairesis'. The Latin 'haereticus' is, in turn, derived from the Greek. It is not true, however, that those condemned by the 'winners' at the Council of Nicea were somehow 'the world's first heretics', as Langdon asserts. The Greek word was used to refer to rival sects within Judaism by the Jewish historian Josephus, who used it as a term to describe the Saducees, Pharisees and Essenes. It is also used to describe dissenting opinions within Christianity in the New Testament of the Bible: in Acts 5:17, 15:5, 24:5, 26:5, 28:22, 1Corinthians 11:19 and Galatians 5:20. Irenaeus wrote his book Adversus Haereses (Against Heresy) circa 180 AD and Tertullian wrote his De Prescriptione Haereticorum (The Prescription Against Heretics) around 200 AD. Christian sects rejected by mainstream Christianity were being referred to as 'heretics' long before Constantine's time and the ones rejected after the Council of Nicea were not Gnostics (as Brown implies) but Arians (who Brown seems to know nothing about at all).

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Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls

"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. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms.
(Chapter 55, p. 234)

Leaving aside the fact that there was no campaign by Constantine to 'eradicate' non-canonical texts, this passage is riddled with errors. The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, with others found between then and 1956. More importantly, the idea that the Scrolls contained lost 'gospels' is complete nonsense: the Dead Sea Scrolls are all purely Jewish texts, most of which were composed about 150 years before Jesus was even born. There are no 'gospels' in the Dead Sea Scroll material simply because there are no Christian texts amongst it at all - they are purely pre-Christian Jewish books.

The Nag Hammadi texts are codices - an early form of sewn and bound book - not 'scrolls'. They definitely do not tell anything which could be described as 'the true Grail story' and they certainly do not 'speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms'. Most Gnostics actually believed that Jesus was not a human at all and was a spirit who simply appeared human. These texts in fact pour scorn on the idea that Jesus could have been human in any way, since the Gnostics regarded the material world and the physical body as the sinful products of the evil 'demiurge'. The key aim of Gnosticism was to escape the physical and return to the spiritual world after death and Jesus was a spirit sent to help us achieve this. This is why, contrary to what Brown has Teabing claim here, the Jesus of the Gnostic gospels is entirely unhuman, other worldly and remote from human understanding. Unlike the canonical gospels of the Bible, very little attention is paid in the Nag Hammadi texts to the human aspects of Jesus' life - his friends, what he did, where he went and what happened to him. Almost all their emphasis is on his teachings, sayings and the gnosis or 'knowledge' he imparted to help people escape from the physical world and its sinfulness.

So the Jesus of the Nag Hammadi texts is not one depicted in 'very human terms' at all. The truth is actually quite the opposite.

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."
(Chapter 55, p. 234)

The idea that 'the Vatican' tried to suppress the release of any of this material is pure fantasy. The first partial translation of the Nag Hammadi texts appeared in 1956, but a full translation in English was the result of the formation of the International Committee for the Nag Hammadi Codices by UNESCO and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture in 1970. The first one volume translation was produced by James M. Robinson and published as The Nag Hammadi Library in English in 1977. A newer translation by Harvard scholar Bentley Layton was published as The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations in 1987. Contrary to Brown's claim, 'the Vatican' or the Catholic Church had no objections whatsoever to any of these publications. Catholic scholars have been heavily involved in the UNESCO project and copies of Robinson's and Layton's translations are readily available on the shelves of Catholic bookshops.

Brown seems to have got the idea that the Catholic Church tried to 'suppress' these alternative gospels from The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. Like their better known earlier work, Holy Blood Holy Grail, this book is a conspiracy theory based on pseudo scholarship, leaps of logic and insinuation and its claims have since been shown to be utterly false. Baigent and Leigh maintain that the long delay in publishing the full texts of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls was due to 'the Vatican' desperately trying to suppress information in the Scrolls that would shake the foundations of Christianity. The reality, however, is much less dramatic.

While much of the Dead Sea material was published fairly rapidly, the team responsible for the texts from 'Cave 4' worked with remarkable slowness. This team, led by the Dominican Father Roland de Vaux, was responsible for 40% of the total Scroll material and the slow pace of their work and their refusal to give other scholars access to the texts caused anger amongst fellow academics, Catholic or otherwise. This led Baigent and Leigh to assume the slow pace was actually a 'Vatican' conspiracy and a deliberate attempt to suppress secret information about Christianity found in the Cave 4 texts.

Their book came out in 1991, but soon afterwards the academic stranglehold on the Cave 4 texts was broken and other scholars were finally able to analyse these scrolls. Not surprisingly, Baigent and Leigh were totally wrong: there was no devastating information about Jesus in these texts, in fact there was nothing in them about Jesus or anyone to do with Christianity at all.

So not only did 'the Vatican' not try to 'suppress' either the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi gospels, but there was nothing in either of these collections of texts which was radical or (in the Dead Sea Scrolls case) even relevant to early Christianity in any way.

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Leonardo's The Last Supper

Teabing reached for the book and flipped toward the center. "And finally, before I show you Da Vinci's paintings of the Holy Grail, I'd like you to take a quick look at this." He opened the book to a colorful graphic that spanned both full pages. "I assume you recognize this fresco?"

He's kidding, right? Sophie was staring at the most famous fresco of all time - The Last Supper - Da Vinci's legendary painting from the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie near Milan. The decaying fresco portrayed Jesus and His disciples at the moment that Jesus announced one of them would betray Him. "I know the fresco, yes."

"Then perhaps you would indulge me this little game? Close your eyes if you would."

Uncertain, Sophie closed her eyes.

"Where is Jesus sitting?" Teabing asked.

"In the center."

"Good. And what food are He and His disciples breaking and eating?"

"Bread." Obviously.

"Superb. And what drink?"

"Wine. They drank wine."

"Great. And one final question. How many wineglasses are on the table?"

Sophie paused, realizing it was the trick question. And after dinner,
Jesus took the cup of wine, sharing it with His disciples. "One cup," she said. "The chalice." The Cup of Christ. The Holy Grail. "Jesus passed a single chalice of wine, just as modern Christians do at communion."

Teabing sighed. "Open your eyes."

She did. Teabing was grinning smugly. Sophie looked down at the painting, seeing to her astonishment that everyone at the table had a glass of wine, including Christ. Thirteen cups. Moreover, the cups were tiny, stemless, and made of glass. There was no chalice in the painting. No Holy Grail.

Teabing's eyes twinkled. "A bit strange, don't you think, considering that both the Bible and our standard Grail legend celebrate this moment as the definitive arrival of the Holy Grail. Oddly, Da Vinci appears to have forgotten to paint the Cup of Christ."

(Chapter 55, pp.235-36)

The idea that a painting of the Last Supper should depict 'the Holy Grail' only makes sense to someone with little or no knowledge of the artistic conventions of Leonardo's period. Contrary to what Sophie expects, no painting of the Supper in this period should be expected to always depict a single large 'chalice' or any 'Holy Grail'. Some paintings did so, especially if they were of the earlier episode where Jesus gives the bread and wine to his followers. Many others, especially in the Italian schools of the late medieval and Renaissance periods, simply show what Leonardo shows - several cups or glasses. For example:

The Last Supper - Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)

The Last Supper - Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)

This is because 'the Holy Grail' was not and never became part of Christian doctrine - it was simply part of some medieval fantasy fiction. The cup itself was never significant outside of that fantasy fiction, though the act of turning the bread and wine into Jesus' body and blood certainly was. That's why some paintings of the Last Supper - or rather of that part of the Last Supper - do place some emphasis on the cup in Jesus' hands. Leonardo's painting, however, is of the moment Jesus predicts his betrayal; a later episode in the story. He was also painting in the tradition of other Italian artists of his time, who tended to simply depict a number of glasses or cups on the table.

This is why Leonardo's painting has no single emphasised cup, no large 'chalice' and no 'Holy Grail'. Leonardo did not mysteriously leave this essential element out; it was simply not part of Catholic tradition, not an essential element to this part of the scene he is depicting and was not part of his Italian artistic traditions anyway.

"Surely art scholars must have noted that."

"You will be shocked to learn what anomalies Da Vinci included here that most scholars either do not see or simply choose to ignore. This fresco, in fact, is the entire key to the Holy Grail mystery. Da Vinci lays it all out in the open in The Last Supper"

Sophie scanned the work eagerly. "Does this fresco tell us what the
Grail really is?"

"Not what it is," Teabing whispered. "But rather who it is. The Holy Grail is not a thing. It is, in fact... a person"
(Chapter 55, p. 236)

The reason art scholars have not 'noticed' the lack of a 'Holy Grail' in the painting is simply that one is not to be expected in this kind of painting. The 'anomalies' that Teabing claims these poor scholars either do not see or 'choose to ignore' are actually ignored because they do not exist and are only propounded by amateur theorists like Lynn Pickett and Clive Prince - the conspiracy authors from which Brown draws almost all of his material in this passage.

It is strange that Brown, who claims to have 'studied art history at Seville' and that his wife is an art historian obsessed with Leonardo, needs to use a paperback conspiracy theory by two amateurs with zero expertise in the field of Renaissance art as his main source of 'information', while ignoring what actual experts have to say. Just as it is strange how he consistently refers to Leonardo as 'Da Vinci' and incorrectly calls his mural a 'fresco'. One would almost assume that he had little knowledge of the subject at all.

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History vs The Da Vinci Code is copyright Tim O'Neill 2006. All rights reserved.