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.
- LEONARDO DA VINCI
"Here's another," Teabing said, pointing
to a different quote.
Blinding ignorance does mislead us.
O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!
- LEONARDO DA VINCI
Sophie felt a little chill. "Da Vinci is
talking about the Bible?"
(Chapter 55, pp. 230-231)
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.
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.
"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'
"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)
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
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.
Christianity and the New Testament
"Who chose which gospels to include?"
"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
(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.
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.
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.
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
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.
and his Canon
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
The Conversion of Constantine
"I thought Constantine was a Christian,"
"Hardly," Teabing scoffed. "He
was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on
his deathbed, too weak to protest."
(Chapter 55, p. 232)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
(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
(Chapter 55, p.232)
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)
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.
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:
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.'
Prophecy for the World Today - 'Constantines (sic) Destruction
of Christanity (sic)')
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:
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.'
'The Two Babylons:
A Case Study in Poor Methodology')
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
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,
(Chapter 55, p. 232)
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.
the atheist web-site 'Secular Web' includes a
link to an online edition of Graves' book but prefaces it
with the following warning:
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.
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
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.
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
(Chapter 55, pp. 232-233)
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).
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
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)
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'.
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.
what Brown has Teabing state here is completely and categorically
wrong in every way.
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
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.
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
of Antioch (50 AD-117 AD)
... to the Church which is at Ephesus, ... united and elected through
the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our
(Letter to the Ephesians, Prologue)
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)
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)
Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time"
(Letter to the Magnesians, Chapter 6)
for your happiness for ever in our God, Jesus Christ, ..."
(Letter to Polycarp, Chapter 8)
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)
(123-4 or 129AD)
a non-Christian philosopher from Athens. In a letter to the Emperor
Hadrian he describes what various religions believe about God and
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)
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)
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)
of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word
of God, is also God."
(First Apology, Chapter 63)
I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and
Lord of hosts..."
(Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 36)
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)
you had understood what was written by the prophets, you would not
have denied that he (Jesus) was God, Son of the only, unbegotten,
(Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 126)
Sardis (170 AD)
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
God and likewise perfect man, he (Jesus) gave positive indications
of his two natures: of his deity ... and of his humanity ..."
Alexandria (150-215 AD)
alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things."
(Exhortation to the Greeks, 1:7:1)
is) the expiator, the Saviour, the soother ... quite evidently true
(Exhortation to the Greeks, 1:7:1)
is without sin. The only man who is without sin is Christ, for Christ
is also God."
(The Flesh of Christ, 41:3)
of both his substances display him as man and as God."
(The Flesh of Christ, 5:6-7)
(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.
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)
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
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
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
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
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.
"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)
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
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
"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
(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).
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)
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.
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
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.
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
"Superb. And what drink?"
"Wine. They drank wine."
"Great. And one final question. How many wineglasses are on
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:
Supper - Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)
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
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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