Books like The Da Vinci Code by author Dan Brown have made it popular to believe that our current understanding of Jesus is wrong. In fact, some would even say that our current understanding of who Jesus is comes as a result of a single man, Constantine, in the fourth century. It is argued that Constantine put together a selection committee to determine what books circulating around at the time should be considered Scripture and be a part of our Bibles. In the process, it is argued, Jesus was transformed from the merely human king of the Jews into deity. Of course, all of this was to serve Constantine’s political aspirations.
Thankfully, Bible scholars have answered The Da Vinci Code’s version of history with a little reality. There are many books available today written at a popular level so readers can look into this matter for themselves.
Fred von Kamecke, while not writing specifically to answer the claims of Dan Brown’s novel, has written a book that does address this issue (and others). In his book, Busted: Exposing Popular Myths about Christianity, von Kamecke sets out to “bust” popular myths about Christianity in the style of the popular cable show Mythbusters. The book is a great entry-level work that gives a fair overview of the issues it addresses. It is written in an engaging, easy-to-read way with a good amount of humor mixed in. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to know what some of the popular myths about Christianity are and how to think clearly about them. If you are a blog reader, I am sure you have run across a few already!
When von Kamecke addresses this myth about Constantine re-writing the Christian Scriptures, he points out several things to keep in mind:
- All of the New Testament documents were written in the first century and widely circulated by the fourth. Even skeptical scholars affirm this as true.
- To pull off a re-write of Christianity, Constantine would have had to gather all of the other versions already circulating and replace them with his version.
- Unfortunately, Constantine would not have been able to accomplish this because hundreds of Greek manuscripts (as well as Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic versions) were being used by the Church throughout the Roman Empire.
- Many of these early manuscripts were already buried in the Egyptian sands where they would not be discovered until the 1800s.
- We have many manuscripts today dating from the second and third centuries that disprove any “changes” that Constantine’s group supposedly made. There are no New Testament manuscripts that tell us of a simply human Jesus in opposition to the divine Jesus of Constantine.
- All New Testament manuscripts present the same Jesus. He is always Christ, the Lord who is the divine Son of God and who died for our sins and rose again.
- The early church fathers, writing before Constantine, quoted the New Testament so extensively that even if all of the New Testament manuscripts would disappear, we could virtually reconstruct the New Testament from their writings.
- The writings that present a different Jesus than found in the New Testament are from a later time period and originate in foreign areas with no Jewish root.
- There never has been 100 percent agreement on which books to include in the canon. This shows that there never has been an authority powerful enough to make the Christian world accept its canon.
- The 66 books of the Protestant canon are accepted by all Christian groups as Scripture – there is no dispute on these. (This last point is my own, not the author’s.)
Want to hear more about Busted: Exposing Popular Myths about Christianity? There are several other blogs discussing this book today. You can find them at the links below. Also, on Thursday, July 16, Ann Jackson will be giving away copies of Busted on her blog at http://flowerdust.net .