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 texts Crypto – Dan Brown their associated subjects.
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. And false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitude. Here’s another,” Teabing said, pointing to a different quote. Da Vinci is talking about the Bible? 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.
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The first quote is Section 128 of Leonardo’s Notebooks. 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 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.
The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions. Teabing cleared his throat and declared, “The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven. The Bible is a product of man, my dear. 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. 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. 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. It is not true to say that the Bible ‘evolved through countless translations’. Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen.
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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. 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. 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.
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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. 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. Who chose which gospels to include? The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great. 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. 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.
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And they may also have used a variety of other writings, many of which did not find their way into the Bible. 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. 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. 60 years or so after Peter died. 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.
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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. 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. Marcion was struck by the strong distinction made by Paul between the Law of the Jews and the gospel of Christ.
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.
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. 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.
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. It was only these earliest works which were considered authoritative. 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.
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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. 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. 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. I thought Constantine was a Christian,” Sophie said. 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.
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. There are several blatant historical mistakes in this passage.
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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. 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. That said, Christians were by no means the majority in the Empire when Constantine came to the throne. 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’.
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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. 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. 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.