I have read arguments that the church really shaped the Bible for their
own purposes.
That is implied by the Da Vinci Code. Some of the people I’ve talked to
don’t believe in Jesus because they don’t think the Bible is legitimate,
but that Jesus was just a teacher and
that the church turned in him into a god. I have read that the church
didn’t decide what went in and what didn’t, because the authority of the
books came from God and not from the church. However, I completely
understand people’s skepticism since…technically, the church did decide
what went into the Bible and what didn’t. My question was this: I’ve read
short arguments on how the church didn’t decide, they simply recognized
what belonged and what didn’t. They’ve all been short, and didn’t address
opposing view really. So, I was wondering if the opposing view had any
evidence? What is the complete opposing view other than that…the church
must have tampered with the Bible because they decided what went into the
compilation of works?


It is apparent that you have formerly accepted the idea that the Bible is
from God without questioning the evidence in support of that. This is a
common thing amongst believers. Believing in Jesus and in the Bible by a
simple faith is fine for a new believer, but I have discovered that as we
mature, it is important to ask hard questions about the evidence
underlying our faith. It is not unspiritual to ask why we should believe
that the New Testament is truly from God. This is the spirit of the
Bereans, as found in Acts 17:10-12. An unreasoned faith is a faith in
danger of attack from those who do not accept the truth of the Bible.

Having finished my little sermon, let me get back to your question.
Apparently, you have heard that “the church didn’t decide what went in and
what didn’t, because the authority of the books came from God and not from
the church.” Those who say such things sound spiritual and are probably
very sincere, but this is simply not true. The fact is that the books of
the New Testament were chosen by consensus of the early church. Of
course, Bible believers accept that God had his hand both in the writing
of these books and in the selection of the books. However, it is clear
that God used human beings in this process. If God managed to get the
books he wanted into the New Testament, then he used imperfect human
beings to accomplish that work. The same can be said for the Old

By coincidence, I just finished writing an article on the claims of Dan
Brown in the Da Vinci Code. He is certainly not alone in claiming that
the church in the early fourth century changed the Bible to agree with the
doctrines which were emerging at that time. I am copying the article
below, including my response to this claim. I am also copying an article
at my web site I have written on the history of the biblical canon. Let
me give you the extremely short version right here. The canon (or rule)
of New Testament books was chosen by consensus of the church based on
apostolic authority. A number of early church fathers’ writings give us
insight into the process. The books which were chosen were the ones which
all or virtually all church leaders agreed were either written by the
original apostles or were clearly given an apostolic stamp of approval.
We know from early church writings that the presently accepted canon was
assembled mainly in the second century AD. From the writings of very
early church fathers such as Polycarp and Ignatius, we know that the
letters of Paul and the gospels were circulating as a group already in the
late first century. However, it was not until the second century that a
relatively fixed canon was established. Even in the second century, there
was some argument about a couple of books, specifically second and third
John, Hebrews, second Peter and Revelation. By about the end of the
second century, this discussion amongst the church “fathers” was more or
less settled. It is worth noting that there were a small number of other
books which were considered as worthy of reading in the churches, but not
apostolic. These included the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache.

Now, about the claims that the church leaders in the fourth century,
especially around the time of Constantine, changed the Bible or excluded
books which they did not like, these claims are completely false. There
is not a shred of evidence that books were changed, added or deleted from
the canon at the council of Nicea or by any other group at this time. The
churches at the time would have vehemently opposed any attempt to change
the canon which had already been fixed for over one hundred years. We
have tens of thousands of quotes from the New Testament by early church
fathers in the second and third century. If the New Testament had been
added to or changed in the fourth century, this fact would be made obvious
by comparison to the quotes of the early church fathers.

You ask “what is the complete opposing view?” of the canon. The fact is
that the opposing view does not have any evidence. All they can do is try
to cast doubt on the existing canon. These people mention a number of
other non-canonical books such as the Gospel of Thomas or the
recently-published Gospel of Judas. Such books were indeed written in the
second and third century and even later. Most of these are gnostic
writings. They are obviously from heretical groups who were trying to
create an alternative gospel. Next month’s newsletter from the web site
will be on this question. I encourage you to sign up for our newsletter.
There is absolutely no evidence at all that the Gospel of Thomas or any of
the gnostic apocryphal books were ever considered to be apostilic. Such
writers try to confuse the issue by mentioning additional books such as
the Didache or the Epistle of Barnabas. I encourage you to read these
books. They do not contain anything heretical or any major new
doctrines. However, when you read these books, you will see immediately
that they are of lesser quality than the New Testament books, and will see
why they were not accepted into the canon. Bottom line, there is no
evidence supporting the alternative canon hypothesis. The only “evidence”
is to try to create doubt in the currently accepted canon.

I am including links to an article about the Da Vinci Code and about the
New Testament Canon if you want to view these for more information.

John Oakes

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