The last area to focus on is Brown’s claims that attack the orthodox understanding of Christianity’s origins, specifically surrounding Constantine and the Council at Nicaea. Brown’s character, Teabing, professes that Constantine “was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed” and was motivated by business and political reasons to adopt Christianity as the state religion, shifting the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday and also holding the Council of Nicaea. This council is to blame for creating the canon that we currently call the New Testament and establishing Jesus’ divinity over a close vote. Brown has relayed incorrect historical information to the reader again, which should not surprise anyone by this point.
Although Constantine was a flawed individual, historians agree that he was a genuine convert as his reasons for waiting until his deathbed had to do with an incorrect view that baptism wiped clean all the preceding sins. Brown is also incorrect regarding the establishment of the Christian state religion as this did not occur until Theodosius’ reign in 381AD; it was then that pagan worship was outlawed. Constantine was a tolerant emperor by allowing both paganism and Christianity the freedom to worship under his famous Edict of Milan (or Edict of Toleration) in 313 AD. The assertion that Constantine changed the worship day from Saturday to Sunday is without merit as well. We find many passages in the New Testament that refer to this new day of worship (Acts 20:7, I Corinthians 16:2, Revelation 1:10), as well as in writings of the earliest church fathers already quoted (Ignatius, Justin Martyr) and even the secular source, Pliny the Younger. This new day of worship was obviously motivated by Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week. Although we have addressed the issue of Jesus’ divinity pre-Nicene, it is worth pointing out that the vote on whether Jesus was fully divine was not a close vote as Brown contends; it was 300-2!
This brings us to the New Testament canon. By the time of Constantine, the canon was not determined by the church but just recognized what the church had already accepted as canon. At the Nicene Council, twenty of the twenty seven books were easily accepted. Bruce Metzger emphasizes this point, “Although the fringes of the emerging canon remained unsettled for generations, a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the New Testament was attained among the very diverse and scattered congregations of believers not only throughout the Mediterranean world, but also over an area extending from Britain to Mesopotamia.” Brown would have the reader believe that “more than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion.” Maier rebuts this claim by explaining that “Eusebius, the first church historian, tells us how they [four Gospels] were the core of the canon from the start, and how their authority was determined by usage in such early Christian centers as Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Rome. He also clearly identifies some of the later spurious writings, including the Gnostic gospels, that the church rejected as soon as they surfaced.”
So what principles were used by the early church to recognize the New Testament canon? Robert Bowman outlines five key criteria used to discern the canon:
- Apostolicity: authorship by an apostle or apostolic associate.
- Antiquity: authorship by a Christian leader from the church’s first generation.
- Authenticity: historical traditions as to the writings’ authorship and authority.
- Ubiquity: acceptance and use by churches throughout the known world.
- Catholicity: Consonance with known NT writings and the church’s “rule of faith” expressed eventually in creeds.
The primary criterion is the first one listed, as the writing must have been authored by an Apostle or an immediate follower of the Apostle. These criteria do not seem arbitrary as it seems reasonable that God’s actions in history (specifically the resurrection) would be preserved by the immediate followers of Jesus. As one moves away from the events of history and of eyewitness accounts, the information becomes less reliable. It is easy to realize why the Gnostic writings (already addressed) were rejected from canonicity by violating all five criteria listed.
There are many other mistakes or misinformation relayed by Brown (e.g. history surrounding the Knights Templar, supposed messages in Leonardo’s works and other claims he makes against the Church to support the divine feminine), but I have chosen to focus on the claims that attack the core of Christianity. I began by examining Brown’s sources (specifically Holy Blood, Holy Grail), which were based upon fabrication and a hoax propagated by Plantard. The claim that Jesus was married was examined and found wanting in light of the early historical evidence we have. The Gnostic sources for Brown’s assertions were scrutinized and established as unreliable documents from the second and third centuries. By examining the New Testament, Apostolic Fathers, apologists and theologians of the second century and even a secular writer, it is apparent that Jesus was thought of as divine well before Constantine. Lastly, historical claims about Constantine and his influence on the canon and Nicene council were disproved.
It is almost beyond comprehension that a tale so error-laden can be so quickly embraced by the public and touted as a factual book across the media, but there is a positive side to this attack on Christianity. Heresy has always been a force within the church to renew its focus on its core doctrines, in order to contradict error. Every Christian creed has been the direct result of heresy. All attacks in the long run have failed against Christianity. When a worldview, such as Christianity, makes claim to truth – truth that corresponds to reality – expect and welcome attacks in order that you may be able to defend God’s supernatural interaction with mankind through Jesus and his actions. There will be attacks in this pluralistic culture against the existence of God or the resurrection and divinity of Jesus because these claims are offensive in an age of “tolerance”. As Peter instructs us, we are to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
 Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 232.
 Hank Hanegraaff and Paul L. Maier, The Da Vinci Code: Fact of Fiction? 14.
 Timothy D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981) 217.
 Bruce Manning Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987) 254.
 Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 231.
 Hank Hanegraaff and Paul L. Maier, The Da Vinci Code: Fact of Fiction? 31.
 Robert M. Bowman, Jr. Scripture: Outline Studies in Authority, Canon and Criticism, 32.
 I Peter 3:15.