Brown speaks through Mr. Teabing: The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.…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.” (p. 231)
Brown misses the boat on several counts in this assertion: Most of those who believe that Scripture is divinely inspired do not believe that it was revealed in so simplistic a fashion as a “fax from heaven.” While it’s true that the Bible was penned by people, Brown’s comments regarding “countless translations, additions and revisions” are hyperbole. There are thousands of biblical manuscripts or copies of manuscripts that date as far back as the second century—exponentially more than for most other historical documents. When dealing with translations, it is impossible to avoid some variance, especially when working with ancient languages. However, those familiar with different existing translations of the Bible know that the differences among them are minor. The same body of Scripture, or “canon,” has been used for almost two thousand years, so the idea that “history has never had a definitive version of the book” is incorrect. One would be hard-pressed to find a single book with so many contributors that is as coherent and consistent as the Bible.
Brown asserts that until the early church council meeting at Nicea in 325, “Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.” (p. 233)
The creed that was codified at the church council of Nicea does claim that Jesus was divine as well as human, but this was not a doctrinal shift. Long before, people believed that Jesus was divine, based on the earliest records of Jesus’ words, the gospel accounts of his life, especially the Gospel of Yochanan (John), which contain references to Jesus’ divinity. A case in point: in John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” At that point the religious leaders picked up rocks to stone him, for they believed that he was claiming divinity. Stoning him would have been the proper punishment for blasphemy. Paul’s letters were written in the first century and refer to Jesus’ divinity. “Primitive church documents and the story…confirm that Christians have always believed Jesus to be Lord, God and Savior—even when that faith meant death.”1 Documents such as the Didache that date back as early as the second century refer to Jesus’ followers speaking of him as Lord.
Brown states that a marriage between Jesus and Mary is a “matter of historical record.” (p. 244)
There is absolutely no evidence of this. The Bible records interactions between Jesus and Mary, but makes no reference to the notion that they were romantically involved. Scholars have been debunking this myth since at least the 17th century.
This idea that Jesus and Mary were married has grown out of interpretations of certain “Gnostic,” or “secret” gospels, which were written much later than the Gospel accounts that are in the New Testament. Some examples of the Gnostic gospels are the “Gospel of Thomas” and the “Gospel of Philip,” which were never considered historically reliable due to the late date they were written and their inconsistency with earlier Scripture. Furthermore, these Gnostic gospels contradict Brown’s own views. They actually portray a divine Jesus who rejects his own humanity and becomes an esoteric kind of spirit being, not the mortal prophet Brown puts forth.
Brown contends, “Any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible.” (p. 244)
Yet we read in the Gospels that Jesus eats, drinks, weeps, bleeds and dies. And several eyewitnesses attest to his resurrection from the dead. It’s not that followers of Jesus deny his humanity; they believe that he is fully God and fully man, the Messiah who is also Lord, in keeping with messianic prophecies such as Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” It is this belief that makes Jesus unique; it is this claim that sets him apart from other historical figures—he is not only a fascinating person of history; he is the Redeemer of humankind.