I was challenged to read The DaVinci Code several years ago. I read it in about 48 hours—it was a great story. But when I put it down, I said to myself “If what this book says is right, my faith is crap. It’s a faith that is divorced from real history and truth. And that is not a faith that I am interested in following.” I had no idea how the canon was formed. I didn’t know how why the Gospel of John was accepted as scripture and why the “Gospel” of Thomas was rejected. I didn’t know what road the Bible I held in my hand had traveled. I was desperate for answers.
Evidently I wasn’t the only one with newfound misgivings. Shortly after the The DaVinci Code was printed, several rebuttals were published. I read three of them. They identified hundreds of misstatements made by Dan Brown and deconstructed them using the highest levels of textural criticism. What I found were answers that not only satisfied doubts planted by The DaVinci Code, but gave me incredible confidence that the Bible I held in my hand was indeed what the first century believers circulated and venerated as God-inspired accounts of the life of Christ.
Before you can address any question about what Jesus said about anything, the first issues you have to tackle is whether or not the Gospels are reliable. It’s a question that my husband has answered as he encourages others to learn for themselves why Scripture is to be believed. Here is his overview of what the best scholarship affirms about the New Testament:
The Gospels and Epistles were mostly written by the mid-60s AD and were all written by 95 AD by people who walked with Jesus or by people writing as an amanuensis (secretary) for an Apostle or Disciple of Jesus. What they wrote was copied and widely distributed throughout the churches that existed in the first few centuries. The fact that there are 20,000 manuscripts from Ancient Greek, Coptic, and Latin of the New Testament that are 99.9% in agreement speaks volumes about the historicity of the text. The differences that do exist are things like “In Jesus Christ’s name” vs. “In the name of Jesus Christ.” There are no major scribal errors and most major differences are that early manuscripts do not contain John 8:1-11 and Mark 16:9-20, but all good translations in English have a note attached explaining this difference. The best English translations (NIV, ESV, NASB) are direct translations from the Greek giving weight to the earliest copies. It is the most well-preserved, copied and supported by archeology and outside evidence text of any ancient manuscript.
As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, to deny the historicity of Scripture, you would have to deny everything in history that you have not seen with your own eyes.
Whether or not the Gospels and the other New Testament writings are reliable is such a crucial question. After rediscovering her Catholic faith, Anne Rice, famed author of Interview with a Vampire and 30+ other books, also tackled this subject. At the end of her novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, she details her quest for the historical Jesus in the Author’s Note. (Read the book. Read the Author’s Note. All of it is glorious.) Anne Rice is renowned for the historical background that she painstakingly researches for each of her novels. Regarding her examination of the Gospels she writes “Having started with the skeptical critics… I expected to discover that their arguments would be frighteningly strong, and that Christianity was, at heart, a kind of fraud. I’d end up compartmentalizing my mind with faith in one part of it and truth in another.” She describes being consumed with her research because she “had to know who Jesus was.” “In sum, the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and would be horrified by it if he knew about it—that whole picture which had floated in the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for thirty years—that case was not made. Not only was it not made, I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I’d ever read.” She then talks about how she discovered “a scholarship quite different from that of the skeptics” and said that it was a turning point. “I was able to enter the Fourth Gospel, and see Jesus alive and moving. And what eventually emerged for me from the Gospels was their unique coherence, their personalities—the inevitable stamp of individual authorship.” From this research her two novels about Christ, told in the first-person, emerged. They are a portrait of a very human, and totally sinless, Jesus.
Regarding the Bible being reliable, by no means should you take my word for it. Read for yourself. Below I have included several titles that provide real substance to those who want more of an explanation than “just have faith.” There are real answers about Scripture that stand up to historical scrutiny and are buttressed by archeological proofs, textural criticism and reason.
Breaking The DaVinci Code– Darrell Bock
The DaVinci Deception– Erwin Lutzer
The Case for Christ– Lee Strobel
The Reason for God– Timothy Keller
Who Moved the Stone?- Frank Morison
Scaling the Secular City– J P Moreland