The Da Vinci Code Discussion ForumRelated Media
I. Introduction (Slide 1)
Slide 2 – The Da Vinci Code has been number one on the best-selling fiction list for nearly a year now. It is a great book. It is a fascinating read. It is fast paced. I am not going to give away the end of the book. I will tell you that out of the four hundred fifty pages or so, about four hundred twenty of them take place between eleven o’clock at night and seven o’clock the next morning. It has a packed amount of information in just a brief amount of time.
Let me begin with a big picture, and then I will come back and reiterate several points as we continue. I will begin with some of the premises of the book.
Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene herself was the Holy Grail. There is not a separate vessel that people have been seeking for two thousand years. She herself was the Holy Grail, the vessel that contained the blood of Jesus – meaning their daughter together (Sarah). Mother and child fled to France after the death of Jesus, and they were assisted there by Joseph of Arimathea. He is a figure that shows up right at the crucifixion. Jesus and Mary’s descendants became royalty, forming the Merovingian line of kings in France. Their secret was handed on through a secret society called the Priory of Zion. Some of the Grand Masters, the leaders, of this secret society include Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo Da Vinci, the famous artist. Brown’s thread throughout the book is that male and female are exactly represented in deity, but they have been changed by a male-dominated Church. True worship, he argues, should include god and goddess worship equally, and that is the conspiracy of the Church over the last two thousand years.
If you have not heard, there is a rumor that Columbia Pictures has purchased the rights to put this on the big screen sometime in 2005. Ron Howard has allegedly agreed to take on the film, bringing with him the team that did A Beautiful Mind. He is planning to produce the movie and release it in 2005. This is late May of 2004. The book came out nearly a year ago, and perhaps next summer we will have a big blockbuster release of The Da Vinci Code on the big screen.
B. Potential for Evangelism
I want to emphasize an important point about discussing The Da Vinci Code with a nonbeliever that is the hardest thing to do in evangelism. How do I get from, “How was your day today?” to talking about Jesus Christ? Suddenly, Jesus has hit the mainstream of America, with The Da Vinci Code, with the Left Behind series, and with The Passion of the Christ movie. Everyone is talking about these things. It gives us an instant conversation piece with nonbelievers, and that is maybe the most exciting thing for us. Listen tonight, and begin thinking through these things in conversations that you have had or that you plan to have. Begin to talk to people at work. Talk to people where you work out. Talk to people in restaurants. When you see people carrying around this book – and you will see people carrying around this book – engage them in conversation. Some people say that they have not really talked about this or heard anyone talking about it, and that they have not seen the book very much. You have. You just have not noticed that you have seen it. When I started really looking into this just a couple of months ago, I started seeing it everywhere. I realized that it has really been around me for the last six or eight months. I am just now starting to notice it.
When you talk to people, talk with a smile on your face. We have the truth. There is no reason to be threatened. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. It is really easy, when talking with someone, to get emotionally engaged in this and get really angry and “in their face.” That sort of conversation with that sort of an emotional attitude is usually going to steer someone away. It will drive you apart. Smile and listen carefully to what they are saying, even when they really believe the ideas presented in the book. Try to respond with your words, not your emotions.
C. Main Characters
The next slide concerns our main characters. I want to introduce you to a few people.
Slide 3 – Robert Langdon, the main character, is a professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University. There is actually no post at Harvard called Professor of Religious Symbology, so this is a fictitious character all around.
Jacques Sauniere was the murdered museum curator at the Louvre. He was also Grand Master of the Priory of Zion, sworn protectors of the Holy Grail. We are going to hear more about all these things.
Sophie Neveu is an agent of the Department of Cryptology. She studied hidden codes and symbols and tried to come up with the answer to the riddle. That was her job. It is a branch of the French state police. She is also the granddaughter of the murdered curator.
Sir Leigh Teabing was a wealthy Grail researcher and British Royal Historian, affiliated with Oxford University.
Those are your four people that you need to know as we talk about this. We will talk about Robert Langdon, Jacques Sauniere, Sophie Neveu, and Sir Leigh Teabing.
The book has a lot of codes and anagrams – words that are mixed-up and scattered, but when you change the words or the letters around, you get the secret. It is like a Rubik’s Cube. You get the right combination and voila! – there is your answer. One person has said this (I simply find this interesting and offer it up as a possibility): one of his main characters, the person who reveals most of the secrets of the Grail and of the conspiracy of the Church is a man by the name of Leigh Teabing. He is the British Royal Historian and he is a knight. He is very much against the Church and proposes this Grail theory. He is the one who has dedicated his life to these things. In one place in the book, he references a real book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. It is the source for a lot of the information he gives in the book. It is obvious that he based a lot of the things in his books on this book written in the 1980’s. Incidentally, think about the names of some of the authors of this book, and there are three authors. Remember the name, Leigh Teabing? Take some the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. One of the person’s names is Richard Leigh, and another person’s name is Michael Baigent. If you scatter those letters, you actually get “Teabing.” Some people say that Brown deliberately made the main character in his book, Leigh Teabing, as an anagram for the authors of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, on which he based his novel. Just a point of interest.
D. Misrepresentation of “Facts”
Slide 4, Page 1 – There is really only one page in the entire book that gives me problems. It is the very first page. Frankly, this has come back to bite Brown many times. It is page number one if you look at the book, and the page is entitled, “FACT.” The last sentence says, “All descriptions of art work, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Documents? Really? So all his descriptions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, the New Testament, the Bible – all those descriptions of documents, I gather, he is claiming to be accurate. Dan Brown said in the ABC interview that he began as a skeptic, but he became a believer. He, in fact, says he personally believes that the early Church deliberately covered up Mary Magdalene’s importance as Jesus’ wife and the mother of his child. Yes, it is a novel. It is fiction, but he believes it, and a lot of other people believe it. I am going to be debunking (disagreeing with) a lot of things as we go through here. I am not necessarily going to be separating the things he intended to be fiction from the things he intended to be fact in a fiction novel. It will be too hard to divorce those. In fact, that is exactly the difficulty that we have. It is too hard reading through this book to determine the difference. He says one sentence is true, but then the next sentence is not. What about this other sentence that alludes to a document? Is that one true? The novel mixes fact with fiction. The fact is, people are reading this and believing this fictitious novel to be true, and that is the impetus to our response.
II. Misinformation (Slide 5)
Let me start with some misinformation. Let me show you some places where Brown is historically or scientifically inaccurate. If you have read the book, you will pick up on some of these.
A. The Olympic Games
First of all, the motions of the planet Venus do not determine the official length of the Olympic Games, but he says that they do. Whether he intended them as fiction or not, he says that they do. The Olympic Games were not originally formed to honor Aphrodite. They were originally formed to honor Zeus.
B. The Louvre
The glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre does not have six hundred sixty-six glass panes in it. He runs with that number of Satan (666). It, in fact, has six hundred seventy-three panes. Six hundred three of them are diamond shaped and only seventy of them are triangular.
C. Friday the Thirteenth
Friday the Thirteenth is not traced to some massacre of the Knights Templar, the alleged keepers of the tales of the Grail. The book claims that Friday the Thirteenth originated on October 13, 1307, when Pope Clement V devised an ingeniously planned sting operation to squash the Templars and seize their treasures, thus taking control of the secrets held over the Vatican. That is not the origin of Friday the Thirteenth. Many trace it all the way back to Good Friday, saying that the Friday on which Jesus was crucified was a thirteenth. Others say that no superstition was affiliated with that date until the eighteenth century.
D. Tarot Cards
Tarot cards were not a secret means of passing along ideologies banned by the Church. He says that they were. In fact, they were originally a game invented in the fifteenth century, and were not associated with the occult until the eighteenth century.
E. Jesus’ Lineage
Jesus, he says, was of a rare blood line giving way to a line of kings because he descended from David and Solomon. Thousands of people in the first century could claim the same thing. There was nothing so-called “unique” about that.
F. Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea was not Jesus’ uncle. Brown claims that he was.
G. Witch Hunts
Slide 6, Page 125 – I have a quotation here about the witch hunts. “During three hundred years of witch hunts,” Dan writes, “the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women.” In fact, the European witch craze claimed between thirty and fifty thousand victims. Not all were victims of the Church. Not all were burned. Not all were women. You have all heard of the Salem witch hunt, the Salem witch trials, in 1692. Twenty-four people died. Nineteen were hanged. Seven were men.
H. Original Sin
Slide 7, Page 238 – Here is another quotation: “It was man, not God, who created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race.” That shows a misunderstanding of the term “original sin.” People in the church get this confused all of the time. What is the Fall, and what is original sin? There are two doctrines that are related, but they are not the same. The Fall (capital “F”) describes the introduction of sin into humankind as a result of Adam and Eve. Original sin is what each of us is born with. It is what we originate with. We are conceived in sin, so that every human being that is born is born positionally a sinner (theologically).
Page 425 – “The orb from which Eve partook,” Langdon said coolly, “incurring the Holy wrath of God. Original sin.” Again, he is using the term incorrectly. Once again, Dan Brown demonstrates that he is not a theologian. He is misusing these terms.
The book has a lot of codes and anagrams – words that are mixed-up and scattered, but when you change the words or the letters around, you get the secret. It is like a Rubik’s Cube. You get the right combination and voila! – there is your answer. One person has said this (I simply find this interesting and offer it up as a possibility): one of his main characters, the person who reveals most of the secrets of the Grail and of the conspiracy of the Church is a man by the name of Leigh Teabing. He is the British Royal Historian. He is a knight, and he is very much against the Church and proposes this Grail theory. He is the one who has dedicated his life to these things. In one place in the book, he references a real book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. It is the source for a lot of the information Brown gives in the book. It is obvious that he based a lot of the things in his book on this book written in the 1980’s. Incidentally, think about the names of some of the authors of this book, and there are three authors. Remember the name, Leigh Teabing? Take some of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. One of the person’s names is Richard Leigh, and another person’s name is Michael Baigent. If you scatter the letters in “Baigent,” you actually get “Teabing.” Some people say that Brown deliberately made the main character in his book, Leigh Teabing, as an anagram for the authors of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, on which he based his novel. That is just a point of interest.
III. Brown’s “Facts” versus Historical Facts
We are going to look at five things this evening. We are going to look at what Dan Brown says and what history says about Constantine, the gospels, secret societies, Da Vinci and Mary Magdalene.
A. Constantine (Slide 8)
Let us begin with Constantine. The early Church, led by the Roman Constantine sought to empower male domination by giving men the edge in all of the Christian literature. Again, remember Brown’s presupposition is that right worship involves god and goddess worship equally. He is going to accuse Constantine in particular, the Vatican, and the Church (capital “C”) of a huge centuries-long conspiracy to suppress goddess worship by marginalizing women at every level, and to enhance the worship of God so that the men could have rightful power in a male-dominated Church. Constantine did what he could to eradicate the memory of Mary Magdalene, knowing the truth about her would jeopardize this male-dominated Church. He heightened Jesus’ status to deity, because Jesus, you see, is a man. Worship of God is what he is after – anything but worship of a goddess. They erased the memory of Mary Magdalene.
Here are some quotations.
Slide 9, Page 124 – The Priory’s beliefs conveyed by Langdon, the main character: “Powerful men in the early Christian Church ‘conned’ the world by propagating lies that devalued the female and tipped the scales in favor of the masculine …. Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the world from a matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever.”
Slide 10, Page 37 – “In the battle between the pagan symbols and Christian symbols, the pagans lost.”
Page 37 – “As part of the Vatican’s campaign to eradicate pagan religions and convert the masses to Christianity, the Church launched a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses, recasting their divine symbols as evil.” In pagan symbolism, there is parity between the gods and the goddesses, so Christians had to eradicate all the pagan symbols so that the gods – the male gods, worship of the man, the male-dominated Church – could win.
Slide 11, Pages 232 and 233 – Leigh Teabing (the character who has dedicated his life to Grail studies) says: “Nothing in Christianity is original …. Originally, Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagans’ veneration day of the sun …. To this day, most churchgoers attend services on Sunday morning with no idea that they are there on account of the pagan sun god’s weekly tribute – Sunday.” We are going to look at a few verses in a few minutes.
Slide 12 – Here is Teabing again, regarding Nicea. Nicea was the first worldwide Church council. It met in A.D. 325. There was another church council that is talked about in Acts 15 during the first century, just years after Jesus died, in the year A.D. 49 or A.D. 50. This is the first worldwide Church council after the persecution that Christians were under for nearly three hundred years. Here is what Teabing says about Nicea: “At this gathering, many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon – the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus …. Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet … a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal ….”
Slide 13, Page 233 – “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea …. By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world …. The early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity and using it to expand their own power.”
Let me pause here a moment just to say one thing. Every place Brown talks about the Church in this book, it is capitalized – capital “C,” meaning the Roman Church. When this terminology is used in papers that I read or papers that I write, a capital “C” means the official Roman Catholic Church. I am not a Roman Catholic, and it is odd that I would be standing here defending the Roman Catholic Church against false accusations. I am not the biggest fan in the world of the Roman Catholic Church. If I were, I would be a Roman Catholic; however, I am standing here defending the Roman Catholic Church, to which I do not belong, against allegations. Why am I doing that? It is not a love for the Roman Catholic Church. It is a love for truth. The things that are pointed out and the accusations that are leveled in this book are simply false.
Slide 14, Page 231 – From Teabing: “Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. 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. The fundamental irony of Christianity: the Bible as we know it today was collated by the pagan Roman emperor, Constantine the Great.”
I’ll get back to that number, eighty, later on. Brown says, “more than eighty gospels were considered.” No one knows where he got that number. No one has been able to determine where he got that number, because everyone knows that it is an embellished number. Were there other gospels besides those that were included in the New Testament canon? Yes. How many? Seven to twelve. Somehow Brown has come up with the number of “more than eighty gospels.” He says, “FACT: … All descriptions of … documents … are [true];” so, is that a fact? He did not research that. He did not read that in a book. It is not in print because it is absurd, and everyone knows that it is. It has never been printed until here.
Slide 15, Page 244 – Teabing says this: “… Any gospels that described the earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible,” again, in this grand conspiracy of Constantine’s.
Page 234 – “Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.”
Slide 16, page 232 – Teabing responds to Sophie, who thought Constantine was a Christian. He says this: “Hardly. He was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest.”
“In 325 [Constantine] decided to unify Rome under a single religion. Christianity.”
Slide 17 – Sophie says this: “Why would a pagan choose Christianity as the official religion?” There is already a false notion in her question. Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion (the official religion) of his day.
Page 232 – Teabing answers her, nevertheless, this way: “Constantine was a very good businessman. He could see Christianity was on the rise, and he simply backed the winning horse.”
Let me give you a few things about Constantine that are true. Constantine was a key figure, and his rule was a turning point in Christian history. In A.D. 312, Constantine had a vision and a conversion to Christianity. I have put “conversion” in quotation marks in my document because it is disputed to this day. Essentially, he was fighting a battle to become the sole Roman emperor of his time. He was the huge underdog in that battle. He prayed to Jesus Christ and he received a vision. Perhaps you have seen the “Chi Rho,” the “X” with what looks like a “P” in the middle (they are Greek letters). The Chi and the Rho are the first two letters of “Christ” in the Greek language. Constantine looked up into the sky and saw “Chi Rho.” He put it on the fronts of the shields of his warriors and won the battle, then becoming the sole Roman emperor. Was it genuinely a conversion? It is debated still.
The next year, in A.D. 313, Constantine issued what is called the Edict of Milan – an edict he wrote in Milan the year after he had this vision. This edict merely gave toleration for Christians. It did not make Christianity a state religion. It did not make Christianity the only religion. Until that edict was signed, Christianity was a persecuted church. This was an attempt to put an end to persecution of the church. Constantine died in A.D. 337. In A.D. 380, forty-three years after the death of Constantine, a man by the name of Theodosius the First banned paganism and declared Christianity as the state religion for the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, Theodosius’ name never made it into Dan Brown’s book. It is all placed on the shoulders of Constantine.
The Nicene Creed was drafted in A.D. 325 as a result of the Council of Nicea. It was an affirmation drafted to formalize what was already believed. Was there a vote taken on Jesus’ divinity? Yes, there was. There were a little over three hundred people at this council – Church leaders from around the world. It is known as the first worldwide ecumenical council. They voted on the Nicene Creed, which they had drafted against a man by the name of Arius, who denied the deity of Christ. There were two dissenters, and over three hundred people voted in the affirmative. Was it a vote with a narrow margin? No. There was a vote to affirm the Nicene Creed. There were over three hundred people in the affirmative, and two dissenters. The Church gathered only when there was no persecution, and there had been persecution for nearly three hundred years. They gathered together, usually to draft a document against a popular, known heretic. In this case, there was a presbyter (an elder of the Church) named Arius, who was proposing things that most churches disagreed with. They came together to draft the Nicene Creed against the Arian movement of that day. Again, it is affirming the deity of Jesus. They did not vote to say whether Jesus was deity or not.
What about the notion that Christians worshipped on Sunday? Acts 20:7 says that they gathered on the first day of the week. First Corinthians 16:2 says, “They gathered on the first day of the week.” Revelation 1:10 calls it “the Lord’s Day.”
The Didache, an early second-century manuscript, states that Christians worshipped on Sunday, and calls it “the Lord’s Day.” Justin Martyr (many of you have heard his name) said in A.D. 150, “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read.” Way before the time of Constantine, really in New Testament times, it is established that Christians were meeting on Sunday – not because of a pagan god, but because that is the resurrection day. In honor of the Lord’s resurrection, the Lord’s Day, they commemorated and set aside that day instead of Saturday. They would often do things to distinguish themselves from the Jewish people, anyway. Jews, it is said, fasted on Mondays and Thursdays, so Christians fasted on Tuesdays and Fridays. I may have the days mixed up there, but twice a week Jewish people fasted. Christians said, “We want to fast twice a week, too, but we want do not want to be associated falsely with Jewish people, so we will fast on different days.”
According to Brown, “The gospels were altered by Constantine [and this is interesting] to make Jesus divine.” It is really a great argument in our favor! Brown is saying that Constantine altered all the gospels that we have (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), to make Jesus appear to be deity. That is actually a great affirmation for us, because we have all of the gospels. We have manuscripts of them – actual manuscripts in actual libraries of all of the gospels in the same form they exist right now in your Bible (only in Greek) before Constantine by over a hundred years. What Brown is arguing here is that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John affirm the deity of Christ. Facts show us, by those documents that exist, that Constantine was not responsible for some sort of an emendation.
B. The Gospels (Slide 18)
Let’s move on to the gospels. I will return to a couple of facts about Constantine later on, but I want to move on to the gospels to see what Brown has to say about them. Again, we have a few quotations from Teabing.
Slide 19, page 231 – “The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven …. The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God …. It has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.”
Slide 20, page 234 – “Nobody is saying Christ was a fraud, or denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives, all we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Christ’s substantial influence and importance. And in doing so, he shaped the face of Christianity as we know it today …. Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death.”
Slide 21, page 235 – “Almost everything our [Church] fathers taught us about Christ is false.”
Page 341 – Langdon considers the implications of “presenting to the world [this is in quotations] thousands of ancient documents as scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony.” Scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony?
Slide 22, page 234 – Another quotation: “Fortunately for historians, some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive.” “Some of the gospels” – remember that.
“The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950’s, hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi.”
A couple of things are wrong with this. One of the things he says is that some of the early Christian gospels abided, they remained, they were hidden away. And he mentions two places – the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. Have you heard of the Nag Hammadi Library? Have you have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Now, imagine that you are a writer and you really want to “wow” people by talking about some hidden gospels that were later discovered. The Nag Hammadi Library exposed all of these great secrets. If you were the reader, would that “wow” you? No, probably not, if you have not heard of the Nag Hammadi Library. What if you have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Dead Sea Scrolls expose all of these hidden secrets. The fact is that the Dead Sea Scrolls have nothing to do with Christianity. They contain no gospels. They never mention Jesus. They have no artifacts, allusions, quotations, or references to anything written anywhere in the New Testament. It is completely separate from the Nag Hammadi Library, which should have been the only thing he included in that quotation.
We are going to consider two sources: the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. The Gospel of Philip came from this Nag Hammadi Library that we just discussed. The Gospel of Mary came from neither. He does not tell us the source of the Gospel of Mary, but we are led to believe that it came from the Nag Hammadi Library. It was not found there. The Gospel of Mary was found in the Berlin Codex discovered in 1896. It is a manuscript dated to the fifth century; but the date of the writing, they say, is to the mid-second century. The Nag Hammadi Library of manuscripts were manufactured in the middle of the fourth century. What we have (those manuscripts themselves) dates to the middle of the fourth century, after the death of Constantine. Constantine died in A.D. 337. The texts of the fifty-two writings found there are dated to the second and third century. While we have the manuscripts dated to the mid-fourth century, the texts that they represent date back to the second and third centuries. Philip was found among them, dated to the late third century. The Gospel of Mary was not found there, but what they have in common is that they are Gnostic gospels from a cult Christian sect called the Gnostics.
Incidentally, one of the persons I was listening to recently about this, who indicated that he was a Christian responding to The Da Vinci Code, said that there were forty-five gospels found at Nag Hammadi. That is not true. He indicated that, in total, there were fifty, fifty-two, or fifty-five gospels known at that time, and that is not true. Again, there were seven to twelve outside of the New Testament that were known, so the grand total number of gospels that we know about from anywhere in this time frame, is eleven to sixteen at the most.
Slide 23 – We will look at some of the dates of the Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Mary. I thought I would give an illustration. If Jesus were born in the year 1900, then what would be the chronology of what we have in the New Testament, versus these secret, unaltered texts that Brown is referencing here? If Jesus were born in the year 1900, then Jesus, as a boy, would have visited Jerusalem when he was about twelve years old – at about the time the Titanic sank. His death and resurrection would have been in the year 1930. The first New Testament books would have been written about 1945, around the close of World War II. The first New Testament gospel (probably the Gospel of Mark) would have been written around 1960 – thirty years after Jesus’ public ministry, death, and resurrection. The last New Testament gospel would have been written fourteen years ago, in 1990, by the apostle John, the youngest of the apostles. The Gospel of Thomas – that is one we often hear about, and Brown does not discuss this in his book since there is nothing for him to discuss – was one of the earliest non-biblical gospels. That gospel would have been written in about 2030, still twenty-six years from this year. The earliest non-canonical gospel outside of the New Testament, if Jesus were born in 1900, still would not be written today. It would not be written yet for another twenty-six years. Was Thomas, who allegedly wrote it, really one of the apostles, and he just happened to live to be one hundred fifty years old? Or – was it written by someone else? The Gospel of Mary will be written in about the year 2050. So again, is this really Mary Magdalene? These are not debated dates. Believers, liberals, and nonbelievers all agree to these dates. One hundred fifty years after Jesus was born is the earliest that the Gospel of Mary would have been written. Clearly, it would not have been written by Mary, even though the person who wrote it claimed it to be so. The Gospel of Philip would be written in 2170. That is not a “typo.” That would be one hundred sixty-six years from now. That is about when the Gospel of Philip would have been written. Do you think that was written by the Philip who evangelized to the Ethiopian on the road in the books of Acts? I don’t think so.
It brings up the term “pseudepigraphical,” false writing. The author is writing under a fictitious name. Why would someone do that? Why would someone not named Thomas write as though he were the Doubting Thomas of the gospel? It puts you instantly on the best-seller list if people believe it. Why would someone write under the name of Mary Magdalene if they really were not Mary Magdalene, or under Philip’s name, or under Peter’s name? To do so gives them an audience.
C. Secret Societies (Slide 24)
Slide 25 – Let’s move on to secret societies. Brown names at least a few secret societies. The first one is the Knights Templar. They were an order in the twelfth century for the purpose of protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land, but they existed only for about two hundred years. The Knights Templar are of small importance in the book.
The second one, the Opus Dei, literally, the “Work of God,” has about 80,000 members worldwide today. It is a true group today. You can open up Brown’s book to page 1, where it says “FACTS,” and he gives you a bit of a description of Opus Dei, a very conservative Catholic group.
There is also a real group by the name of Priory of Zion, which registered officially with the French government in 1956. In the late 1960’s, documents were discovered deep in the National Library of France describing a secret society, and included a list of alleged Grand Masters of this society. People have aligned the historic Priory of Zion with this list that just was discovered in the 1960’s deep in the National Library of France. Brown is saying that this secret society – that this hidden document that they found in the 1960’s listing out all the Grand Masters – this is the old Priory of Zion. Those are the protectors of the secret of the Holy Grail. They are the ones who are in the know about Jesus, Mary, their child, the true nature of the Holy Grail, and the true location of Mary’s body. All the archives that describe the history that has been handed down to them. They are the sworn protectors of that secret, because of the Roman Catholic Church that is out to destroy that secret.
D. Leonardo Da Vinci (Slide 26)
Leonardo Da Vinci was one of those aforementioned Grand Masters. He was discovered on that list, in that secret document that was discovered in 1960. Many people say that when Leonardo Da Vinci lived, he was for a period of time the Grand Master, or leader, of this secret society known as the Priory of Zion. He was a sworn protector of the secret of the Holy Grail, who was Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ wife, who mothered his child. He was the alleged Grand Master. He was an artist, and he left us with some clues, allegedly, of this secret. The first one is in the Mona Lisa painting. I have a picture here of the painting. The Mona Lisa is allegedly an androgynous self portrait of Da Vinci. That is what the book alleges. This is a self portrait of Da Vinci. She is smiling because she knows the secret of the Priory of Zion. She appears to be androgynous, again, because of the equality of god and goddess.
Slide 27, page 120 – “His Mona Lisa is neither male nor female. It carries a subtle message of androgyny.”
Brown also claims that the etymology of the notion “Mona Lisa” comes from the combination of two god’s names. Amon is an Egyptian god of masculine fertility. Isis is the Egyptian goddess of fertility. Through some anagram (changing of letters), one can derive “Mona Lisa” from “Amon” and “Isis” – again, the perfect balance between god and goddess. That is the secret of the Mona Lisa.
However, Matt Morton, of our own here at Trinity, wrote a paper on this in his theology course in seminary. He found that Isis, this female goddess, had a number of consorts, depending on the tradition, but he suspects that Amon was chosen in this case primarily because it fit the presuppositions. Most traditions, he claims, named Osiris, the god of the underworld as her consort, but it does not sound good to say “Isis and Osiris,” because it does not equal “Mona Lisa.” The term “Mona Lisa” probably derives from the real poser for the portrait – Madonna or Mona Lisa, the wife of Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo. That is one of the traditions of how Da Vinci got the name “Mona Lisa.” There was a real woman, a person’s wife, whose name was Madonna Lisa, or that could be shortened to “Mona Lisa.”
Slide 28 – The next question regards the Lord’s Supper painting, the next art form. This is the one you have all seen. This was painted in Milan. There are a couple of things about this painting that I am going to bring out that Brown highlights in the book. He claims that Da Vinci is primarily passing along his secret through this painting. Do you see Jesus there in the middle? To his right, our left, there is a feminine figure looking away from him. One of the things that he points out is that there is an ancient symbol, “V,” that has long stood for the feminine. He is, again, a symbologist. He is looking for symbols. The symbol “V” represents the feminine.
Slide 29 – The next slide I have inserted here shows where people see this “V” in the painting. This is an indication that there is a female present, because this is a long-standing symbol of the feminine.
Slide 30 – In the next slide, there beneath the arrow – on the opposite side of the “V” from Jesus – is not John, the youngest of the apostles. The tradition among Jews was that the youngest person would sit next to the person of honor, and would be the person on the right. We know in the descriptions of the Lord’s Supper in the gospels that John, the beloved apostle, was sitting to Jesus’ right. In all the paintings in history, John is always depicted as the youngest. This is not John. John is not in this painting. This is Mary Magdalene. This is the Holy Grail. In fact, if you count the cups in this painting, you will find there are thirteen cups. There is not one primary, central Holy Grail. The idea is that she was the Holy Grail, once again, containing the blood of Jesus, which means his daughter, Sarah.
E. Mary Magdalene (Slide 31)
Let’s talk about Mary Magdalene. I want to answer three questions about Mary Magdalene. This is the conclusion, and we will look at several quotations.
Slide 32 – First of all, was she a prostitute? Probably, she was not. It is a great question, and this is something that I am applauding the book for bringing out. This is a misnomer among Christians, to think that Mary Magdalene was probably a prostitute. Mary Magdalene did not wash Jesus’ feet in the gospels, and she was not a prostitute in the gospels. She may have washed Jesus’ feet, but it is not recorded for us. She may have been a prostitute, but it is not recorded for us. We do not derive the doctrine that she washed Jesus’ feet, or that she was a prostitute, from the gospels. She was considered a prostitute by the Church, by and large, from the time of Gregory the Great until Vatican II in the 1960’s.
She appears in eleven passages in the New Testament. She was the benefactor of an exorcism. She was there at the crucifixion. She was there when Jesus was buried. She was a witness to the empty tomb, and to the resurrected Jesus. Unfortunately, in A.D. 591, Gregory the Great falsely aligned Mary with the woman in Luke 7. Mary Magdalene was introduced by name in chapter eight as a new character, and she was cleansed of demons. She also has been confused with Mary of Bethany. In three different passages we learn of Mary of Bethany, who washes Jesus’ feet. You read of a prostitute who washes Jesus’ feet in chapter seven of Luke. Mary Magdalene is introduced in Luke chapter eight, where Jesus cleanses her of seven demons. In John 12, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Mary of Bethany, washes Jesus’ feet in preparation for his death and burial, and also as a display of worship for raising her brother from the dead in the preceding verses. That was Mary of Bethany, not Mary Magdalene.
In addition, an unnamed woman in Luke 7 is falsely aligned with Mary Magdalene, who is introduced in chapter eight. You saw The Passion of the Christ? The figure Mary Magdalene is the woman who is caught in adultery in John 7:53 – 8:11. The movie has a flashback in the life of Jesus. It shows people dropping the stones, Jesus writing in the dirt beneath him, and a woman coming to him. She has been beaten already. She escapes the condemnation of being stoned to death because Jesus stepped in. That also was not Mary Magdalene, if that story really took place. That is only in later manuscripts. It is not included in the earliest New Testament manuscripts. Nowhere does it say that woman was Mary Magdalene. It was convenient for Mel Gibson to insert that into his text, giving some background to fill out his character. Also, Mel Gibson is a Catholic, Pre-Vatican II. Pre-Vatican II, remember, is where this doctrine (that Mary was a prostitute) was retracted. Mel Gibson is a spin-off from the Catholic Church from a hundred years ago. He would not embrace the retraction (that Mary Magdalene really was not a prostitute), so he included her as a prostitute, as an adulteress, there in the movie.
Slide 33 – Did the Church conspire against her? Let me read a couple of excerpts.
Slide 34, page 244 – Teabing says that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. “That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early Church. The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her dangerous secret, her role as the Holy Grail.”
Slide 35, page 249 – “Mary Magdalene was recast as a whore in order to erase evidence of her powerful family ties.”
Page 254 – “The Church … perpetuated her image as a whore and buried evidence of Christ’s marriage to her ….”
Slide 36, page 238 – Teabing says, “Sadly, Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female’s creative power by ignoring biological truth, and making man the Creator. Genesis tells us that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. Woman became an offshoot of man, and a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess.” Do you see something wrong with this? This is how we know that Dan Brown has an agenda. He just aligned the book of Genesis with Christian philosophy, but the book of Genesis was exclusively a Jewish book for the first fifteen hundred years before it became a Christian book. It was originated by Jews, for Jews. Why didn’t he say, “Jewish philosophy”? He did not because it is not politically correct. He could not slam on the Jewish faith today. Do you see it? He just aligned Genesis with only Christian philosophy.
Slide 37 – Next, was Mary Jesus’ wife? There are only three passages known to suggest some sort of special relationship between Jesus and Mary. There are only three passages that even suggest a special relationship.
Slide 38 – Gospel of Philip 63:33-36 (this is just a portion of it) says: “And a companion of the …” The text is broken here. Again, this is a manuscript we are trying to read, and some of the manuscript gets damaged because it is old. “… Lord [probably], Mary Magdalene. He loved Mary more than [all] the disciples, and he used to kiss her [often] on the ________.” There is a blank there. Unfortunately, the text is damaged. “He used to kiss her ________ on the ________.” “Mouth” will fit there. “He used to kiss her often on the mouth.” It will fit there – the number of letters, the size of that area. It will fit there. “He used to kiss her often on the mouth.” “Cheek” would also fit there. “He used to kiss her often on the cheek.” “Head” would also fit there. “He used to kiss her often on the head.” “The rest of [the disciples were offended]. They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’”
First of all, she is called Jesus’ “companion” in this text. Some people are quick to bring out (this is in Dan Brown’s book) that the Aramaic language has a word for “companion” that means “wife.” The problem is that these were written in Coptic, not Aramaic, and they were translated from Greek. The word for “companion” here is a loaned word from a Greek word used in Luke 5:10, where James and John are described as partners in business with Peter. So, “companion,” in other words, might not necessarily mean “wife” here.
Incidentally, where did he kiss her? Frankly, if he were married and he kissed her on the mouth, why were they upset? Why were the disciples frustrated? It says the rest of the disciples were offended. Why were they offended if she is his wife? If I had my wife here today, and before the meeting I leaned over and kissed her on the mouth, would that offend you? No, it is expected affection to do so. Where did he kiss her? Was it on the mouth? It might have been. The problem is, whatever he did to her, the disciples wanted him to do to them. Right? The rest of the disciples were offended. They said, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” That could mean, “Whatever you just did to her, we want you to do to us. Why don’t you do that to us? We’re offended by this!” Jewish tradition at this time dictated that a man would kiss a man on the cheek. Contextually, it would make sense that he was kissing her often on the cheek. Again, the Gospel of Philip is dated much later than any of the gospels we have. The gospel is not really written by Philip. He did not live that long.
Slide 39 – We will take an excerpt from the Gospel of Mary 17:10 – 18:21. “When Mary had said this to the disciples [she was re-telling some of the secrets Jesus had just confided in her privately], she was silent, since the Savior had spoken thus far with her. But Andrew answered and said to the brethren, ‘Say what you think concerning what she said. For I do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly, these teachings are of other ideas.’” Andrew is disagreeing. Mary said, “This is what Jesus just confided in me privately.” Andrew says, “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe Jesus told you that.”
Slide 40 – “Peter also opposed her in regard to these matters and asked them about the Savior. ‘Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us? And then Mary grieved and said to Peter, ‘My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart or that I am lying concerning the Savior?’” Peter is jealous of Jesus’ disclosing information to Mary that he did not disclose to the twelve.
Out of all the books of the early church, only these two quotations come close. These are the two, in other words, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. There is another circumstance in the book where they claim that Mary was really the intended foundation for the church. She was that rock, and the Church made Peter the rock that the Church was built on. Because of this passage, they said, Jesus conveyed secret information to Mary Magdalene. He was intending that she be the rock.
Slide 41 – Brown did not bring this up, but I am going to volunteer this one. The Gospel of John 20:17 has a picture, a snapshot, after the resurrection. “Jesus said to Mary [this is Mary Magdalene], ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.”’” Brown did not discuss this passage, but this is one other passage I have heard other people say supports a special relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. It is because she is clinging to him after he rose from the dead. I would argue that she is ecstatic with joy that her Savior is resurrected. This is the first time she sees him after he raises from the dead. That is it. I am not hiding anything. Dan Brown is not hiding anything. That is it! Based upon that, Jesus and Mary were married. Jesus had an undefined special relationship with Mary. None of these places even talks about Jesus’ fathering a child.
I want to read a few more texts for you that he uses as support.
Slide 42, page 245 – “These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls, which I mentioned earlier,” Teabing said. “The earliest Christian records.” Really? Christian? The Dead Sea Scrolls? Really? And the earliest? Really? We have gospels that predate these Nag Hammadi gospels by at least one hundred or one hundred fifty years in some cases.
Slide 43, page 246 – “Teabing flipped through the book and pointed out several other passages that, to Sophie’s surprise, clearly suggested Magdalene and Jesus had a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, he did not give us any of those passages. That is just an excerpt from the text.
Teabing, referring to Mary Magdalene: “According to these unaltered gospels ….” He refers to the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Magdalene (later gospels) “as unaltered gospels.”
Slide 44, page 242 – “It is not I who claims she is the Grail. Christ Himself made that claim.” Then, Brown leaves that and never returns to that. He never gives us any indication of where Christ made such a concession.
Slide 45, page 247 – Teabing said, “I shan’t bore you with the countless references to Jesus and Magdalene’s union.” I wish he had bored me with them, because I just did not see them.
Page 244 – Concerning Jesus’ marriage to Mary: “It’s a matter of historical record.” Again, I am looking for the record in the book, and I do not see it.
Page 245 – “The marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record,” he says again.
Slide 46, page 254 – On Jesus’ being married and having a child: “The historic evidence supporting this is substantial.” I wish he had given it to us.
Page 266 – Teabing calls it “persuasive scientific evidence.” Again, I want to see it.
Page 163 – Langdon says, “Iconographic evidence I am finding to support the theory is, well, staggeringly persuasive.”
Here tonight I have given you what Brown has given us.
Dominic Crosson co-founded the Jesus Seminar. I disagree with him on nine tenths of theology, but even he denies that Jesus was ever married. If Jesus were married, it probably would not even affect his deity. It is not that big of a deal. It is just not factual. Jesus ate and did many other human activities. If he were married to an individual, it probably would not detract from his deity.
And then, finally, where did the notion that Jesus was a father originate? We have to know, first of all, the origin of the early royalty in France, known as the Merovingians. The first Merovingian queen is said to have been impregnated by a creature from the sea, a fish. Since the symbol of the fish was associated with Jesus very early, the fish that impregnated the queen is associated with Jesus. This blood line was a threat to the Church, so the Priory of Zion was formed to protect this secret. Sounds all too fishy to me!
Slide 47 – One very interesting nugget is this quotation from the book. “A career hazard of symbologists was a tendency to extract hidden meanings from situations that had none.” Do you think so? This is a prime example.
Slide 48 – A final thought: Great fiction; bad theology.
IV. Question and Answer Session (Slide 49)
Audience Member: I want to know when the book was written, because some of these things I have been hearing since before the book.
Jeff Miller: Was it released in August of last year?
Audience Member: OK, but I have been hearing them for a long time.
Jeff Miller: It was 2003, and I want to say it was late summer of ’03. It just says “2003 by Dan Brown.” It does not give me a date.
Audience Member: I think I heard a lot of it at SMU religion class.
Jeff Miller: Oh, really?
Audience Member: Yes.
Jeff Miller: And that was not this past year, you are saying?
Audience Member: No, it has been a while.
Jeff Miller: The things that you have heard might have come from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. A lot of Dan Brown’s novel was based on some of the findings of this book. Both of them are well researched. I am just not a good representation.
Audience Member: If the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip are written so much longer after Jesus, how much credence should we give them, and why did they not make it into the canon, or the Bible?
Jeff Miller: First of all, how much credence should be given to pseudepigraphical, later gospels? If they are written by someone who is claiming to be someone else, might they also misrepresent themselves elsewhere? So, credence? Read them. Enjoy them. There are some really fun stories there. How much historical fact is there? Probably not a whole lot. We also know that they were written by a sect of Christianity called the Gnostics. They had an agenda, the Gnostics did, of presenting some sort of secret, mystical truth as an enlightenment that people could acquire.
Why weren’t they included in the canon? One of the primary tests for canonicity in the early church – and this was an understood, broad-sweeping agreement among church leaders – was that in order to be received as scriptural, a book had to be written by an apostle or by an associate of an apostle. The author had to be someone who knew an apostle well, who had a way of checking references and things like that. Because of the late date of these gospels, they could have been written neither by an apostle nor an associate of an apostle. People in the early church knew that these gospels were not to be included.
In fact, fourfold gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – were recognized even during the second century (one hundred fifty years before Constantine). Irenaeus spoke of a fourfold gospel, contextually meaning our four, in A.D. 180. Constantine came to rule in A.D. 312 or 313. Tatian’s harmony tried to put the four gospels into one seamless volume – the Diatessaron is what it is called – in A.D. 170. It was not accepted among churches because people liked the four distinct gospels, and Tatian tried to put them into one seamless book. People had already grown accustomed to four distinct gospels. The Muratorian Canon, in A.D. 180, lists the four gospels as canonical, if you will, excluding all the other gospels. Origen, in the third century, mentioned the Gospel of Mattheus and the Gospel of Thomas, and stated that he rejected them in favor of “the four.” There is lots of evidence by our church Fathers – both in how they quoted books, and in exactly the books that some of these men said were inspired by God – that we had a fourfold gospel long before Constantine.
Audience Member: I’ve read Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Bock. I got hold of this little book called The Da Vinci Code by Hank Hanegraaf and Paul Maier. Which book do you think is the best to read?
Jeff Miller: Darrell Bock’s book printed up 100,000 in the first run. It is a big seller right now. Darrell Bock’s is the book that most other books are referencing. The first big one to hit the bookshelves was Darrell Bock’s Breaking the Da Vinci Code. That is what I would recommend that you read. It is a short read, one hundred twenty pages or so, but he tackles most of the big issues.
Audience Member: You mentioned the Gnostics as a sect within Christianity. Is it really fair to say they are a sect within Christianity, or a separate organization altogether that for some reason became associated with Christianity as time went on? What is it fair to call them, really?
Jeff Miller: I think it is fair to say that they considered themselves, at first, under the umbrella of the church. I think Elaine Pagels of Princeton, who specializes in the Nag Hammadi texts and the Gnostics would say the same thing. I think Karen King of Harvard would say the same thing, along with Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina. They would all say that the Gnostics are a quasi-Christian group. When I say that they are a sect under Christianity, I do not mean that they are Christians; rather, I mean that they would consider themselves under the umbrella of Christianity. I am trying to refrain from using the “C” word. They were a cult. I don’t know if that clears it up.
Audience Member: You mentioned a name, Arius. Does the word “heresy” come from that name?
Jeff Miller: No. Arius was a gentleman who lived in the fourth century and maybe the end of the third century, as well. The word “heresy” comes from a Latin word that existed probably two or three hundred years before then. That is a good association, because he was a proponent of heresy. He essentially denied the deity of Christ. He was famous for saying, “There was a time when he was not.” He is talking about Jesus Christ’s being finite. It is a big reason why the Council of Nicea wanted to get together, to talk about this. Some people believed it, but he was teaching false doctrine. As any good church would do, they wanted to make sure the church understands and is right and is orthodox on doctrines. They got together to discuss their thoughts on the matter. Again, there were two dissenters, but everyone else said that Arius’ teaching was clearly wrong. It is not right. It is bad. They condemned him. Unfortunately, the Council of Nicea did not put an end to Arius’ teaching. In fact, today we have a big resurgence of the core doctrine that Arius proposed, in Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe essentially the same thing when it comes to Jesus Christ: there was a time when he was not. Elevated? Yes, he was a great man, even a god with a small “g.” Yes, but there is no Trinity, and Jesus was not a second person of it.
Audience Member: It seems like The Da Vinci Code really questions the Scriptures and how they were brought together as a canon. Could you walk us through some of the motives and intent of collecting the Scriptures, and maybe of the time table of how it happened and when it happened? Did Constantine do it by himself? How did all this happen? Give a brief, historical perspective of that.
Jeff Miller: In New Testament times, there were already some New Testament writings that were being considered scriptural alongside the Old Testament. In Second Peter, Peter is writing and saying that he considers some of Paul’s writings to be difficult to understand, as are some of the other Scriptures, meaning the Old Testament. Here, Peter is putting the writings of Paul equivalent with the Old Testament Scriptures. So, we even get some of that then.
Quickly, they began to be quoted by our church Fathers (that was a body of people that existed after the close of the first century until probably A.D. 300-400). They were quoted as Scripture. They were recognized as Scripture. “Thus saith the apostle ________….” Again, a major part of their canonicity process was that a book had to be written by an apostle or an associate of an apostle. Those that were not were immediately rejected. There are many lists that were found.
Here is the problem. The problem is persecution of Christians, even from some Jewish outbreaks of persecution in the first century. There was Nero, in the first century, who would burn Christians on tiki torches during his parties. There was so much persecution of Christians that Christianity went into many dark days there for about two hundred fifty years. Decius was a persecutor of Christians. There is a Diocletian persecution right up into the early fourth century. Because of this persecution, there were not many Christians who met together or wrote about these things, because they would have risked their lives to do so. They emerge out of persecution, and then we start seeing some of the things that had taken place during that time of persecution. That is when we really start to see more of the formulation of the canon. We start to see what it really looked like.
There are a few writings that exist that I alluded to earlier, that talk about the fourfold gospel and that sort of thing. The Muratorian Canon is fragmentary. Marcion was a heretic who embraced the four gospels and some of Paul’s letters, but rejected a lot of other things because they were Jewish in nature. He was against the mean Jewish God, preferring the favorable Father of Jesus, who shined on everyone with his glorious light. Christians had to react against Marcion’s false list of books. The official list that we have, twenty-seven books of our New Testament as we know them today, came out of an Easter letter in A.D. 367, by a man named Athanasius. He wrote, as a prologue to his annual Easter letter to the churches: “These, and only these, canonical Scripture….” It is the first list we know of that has the twenty-seven books of our New Testament and no more. Later on in the Council of Hippo and other places, this was affirmed, but that is the first actual place.
I want to make a comment concerning Constantine. Did Constantine sanction and write a new Bible? No, he did not. Christianity had emerged out of persecution. That only happened in A.D. 313 with the Edict of Milan, although some persecution still existed. After that, he commissioned the writing of fifty beautiful Bibles, desiring to pay for them. They would be the best, most beautiful, written Bibles ever seen. I do not think we have any of those Bibles anymore, but we know the influence that they had. We know what was written in them. Some people say that a couple of the codices that still exist, such as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, might have been some of those fifty – or might have been rejects because of the errors in them. Constantine had some editors screening them, who rejected some flawed copies. Those would be put aside and a new copy would be started. Did he start a new Bible? No, he commissioned a Bible that basically already existed. How do we know that? Eusebius, in his Christian history tells us a lot about Constantine.
By the way, Constantine was baptized on his deathbed. I do not think it was against his will. He was ill, but it was not uncommon for people to be baptized on their deathbeds. Christians sometimes falsely aligned the washing of water with the forgiveness of sins. They would not be baptized as they became Christians, but would save water baptism until they were about ready to die. They were just trying to cover that last inkling of a sinful thought before they crossed over into death. So, yes, Constantine was baptized on his death bed.