Posted by: Hugh Griffiths | May 9, 2006

Da Vinci Code: Questions | 01

Can we trust the four gospels?

"The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. 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."
Leigh Teabing (from The Da Vinci Code)

One of the 'facts' presented by the Da Vinci Code is that the canonical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were only four of many 'gospels' which recorded the life of Jesus Christ. In the novel, the character Leigh Teabing is a presented as a historian and specialist who says that 'almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false?' and that originally 'more than 80' gospels were considered for inclusion in the Bible. He claims that the gospels the church have accepted as accurate were in fact a clever selection of texts that presented a Jesus in a way that didn't reflect the truth.

So, one of the first questions raised is 'Can we rely on the Gospels as we have them in Scripture?

A search on Google will provide many more articles and arguments, but here are some of the basic factual reasons why we can trust the four Gospels:

  • They were eye-witness accounts

All four gospels were written in the first century A.D either by close followers of Christ or by immediate associates of the first apostles. Matthew and John were of course two of Jesus' original twelve disciples. Mark recorded Peter's biography and testimony and Luke was not only a disciple but also a careful historian who recorded in great detail the life of the early church.

  • The accuracy of the four gospels

Both history and archaeology have both served to confirm the reliability of the Gospels. The events, people or places mentioned can be checked against other external sources of information (Tacitus, Jospehus and others) and have been shown to be correct. Clearly they were not written explicitly as historical records, but unlike many other early documents they do stand close scrutiny as being accurate.

  • The consistency of the four gospels

Although each is written in a distinctive style and has its own emphases, the four gospels present a complemetary and non-contradictory picture of Jesus. Not only is there agreement on the biographical detail included, the Christian message or theology that underpins each of the books is also consistent.

  • The substantial manuscript evidence

Unlike most other documents of similar age, we have a wealth of primary manuscripts from which our New Testament can be confirmed. In 'Evidence that Demands a Verdict', Josh McDowell notes that we have close to 25,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament and counting Greek copies alone we have 5,656 partial and complete documents that date back as far as the second century. This is in stark contrast to other early writings – for example the Iliad of Homer has only around 600 manuscripts to support it and the earliest complete text is from the thirteenth century.

  • The witness of the early church

Very early in its history the church identified Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as 'canonical' or as properly belonging to the New Testament. Even before the end of the second century there was substantial agreement that these books should be recognised as being accurate and inspired by God. Some of the criteria used were that the book had to have historical authenticity, it should have been written close to the time of Jesus and written by an apostle or close associate. In addition, it needed to be widely accepted by the church and consistent with orthodox or established belief.

Certainly much more could be said about any of these, but these five points provide a basic outline of some of the evidence for the reliability of the gospels and undermine the claims made in The Da Vinci Code.

Leigh Teabing's view of history is completely fictional in more than one way.



  1. Hi,

    Not arguing that it is not the case but I was just wondering how we know Mark’s gospel was dictated by Peter. Does it say somewhere in the text that it is or is it based on external evidence?

  2. This is a great question – there is no direct statement in the gospel itself but there is strong evidence elsewhere to support this. For example, the early church fathers writing within a century of the gospel's origin described it as follows:

    'the memoirs of Peter' (Justin Martyr, about A.D. 150)
    'Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered' (Papia, about A.D. 140)
    'the disciple and interpreter of Peter' (Iraneaeus, about A.D.185)

    This view is certainly helped by the close working and spiritual relationship between the apostle and the writer indicated in Scripture where in 1 Pet.5:13 Peter indicates his close relationship to Mark, calling him 'my son'. Hope this helps!.

  3. Great posts on the code. We need to expose these fictional posts head on and not shy away from it.


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