The Da Vinci Code claims that there were over eighty gospels considered for inclusion in the New Testament of which Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were chosen by Constantine (55.313) though with embellishments to the divinity of Jesus (55.317).

There are several significant issues with this claim.

First, there were not nearly as many gospels as Teabing so confidently asserts. Evangelical scholar Ben Witherington III suggests that there were no more than twenty documents which could be called 'gospels' (2004, 21).

Second, the process of determining the official list (or canon) of books in the New Testament was begun long before Constantine and wasn't concluded until after the emperor's death. This means that Teabing is essentially correct when he states that the Bible did not appear as a finished document from heaven (55.312).

Of course, Christians would disagree with his affirmation that the Bible is a product of humanity if what he means is that it was not inspired by God. The doctrine of inspiration is the belief that what is written in the Bible is somehow the very words of God. While this is a very important topic it is outside the current scope of this booklet.

The third issue with the claims made about the Gospels is that if the Gospel of the New Testament were those which omitted Jesus' human traits, they did a singularly bad job of it.

The gospels of Matthew and Luke contain the geneaology of Jesus which emphasises his human heritage (Mt. 1:1-17; Lk. 3:23-38). Not only that but there are multiple references to Jesus' humanity. He ate (Lk. 24:43), he hungered (Mt. 4:2; 21:18; Mk. 11:12), he grew weary and slept (Lk. 8:23; Jn. 4:6). He also experienced the full range of human emotions: anger (Mk. 3:5), compassion (Mt. 9:36; 14:14), grief (Lk. 19:41; Jn. 11:35); love (Mk. 10:21; Jn. 11:5) and sorrow (Mt. 26:38).

Whatever else the Gospels tell us about Jesus' divinity they certainly speak of his humanity as well.

Contrary to what Teabing claims, when we read the New Testament Gospels we are reading those accounts of Jesus' life which have, from the earliest times, been accepted by the Church.

The antiquity of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John can be illustrated in two ways. The first way is by references made in the writings of the Church Fathers. For example Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the early second century mentions the term 'gospel' as a touchstone of belief. Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century refers to 'gospels' in his writing. The heretic Marcion (c. 140) rejected all but Luke's gospel which suggests he was familiar with others. Tatian (c. 170) prepared a harmony of the Gospels which combined the four Gospels in one long narrative.

Furthermore, we have a fragment of John's Gospel (named P52) which dates from the early second century. Clearly, the Gospels predate Constantine! In fact, the vast majority of scholars agree that the Gospels were probably written before the end of the first century with the Gospel of Mark written as early as 60 AD.

The second way the antiquity of the Gospels can be illustrated is through the lists of authoritative books compiled by various leaders.

The earliest such list is the Muratorian Canon (named after the man who discovered it) which dates from the close of the second century (c. 190). It lists Luke and John but almost certainly began with Matthew and Mark since Luke is called the third Gospel.

The reason the first two books are absent is because the fragment is torn at the top. Origen (c. 185-254) also listed all four Gospels among the works which were universally accepted.

The New Testament Gospels are certainly very ancient sources of information about Jesus. What about the other sources of information about Jesus which are mentioned in The Da Vinci Code: the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Texts.