The grass withers and the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand forever.
~ Isaiah 40:7-8
For a long time it has been fashionable to trash the Bible and treat it as nothing more than a collection of folk tales that have no basis in history or reality. The impetus for this came originally from liberal scholars who rejected the Bible’s authenticity. This was done despite the fact that the Bible is the most accurate and comprehensive literary work from antiquity in existence, supported by hundreds of geographical place names and archaeological discoveries.
“Archaeology has not produced anything that is unequivocally a contradiction to the Bible. On the contrary… there have been many opinions of skeptical scholars that have become codified into ‘fact’ over the years, but that archaeology has shown to be wrong.”
Dr. Paul McRay, leading archaeologist from the University of Chicago
Few if any historians question the authenticity of Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, written around 50 BC despite the fact that the earliest known manuscript is from one thousand years later (around AD 900), and even from that date there are only a few copies in existence. The writings of Plato and Aristotle (400 – 300 BC) are even more tenuous, with the earliest known copies being from the middle ages, around 1,500 years later. In contrast, the Dead Sea scrolls, dated from from 200 – 50 BC, contain portions of almost every Old Testament book. The New Testament is much better supported, with fragments dating from around AD 130, within eighty years or so of when they were written, and there are thousands of early copies. Support for the Bible is therefore orders of magnitude better than any other ancient work. Given this level of credibility, it would seem that critics should approach it with humility rather than hubris. So why is it trashed and treated as myth?
People can believe whatever they wish to believe, but if, for example, the stories of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Israel are treated as factual (and there is much evidence that they were), then one is compelled to accept that the God of Israel is also real and factual, and that is unacceptable to many critics. Ideological opponents of the God of the Bible therefore seek to disparage it.
The main virtue of our era is “toleration,” and like all words that are used in the context of power, its meaning or connotation has been altered to suit the purpose of those in power. Whereas the word originally meant “live and let live,” and “agree to disagree,” the word has now come to mean that “all views are equally valid.” Therefore it is is no longer politically correct to think that your view is right and others are wrong—you must instead acknowledge that your way of thinking is simply one way among many. Furthermore, there are no longer such things as “right ways” and “wrong ways”; all systems of philosophy and ethics compete for attention at the same level, at least theoretically.
At first blush, this can seem like a good idea—history is filled with people who had their own own ideas about truth and led many astray. If truth is relative, then we won’t have to put up with endless arguments about which way is right, because they are all potentially right (or wrong). If there is no overarching “truth” then truth is whatever you want it to be. That may seem like a cool way to think and live, but the problems with the relativity of truth quickly become apparent:
- The arguments about which way is right are not stopped—they are simply moved to another level. Truth is then defined and manipulated by those with the most power and influence. This is illustrated by appeals to “bipartisanship,” which sounds so kind and generous, but typically means: “be reasonable – do it my way”. As Alan Bloom indicates, “Openness, as currently conceived, is a way of making surrender to whatever is most powerful, or the worship of vulgar success, look principled… this seeming openness is actually a great closing – the closing of the American Mind.”
- Human nature has not changed. People have always and will always attempt to bring others in line with their way of thinking. Politics has always been and will continue to be a battleground.
- Relativity is a concept championed by the romantic movement which places feelings above logic, and American thinking is heavily steeped in “romanticism,” which is an essential element of our postmodern culture. Logic is not abandoned, but it is subordinated below feelings when the two come into conflict (postmodernism is by nature consistently inconsistent). Nevertheless, logic rears its ugly head above feelings, because all ways cannot simultaneously be valid. For example, God cannot be fundamentally personal and impersonal at the same time. If God is personal, he may be perceived as being impersonal at times, or vice-versa, but his fundamental nature has to be one or the other, or some combination of the two. Furthermore, all ways are not equally beneficial, and do not lead to positive outcomes, even though such thinking is politically incorrect. So the relativity of truth is ultimately nonsensical and can only be accepted by a suppression of logic and a suspension of disbelief.
- The relativity of truth leaves us completely at sea, with no grounding for ethics beyond how we feel. The only objective rationale that we have is the laws of the state, and as law evolves, they are simply the product of the personal feelings of those with the most power and influence. Therefore they have no more intrinsic validity than our own thinking, other than the force and backing of government and those in power.
We are therefore in need of a “gold standard” against which to measure our personal philosophies, and that is what the Bible is—a word from God, our creator, that transcends our personal feelings and provides a guide for our thinking and ethics. Of course, a series of objections will immediately be raised:
- The Bible was written by men, so how can it be a word from God? The answer is that the Bible is validated by the fact that Jesus Christ used it and commended it to us as God’s word.
- How can we trust that Jesus was who he claimed to be—the divine Son of God and a part of the Godhead? We can trust it by his life and ministry, the miracles that he performed, and especially by his resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven.
- How can we trust that these things actually took place as described? We can trust them because of the multiplicity of witnesses to these events, and the fact that these men then abandoned fame and fortune in order to dedicate their lives to telling others about what they had seen.
- How can we trust that the Bible in its present form has not been corrupted, and accurately conveys the message as it was originally seen, heard, and recorded? That issue is covered in detail below.
Accepting the Bible as the gold standard means that absolute truth exists, which breaks apart the foundation of postmodernism, the philosophy of our culture. But so be it—human culture has always been wrong in one direction or another, and our current culture is no exception. “Let God be true, and all men be found liars.” Romans 3:4 Postmodernism is simply one more philosophical system that will eventually be washed away.
Even among those who acknowledge the Bible as God’s word and the standard for life and behavior have many disagreements about the meaning and interpretation of various texts. There is a central unity of truth in the Bible, but also many peripheral issues that are open to debate, so we must approach it with humility and with an open mind. It is also inevitable that we will view the Bible from our own cultural and historical perspective, and it is very hard to break out of that mold and see things through the eyes of those for whom the texts were originally written. We must put our own views and biases aside and seek to honestly come to grips with what the text truly means. But many of the current attacks on the Bible are not based on honest seeking, but rather on deception. As in politics where debaters often ignore the issues and instead seek to slur the character of their opponent, so critics have treated the Bible, painting it with a black brush regardless of the facts. This is especially true of the current spate of attacks from books such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Da Vinci Code, Bloodline of the Holy Grail, The Templar Revelations, Rosslyn—Guardians of the Secrets of the Holy Grail, and others. Here are some of the items presented as “facts” in the above books, and the truth:
- Claim: The Bible evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.
- Reality: The books of the Bible were written over a sixteen-hundred-year period, from around 1500 BC to AD 100. The Old Testament books were collected into what the Jews called the Torah (the first five books of the OT known as the Pentateuch) and the Tanakh (all of the OT books – however, the word “Torah” is often used in place of “Tanakh” to represent the entire OT).
The canon of the OT (the list of approved books) was completed by the time of Ezra, who lived in the fifth century BC. The New Testament books were written in a much shorter period of time, from AD 40 to 100, and all of them were in use by the early Christian era (AD 100-150).
Naturally these books had to be copied by hand, using the technology and writing implements of the times. But regardless of their age, both the Old and New Testaments are very well supported by copies that were rigorously compared. Jewish copyists of the Torah/Tanakh, had word and letter counts for each text to ensure that the copies were accurate, and the copies were made and kept with great care (a Torah scroll was a priceless object). Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1948, the oldest versions of the Old Testament were from the tenth century. The Dead Sea scrolls were therefore a very significant find, because they were a thousand years older, and contain portions of almost every Old Testament book. While there were minor differences in spelling and word usage, amazingly, there was not even one change that altered the meaning of the text of any OT passage in the entire Dead Sea scrolls. Therefore during a one-thousand year interval there were no significant changes to the text.
The New Testament documents are especially well supported, more than fifty times better than any other writing from the same period. There are approximately 5,000 Greek copies alone dating from as early as AD 350, and many more fragments that date back as far as 130. As indicated above, this is from a relatively short period of time from when they were originally written. Minor variations have appeared in various versions, but none of these variations has produced any substantive changes. The ancients were much more careful then ourselves even with the spoken word, because many agreements were oral. They were even more careful with writings, of which there were very few.
As in the case of most books, the authors collaborated and relied on others for information and editing. For example, both the OT books of Psalms and Proverbs are the work of several authors. In the NT, Mark was a close associate of the apostle Peter, and Luke indicates that his work was the product of careful research. But having multiple people involved in the writing/editing process does not invalidate the contents of a book, rather it strengthens it because it has been reviewed by more than one pair of eyes. The assertion that large portions of the New Testament documents have been rewritten or replaced by substitute parts is simply wishful thinking.
Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars mentioned above are used in Latin classes, but as Thomas Cahill points out in his book Desire of the Everlasting Hills, the Old and New Testaments are virtually the only ancient documents that are still widely read by the public. A child can read and understand most of the Gospel accounts, which is a testimony to both their simplicity and power.
Some anti-Christian scholars have stated that the New Testament is essentially myth. In his book Atheism: The Case Against God, George Smith says, “As one moves from the earlier to the later gospels, some of the miracles become exaggerated.” He cites as evidence Mark 1: “all were brought to Jesus and many were healed”; Matthew 8: “many were brought to Jesus and all were healed”; and Luke 4: “all were brought to Jesus and all were healed.” The problem with this analysis is that the Gospels writers did not use the words “all” and “many” in a clinical sense. Mark 1 states: “All the country of Judea was going out to him (to John the Baptist), and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River…” It is clear that Mark is talking in general terms, and did not mean that every single person in Judea and Jerusalem was baptized by John. It is also clear that even in the Mark account, considered to be the oldest, Jesus healed many people and thus performed hundreds of miracles; George Smith’s argument is thus reduced to a quibble. Furthermore, all of the Gospels culminate in the resurrection, the greatest miracle of all. If the resurrection is a lie, then none of the other miracles matter. But if the resurrection is true, then all of the other miracles are believable, because the resurrection demonstrates that what Jesus said about himself was true—that he was the Son of God.
Another typical objection is the one stated by historian Archibald Robertson: “We are witnessing the progressive growth of a legend.”. But the Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 15:3-8, recorded a creed of the early church that was based on eyewitness accounts of the resurrection. Various scholars have dated this creed to a few years after the crucifixion of Christ, much too quickly for a mythology or legend to have been developed.
Contrast this to the miracles supposedly performed by Muhammad. In the Quran Muhammad is presented as an ordinary man, both by himself and his contemporaries. The miraculous acts he was said to have done, such as his ascension to heaven from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, come from the Muslim Hadiths (“sayings”). These were additional oral traditions, collected and written one to two hundred years later, and thus constitute a hagiography of Muhammad, rather than an eyewitness account as in the case of the Gospels.
The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written during the period of AD 40-75, with the letters of Paul also being composed during the same era. The Gospel of John and Revelation were probably written later (or written earlier and edited and published later), perhaps during the period 80-100. Many of the NT writings including the Gospels were known to early Christian leaders such as Ignatius (?-110), Polycarp (70-155), Iranaeus (125?-202) and others because they quoted from various NT documents in letters that they wrote. Thus, there is direct evidence of the NT documents being used by various far-flung churches between AD 100-150, around sixty years after the they were written.
It is certainly true that the Gospel writers borrowed from each other, used a variety of sources, and that some degree of editing was performed. But this was not done in an atmosphere of conspiracy and power struggles, as some suggest. The early Christian church was constantly persecuted and on the run, first by the Jewish authorities beginning around AD 37, and then by various Roman emperors until the Edict of Milan issued by Constantine in 313 which legalized Christianity and finally halted government-sponsored persecution.
In regard to the process of how books were chosen to be included in the NT, this was done over time and as churches and church leaders developed a consensus. The criteria for selection were: 1) known authorship by an apostle of Christ or a close associate; and 2) harmony of teaching and doctrine.
The letters of Paul were being copied and passed around to various churches by AD 100, and by AD 115 Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, had already accepted the current four gospels as we have them today. For the most part, the churches had settled on the books they considered to be authoritative and canonical by around AD 200 (indicated by Origen and other church leaders). There were disagreements on the books of Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, and Revelation, but these disputes were settled by the middle of the third century. The official canon of Scripture for the western church was declared at the Councils of Hippo in AD 393 and Carthage in AD 397 (the Roman Catholic Church did not officially adapt the current NT until the Council of Trent in 1563). But as indicated above, even these Councils basically recognized the same twenty-seven NT books that had been considered to be canonical by the churches since around AD 250 – the same NT that we have today.
Contrast the process of the development of the NT canon with that of the Quran. Muhammad was illiterate, and therefore ordered his followers to memorize what he said the angel Gabriel had told him. In the years following his death in AD 632, written versions of the Quran appeared with a number of differences between them. The Caliph (follower of Muhammad) and ruler at the time was Uthman, and he appointed a small group to decide which version would be authoritative. Uthman’s version was promulgated and all other versions of the Quaran were burned. He was later assassinated in AD 656.
- Claim: The Gospel writers disagreed on the ordering of some of the events in Jesus life, and also on a number of details such as who was present at certain events, what was said, etc. Also, there is much material that is included in some Gospels but not in others. This invalidates them as authoritative accounts of Jesus’ life and work.
- Reality: The Bible in general is extraordinarily accurate in its depiction of events in their historical, geographical, and cultural settings, and so it is with the Gospels. Unlike the Gnostic “gospels,” which were written between 100 and 300 years after the events that they supposedly portrayed, all of the Biblical Gospels were penned by individuals who lived during the time that they wrote about. These accounts are the recollections of the life and times of Christ by four men who were either apostles or close associates of Jesus, and they represent what each writer saw at the time or gathered from first and second-person sources. Furthermore, as is true of all writings, each author had their own unique perspective and intended audience, and each one focused on the things that were most significant in his view. They did not bind themselves to record every single event or to place all of the events in the actual chronological sequence in which they occurred. This is similar to obtaining accounts from multiple witnesses for a trial. Different eyewitnesses may describe the same events differently and in a different order, and may mention different details, but that does not invalidate their testimony. A group of people who all see the same event will nevertheless have different perspectives, and may seemingly disagree on some of the minor details. So it is with the gospel accounts.
The gospel authors clearly intended that what they wrote was to be taken literally, as things that they and others had truly seen, heard, and experienced. Luke begins his writing as follows: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-3) Peter wrote: “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (1 Peter 1:16)
Much has been made in recent years of the supposed power struggles for supremacy among the disciples/apostles. The Gospels do not hide the fact that these were very human men with egos and tempers, and who at times had to be rebuked. This is one of the amazing things about the stories of the Bible; most of ancient literature is fairly one-dimensional, casting its characters as either heroes or villains, but even in the OT, the Bible stories are of “real” people, warts and all. King David, for example, is a great leader, but who also had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and then has her husband killed in an attempt to hide his involvement. The Gospels are the same —Peter is the brash and eager disciple who sometimes puts his foot in his mouth, and who discovers that he is not the courageous hero that he thought he was (e.g., his denial of Christ).
But there was nothing like what would be considered to be a true power struggle among the disciples because there was no money, property, or power at stake to struggle for. To be the most prominent among them meant you had to be a servant-leader, not a warrior or a politician. Jesus repeatedly tells Peter “If you love me then you will feed my sheep.” Becoming a follower of Jesus was thus a humbling prospect, and many of Jesus’ followers gave up wealth and property in order to follow him. Furthermore, it guaranteed that you would be a target for arrest and persecution, which is exactly what happened in the days of the early church. The only reason that a reasonable and intelligent man would want a position like this is if he was totally convinced of what he believed, and understood that the rewards for his work would primarily be eternal rather than temporal. Although there were personal rivalries and occasional clashes of ego and perspective, the early church was, in general, very united in purpose, and the notion that one or more of the gospels were written by some disciples to discredit or seize power from others is pure hype.
All writings are the product of human effort and are therefore biased to some degree by the author’s perspective and point of view. But some writings are much less biased than others because the author’s have attempted to minimize it by showing all sides of the characters and the issues which are the subject of the text. Thus the Gospels show Jesus as a human who gets hungry, tired, and in need of divine reassurance. The apostle Peter is likewise shown as real, with both his strengths and weaknesses revealed, and there are many other similar examples.
- Claim: The Council of Nicea in AD 325 voted to make Jesus divine. Previously he was viewed as purely a moral prophet.
- Reality: From the very beginning Jesus was viewed by the church as being both human and divine. The main purpose of the Council of Nicea was to consider and decide on the teaching of Arius, who promoted a new belief that Christ was a created being and therefore not fully divine. The Council overwhelmingly rejected the views of Arius by confirming the existing doctrine of Jesus’ dual divine/human nature, and the Council did not invent any new teaching. The Nicene Creed, which was written and voted on overwhelmingly at the conclusion of the Council (and still in use today), restates in summary form what Christians had believed about the nature of Christ since the beginning. The Creed states in part, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God…of one Being with the Father, and through him all things were made.”
The New Testament confirms Jesus’ divinity in many passages, for example, John 1:1, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8-10, and II Peter 1:1; the words of Thomas to Jesus after the resurrection were: “My Lord and my God.” Jesus’ humanity is evident in so many places in the Gospels that it is ludicrous to claim that he was not human. It was only after the end of the first century, long after Jesus resurrection and the death of the apostles, that Gnostics and other groups claimed that Jesus was either purely human or purely spirit.
- Claim: The emperor Constantine is the one who forced the church to adopt the current books of the New Testament at the Council of Nicea in AD 325, and he promulgated a new Bible with different or modified gospels.
- Reality: It is important to understand Constantine’s motives in enacting the Edict of Milan and attending the Council of Nicea. The Roman Empire of his day was coming apart at the seams, and rightly or wrongly Constantine saw Christianity as a means to reunify and pacify the Empire under his rule. It is alleged that he became a Christian at some point in his life, but his actions to stop persecution and support Christianity were primarily motivated by political concerns.
Constantine was concerned what this religion he had selected as the unifying force of his empire was all about. Thus he presided at the Council of Nicea, and tried to moderate the strong views of the participating bishops (his concern was undoubtedly whether their disagreement would provoke a wider societal split). But he did not vote, and had little or no influence on the theological issues being debated. Thus, the notion that Constantine promulgated a new system of beliefs is completely false.
Many, if not most of the bishops who attended the Council had assumed leadership in the church prior to Constantine’s edicts legalizing Christianity and therefore had done so at the risk of their lives. Christians and especially Christian leaders had routinely died for their faith in Roman arenas for over two hundred years. Such men would certainly not have caved into any major shift about the core of what they believed, and for which they had risked their lives.
Furthermore, the selection of books that would make up the Bible was not an issue at the Council of Nicea. As indicated above, the OT canon had been settled by around 400 BC, and the NT canon by around AD 250. Constantine, who came on the scene many years later, had absolutely nothing to do with this process. We have existing portions of the New Testament that predate Constantine, and it would therefore be known if changes had been made by him or others following the Council of Nicea. Constantine’s only request was to ask the bishop Eusebius to make fifty copies of the books that were considered to be the authoritative Scriptures, and these copies included all of the current Old and New Testament books.
- Claim: The Gnostic documents such as those discovered at Nag Hammadi were wrongly suppressed by misogynistic patriarchal church leaders.
- Reality: The Gnostic documents were written around AD 150-350 and were therefore composed a hundred years or more after the other books of the New Testament. One of the key criteria used for selecting the books that make of the New Testament was whether a book was authored by an apostle or an apostle’s associate, and therefore composed when original sources who could verify the details were still alive. All of the original disciples and apostles were long since dead by the time the Gnostics documents were written. Furthermore, the latter portray a view of Christ and his teaching that was vastly different than that which is presented by the New Testament eyewitness accounts, all of which were written and in the hands of the church by AD 100. They are simply the work of a group with different religious concepts, and with their own axe to grind; thus they do not supply any “new light” on the Biblical gospels.
It is the Gnostic documents which are poorly supported rather than the NT gospels. For example, the Gospel of Mary was a pseudepigraphal work written anonymously around AD 200 and then ascribed to Mary Magdalene. There are only a few surviving fragments, and even among these there are significant differences in the text. Furthermore, the theology expressed in the Gospel of Mary and other Gnostic writings is totally at odds with the Bible. For example, Jesus is quoted as saying, “All natures, all formed things, all creatures exist in and with one another and will again be resolved into their own roots, because the nature of matter is dissolved into the roots of its nature alone.”
The Gnostic “gospels” have relatively little to say concerning Christ’s life, and typically consist of sayings and/or philosophical speculations. Therefore they would not have been considered worthy of serious consideration for inclusion even if they were composed centuries earlier. Therefore these documents were rightly rejected by the church, and this rejection had nothing whatsoever to do with misogyny or patriarchy.
- Claim: Constantine and his successors converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a propaganda campaign to demonize the sacred feminine.
- Reality: There has never been a time in the history of humanity where any group or society has been a matriarchy, pagan or otherwise, so the notion that Constantine or anyone else converted society from matriarchy to patriarchy is completely false. Anthropology has decisively shown that no matriarchies exist anywhere in the world, nor is there any evidence that any have ever existed in the entire history of humanity. Given the innate biological and psychological differences between males and females, it is highly unlikely that a matriarchal group could ever have begun or survived for any period of time. Discredited works such as the 1861 Das Mutterrecht (the Mother-Right) of Johann Jakob Bachofen, who first discussed the Amazons (a purely fictional group), have been the major source text for feminist theologians.
Feminist theology teaches that the first societies in the distant past were utopian socialistic matriarchies based on “cooperation and peace with the environment” and goddess worship. These societies were then supposedly overthrown and destroyed by evil patriarchal groups who denigrated women and invented Christianity as a means of holding them down.
Today, these destructive forces are said to have run amok to the point that they are supposedly in danger of destroying the entire world. The crisis in western civilization is said to be a sign that the male God’s reign is coming to an end, and the Goddess is waiting to lead us into a New Age of peace and harmony. We must therefore jettison patriarchy and all of its supporting institutions: male-god religions, monogamous families, and all hierarchies of power. If we fail to do this, we may be facing the end of civilization and life on the earth.
The feminist theological agenda is therefore focused on the marginalization and destruction of Christianity and the replacement of capitalistic economic systems with various forms of socialism and environmentalism.
In order to support these theories, feminist scholars have desperately searched for any archeological scraps of evidence for ancient matriarchies and socialistic, egalitarian societies. Focus has been placed on areas such as the Minoan society of ancient Crete, and Catul Hayuk in Turkey, which were thought to possibly be matriarchal. However, the search has been in vain, because as we look back at societies prior to our own, we see more patriarchy rather than less.
There certainly have been matriarchal elements in many past societies, such as the worship of female gods, e.g., Isis and Ishtar, and occasional powerful queens such as Semiramis, Cleopatra, and Queen Elizabeth. Some societies and groups have matrilineal elements, such as inheritance and property rights being passed through the female side. But a detailed examination of past societies reveals that in general, men ruled and dominated women much more completely than in the western societies of today. Feminist theology is thus pure fantasy and deception with no historical or anthropological foundation whatsoever. Furthermore, the current freedom available to women in western societies has primarily been due to the influence of Christianity and Christian thought, which ironically is the very thing that many feminists are attempting to destroy.
- Claim: Leaders of the patriarchal male church were so threatened by the power of women that they considered women to be an enemy, and labeled goddess worship and the sacred feminine as unclean.
- Reality: There were many women involved in the early church at multiple levels, and the claim that male leaders in general were threatened by women or considered them to be the enemy is preposterous.
It is true, however, that goddess worship and the sacred feminine were thought of as unclean, but not because men were threatened by women. The real reason is that these religious beliefs were and are simply one more form of false pagan idolatry, and therefore not in accord with the true nature of God. For example, the Bible condemns the worship of Baal, a male god, as well as Astarte, a female goddess.
Actual goddess worship (not merely revering women such as the Virgin Mary, or the veneration of small household idols by ancient women to protect themselves and their children) has been relatively marginal throughout history. Even during times when goddesses were worshiped, such as Isis in Egypt and Ishtar in Babylonia, male gods were also worshiped, and were almost always more significant and superior in power and authority. Ancient societies in general were thoroughly male dominant.
Wicca dates from the 1950s, and it was not until the women’s movement of the 1960s and following when the concepts of feminist theology and the concomitant conspiracy theories mentioned above were invented and promulgated.
Furthermore, the actual source of church policy and practice involving the “loathing of sex,” the “unworthiness of the body,” and the resulting “fear of women” was largely Gnosticism itself, and the ideas of Plato upon which they were partially based. The Greek philosopher Plato, circa 400 BC, believed that the heavenly form or archetype of all things was the ideal, and that earthly things are only shadows of the heavenly, and therefore inferior. Gnosticism borrowed this concept and taught, among other things, that only the spiritual aspects of a person were good, and the body was evil. This meant that sex, and especially the female body, was from the “dark side.” Gnostic theology also espouses “dualism,” which is notion that God and the devil are essentially equal in power and constantly battling each other for supremacy. Christians never adopted Gnosticism, because it is simply one more form of false belief, and the dualistic concepts of Gnosticism are contrary and antithetical to the God of the Bible. However, the Roman Church unfortunately allowed some of the Gnostic anti-sexual overtones to creep in through Augustine and the ascetics, with many negative consequences, such as the teachings that sexual pleasure is tinged with evil, sex is for procreation only, birth control is wrong, priests must be celibate, and that women are a temptation that must be avoided if a man would be truly spiritual.
The Cathars, who lived in the Languedoc area of southern France, were perhaps the most historically significant Gnostic group. They were typical Gnostic dualists believing in an equally powerful “god” and “devil.” They also believed that sex was sinful and a man who truly desired to serve God could never engage in it. Instead, they accepted sodomy as a replacement for heterosexual union. Catharism was hostile to maternity and family, and pregnant female followers were told that they carried demons in their bellies, making the religion unattractive to women (and men), especially for those who understood what the Cathars actually taught (many did not, and thought of it as essentially another form of Catholicism). The Cathars also practiced flagellation and self-mortification, and did not eat meat on the grounds that it came from animals that required sexual intercourse for the purposes of reproduction. However they did eat fish, not realizing that they also reproduce in a sexual manner.
However, a person could be a nominal Cathar follower and avoid committing themselves to all of the strictures of the faith. The Cathar religion was divided between a small minority of perfecti (the “perfect ones”) who had pledged themselves to celibacy, to the dietary rigors, and who had passed through a ritual laying on of hands by the Cathar leadership, and the vast majority of credenti (“followers”). Only perfecti were considered to be members of the Cathar Church, and many credenti became perfecti only on their death-beds to avoid what they considered to be the unpleasant aspects of Catharism. Thus, despite their undesirable beliefs and practices, the Cathar religion was attractive to many, especially those who despised the Catholic Church for its worldliness and money-grubbing, as the Cathar preachers were poor itinerants who did not demand tithes and had no church buildings.
It is often alleged that the Cathars were medieval feminists, with men and women sharing power in all areas, and that the Catholic Church attacked them for that reason. Both of those assertions are also untrue and are likewise the product of contemporary feminist myth-making. It is true that the Cathars were more egalitarian, that perfecti could be either male or female, and that there were significant number of female perfecti. However, the Cathars had an episcopal structure similar to the Catholic Church (i.e., bishops and deacons), and females were not allowed in those positions, nor were they allowed to perform the ritual functions of the church leadership. Furthermore, preaching by female perfecti was very rare, and they functioned in more-or-less the same way as nuns did in the Catholic Church except they did not live in cloisters.
The Roman church was concerned with the growth of this heresy and became jealous of the popular appeal of the Cathars, as well as being stung by their accusations of the worldliness of the Catholic leadership. After a number of attempts to convert them to Catholicism, in 1213 Pope Innocent III began the Albigensian Crusade in an effort to stamp the Cathars out; for thirty years they were pursued and eventually hounded to their death.
Even though the Catholic Church was largely successful in eliminating this Gnostic group, the resentments caused by their vicious actions created even more hatred against Catholicism, and the echoes of that hatred have persisted through the centuries. And despite the Christian rejection of Gnosticism, the Roman church was heavily influenced by the Gnostic idea of the evil of the body and other material things.
The church thus created many tensions and problems for itself, but the notion that the major threat was the power of women and goddess worship is not accurate.
- Claim: The Gnostic writings indicate that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus and/or had a sexual relationship with him.
- Reality: In no place do the Gnostic writings ever claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, that they had children, or even a sexual relationship. The Gnostic text that is frequently quoted from the purported Gospel of Philip alleges that “Jesus loved Mary more than other women” and “more than the disciples,” and that “the disciples resented Jesus for expressing affection to Mary.” Consider this: if Jesus and Mary Magdalene had actually been engaged and/or married, why would the disciples express concern or jealousy over his being affectionate with her?
- Claim: The Gnostic writings indicate that Jesus gave Mary Magdalene authority over the church, and that Peter resented this.
- Reality: No such statements exist—this is pure fabrication. In no place does Jesus give Mary Magdalene authority over the church, and the concern that Peter actually expresses in the Gnostic writing is that the Gnostic concepts being expressed by Mary are “strange ideas.”
- Claim: Jesus supported female power and wanted women to be leaders in the same way and in the sense as men are.
- Reality: This is false. Jesus affirmed the worth of women and taught that in the eyes of God that women are of equal value to men. But despite Jesus’ revolutionary teachings on love and the responsibilities of power, he consistently upheld traditional sex roles. He did not condemn female leadership, but did not encourage it either, and allowed for a dynamic where women would lead and use their gifts, but to do so in the context of traditional male/female paradigms. There are many examples of this: the disciples that Jesus chose were all male; when speaking to the woman at the well he asked her to “go and call your husband”; his acceptance of Mary anointing and kissing his feet; and so on.
In their writings, the Apostles upheld the same balance—affirming the value and worth of women and encouraging them to use their talents and gifts, while maintaining that men should be servant leaders.
Furthermore, the paradigm used consistently throughout the Bible is God as the husband, and the people as his bride in the Old Testament, and Christ as the husband, and the church as his bride in the New Testament.
- Claim: Jesus must have been married because it is inconceivable that he could have been a Rabbi and remained single.
- Reality: Jesus was not a Rabbi in the formal sense. He was called “Rabbi” because of the respect that people accorded him, but was never formally confirmed or appointed as such. Furthermore, although it was expected that a Rabbi would marry, there are a number of examples of celibate Jewish religious leaders, such as John the Baptist and Paul the Apostle. Therefore, the notion that celibacy is inconceivable for a Rabbi is historically incorrect.
- Claim: The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in great detail by many historians.
- Reality: The only “historians” who claim this are the writers of the books described above. No bloodline of Christ can be documented because it does not exist.
Here are a few examples of other inaccuracies and distortions from the above mentioned books:
- Claim: The Priory of Sion was founded in 1099 by Godfrey of Bouillon, the first crusader king of Jerusalem.
- Reality: This makes for a good story, but the organization was actually founded in 1956 by Pierre Plantard, a Frenchman who was obsessed with the idea of becoming an occult master and generating a lineage that extended back to the Merovingian kings of France. He wrote a number of fake documents and surreptitiously placed them in various libraries to substantiate his claims regarding the Priory of Sion. However, Plantard himself backed off from the assertion of the 1099 date, later stating that the start of the organization dated to the mid-1700s. Then Plantard was implicated in the death of a French official who was supposedly a member of his organization, and during the trial he was subpoenaed to give testimony. On the witness stand he admitted that he made up the entire story. Plantard died penniless in 2000.
Godfrey de Bouillon, the crusader leader and first ruler of Jerusalem in 1099, was continually doing battle to maintain and expand the tenuous foothold that the crusaders had gained in Israel, and he died within one year of their victory. The Knights Templar, which according to the Priory documents, was supposedly a sister organization to the Priory of Sion, was not founded until sometime during the period 1113—1118 during the reign of Baldwin II, Godfrey’s nephew.
The related story of the Bérenger Saunière is referred to in several of the above books, and Dan Brown named one of the central characters of The DaVinci Code after him. Brown was heavily influenced by the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and the name “Leigh Teabing,” another of Brown’s central characters, is an anagram of the surnames of Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent, authors of HBHG, who ironically sued Brown prior to the release of the DaVinci Code movie.
As recounted in HBHG, Bérenger Saunière was a priest in the small Languedoc town of Rennes-le-Chateau, from 1885 until his death in 1917. Despite being paid only a small income, Saunière spent large amounts of money rebuilding his church and constructing a tower dedicated to Mary Magdalene. The church has statues of demons and other arcane sculptures, and the tower has many elements of kabbalistic symbolism. The Merovingian rulers were deeply involved in the occult, and Saunière may have secretly abandoned Catholicism and decorated his church in an attempt to identify with them. Saunière may further have believed that the Merovingian dynasty was descended from Mary Magdalene, because one of the coded messages he left in the tower dedicated to her was the following: “TO DAGOBERT II KING AND TO SION BELONGS THIS TREASURE AND HE IS THERE DEAD.” Dagobert II, one of the last of the Merovingian heirs, was assassinated by Pepin the Fat, his prime minister, which effectively ended the Merovingian dynasty of French kings.
However, there is controversy about Dagobert II and the Carolingian conspiracy to seize power from the Merovingians. Some allege that the story of Dagobert’s assassination was a legend created by the Merovingians in an attempt to discredit the Carolingian usurpers, although this is questionable due to the fact the Merovingians were already in decline. Historians also question the existence of a bloodline descended from Dagobert. He was said to have married a noblewoman named Giselle de Razes, and had a son by her (Sigebert IV), after he returned to France, and that this son was hidden from the Carolingians and raised in the Languedoc in the area of Rennes-le-Chateau, which is the same place where the mystery of the Abbé Bérenger Saunière supposed took place at the end of the nineteenth century. Plantard claimed to be descended from Sigebert IV. However, others deny the existence of both Giselle and Sigebert.
The source of funds used by Saunière for rebuilding his church is another mystery. Soon after coming to Rennes-le-Chateau, Saunière supposedly found ancient documents and possibly others treasures hidden under the church’s altar, and it was said that he sold these for large sums. The documents and/or treasure were supposedly placed there by members of the Knights Templar following the destruction of their order in 1307, or from the Cathars who were wiped out in the Albigensian crusade and fought their final battle on the slopes of the mountain fortress of Montsegur in the Pyrenees near there in 1244.
Another, more prosaic explanation for the construction money, is that Saunière “trafficked in masses” (i.e., he said masses for pay), for which he was later prosecuted by the church. He advertised in religious magazines and journals, and this generated a large income that would perhaps have been sufficient to pay for all of his building efforts. After he was prosecuted, his income dropped precipitously and he died penniless.
Another little-known fact is that the Saunière stories were embellished and publicized by Noel Corbu who bought property in the area, opened a restaurant, and needed a gimmick to create publicity.
- Claim: During 300 years of witch hunts the church hunted down and burned at the stake an astounding five to nine million women. These were supposedly worshipers of the “sacred feminine” and secretly passed their concepts of goddess worship from mother to daughter. Therefore they were persecuted and killed in a war of extermination by the forces of patriarchy.
- Reality: This is a stock feminist lie, similar to their assertion that one in every four female college students are raped. Scholars have estimated that from 1400 to 1800 (400 years) a total of 30,000 to 80,000 people were victims of witch hunts, and a significant number of these were men. Furthermore, many of the victims were not sought out as a group to be eliminated, but rather were reported by other women (and men).
There has never been a long-standing coordinated pogrom against goddess worshipers, and never very many goddess worshipers who would be the target of such a pogrom in the first place.
- Claim: The Shroud of Turin was painted by Leonardo Davinci.
- Reality: Leonardo maintained detailed notes about all of his works but never once mentioned the Shroud. As indicated previously, the first documented exhibition of the shroud was performed in 1355. During the following years the Shroud was shown publicly in Lirey, France, at the church built by the owner of the Shroud and was shown numerous times afterward. Leonardo was born in 1452.
 Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind Simon and Schuster, 1987
 F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Intervarsity Press, 1972
 Archibald Robertson, The Origins of Christianity, International Publishers, 1954
 Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 251; Fee, Corinthians, 723; Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 35. Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (New York: Macmillan, 1971), 11.
 See, for example, Sam Shamoun, Muhammad and Miracles: Analyzing Muslim Arguments for Muhammad’s Supernatural Feats, www.infolink-islam.de/Main/Responses/Azmy/mhd_miracles.htm
 For more information on these and related topics, please see Richard Abanes, The Truth Behind the DaVinci Code, and Amy Welborn, Decoding the DaVinci Code.