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Gospels, canonical

Four writings—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John— accepted by Christians as the authoritative records of the first-century life and ministry of Jesus.

The Da Vinci Code says ‘‘more than 80’’ gospels were considered for inclusion in the Bible, and that the four canonical Gospels were selected and edited by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century (231–34). The historical evidence does not, however, support this claim (see Papias of Hierapolis on the origins of the first two gospels).

Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Eusebius testify that the apostle Paul used the gospel of Luke, indicating that Luke was accepted as authoritative no later than Paul’s death in AD 65.

Irenaeus also testifies that John’s gospel was written to combat the Gnostic teachings of Cerinthus, active in the late first century. A fragment of John’s gospel, found in Egypt and known as Rylands Papyrus P52, has been dated in the early second century, suggesting that it was in wide circulation by 100.

No later than the late first century, Christians throughout the world accepted Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the reliable and authoritative accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. This attitude was so widespread that, when Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies in the second century, he commented, ‘‘Since there are four quarters of the earth . . . it is fitting that the church should have four pillars . . . the four Gospels.’’ See also Bible; canon; Eusebius of Caesarea; Gospel of the Hebrews; Irenaeus of Lyons; Papias of Hierapolis; Tertullian of Carthage.

Printed with permission from Bethany House Publishers, South Bloomington, Minnesota from the book "The Da Vinci Codebreaker : an easy-to-use fact checker for truth seekers" by James L. Garlow.

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