Bible and Church History in Contemporary Culture:

Reflections on Christianity in Popular Literature

Paul Tillich insisted that "religion is the substance of culture; culture is the form of religion."(1) This way of expressing the relationship suggests both a close association but also something of a distinction. It may well be that culture-any culture, even a modern, secular culture-will find its form in religion and religious sensibilities even as it dissociates itself from much of the theology and cultic tradition that nurtured those sensibilities. This becomes especially clear as we examine contemporary Western popular literature that grows out of a modern or even a post-modern culture but that seldom strays far from religious sensibilities deeply ingrained in the Western past.

Recently I have been thinking about the relationship of Christian culture, rooted in the Bible and the history of the church, to popular, contemporary Western culture because of the enormous popularity in both America and Britain of a book by entitled The Da Vinci Code by the American mystery writer Dan Brown.(2) It has been the best seller on the New York Times list for many weeks and has occupied a similar position in Britain. It is even popular among English language readers in China. I found it featured at the Xinhua Bookstore in Zhongguancun Tushu Dasha, and sales there appear to be brisk. The volume has been translated into Chinese and has attracted a significant audience of Chinese language readers. The author's official web site declares this book to be "one of the most widely read books of all time."(3)

Dan Brown is a fine writer of mysteries though the plots of his four published novels appear to me to be so strikingly similar that a reader, familiar with other of Brown's works, can reasonably anticipate the outcome of a new one. Characteristically, his story begins with a telephone call in the middle of the night awaking from his slumbers a person who will, together with a charming other who eventually invades his or her heart and bed, solve the mystery of a violent series of acts which occasioned the urgent telephone call. A fine writer Brown unquestionably is but, I would argue, not a great one. Brown's first mystery novel, Digital Fortress, was published in 1998 and was followed by Angels and Demons in 2000 and Deception Point in 2001. Yet none of these reached the level of popularity that has been enjoyed by The Da Vinci Code since its first appearance in 2003. Perhaps this latter volume will be remembered as the first truly global best-seller. How can we account for this remarkable phenomenon? The answer, I propose, is in the story and in the manner in which it evokes and plays with themes of biblical and Christian history.

The author offers this synopsis of the plot: "A renowned Harvard symbologist is summoned to the Louvre Museum to examine a series of cryptic symbols relating to Da Vinci's artwork. In decrypting the code, he uncovers the key to one of the greatest mysteries of all time--and he becomes a hunted man."(4) However, this plot is scarcely the cloth out of which a best-seller is woven. More to the point is the fact that these symbols appear on the dead body of the museum's curator and ultimately lead the symbologist and the grand-daughter of the murdered curator to discovery of a secret society that, because it perpetuates the worship of the pre-Christian period in the West, worship of the sun or of the earth-mother, has been involved in a life-or-death struggle with the Catholic Church for centuries. In the process of unraveling the mystery, Brown introduces a complex variety of fascinating fact and fiction relating to the Bible and the history of the Christian Church. Readers are introduced to apocryphal biblical texts that are said to have been hidden, to struggles in early Christianity over the definition and institutionalization of the religion, to themes of feminism and patriarchy in the Christian religion, and even to the secret, hidden by the Church, of the marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, a union that resulted in offspring that eventually fed the gene pool of the French monarchy. Now this is the cloth for the weaving of a best-seller. However secularized Western societies have become, however infrequently Westerners may attend church, in spite of the absence of Christianity from the new European Union constitution and even the name of God from that of the United States, ideas that appear to be rooted in biblical or Christian culture still fascinate and provoke.

The author shrewdly plays on this interest with the inclusion prior to the prologue of the novel of a single page bearing the heading "Fact." Here we are told that the secret society he weaves into the plot is a real organization, that certain men prominent in European history including Leonardo da Vinci are known to have been members of that society, that Opus Dei is a contemporary Catholic sect, and that "descriptions of artwork, architecture and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."(5) Many readers probably read more into this claim of facticity than it actually can support; and there seem to be some who regard this volume as a historical novel rather than a mystery cleverly using bits and pieces of historical fact in building what is finally a work of fiction, not of history. In one of the better reviews of this book, one that appeared in Beijing Talk, The Da Vinci Code is highly praised but readers are warned of this danger: "The factual statements at the start may lead readers to think they're being let in on some sort of devastatingly revealing investigative expose. This is a somewhat disingenuous ploy."(6)

Whether readers approach this volume out of the mistaken idea that it may reveal a secret history or from the more accurate idea that it is a well-written and fascinating story woven together, inter alia, from bits and pieces of Western religious history, the simple fact that it has become a global best-seller attests to the continuing power of Christianity as an undergirding form for Western culture even in this very secularized age.

What interests and even troubles me as a historian, however, is that in a secularized age, many readers will certainly lack the background knowledge of Bible and of church history required to separate fact from fiction and to enjoy the story without becoming further confused or simply misled by what may appear to be its historical elements. I can only hope that those who are captivated by ideas advanced in this volume may be led both to more serious historical investigation and to careful reflection on the topics treated here.

It is simple enough to challenge some of the ideas advanced in this volume, and many have done so. For example, Professor Margaret M. Mitchell of the University of Chicago, described the book as presenting "a rummage sale of accurate historical nuggets alongside falsehoods and misleading statements."(7)

In the category that she terms "patently inaccurate," Mitchell includes such items as: "In his own lifetime Jesus 'inspired millions to better lives' (p.231); there were 'more than eighty gospels' (p.231; the number 80 is factual-sounding, but has no basis); 'the earliest Christian records' were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (including gospels) and Nag Hammadi texts (pp.234, 245); the Nag Hammadi texts 'speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms' (p.234); the marriage of Mary Magdalene and Jesus is 'a matter of historical record' (p.244); Constantine invented the divinity of Jesus and excluded all gospels but the four canonical ones; Constantine made Christianity 'the official religion' of the Roman Empire (p.232); Constantine coined the term 'heretic' (p.234); 'Rome's official religion was sun worship' (p.232).

In the category of "gray areas," Mitchell includes: "'The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable' (p.232), but that does not mean 'Nothing in Christianity is original.' The relationship between early Christianity and the world around it, the ways in which it was culturally embedded in that world, sometimes unreflectively, sometimes reflexively, sometimes in deliberate accommodation, sometimes in deliberate cooptation, is far more complicated than the simplistic myth of Constantine's Stalinesque program of cultural totalitarianism. Further, Constantine's religious life -- whether, when, how and by what definition he was Christian and/or 'pagan' -- is a much debated issue because the literary and non-literary sources (such as coins) are not consistent. That Constantine the emperor had 'political' motives (p.234) is hardly news to anyone! The question is how religion and politics (which cannot be separated in the ancient world) were interrelated in him. He is as hard to figure out on this score as Henry VIII, Osama Bin Laden, Tammy Fay Baker and George W. Bush. Brown has turned one of history's most fascinating figures into a cartoon-ish villain.

"'Paganism' is treated throughout The Da Vinci Code as though it were a unified phenomenon, which it was not ('pagan' just being the Christian term for 'non-Christian'). The religions of the Mediterranean world were multiple and diverse, and cannot all be boiled down to 'sun-worshippers' (232). Nor did all 'pagans' frequently, eagerly, and with mystical intent participate in the hieros gamos (ritual sex acts). 'The Church' is also used throughout the book as though it had a clear, uniform and unitary referent. For early Christian history this is precisely what we do not have, but a much more complex, varied and localized phenomenon. Brown presumes 'the Church' is 'the Holy Roman Catholic Church' which he thinks had tremendous power always and everywhere, but ecclesiastical history is a lot messier. Brown propagates the full-dress conspiracy theory for Vatican suppression of women. Feminist scholars and others have been debating different models of the 'patriarchalization' of Christianity for decades. Elisabeth Schuessler Fiorenza's landmark work, In Memory of Her (1983), argued that while Jesus and Paul (on his better days) were actually pretty much pro-women, it was the next generations (the authors of letters in Paul's name like 1 and 2 Timothy and others) who betrayed their feminist agenda and sold out to the Aristotelian, patriarchal vision of Greco-Roman society. Others (unfortunately) sought to blame the misogyny on the Jewish roots of Christianity. More recently it has been argued that the picture is more mixed, even for Jesus and Paul. That is, they may have been more liberal than many of their contemporaries about women, but they were not all-out radicals, though they had ideas (such as Gal 3:28) that were even more revolutionary than they realized (in both senses of the term). Alas, no simple story here. And while obsessing over Mary Magdalene, The Da Vinci Code ignores completely the rise and incredible durability and power of the other Mary, the mother of Jesus, and devotion to her which follows many patterns of 'goddess' veneration (she even gets the Athena's Parthenon dedicated to her in the sixth century)."(8) Even Westminster Abbey in London, where one critical episode in the novel takes place, has issued information sheets to correct the book's "factual errors" with respect to the Abbey.(9) I have my own pet peeves regarding misleading "facts" in this novel, but they are no more substantive than these.

Is it fair for historians and biblical scholars to offer criticism of a novel that appears to them to be historically misleading. Perhaps not though Brown's insertion of the claim of fact certainly makes such criticism more appropriate in this case than in most. However that may be, I think the most useful thing such a person could do, and therefore what I intend to do during the remainder of this presentation, is suggest some methodological considerations for approaching Bible and church history that may limit the danger of misunderstandings.

As to the Bible, certainly one of the two or three most important documents for our understanding of Western culture, it is essential to recall that the Bible is the work of many authors. The Jewish scriptures or Old Testament include thirty-nine separate books written between the eighth and the first centuries BCE. These thirty nine books are accepted by all Jews and all Christians as authoritative. Catholic Christians also accept as part of the Old Testament a group of books known as the Apocrypha, books that were rejected as canonical by the Jews in a council held in 91 CE. Protestant Christians generally though not consistently follow the Jewish practice. The Christian Scriptures or New Testament include twenty seven books written from very early in Christian history (before 30 CE) to perhaps early in the second century. Thus, first of all, the Bible is a work of multiple authorship that was penned over a period of nearly ten centuries.

Though the religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity assign specific authorship to most of these books, the ascription may be misleading. For example, the first five books of the Jewish Scriptures are sometimes called "the Books of Moses," but no serious biblical scholar today believes that Moses actually penned these writings. They were developed as history or liturgical forms by the Jews and existed in oral form and probably in a variety of different traditions before being written down. These first books are sometimes called the Books of the Law, but that terminology is also a bit misleading. There are legal passages to be found there, most famously the "Ten Commandments," but there is much else as well including creation myths, stories told about the origins of the people (perhaps like the stories of Huang Di), and the foundational myth of Judaism, the story of the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt and their seizure of Palestine as their "promised land," presumably with the permission and active support of their God. These materials existed in oral tradition over centuries and were revised, redacted, edited, reinterpreted by later scholars as the Jewish people became more cosmopolitan. It seems to me and to many others that these narratives can only be read as the reflections of the Jewish people over time as to their peoplehood and the meaning of their lives. The first biblical books actually written in the form in which they appear in a Bible today were some of the prophetic books. In the eighth century, a group of religious reformers arose among the Jews who are collectively referred to as the prophets. Perhaps the most important of these were Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, though in the case of Isaiah the book bearing his name is almost certainly of composite authorship. From these works we get a strong impression of the impact of monotheism on Jewish thought and of its interpretation as a demand for ethical conduct as the very essence of religion.

In addition to the Books of the Law and the Books of the Prophets, there are histories of ancient Israel in the Bible and then a third category often called "the writings." These were very late in date and reflected the Jewish captivity in Babylon, their encounter with other developed cultures, their wrestling with the problems of good and evil and the question of why good people suffer. This category also includes books like Ecclesiastes (most like East Asian literature in its emphasis), and the books of Psalms and Proverbs.

These materials were first written in Hebrew but were translated into Greek by Jewish scholars living in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Eventually the Greek text became the basis for translations into Latin and the European vernaculars and the authoritative version for later Christians.

The Christian scriptures were written over a shorter period of time. The first of the canonical books written were undoubtedly some of the letters of Paul, the convert and missionary apostle who argued for taking Christianity beyond the confines of the Jewish world to the Roman empire and, implicitly at least, to the entire world. Again, some of the Pauline letters are unquestionably his (Romans, Galatians, for example). Some are authentic but probably compilations of several earlier letters. Some probably were written by others and later attributed to Paul to assure that they would be highly regarded or received into the canon. There is also a group of letters known as Pastoral Epistles that are attributed to others such as James and John.

A second category of document in the Christian scriptures is composed of the Gospels (gospel means good news) which focus on the life or, in the case of John, the meaning of the life of Jesus. The first written of these was Mark, and it is the least theological and presents the person of Jesus in very human dimension. It commences with an account of the baptism of Jesus and ends with his crucifixion. The gospels of Matthew and Luke were written somewhat later, and there is documentary evidence that the writers of these two gospels had access both to Mark and to a now lost source (Q for the German word for source, quelle). These include more though certainly not all of the stories that were circulating among the churches regarding the life and teachings of Jesus in the early years of Christianity. Identified with the Gospel of Luke is also a book called the "Acts of Apostles" which is kind of history of the early Christian church picking up the narrative after the life and ministry of Jesus. The fourth Gospel, John, is the least historic and most philosophical of these books. It is not concerned with Jesus as a man but with the theological significance of Jesus. This is the Gospel that commences with "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This theme would be elaborated in the second century into a Logos theology linking Jesus with Greek philosophy. Justin Martyr was a critical figure in this development.

Finally, the Christian scriptures include a book called "Revelation" or the "Apocalypse of John" clearly written after the first great Roman persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero, placing persecution within a context of ultimate significance, and arguing for an ultimate victory of God in the struggle of good and evil. There are also apocryphal New Testament books which were written as the canonical books were being written and which may have been highly regarded by Christians in one or another locality but which were not finally included in the New Testament canon.

Christians and Jews alike consider the Jewish scriptures to be the "word of God," and Christians also believe that the New Testament falls in this category, often ascribing to it greater significance than to the prime testament. However, what this terminology means varies from time to time and place to place as well as from individual to individual. There is an assumption that the earliest manuscripts are most accurate, that they should be accorded greater respect, and that scholars should be searching for older and better documents. Yet with respect to the New Testament and sometimes to materials in the Jewish Scriptures, the oldest and best manuscripts are in Greek which was neither the original language of the Jewish Scriptures nor the language spoken by Jesus and his disciples. No version of the Bible is more highly regarded because of the its language. Nor is any translation necessarily more highly regarded than others though historically this was the case. The Vulgate of St. Jerome was long regarded as the best Latin translation of the Bible, and Protestants and Catholics argued about texts from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. In the English-speaking world, the "Authorized" or King James version of the Bible (1611) was long regarded as authoritative by most Protestants, and it is this version that has most deeply influenced the development of the English language and English literature.

The composite nature of the bible's authorship and the fact that it was penned over several centuries reflecting very different cultural times, inevitably means that there are portions that are more and less comprehensible and that appear more or less relevant to modern people. Though a few Jewish and Christian fundamentalists may claim to believe in the "verbal infallibility" of the Bible, it is relatively easy to show that they apply this principle, largely a nineteenth century reaction against modern biblical scholarship, in a very limited and self-serving way. In actual fact, early Christians realized that there were internal conflicts in the Bible reflecting different views of different authors. Therefore, from the very beginning, Christians insisted that there must be several ways of interpreting the Bible. Some passages may be interpreted literally, but others make sense only if interpreted allegorically. Still others ascribe to God characteristics that no serious thinker would so ascribe today. Therefore the concept of a moral interpretation arose. All of these interpretations have a long and legitimate history. The Bible, like any other piece of ancient literature, must be studied contextually within the times and places from which the several parts came and in relationship to other materials contemporary with them.

To return briefly to The Da Vinci Code, it appears to me that this is precisely the approach that Brown does not take and, as a novelist, is not required to take either with regard to his treatment of the canonical Gospels or of the apocraphal gospels and gnostic literature of the period. To be sure, the amazing thing for a historian is how very little we know about the figure of Jesus, and Brown is not the first and certainly will not be the last to fill the void with a vivid imagination. Yet readers interested in these sources for an alternative view of early Christianity would learn far more about them from the scholarly studies of people like John Dominic Crossan.(10)

As to the history of Christianity woven into The Da Vinci Code, it appears to me that the problem is one of gross oversimplification. For Brown there appears to be only one scripture, the Western canon, and only one church, the Catholic church centralized in Rome that declared and enforced a uniform theological orthodoxy prevailing until modern times. Indeed, as one reads Brown, one might get the impression that Roman Christianity is, even today, the only variety of Christianity. The enormous tapestry of Christianities that characterized the twenty-first century is ignored. Far worse, the diversity of earlier Christianity is also ignored. There was never a single Christian church, the Nicene Creed notwithstanding.(11) There were many churches and many theologies from the very beginning of the movement. Even the canonical "Acts of Apostles" makes clear the tension and perhaps open conflict between Peter, James, and others in Jerusalem on the one hand and Paul on the other. Ernst Kasemann insists that "this variability [in early Christianity] is already so wide even in the New Testament that we are compelled to admit the existence not merely of significant tensions, but, not infrequently, of irreconcilable theological contradictions."(12) Brown's extensive use of some of the non-canonical materials from early Christianity is evidence of this extensive diversity. Yet his assumption of a steady drift of the church toward uniformity neglects much history. The process of scriptural canonization seems to be misunderstood, and the development over the centuries of at least four distinctive forms of Christianity is neglected.

The late first and second centuries witnessed a massive proliferation of Christian literature of almost every conceivable kind in terms both of genre and of theological orientation. Only very gradually were distinctions drawn between canonical and non-canonical writings, and even then there was never unanimous agreement.(13) Many books other than the twenty-seven that appear in the Protestant and Roman Catholic New Testaments were penned, circulated, read in churches, and highly regarded. Even today the Ethiopian church maintains a canon of eighty-one books, forty-six Old Testament books and thirty-five New Testament books.(14) Of the numerous early lists available of canonical books of the New Testament, the earliest to list the Western canon's twenty-seven and only these was the list of Athanasius of Alexandria which dates from the fourth century.(15)

The gradual and only partial agreement on a canon of Scripture was one aspect of the definition of church and Christian theology during the second to fifth centuries, but it was only one. Church historians generally speak of three more or less simultaneous developments that led to the institutionalization of Christianity. One of these was Scripture canonization, another was development of the office of bishop, and a third was the development of creeds. Yet just as the process of canonization was far less simple and universal than many, including Brown, assume; the other two signs of definition are also fraught with problems.

Gradually an office of ministry became defined, the women clergy of the Acts of Apostles disappeared, and the office of bishop became distinguished from that of presbyter or parish priest. The concept of apostolic succession developed along with the office of bishop affirming that Jesus taught his disciples, the disciples taught their disciples, etc., etc. Presumably, this came to mean that the bishops were teaching what they had been taught which, in turn, was what their teachers had been taught, etc., etc., back to Jesus and the apostles. The teachings of bishops of clearly apostolic churches such as Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Rome as well as the bishop of Constantinople after that city became the seat of empire enjoyed special respect. The faithful were advised to believe what the bishop believes. Yet we certainly understand today that what a student learns from the teacher is not always exactly what the teacher learned from his teacher. Not surprisingly, the bishops-including the apostolic bishops-came to disagree on many points of religious interpretation. The great controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries were generally driven by bishops with differing understandings of the Christian message.

The third development during this period was the drafting of creeds, statements that came to be affirmed by church councils and to be regarded as a codification of Christian teaching as well as a potential test of orthodoxy. Creeds were developed at every level from the city to the province to the empire. They were debated, sometimes adopted by a council only to be modified or rejected by a later council, etc. The most important of these creeds was the so-called Nicene Creed mentioned above.(16)

As Brown suggests, Constantine played a significant role in the process of drafting an earlier version of this creed both in convening and in presiding over the Council of Nicea of 325 and in attempting to impose the decrees of that council upon churches within the empire. Yet it was certainly not Constantine who defined the dogmatic positions but rather the clerics from Antioch and Alexandria who represented fundamentally different conceptions of Jesus and of his relationship to God. This creedal formulation marked the clear ascendancy, as much political as theological, of the Alexandrians over the Arians, the Nestorians, and the Monophysites. Clearly the goal of the conciliar process was to bring harmony, but the council's harmony was the harmony of enforced conformity.

As a result, the very diffuse and diverse early Christianity became not one but many churches including the Catholic church of the Roman empire whose Greek-speaking and Latin-speaking churches began quite early to develop distinct theological and liturgical characteristics and which, in the eleventh century, formally divided into (Greek) Orthodox and (Roman) Catholic churches. But the process also produced the Nestorian Christian church of Persia, Central Asia, and China as well as the Monophysite churches of the East including those of Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and India. The Nestorians and Monophysites passed out of Western consciousness, but they certainly did not disappear and remain at least as ancient and as authentically Christian as Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant Christianity.

Some of what Brown writes regarding "the church" is more or less true of the Roman Catholic Church, but even there one finds greater diversity both of theology and of piety than he implies. His assumptions are far from true of other Christian churches and expressions of Christian culture and sensibility. He leaves the reader with a very inadequate understanding both of Christian origins and of the variety to be found within Christian churches. It is this variety that has enabled Christianity to become a global religion.(17)

No single expression of Christianity would have such appeal. But just as Christianity in Rome became Roman, so Christianity in Moscow became Russian, Christianity in North America became American, Christianity in Egypt became Egyptian; and, yes, Christianity in Tang Dynasty China became Chinese. This process continues today.

Brown's image of Christianity neglects the relationship of religion to culture and the resultant diversity within Christianity from time to time and place to place. His is a monolithic one to which a reader may respond positively or negatively. Insofar as the reader of this novel is instructed by it as to the nature of Christianity, Brown's underlying message appears to be: "This is the one official interpretation of biblical canon, and this is the one official Christianity; this is the only Christianity; take it or leave it." In many respects, his sympathies and ours as we read, lie with those who leave it. Religion is the substance of culture, and a world of many distinctive cultures has little room for a religion which is wed to only one of them.

The Da Vinci Code is fiction, and if he were challenged on the book's concept of Christianity, Brown would probably respond just as he responds to the numerous errors in fact found within the text by observing that fiction is not history. Well and good, but many readers appear not to be approaching this volume as fiction. Perhaps Brown's insertion of the curious page entitled "Fact" at the very beginning of the book accounts for some of the confusion. Readers who neglect the distinction will fail to understand the nature of Christianity and its continuing vitality. In reality, Christianity is many churches embedded in distinct cultures and offering distinct modes of thought and celebration addressed to women and to men seriously concerned to understand the meaning of their lives and to define their moral and ethical responsibilities within their several cultures. They are united in their appeal to Scripture even when they do not entirely agree on its content or proper interpretation and, more particularly, in their belief that in some remarkable manner the figure of Jesus reflects both in his life and in his teachings something essential about the nature of God and of ultimate reality. That there is a considerable audience of such persons is evidenced in part by the phenomenal global popularity of Brown's book. A historian can only hope that readers will understand that both church and Christianity are more than and frequently other than their descriptions found in this novel.

Samuel C. Pearson
Professor Emeritus, Southern Illinois University
Visiting Professor, Renmin University of China
July 2005

1. Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, ed. Robert C. Kimball (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 42. See also Paul Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963).

2. Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (London: Corgi Books, 2004).

3. Http://

4. Dan Brown website,

5. Brown, DC, p. 15.

6. Beijing Talk, October 2004, p. 27.

7. Margaret M. Mitchell, "Cracking the Da Vinci Code," in Sightings, September 24, 2003. Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School and may be reached on the internet at

8. Mitchell, CTDVC. The page numbers cited by Professor Mitchell do not correspond to the pages in my copy, the British Corgi Books edition being sold in Beijing. She does not indicate the edition from which she worked.

9. "Westminster Abbey uncodes Da Vinci," China Daily, June 4, 2005.

10. John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: Harper, 1993); The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper, 1999).

11. The "Nicene" Creed, accepted by the Orthodox Church and, with the addition of the "filioque clause," by the Roman Catholic and most Protestant churches, was actually the product of the Council of Chalcedon of 451. It includes the affirmation that "We believe . . . in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church," J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (2d ed., New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1960).

12. Ernst Kasemann, Essays on New Testament Themes (London: SCM Press, 1968), p. 100; quoted in Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon: Revised and Expanded Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1995), p. 233.

13. Factors considered in selection included apostolicity, orthodoxy, antiquity, and inspiration, but mistakes were certainly made with regard to dating and claims of apostolicity and both orthodoxy and inspiration are finally subjective judgments.

14. McDonald, Formation, p. 226.

15. The list appeared in Athanasius's thirty-ninth Festal Letter to fellow bishops. See McDonald, Formation, pp. 220-22.

16. The full text of this creed reads:

"We believe in one God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible;

"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into existence, Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures and ascended to heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father, and will come again with glory to judge living and dead, of Whose kingdom there will be no end;

"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is together worshipped and together glorified, Who spoke through the prophets; in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church. We confess one baptism to the remission of sins; we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen,"

As this creed came to be used in connection with the eucharist or Lord's Supper, an interpolation was made in the third article; and, since the eighth century, it has been one of the most explosive topics of debate between Latin and Greek churches. For hundreds of years the Latin churches, Catholic and Protestant, have added to the third article on the source of the Holy Spirit a filioque clause: "Who proceeds from the Father and the Son." The Orthodox churches of the East have remained firmly attached to the earlier formula. See Kelly, Creeds.

17. Justo L. Gonzalez, The Changing Shape of Church History (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2002), p. 9 and passim, discusses the evidences of globalization. For example, he contrasts the Christian demographics of 1900 with those of 2000:

In 1900 C.E.

Half of all Christians in Europe

Four of five Christians were white

Great missionary centers: London and New York

Less than 10 million Christians in Africa

Less than 22 million Christians in Asia

Five million Christians in Oceania

460 million Christians in North Atlantic societies

Focus of Church History on Western Europe and America

Christianity closely linked to Western culture and imperialism

In 2000 C.E.

Less than 1/4 of all Christians in Europe

Less than 2 of 5 are white

More missionaries from Korea than from London

about 360 million African Christians

about 312 million Asian Christians

about 22 million Christians in Oceania

about 821 million North Atlantic Christians

Focus on Christianity as a world movement

Christianity seeking self-definition in every society