There is much confusion and debate over the origin of the Scriptures as we know them today. Dan Brown has added to the confusion with his book “The Da Vinci Code”. This book contains the following assertion “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.”
This statement has led many to believe that before Emperor Constantine we didn't have a copy of the Bible. This notion is simply false, being based on an ignorance of history.
Despite claims in the prologue to the contrary, The Da Vinci Code is a book of fiction with historians widely denouncing its claim of historical accuracy.
We will examine the historical evidence showing that the Bible existed before the days of Constantine. First, however it would be wise to look at the man at the centre of the controversy.
Emperor Constantine was born in the year 274 AD, in what is now Serbia and Montenegro. He was the son of the commander Constantius Chlorus (later Constantius I) and Helena (later Saint Helena). Constantius became co-emperor in 305 AD. Constantine, who had shown military talent in the East, joined his father in an invasion of the British Isles in 306 AD. He was popular with the troops, who proclaimed him emperor when Constantius died later the same year. Over the next two decades, however, Constantine had to fight his rivals for the throne, and he did not finally establish himself as sole ruler until 324 AD.
Constantine served as the Roman Emperor from 306 – 337 AD, however, he did not experience his ‘conversion’ until 312 AD, at Milvian bridge. There is still some debate weather this was a true conversion to Christianity, or if it was merely a political move. History has shown us that from this point onwards the persecution of the Christians within the Roman Empire decreased.
Prior to his conversion in 312 AD, Constantine was a worshipper of the sun. It can be safely concluded that during this time he was opposed to Christianity, which would deem him an idolater.
Constantine was a true historical figure and appears to have converted from paganism to Christianity.
Back to the question of “Did Constantine give us the Bible?” The simple answer is no. Manuscript evidence (below) shows very clearly, that prior to the conversion of Constantine the Bible was being widely distributed.
For the purpose of this article we will focus on the New Testament rather than the Old Testament. The Old Testament was in wide circulation long before this time and even before the time of Christ, so there is little value in us exploring this avenue in regards to the question at hand.
Below are the names, and details of the many Papyri and Uncials that we have which show that we have had the Scriptures long before Constantine was even born:
Papyri refer to a manuscript that is made of papyrus. It is referring to a type of ‘paper’ and not a style of writing. Papyri itself is easily destroyed when exposed to the elements, that is why only a few manuscript fragments survive. Most of these were found in drier regions, in the deserts of Egypt and the Middle East. In most cases the papyri content contains only portion of books, the reasoning for this is because of the age and fragility of the papyri we have lost the other sections.
Uncials are manuscripts that are written in capital letters. This style of writing took a lot of work, and was normally reserved for literary works.
|0162||3rd or 4th Century||New York, USA||John 2:11-22|
|0171||300 AD||Florence, Italy |
|Matthew 10; |
|0189||2nd or 3rd Century||Berlin, Germany||Acts 5:3-21|
|0220||3rd Century||Oslo, Norway||Romans 4:23-5:3, 5:8-13|
|P1||3rd Century||Philadelphia, USA||Matthew 1|
|P4||3rd Century||Paris, France||Luke 1 - 6|
|P5||3rd Century||London, UK||John 1, 16, 20|
|P7||3rd or 4th Century||Kiev, Ukraine||Luke 4|
|P9||3rd Century||Cambridge, USA||1 John 4|
|P12||3rd Century||New York, USA||Hebrews 1|
|P13||3rd or 4th Century||London, UK |
|Hebrews 2-5, 10-12|
|P15||3rd Century||Cairo, Egypt||1 Corinthians 7-8|
|P16||3rd or 4th Century||Cairo, Egypt||Philippians 3-4|
|P18||3rd or 4th Century||London, UK||Revelation 1|
|P20||3rd Century||Princeton, USA||James 2-3|
|P22||3rd Century||Glasgow, UK||John 15-16|
|P23||3rd Century||Urbana, USA||James 1|
|P27||3rd Century||Cambridge, UK||Romans 8-9|
|P28||3rd Century||Berkley, USA||John 6|
|P29||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Acts 26|
|P30||3rd Century||Ghent, Belgium||1 Thessalonians 4-5 2 Thessalonians 1|
|P32||200 AD||Manchester, UK||Titus 1-2|
|P37||3rd or 4th Century||Ann Arbor, USA||Matthew 26|
|P38||300 AD||Ann Arbor, USA||Acts 18-19|
|P39||3rd Century||Rochester, USA||John 8|
|P40||3rd Century||Heidelberg, Germany||Romans 1-4, 6, 9|
|P45||3rd Century||Dublin, Ireland |
|Matthew 20-21, 25-26; Mark 4-9, 11-12; Luke 6-7, 9-14; John 4-5, 10-11; Acts 4-17|
|P46||200 AD|| Dublin, Ireland |
Ann Arbor, USA
| Romans 5-6; |
2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians;
1 Thessalonians; Hebrews
|P47||3rd Century||Dublin, Ireland||Revelation 9-17|
|P48||3rd Century||Florence, Italy||Acts 23|
|P49||3rd Century||New Haven, USA||Ephesians 4-5|
|P52||125 AD||Manchester, UK||John 18|
|P53||3rd Century||Ann Arbor, USA||Matthew 26; |
|P64 [+67]||200 AD||Oxford, UK |
|Matthew 3, 5, 26|
|P65||3rd Century||Florence, Italy||1 Thessalonians 1-2|
|P66||200 AD||Cologny, Switzerland |
|P69||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Luke 22|
|P70||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Matthew 2-3, 11-12, 24|
|P72||3rd or 4th Century||Oxford, UK||1 Peter; 2 Peter; Jude|
|P75||3rd Century||Cologny, Switzerland||Luke 3-18, 22-4; John 1-15|
|P77||2nd or 3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Matthew 23|
|P78||3rd or 4th Century||Oxford, UK||Jude|
|P80||3rd Century||Barcelona, Spain||John 3|
|P87||3rd Century||Cologne, Germany||Philemon|
|P90||2nd Century||Oxford, UK||John 18-19|
|P91||3rd Century||Sydney, Australia||Acts 2-3|
|P95||3rd Century||Florence, Italy||John 5|
|P98||2nd Century||Cairo, Egypt||Revelation 1|
|P101||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Matthew 3-4|
|P102||3rd or 4th Century||Oxford, UK||Matthew 4|
|P103||2nd or 3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Matthew 13-14|
|P104||2nd Century||Oxford, UK||Matthew 21|
|P106||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||John 1|
|P107||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||John 17|
|P108||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||John 17-18|
|P109||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||John 21|
|P111||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Luke 17|
|P113||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Romans 2|
|P114||3rd Century||Oxford, UK||Hebrews 1|
|P115||3rd or 4th Century||Oxford, UK||Revelation 2-3, 5-6, 8-15|
Note that where the dates are recorded as 2nd century, this equates with years 100 AD-199 AD, and so for the 3rd 200 AD -299 AD and the 4th for 300 AD-399 AD. Thus, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that the manuscripts we have predate Constantine. History shows clearly that all the Scriptures existed for over 200 years before the birth of Constantine. This easily dismisses the claims of those who state that Constantine gave us the Holy Bible.
The Bible is the most tested book in all of history, and many would try and discredit it by giving it a late writing date. God however, in His Sovereign protection has preserved His word, so that we today are able to read the Scriptures and know that contained within them are the words of eternal life.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
-  Dan Brown, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, Corgi Books (2004): 313
-  http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560455/Constantine_the_Great.html (Cited: 8 December, 2007)
-  Ibid: (Cited: 8 December, 2007)
-  Ibid: (Cited: 8 December, 2007)
-  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Testament_uncials (Cited: 3 December, 2007)
-  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Testament_papyri (Cited: 3 December, 2007)