The wealthy merchant Marcion (d. c.160 A.D.) didn’t like what he thought was the cranky God of the Old Testament, so he removed this God from his version of the Bible. He amputated the entire Old Testament as well as any New Testament books that to him sounded like the Old Testament. We generally know what was in his Bible, and it contained much of what is in ours. What he amputated is harder to discern. The important point is that Marcion’s partial list of New Testament books in 135 A.D. affirms their acceptance 200 years prior to the Council of Nicaea.
Tertullian (c.155 or 160–after 220 A.D.), a church father, remarked that there were two ways to butcher scripture. One was Marcion’s way—he used a knife to excise from the Scriptures whatever did not conform to his opinion. And according to Tertullian, heretic number two, named Valentinus, showed the other way. Valentinus kept the agreed-upon New Testament books intact but scribbled in his own changes as he saw fit.
If only we had a copy of what was in Valentinus’s gospel we would know for sure what Christians nearly two centuries before Constantine and Nicaea regarded as the official New Testament. Oh, wait a minute—we do.
In 1945, a discovery was made in Upper Egypt, near the town of Nag Hammadi. Fifty-two copies of ancient writings, called the Gnostic gospels were found in 13 leather-bound papyrus codices (handwritten books). They were written in Coptic and belonged to a library in a monastery. Suddenly the mystery of these ancient Valentinian documents was unfolded. Among the 52 writings, scholars discovered works many attribute to the leading Gnostic, Valentinus.
One document, the manifesto of the Valentinian school called “The Gospel of Truth,” contains themes and passages from Matthew, Luke, John, 10 of Paul’s 13 letters, 1 John, and Revelation and likely contained 2 John, Hebrews, and Jude. This is a sizable portion of our New Testament, and it was in place 120 years after Jesus. In spite of Dan Brown’s assertion in The Da Vinci Code that “eighty gospels” existed, only New Testament Gospels were alluded to by Valentinus.
Thus, even the “outlaws” of Christianity validate the New Testament’s wide acceptance well before Constantine convened the bishops at Nicaea.
If you have seen or read The Da Vinci Code and would like to learn the truth about its assertions, read Was There A Da Vinci Conspiracy?