The Last Templar is a novel written by Raymond Khoury. He is also the screenwriter of the BBC’s Spooks and the Emmy Award winning drama Waking the Dead.
Through The Last Templar Khoury puts forward the theory that the story of Jesus Christ as we know it is actually a myth. It is also claimed that Jesus Himself wrote a gospel, in which He was not the Son of God. Furthermore, The Last Templar claims that certain people in the Roman Catholic Church know about this ‘gospel’.
Of course, it must be remembered that The Last Templar is a work of fiction and that that this ‘gospel’ that Jesus supposedly wrote has never been discovered. However, the book says many untrue things about the Bible and Christianity, and presents them as though they are fact. We will look at those things shortly.
The Last Templar also says many negative things about “the Church”. What precisely does Raymond Khoury mean by “the Church”? Is he referring the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Evangelical Church or Pentecostal Churches? My point is that there are many groups that exist that call themselves “the Church”. All these groups cannot be painted with the same brush. For example, many times when The Last Templar refers to “the Church” it is in fact referring to the Roman Catholic Church. I personally am not a Roman Catholic. Nevertheless, I am a Christian and pastor an independent church. I am therefore part of the Church (which consists of all believers in Christ), but not in the sense that the Last Templar uses the phrase. Therefore, The Last Templar ought to have been much more specific in its use of the word "Church" when it accuses “the Church” of doing various things. It should be noted that those who have gone around making wars or killing people in the name of Christ were in fact acting contrary to Christ. Jesus clearly taught us to “turn the other cheek”. When Peter took out his sword to defend Christ, Jesus rebuked him. Therefore, any group that does such evil is not giving authenic expression to what the Church of Jesus Christ is really about.
The Last Templar also depicts the New Testament Gospels as being historically unreliable. According to The Last Templar, the Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels, and is thought to have been written at least forty years after Jesus’ death (page 312). Apparently, the Gospel of Matthew was written 50 years later, and the Gospel of Luke 10 years after that (page 313). Thus, according to The Last Templar, if we date the Crucifixion at AD 30, the four Gospels were written at the following earliest possible dates:
Mark - AD 70
Matthew - AD 120
Luke – AD 130
John – after AD 130
However, these dates are simply not accurate as I will now demonstrate. Luke wrote two books of the New Testament – the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke wrote The Acts of the Apostles after the Gospel of Luke as a continuation of his Gospel. However, the Acts of the Apostles was written whilst the apostle Paul was still alive, up to his two years’ residence in Rome (AD 61-62). Paul died around AD 64 under the persecution of Nero. This means that the Acts of the Apostles must have been written before AD 64. Seeing as the Gospel of Luke was written before The Acts of the Apostles, Luke’s Gospel must have been written in the late 50’s or early 60’s, 70 years before The Last Templar suggests! Furthermore, The Last Templar states that the Gospel of Mark was the earliest of the four to be written. If this is so, it would mean that Mark’s Gospel was written in the 50’s or earlier. It is clear then that the four Gospel’s were written much earlier than The Last Templar suggests. In fact, all 27 books of the New Testament had been completed before the close of the first century.
The Last Templar says that originally there were dozen of gospels, often at odds with each other (page 313) and that Irenaeus decided that there should be four true gospels, using the argument that as there were four corners to the universe and four principal winds, so there should be four gospels (page 315). Indeed, many people did write their own gospels. The Bible does not seek to hide this, for Luke’s introduction to his Gospel reads as follows:
"Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed". (Luke 1:1-4 NKJV)
However, as we well know, not everyone is an honest witness! As Christianity began to spread, many spurious gospels were written, containing many untruths, and claiming to written by apostles. The early church recognised these ‘gospels’ as false and so rejected them. By Irenaeus’ time, it seems that they only knew of four which could be trusted with any certainty. Irenaeus did not decide that there should be only four Gospels, but seeks to show us what he believes God’s reason is for allowing there to be only four true Gospels. In Adversus Haeress Irenaeus writes:
“The Gospels could not possibly be either more or less in number than they are. Since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is spread over all the earth, and the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel, and the Spirit of life, it fittingly has four pillars, everywhere breathing out incorruption and revivifying men. From this it is clear that the Word, the artificer of all things, being manifested to men gave us the gospel, fourfold in form but held together by one Spirit. As David said, when asking for his coming, 'O sitter upon the cherubim, show yourself '. For the cherubim have four faces, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God. For the first living creature, it says, was like a lion, signifying his active and princely and royal character; the second was like an ox, showing his sacrificial and priestly order; the third had the face of a man, indicating very clearly his coming in human guise; and the fourth was like a flying eagle, making plain the giving of the Spirit who broods over the Church. Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these.” (3.11.8)
This is hardly Irenaeus ‘deciding’ that there are only four Gospels; rather, he is explaining the already present fact.
The Last Templar goes on to say that it wasn’t until AD 367 that the list of 27 texts that comprise what we know as the New Testament were finally agreed upon (page 315). It is most likely that Raymond Khoury gets this date from a letter written by Athanasius in AD 367, in which he says:
“Continuing, I must without hesitation mention the scriptures of the New Testament; they are the following: the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, after them the Acts of the Apostles and the seven so-called catholic epistles of the apostles -- namely, one of James, two of Peter, then three of John and after these one of Jude. In addition there are fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul written in the following order: the first to the Romans, then two to the Corinthians and then after these the one to the Galatians, following it the one to the Ephesians, thereafter the one to the Philippians and the one to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians and the epistle to the Hebrews and then immediately two to Timothy , one to Titus and lastly the one to Philemon. Yet further the Revelation of John”
The Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Council of Carthage (AD 397) also agreed that these 27 books formed the complete New Testament. However, the councils and Athanasius only agreed with the already established fact that these writings were indeed sacred. This is evidenced in that well before Athanasius wrote his letter; the 27 books of the New Testaments were already in circulation and were already considered sacred by the Church. In fact, from AD 150 – 330 the 27 books of the New Testament are quoted from 36,289 times by the early church fathers. These fathers include Justin Matyr, Irenaues, Clement (Alex.), Origien, Tertulliam, Hippolytius, and Eusebius. Therefore, these 27 writing were not decided to be the New Testament in AD 367, as The Last Templar suggests. Rather, before this time, these writings were already considered the Word of God. The only of the 27 books that were ever questioned by some were Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, James and Revelation. However, after deliberate examination, they were also received as authentic and inspired.
The Last Templar also says concerning Jesus that the idea of his being the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary only became official church policy at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD (page 323). However, the New Testament, which was written well before AD 325 calls Jesus “Lord”, and “the Son of God” and “God” many times. The Old Testament, which of course was written before AD 325, prophesied that the coming Messiah would be called, “The Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). Furthermore, the following quotations from before AD 325 are just a few that show Christians believed in the Divinity of Christ from well before this:
Ignatius (AD 50 – 117) “our God, Jesus Christ”
Justin Martyr (AD 100 – 165) “He was God”
Melito of Sardis (died AD 190) “Being God and likewise perfect man”
Irenaueus (AD 130 – 200) “He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor…and the Mighty God”
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150 – 215) “He alone is both God and man”
Tertullian (AD 160 – 225) “for Christ is also God”
Therefore, yet again, on this point The Last Templar is shown to be historically inaccurate.
In all fairness to The Last Templar it does end on a positive note about “the Church”. However, the purpose of this brief article has been to point out some of the historical, theological, and conceptual errors in the book, and to show the book to be what it is – fiction.
Dr. Stuart Pattico
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