- Myth #1: The "historical Jesus" is different from the Jesus of the Bible
- Myth #2: The New Testament was written 100 years after Jesus
- Myth #3: There was no virgin birth and Jesus was not born in Bethlehem
- Myth #4: Jesus did not claim to be God
- Myth #5: The Gospels contradict one another and contain fiction
- Myth #6: The Miracles of the New Testament were invented
- Myth #7: Jesus never really rose from the dead
- The Real Jesus - Part One
- The Real Jesus - Part Three
- A New Comprehensive Approach to the Gospels
- Countering Bible Contradictions
Debunking the Myths of The Da Vinci Code
And then there is The Da Vinci Code, a popular mystery novel about the conspiracy of the Church to hide the truth that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code claims the novel is based on exhaustive historical research. Many people take this claim at face value. Those without much background in history believe the claims presented by the author.
Is the Da Vinci Code based on historical fact?
[Brief clips of interviews with college students who have read The Da Vinci Code explaining what it is about and who are convinced it is based on historical fact.]
The Da Vinci Code has enjoyed an immense popularity especially among academics and college students. The premise of the book is that the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene survives to the present day. Although the Catholic Church sought to destroy the account of Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene, it survived through the writings of the Gnostic Gospels, and also through a secret order of the Knights Templars, the protectors of the Holy Grail. The big secret, according to the novel, is that the Holy Grail isn’t a cup, but a code name for the lineage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
The Last Supper portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of Dan Brown’s supposed evidences that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus. According to Dan Brown, the Apostle seated at Jesus’ right side is not John, but rather Mary Magdalene. Even if Leonardo intended to convey this message, the portrait of the Last Supper would then be glaringly out of sync with the Gospel accounts. Since scripture records that only the twelve Apostles were present at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:20), then “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23) who was “leaning on his side” (v.25) is conspicuously absent from Leonardo’s painting. The disciple whom Jesus loved is identified five times in scripture as none other than the Apostle John (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20).
Contrary to the vast consensus among art historians that the youth depicted in Leonardo’s famous painting of the Last Supper is the Apostle John, Dan Brown insists that Leonardo depicts Mary Magdalene at Christ’s side — not only as an Apostle of Jesus, but also as his wife or lover. According to Brown, early church leaders who feared the truth would undermine Catholic Church’s teaching on celibacy concealed her real identity.
One character in the book explains, “The church, in order to defend itself against the Magdalene’s power, perpetuated her image as a whore and buried evidence of Christ’s marriage to her, thereby defusing any potential claims that Christ had a surviving bloodline and was a mortal prophet” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 214).
Dan Brown’s conspiracy theory is nothing new. In the novel itself, one of the main characters points to several books that form the basis of this claim — that in 325 A.D., the church conducted a massive cover-up in order to refute an earlier Gnostic Christianity that honored Mary Magdalene as its chief apostle.
The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ, by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince.
The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail, and The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine, both by Margaret Starbird.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.
And of course, Elaine Pagels controversial title, The Gnostic Gospels.
By referring to these works, usually found in the Occult and New Age section of bookstores, Dan Brown claims credibility for his novel in the rapidly growing interest in Gnosticism. This “alternative” form of religion has made frequent appearances in popular media, including novels, television, and movies. One example is the 1999 film, Stigmata, which depicted the Catholic Church’s supposed cover-up of subversive “truths” found in Gnostics writings such as the Gospel of Thomas.
(SCENES FROM STIGMATA)
There are quite a few good books and videos available today that examine these claims and debunk each one as not only contrary to scripture, but also as illogical and contrary to historical fact as well. We’ve included a list of books, articles and videos for further research on the menu of this DVD. Our intention is neither to delve into the intricacies of art history in relation to Leonardo’s works nor to explore the origins of the Holy Grail legend. Our main purpose here is to examine and debunk the main premise of The Da Vinci Code — the ancient heresy of Gnosticism.
Who were the Gnostics?
Gnosticism refers to a religious philosophy that permeated the Eastern world at about the time of Christ and for many centuries afterward. By the end of the first century, Gnosticism had infected not only the New Testament era Church, but also Judaism. Gnosticism adopted many Christian and Jewish elements, and had become a major threat to Christianity when it influenced the teachings of second century Christian heretics, such as Marcion, Cerinthus and Valentinus.
Gnosticism held that spirit is good, matter is evil. Salvation consists in deliverance of the spirit from matter or the physical world, and salvation is achieved by means of a secret or higher “knowledge” (Gnosticism getting it name from the Greek word: gnosis). The Gnostics taught that the Supreme God was transcendent and unapproachable, but from Him came a series of progressively inferior emanations called aeons. The lowest of these aeons is “Jehovah.” Christ is one of the highest aeons. Since all matter is evil, they taught that Christ was a spirit being and had only an illusive body. Sometimes this is known as the doctrine of Docetism. The Gnostics taught that Christ was a spirit temporarily inhabiting the body of the man Jesus who died.
Gnosticism has its roots in Eastern religions that teach that human beings can attain to a god-like state through enlightenment. This deception can be found in the devil’s false promise to the woman in the Garden, “Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). The philosophy of Eastern Mysticism and Gnosticism promises this “opening of the eyes” resulting in enlightenment and the attainment of a God-like consciousness.
Gnostic views of the Godhead were opposed by Paul in his writings, by Peter in his second epistle, by the Apostle John in his writings, and by the Church Fathers and apologists.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle to Timothy:
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called (1 Timothy 6:20).
It’s worth noting here that the word translated as “science,” or as “knowledge” in some translations, is the Greek word gnosis. Paul is warning his young disciple Timothy against the error of Gnosticism. Likewise, the letter to the Colossians also deals with Gnosticism.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind (Colossians 2:18).
Peter’s second epistle also warns against heresies. Many scholars believe he is referring specifically to the teachings of Gnosticism.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).
John’s writings were written in part to counter the Gnostic error that supposed that Christ came in spirit form only, but not in human flesh.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands (1 John 1:1).
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God (1 John 4:2).
John further condemns the “mystery religions” that had corrupted first century Jews represented by the harlot in the book of Revelation.
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS (Revelation 17:3,4).
Around 180 A.D., the Christian apologist, Irenaeus, wrote his great polemic, Against Heresies: The Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So Called, dealing with Gnostic heresies.
At about the same time, Tertullian quoted the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen of Paul’s epistles, Hebrews, 1 John and the book of Revelation in arguing against Marcion the Gnostic heretic.
Gnosticism flourished in the Middle East until about 700 A.D. There were many different types of Gnostic sects ranging from the pseudo-Christian cults already mentioned to any sect that believed it had secret knowledge about the nature of the universe and the pathway to God. Gnosticism’s influence on Greek speaking Jews at the time of Christ later developed into the religion of Kabbalah.
Kabbalah is often seen as an ancient sect of Judaism, however, it should be noted that Orthodox Jewish Rabbis consider the group to be a cult which marries Gnosticism to esoteric strains of Jewish theology. Kabbalah means “to receive” or “to accept.” It is believed that when Moses brought the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai he also brought with him the oral law, or Kabbalah. People who know this secret oral tradition claim to know the true meaning of the Torah, which supposedly has hidden messages. Therefore, the main principles of Kabbalah are a belief in the divinity of the Torah and that by studying the Torah you can understand the creation of the world.
[The above paragraph is the voice over while the first part of scenes from the movie PI are shown.]
Sixteen, twenty-seven. Results: Euclid shows tomorrow’s Dow closing up by four points. Anomalies include PRONET at sixty-fire and a quarter, a career high. Possible explanations, either A, an error in the June fifth algorithm, or B, Euclid’s main processor is running a recursion …
Max marks up the paper with lines and diagrams as he ponders his hits and misses. Then a puff of cigarette smoke drifts by and succeeds in bothering Max. He fans it away when —
VOICE FROM OFFSCREEN
Oh sorry, am I bothering you? Max shrugs and looks over.
The voice belongs to LENNY MEYER—a bearded man in his late 20s sucking on a cigarette. On closer inspection, something is off. It seems that Lenny is an Orthodox Jew. His yarmulke sticks out slightly from his wide-brimmed hat and the fringes from his tsi-tsis hang out from the bottom of his untucked shirt.
I’ll put it out. (Which he does) The name’s Lenny Meyer
Lenny sticks out his hand. Max responds with a small nod._
And you are?
Cohen! (Judging) Jewish?
Max shrugs and turns back to his work.
[Audio fades in here after voice over is finished]
It’s okay. (Joking) I’m a Jew, too. (Serious) Do you practice?
No, I’m not interested in religion.
Have you ever heard of Kabbalah?
I’m sorry, I’m very busy.
I understand…it’s just that it’s a very exciting time in our history. Right now is a critical moment in time.
Yes, it’s very exciting. Have you ever put on Tefillin?
Max has no idea what Lenny’s talking about. Lenny pulls a leather box with black leather straps from his pocket.
Tefillin. You know Tefillin. I know it looks strange. But it’s an amazing tradition that has a tremendous amount of power. It’s a mitzvah for allJewish men to do. Mitzvahs, good deeds, are spiritual food for our hearts and our heads.
_And then Max notices that his thumb is twitching He grabs it
They purify us and bring us closer to God. You want to try it?
Just then, Max pays his bill and prepares to leave.
I gotta go…
Are you okay? Max? Max?
I’m sorry, bye.
Well, maybe some other time….
[VOICE OVER] The belief in the Torah as divine, the practice of conjuring spirits, and belief in alchemy and astrology are just three of the deviations from Judaism that put Kabbalah in the category of Paganism — the worship of false gods — a violation of the first three of the Ten Commandments. Kabbalists believe in hidden meanings in the Torah. Kabbalists also believe that every letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a hidden meaning.
INT. COFFEE SHOP-DAY
Max sits at the counter frantically looking at the Wall Street Journal. He plops three pills into his coffee. He draws circles and other shapes across the page. Max is interrupted by a puff of smoke. At the same time, someone touches his shoulder and says:
Hey, Max, how you doing?
Lenny Meyer. (Motioning to the cigarette) I’ll put it out. (Which be does) So, what do you do?
Um, I work with computers … math.
Really? What type of math?
Number theory. Mostly research.
Number theory? No way, I work in theory, too. Not traditional, though… (Points to his yarmulke) I work with the Torah. (Awed by the coincidence) Amazing.
(Passing it off as a coincidence) Yeah…
Yeah. You know Hebrew is all numbers. It’s all math.
Lenny pulls out a worn dog-eared Bible from his pocket. There are paper slips marking what seems like every other page. When he opens it up, Max sees that the pages are marked up by highlighter pens, notes and diagrams. Lenny points to the text. EXTREME CLOSE-UP of Hebrew letters.
Here, look…the ancient Jews used Hebrew as their numerical system. Each letter is a number.
Lenny pulls out a pen and grabs Max’s Journal. He writes on it as he talks.
You see…The Hebrew “A,” the number 1. The Hebrew “B,” Bet, is two. You can take any Hebrew text and turn them into a long string of numbers.
The waitress refills Max’s coffee.
The Torah is just a long string of numbers. Some say that it’s a long code sent to us from God.
Satisfied, Lenny lights up a cigarette and takes a drag.
Kind of interesting.
(Proud of himself)Yeah, like take theHebrew word for, say, th Garden of Eden, Kadem. Kuf, Dalei Mem…Kuf is a hundred. Daled, four Mem, forty. They equal one hundred and forty-four. Then take the tree of knowledge…in the garden, Aat Ha Haim, it equals two hundred and thirty-three. Now you can take that number and…
They’re Fibonacci numbers.
The Fibonacci sequence. Italian mathematician, thirteenth century. If you divide a hundred and forty-four into two hundred and thirty-three, it approaches theta.
The Greek symbol for the golden ratio. The golden spiral.
Lenny exhales the smoke. Max quickly graphs the number on his Wall Street Journal.
You’re right, I never saw that before. That’s the series you find in nature. Like the face of a sunflower.
Wherever there’s spirals.
You see, there’s math everywhere. Lenny’s smoke drifts by Max’s eyes.
SLOW MOTION: MAX’S POV of smoke spirals spinning in front of him.
Math everywhere …
SLOW MOTION: Max looks down at his coffee cup. He pours cream into his coffee. It shoots up and mixes with the black coffee forming spirals in the mug.
SLOW MOTION: Max looks at the spiral he just drew on the Wall Street Journal.
NORMAL SPEED Suddenly, Max stands up.
Oh my God…
[The above scene can be culled down or edited for length.]
In addition to forming the backdrop for the sci-fi cult film, PI, Kabbalah has also made it into popular culture through the Jewish legend of the Golem, the story of an evil spirit summoned by a Rabbi to save a Jewish ghetto in Eastern Europe from a pogrom. Elements of the Golem legend can be seen in the popularity of monster films, such as Frankenstein.
[Scenes from The Golem and Frankenstein]
One of the best-known Kabbalists of the 20th century was Aleister Crowley, who is popularly considered to be a Satanist.
[Photos of Crowley]
Kabbalah has made inroads into modern Christian thought as well, especially in the idea that there are Bible codes that will give the decoder a secret meaning not apparent in the plain text of scripture.
[Scenes from The Omega Code movie; The Bible Codes books]
Kabbalists, like all Gnostics, are obsessed with finding secret codes that will lead a select group to the Truth that has been hidden from the eyes of adherents to orthodox religion.
The Apostles Creed vs. Gnosticism
Let’s take a moment and look at a short confession, the oldest of the Christian Church called simply, the Apostles’ Creed, which was developed in the late first and early second centuries to distinguish Christianity from Gnosticism. A creed is usually compiled to refute those heresies church leaders think most dangerous in their time. The Apostles’ Creed emphasized the true humanity of Jesus, including His material body, since that is the point that the Gnostics denied.
If you have ever attended a liturgical church, then you may be already familiar with the Apostles Creed.
[AT THIS POINT SCROLL THE CREED ON SCREEN WHILE A GROUP OF VOICES RECITES THE CREED. PAUSE AFTER EACH SECTION AND HIGHLIGHT THE STATEMENTS AS THEY ARE BEING EXPOUNDED UPON.]
The Apostles Creed is as follows:
+ I believe in God the Father Almighty,
+ Maker of Heaven and Earth,
The Gnostics held that the physical universe is evil and therefore God did not make it.
+ And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord,
+ Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
+ Born of the Virgin Mary,
The Gnostics believed that orthodox Christians were wrong in supposing that God had taken human nature or a human body. Against this idea the orthodox Christians affirmed that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (denying the Gnostic position that the Spirit had nothing to do with Jesus until his Baptism), that He was born (which meant that he had a real physical body, and not just an appearance). Born of the Virgin Mary (implied that He had a supernatural origin from the first moment of his life, and not just from His baptism on as some of the Gnostics taught).
+ Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
There were many stories about gods who died and were resurrected, but they were thought of as legends, or as myths symbolic of the renewal of spring after winter. Adonis, Hercules, the Norse god Balder and other heroic God-man figures died and rose from the dead “long ago and far away.” Jesus, on the other hand, died at a particular time and place in history, under the jurisdiction of Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea from 26 to 36 A.D., during the last ten years of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.
+ was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell.
Here the creed hammers home the point: Jesus was really dead. His death was not an illusion. He was nailed to a cross. He died. He had a real body, a corpse, that was placed in a tomb. He was not merely unconscious — His spirit left his body and went to the realm of the dead. The reference to His descent into hell (or Hades, or Sheol) is here to make it clear that the death of Jesus was not just a swoon or a coma, but death in every sense of the word.
+ The third day he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven,
+ and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
+ From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
+ I believe in the Holy Ghost,
+ the holy catholic church,
The Gnostics believed that the most important doctrines were reserved for a select few. The orthodox belief was that the fullness of the Gospel was to be preached to the entire human race. The term “catholic” (which means universal) was originally formulated to distinguish the catholic or universal church from the secret sect of the Gnostics.
+ the communion of saints,
+ the forgiveness of sins,
The Gnostics considered that what men needed was not forgiveness, but enlightenment. Ignorance, not sin, was the problem. Some of them, believing the body to be a snare and delusion, led lives of abstinence from all worldly pleasures. Others, believing the body to be separate from the soul, held that it did not matter what the body did, since matter was completely evil anyway, and the body’s actions had no effect on the soul. They accordingly led lives that were not abstinent at all. Either way, the notion of forgiveness was alien to them.
+ the resurrection of the body,
+ and the life everlasting. AMEN
The chief goal of the Gnostics was to become free forever from the taint of matter and the limits of the body, and to return to the heavenly realm as Pure Spirit. They totally rejected any idea of the resurrection of the body.
Note: Adapted from Kiefer, James, “The Apostles’ Creed Versus Gnosticism,” Internet Christian Library.
The Gnostic Gospels
The Da Vinci Code is based on the premise that the Gnostic Gospels have credibility. But if you think about it, Christian Gnosticism is an oxymoron. As we have seen, John, Paul and Peter and the church fathers stood against Gnosticism. Therefore, there cannot be any Gnostic Gospel that appeals to the authority of Apostolic teaching. But the Gnostic Gospels do just that. The Gnostic writers falsely attributed their Gospel accounts to one of the twelve Apostles — or another figure such as Mary Magdalene — to whom some type of “secret knowledge” not contained in the four Christian Gospels could be attributed. For this reason the Gnostic Gospels are sometimes called the pseudepigrapha which means literally, “false writings.”
Dan Brown, the writer of The Da Vinci Code appeals to the Gnostic Gospels to present his version of the life of Jesus and the supposed cover-up by the church to conceal the fact that Jesus had a wife.
The Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene are writings dating to about the third century A.D. It is apparent that the writers of the Gnostic Gospels wished to marry their religion to the emerging faith of the early Christians.
Until the 20th century, the writings of the Gnostics were known only as quoted or described in the various writings of the church fathers. Over the centuries, as Gnosticism all but died out, these writings were lost or destroyed. In the late 1800s, some of the Gnostic writings were recovered by archaeologists. Then in 1945, a library at Nag Hammadi in Egypt was discovered. The diverse set of writings was copied in the Coptic language by monks in the fourth century, then sealed in clay jars and buried.
In 1979, Elaine Pagels, professor of early Christian history at Princeton University, published a critical analysis, The Gnostic Gospels, to argue that the texts ought to be read as a collection of “suppressed Christian voices,” which when read selectively seem to give credence to feminist theology. Still other writers have openly suggested that these were the “Lost Gospels” and ought to be included in a re-opened canon of scripture.
Two things are certain about these writings. First, they were not written by the Apostle Philip or Mary Magdalene, but by Gnostics who lived later on — probably in the second and third centuries. Second, the purpose of these “Gospels” is to lend credibility to Gnostic teachings by marrying them to already known stories about Jesus. By placing Gnostic teachings in the mouth of Jesus or one of His Apostles, the writers sought to infuse their religion into the rising popularity of orthodox Christianity.
The Gnostic Gospels contain no history, but are mainly collections of the sayings of Jesus in which He is made to repeat Gnostic doctrines. And since the Gnostics denied the physical resurrection of Jesus’ body, there are no Passion accounts.
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene contains an account in which the disciples ask questions to Jesus about the nature of matter and spirit. Jesus’ answers to their questions give Gnostic explanations about the nature of matter and spirit, sin, and good and evil.
Will matter then be destroyed or not? The Savior said, All nature, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its own nature alone. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Mary Magdalene 4:21-23).
In the so-called “Gospel of Mary Magdalene,” Jesus repeats the Gnostic doctrine that the spiritual is good and all matter is evil — that there is a higher knowledge that can only be comprehended by those who are “spiritual.” Then he departs from them and the disciples become grieved and doubt that they can succeed in their commission to preach the Gospel to the world.
Mary Magdalene appears as a woman disciple who was close to Jesus. Although she was not one of the twelve Apostles, who were men, Mary is presented in the Gnostic version as the recipient of “secret knowledge” which she then imparts to the rest of the disciples.
Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them. Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you (Mary Magdalene 4:5-7).
The Gnostic Gospel of Philip contains a passage in which the disciples are jealous of Mary relating that Jesus
… loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth…. They said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness (The Gnostic Gospel of Philip).
The so-called Gnostic Gospels were clearly written by heretics with an agenda. In claiming a secret knowledge hidden from the rest of the church, the Gnostics claimed an elite spiritual status.
Who was the bride of Jesus?
Is it possible that Jesus could have been married and conceived children?
This is the question at the center of most of the controversy surrounding The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown took this idea from several books written in recent decades. Entire television documentaries have been devoted to examining the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. We won’t spend too much time here trying to refute this outrageous claim, but a few points ought to be considered.
1. In the four canonical Gospels, several prominent woman are mentioned among Jesus’ disciples. Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, is more prominent than Mary Magdalene. John chapter 11 tells the story of Lazarus who was raised from the dead by Jesus. In verse five we are told, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus” (John 11:5). In all of the New Testament, Mary and Martha of Bethany are mentioned as the only women disciples whom Jesus loved. Mary of Bethany is also identified as the woman who “took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 12:3) in order to prepare Him for the crucifixion. One could just as easily concoct another conspiracy theory involving Mary of Bethany. Yet Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code rely on a few obscure passages from the Gnostic Gospels to claim that it was Mary Magdalene who was loved by Jesus “more than all the disciples.” And therefore, in a quantum leap of logic, Mary Magdalene must have been his wife.
The lack of credibility here is staggering. Take, for instance, Margaret Starbird’s book, The Woman With the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail. Since Mary of Bethany was the woman with the alabaster jar, right away, the scholarship of Starbird is suspect. One has to wonder: Has she even read the biblical texts?
2. Many of Jesus’ immediate family are mentioned in the New Testament. James and Jude, authors of the two general epistles were both called brothers of the Lord; John the Baptist was his cousin; John’s parents were Elizabeth and Zechariah; and several of Jesus’ siblings are mentioned as part of what some churches have termed “the Holy Family.” In Matthew 13:55,56, when Jesus teaches in his home country of Galilee, the people hearing him are astonished and ask: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?” (Matthew 13:55,56). Given the fact that so many immediate family members are mentioned in scripture, it is unlikely that someone as important as a wife would be left out.
3. One might counter that the Catholic Church wanted to “cover-up” evidence against the celibacy of Jesus, and decided to suppress the fact that Jesus was married. But if so, they also would have suppressed the fact that Jesus had brothers and sisters since it contradicts the life-long celibacy of Mary, the mother of Jesus — another Roman Catholic teaching — one so universal in the history of the church, by the way, that it was also held by Protestants such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Zwingli and John Wesley. Yet the scripture mentioning Jesus’ brothers and sisters has always been included in the text of the New Testament.
4. Eusebius, the fourth century church historian wrote that at the time of Jesus’ birth in the year 4 B.C.
… there had been kept in the archives up to that time the genealogies of the Hebrews as well as of those who traced their lineage back to proselytes, such as Achior the Ammonite and Ruth the Moabitess, and to those who were mingled with the Israelites and came out of Egypt with them.
Eusebius goes on to mention that King Herod, the first king of Judea not of Hebrew descent, had the genealogical records burned. A few Jews had kept careful records of their lineage even until the time of Eusebius. He goes on to write that some of these were Christians who claimed lineage from the family of Jesus.
Among these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Savior. Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory, and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible.
Nowhere in Eusebius or in any other record up until this time is there any mention of direct descendants of Jesus. This is a fantasy invented by 20th century skeptics.
5. If Dan Brown is citing the Gnostic Gospels to prove his claim of a secret bloodline, then how is it that the Gnostic writings contain no references to this? The answer is quite simple. While orthodox Christians have always thought of Christ as fully God and fully man, the Gnostics believed Christ to be fully God, but a man in appearance only. In shunning the material in favor of the spiritual, no value would be placed in a mortal bloodline according to Gnosticism. If Mary Magdalene married Jesus and bore his child, then there would be nothing special either about his “bloodline” or about the woman in relationship with him.
6. Finally, there is a “bride of Christ” mentioned in the book of Revelation. “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife’” (Revelation 21:9). John then sees in a vision the city of Jerusalem, a type of the church, coming down from heaven. While scripture promises that the victorious and risen Christ will one day wed a spotless bride in the form of spiritual Israel, the church, Dan Brown imagines an earthly Jesus joined to a woman in the flesh. While Jesus did live on earth as a flesh and blood man, the marriage supper of the Lamb described in the book of Revelation tells us who the bride of Christ truly is.
Not only is the speculation about Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene without any evidence, the Gnostic Christ is clearly different in essence from Jesus the Son of God, who came in the flesh and was crucified for the sins of the world, as described in the New Testament.
What makes The Da Vinci Code so popular?
Christians who instinctively understand the heretical nature of The Da Vinci Code are often still perplexed as to the “Why?” of the novel’s great popularity. In recent years, it has been hard to turn around in department stores, libraries, bookstores and airports and not see a copy of “that book.” No matter our distaste for the anti-Christian philosophy behind the story, the phenomenon doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
What makes The Da Vinci Code so popular is its treatment of feminist ideology that exalts the idea of the “sacred feminine” and “ancient goddess worship.” The modern promotion of the Gnostic Jesus is contrived with an openly biased agenda. To put it bluntly, it’s all about sexual freedom and doing what you want to do. If Jesus can be portrayed as less than God-like, as merely a great human teacher, then the laws of God, and especially those that deal with sexual morality, may be loosely interpreted. If the Gnostic story of a Jesus who used to kiss his women disciples on the mouth can be validated, then the puritan mores regarding sensuality can be overthrown in the name of a Christ who is less than divine and more of a “party animal” as one of the Jesus Seminar scholars called him (Atlanta Constitution, September 30, 1989).
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The popularity of communist “liberation theology” in Latin America as well as radical feminist and homosexual interpretations of scripture can be traced to the influence of “the Gnostic Christ” promoted by writers such as Elaine Pagels.
As Luke Timothy Johnson put it: “Christianity is reduced to a critique of patriarchal, capitalist, homophobic society. Sin is located to the structures of society, rather than in the hearts of the people” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus, p. 65).
Although much of the controversy over The Da Vinci Code has centered on the claim of the author that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus, the real center of debate revolves around the Christian idea of orthodoxy. The focal point is found in a conversation that takes place between the three main characters more than half way through the novel. Far from being a fatal attack on Christian orthodoxy, the ideas contained in this one short passage can supply Christians with a modern apologetic against the new Gnosticism.
The Da Vinci Code, chapter 55
Most of The Da Vinci Code takes place in a period of one day, beginning with the murder of the curator of the famous art museum in Paris, the Louvre. Robert Langdon, a Harvard expert in religious symbolism, is asked by the French police to help interpret a symbol left on the body of the victim. Langdon is joined in his investigation by the attractive young cryptologist, Sophie Neveu (whose name ironically means: “new wisdom”).
At this point, you might find yourself thinking of the plot of Indiana Jones and the Final Crusade or American Treasure, two films which also feature eccentric conspiracy theorists who set out on quests to find legendary treasure and who, despite all common sense, turn out to be right in the end. The story lines of the Indiana Jones movies and American Treasure also contain some references to biblical accounts and church history. Yet in these cases, Christians understand that they are viewing fictional entertainment.
[SHOW CLIPS FROM FILMS]
If The Da Vinci Code is read purely on this level, as a fictional mystery thriller, many Christians will still be offended at the idea that the marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene was the object of a massive cover-up by the Catholic Church. To compound the insult, the author insists from the book’s first pages that all descriptions of historical documents in the novel are “fact.” In later interviews, Dan Brown has claimed that although initially a skeptic, he became a believer in the premise of the book after many hours of exhaustive research.
The same line is used by Margaret Starbird in The Woman With the Alabaster Jar — that she set out to prove this theory false and ended up a believer. The sincerity of these authors might be questioned, however, given the fact that controversy sells plenty of books. Rather than serious scholars pursuing pure research, we may have reckless profiteers with an agenda to sell the “secret-love-life-of-Jesus.” It is a sad commentary on the state of our culture that the Son of the living God, the Savior of the world, may be so callously depicted as a supermarket tabloid headline.
Three Modes of Attack
Even with its emphasis on the supposed relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, The Da Vinci Code is not so much an attack on the person of Jesus Christ as it is an attack on:
1. The integrity of the Church
2. The factual record of history
3. The very nature of truth itself.
[FLASH PHRASES ON SCREEN]
Attack on the Church
Attack on History
Attack on Truth
Let’s examine the three modes of attack that author Dan Brown uses to take on the authority of the Church and its traditional teachings about the person of Jesus Christ.
#1. Attack on the Church
The Da Vinci Code impugns the integrity of the historic Church’s teachings about Jesus in favor of a Gnostic Christ. Dan Brown invites us to ask: “Did the Catholic Church hide the truth about Jesus and the origin of Christianity?”
Chapter 55 of The Da Vinci Code takes place at the home of Sir Leigh Teabing, a British Royal Historian who has spent much of his life studying the Holy Grail. Leigh’s name is evidently a reference to Richard Leigh, one of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The following is a conversation between Langdon, Sophie and the eccentric historian Teabing.
“To fully understand the Grail,” Teabing continued, “we must first understand the Bible. How well do you know the New Testament?”
Sophie shrugged. “Not at all, really. I was raised by a man who worshipped Leonardo da Vinci.”
Teabing looked both startled and pleased. “An enlightened soul. Superb! …”
Teabing nodded. “Leonardo’s feelings about the Bible relate directly to the Holy Grail. In fact, Da Vinci painted the true Grail, which I will show you momentarily, but first we must speak of the Bible.” Teabing smiled. “And everything you need to know about the Bible can be summed up by the great canon doctor Martyn Percy.” Teabing cleared his throat and declared, “The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book” (The Da Vinci Code, p.195).
History has never had a definitive version of the Bible.
Part of Dan Brown’s style in The Da Vinci Code is to weave historical fact with fiction, so that an uninformed reader might be left not knowing which is which. The truth of the matter is that the issues surrounding the canonization of the Bible are more complex than most Christians realize. Some of the books that make up the Old and New Testament canon have had a controversial history.
The question that ought to concern us is: How can we, as Christians, trust the accepted canon of the Bible as “the definitive version.”
The term “canon” comes from the Greek word kanon, which means “carpenter’s rule.” The “canon” of scripture is in this sense the rule, model, standard or norm for determining the correct list of biblical books. An official listing of the books of the canon of the New Testament came about precisely because some did not agree on which books were inspired of God. About 140 A.D., the Gnostic heretic Marcion opposed the canonicity of the Old Testament. He claimed that the God of the Hebrew scriptures was an evil, creator God and not the Father of Jesus Christ. He held a Docetic view of Christ, claiming that Jesus could not be human, since the evil Jewish God created the flesh. He taught that Jesus liberated Christians from the power of the creator God (or the power of the flesh).
Marcionism is popularly known as the “two-Gods” heresy. Marcion taught that grace is the opposite of law; love is the opposite of justice; Jehovah is the vengeful, wrathful God of the Old Testament; but then Jesus appears as a loving God who could never condemn anyone to hell.
Marcion believed that only Paul understood the true teachings of Jesus Christ and formed a list of Christian scriptures. Marcion’s canon consisted of ten of the letters of Paul and the Gospel of Luke, which he believed was written by Paul. In providing a false New Testament canon, Marcion forced the Church to establish the true canon.
In a counter measure against Marcionism, Irenaeus wrote a treatise containing a list of the four Gospels, the book of Acts, thirteen of Paul’s writings, 1 Peter, 1 and 2 John and the book of Revelation as the canonical books.
The Church universally recognized Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the four inspired Gospels. Seven books that are now part of the canon were debated in some places. These were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation. But each of these disputed books were considered scripture by many Christians just a few years after they appeared. While 20 out of the 27 New Testament books were universally accepted by the church fathers, the process of determining the full canon was completed by the end of the third century as attested in the writings of Origen and Athanasius.
“More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.
“Who chose which gospels to include?” Sophie asked.
“Aha!” Teabing burst in with enthusiasm. “The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great” (The Da Vinci Code, p.195).
More than eighty Gospels were considered until the Bible was collated by the Roman Emperor Constantine.
The impression given here is that there were more than eighty Gospels submitted to a church council headed by Constantine who randomly chose four. Aside from the fact that there have never been as many as eighty false Gospels, the inclusion of only the four Gospels had been settled long before Constantine.
By the time that church apologists, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian, took up their pens to defend Christianity against paganism and Gnosticism, four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had already become fixed as the only sources of authority known by Christians at that time as the “Gospels.”
Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D.:
For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them (Justin, The First Apology, 66).
A couple of decades later, Irenaeus specifically referred to the four Gospels and their authors:
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1).
A little further on, Irenaeus writes:
It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are (Against Heresies, 3.11.8).
Tertullian, writing around the same time, mentions only the four Gospels:
Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instil faith into us; whilst of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards…. The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage — I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew — whilst that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was. For even Luke’s form of the Gospel men usually ascribe to Paul. And it may well seem that the works which disciples publish belong to their masters. Well, then, Marcion ought to be called to a strict account concerning these (other Gospels) also, for having omitted them, and insisted in preference on Luke (Against Marcion, Book 4).
Contrary to Dan Brown’s claim that there were once 80 Gospels considered for the New Testament, there if solid proof that the number of Gospels was set at four at least 150 years prior to Constantine and the Council of Nicea.
Teabing chuckled. “Constantine was a very good businessman. He could see that Christianity was on the rise, and he simply backed the winning horse. Historians still marvel at the brilliance with which Constantine converted the sun-worshipping pagans to Christianity. By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties….
“During this fusion of religions, Constantine needed to strengthen the new Christian tradition, and held a famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicaea.”
Sophie had heard of it only insofar as its being the birthplace of the Nicene Creed.
“At this gathering,” Teabing said, “many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon—the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus.”
“I don’t follow. His divinity?”
“My dear,” Teabing declared, “until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.”
“Not the Son of God?”
“Right,” Teabing said. “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea” (The Da Vinci Code, p.196,197).
The Divinity of Jesus was first proposed and voted upon by the Council of Nicea.
According to the church historian Eusebius, the Roman Emperor Constantine, who by that time was a professed convert to Christianity, called the Nicene Council in 325 A.D. The purpose of the council was not to vote upon the divinity of Jesus. When the Nicene Creed was drawn up. the chief heresy plaguing the church was Arianism, which denied that Jesus was of the same “substance” as God the Father. Here is where Dan Brown cannot possibly be correct — both the Gnostics and the Arians held to the divinity of Jesus. This was a settled issue by this time. The controversy at Nicea not over whether Christ was God, but rather whether He was of “one substance” or merely of “like substance” with the Father.
The heresy of Arianism is named after Arius, a presbyter (or elder) in Alexandria in Egypt, in the early 300’s. He taught that the Father, in the beginning, created the Son, and that the Son, in conjunction with the Father, then proceeded to create the world. The result of this was to make the Son a created being, and therefore not fully God in any meaningful sense. A great controversy ensued throughout the Christian world and threatened to divide the Church.
Finally, the Emperor Constantine summoned a council of bishops in Nicea (across the straits from modern Istanbul). There in 325 A.D. the bishops of the Church almost unanimously repudiated Arius and produced the first draft of what is now called the Nicene Creed. A chief spokesman for the orthodox teaching on the co-eternal, consubstantial nature of the Son of God was Athanasius, who would later become the bishop of Alexandria.
Here is the Nicene Creed:
+ I believe in one God,
+ the Father, the Almighty,
+ maker of heaven and earth,
+ of all that is, seen and unseen.
+ I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
+ the only son of God,
+ eternally begotten of the Father,
This is a reference to John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Arius was fond of saying, “The Logos is not eternal. God begat him, and before he was begotten, he did not exist.” Athanasius replied that the begetting of the Logos was not an event in time, but an eternal relationship.
+ God from God, Light from Light,
A favorite analogy of the Athanasians was the following: light is continuously streaming forth from the sun. The light, then, is derived from the sun, but the light and the sun exist simultaneously throughout eternity. They are co-eternal. Even so, the Son exists because the Father exists, but there was never a time before the Father produced the Son. The analogy is appropriate because to see the sunlight is to see the sun. Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
+ true God from true God,
+ begotten, not made,
This line was inserted as a way of repudiating Arius’ teaching that the Son was the first thing that the Father created, and that to say that the Father begets the Son is simply another way of saying that the Father has created the Son.
+ of one being with the Father.
This line: “of one being” can also be rendered as “one essence with the Father, of one substance with the Father, or consubstantial with the Father.” This clause was the crucial test. It was the one formula that the Arians could not interpret as meaning what they believed. Arius and his immediate followers would have denied that they were reducing the Son to the position of a high-ranking angel. But their doctrine left no safeguard against it, and therefore, this “one essence” clause, homoousios in Greek, was all-important to maintaining Christian orthodoxy.
+ Through him all things were made.
This is a direct quote from John 1:3. Before the insertion of the HOMOOUSIOS clause, this line immediately followed “begotten, not made.” The two lines go naturally together. The Son is not a created thing. Rather, He is the agent through Whom all created things come to be.
+ For us and for our salvation
+ he came down from heaven:
+ by the power of the Holy Spirit
+ he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
+ and was made man.
+ For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
+ he suffered and was buried.
By the time of Nicea, it was no longer necessary to emphasize, to spell out unmistakably, that Christ had really died at Calvary, as it had been spelled out in the Apostles’ Creed: “he suffered death and was buried.” Apparently the Nicene Fathers were supposed that their language would not be misunderstood, since the Gnostics had been defeated.
+ On the third day he rose again
+ in accordance with the Scriptures;
The Scriptures referred to here are the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. The wording here is from 1 Corinthians 15:3,4: “And I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
+ he ascended into heaven
+ and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
+ He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
+ and his kingdom will have no end.
These lines are essentially the same as in the Apostles Creed which we covered earlier.
+ I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
+ who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
+ With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
+ He has spoken through the Prophets.
This inclusion of the lines concerning the Holy Spirit was directed against the Arian view that the Holy Spirit did not exist, or was not active, before Pentecost.
+ I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
The word catholic means “universal.” It does not necessarily refer to the Roman Catholic Church. All true believers are part of the catholic Church, because they hold to the universal faith.
+ I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
+ I look for the resurrection of the dead,
+ and the life of the world to come. AMEN.
Note: Adapted from James Kiefer, “Nicene Creed with Notes and Comment,” Internet Christian Library.
When the Council of Nicea was over, the Arian controversy was far from gone. The fight raged on for decades until Athanasius and his followers eventually prevailed. The Nicene Creed was slightly altered a few times until it took the form we have today. But in any case, Constantine did not turn Jesus into a deity by the result of a vote as Dan Brown claims. The Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus was recorded in many first and second century accounts, even some by pagan writers.
For instance, Pliny the Younger wrote an account to the Emperor Trajan early in the second century about Christian practices. He wrote that: “… they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god” (Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.96).
“Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”
“A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing added. “Nonetheless, establishing Christ’s divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base. By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable. This not only precluded further pagan challenges to Christianity, but now the followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves only via the established sacred channel—the Roman Catholic Church” (The Da Vinci Code, p.197).
Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote. A relatively close vote at that.
This is one of Dan Brown’s most outrageous attacks on the Church’s integrity. One made even the more outrageous by its blatant inaccuracy. Present at the Council of Nicea were over 300 bishops from all over the Christian world. The Nicene Creed was signed by at least 300 bishops. Only two bishops who attended the council refused. Both of these were Libyan bishops who sided with Arius at the beginning of the controversy. Arius and the two bishops were later excommunicated from the catholic church.
“It was all about power,” Teabing continued. “Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power. I’ve written several books on the topic.”
“And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?”
“Why would they?” Teabing countered. “The vast majority of educated Christians know the history of their faith. Jesus was indeed a great and powerful man. Constantine’s underhanded political maneuvers don’t diminish the majesty of Christ’s life. Nobody is saying Christ was a fraud, or denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives. All we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Christ’s substantial influence and importance. And in doing so, he shaped the face of Christianity as we know it today.”
Sophie glanced at the art book before her, eager to move on and see the Da Vinci painting of the Holy Grail.
“The twist is this,” Teabing said, talking faster now. “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history.” Teabing paused, eyeing Sophie.
“Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned” (The Da Vinci Code, p.197,198).
Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible.
Here again is a partial truth distorted into a gross inaccuracy. Sometime after the Council of Nicea, Constantine ordered the church historian Eusebius to produce 50 copies of the Bible containing the Greek Old Testament (known as the Septuagint) and the Greek New Testament. One of the copies from this period is thought by some scholars to be the Codex Vaticanus, one of the oldest complete manuscripts in existence dating from the fourth century. However, this was not a “new Bible.” Comparisons with another manuscript from the same time period, the Codex Sinaiticus, and manuscript fragments dating from the earlier centuries show that this Bible was not “new” at all.
Archaeologists have, in recent years, uncovered many manuscript fragments. These fragments were at one time complete copies of the original manuscripts of the New Testament. Manuscript fragments are scraps of papyrus leaves that have survived throughout the centuries in rubbish heaps or have lain forgotten in monasteries. Many of these fragments have been dated from the second and third centuries. The oldest known fragment is a tiny scrap of papyrus, 3-1/2” by 2-1/2” containing John 18:31-33. Scholars have assigned this fragment to the early part of the second century.
It should come as no surprise to the orthodox Christian, that the oldest surviving Gospel text matches what today’s Bible says in part:
Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the king of the Jews?”
How ironic in view of Brown’s claim that a central passage concerning Christ’s deity is in fact the oldest surviving record of the Gospel!
“An interesting note,” Langdon added. “Anyone who chose the forbidden gospels over Constantine’s version was deemed a heretic. The word heretic derives from that moment in history. The Latin word haereticus means ‘choice.’ Those who ‘chose’ the original history of Christ were the world’s first heretics” (The Da Vinci Code, p.198).
The word heretic means “choice.”
Dan Brown’s inclusion of the word “heretic” at this point in the story opens a theological can of worms. Here is the attempt to embellish Christianity with the humanistic idea of “freedom of choice.” The word heretic, although derived from Latin comes originally from the Greek word, hairesis, which means either a division of beliefs or a division of believers.
The plain meaning of the word heretic in the Greek New Testament is a “divisive man.” This implies a number of things, but essentially it is someone who introduces doctrine which divides the church and leads some away from the truth. In fact, all doctrine divides. That is why we have doctrine in the first place, to divide the true from the false. But in order for a man to be a “heretic,” his doctrine must not only be false, but bad enough that it could result in the damnation of those led astray by his teaching.
During the Apostle Paul’s ministry, the Corinthian church, which he founded, was in danger of being corrupted by heresies and receiving a spirit other than Christ. Paul warned the Corinthians that Satan was able to appear as “an angel of light” (1 Cor. 11:14). In other words, a heresy may contain a partial truth, but be false at its core. Paul taught that heresies, although wicked and of the devil, had a purpose in God’s overall plan.
For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1 Cor. 11:18,19).
Irenaeus in his book Against Heresies (Contra Haereses) used the word to describe opponents of orthodox teaching. Irenaeus defined the serious nature of schism:
He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons … cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ (Irenaeus, Against Heresies).
When Athanasius refuted Arianism in the fourth century, many held to a heresy which made Jesus Christ a lesser god than the Creator. Athanasius was persecuted for what he believed, but he stood for truth and prevailed. Thus “Athanasius contra mundum” (Athanasius against the world) became a proverb for future generations describing a person who will stand for the truth no matter what the cost.
Throughout history, orthodoxy has not always been popular, but it has always defined what the true Christian believes. And the truth has prevailed.
Wherever there has been the Church, there have always been divisions and heresies. Divisiveness is of the devil, but as the Apostle Paul says, “there must be heresies.” Paul does not mean to say that divisive spirits are good, or that they should be esteemed. He means to teach that heresies serve God’s purpose. God allows Satan to bring a faction or a heresy into a church as the antithesis to the Truth. God’s purpose is to approve in the eyes of men those who hold to the true Gospel.
In this way, ironically, The Da Vinci Code is a book ordained of God in that it has Christians reexamining the history of the early church and the evidence that proves who Jesus Christ really is. Don’t get me wrong, the novel is an attack on the church — it is outright heresy. But according to scripture this will result in those who are approved of God coming to the full knowledge of truth. In the end, the debate will strengthen the whole Body of Christ.
#2. Attack on History
From the very beginning of The Da Vinci Code, readers are assured that the conspiracy theory within the story is based on historical fact.
“Fortunately for historians,” Teabing said, “some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms” (The Da Vinci Code, p.198).
Some of the gospels managed to survive.
As a matter of fact, the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in 1947. The Nag Hammadi writings were actually books bound in leather — not scrolls — and were written or compiled in the second or third century A.D. A few small inaccuracies, but for a novel that supposedly relies on exhaustive research, such mistakes are thoughtless and frequent.
Perhaps the most outrageous historical gaffe committed by Brown in The Da Vinci Code is the linking of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi library — two separate archaeological finds compiled by two different religious sects in separate continents hundreds of years apart. Those who are well acquainted with biblical archaeology know this. But the casual reader of the novel is left with the impression that the Nag Hammadi writings are from the same time period.
The Dead Sea scrolls originated in the second century B.C. Although some have tried to link the theology of the Jews who compiled the Dead Sea scrolls to early Christianity, most scholars do not believe that this find has anything to do with Jesus or the early Christians. And rest assured, these researchers are not part of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public.
As we saw in part one of this presentation, the fact that the Dead Sea scrolls survived since the mid-second century B.C. has actually confirmed the historical reliability of the received texts of the Old Testament. Contrary to the claims of the critics, the Old Testament scriptures preserved for thousands of years are virtually identical to the Dead Sea scrolls. Likewise, if we compare the New Testament manuscripts from the earliest centuries together with passages quoted by the first and second century church fathers, we also see an amazing agreement with the New Testament of today.
Of course, the Vatican, in keeping with their tradition of misinformation, tried very hard to suppress the release of these scrolls. And why wouldn’t they? The scrolls highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda—to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base” (The Da Vinci Code, p.198).
The Vatican tried very hard to suppress the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic writings found at Nag Hammadi
A common theme in the literature on the so-called “hidden gospels” is that there is a conspiracy by some powerful body (usually the Roman Catholic Church) attempting to conceal the true Gospel, or to forge biblical texts. Many novels and films play on this theme. In the Hollywood film Stigmata, the Vatican tries to suppress a “Jesus Gospel” which resembles one of the Gnostic writings.
(Replay scene from STIGMATA)
And then there is The Prophecy which deals with the non-existent 23rd chapter of Revelation.
(Show scene from The Prophecy)
Contrary to these entertaining concepts, there was no attempt of the Vatican to suppress the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi library. The manuscripts have been available to researchers for years. In fact, some copies of the writings found at Nag Hammadi were previously discovered in the late 1800s in similar archaeological finds. Many of the texts were translated and published in the early 1900s and have been available to the general public for decades. And since the advent of the internet, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi writings have become available to almost anyone.
There are a number of reasons why the Gnostic Gospels did not win out in the contest of history. They were rejected shortly after their appearance as being not ancient enough to be the authentic writings of the Apostles. The Gnostic writings also lack a narrative structure. There is no history of the life of Jesus contained in them. They are collections of sayings, prayers, rituals and meditations written to support Gnostic beliefs and practices. Since the Gnostics had no use for the material world, they rejected history as important to communicating truth. This rejection of history is inconsistent with the structure of the books of the Bible, all of which record history or contain references which in turn help the reader determine the time, place and authorship of each book. Therefore, the church fathers rejected these writings as non-canonical.
Another reason the Gnostic teachings were rejected is due to the way in which scripture was approached. The Gnostics used both the Old and New Testament mainly to give credence to their esoteric “secret teachings.” The Gnostic writings contain a bizarre mixture of speculation, imagination and mysticism interspersed with scriptural references. On the other hand, the church fathers believed that Christian orthodoxy was found in the plain meaning of scripture. The church fathers quoted the scriptures and sought to explain the meaning of the texts. They did not claim that their writings had equal authority to scripture, nor did they attempt to prove novel or “secret” doctrines.
Sophie could see it contained photographs of what appeared to be magnified passages of ancient documents — tattered papyrus with handwritten text. She did not recognize the ancient language, but the facing pages bore typed translations.
“These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea scrolls, which I mentioned earlier, “Teabing said. “The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible” (The Da Vinci Code, p.207).
The earliest Christian records do not match up with the Gospels in the Bible.
Most readers of The Da Vinci Code realize that they are reading fictional entertainment. However, Brown weaves historical fact with fiction in such a way that the casual reader unfamiliar with ancient history and archaeology might believe that the Gnostic Gospels are, as the novel claims, “the earliest Christian records.” Despite all the hype about the Nag Hammadi library, it turns out that the most reliable historical witnesses to the life of Jesus Christ are the writings of the Apostles found in the canon of the New Testament.
The Church Fathers and apologists quoted extensively from the New Testament in the late first and second centuries. Although Irenaeus and Tertullian quoted from some Gnostic writings in seeking to refute them, none of the second century apologists were aware of any “Gospels” written by the Gnostics. They argued instead against the way in which different Gnostic sects twisted the meanings of one of the four Gospels. This fact has led many historians to believe that Gnostic writings, such as the Gospel of Philip and Mary Magdalene, must have been written later in the third century. In fact, virtually all scholars agree that they do not come from a period any earlier than the mid-second century.
Irenaeus made this interesting observation:
So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5).
Irenaeus pointed out that each of the heretical Gnostic groups liked to center on the one Gospel they thought agreed the most with their teachings. The Ebionites used Matthew’s Gospel. The Docetics preferred the Gospel of Mark. The Marcionites claimed that Luke was the only true Gospel. The Valentinians used the Gospel according to John.
The apologists of the second century were actually the third generation of Christians. Some of them, such as Irenaeus, had actually been taught by men, such as Polycarp, who had known one or more of the Apostles who in turn had been taught by Jesus himself. Unlike the “secret Gospels” of the Gnostics, the “canon of truth,” as Irenaeus termed it, was entirely open to the public. The writings of the Apostles had been entrusted to their successors and these books in turn had been transmitted to the third generation.
Irenaeus claimed that the authenticity of the canon was guaranteed by two safeguards:
The first guarantee of authenticity is apostolic succession. There was an unbroken succession of bishops in cities such as Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome, which had churches founded by one or more of the Apostles. Irenaeus includes lists of these bishops in order of succession in his work Against Heresies. These bishops knew which were the authentic writings since the Apostles themselves passed down these books to them.
The second guarantee of authenticity is the visible canon. The canon was open and visible in the Church for all who cared to look at it. Not only did this include actual copies of the books of the New Testament, but also public preaching expounding on the texts. Irenaeus argued that the Holy Spirit had directed the bishops in the correct way to teach the Gospel message.
Less than a few decades after the last New Testament book was written, Church fathers such as Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement quoted from almost every book in the New Testament in their defense of Christian orthodoxy. Tertullian, in writing against the Gnostic heretic Marcion, was aware of an “Old Testament” and a “New Testament.”
Now the Apostle John, in the Apocalypse, describes a sword which proceeded from the mouth of God as “a doubly sharp, two-edged one.” This may be understood to be the Divine Word, who is doubly edged with the two testaments of the law and the gospel — sharpened with wisdom, hostile to the devil, arming us against the spiritual enemies of all wickedness and concupiscence, and cutting us off from the dearest objects for the sake of God’s holy name (Against Marcion, Book 1).
Even at this early date, Christians thought of the scriptures as the “Two Testaments of the Law and the Gospel” — found in the Hebrew Bible and the writings of the Apostles. They were aware of the four Gospels and argued for the inclusion of all four against those Gnostics who would center on only one (not “many” as Brown claims). So contrary to Brown’s claim, the earliest Christian records match up with the New Testament very closely indeed.
#3. Attack on Truth
The Da Vinci Code propagates a relativistic view of truth and an apathetic attitude toward the idea that anything can be certain concerning spiritual truth.
“What I mean,” Teabing countered, “is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false (The Da Vinci Code, p.198).
Relativism is the philosophy that appeals to the modern trend of self-centeredness. In other words: believe what you want to believe, regardless of the facts. The nature of God and God’s Law, assuming that He even exists, is subject to private interpretation. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky maintained in The Brothers Karamazov: “If there is no God, then anything is permissible.”
[Star Trek: The Next Generation episode — “Justice”]
The question of justice has concerned me a good deal lately. Pained me. Until now, Liator. I realize now that there can be no justice…
God will destroy you!
(back to Liator) … no justice so long as laws are absolute. Life itself is an exercise in exceptions.
As Captain Picard of Star Trek says, “Laws cannot be absolute. Life is an exercise in exceptions.” Such is the philosophy of the modern age in which we live. This reflects the existential idea that man may create his own truth and morality. It is a conscious and deliberate philosophy of many Hollywood directors and producers.
Brown responds on his website to a question about his novel:
Two thousand years ago, we lived in a world of Gods and Goddesses. Today, we live in a world solely of Gods. Women in most cultures have been stripped of their spiritual power. The novel touches on questions of how and why this shift occurred … and on what lessons we might learn from it regarding our future. (The Da Vinci Code, FAQs, Official Website of Dan Brown).
In an interview with CNN, Brown reiterated this point:
In the early days … we lived in a world of gods and goddesses…. Every Mars had an Athena. The god of war had the goddess of beauty; in the Egyptian tradition, Osiris and Isis…. And now we live in a world solely of gods. The female counterpart has been erased. (Interview with CNN, July 17, 2003).
When asked in an interview posted on his official website, “Are you a Christian?” Dan Brown responded:
Yes. Interestingly, if you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as absolute historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may (The Da Vinci Code, FAQs, Official Website of Dan Brown).
Brown’s answer epitomizes classic relativism in the idea that one may be a Christian and not confess that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior.
But even given the subjectivism of contemporary western culture, it is still shocking that a small number of liberal theologians have been able to harness the power of media to promote the idea that the Gnostic Christ might be the real Jesus of the Gospels. The liberal theologians of the Jesus Seminar, the author of The Da Vinci Code, and even many misguided Christians have fallen prey to fuzzy logic and bad theology.
Just how bad is their thinking? For the sake of argument, let’s consider the following:
What if … there was a conspiracy?
The Da Vinci Code invites readers to inquire: What if everything that we as Christians today have been taught to believe about Jesus Christ as filtered through the Catholic Church is quite different from the earliest Christian beliefs concerning Jesus?
What if everything you believe and everything you have read about Jesus is the result of a conspiracy by the Catholic Church to cover up the truth?
What if some deceptive church leaders in the early centuries driven by an anti-woman agenda tried to cover up the fact that Jesus had a wife or lover who bore Him children?
What if the church fathers altered the facts to make Jesus seem more divine than human?
What if the contents of the Gospels are forgeries and the true Gospels, preserved by the Gnostics, contain the real teachings of Jesus?
Well, it is at least possible in theory that such a massive conspiracy could exist. But let’s look at what would have to happen in order for a such a massive reordering of history to have taken place.
First, the Gospel accounts and writings of the New Testament would have to be altered. Protest and dissent from contemporaries would have to be effectively squelched and hidden from recorded history. If this alteration took place after the third century, say at about the time of the Council of Nicea, copies of New Testament manuscripts — by that time spread across much of Europe, northern Africa, Asia Minor, and the Middle East — would have to be located, destroyed and replaced by the Church conspirators.
[Dramatize this section. An early church leader dressed in a black bishop’s robe is overseeing a committee of scribes rewriting the New Testament. The bishop is waving his right hand over the texts, pointing and pretending to hold a pen, to show the scribes which passages to eliminate. Show maps of Europe, northern Africa, Asia Minor, and the Middle East. Another bishop takes an old book and throws it into a fire.]
Second, a systematic redaction of early Christian writings would have to be undertaken. As we saw in part one of our presentation, by the end of the second century, the writings of church fathers and apologists contained literally tens of thousands of references to the New Testament. In order for the conspiracy to work, quotations from the New Testament that did not corroborate the altered church teaching would have to be excised. Existing copies of works containing quotes from the banned version of the Bible would have to be located, destroyed and replaced with the new writings that reflected the changes in Constantine’s supposed “new Bible.”
[Scene similar to the first. This time the scribes have stacks of books on their tables. Roman soldiers dressed in armor show up at a door. One soldier pounds on the door and enters forcefully. The soldiers gather some books and exit the door. A church pastor dressed in peasant’s garb remains in the doorway looking dismayed. Soldiers are standing around a fire with armfuls of books. Soldiers burn the books by tossing them one by one into the fire while laughing. The soldiers later show up at the puzzled pastor’s door with armfuls of new altered books.]
In order for the early church conspirators to locate the thousands of New Testament manuscripts that would have been copied by that time, would require a power not even available in today’s high tech world. In an age when there was neither high tech communication nor high-speed travel, such a massive undertaking would have been impossible. Contrary to Dan Brown’s theory, we have evidence in the thousands of New Testament manuscripts and fragments that have been unearthed by modern archaeology that no such conspiracy existed.
Modern archaeology has also discovered many New Testament commentaries and Christian writings from the early centuries that were previously unknown to Christian historians. Just to give one example, the Didache, a Christian teaching manual for new converts, was discovered in the late 1800s. Most scholars agree that this book was probably written in the late first century no more than 60 to 70 years after the crucifixion of Christ. For this conspiracy theory to be true, these artifacts from the early centuries, written prior to the Gnostic Gospels, would have to bear witness to the teachings of the early Christian Gnostics. But in fact, they do not. The earliest Christian writings, even those unearthed recently, corroborate the New Testament passages passed down to us in the received text of the Bible.
What is right with The Da Vinci Code?
Not everything in The Da Vinci Code is wrong, however. To summarize, here are a few points where Dan Brown got his history right.
1. There was a great debate over the nature of Jesus in first few centuries A.D. This controversy in is reflected in the Apostles’ condemnation of Gnosticism and other heresies in the New Testament. In the history of the early church, Christian apologists also wrote to defend against monarchianism, adoptionism, modalism, Arianism, Pelagianism and a host of other heresies. (We will cover some of these in part three of this presentation.)
2. The Nag Hammadi library helps to expand our understanding of the heretical opinions held about Jesus in the early centuries. Although we have second hand accounts summarizing the beliefs of the Gnostics from Irenaeus and Tertullian, Nag Hammadi is a valuable archaeological find that helps us to understand the sects that competed with orthodox Christianity in the early centuries of the church.
3. The canonization of the New Testament was not without early controversies, most notable the heresy of Marcion who wanted to exclude a certain number of books of the New Testament. However, by the middle of the second century, we find universal agreement that there were four Gospels. The Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles were universally accepted. Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 1 and 2 John, Jude and Revelation were subject to debate. But by the mid-third century, these books were accepted by the vast majority of the church.
4. Leadership roles of women in the early church varied. Some biblical scholars believe that women held more leadership roles early on than they did by the middle of the second century. However, Brown employs a feminist agenda to overstate this fact.
Conservative Christian scholars readily accept all of these facts. It is when the facts of history are coupled with Dan Brown’s fabrications, that confusion arises among readers. Now let’s summarize those errors.
What is wrong with The Da Vinci Code?
1. The Divinity of Christ was not decided by Constantine or by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. From the end of the first century to the time of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., there was an ongoing debate concerning “Christology.” These questions revolved around on how to correctly define the divine nature of the Christ in relation to the idea of the Trinity and His humanity. However, Christ’s divinity was firmly established in earliest Christian writings by church fathers such as Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement.
2. Constantine did not create a new Bible. Decisions about which books to accept as authoritative were based on whether the writings were ancient, authentic and orthodox. By the second century, there was a strong consensus of what books were canonical. Constantine 200 years later ordered that 50 copies of the Bible be produced by scribes and distributed to the churches.
3. The Dead Sea Scrolls contained no Gospel stories and were copied at least 150 years before the birth of Christ. The Nag Hammadi texts are an entirely different set of ancient documents. They were both discovered in the 1940s, but they are from different historical and cultural contexts and are entirely different books.
4. The Nag Hammadi library is a collection of fragments from a range of Gnostic books written in the second and third centuries. The Gnostic Gospels do not give us a “true history” of Jesus or the first century church. As documents from the second and third centuries, they are an indication of the wide variety of heresies that plagued early Christianity.
5. The Gnostic Gospels mentioned in The Da Vinci Code, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene do not come from the earliest period of Christian writings. These writings were rejected because they did not have a pedigree — that is, they were not ancient, authentic and orthodox — and they are called “Gnostic Gospels” because they are false writings clearly written with a Gnostic agenda.