Below you will find the entirety
of the discussion offered over the course of a few months on the subject of
The Da Vinci Code on this blog. It is hoped the factual
information, historical backgrounds, and simple common sense, will help all
to see through the errors of Dan Brown's materials.
Heads Up, Folks! It's Coming
May 19, 2006. That's when one of the most outrageous anti-Christian films we've ever seen will explode onto American movie screens. Powered by big stars (Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen) and Oscar winning director Ron Howard, the film adaptation of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code represents the investment of millions of dollars in spreading the clear message that the 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" (234) all at the cost of the truth about the "divine feminine."
If you haven't read the book (unlike more than twenty million others), you may have only heard bits and pieces about its blatant attacks upon the Christian faith. I have had the opportunity of addressing the book in a number of contexts, and will continue doing so in an attempt to equip believers to respond to the onslaught. But I would like to document some of the major errors and the way in which they are presented by Dan Brown here on the blog. I encourage you to take this information and be prepared to use this opportunity to present a strong case for the Christian faith. Yes, you read that correctly. We need to see that attacks upon the faith are opportunities if we are prepared and if we are willing to count the cost and go against the cultural flow. We all know that nothing like this could ever be produced if the main target were, rather than the Bible and Christianity, the Quran and the Muslim faith, or Judaism. No, that would never be allowed, but Christianity is fair game at Sony Pictures, that's for certain. But since it is going to appear, we need to be ready to take advantage of it, and provide not only a strong denunciation of its errors, but a positive presentation of the truth of Scripture. And in doing so, we need to be willing to draw clear lines between those who call themselves Christians and yet are unwilling to view Scripture as Christ did, and ourselves.
First Objection: It's Fiction, Dummy
Very shortly after posting the previous article the following e-mail was sent through our website:
Someone at Alpha and Omega ministries might like to encourage James White to point out at the beginning of his blog that The Da Vinci Code is marketed as a fictional story. Fiction defined as: a making up of imaginary happenings. He should point out that there is no need for any defense except to point out the fact that the author himself has marketed the work as not true. There is no need to argue with an author who never claimed to be telling the truth in the first place. It is a movie made for entertainment value and nothing more. Such a story is meant to be enjoyed, not critiqued. The arguments made in this book should not be addressed unless they are common arguments found in more serious venues. Because of this there is no need to badmouth the book itself, but it may be helpful to address its fictional claims if it serves to educate others.
Are we making a mountain out of a mole-hill? Should we just laugh at the The Da Vinci Code, enjoy the story, and ignore the statements it makes about the Scriptures, Christ, the apostles, the Church, etc.? Does this author have a point?
The answer is sadly very clear. No, this writer has not taken the time to consider this issue very deeply, nor has he listened to Dan Brown talk about his own book. I would suggest this reader check this page and listen to the mp3 linked on it as well. You will see that the story of this book reflects Brown's own "research" on the subjects. You don't do "research" for years on material that is merely "fiction." Instead, the book is presented as fiction based on facts. The book itself begins by stating that what it says about art, architecture, and documents, is authentic. Authentic is not a synonym for "fiction." And that brings us to the key issue: no one is arguing Langdon or Teabing actually exist. They are the fictional characters. But the assertions they make, in the guise of setting the foundation for the central conspiracy theory of the book, are presented not as fiction, or mere speculations. They are presented as unquestioned historical facts.
In his talk linked above Brown makes the following statement which, I believe, fully confirms the need for the responses that we have provided, and will provide in the future. He said,
"I am not the first person to tell the story of Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail. This idea is centuries old. I am one in a long line of people who has offered up this alternative history. The Da Vinci Code describes history as I have come to understand it through many years of travel, research, reading, interviews, exploration."
These are not the words of someone who is merely offering fiction without factual basis. He presents his assertions regarding the complete and utter textual emendation of the Scriptures as historical facts: and he clearly believes this to be true, and the movie presents these accusations as historical facts. There is no doubt about any of this.
The following citations from the above linked page (which reflects, often verbatim, the linked talk Brown gave) provide more than sufficient basis for responding to Brown's attacks upon the Christian faith by demonstrating the fact that his historical claims are simply false:
While the book's characters and their actions are obviously not real, the artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals depicted in this novel all exist (for example, Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings, the Gnostic Gospels, Hieros Gamos, etc.). These real elements are interpreted and debated by fictional characters. While it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit, each individual reader must explore these characters' viewpoints and come to his or her own interpretations.
I simply note in passing: how do you "debate" fiction? Does this not prove that the historical material he presents he does, in fact, believe to be historical?
BUT DOESN'T THE NOVEL'S "FACT" PAGE CLAIM THAT EVERY SINGLE WORD IN THIS NOVEL IS HISTORICAL FACT?
If you read the "FACT" page, you will see it clearly states that the documents, rituals, organization, artwork, and architecture in the novel all exist. The "FACT" page makes no statement whatsoever about any of the ancient theories discussed by fictional characters.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CLERICAL SCHOLARS ATTEMPTING TO "DISPROVE" THE DA VINCI CODE?
The dialogue is wonderful. These authors and I obviously disagree, but the debate that is being generated is a positive powerful force. The more vigorously we debate these topics, the better our understanding of our own spirituality. Controversy and dialogue are healthy for religion as a whole. Religion has only one true enemy--apathy--and passionate debate is a superb antidote.
SOME OF THE HISTORY IN THIS NOVEL CONTRADICTS WHAT I LEARNED IN SCHOOL. WHAT SHOULD I BELIEVE? Clearly the "it's just fiction, don't worry about it" defense fails the test of the author's own words and intentions, let alone the fact that a large portion of those reading the book, or, in May of next year, viewing the film, will consider it "fiction based upon fact." And hence we move forward in our refutation of the many falsehoods presented as historical facts in The Da Vinci Code.
Since the beginning of recorded time, history has been written by the "winners" (those societies and belief systems that conquered and survived). Despite an obvious bias in this accounting method, we still measure the "historical accuracy" of a given concept by examining how well it concurs with our existing historical record. Many historians now believe (as do I) that in gauging the historical accuracy of a given concept, we should first ask ourselves a far deeper question: How historically accurate is history itself?
The Da Vinci Code Part I
The Da Vinci Code (hereafter TDVC) is not one big long attack upon the Christian faith. In fact, if you fall asleep for about ten minutes in the film...ok, and run to the bathroom a little later for another couple of minutes...you'll probably miss the main objectionable portions. But more problematic, from an evangelism/apologetics viewpoint is just this: the anti-Christian material in the book is absolutely central to the plot; therefore, I can't possibly see how it can be "cleaned up" in the movie version, even if there was a reason for Ron Howard to do so. And since it is central to the theme, it is the main thing the reader, or the movie-goer, takes from the experience. "What if...?"
The primary section of the work in which this material is found comes as Langdon and Sophie are running from the police, bearing the cryptex, the key to the location of the Holy Grail. They go to Leigh Teabing's residence. Teabing is an eccentric old man, an expert on the Grail legends, and far more involved in the entire story than Langdon and Sophie know. In any case, they enter into Teabing's library and there educate Sophie, who we later find out is actually a descendant of Mary Magdalene and hence of the "royal bloodline," about the "true nature" of the Holy Grail. The fundamental nature of the book's attack upon the Christian faith can be seen when Teabing and Langdon begin weaving their conspiracy theory:
Sophie sensed a rising air of academic anticipation now in both of her male companions.
Teabing produces quotes from da Vinci, "Many have made a trade of delusions and false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitude" and "Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!" (231), informing Sophie that da Vinci was talking about the Bible. He continues,
"To fully understand the Grail," Teabing continued, "we must first understand the Bible. How well do you know the New Testament?" (230)
"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. (231)
This bald denial of the divine origin of the Christian Bible garners a compelling response from Sophie, "Okay." Indeed, the fact that there are meaningful replies to such assertions is never even acknowledged. In fact, Brown makes it plain through his characters that these facts are so well known that all educated Christians know them (and those who do not are obviously not educated, p. 234).
Now, one could argue that the true Christian view of the Scriptures is not even in view here: God did not, in fact, "fax" the Bible down. He did not produce it through automatic writing, either. As Peter put it, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). But clearly Brown is not even aware of these central elements of Christian faith. He is speaking as an outsider, and his target is the divine nature of the Scriptures themselves. This can be seen in asserting the Bible is human in origin, rather than divine. "Not of God" is a fairly bald statement. The Bible is a human document, and it is subject to human editing and alteration, a central aspect of the theory being presented. The use of the term "evolved" without any explanation of what this could possibly mean (is Brown ignorant of the fact that modern translations are translated directly from Greek and Hebrew?) is likewise problematic. "Additions" and "revisions" are thrown out without any qualification outside of one thing: we know these are human additions and revisions, not divine. And finally, we can't even know what the Bible is, allegedly, for "history has never had a definitive version of the book." Of course, one would have to ask who gets to define "definitive" in this context as well.
The key note in this opening attack on the Word will be expanded greatly in what comes after: just as the Jesus Seminar seeks, at its start, to find a way to present a "new" kind of Jesus that "fits" a secular age, so too Brown seeks to present a radically different view of Christ as well. And what is the sole barrier to such a theory? Well, the Word of God, of course. So, you have to deny the divine nature of the Scriptures before you can ever hope to establish your theories.
But, since Brown hides behind the "fiction" mantle, he can make these bald statements without bothering to provide any kind of substantiation, and this will only become more frustrating with each passing page and each passing denial of the inspiration of the Word of God.
The Da Vinci Code Part II
Upon announcing his sweeping attack upon the validity of the Bible, Brown continues his work through the dialogue of his characters. Sophie's in-depth response, “Okay,” then leads to these claims by Teabing:
"Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land….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.
This is quite the mixture of claims, some of which are not overly consistent with others, and this gives us a possible “hook” in talking to devotees of the book and opening up a dialogue on the errors and inconsistencies of Brown's position. Brown says Jesus was the promised Messiah. That would mean the Old Testament, at the very least, contains valid prophecy, divine prediction of future events, and that Christ fulfilled those prophecies. Well, obviously, if the Old Testament is accurate enough, “inspired” enough, to contain true prophecy, then would it not follow that God could protect the New Testament as well? Once Brown opens the door on that level, we might as well step through and begin to press the same claims that the Lord taught us to use:
“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.” (231)
And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)
I am uncertain how Jesus toppled kings, of course: His influence, over history, has certainly done so, but Jesus' ministry was only noticed by men as high as Pilate and Herod, surely not Caesar in far away Rome. He has indeed inspired hundreds of millions, but only through the testimony of His teachings as recorded in the very documents Brown has already undercut and will soon identify as little more than politically-motivated lies.
Now, though at other points Brown will compete with the Jesus Seminar in promoting the most radical viewpoints of the corruption of the text of the New Testament, here he goes the other direction and goes far beyond anything the most conservative Christian could ever assert regarding the ministry of Christ: specifically, he claims that Jesus' life was recorded by “thousands” of His followers. We need to realize how utterly outside the realm of any kind of published scholarship this perspective is. Thousands of literate, writing followers of Christ recording His ministry? Where is the historical evidence for this? There is none, of course. It is wishful thinking at best---and self-contradictory wishful thinking, too, since he then insists that eighty gospels were considered for inclusion in the New Testament, itself a completely bogus claim, but still, one wonders what happened to the “thousands” of others recorded by these anonymous followers of Jesus? The willy-nilly methodology used by Brown is simply beyond belief, and once again, he hides behind the “fiction” claim so as to claim he spent years “researching” the book and “studying” the subject---but he doesn't have to provide references to back up such outrageous claims as these.
The next line has caused me to chuckle every time I have addressed it in my seminars... “yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them? Hmm...what others once were in these relative “few” that were “chosen” outside of the four canonical gospels? Is he seriously suggesting that Thomas, or Mary, or any of the others were “chosen”? No, for he goes on to say that it was Constantine who chose which gospels would be in the canon, and then he argues Constantine specifically repudiated those works. So, what other gospels did Constantine choose? We aren't told. This is probably just a mistake that the copy editors did not catch (since it would require some level of biblical knowledge to recognize it, and that is surely not something that marks off The Da Vinci Code).
Now let's remember a little history here. Between the death and resurrection of Christ (appx. AD 33) and the Council of Nicea (AD 325) almost a full three centuries passed. During the vast majority of that time the Christian church was a religio illicita, an illegal or banned religion, under the persecution of the Empire. That does not mean there was empire-wide persecution at all times. In fact, there were period of peace, depending on who was Emperor and how much they wished to pursue the issue. Often persecution was locally severe in one area, and non-existent in another. It all depended on circumstances. But early Christians were writing during this time, and we have sufficient amounts of their writings to get a pretty good idea of what they believed and what they viewed as Scripture. Brown will ignore all of this material and simply make things up as he goes along when it comes to this topic and especially to the issue of the deity of Christ.
The claim that Constantine “collated” the Christian Scriptures, though tremendously common, is likewise just as tremendously wrong. That is why I wrote “What Really Happened at Nicea?” for the CRI Journal (July/August, 1997). I kept running into Mormons who claimed Constantine had determined the canon at Nicea as well: and of course, there isn't a shred of historical basis for making such a claim. The closest you can possibly come is to note that Constantine paid to have a number of Bibles copied (possibly the occasion for the production of a, Codex Sinaiticus). This hardly means he had the slightest interest whatsoever in the canon of Scripture, the content of Scripture, etc. The fact of the matter is the canon was not an issue of discussion at Nicea, and would not take a center stage for many more decades, long after Constantine's death.
The reason Brown is going this direction will become evident as soon as his conspiracy theory unfolds. He has to have Constantine in a position to radically corrupt the Scriptures to make his story about the “Holy Grail” work.
The Da Vinci Code (Part III)
After mentioning Constantine, Teabing goes on to insist he remained a pagan his entire life. While that could be argued, at least at this point you do have disagreements amongst historians as to the exact state of Constantine's religion. He then continues, insisting that “Christians and pagans began warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it threatened to rend Rome in two.” I don't believe the Christians can be blamed for warring with pagans as much as the infighting within the church itself was at issue. Be that as it may, Constantine clearly saw the conflict arising out of the Arian controversy as a threat to the peace he so desperately needed to keep the Empire united. But Brown can't give us the truth about the real reasons for the Council of Nicea. Why? Because he is going to tell us that Constantine made up the deity of Christ at this point in time. Yet, the disagreement was over that very issue! If Constantine made up the concept, and no one prior to Nicea believed in the deity of Christ, there couldn't have been a controversy over the idea! So Brown is forced to ignore the actual historical reasons for the calling of the Council of Nicea so as to “fit” the event with his theories.
Teabing goes on to naively assert that in AD 325 Constantine just up and decided to bet on Christianity as the future religion of the Empire. He forgets to mention that in reality Constantine showed himself to be the consumate politician indeed: but in a fashion that completely contradicts his thesis. Specifically, the Council of Nicea did not end the controversy that had been brewing for years beforehand due to the conflict between Arius and Alexander of Alexandria over the deity of Christ: in fact, even after Constantine's death, Arianism reigned supreme in the external, visible church. If it had been Constantine's purpose to use the deity of Christ as his anti-feminine trump card, he failed, miserably, to follow through on his plans. He only cared about keeping the peace: if that was through enforcing Nicea, or a later council, it didn't matter much to him.
Beyond this, Brown seems ignorant of the fact that Nicea took place a scant dozen years after the “peace of the church,” the official ending of imperial persecution of Christianity itself. I have always found it amazing that people would think that the very men who had suffered so much for so long under the heel of Rome, refusing to deny their faith, would, a scant decade later, collapse in disarray in allowing the Emperor to determine the heart of their own faith. Brown's theory is simply laughable at this point: he will, as we will see, actually assert that up until this point in time no one actually believed in the deity of Christ. Constantine foisted it upon the church out of whole cloth, and we are actually supposed to believe that they went along, though Brown again causes the historically aware to laugh hysterically at his assertion that the vote on the matter at Nicea was “close.”
Don't be fooled: the Constantinian era is, in fact, a turning point in Christian history, but not for the reasons Brown alleges. He can mix in just a small amount of truth with a huge dose of utter foolishness to create his story. He notes that various pagan symbols entered into the faith during the same time period, and you can certainly make a case that the period during which the church went from persecuted minority to “religion of the Empire” was one during which many unbelievers entered into the formal membership of the church and they brought their baggage with them. But to assume this was purposeful on Constantine's part once again begs both the question and the historical sources. The fact of the matter is, Constantine simply did not have the kind of power that would have been required to do even 1/10th of everything Brown, via his characters, alleges.
posted at 01:00:00 on 10/26/05
by James R. White -
Category: General Apologetics
The Da Vinci Code (Part IV)
I apologize for being behind in returning to our Da Vinci Code series. I spoke on the subject at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church this weekend, and will be speaking at various churches in the Phoenix area on it between now and next May. Sadly, in most churches, almost no one is aware of what is coming our way with this film as far as its "anti-evangelistic" impact.
In our previous segment we began looking at the claims Brown makes concerning the alleged plot by Constantine to create an entirely new religion by fusing Christianity with paganism. To use a direct quote, "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." (232) He then adds this outrageous statement, "Nothing in Christianity is original."
Especially around the holidays we hear pretty much the same drumbeat. I had to chuckle as I checked my RSS feed just this evening and found Jason Engwer posting the beginning of what looks like a fascinating series on the issue of Christmas (link here). One of the points noted by Engwer is that while the Roman holiday was established in AD 274 (at the height of empire-wide persecution of Christianity) there are references to the date in Christian writings relevant to the birth of Christ that pre-date both the establishment of the celebration as well as Constantine himself. "Julius Africanus, however, argues in his Chronicle (A.D. 221) for a date in the winter, December 25." (in Everett Ferguson, editor, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], p. 251) Engwer notes. No matter what else we might say, laying this one on Constantine once again flies in the face of all historical inquiry.
But beyond this, the fact of the matter is that Constantine simply never had this kind of power, and history does not give us any reason to believe Browns' fanciful claims. The idea that Christians would simply roll over and allow the Roman Emperor to completely re-vamp their entire faith, from their faith in the nature of Christ to their worship, etc., is beyond ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that while the Constantinian era had great and far-reaching ramifications down the line in church history (especially relating to the development of sacralism, the "state church" concept), those ramifications could not have been foreseen by anyone at the time of Nicea, let alone were they part of some massive conspiracy. Further, they took a great deal of time to develop. It wasn't as nice and simple as Brown would like to say: you don't make the kinds of changes Brown lays at Constantine's feet in the time frame Constantine had to make them. Things moved just a little bit slower back then.
But there is something else to remember here. If it was, in fact, Constantine's desire to create a new religion with a newly divine Savior (as we will see), he failed miserably. He died in AD 337, and during the twelve years after Nicea he surely not carry out all the fanciful things Brown suggests. What is more, the "Arian Resurgence" that took place after the Council of Nicea gives the lie to the entirety of Brown's thesis. As I noted a number of years ago in an article for the CRI Journal:
For nearly six decades after the Council of Nicæa, Arianism reigned supreme in the Empire. Primarily through the force of political power, Arian sympathizers soon took to undoing the condemnation of Arius and his theology. Eusebius of Nicomedia and others poured themselves into the task of overturning Nicæa, and for a number of decades, it looked as if they would succeed. Constantine adopted a compromising position under the influence of various sources, including Eusebius of Caesarea and a politically-worded “confession” from Arius. In point of fact, Constantine had little stock in the definition of Nicæa itself: he was a politician to the last. Upon his death, Constantius, his second son, ruled in the East, and he gave great aid and comfort to Arianism. United by their rejection of the homoousion, semi-Arians and Arians worked hand in hand to unseat a common enemy, almost always proceeding with political power on their side.
Under Constantius council after council met in this location or that. So drastic was the activity that one commentator wrote of that time that “The highways were covered with galloping bishops.” Most importantly, councils meeting at Ariminum, Seleucia, and Sirmium, presented Arian and semi-Arian creeds, and very few are the names that can be listed who were not coerced to subscribe to them. Even Liberius, bishop of Rome, having been banished from his place, and longing to return, was persuaded to give in and compromise on the matter.
During the course of the decades following Nicæa, Athanasius, having become bishop of Alexandria shortly after the council, was removed from his place five times, once by force of 5000 soldiers coming in the front door while he made haste out the back! Hosius, now nearly 100 years old, was likewise forced by Imperial threats to compromise and give place to Arian ideas. At the end of the sixth decade of the century, to any eye that could not see the future, it looked as if Nicæa had been defeated. Jerome would later describe this moment in history as the time when “The whole world groaned and was astonished to find itself Arian.”
How could all of this be, if, in fact, the assertions of Brown are correct? But, of course, this is hardly a fair fight: we are using the facts of history, Brown has nothing but his wild-eyed "fiction based upon fact." But we have only just begun....
The Da Vinci Code (Part V)
Having endowed Constantine with a-historical super-powers and credited him with doing things he never did, would never have had any interest in doing, could never have accomplished, and in fact, would have worked against his actual historical interests, Dan Brown continues the demolition of his historical credibility, but at least for a moment he sounds like so many others who blandly throw out the "Christianity just borrowed paganism" line, especially when it involves "dying and rising Saviors." So at least when this old canard is thrown out, at least Brown isn't completely alone in repeating it. But, that only proves that at this point he is just as guilty as all the rest in ignoring the fundamental difference between pagan stories of dying/rising gods and the unique Christian teaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As common as the allegation is, even a moment's reflection upon the vast difference between a polytheistic religion with the concept of anthropomorphic gods (gods with physical bodies) that are able to co-habit with human beings and the exalted monotheism of Judaism and Christianity shows one the absurdity of the parallel. Gods dying and rising may be common in polytheistic religions---but in the monotheism of Christianity and of the Jewish/Christian scriptures, the concept of incarnation and resurrection becomes utterly and completely unique. Just witness the Islamic revulsion at the concept of incarnation and you can see how tremendously unique is the idea. Further, you have the Jewish Scriptures and their prophetic witness to the life and ministry of Christ, something completely missing in any allegedly parallel pagan myth. Every time I hear someone casually throwing this alleged parallel out I have to shake my head in amazement at how facile and shallow such reasoning is.
Brown then even tries his hand at the "Constantine changed the Sabbath" argument, ignoring the presence of the phrase "the day of the Lord" in the Christian Scriptures and the wide witness to the celebration of Christian worship on Sunday in the early Christian documents (which, for Brown, don't even seem to exist). Once again the anachronism in Brown's fanciful claims is so strong as to be humorous.
From here Brown moves into his unique description of the Council of Nicea itself. Here we begin to see the central anti-Christian thrust of TDVC:
"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 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." (233)
Here we see what is arguably the most absurd, ridiculous, easily refuted claim of TDVC: and yet, it is central to the entire thesis of the book's reconstruction of history itself. We could spend a great deal of time refuting this assertion, and will do so in the next installments. For now, I will allow two ancient witnesses to speak to prove that Dan Brown, Doubleday, and everyone associated with the upcoming film, are making their millions at the cost of truth itself:
From AD 108, Ignatius to the church at Ephesus: "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to her who has been blessed in greatness through the fulness of God the Father, ordained before time to be always resulting in permanent glory, unchangeably united and chosen in true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ, our God, to the church which is in Ephesus of Asia, worthy of felicitation: abundant greetings in Jesus Christ and in blameless joy." (Ephesians 1)
Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The Da Vinci Code (Part VI)
One of the most eloquent testimonies to the error of Dan Brown and the ridiculous and outrageous claims of TDVC regarding the "creation" of the deity of Christ by Constantine is found in the sermon on the Passover preached around twenty years before the end of the second century by Melito, bishop of Sardis. I included my translation of this tremendous section in my book, The Forgotten Trinity, and reproduce it here. Remember, this sermon was preached approximately 145 years prior to Nicea, 130 years prior to Constantine's battle at the Milvian Bridge (where he allegedly saw the sign of the cross in the sky and the phrase, "in this sign, conquer"). As you read these words, rejoice, as I rejoice, at the thought of this ancient believer and the fact that he reveled in the truth about the God-man Jesus Christ just as we do today! Oh that we had more preaching like this in our land today!
And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled!
He who hung the earth in place is hanged.
He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.
He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree.
The Sovereign is insulted.
God is murdered.
The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand.
This is the One who made the heavens and the earth,
and formed mankind in the beginning,
The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets,
The One enfleshed in a virgin,
The One hanged on a tree,
The One buried in the earth,
The One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven,
The One sitting at the right hand of the Father,
The One having all authority to judge and save,
Through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time.
This One is “the Alpha and the Omega,”
This One is “the beginning and the end”
—the beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible.
This One is the Christ.
This One is the King.
This One is Jesus.
This One is the Leader.
This One is the Lord.
This One is the One who rose from the dead.
This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father.
He bears the Father and is borne by the Father.
“To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.”
The Da Vinci Code (Part VII)
He was on his way to his death, and he knew it. The story of Ignatius, the great bishop of Antioch, one of the early Christian martyrs, is well known, at least to those with an interest in church history (which limits things a good bit these days). Unwilling to compromise, Ignatius happily, as an aged man, embraced his departure to be with Christ. As he traveled to Rome to face death, he wrote to individuals and churches, and those letters have come down to us over the intervening centuries in Greek and Latin versions. Evidently, Dan Brown's extensive "historical research" for TDVC missed his letters, written in 107 or 108 (that's 200+ years prior to the Council of Nicea). If he had bothered to read these works, he would have known that claiming Constantine "made up" the deity of Christ or His position as the Son of God would be a historical blunder on the level of saying Jimmy Carter ran against George Washington for the Presidency of the United States.
Here is a selection from Ignatius' genuine writings (there is a body of pseudo-Ignatian literature as well) that testify to his view of the Lord Jesus Christ. For more information on this, and the apologetic relevance of Ignatius in light of a tremendously gross attempt to misrepresent him by the Watchtower Society a number of years ago, click here. His words to the Ephesians identifying Jesus as God were noted in our previous entry. [Which reminds me: the Yahoo! article rendered the inscription found in the ancient church as "the god, Jesus Christ," but in reality, the underlying Greek is probably almost identical to Ignatius' phrase here, and whether you render it "the god" or "God" is dependent upon the translator and the context. Hence, the inscription [without having seen the actual Greek as yet] could be rendered "to the God, Jesus Christ" just as in Ignatius. This is, in fact, how it is rendered here.]
My spirit is but an offscouring of the cross, which is a scandal to the unbelieving, but to us it is salvation and life eternal. Where is the wise man? Where is the disputer? Where is the boasting of those who are called understanding? For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to a dispensation of God, from the seed of David, yes, but of the Holy Spirit as well. (Ephesians 18)
Notice not only the explicit affirmation of the deity of Christ, but likewise the very high view of Christ stated as well: Ignatius clearly viewed Jesus as the God-man, affirming both his humanity and his Deity, as we will see in another citation below.
Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto her that hath found mercy in the bountifulness of the Father Most High and of Jesus Christ His only Son; to the church that is beloved and enlightened through the will of Him who willed all things that are, by faith and love towards Jesus Christ our God; even unto her that hath the presidency in the country of the region of the Romans...(Romans 1).
Note here that 1) in the very salutation of the letter the deity of Christ is plainly present, again showing its centrality to the faith of the early believers; 2) in passing, Ignatius, though he names other bishops (like Polycarp) when he writes to the church at Rome he does not do so. Why? Because there was no single bishop at Rome at this time. Rome had a plurality of elders until around AD 140, and only then did the monarchical (single bishop) model take hold in Rome.
For our God Jesus Christ, being in the Father, is more plainly seen. The work is not of persuasiveness, but Christianity is a thing of might, whenever it is hated by the world (Romans 3).
This kind of description is so blatant, so easily made, coming not at the end of a long series of arguments or a long theological discussion, but almost "in passing," shows the centrality of the belief to believers worldwide, for remember, Ignatius is not only bishop of a major church (Antioch), but he is writing to churches all over Asia Minor, so that his words are not idiosyncratic, but represent the universal faith of the early believers. Surely this is the case with the church at Smyrna:
I give glory to Jesus Christ the God who bestowed such wisdom upon you; for I have perceived that ye are established in faith immovable, being as it were nailed to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, in flesh and in spirit, and firmly grounded in love in the blood of Christ, fully persuaded as touching our Lord that He is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, but Son of God by the Divine will and power, truly born of a virgin and baptized by John that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him, truly nailed up in the flesh for our sakes under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch (of which fruit are we--that is, of His most blessed passion); that He might set up an ensign unto all the ages through His resurrection, for His saints and faithful people, whether among Jews or among Gentiles, in one body of His Church....Let no man be deceived. Even the heavenly beings and the glory of the angels and the rulers visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ [who is God], judgment awaiteth them also (Smyrneans 6).
Note not only the repeated references to the deity of Christ, but to Christ as the Son of God, to the human nature of Christ, the redeeming death of Christ...so much for altered gospels in the fourth century at Nicea!
Await the One who is above every season, the Eternal, the Invisible, the One who for our sake became visible, the Untouched, the Impassible, who for our sake suffered, who endured in every way for our sake (Polycarp 3).
Once again not only the deity of Christ but the Incarnation are central to Ignatius' teachings. Here, within a single generation of the last of the Apostles the highest forms of Christology exist in the writings passed down to us through history. To say Brown's statements about the early followers of Christ viewing him merely as a mortal prophet stand utterly refuted is to engage in understatement.
There is one physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first passible and then impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Ephesians 7)
This is one of my favorite quotations from Ignatius, and for many others who have had to endure the endless babbling of liberal scholars and theologians who assure us with condescending smile that what we believe about Christ was the result of slow and purely human evolution over time. Here, in the first generation after the Apostles, the highest Christology is found---one person, two natures, the God-man, incarnation---it is all here, and it is a given that his audience shares his faith. How wonderful that after two thousand years of man's best attempts to pervert this faith, it still flourishes in the hearts of God's people!
The Da Vinci Code VIII
We have come to the examination of one of the key assertions made by Dan Brown in his attack upon the central elements of the Christian faith (so as to make room for his Magdalene-based conspiracy theory). We read:
"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 man nonetheless. A mortal." We have seen that the assertion that no one believed in the deity of Christ prior to the days of Constantine is utter rubbish, historically speaking. We have provided just two of many sources that could be cited that prove, beyond any and all refutation, that in point of fact the deity of Christ was known and believed by Christians long before Constantine was a twinkle in his daddy's eye. Indeed, the earliest heresies were not denials of the deity of Christ, but imbalances based upon it! The gnostic Docetics denied not the divine nature of Christ, but His humanity! And the Sabellian heresy in the decades prior to the Council of Nicea once again was based upon an acceptance of the fact that Jesus was the Son of God and deity: it simply sought to work this out within a unitarian framework (which can never work). So history---when it is known---makes a mockery of Brown's claims at this point.
"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."
"Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"
"A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added. (233)
We likewise have seen that the description of Jesus Christ as "the Son of God" is found in Scripture, and that long before Constantine ruled as well. If the assertion is made that Constantine altered the biblical texts to insert the phrase, this founders upon the consideration that we possess biblical manuscripts that predate Constantine and that would have been far outside his grasp no matter how powerful one presumes him to have been, and these plainly identify Jesus Christ as "Son of God." It would be humorous if it were not so sad to note that one of the most popular terms for Jesus is "Son" in...the gnostic gospels that Brown, through his characters, will identify as the "earliest Christian records." In fact, Christ is identified as "Son of God" in the Nag Hammadi finds, the very ones Brown directs us to as the unadulterated, unchanged, pre-Constantinian "gospels," such as the Gospel of Philip, the Sophia of Jesus, and the Gospel of the Egyptians!
We should hardly be surprised, then, Brown's comments on the Council of Nicea will border on the utterly absurd...and, of course, they do. One can only wonder if Brown is seeking to make fun of his readers by offering such silly statements as the one above, describing the Nicene "vote" as "a relatively close vote at that." Was Constantine reduced to examining hanging chads, perhaps. Hardly. Church historian Philip Schaff writes,
Almost all the bishops subscribed the creed, Hosius at the head, and next him the two Roman presbyters in the name of their bishop. This is the first instance of such signing of a document in the Christian church. Eusebius of Caesarea also signed his name after a day’s deliberation, and vindicated this act in a letter to his diocese. Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicaea subscribed the creed without the condemnatory formula, and for this they were deposed and for a time banished, but finally consented to all the decrees of the council....Only two Egyptian bishops, Theonas and Secundus, persistently refused to sign, and were banished with Arius to Illyria. The books of Arius were burned and his followers branded as enemies of Christianity.
Now, we do not know exactly how many bishops were at Nicea, but the numbers range from about 250 to 320. So, let's take the smallest number, 250. 247 to 3...isn't that about 98.8% for, 1.2% against? This is "relatively close"? Did Dan Brown have someone help him with his negotiations on his book contracts, we can only hope?
Brown continues in the stuffy, silly tones of Teabing,
And here we see Brown's implicit anti-Catholicism: in case his long research missed this point, there was no Vatican in the fourth century. The anachronism of even referring to the "Roman Catholic Church" at the time of Nicea, as popular as it might be, is just another example of the a-historical nature of so much modern discussion of church history.
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 followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves only via the established sacred channel---the Roman Catholic Church. (233)
The Da Vinci Code IX
"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." (233)
Dan Brown's utter incomprehension of biblical scholarship and history comes out here again, for he seems to think that "Christ as Messiah" and "Jesus as Son of God" are equivalent terms. Surely, the idea of Christ as the Jewish Messiah is as primitive as can be, and it would be even more absurd (if that is possible) to suggest that it was Constantine who came up with the idea of Jesus as the Messiah! Such is silly beyond words, and I know of now scholar at all who makes such a suggestion.
The early church was a loosely connected group of persecuted churches, racked by heresy and strife, despised by the world. The idea that the early church could be so organized, let alone so dishonest, as to 1) die by the thousands for a lie, 2) seek political power while being persecuted thereby, and 3) come up with such a grand scheme, is again absurd. So is Brown misusing terminology again, and not referring to the early Church at all, but instead to post-Constantinianism? Surely the growth of the church/state relationship began with Constantine, but there is simply no possible way of connecting Jesus as Messiah with post-Constantinianism. So, assuming, then, that Brown is simply incompetent as a historian, let's reconstruct his assertion. Let's say he's talking solely about the deity of Christ here, not Jesus as Messiah. So, the idea is that Jesus' deity was vital to the construction of a church/state relationship. Is there merit to this assertion?
Not historically, for once again, Brown ignores the Arian resurgence after the council of Nicea. Constantine didn't care if Jesus was deity or not: he only cared about political stability in his lifetime. He surely did not have some "big conspiracy picture" in his mind for future generations. This is pure historical revisionism masquerading as scholarship (note the "I've written several books on the topic"---and he will soon cite numerous actual books published over the past decades, again giving credence to the "fiction based on fact" concept). Who are these "many scholars"? Of course, we are not told. Of course, you could get a group of "scholars" to agree to anything if you have enough money and time, but that is hardly relevant to truth.
Ironically, this thesis, as absurd as it is historically, is exactly what I keep hearing from Islamic apologist Shabir Ally. The poor "original followers" of Jesus could not manage to proclaim his truth, and the mean nasty followers of Paul basically "took over." When you try to find these original followers, you find more and more assertion with less and less documentation---in fact, you find absolutely nothing more than mere assertion and speculation, but these days, assertion and speculation, as long as it is joined with a smile or "sincerity," is all you really need. Post-modernism flourishes.
Now having made an utter mockery of history itself, Brown now decides to mock the faith itself in these words. Having claimed to have written several books asserting Jesus was "hi-jacked" by the early church, we read,
"And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?"
This kind of rhetoric is simply disgusting. "Well, if you were really educated, you'd know what I'm saying is true." Such is especially reprehensible in light of the fact that it is Brown who is demonstrating his utter lack of education (or, worse, utter dishonesty) with this kind of ravaging of historical realities. The vast majority of educated Christians know the early church hi-jacked Jesus? This kind of absurdity can only be promulgated in this fashion: it can never survive actual debate and examination, so it must assert itself by repetition, or, in this case, through repetition on movie screens and in book stores all across the world.
"Why should they?" Teabing countered. "The vast majority of educated Christians know the history of their faith."
The Da Vinci Code X
After insisting that "educated" Christians know all about Constantine's hi-jacking the faith and inventing the deity of Christ, Teabing tries to say that Jesus was a good guy and did good things. That is very nice: defame the entirety of His own teaching about Himself, tell us that we actually can know abolutely nothing about Him or His teachings (if all we have left has been utterly changed how can we truly know anything about Him?) but make sure to throw in a few crumbs about what a nice guy Jesus was. The attempt is not worth the ink it takes to print it. He continues, "All we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Christ's substantial influence and importance." No, that is not all Brown is saying.
Teabing drones on,
Because Constantine upgraded Jesus' status almost four centuries after Jesus' death, thousands of documents alredy 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."
Let's do a little math for Teabing aka Dan Brown. Christ's death is somewhere around AD 30 (33). 33 + 400 years = AD 433. Constantine died in AD 337. Evidently, great scholars like Teabing, or fiction writers like Brown, get confused about the fact that Nicea was in the "fourth century" but that doesn't mean four hundred years. He's off here by a full century. The Council of Nicea was less than three hundred years after the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we have seen, Constantine did no such thing, nor did he have the power to do so at all, as if the early Christians, having suffered horribly at the hands of Rome, would then turn around and allow Rome to introduce what would be, in fact, a gross blasphemy into the faith. If no Christians had believed in the deity of Christ, to all of a sudden introduce such an exaltation would have been indeed a blasphemy: but no such thing took place.
Second, there were not, in fact, "thousands of documents...chronicling His life" in any fashion. No matter how widely you cast the net, you could not put together a thousand documents pretending to be gospels from, say, the first century after the death of Christ (AD 30 to 130). This is pure fiction. No historical basis exists for such a statement. Of course, it is easy for Brown to escape responsibility to document his claim, since he goes on to say Constantine "gathered up and burned" them all anyway, as if such would be even slightly historically possible. Not even the Roman Emperor had such power. We can't find Osama bin Laden with satellites and spy planes: Constantine could find all of these thousands of documents in his day? Yes, and I guess he had help from "them" out there on Orion Seti VII, huh? Must have "beamed up" all the manuscripts Constantine couldn't find for himself to the "mother ship."
Now, Brown claims Constantine "commissioned and financed a new Bible." No, he did not. According to Eusebius, who wrote a rather flowery (and biased) biography of Constantine, he provided Imperial funds for the copying of fifty copies of the Christian Scriptures. Here are the specifics from Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book IV:
CHAPTER XXXVI: Constantine' s Letter to Eusebius on the Preparation of Copies of the Holy Scriptures.
Some believe the great vellum codices, such as Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, or Alexandrinus, are representatives of these fifty copies of Scripture. Others doubt Eusebius' veracity, noting that he is writing long after the events and has a tendency to try to elevate Constantine's role as a Christian leader (so as to enhance his own standing). In any case, there is nothing here supportive of Brown's thesis. This is the only reference to Constantine having anything to do with the production of biblical manuscripts, and it is painfully obvious that when he speaks of "the Scriptures" he is referring to that body of Scriptures that Christians held in common long before he arrived on the scene. There is no confusion on Eusebius' part. He does not reply to Constantine, "Uh, what Scriptures? We haven't figured out the canon yet!" No, Eusebius knew what Constantine meant--all Christians did. And Constantine had nothing whatsoever to do with the content of those manuscripts, the canon of Scripture, or anything else relevant to the wild and crazy claims you see flying around the Internet, or making millions in books and movies.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, to Eusebius.
"It happens, through the favoring providence of God our Saviour, that great numbers have united themselves to the most holy church in the city which is called by my name. It seems, therefore, highly requisite, since that city is rapidly advancing in prosperity in all other respects, that the number of churches should also he increased. Do you, therefore, receive with all readiness my determination on this behalf. I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art. (1) The catholicus (2) of the diocese has also received instructions by letter from our Clemency to be careful to furnish all things necessary for the preparation of such copies; and it will be for you to take special care that they be completed with as little delay as possible. (3) You have authority also, in virtue of this letter, to use two of the public carriages for their conveyance, by which arrangement the copies when fairly written will most easily be forwarded for my personal inspection; and one of the deacons of your church may be intrusted with this service, who, on his arrival here, shall experience my liberality. God preserve you, beloved brother!"
CHAPTER XXXVII: How the Copies were provided.
SUCH were the emperor's commands, which were followed by the immediate execution of the work itself, which we sent him in magnificent and elaborately bound volumes of a threefold and fourfold form. (1) This fact is attested by another letter, which the emperor wrote in acknowledgment, in which, having heard that the city Constantia in our country, the inhabitants of which had been more than commonly devoted to superstition, had been impelled by a sense of religion to abandon their past idolatry, he testified his joy, and approval of their conduct.
Finally, it requires abject ignorance of the gospels themselves to believe the canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, ignore Jesus' humanity or that they are embellished versions meant to "make Him godlike." Jesus' humanity is plainly demonstrated in each of the canonical gospels, including John, which is so often accused of being very late and having a highly developed Christology that could only develop over time. That Jesus was the God-man can be shown from any gospel, not just from John. Once again we find Brown utterly and completely disconnected from every form of logic, truthfulness, and historical accuracy.
The Da Vinci Code XI
After creating, out of whole cloth, the idea that Constantine was busy running about the Roman Empire looking for at least 996 "original" gospels while promoting his edited versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Brown decides there is simply too much credibility lingering in this story, so he decides to shoot the last of it dead immediately. Enter the fellow I assume Tom Hanks is going to be playing, Robert Langdon, to add yet another incredible example of a-historical silliness to the very core of the Da Vinci Code fable:
"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." (234)
First, once again, there is not the slightest bit of historical foundation to this claim. None. Next, this is not a Latin term: it is Greek. The Greek terms ai`retiko,j, ai`reti,zw, and ai[resij are all found in the New Testament, long before Constantine. The verbal form does indeed mean "to choose," but not in the context Brown suggests. The term means "to choose or select for the purpose of showing special favor to or concern for," and is used in such passages as 2 Thessalonians 2:13 in the context of God's choice of the elect: "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth." It refers not to choosing to believe mythical gospels that never existed, but choosing someone so as to give to them favor or grace. From this verbal idea, then, it comes to indicate divisions based upon choice in its substantival/adjectival forms. In fact, the very term "heretic" appears, in Greek, in the New Testament, a simple fact that anyone with the slightest concern for truth could have determined rather easily (in fact, it even appears in Plato!). It appears in Titus 3:10, "Reject a factious (ai`retiko.n) man after a first and second warning."
But outside of these rather obvious facts, there is another little historical problem for Brown's claim. A quick scan of the ecclesiastical Latin writings that predate Constantine likewise demonstrate Brown's lie. Off the top of my head I recalled one rather obvious example of the use of this term before Constantine, and there are many others. Around the beginning of the third century (for those challenged historically like Mr. Brown, that would be around AD 200) Tertullian wrote a book titled "Praescriptionibus adversus Haereticos," The Prescription Against Heretics. Once again, for fictional character Robert Langdon's benefit, the year 200 is, oh, about 125 years prior to AD 325, the date of the Council of Nicea. So, if, as we are told, the term "heretic" came from the time frame after Nicea where people were choosing to believe in gospels that never existed, how could Tertullian be using it in the title of his book? Yes, well, I'm sure Constantine is to blame for that as well.
The Da Vinci Code XII
We have already seen that Brown relies heavily upon a highly doubtful, uncritical, easily challenged view of extra-biblical sources such as the Nag Hammadi Library and various other gnostic-influenced works. Ironically, Brown contradicts himself once again in his statements immediately following the embarrassing "heretic" comment on page 234. Here Brown speaking as Teabing says that "some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive." And what does he refer to? First he mentions the Dead Sea Scrolls, which, of course, are Jewish in nature and origin, not Christian. Now, if he would like to argue that 7Q5 is, in fact, a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, making the DSS relevant, that's fine---that would only destroy his entire thesis once again, putting Mark's writing within a few years of the events themselves. But obviously, that is not his intention, so, even mentioning the DSS is utterly irrelevant. Next he lists the Nag Hammadi finds, which of course contain some of his favorite sources, all from the second century, of course. He claims that both the DSS and the Nag Hammadi library tell "the true Grail story." I'm sure those working on the Dead Sea Scrolls need to be informed of this, since they would not have any idea of that otherwise! And one thing can be said with all certainty regarding the Nag Hammadi Library: there is no single story, no single position, to be found in that collection of works. They were not "gospels" representing the early Christian religion amongst the "thousands" Brown has alleged: they are the works of those who sought to pervert and change the faith, joining elements of Christianity with foreign beliefs.
Brown goes on to claim the DSS and Nag Hammadi finds "speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms" (234). Again, I would love to see where the DSS speak of Christ's ministry period, but be that as it may, in reality, once you leave the inspired text, you can find anything you want in second century writings about Christ. In fact, the deity of Christ is prominent in these works. The Docetics, for example, loved to speculate on what Christ would be like as a god (without a true physical body), and some of their myths and legends even ended up in the Qur'an! Surahs 3:49 and 5:110 both make reference to Jesus allegedly making birds of clay come alive, a story found in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas:
The stories of Thomas the Israelite, the Philosopher, concerning the works of the Childhood of the Lord.
Sorry, but that doesn't sound like an overly "human" Jesus vs. a divine Jesus (in the context in which Brown is speaking). Brown alleges,
I. I, Thomas the Israelite, tell unto you, even all the brethren that are of the Gentiles, to make known unto you the works of the childhood of our Lord Jesus Christ and his mighty deeds, even all that he did when he was born in our land: whereof the beginning is thus:
II. 1 This little child Jesus when he was five years old was playing at the ford of a brook: and he gathered together the waters that flowed there into pools, and made them straightway clean, and commanded them by his word alone. 2 And having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did these things (or made them). And there were also many other little children playing with him.
3 And a certain Jew when he saw what Jesus did, playing upon the Sabbath day, departed straightway and told his father Joseph: Lo, thy child is at the brook, and he hath taken clay and fashioned twelve little birds, and hath polluted the Sabbath day. 4 And Joseph came to the place and saw: and cried out to him, saying: Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to do? But Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them: Go! and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping. 5 And when the Jews saw it they were amazed, and departed and told their chief men that which they had seen Jesus do.
Actually, to anyone familiar with these disparate, contradictory, second-century sources, that anyone could possibly think them relevant to Brown's fanciful theories is what is truly amazing. These sources contain a "divine" Jesus to begin with! Has Brown not even read these sources himself? The massive leap from "gnostics wrote second century documents" to "the Bible was compiled and edited (in the days of Constantine) by men who possessed a political agenda---to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ" is simply breathtaking. Brown doesn't bother attempting to provide a foundation----there is none, of course. But given the complete lack of foundation to this point, and the pile of utter falsehoods we have already documented, we are still left to wonder just how the upcoming film will handle quotes like this, and how many people will fall for them, hook, line, and sinker, so that you will find yourself hearing this kind of rhetoric repeated back to you when you seek to share the message of life with others?
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. (234)
The Da Vinci Code XIII
Like a true post-modernist, Brown then inserts a discussion about how modern Vatican is made up of "pious men who truly believe these contrary documents (i.e., Nad Hammadi, DSS, noted in the preceding section) could only be false testimony." But it is Teabing's response that reveals Brown's true feelings:
"As you can see, our professor has a far softer heart for Rome than I do. Nonetheless, he is correct about the modern clergy believing these opposing documents are false testimony. That's understandable. Constantine's Bible has been their truth for ages. Nobody is more indoctrinated than the indoctrinator."
Do not miss the point: almost everything "our fathers" taught us about Christ is not "debatable" or anything else. It is false. And based upon what? The Dead Sea Scrolls (which do not contain gospels anyway), the Nag Hammadi Library gnostic gospels, and enough utter historical rubbish to dizzy the mind.
"What he means," Langdon said, "is that we worship the gods of our fathers."
"What I mean," Teabing countered, "is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false. As are the stories about the Holy Grail." (235)
I note in passing that I saw a blurb on the net a few days ago that puts this kind of rhetoric in perspective: between June of 2004 and June of 2005 Dan Brown made $76,500,000.00 off of this book. Seventy six and a half million dollars. Lies sell.
From this point the narrative moves away from the Bible and the history of the Christian faith for a period of discussion of Da Vinci and his paintings. After introducing the Grail concept, Brown via Langdon begins to promote his "divine feminine" theology:
The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church. The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominately male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean. It was man, not God, who created the concept of 'original sin,' whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy. (238)
Brown misrepresents even the doctrines he attacks, as here. He confuses the simple fact of the fall with the doctrine of original sin and its transmission to Adam's offspring; further, he thinks this somehow makes the woman "the enemy." Now surely, if Brown's sole target is Roman Catholicism and medieval theology, there is plenty to complain about therein, to be sure. Medieval theologians speculated, outside the realm of Scripture, on all sorts of things, and were indeed laboring under a grossly sub-biblical view of sexuality, marriage, etc. (a grossly sub-biblical view still represented today in the Roman view of a celibate priesthood). But "men" did not "make up" the doctrine of original sin, no matter how tortured Brown's understanding of it. The universal sinfulness of man is central to the entire Bible's view of sin, atonement, God's wrath, the existence of death, etc. Brown's thesis is nothing more than a complete rejection of biblical teaching in favor of simple ancient paganism, nothing more. But to attempt to resuscitate ancient goddess worship on the back of a pile of lies about Constantine and the Bible (while making seventy six million in the process) is simply reprehensible.
posted at 01:00:00 on 12/03/05
by James R. White -
Category: General Apologetics
The Da Vinci Code XIV
Christianity and paganism have always been mortal enemies, mainly because paganism has no interest in truth while Christianity is, by definition, wedded to Him who was and is the very embodiment of it. The use of lies in the service of paganism is nothing new, and The Da Vinci Code is just another example of paganism using falsehoods to promote its own ends. Over the past few decades it has been proven that a revival of ancient pagan goddess worship will tap into portions of the feminist movement and will normally make the author a nice return on his or her investment. Brown has taken this to a new level of course, which is why he has been sued as often as he has for borrowing his basic ideas from others (they all want a piece of the pie).
Building upon the foundation of pure fiction already laid out as fact, Brown now begins to move into the heart of the "grail story" he wishes to promote. First must come some introduction to the "divine feminine" concept along with some blame to be put upon "the Church" regarding its suppression. Brown writes,
Woman became an offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess. (238)
As if Genesis was made up some time later! Of course, this is yet another fallacious assertion regarding this time the teaching and intention of Scripture. Man and woman are created in the image of God. She is no more "sinful" than he is. But it is the very fact of sin and its universality (and hence the need for redemption) that has always been at issue with paganism in the first place, so it is hardly surprising to see the Scriptures being misrepresented here in this context.
Brown moves into the story of the search for the holy grail (without nearly the comedic content that certain British comedy troupes managed to attach to the topic), writing,
Knights who claimed to be “searching for the chalice” were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned nonbelievers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine. (239)
At this point Brown aims solely at Rome, and at this point Rome has little defense to offer when it comes to her history of burning heretics in the Inquisition and having a horrific record in violating biblical standards with her view of women. Any knowledgable believer, however, should be prepared to demonstrate that Rome's errors in these areas no more represent Christianity than Brown represents serious historical scholarship. Women are not "suppressed" in the Christian faith---women are honored as fellow image bearers and are viewed as equals before the cross of Christ as heirs of eternal life. What feminism does not like is the fact that the Scriptures lay out roles for men and women as ordered by creation itself: that is God's freedom in action, and since the essence of sin is to rebel against God's authority, twisting His creation and all godly relationships He has established, they call the recognition of the creative roles of men and women "suppression." It is nothing of the sort.
posted at 01:00:00 on 12/09/05
by James R. White -
Category: General Apologetics
The Da Vinci Code XV
As Brown develops his fanciful theory that Jesus was married (calling it a historical fact---but we have already learned that Brown calls "fact" what history calls "fiction" with shocking regularity) he throws out what is actually a plausible argument: singleness for Jewish males would be unusual at best, and, if Jesus had been single, "at least one of the Bible's gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood" (245). Of course, one immediately has to chuckle just a little bit: the only thing that makes this statement plausible is that the biblical gospels reflect something akin to the original context of Jesus' life and times---but isn't that the very thing Brown has claimed the Gospels do not do? I mean, the canonical gospels are nothing but made up stories from the fourth century, specifically crafted by Constantine for political purposes, right? A thousand other gospels gathered up and burned, right? So why, oh why, would Constantine forget a little detail like this? If the whole idea is that Jesus was married, but Constantine and now the evil Roman Church wants to bury that fact and make up a fake divine Jesus, why not provide this simple cover story in one of these made-up gospels being foisted upon the people? Brown's entire theory here crashes on the rocks of self-consistency.
Now it is quite true that marriage was the norm in Jewish society, but it was not unknown for someone to be unmarried when involved in special religious service, as Jesus was, especially if this involved itinerancy. But the real argument here should not be, "the gospels would explain his singleness," since, of course, they did: He came to serve and give His life a ransom for many, not to be served or serve in the covenant of marriage. The real argument would be, "If Jesus was married, the gospels would give indication of this fact," and, of course, they do not. You would think Brown, to be consistent, would simply assert that Constantine removed all references to Jesus' marriage from the gospels---in fact, why include any references to Mary Magdalene at all if Constantine is trying to bury her "real" role? None of this makes the slightest sense.
At this point Brown moves back to promoting the second-century gnostic gospels, identifying them as the "earlist Christian records." He opines that, "Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible." No kidding, but the fact is they do not because they were specifically written to promote a different religion! Ironically, it is the gnostic gospels that clearly know of the existence of the canonical gospels, borrow from them, and seek to insert extraneous material to support their own theological teachings, the very thing Brown is accusing the canonical gospels of doing! The difference, of course, being that he has no historical foundation and makes things up on the fly, and we have tons of historical material and a completely different view of truth. Be that as it may, Mary Magdalene, simply because of the paucity of information about her in the truly historical gospels, was a favorite topic for gnostic speculation in the next century. She is mainly seen in the Scriptures at the end of Jesus' ministry, though Luke, always the one to highlight the important role women had in the Lord's ministry, mentions her earlier in the narrative as one healed by the Lord who then ministered to the needs of the disciples in their work. There is nothing in the canonical gospels to suggest a marriage: unless one reads into Jesus' greeting of Mary at the tomb something that isn't there (which you could do with Mary or Martha in John 11, for example, or in other places, if you are only seeking to sell books and make things up as you go), there is simply no basis for the entire theory. Which is why Brown had to start out by ravaging the historical accuracy of the New Testament scriptures.
Brown then moves to the "Gospel of Mary Magdalene," again, another second-century gnostic gospel, far removed from the actual events of Christ's life, known only fragmentarily (in contrast to the true canonical gospels). The work clearly has nothing to do with Mary Magdalene the historical person noted in the gospels, but is instead the fanciful religious fantasy of a gnostic community from, at best, the second century. Brown adds, "Sophie had not known a gospel existed in Magdalene's words," as if, in fact, this work actually represents the words of Mary Magdalene. After quoting some from the work and establishing that the particular early gnostics who wrote the work elevated Mary Magdalene and speculated about a conflict between Peter and Mary, Brown includes this assertion, "According to these unaltered gospels, it was not Peter to whom Christ gave directions with which to establish the Christian Church. It was Mary Magdalene." (248) Unaltered? How on earth would Brown know? The manuscript evidence supporting these second century works is a micro-fraction of what we have in support of the historical gospels from the first century. Brown is harking back to his false assertions regarding Constantine here, of course, assertions we have refuted repeatedly already.
The DaVinci Code XVI
It has taken quite some time to get to the center of Brown's theory (a theory, of course, propounded by others long before he came along), but finally we have arrived. On page 249 we read,
"Behold," Teabing proclaimed, "the greatest cover-up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth!"
Of course, this kind of assertion hangs in mid-air, for we have seen that everything that came before this is refuted by history and logic, so we are dealing here with pure fantasy, no matter how matter-of-factly or passionately it may be expressed. No cover-up exists, and Brown has only fabricated the illusion he now propounds. He continues a few pages later,
The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians. (253)
This assertion is followed by a listing of books proclaiming similar theories, but again, while Brown makes the assertion that "historians" have "chronicled" these things, the fact is these are not books by serious historians at all. Once again, this "fiction based on fact" theme recurs in Brown's work. When he mentions Michael Baigent's Holy Blood, Holy Grail,, he then introduces this dialogue:
"What was the Church's reaction to the book?"
"Outrage, of course. But that was to be expected. After all, this was a secret the Vatican had tried to bury in the fourth century. That's part of what the Crusades were about. Gathering and destroying information. The threat Mary Magdalene posed to the men of the early Church was potentially ruinous. Not only was she the woman to whom Jesus had assigned the task of founding the Church, but she also had physical proof that the Church's newly proclaimed deity had spawned a mortal bloodline. 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." Sophie glanced at Langdon, who nodded. "Sophie, the historical evidence supporting this is substantial." (254)
Here we have a summary of all of the falsehoods Brown has compiled to this point. First, there was no Vatican in the fourth century. Brown once again blunders on a very basic level. Further, there is no evidence that the Crusades, which themselves were rather complex, and at times, disorganized, efforts, were running about looking for documents about Mary Magdalene. More unfounded conspiracy fodder. The simply disgusting attack upon the deity of Christ--a divine truth documented inside and outside of Scripture long before Brown's fanciful Constantine theories---is all the more horrific in light of the massive fortune Brown has amassed because of it. But notice as well again the final line. All of those who continue to dismiss this book as mere fiction do so by simply ignoring the repeated assertions of Brown's text itself. One wonders how much of this emphasis upon the historical nature of these assertions will make it to the screen. I have a feeling it will be very clearly portrayed, for on the very next page we read,
"The point here," Langdon said, motioning back to the bookshelf, "is that all of these books substantiate the same historical claim." (255)
How many times does Brown have to repeat himself? We get the message: he is claiming this is based in history. And as we have seen, he's lying through his teeth. Evidently, the idea is, "repeat falsehood. Repeat it again. Continue to do so, often...on a big screen, if possible. Hopefully, you will be believed." Sadly, this mechanism may well work in our modern society.
The Da Vinci Code XVII
We are nearing the end of our examination of the biblically relevant claims of Dan Brown's best-selling novel, soon to be a major motion picture (here's the trailer), The Da Vinci Code. We have thus far seen that Brown's "fiction based upon fact" presentation is purely fiction, even when it pretends to present facts. The number of simple, gross errors paraded before the reader thus far regarding Jesus, Constantine, the Bible, etc., has destroyed every bit of possible credibility Brown might claim for himself and his "research." We have entered into the final portions of this presentation, which, since they are based upon all the falsehoods that have come before, only grow the more fantastic and outrageous. Teabing, Langdon, and the ever innocent Sophie, are still in Teabing's home, and Teabing and Langdon are busy informing her about the Grail legend. We read,
"According to the Priory," Teabing continued, "Mary Magdalene was pregnant at the time of the crucifixion. For the safety of Christ's unborn child, she had no choice but to flee the Holy Land. With the help of Jesus' trusted uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene secretly traveled to France, then known as Gaul. There she found safe refuge in the Jewish community. It was here in France that she gave birth to a daughter. Her name was Sarah."
Sophie glanced up. "They actually know the child's name?"
"Far more than that. Magdalene's and Sarah's lives were scrutinously chronicled by their Jewish protectors. Remember that Magdalene's child belonged to the lineage of Jewish kings---David and Solomon. For this reason, the Jews in France considered Magdalene sacred royalty and revered her as the progenitor of the royal line of kings. Countless scholars of that era chronicled Mary Magdalene's days in France, including the birth of Sarah and the subsequent family tree." (255)
Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus' uncle? Really? Let's think about that a moment. Assuming the term "father" can be properly used of Joseph, husband of Mary, at least positionally (Mary used the term in that way), then you would have Joseph the brother of...Joseph. Yes, I'm sure it was quite common to name siblings with the same name!. "This is my brother Darrell, and my other brother, Darrell." Right.
Sophie was startled. "There exists a family tree of Jesus Christ?"
Now, does it strike anyone else as odd (outside of the utter a-historicity of all of this) that Mary Magdalene would be welcomed with open arms by a Jewish community in far-away Gaul, if she had to flee the Jews in Jerusalem? If the Jews in Gaul looked upon her as royalty (as if they looked upon anyone with a similar lineage in that fashion!) why didn't the Jews in Jerusalem? Did the Jews in Gaul have no communication whatsoever with Jerusalem? Once again, we are not told. Pure supposition without the weight of actually having to substantiate anything.
As to the lives of Mary Magdalene and her alleged daughter, Sarah, being "scrutinously" chronicled, once again, we are left with nothing but conspiracy theories here as well. Where is the evidence? Oh, that's the whole point. Though we can't produce these "Sangreal Documents" (that's what the whole story is about), somehow we know what is in them! But you can't question what is in them or...you'll ruin the story! In fact, even Brown seems to realize his web of unfounded theories is getting pretty messy, for he once again has to inject the reader with a dose of "history really isn't what it is cracked up to be" skepticism:
"Indeed. And it is purportedly one of the cornerstones of the Sangreal documents. A complete genealogy of the early descendants of Christ."
"But what good is a documented genealogy of Christ's bloodline?" Sophie asked. "It's not proof. Historians could not possibly confirm its authenticity."
Teabing chuckled. "No more so than they can confirm the authenticity of the Bible."
"Meaning that history is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books---books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, 'What is history, but a fable agreed upon?' " He smiled. "By its very nature, history is always a one-sided account."
Sophie had never thought of it that way. (255-256)
Poor silly Sophie! Always the wide-eyed innocent. Note first the incredible attack upon the nature of the Bible once again. Having ravaged all truth already, Brown now parallels the Bible with fictitious documents carried around in four trunks with a sarcophagus. A collection of works written by more than forty authors over 1500 years, examined minutely by generation after generation, found to repeatedly (and accurately) comport with historical finds (did you read about the Pool of Bethsaida being found recently?), rooted in history itself, paralleled epistemologically with pure fiction. That is what is headed for the movie screens of America in May of this year. It should further be noted that only a portion of the Bible's nature can be examined historically: you cannot confirm spiritual truths by reference to external history. You can only confirm that the events of Scripture took place in the historical contexts claimed.
The rest of Brown's dialogue is little more than "Yes, I know I'm spinning a complete yarn, but I want you to follow me a while longer, so I will take another shot at history to keep you with me." History is not, in fact, all one sided. Those vanquished often leave a great deal of historical evidence in their wake, for history is not only written documents. This utterly naive view of historical study is necessary for those profiting from conspiracy theories, but is untenable for those who are interested in the truth.
The Da Vinci Code XVIII
We have been examining the biblically relevant claims of Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. We are currently examining his claims regarding the alleged documents contained in four trunks, hidden together with the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene, and what they allegedly contain. We are dealing with pure fiction here, of course---despite Brown's claim that the references to historical documents in his book are based upon serious research. In the immediate preceding section we saw Brown once again excusing the utter lack of historical basis for his assertions on the idea that the "other side won" and got rid of all the documents...except the ones he won't show us, but somehow knows something about anyway. We continue,
"The Sangreal documents simply tell the other side of the Christ story. In the end, which side of the story you believe becomes a matter of faith and personal exploration, but at least the information has survived. The Sangreal documents include tens of thousands of pages of information. Eyewitness accounts of the Sangreal treasure describe it as being carried in four enormous trunks. In those trunks are reputed to be the Purist Documents---thousands of pages of unaltered, pre-Constantine documents, written by the early followers of Jesus, revering Him as a wholly human teacher and prophet. Also rumored to be part of the treasure is the legendary "Q" Document---a manuscript that even the Vatican admits they believe exists. Allegedly, it is a book of Jesus' teachings, possibly written in His own hand."
We've already seen Brown's allegation of wholesale corruption of the biblical text, and, of course, we've refuted those allegations. So, while first we have the assertion that Constantine gathered up and burned all the "pure" gospels, now we have the assertion that at least some survived in these "Purist Documents" with claims that these are the "unaltered, pre-Constantine" documents. Amazing how much is "known" about documents no one has ever seen. We have documents from the early followers of Jesus, such as Ignatius, who revered Jesus as God. Who are these "other" followers? Were they thrown to the lions like Ignatius was? If not, then why don't we have even more of their writings today? Constantine would not have had the capacity or ability to gather up documents written two centuries before he rose to power! Once again we find Brown's theory founders upon the simplest reflections based upon the truth of the historical situations to which he refers.
Next we have a gratuitous and highly inaccurate reference to the theoretical "Q" document. "Q" comes from "quelle," the Germ word for "source," and refers to a collection of sayings, not necessarily written down as a singular document, upon which Matthew and Luke allegedly relied in "filling in the blanks" when they were "copying" from Mark. The material found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark is supposedly from this collection of sayings, though, of course, no one has ever seen such a document, and most agree it would have been a collection of oral sayings anyway, not a written document copied and handed down. I find no reason to follow the majority in supposing the existence of a Q document anyway: if you dig down into where the theory came from, it finds its origins in non-believing scholars who look upon the New Testament documents as primarily (or even merely) human products and discounts the supernatural aspect of revelation. It seeks to explain the documents without reference to their spiritual nature, i.e., in opposition to the very teaching of the authors of Scripture themselves. It can't be that God would have a purpose in guiding Matthew, Mark, or Luke, or that a body of Jesus' teachings could be supernaturally preserved to which they would have access; no, it must all be explained in a natural way.
When Brown refers to the Vatican and the Q document, and that the Vatican "admits they believe [it] exists" the accurate statement would involve the past-tense, specifically, "admits they believe it existed." He would be referring to Roman Catholic higher scholarship that would embrace the Q theory fully, but it does not follow that they would believe the document to continue to exist, or that it ever existed in written form in the first place. And the idea that "Q" was in Jesus' own hand is another Brownian myth on the same level as most of the rest of the foolishness he has made millions on in this book.
The Da Vinci Code XIX
In our last segment we read Brown's assertions about secret documents that somehow he knows a lot about (but, since they are secret, doesn't have to prove). His last claim was an inaccurate comment on the Q source. We continue,
"Writings by Christ Himself?"
Here we see one of those areas where Brown's thesis is wildly removed from that of more notorious critics of Christ such as the Jesus Seminar. How so? Because the Jesus Seminar theories would preclude any meaningful recording of anything about the life of Christ during his life itself. Jesus was barely a local "splash," let alone one who had thousands of devoted followers, as Brown has already intimated. And as those who have listened to my debate with John Dominic Crossan from last August know, Crossan believes Christ would have to have been illiterate, incapable of reading or writing anything at all. So the idea that Jesus wrote a chronicle of His own ministry is not only a theory without a scintilla of historical evidence, it is not the viewpoint of any portion of scholarship at all. In the same way, the fanciful Magdalene Diaries once again cause us to wonder how anyone can know anything about secret documents that are so...secret. But we entered into the arena of the utterly a-historical a very long time ago, so we should not be overly surprised at almost anything by this point.
"Of course," Teabing said. "Why wouldn't Jesus have kept a chronicle of His ministry? Most people did in those days. Another explosive document believed to be in the treasure is a manuscript called The Magdalene Diaries---Mary Magdalene's personal account of her relationship with Christ, His crucifixion, and her time in France." (255-256)
As I mentioned at the beginning of our series, I am limiting my review to the specifically biblical claims made by Brown in his work. There are, of course, many other problems with the text, but there are plenty of sources you can go to to read about those issues. I specifically looked for every reference to the Bible, Christ, church history, etc., that would be apologetically relevant to the readers of Pros Apologian. So with that in mind, there is only one relevant passage yet to address. The scene has changed from Teabing's home to his aircraft. On page 309 we read the following:
Langdon's Jewish students always looked flabbergasted when he first told them that the early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex. In the Temple, no less. Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple housed not only God but also His powerful female equal, Shekinah. Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the Temple to visit priestesses---or hierodules---with whom they made love and experienced the divine through physical union. The Jewish tetragrammaton YHWH---the sacred name of God---in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgenous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.
Once again we are faced with horrifically absurd assertions that defy rationality. Langdon's Jewish students would have every right to look flabbergasted at such an inane claim. There is not a shred of historical evidence to substantiate such an allegation concerning the Temple, and much that argues against it. Those Jewish students may well have realized that the form of Temple worship is clearly laid out in the Scriptures, and that long before Constantine, and that the only time ritualistic sex would have taken place in the Temple was during times when the Temple was profaned by foreign armies, or, times of idolatry entered into Israel's experience, against which the prophets thundered with a voice from on high.
Secondly, shekinah was not a female deity, but a word referring to the glory of God that accompanied the Jewish people on the Exodus, and was manifested in the Tabernacle. Where does Brown get the idea this referred to some female consort? Simple: it comes from medieval Jewish Kabbalistic texts! Ah yes, nothing like sound historical sources going right back to the time period under discussion...well, OK, removed by 2200 years, but hey, at least there's a source this time! One almost feels relieved to find something outside of Dan Brown's fertile imagination you can interact with after all the silliness that has come before. But Kabbalistic sources from the medieval period are hardly worthy of interaction, either: the idea that they represent ancient sources is ridiculous as well.
Finally, the assertion concerning the divine name is completely backwards and once again reveals the depth of Brown's lack of scholarship. Jehovah is derived from Yahweh, not the other way around. Jehovah is a Germanicized form, coming from the medieval period, and represents the much later Jewish prohibition on speaking the divine name. The Jews took the vowels for the term "Lord," Adonai, and inserted them in the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, producing a false reading, but one that served the purpose of warning the reader not to read the divine name out loud. It was this ya-how-ah artificial reading that came into the developing Germanic languages and then into English as "Jehovah." Brown can't put Constantine in the right century nor can he follow a simple, basic line of historical development regarding the name Jehovah. One is truly astonished at the riches one can gain through utter ignorance.
Given the backwards nature of his understanding of the origination of the divine name, his assertion regarding the pre-Hebraic name for Eve and its joining with a masculine form falls flat on its face as well. The original term was Yahweh, leaving no ground for Brown's imaginative attempt to insert the "divine feminine." While there is much discussion of what Yahweh means, focused upon self-existence or continuing stability/faithfulness, ground of being, etc., none of these are relevant to Brown's wild-eyed theories.
In our final discussion we will summarize our discussion and offer some suggestions regarding how we can be best prepared for the release of the film adaptation of Brown's book in May of this year.
The Da Vinci Code XX: Finale
This past Lord's Day I once again had the opportunity of speaking to a congregation about The Da Vinci Code. At the end I made a point I want to make here at the end of this series of blog articles. We have two ways in which we can view the advent of Brown's novel, its deeply anti-Christian rhetoric and falsehoods, and the upcoming film. We can either wring our hands and mourn over the decline of our society, or, we can recognize that this is the context in which we have been called to witness and instead view this as an opportunity--a wide open door, in fact--to give testimony to our faith and the truthfulness of the Scriptures as the Word of God. Many will be talking about the film and accepting its unfounded, thoroughly false attacks upon the Christian faith and Scriptures: will we be ready to "step up to the plate" and give a meaningful response, using this as a platform from which to present the gospel? Or will we just close ourselves ever more off into our own enclave? This is the choice left to us.
Books like The Da Vinci Code thrive because we have become a society dependent upon external sources of information. We no longer learn things directly: we learn how to find out the data we need. Part of this is necessary: the body of human knowledge is now so much larger than it was in the past that there can no longer be a true "Renaissance man" who masters all fields of knowledge. While that is true, we have likewise become a people disconnected from history; we no longer are disciplined to learn, to memorize, to remember. And as we have ceased valuing honesty, integrity, accuracy, indeed, all aspects of truth, it is easy to understand how other values, like simple entertainment, have rushed in to fill the void. The result is not only sloppy thinking that cannot see two steps down a logical pathway (and hence identify errors in argumentation), but ignorance of history as well. The combination allows men like Dan Brown to amass millions of dollars on the basis of a pack of lies so inane, so silly, no person could possibly make a meaningful case for them in the face of cross-examination and rebuttal. Which is why, of course, he refuses to put himself in a position of being cross-examined by the very people who would expose his falsehoods without hesitation.
So to the believer who has read this series, I say, take this information, use it as a foundation, and be prepared to do battle in the context of a society ever more willing to believe any lie that is offered to them, as long as it gives them an excuse to avoid God's truth and denigrate God's Word. Pray to be used to glorify His truth in giving an answer and challenging those who so lightly and blithely promote this kind of falsehood.
And if you have read this material as one wanting to see if the Christian faith has an answer for the kind of conspiracy theories promoted by Dan Brown and others, I trust you will take this challenge and look more closely at the message of Christ and His Word. God has preserved His Word, and it speaks directly to you. Christ was not merely a mortal man: true man He was, but He was the God-man, fully God, fully man, and as your Creator, you will stand before Him someday. He commands men and women everywhere to repent and turn to Him as the sole source of salvation. I pray He will grant you sight to see His glory.