The Da Vinci Code vs. the Facts
By Steve Morrison
Would you believe that Martians have landed innumerable times, Jesus Christ has returned at least ten times, wild rhinoceroses terrified horses in Minnesota the 19th century until they were lured to Canada, Einstein created a "Franck-Einstein Monster", or that you can get psychic readings in 7 minutes that have never failed? You might if you believed everything in tabloids such as the Weekly World News and The National Enquirer. Would this kind of writing be more believable in book form?
Many see Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code, as only a little more accurate than the above examples. But why shouldn't we give his book a break, since after all, it is in the fiction section. The danger here, however, is Dan Brown said, in an interview, that if he were writing a non-fiction book, we would not change any of the historical assertions of the novel.
While I am not aware of Dan Brown ever writing for tabloids, you have to give him credit that his strategy has been successful; it has sold over 40 million copies, and he has an estimated worth of around $56 million. Part of his book's success is due to its outrageous claims such as:
X Until 325 A.D., Jesus was viewed as a mortal prophet, not the Son of God. p.233
X More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament p.231
X Today's Bible was collated by Constantine p.231
X Nag Hammadi Gnostics deserve to be called other Christianities p.234
X "Jesus' establishment of Jesus as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea. - A relatively close vote at that," p.233
X Original Christianity had a feminine goddess, and sexuality is divine, etc. p.237-239,434,444-446
There are other similar claims.
These are easy to refute, and many scholars have already refuted these claims on a point-by-point basis. Some of these books and web sites are in the appendix.
The focus of this article is different. Rather than asking why Dan Brown selectively ignored history, or asking why he wrote a book like this, (which made millions of dollars) my emphasis is on the question of why so many could think that the history presented in this book might be true.
In fact a survey in the Ottawa Citizen 6/24/2005 said that 16% of Canadians read the book, and of those, 1/3 really believed some of the claims. I think there are three reasons why some people are gullible here.
1. Abject ignorance of what early Christianity taught
2. Deception by writers claiming Gnostics were Christians too
3. Some freedom from morality
Once we are educated about these three things, then Brown's errors become very obvious.
1. What Early Christianity Taught
More than 64 Early Christian Writers: We have preserved writings from more than 82 early Christians, many of whom were bishops or famous among Christians in their time, sort of like Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Josh McDowell, or Lee Strobel of modern times. You can read a little on them at www.HistoryCart/EarlyChristianWriters.html
65 Bible Books named or quoted: As they wrote on various Christian topics, most of them loved to quote Scripture: in fact they mentioned by name and/or quoted from 65 of the books of the Bible (only the short book of Obadiah excepted). You can see a grid of some of the writers and which books they named, or quoted at www.HistoryCart.com/EarlyChristianNTReferences.html
More than 527 Christian Doctrines: Just like Christian authors today they were not perfect, but then they did not claim to be scripture either. Sometimes they disagreed with each other on secondary points, or difficult issues such as what to do about people who left the faith and sacrificed to Roman gods, but later repented. However, they were united in teaching at least 527 doctrines of faith, experience, and practice. For doctrines attested by at least three Christian writers, and denied by none, see www.HistoryCart.com/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.html Now there are few surprises here. Conservative Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians have said these things.
In addition, not only did Christians write that Jesus was God, but non-Christians wrote that Christians believed Jesus was God.
Lucian of Samosata, (also called Lucian the Greek) second century satirist, wrote about Christ, "...the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world....Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws." (The Passing Peregrinus 11-13)
Pliny the Younger was a governor of Bithynia who killed many Christians for their faith. He wrote Emperor Trajan in 112 A.D. saying, "...they affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god,... Epistles 10.96.
At least 24 early Christian writers, New Testament manuscripts, and non-Christian writers all show that early Christians believed Jesus was God. So why on earth could Dan Brown's book claim Christians did not believe Jesus was God until 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea? I suppose that perhaps Brown could have an answer to that though: "just ask my accountant!"
50 early New Testament manuscripts and fragments before ca 300 A.D. attest that we have the same text (97/98%) today as back then. All of these are even prior to the famous manuscripts Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. You can see this list at www.HistoryCart.com/EarlyNTManuscripts.html
175-200 Old Testament Dead Sea Scrolls before 70 A.D. show that the text of the Bible in Jesus' time is the same (~95%) as we have today from other sources. You can read about this at www.HistoryCart.com/DeadSeaScrolls.html.
Now to return to refuting Dan Brown's book, it was universally believed there were only four gospels, the books of the Old and New Testaments, and Christian doctrine was pretty much settled. Among specific doctrines were that Christ was both God and man, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified and rose again, and that believers were to live holy and chaste lives.
But I will let the early Christian leaders speak for themselves.
Papias, who died about 163 A.D. was a disciple of John the apostle. He wrote over 5 volumes; unfortunately most of what he wrote was lost. However, the church historian Eusebius records
"he [Papias] has given in the following words]: And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. [This is what is related by Papias regarding Mark; but with regard to Matthew he had made the following statements]: Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could" Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 3:39 (vol.1 p.154)
Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) writes, "It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. ... the 'pillar and ground' of the church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side." Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3 ch.11.8
Tertullian's Five Books Against Marcion (207/208 A.D.) book 4 ch.2 says, "We lay it down as our first position, that the Evangelist Testament has apostles for its authors, to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel. ... Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instill faith into us; whilst of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards. These all start with the same principles of the faith, so far as relates to the one only God the Creator and His Christ, how that He was born of the Virgin, and came to fulfil the law and the prophets." Later he mentions a false gospel published by Marcion.
But if that was true, what about the controversy that led to the 325 A.D. Council of Nicea? It is an ignorant statement to say that Nicea was about whether Christ was God or not. Rather it was between Orthodox Christianity and Arians, who disagreed on how Christ was God. Was Christ of the same substance as the Father as Orthodox Christianity says, or was He of like or different substance, presumably less than the Father as Arians believed.
You can read at least 24 early Christian writers who said that Jesus was God, all before Nicea at: www.HistoryCart.com/WhatEarlyChristianTaught.html under Deity of Jesus Our Lord. Again, Dan Brown's writing has dishonestly ignored a large amount of Christian writing.
Some might think it a real letdown for early Christians actually to believe the same as we do today on the essential points. However, having read through seven volumes of the early Christian writers before 325 A.D., I find it encouraging that God guided them, and us, to the same truths.
Again, the early Christian bishop, Irenaeus, says: "The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion [death], and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father 'to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ..." Irenaeus Against Heresies book 1 ch.10.2 p.330.
2. Why the Nag Hammadi Gnostics are Cannot be Called Christians
No early Gnostic would believe what Dan Brown presents as early Christianity because of the way Brown has selectively chosen from so-called Gnostic teachings. All of the various Gnostic schools claimed the following:
X The God of the Old Testament, the Creator, was an evil/deluded/misled god who made a wicked mistake in creating the earth and matter. They thought the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament) was from a bad god.
X The New Testament god, who was a different being from the evil Old Testament god, came to set everything right.
X All early Gnostics thought Jesus was a divine being, which totally refutes the false assertions in Dan Brown's book.
X Many Gnostics believed Hercules, Jupiter, and other Greco-Roman gods were real beings in heaven. Gnostics in general tried to mix pagan teaching with Christianity.
X In particular, the Gospel of Thomas, which Nag Hammadi Gnostics held to, had a very low view of women. Let's look at some quotes.
What do you think of this "truth" from the last of the 114 teachings of the Gospel of Thomas? Simon Peter said to Him, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life." Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
How about the 98th saying? Jesus said, "The Kingdom of the Father is like a certain man who wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and stuck it into the wall in order to find out whether his hand could carry through. Then he slew the powerful man."
To see a listing of 30 Gnostic schools, go to www.HistoryCart.com/ListOfGnostics.html.
3. True Christianity Teaches Moral and Ethical Responsibility
So why would anyone even advocate the Gospel of Thomas or Gnosticism? This is frankly answered at www.y2gateways.com/id81.htm, (5/6/2001)
"One of the biggest differences between this Gospel and later biblical writings is that it has neither gloom nor doom, no political positioning, not a crucifixion nor resurrection in sight. The gospel recognizes Jesus as a teacher, not God. Hallelujah!"
Why would the people of the Jesus Seminar promote this? Perhaps if they did not, they would not be able to make so much money publishing books and speaking. Even a liberal scholar, Howard Clark Kee in a letter to the Los Angeles Times called the seminar "an academic disgrace" (from The Real Jesus, by Timothy Luke Johnson. p.18.)
Despite the attacks by Gnostics and modern day, unbelieving liberals, early Christians were united in believing in no sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Dan Brown goes on and on about phallic and feminine symbols in Judaism and Christianity, and how "the evil Catholic Church" repressed all this sexuality. Actually we have so many early Christian writings prior to the council of Nicea that even if it had wanted to, the Catholic Church would have been unable to suppress what early Christians really taught. Once again Dan Brown is just dead wrong.
Peter prophesied in 2 Peter 2:1-2 that there would be false teachers. Regardless of the historical facts, perhaps Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code "had to be written" because there was such a large market for gullible people who would hope it would be true, and had never been taught about the massive evidence of early Christianity between the New Testament times and Council of Nicea.
The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code by Richard Abanes
The Gospel Code by Ben Witherington III
Cracking the Da Vinci Code by James Garlow & Peter Jones
Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Darrell L. Bock
Discussing the Da Vinci Code by Lee Strobel & Garry Poole
I learned of the survey in the Ottawa Citizen from an excellent Christian magazine, The Christian News January 9, 2006 p.3.
Recommended Web Sites
The Da Vinci Code: Separating Fact From Fiction
[www.rbc.org/davinci/] Deciphering The Da Vinci Code from Crosswalk - July 29, 2003 [www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?adate=7/29/2003]
Crash Goes the Da Vinci Code by Ron Rhodes [www.leaderu.com/theology/crashdavincicode.html]
Dismantling the Da Vinci Code by Sandra Miesel [www.leaderu.com/popculture/dismantlingdavinci.html
The Franck-Einstein Monster was in the World Weekly News March 20, 2006 p.24.
The wild rhinoceroses menacing horses in Minnesota was in the World Weekly News March 20, 2006 p.45
Psychic readings in 7 minutes that have never failed are advertised in The National Enquirer March 27, 2006 p.52.
The over 40 million copies of the Da Vinci Code sold cam from an Associated Press Article by Jill Lawless April 7, 2006.
Answers to The Da Vinci Code
By Timothy Paul Jones, Ed.D.
(excerpted from Rose Publishing pamphlet)
Is sex a "spiritual act" in which one may find the "spark of divinity"? (DVC p.310)
At this point, The Da Vinci Code is partly correct: God is the ultimate source of our sexuality. According to Genesis, "God created humanity in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them." Yet-and this is where The Da Vinci Code goes wrong-sexual pleasure is not intended to be an end in itself. Certainly, God didn't plan our sexuality to be a frenzied group ritual, such as the one celebrated in The Da Vinci Code (DVC pp. 310-312). Rather, the ultimate pleasure expressed between a husband and his wife is intended to be a reflection of the intense, exclusive passion that God feels for his people. That's why, throughout Scripture, God is presented as the loving husband of his people. Therefore, there is no "spark of divinity" that we can find in a moment of sexual pleasure. What we can find, within the context that God created for sexual expression, is a beautiful reflection of divine love. (Gen. 1:26-27; Isa. 54:5; Jeremiah 31:32; Ezekiel 16:1-32; Hosea 2:1-20, II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25)
Did the Christian church recast sex as "a shameful act?" (DVC p.125)
No, the church as a whole did not recast sex as shameful. According to one of the characters in The Da Vinci Code, the major religions of the world have "worked hard to demonize sex and recast it as a disgusting and sinful act" (DVC p. 309). A glance at the Old and New Testaments quickly calls this claim into question: "Rejoice in the wife of your youth, let her breasts fill you with delight." Another text explicitly describes the bride and groom on their wedding night. According to the apostle Paul, the only reason for a wife and husband not to have sex consistently was if they agreed to "devote [themselves] to prayer for a limited time." Certainly some church leaders have frowned on sex, but their teachings do not agree with Scripture. (Prov. 5:18-19; Song of Solomon 5:10-16, 7:1-13; I Cor. 7:3-5).
Was Shekinah the "powerful female equal" of God, worshiped alongside YHWH in the Old Testament? (DVC p. 309, 446)
No, the term "Shekinah" never appears in the Old or New Testaments. It is a Hebrew term used by later rabbis to describe God's presence among his people. It simply means "the one who dwells." At no point did "Shekinah" refer to a separate, female deity.
Was Jesus "the original feminist?"
It depends on how one defines "feminist." Jesus did not plan for his church to be a matriarchal community, centered in "the divine feminine," as The Da Vinci Code implies. Jesus did teach that women are to be respected and valued equally with men as creatures formed in God's image. Jesus, however, was not advocating a new form of feminism. In fact, this sort of "feminism" is what God intended from the very beginning. (Matt. 19:3-9; Acts 2:18; Gal. 3:28; Gen 1:27; 2:18)
Did ancient Jews and Christians experience the divine through "ritualistic sex?" (DVC p. 309)
No, ancient Jews or Christians who were faithful to the teachings of their religion, never attempted to experience the divine through ritualistic sex. According to a main character in The Da Vinci Code, early Jewish worship included Hieros Gamos ("sacred union"), acts of ritual sex through which "the male could find spiritual wholeness" (DVC p.309). These rites-The Da Vinci Code contends-continued among Christians until the established church engaged in a "brutal crusade to 'reeducate' the pagan and feminine worshiping religions" (DVC p.125). In truth, the earliest texts from the Jewish tradition explicitly forbid practices of "cult prostitution." Early Christians were accused of such acts. However, when a Roman governor thoroughly investigated the charges in AD 112, he found nothing shameful - only an ordinary worship celebration (Deut. 23:17, 18).
Does the holy name of God, YHWH, imply a union between a masculine and a feminine deity? (DVC p. 309)
No, the holy name of God has nothing to do with masculine or feminine deities. YHWH, is a noun derived from the Hebrew term "hayah" ("to be"). It was a variation of this term - "ehyeh," ("I AM") - that God spoke to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). The ancient Hebrews viewed the name YHWH with such reverence that they did not even speak it.
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org
by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.