Christians and "The Da Vinci Code", Part 1
After reading "The Da Vinci Code" and with the imminent release of the movie with the same title, I felt it necessary to write a bit about what Christians may need to expect and how to use the openings the movie will create to give truthful testimony about Jesus.
Over the next several weeks leading up to the release of the movie, I will be compiling information in an attempt to arm our readers with helpful responses.
The "Da Vinci Code" attacks the very premise of Christianity, calling into doubt not only the accuracy and authority of the Bible, but also the Godliness of Jesus Christ. Although hailed as "fiction", Brown ascertains that all his facts are true, making this, in his mind, almost a "historical fiction".
Let's start by looking at some the initial fallacies of the premise given in the "The Da Vinci Code" about the Bible and Christianity.
Alex McFarland has compiled "The Top 10 Errors Found in 'The Da Vinci Code'"(1). Listed on the "Focus on the Family" web site, he brings the initial errors to light. Let's look at them.
Fallacy: The world was once dominated by goddess-based worship. Religion was originally matriarchal and later (under Judeo-Christian dominance) changed to patriarchal monotheism (male dominated). (The Da Vinci Code, p. 124)
Fact: There is no evidence that any significant religious movement had dominant female deities: They were always linked to their male counterparts, and usually in a subservient role. (See, for example, Tikva Frymer-Kensky's In the Wake of the Goddesses (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993) and Craig Hawkins' Goddess Worship, Witchcraft, and Neo-Paganism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998).
Fallacy: The Bible has been extensively rewritten and revised. Therefore, its original meaning has been lost. The Christian Scriptures "evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions." (DVC, p. 231)
Fact: "Countless translations" is excessive hyperbole and vague generalization. Without a specific charge of what was translated, added or revised, it is impossible to respond to this point specifically. However, consider the following points: * Translation issues for the Bible are not different from translation issues for any other document, and cause no more difficulty. The quote implies that there is some great confusion over translation that is cause for concern. * It is true that there are issues to discuss in terms of translating the Bible from ancient Hebrew and Greek to any modern language. This is a natural function of all translation processes and in no way detracts from offering a "definitive," reasonable account of what was originally written. * In fact, the means of transmission of the ancient texts, the voluminous quantity of manuscript copies, the science of textual criticism and the art of translation ensure that any reputable modern translation of the Bible is an accurate rendering of the original text. This subject has been covered so comprehensively and so well by so many scholars that Brown's misrepresentation of the facts is inexcusable.
Fallacy: "Fortunately for historians ... some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert." (DVC, p. 234)
Fact: According to Dr. Paul L. Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, Constantine was never involved in any attempt to eradicate any gospels. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 and contained no gospels, nor any reference to Jesus. They contained portions of every Old Testament book except Esther, commentaries on the Old Testament, some extrabiblical works, secular documents and business records. The Qumran community, which wrote or preserved these documents, had nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity.
Fallacy: "The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great." (DVC, p. 232)
Fact: Although the verdict is out as to whether Constantine was a true follower of Christ, he was not a pagan. He converted to Christianity (regardless of his motives for doing so). And he did not collate the Bible. The Old Testament was compiled even before the time of Jesus. The New Testament began to be recognized by the end of the 1st century. By the 2nd century, church leaders were inserting quotes from the four Gospels into their writings. Athanasius recorded the earliest list of New Testament books in 367 A.D.
Fallacy: The Bible was "hodge-podged" together over time and is not trustworthy. "The Bible is the 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." (DVC, p. 231)
Fact: If men wanted to create a new religion, they would never choose one with a God-man as its central figure and a resurrection from the dead as its foundation. (1 Corinthians 15:14, Ephesians 2:20). Further, if men had produced Christianity, it would be man-centered, as are all other religions. In other words, man would earn his way into eternal bliss through his good deeds. Thus, man would get the glory. In stark contrast, the Bible uniformly declares that man cannot work his way to God. There must be a substitute that is acceptable to God according to His holy standard - perfect righteousness. Jesus Christ is that perfect substitute - the one and only way to God. Therefore, God gets all the glory. (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18)
Fallacy: Many "gospels" existed recounting the life of Christ, some of which were suppressed: "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..." (DVC, p. 231)
Fact: The "gospels" to which Brown refers are the Gnostic gospels. They were written from about 250-350 A.D., several hundred years after Christ lived. They were written to reinterpret the life of Christ and His teachings, based upon Gnostic philosophy. There were never as many as 80, and they were never considered for inclusion in the New Testament.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were accepted in the 1st century based upon their authorship and their use in the early Christian centers of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Rome. The Gnostic gospels appeared after most of the New Testament was already in use and accepted by the Church. Eusebius, the first church historian, affirms that the early church rejected these gospels as soon as they appeared.
Fallacy: Christianity as we know it was "invented" by people, rather than revealed by God. "At [the Council of Nicea]...many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon - the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments and, of course, the divinity of Jesus...[U]ntil that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal." (DVC, p. 233)
Fact: The Council of Nicea debated only one issue: Was Jesus coeternal with the Father? (See A History of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette, pp. 152-157.) Although Jesus' disciples were fearful skeptics who initially did not clearly understand who Christ was and what He came to do, after the resurrection they willingly sacrificed their lives for proclaiming that He was indeed God in the flesh. (John 20:19-28, 31; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Philippians 2:5-11)
Fallacy: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. "...[O]ne particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the [Gnostic] gospels. Mary Magdalene.... More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ." (DVC, p. 244)
Fact: None of the Gnostic gospels contain any references to a marriage between Mary and Jesus. There is no support for this claim in the Scriptures or in early church traditions. In 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul defended his right to have a wife (even though he was unmarried). He cites as support the other apostles, the Lord's brothers and Peter. If Christ had been married, Paul would most certainly have cited Him as conclusive support for being accompanied by a wife.
Fallacy: Christianity borrowed its practices and symbols from the pagan mystery religions. "And virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual... were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions." (DVC, p. 232)
Fact: A distinction needs to be made between New Testament Christianity and what developed over time as Greek and Roman converts brought certain non-biblical elements into their worship. In particular, the Church at Rome abandoned the biblical feast days observed by the early church in favor of the feast days of the pagan they were seeking to convert. And to some degree, they adopted the vestments and rituals of the pagan Roman priests.
Most mystery religions, however, flourished long after the closing of the canon of Scripture. Therefore, it would be more proper to say that Christianity influenced mystery religions, rather than the other way around. A careful observation of the mystery religion stories reveals there is a vast difference between the events recorded in the New Testament and the mythologies of the mystery religions. The mysteries were rooted in emotionalism and fantasy. In contrast, Christianity is rooted in history and evidence. The mysteries were a combination of many religious systems, worshipping numerous deities. Christianity is rooted in the consistent revelation of one God who ordained the pure and spotless sacrifice of His Son in payment for man's sin.
Fallacy: The book is based on fact. "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." (DVC Page 1)
Fact: Contrary to the book's claim that early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex, the Old Testament carefully defined and steadfastly condemned sexual immorality - especially the pagan practice of bringing sex into public worship (Leviticus 10:10-21; Deuteronomy 23:17-18; 1 Kings 14:24).
The novel contends that Da Vinci painted the Apostle John as representing Mary Magdalene. However, John's appearance reflects the way Florentine artists traditionally depicted John. (See The Truth Behind the Da Vince Code, Richard Abanes, pp. 71-72). The claims of "...hidden documents that detail the truth about Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and their lineage..." (DVC, p. 160) are based on forgeries. (See The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code, pp. 51-54.)
Part 2 coming soon...
Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian Family
1. The Top 10 Errors Found in 'The Da Vinci Code'