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Christians and "The Da Vinci Code", Part 2

In part 2 of "Christians and "The Da Vinci Code", we are going to take a look at the Gnostic writings from which Dan Brown claims to have taken most of the premises used in his story.

What are the "Gnostic Gospels"?

The term "Gnostic" was derived from the Greek word "gnosis," which is translated as "knowledge". Gnostics believe that they possess "secret knowledge" and "wisdom" about divine matters. Knowing this "secret knowledge" gives them salvation from death. Where Gnosticism and Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" meet is through the "Gnostic Gospels". These so-called "Gospels" contain what the Gnostics claim are the "lost" or "forgotten" words of Jesus Christ.

Reading Gnostic texts, such as "The Book of Thomas the Contender", "The Gospel of Mary", "The Gospel of Philip" and "The Acts of Peter", to name a few, one finds that instead of a narrative of the activities of Jesus, during his time here on earth, these "gospels" are instead a loose collection of sayings purported to be from Jesus. In these sayings, Jesus shares with the author, the "secret" way to salvation, something He apparently failed to share with everyone else, through the canonized gospels of the Bible. When the Gnostic Gospels did give a description of Jesus' activities, they often were just embellishments of the Biblical Gospels. These embellishments show that the Gnostic Gospels were very dependent on the four Biblical Gospels for their background.

Another trait of the Gnostic Gospels is called Docetism. This is the idea that Jesus was divine but not human. For instance, a passage from the Gnostic Gospel of "The Acts of John" (passage 93), it says, "Sometimes when I would lay hold on him, I met with a material and solid body, and at other times, again, when I felt him, the substance was immaterial and as if it existed not at all."
In direct contrast to what we find in the Biblical Gospels, where Jesus is Both fully human and spiritial in nature, in Gnosticism, Jesus is portrayed as a "spiritual" being, not completely human, if even human at all.

One question concerning Gnostic texts is "when were they written"?

Most historians and scholars place the age of the Gnostic Gospels between 250 and 350 AD. The oldest known manuscripts of the New Testament were written between 50 and 75 AD.1
Looking at these dates, it would have been impossible for the Gnostic Gospels manuscripts to be written by the apostles (or close associates) as they claim. As shown above, since the Gnostic Gospels drew heavily on the Biblical Gospels, in regards to activities of Jesus, the Biblical Gospels clearly were in place and well known by the time the Gnostic Gospels were written. One author points out:

"The canonical Gospels were all anonymous works to begin with. But many of the apocryphal (Gnostic) gospels claim apostolic authorship. This marked difference suggests that they were trying to get on the fast track to acceptance by the church. Since they were not first-century documents, something had to be done to give them an edge. Claiming to be written by an apostle was just the ticket."2

The Da Vinci Code, Part 3

1. 'Is the Bible True?' copyright 2006 Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian Family Web Site
2. 'Reinventing Jesus: What The Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don't Tell You' by J. Ed Komoszewski and James M. Sawyer, (Kregel, copyright 2006)

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