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De-Coding the DaVinci Code – Seizing the Mars Hill Moments

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The further we go into this pagan culture growing up around us, the more we need to learn to seize what I like to call—those Mars Hill Moments.

In Acts 17, Paul had a “Mars Hill Moment” as he walked through and observed the godless culture of Athens, he discovered something that he could use to relate the truth of God’s Word to a pagan, cynical, and unbelieving culture.

We are increasingly finding that we also live in a world that is pagan, cynical, and unbelieving. But it is no longer just the world, our own ‘God Bless America’ and ‘In God We Trust” America is also rapidly becoming a pagan, Biblically illiterate, and godless culture.

So what did Paul do? He examined the Athenian culture until he found something that reflected an imperfect or improper understanding of God and used that as a bridge to explain the truth. Then he waited to see if anyone would engage him in seeking the truth. After Paul was mocked and derided, God used him to minister to some seeking hearts and a church was born.

TDC (throughout this abbreviation for The Da Vinci Code) offers to us a “Mars Hill Moment”. It is one of those bridges into the world of unbelievers. To explain what I mean, open with me to Acts 17:22-23.

Acts 17:22-23 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: NKJV

Paul walked around and examined the Athenian culture. He did not attack that culture, he examined and found a place that he could make contact with them. This morning may I examine TDC as a reflection of the culture of our world today? And then show you how to proclaim Jesus Christ to anyone who will listen?

Some of you may need to start at the very beginning and get a complete picture of what this whole TDC phenomenon is all about.

TDC is a book that captures much of where our culture is at this moment—people are questioning the very foundational truths of God, God’s Word, God’ the Son Jesus Christ and His Death on the Cross. Let me explain the book

The Da Vinci Code is a mystery/detective novel by American author Dan Brown, published in 2003 by Doubleday Fiction. It is a worldwide bestseller with more than 60.5 million copies in print (as of May 2006) and has been translated into 44 languages. (Booksellers estimate that a ¼ of a billion people have read this book at the normal 4 per book readership statistics). Combining the detective, thriller and conspiracy fiction genres, the book is part two of a trilogy that started with Brown’s 2000 novel Angels and Demons, which introduced the character Robert Langdon[1]. Now we have the movie. The third books of the trilogy, already written, called “Solomon’s Key” is due out next year. In that 3rd book Brown weaves the Masonic Lodge beliefs, Biblical Solomon and the CIA into another suspense work. Brown actually has the outlines for 12 more of these conspiracy novels already written—so this is just the start of his influence upon the world through his writings.

If you see a copy of TDC the first thing you can observe is on the cover. In big gold letters is the name of the book, and next to it, in very small white letters are two words, A NOVEL! But in the captivating story line in an underlying dialogue that makes constant false allegations and misrepresentations about God and His Word, and His Christ.

  • The God of TDC is a false representation of the True and Living God.
  • The Mary of TDC is falsely represented and not the humble follower of Christ portrayed in the Gospels.
  • The Jesus of TDC is a false representation of God the Son, Jesus Christ.
  • The Bible of TDC is a false representation of the Holy, Flawless, Inspired Word of the Lord God Almighty.

At the outset, it must be remembered that Dan Brown’s bestseller is just a novel. He and his publisher (Doubleday) agreed on that fact and announced it on the book’s cover and title page: The Da Vinci Code: A Novel. They also included the standard legal disclaimed on the book’s copyright page: “All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” The Da Vinci Code is just another piece of fiction.

Brown is a good writer; for those who have not read the book, there was little profanity and no graphically described sordid sexual liaisons, a refreshing exception to most of today’s literature.

But what is said about Jesus, the Bible and Christian faith? After analyzing it, I would estimate that there were only about 20 pages of material out of the 454 pages that most of us would find offensive as Christians. Most of the objectionable material related to the same old themes of denying Christ’s Deity and promoting the Divine Femininity, which is  not new stuff. The book simply popularized theories that a number of scholars have been saying and writing with regularity.

So TDC is Dan Brown’s captivating multi-million copy, best selling suspense novel built around nothing less than the old attacks that:

  • Christianity is based upon a Big Lie (i.e. Christ is not God);
  • Christianity was used by patriarchal oppressors (i.e. the Apostles hijacked the Church and made it male dominated); and that
  • Christianity now denies the true worship of the Divine Feminine/Goddess Worship (i.e. God worship with a plan of salvation focused on the man Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross is wrong).

Let me summarize again for you the basic plot of TDC.

The Da Vinci Code is based on the assertion that Mary Magdeline was married to Jesus, bears a child to him and that she was eventually worshipped as a goddess. When Jesus is crucified, so the story goes, Mary is pregnant with his child. She flees to Egypt to save herself and to give birth to a daughter, Sarah, the only royal blood descendant of Jesus. Brown draws from a legend that around AD 42, Mary takes Sarah, now twelve years old, to the southern Gaul area of France. Here, according to The Da Vinci Code, Sarah marries into a line of French Merovingian kings who rule until AD 751.

We do not know if Brown actually believes this stuff, or if it is just part of a public relations campaign to extend sales. But Brown, his characters and Da Vinci believe they have the real truth and the rest of us have had it all wrong for centuries (that was the mindset of the ancient Gnostics who taught–we know something you don’t!

Here are the DaVinci Code Doctrine

  • Mary, the “beloved disciple,” eventually married Jesus, they had children and their family line continues to this day.
  • Mary as the wife of Jesus, is herself the Holy Grail holding and passing on his royal bloodline.
  • Mary represents the sacred feminine/goddess worship found in all ancient religions that has been suppressed by the church for centuries.

That is the message that Da Vinci passed on to the world in code in The Last Supper.[2]

So all we have is the same three lies that Eve was faced with in the Garden of Eden. The same three lies that have been woven in various ways, through every cult, every false religion and every denial of Biblical Christianity.

Satan said those lies first. Remember Genesis 3 and the deception of Eve? These attacks are as old as the Garden of Eden. Satan’s lies were very similar. Satan is in an all out attack to make you and me Think wrongly about God! (Gen. 3)

  • Doubt God’s Word v. 3a “hath God said?”
  • Doubt Necessity of Salvation v. 4 “you shall not surely not die”
  • Doubt God the Son, Jesus Christ’s Deity v. 5 “eyes open and you shall be  like God”

To understand why Dan Brown (who grew up in southern New Hampshire, raised in Sunday School and church camps, whose mom was the church organist)—would write such a confusing, attack on the truths of the Bible in his novel, let’s turn from Acts 17 to Romans 1.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie…”  (Romans 1:25)

From the Garden of Eden onward Satan has had a singular goal. Paul captures that goal in the opening chapter of Romans. As you turn with me to Romans 1, let me explain.

To a lost and guilty human the last thing you would ever want is the God of the Universe to be upset at you. Even worse would be to have Him around as a human, to have Him watching your life that often you don’t even like. And to have Him leave a final authoritative record of His laws and requirements in a book called the Bible–would make you uncomfortable also.

So God’s Word, Christ’s Coming, and the Way of Salvation in their pure and untainted form, make most people uncomfortable. So the solution Satan found was in the great exchange. Get people to exchange the truth of God, God’s Word, and God’s Son—for a lie.

Romans 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. NKJV 

As we examine TDC it is a reflection of our society. Remember one of the common threads that God says will be found in humans is the tendency to exchange their treasures for worthless substitutes. We see this in young people giving up their virtue for momentary pleasures, in older people giving up their honor for financial gain, and in most people exchanging the truth about God for Satan’s lies.

Actually, none of the concepts of The Da Vinci Code are new; Brown’s novel is a contemporary compilation of legends circulating for centuries. All of these legends are examples of how over the centuries people have exchanged the truth of God’s Word for lies that they invent to confuse and obscure the truth. Brown’s modern remixing of fact and fiction is the basis for this current sensational mystery novel about secret heresy encoded in one of history’s great artists, Leonardo Da Vinci, thus the name of the novel[3].

The Mars Hill Moment

The most important part of the novel (and perhaps the movie if it captures this scene) is the final scene as the hero falls on his knees in a profound spiritual connection to the sacred feminine. He can even hear her voice.

What Brown’s entire story misses is something that his feminine goddess bloodline tale never offers.

  • The Christ of the Gospels and Christian faith is the reality of intriguing life-changing redemption.
  • Jesus Christ revealed himself fully as the Son of God, died to take our punishment upon himself, and rose victorious from the dead.
  • His power to heal and transform comes not from a secret bloodline, but through a living relationship today.

This is the astonishing mystery that redeemed Christians have been exposing throughout history.

Brown’s novel ends on a sad note; the secret remains. Many readers will be left hungering for something more, something much better. And we like Paul have a Mars Hill Moment.

Are you ready from God’s Word the Bible to show to anyone who is seeking the truth—that the truth is in the Bible, God’s Word? Are you ready to show them how the Bible reveals the real Jesus Christ, God the Son? Are you ready to tell them that by knowing God the Son, Jesus Christ in truth you can find the way of salvation that He has made through His death on the Cross for your sin?

Let’s begin with the deity of God the Son Jesus Christ, and conclude with why we can trust the Bible as God’s Word.

 

 

HOW CAN I PROVE FROM THE BIBLE THAT JESUS IS GOD? (The Deity Christ)

There are five lines of biblical evidence that clearly demonstrate the deity of Christ.

1.   By What Jesus Said about Himself (His Divine Claims):  Jesus Himself claimed to be God.

  • In John 10:30, He makes the startling statement, “I and the Father are one.”  The Greek word translated “one” is in the neuter gender, indicating Jesus is one in essence with the Father, not merely one in purpose.
  • John 8:58 records an even more astonishing claim: Jesus applied to Himself the sacred name of God from Exodus 3:14, “I AM (Heb., YHWH, “Yahweh” or Jehovah”).  If Jesus were merely claiming to be a pre-existent being, He would have said “Before Abraham was born, I was,” instead of ‘I AM.”  Unlike many today, Jesus’ opponents understood perfectly what He was claiming.  That’s why both of these statements are followed by their attempts to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:59; 10:31-33).

2.   By What God said about Jesus (His Divine Titles):  Many terms used in the Old Testament to refer to God are used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus.

  • In Isaiah 6:5 says, “My eyes have seen  the King, the Lord (YHWH) of hosts.”  Yet the apostle John, referring to Isaiah’s vision, says in John 12:41, “These things Isaiah said, because he saw His  (Christ’s–cf. v.36) glory, and he spoke of Him.”
  • Other titles used of God in the Old Testament and of Jesus in the New include:

a.    Holy One (Isa. 10:30; Acts 3:14);

b.    First and Last (Isa. 44:6; Rev. 22:13);

c.     Savior (Isa. 43:11; Titus 2:13);

d.    Pierced One (Zech. 12:10; John 19:37), and

e.    Lord of lords  Deut. 10:17; Rev. 17:14).

  • There are also the attributing to God the Son, Jesus Christ of Divine Attributes (HisDivine Attributes):  Jesus possesses attributes unique to God:

a.    eternity (Micah 5:2; cf. Matt. 2:1-6),

b.    omnipresence (Matt. 18:20),

c.     omniscience (John 16:30),

d.    omnipotence (Heb. 1:3), and

e.    immutability (Heb. 13:8).

3.   By What Jesus Did (His Divine Works):  Jesus did things that only God could do.

  • The first sentence of the Bible tells us God created the universe, but John 1:3 andColossians 1:16 speak of God the Son, Jesus Christ as the One who brought all things into being.
  • God the Son, Jesus Christ also sustains all things (Col. 1:17).
  • Jesus, like the Father, has the authority to resurrect and judge men (John 5:21-29).
  • He also has the authority to forgive sins–a right that, as His opponents pointed out, belongs to God alone (Mark 2:5-10).

4.   By What People Say about Jesus (His Divine Names):  Several passes refer to Jesus as God.

  • John the Apostle in the Gospel by John 1:1 tells us “the Word Jesus-cf.v.14) was God.”  Greek grammar and the context rule out the translation “the Word was a God.”
  • Thomas the Apostle addressed the risen Christ as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).  Note that Jesus did not correct him, but acknowledged his faith (v.29).
  • Paul the Apostle in Titus 2:13 and Peter the Apostle in 2 Peter 1:1 refer to Jesus as our God and Savior.  The rules of Greek grammar indicate that both titles describe Jesus.  That is especially clear in the 2 Peter 1 reference, since the same grammatical construction appears in verse 11, where it is obvious that the titles there (Lord and Savior) apply to Christ.
  • The author of Hebrews in 1:8-9 records God the Father’s testimony to Christ’s deity:  He twice addresses the Son as God.
  • Finally, John the Apostle again writes in 1 John 5:20 refers to Jesus as “the true God and eternal life.”

5.   By What Jesus Allowed Others to Do for Him (His Divine Worship):

  • Jesus affirmed the Old Testament truth that only God is to be worshipped (Matt. 4:10).  Yet on several occasions He accepted others’ worship of Him, obviously  considering it appropriate (Matt. 14:33; 28-9, 17; John 9:38, 20:28-29).
  • Unlike Peter (Acts 10:25-26), Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:11-18) or angels (Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9), Jesus never refused the worship offered Him.

The evidence for Jesus’ deity is conclusive.  Those who deny it dishonor the Father  (John 5:23), and face eternal tragedy (John 8:24).

The second area that we as Mars Hill Moment believers need to be prepared to explain carefully in light of TDC’s assertion that the Gnostic texts are the ‘unaltered gospels’. This takes us to the basic apologetic (or defense of the faith) as to the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.

Why is this book like no other book?  Why can you trust the Bible?  Here are seven reasons why I believe that the Bible is God’s Word. 

1.   Reason #1—Jesus Christ. The first reason why I believe the Bible is utterly true can be distilled down to two words:  Jesus Christ.

  • Jesus Christ was utterly convinced that the Book you hold in your hand was the Word of God.  Now that does it for me. I don’t need anybody else’s opinion.
  • Jesus believed this book, and over and over we find the Lord Jesus asking everyone who questioned Him, “Haven’t you read?  The scriptures say…” (Mark 12:26-27) That’s how He answered those who came to Him.

2.   Reason #2—Apostles and Prophets. The second reason why I believe the Bible is true is that it was believed not only by Jesus Christ, but also by His apostles and prophets.

  • All the apostles and all the prophets, thousands and thousands of times, over and over repeated that the words that they were saying were not their own.  Do you know what they said?  The apostle Paul said, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing because when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men but what it is in truth, the Word of God.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  That’s an apostle speaking.  The prophets said the same thing.
  • In the Old Testament 8,000 times it is written, “The Lord said.”  Did you know that the apostles and prophets believed that this Book came from God?
  • If Jesus Christ believed it, that settles it for me. Jesus and all those who were closest to Him, those who knew God face-to-face, who were His emissaries, believed in the Word of God. They said that the Bible is the breath of God.  The apostles and the prophets said thousands of times that they were totally convinced that they were sharing the words that were not originating with them.
  • Peter said that holy men of old spoke as they were ‘pheromenoi’—the Greek word meaning ‘borne along like a sail of a ship being blown in the wind’.  They were borne along by the spirit of God.
  • As the apostle Paul said, every word of God is ‘theopneustos’—meaning ‘the breath of God’ God was breathing His Word through them.
  • The apostles’ and prophets’ belief is the second reason why I believe the Word of God.

3.   Reason #3—Survival. The third reason why I believe the Bible is that the Word of God has survived.  There is no other reason that can explain why this Book exists.  There has never been any book on this planet ever more targeted for destruction than this Book.  This Book has endured through the ages despite being the target of empires and emperors, despite armies being sent and dispatched to utterly destroy it and to rid the earth of it.  Infidels have waged their war against this Book; dictators and regimes have sought to stamp it out; but the Bible stands and will stand to the end of days!

4.   Reason #4—Absolute Unity. The first reason I believe the Bible is true is Jesus Christ believed.  The second reason I believe the Bible is true is all the apostles and all the prophets believed it.  The third reason I believe is because it has endured; in spite of all of the attacks against it, the Bible has survived.  Reason number four is the absolute unity of God’s Word.  You say “What do you mean by that?”

  • If you look at the Bible, there is an incredible unity demonstrated in the fact that, 40 different men, most of whom never saw each other, wrote the Bible. Most of the people who wrote the Bible didn’t even know each other.
  • They were living on three different continents. They were writing over 60 generations of time, 1,600 years.
  • Most of them never saw what the other one wrote, and yet this book has an absolute unity.  It fits together better than the most machined parts.  It completely unites.
  • When you look at this Book, you find that there’s an unmistakable fabric that was woven from prison to palace, from desert to dungeons, from hillsides to holy places and there’s one common denominator.  There’s one shared theme, there’s one united message, there’s only one system of doctrine, one system of ethics—and there’s only one plan of salvation.  That theme, message, doctrine and Savior is Jesus Christ! There is a supernatural, unearthly unity to this book.

5.   Reason #5—Prophetic Accuracy. Number five is that there is prophetic accuracy.

  • There is absolute accuracy in the prophecies of the Word of God where God told exactly what was going to happen right down to the smallest degree; and every single thing God said happened.  Starting two thousand years before Christ was born, the Bible foretold details of His birth, His death, and many events in between. Each and every one of them was fulfilled. What do you do with all that, if you don’t believe the Bible?  Well, you would have to believe that Jesus arranged it all; that while He was here on earth, He bought people out, conjured them, cajoled them, and got them to do what He asked them to do.   But could a mere man have done all that? Could He have fulfilled all those prophecies unless He was the Son of God?
  • If so, then Jesus arranged to have His death described 1,000 years – a whole millennium – before it took place with the precision of a medical research report.  That’s how detailed a written account we have of His death.  It was written down about 1,000 years before Christ ever lived by a man named David.  As the Holy Spirit moved his heart, he put that pen across parchment in Psalms 22.  It records in verse seven, “All those who see me ridicule me.”  What is he talking about?  It’s talking about the mocking crowd.  Has that prophecy been fulfilled?  Yes!  That’s in Matthew 27:39 andMark 15:29.  It says that the people who saw Jesus hanging on the cross jeered Him and mocked Him.  Now, who would know that but God?

6.    Reason #6—Scientific Accuracy. Number six is scientific accuracy.  Did you know that every time God speaks of a scientific issue in the Bible it is utterly accurate?  We could consider Astronomy (Jer. 33.22); astrophysics (Job 38.31); oceanography (Job 38.16); ornithology Job 39:26-30; hydrology (Job 36:27-28); isostasy (Isaiah 40:12); geodesy (Job 26:7);

7.   Reason #7—Historical Accuracy. Finally, not only did Jesus Christ believe it, and the apostles and prophets believe it, it has survived, it is absolutely united, it is prophetically accurate, it is scientifically accurate, but it is also historically accurate.  There has never been one proven historical error in this Book.

This entire study is available in both audio and text form free of charge online at www.dtbm.org it is called “The Book You Can Trust”.

The novel’s final scene is one of goddess worship, as the hero falls on his knees in a profound spiritual connection to the sacred feminine. He can even hear her voice.

What Brown’s entire story misses is something that his feminine goddess bloodline tale never offers.

  • The Christ of the Gospels and Christian faith is the reality of intriguing life-changing redemption.
  • Jesus Christ revealed himself fully as the Son of God, died to take our punishment upon himself, and rose victorious from the dead.
  • His power to heal and transform comes not from a secret bloodline, but through a living relationship today.

This is the astonishing mystery that redeemed Christians have been exposing throughout history.

Brown’s novel ends on a sad note; the secret remains. Many readers will be left hungering for something more, something much better. And we like Paul have a Mars Hill Moment. Are you ready from God’s Word the Bible to show to anyone who is seeking the truth—that the truth is in the Bible, God’s Word and that the Bible reveals the real Jesus Christ, God the Son? Then by knowing Him in truth you can find the way of salvation that He has made through His death on the Cross for your sin.

It is a typical product of Greek (Platonic)-Christian speculation. Gnosticism flourished among pagans, Jews and Christians. For Gnostics, only the spirit was good. Matter, such as the body, was evil as it derived from the inferior creator, or demiurge, identified by the Christian branch of the Gnostics with the deity of the Old Testament — the maker of Heaven and Earth. The Supreme Being, represented by Jesus and, according to the Gnostics, worshipped by Judas, brings salvation not through the sacrifice of Christ — as it would have involved his flesh — but through mystical enlightenment (gnosis). Judas helped this process of redemption by assisting the Jewish authorities’ arrest of Jesus and bringing about his liberation from the prison of his body.

Seen through the warped Gnostic perspective, the murderer Cain, the depraved people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and above all Judas were the true righteous, while the 11 other apostles and the holy men of the Old Testament were ministers of error. Once this is understood, it becomes obvious that a 2nd century Hellenistic-Gnostic picture of Judas contributes nothing to the understanding of the early 1st century Jewish reality in which Jesus and Judas lived. Hence The Gospel of Judas supplements our knowledge of Gnosticism, but is irrelevant to our study of the life of Jesus.

In this novel, the author has Jesus married to Mary Magdalene and they have a child.

Emperor Constantine as the one who decided on the content of the Bible for purely political reasons.

Now, let’s deal with FACTS, NOT FICTION.  The FACT is, Constantine had nothing to do with the content of the Bible.  By 300 B.C. at the latest, all of the Old Testament books had been written, collected, revered, and recognized as official, canonical books.  Many believe that the prophet Ezra led the first recognition counsel.  During the Third Council of Carthage, held in 397 A.D. the 27 books of the New Testament were declared canonical.

It must be understood that the Bible is NOT an authorized collection of books, but rather a collection of authorized books.  The 27 New Testament books were not inspired because the Carthage Council proclaimed them to be, but rather the Council proclaimed them to be such because they were already inspired!  There are MANY great books on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible at your local Christian bookstore, and I suggest that ALL Christians make the time to read such books so you never doubt that the Bible is exactly what it claims of itself, GOD’S INSPIRED, INERRANT WORD!!!

Bill Keller – Christian Analysis of Da Vinci Code: What Dan Brown Did Not Tell You – Three Major Errors Plus a Few More by Darrell L. Bock, Ph.D. , Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary

Introduction

There is little doubt that the Da Vinci Code has hit a cultural nerve. It has been on the best seller list in the USA for two years. The same is true of many other countries around the world. Sales estimates run at forty-three million, while reader estimates reach as high as one hundred million. A major movie produced by Ron Howard with Tom Hanks in a lead role is on the world’s radar screen. The novel’s combination of mystery, history, conspiracy and the use of romantic locations and figures have made it a popular piece of fiction. Its plot has intrigued its readers and raised many questions about the history of early Christianity. Polls by George Barna show that 43 to 53 percent of its readers have felt spiritually benefited from reading the book. By any count, that means many people are being influenced by its claims, even though its genre is fiction.

What has made it so controversial is the author’s claim that the backdrop to the novel is rooted in historical fact. Dan Brown made such claims on American morning television in November 2003, a point documented in his book by a note on page. 1. His web site originally claimed that he was a believer in the theories the book. He said he came to these views after much detailed research (He has since backed off this claim to a degree, simply saying he wanted to get these ideas out in the public square). This left the impression that the book is a kind of “tweener” genre, a cross between fiction and non-fiction, that is, fiction with a solid non-fiction skeleton.

Now everyone knows that one should not get one’s history from a piece of fiction. But what is one to do when the author claims his skeleton is real, has been carefully researched and many millions of people apparently take him at his word because their knowledge of church history is limited? Many people end up with legitimate and sincere questions about claims the book makes. This is especially the case when most people’s knowledge of church history can be summarizes as follows: there was Jesus the apostles and the book of the New Testament in the first century. Then came Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. Then there was Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II. What about those first three hundred and fifty years of Christianity? Since the novel makes authoritative characters make many pronouncements about this history and people have no way to assess it, they naturally have sincere questions. So what is one to do?

The best thing to do is to examine those claims. Such claims include that (1) Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, that (2) the four gospels were chosen from among several (namely 80!) that existed in the fourth century because the four gospels presented a divine Jesus versus a human Jesus in the excluded works, and that (3) the divinity of Jesus became orthodoxy by a close vote at the council of Nicea in AD 325.

The key to the novel’s plot is that many in the church knew that Jesus was married and to protect his late emerging divinity they conspired not to let that become known, even to the point of murder. Now as fiction, this makes an intriguing story, but what about as a historical skeleton that lays claim to being almost quasi-non-fiction? There are three major problems in the book we shall look at before making an observation about the nature of our times that such a book can garner such numbers and such a response.

Three Major Problems Plus

 

Problem 1: Was Jesus Married? Basic to the story line is the claim that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and that many in the church knew (as did people like Leonardo Da Vinci later on in history). The evidence for this claim comes from two extra biblical gospels, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene 17:10-18:21 and The Gospel of Philip 63:33-36. Both contain remarks that Jesus had a special relationship to Mary or that he loved her more than any of the twelve disciples. One text uses the term “companion” to describe her. In addition, there is an appeal in the Phillip text where Jesus is said to kiss Mary on the lips. So the inference is that if he kissed her in public he must have been her husband.

Now the facts are these. First, almost all scholars question whether these extra biblical gospels contain anything of value in terms of the historical Jesus. However, even if they did, the texts noted do not actually affirm that Jesus was married. In fact, the famous kiss on the lips text actually has a blank in the original manuscript right at the point where it describes where Mary was kissed. So it could be the lips or the cheek, which would simply refer to a kiss of fellowship. The term companion is debated as to its force. Most interpret the term as pointing to a spiritual relationship Jesus had with Mary because of the mystic character of the gospel in which it appears. So it does not allude to actual marriage at all, but to a fellowship that Jesus and Mary shared as believers.

More than this, we have volumes of texts about Jesus from the first five centuries. I have a series in my library of 38 volumes from this period. They are small print, single space, double columned texts of several hundred pages each. They include traditional orthodox texts and those that were rejected as heretical. In all of these materials not a single text describes Jesus as married and most assume he was not, as that was a basis for some arguing that priests should be single.

In 1 Corinthians 9, the argument appears that spouse of those married should be supported. Had Jesus been married Paul could have clinched his argument by noting this fact. All of this leads to the conclusion that Jesus was single.

Now some reply that 1 Corinthians 7 mentions believers being single and yet does not mention Jesus. However, here Paul only advises being single. Had he mentioned Jesus’ example that might have said more than Paul intended, by giving an impression this is what to do. So this is the likely reason Jesus being single was not mentioned.

John Crossan and I were both asked to write articles for beliefnet.com about whether Jesus was married when the novel came out. He is a liberal; I am a conservative. We both agreed that Jesus was single. I tell my classes that when a liberal and a conservative believe something is true about the historical Jesus, then it probably is true. In sum, there is no evidence Jesus was ever married. If this is so, then entire backdrop to the novel collapses.
But one final point needs to be made. The novel claims that that a married Jesus would need to be covered up by the church because it would expose the fact that Jesus was not divine. However, it is not a given that had Jesus been married, this would have resulted in a question about his divinity, because the church has always confessed the full humanity of Jesus and the status of marriage would fit in nicely with such a claim. Thus, even the premise of the theological problem the novel sees for a married Jesus is false.

Problem 2: The Emergence of the Gospels. The novel also claims that the four gospels were chosen late from about eighty gospels to be a part of the Bible because the four gospels had a divine Jesus as opposed to other gospels that had a human Jesus. Once again we are at a place where liberal and conservative scholars agree. The study of what is called the canon (or the recognition of the books that comprise the New Testament) is a complex area when it comes to the compilation of the entire New Testament. Athanasius in AD 367 is the first figure we have who lists the 27 books of the New Testament as we have them today. It may be that Dan Brown rested his view on this fact, although he never mentions it. However, what this late date does not take into account is that the books under discussion in the third and fourth centuries were some epistles and Revelation, books like 2 Peter, Jude, 2 and 3 John, not any of the four gospels.

Scholars of the canon agree that by the end of the second century the four-fold gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) was recognized as authoritative. This is a full 125 years before Constantine and the Nicean Council came on the scene to do the alleged defining work for orthodoxy according to the novel. The evidence for this includes (1) Irenaeus’s majestic description of the gospel needing to have four gospels as the world has four zones and four winds. This text appears in his Against Heresies 3.11.8, a famous and often cited text from the end of the second century. (2) The attempt of Tatian to combine the gospels into one running account in AD 170 in his Diatessaron largely failed. This effort to tell Jesus’ story in one running account on the surface made sense, but it failed because the four gospels were already too well established in the late second century church to be replaced, even by a seemingly more efficient way to present the gospels. (3) We also have a citation from Origen in the early third century from his First Homily to Luke on Luke 1:1 that gospels like Thomas are not read in the churches because they are not seen as having authority. (4) Justin Martyr’s description of the gospels in his FirstApology 66:3 in the middle of the second century explains why the gospels were so highly valued. He calls them the “memoirs” of the apostles, a description that notes they are rooted in testimony that gores back to the apostles. It is the apostolic roots of the four gospels, the fact they go back to the apostles and those who followed, them that gives these gospels their historical roots and that led to the recognition of their unique status as sources about Jesus.

By the way, what about those claims of eighty gospels? That number is a gross exaggeration. We have about two dozen works called gospels from these early centuries. If we throw in works not called gospels that supposedly discuss events in Jesus’ life, then the number goes up about another dozen. That is far short of eighty. In addition, many of those works have a Jesus who is too divine. Jesus cannot be a human, because the spirit cannot mix with this flesh. This is seen in a works like Apocalypse of Peter 81:4–24 and Second Treatise of the Great Seth 56:6–19, two works of Gnostic Christians, the group of Christians Dan Brown appeals to for his claims. He does not mention such texts in detail, however. What they teach is that Jesus was in heaven laughing as the crucifixion took place because people mistakenly thought they were crucifying Jesus. This is a Jesus who is too divine and cannot be human, a view known as docetism. The works that were not recognized fail to attain an important status because their theology was so different on issues like the creation by God, the person of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and salvation. I document these differences in detail in a new book called The Missing Gospels.

Thus, the idea that the gospels emerged as a reflection of orthodoxy about the time of the fourth century around the time of Constantine and the Nicean Council is just bad history. In addition, the claim that eighty gospels were out there and that a human Jesus was present in such works is wrong. Nothing shows this more clearly than the Gospel of Thomas 77. This saying from the most significant of the extra-biblical gospels has Jesus confess that he is the All. Jesus goes on to say that if you look under a stone Jesus is there and if you split a piece of wood he is there. This is an omnipresent Jesus, a reflection of high christology in a work that Brown claims teaches about a human Jesus. I do not cite this passage to say Thomas’ view of Jesus is an actual saying of Jesus but simply to note that in this earliest of extra-biblical works, the portrait of Jesus is also one that says he is more than human. This leads to the next problem.

Problem 3: Did A Belief in Jesus’ Divinity Receive its Decisive Sanction through a “close vote” at Nicea in AD 325? This claim by Brown is probably the worst of the three problems. What we know about Nicea is this. It gathered not to determine the divinity of Jesus but to discuss the Arian view of Jesus, who saw Jesus as Son of God, but appointed to that role versus the view that the council adopted that Jesus possessed Sonship from eternity. So the debate was the type of Son of God Jesus was, not whether Jesus was divine. Arius believed that Jesus was Son as the first created being with a special, unique relationship to God. What Nicea ended up affirming is that Jesus was eternally the Son and was not created.

Constantine did call this council together because he wanted peace and unity in the church. The council had from 216 to 316 bishops from around most of Christendom in attendance, but the vast majority were from the East. There was no close vote. What the bishops did was sign a creedal statement known as the Nicean Creed. Only two out of the entire group refused, so the “vote” was hardly close. Most politicians today would view a 214-2 to 314-2 vote as a landslide (a ninety-nine percent plus majority!). There were no “hanging chads” at this signing.

Now there was pressure to accept this confession at the council, as originally seventeen opposed it. When Constantine threatened exile, that number reduced to 2. However, even if we take seventeen as the number originally opposed, this is still a significant minority of less than ten percent of the total in attendance. Brown’s claim, then, is false here as well.

This claim of a late developing view of deity also ignores the fact that the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus is something fundamental to the earliest documents we have from Christianity. This appeal is a matter of historical record about our earliest available sources. One can look at the writing of Paul (1 Cor 8:5-6; Phil 2:9-11), the unknown author of Hebrews (Heb 1:3), the author of Revelation (Rev 1:1-7 and chapters 4-5), the gospel of John (John 1:1-18), or even Jesus’ own testimony at his Jewish examination (Mark 14:62-65 and parallels) to see that the claim was that Jesus was at the side of God in a position of status equal to His, receiving worship as He does. These works all date anywhere from the sixties to the nineties of the first century. One can add to this the testimony of Pliny the Younger, writing as a Roman Governor of Bythnia, far away from Jerusalem. He writes to the Roman Emperor Trajan in around AD 117 speaking of Christians singing hymns to Jesus as a god. So even non-Christian texts corroborate the views we see in the earliest Christian texts that Jesus was worshipped long before Nicea. The belief in Jesus as divine was a core belief of the earliest church. Paul’s testimony and conversion tells us that this was believed in the thirties of the first century as letter to the Galatians indicates. Jesus’ divinity was not the result of a close decision in the fourth century. Its roots go back to Jesus himself, which is what explains why the church, originally made up of Jews, held to this new view on the doctrine of God.

Other Problems. There are a host of other problems with the “historical backdrop” of the novel.

(1) The idea that Mary was an apostle to the apostles misquotes Hippolytus’ commentary on Song of Songs. He was a church father of the later second century. When he made this remark he was not describing an office that Mary held. Rather Hippolytus used the phrase to describe all the women who saw the resurrected Jesus and reported his resurrection and not just Mary. In this sense, all these women were apostles in a generic sense, namely commissioned messengers sent on behalf of another, rather than being members of a church office. In fact, the exact phrase in the singular “apostle of the apostles” comes from the ninth century at the earliest.

(2) Leonardo Da Vinci would never have painted a Last Supper scene and replace one of the Twelve with a woman. An art historian whose work we included in the latest editions of Breaking the Da Vinci Code made this point to me originally in an email. He notes that when Mary is present at the Last Supper scene she is placed at Jesus’ feet. This scene is so stereotyped in the period of this painting that there had to be twelve apostles present because the scene’s content reflects the biblical account. In a lecture given by three art historians at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia in January, 2004, the experts on the period present said simply that Dan Brown got his art history wrong.

What to Make of the Novel?

It is my view that the interest in this novel shows a few things about contemporary culture. There is a keen interest in things related to the origins of Christianity, Indeed, there is a spiritual hunger of sorts out there. However, it is not a very discerning kind of quest. This makes it all the more important that those who teach about early Christian history today know the roots of the early history of Christianity and communicate some of that to their students, who in turn can have informed discussions with their inquisitive neighbors. Pastors need to absorb this knowledge as well.

I have found four types of people responding to the novel. (1) Some treat the novel as fiction and do not believe its claims. Just have a nice conversation with them. (2) Others never having been in the church have heard this for the first time and have no way of knowing whether it is true or not. Just interact with their sincere questions. (3) Others in the church are in a similar position never having been taught about this material. What they need is good information, not an overreaction. (4) Some are looking for a reason, or, for reasons, not to believe. The novel’s information is something they grab onto for support. Be patient in interacting with them. In other words, as you talk about the novel, do so with a calm and confidence that the supposed “facts” the novel presents have missed the mark.

The fact that this book has put this history into the public square is a good thing. Perhaps if people are well equipped to dialogue with the novel’s readers in an engaging tone, then more readers may uncover the real code that opens up the way to life. Those readers may also be in a position to better appreciate the history of a faith that lies at the roots of our Western culture.

Definition TDC:

Dan Brown’s multi-million copy, best selling suspense novel built around the grandest conspiracy of all times is called The Da Vinci Code. This book‘s driving claim is nothing less than that Christianity is based upon a Big Lie (the deity of Christ) used by patriarchal oppressors to deny the true worship of the Divine Feminine.  Brown has crossed the line between a suspense novel and a book promoting a barely hidden agenda, to attack the Christian church and the Gospel.

Top TEN Historical Errors

1.    In his own lifetime Jesus “inspired millions to better lives” (p.231);

2.    there were “more than eighty gospels” (p.231; the number 80 is factual-sounding, but has no basis);

3.    “the earliest Christian records” were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (including gospels) and Nag Hammadi texts (pp.234, 245);

4.    the Nag Hammadi texts “speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms” (p.234);

5.    the marriage of Mary Magdalene and Jesus is “a matter of historical record” (p.244);

6.    Constantine invented the divinity of Jesus and excluded all gospels but the four canonical ones; Constantine made Christianity “the official religion” of the Roman Empire (p.232);

7.    Constantine coined the term “heretic” (p.234);

8.    “Rome’s official religion was sun worship” (p.232).

9.    He claims that the motions of the planet Venus trace a pentacle (the so-called Ishtar pentagram) symbolizing the goddess. But it isn’t a perfect figure and has nothing to do with the length of the Olympiad. The ancient Olympic games were celebrated in honor of Zeus Olympias, not Aphrodite, and occurred every four years.

10.   Brown’s contention that the five linked rings of the modern Olympic Games are a secret tribute to the goddess is also wrong—each set of games was supposed to add a ring to the design but the organizers stopped at five. And his efforts to read goddess propaganda into art, literature, and even Disney cartoons are simply ridiculous.

Top TEN Theological Heresies

1.    Calling the Nag Hammadi texts “unaltered” gospels is like reading the official Soviet histories as objective fact–complete with leading figures airbrushed out of the photos.  TDC claims that the New Testament is simply the result of a male-dominated church leadership inventing Christianity in order to control the Roman empire and subsequent world history and then to oppress women and repress goddess-worship. he Nag Hammadi documents are not “the earliest Christian records.” Every book in the New Testament is earlier. The New Testament documents were all written in the first century A.D. By contrast, the dates for the Nag Hammadi texts range from the second to the third century A.D. As Darrell Bock observes in Breaking The Da Vinci Code, “The bulk of this material is a few generations removed from the foundations of the Christian faith, a vital point to remember when assessing the contents.”{12} The Nag Hammadi texts as the real gospels?  Not on your life.  The texts are easily identifiable as gnostic literature peripheral to the Church.  The early Church did not establish the canon (official set of New Testament writings) at Nicaea, though a general consensus was already evident at that gathering.  The New Testament writings were recognized and set apart because of their authorship by one of the apostles and by their clearly orthodox content–in harmony with the other New Testament writings as recognized by the churches spread throughout the Greco-Roman world.

2.    In TDC the heretics are the heroes and the apostles are unindicted co-conspirators.  The Great Satan is Emperor Constantine, who, it is claimed, never even became a Christian, but knew a good marketing plan when he saw it.  Constantine supposedly called the Council of Nicaea in 325 in order to invent the idea of Christ’s divinity (and celibacy) and then turn out the heretics, thus burying the real story of Jesus (and Mary Magdalene) forever.  “It’s all about power,” one character explains. That’s why Constantine “upgraded Jesus’ status.”

3.    And the Council of Nicaea?  There, TDC reveals, the Emperor led the bishops to declare Jesus as the Son of God by a vote.  “A relatively close vote at that,” the text elaborates. The real Council of Nicaea adopted a creed in order to reject the heretical teachings of one Arius, who taught that Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father.  Brown weaves fact and fiction with such recklessness that the average reader will assume all these claims to be factual.

4.    The Council of Nicaea did not “invent” the divinity of Jesus.  This was already the declaration of the Church, claimed by Jesus himself and proclaimed by the apostles.  The council boldly claimed this as the faith of the Church and named Arianism as a heresy and Arians as heretics.  A close vote?  Only two out of more than 300 bishops failed to sign the creed.  Not exactly a cliff-hanger.

5.    Yet it’s Brown’s Christology that’s false—and blindingly so. He requires the present New Testament to be a post-Constantinian fabrication that displaced true accounts now represented only by surviving Gnostic texts. He claims that Christ wasn’t considered divine until the Council of Nicea voted him so in 325 at the behest of the emperor. Then Constantine—a lifelong sun worshipper—ordered all older scriptural texts destroyed, which is why no complete set of Gospels predates the fourth century. Christians somehow failed to notice the sudden and drastic change in their doctrine.

6.    But by Brown’s specious reasoning, the Old Testament can’t be authentic either because complete Hebrew Scriptures are no more than a thousand years old. And yet the texts were transmitted so accurately that they do match well with the Dead Sea Scrolls from a thousand years earlier. Analysis of textual families, comparison with fragments and quotations, plus historical correlations securely date the orthodox Gospels to the first century and indicate that they’re earlier than the Gnostic forgeries. (The Epistles of St. Paul are, of course, even earlier than the Gospels.)

7.    Primitive Church documents and the testimony of the ante-Nicean Fathers confirm that Christians have always believed Jesus to be Lord, God, and Savior—even when that faith meant death. The earliest partial canon of Scripture dates from the late second century and already rejected Gnostic writings. For Brown, it isn’t enough to credit Constantine with the divinization of Jesus. The emperor’s old adherence to the cult of the Invincible Sun also meant repackaging sun worship as the new faith. Brown drags out old (and long-discredited) charges by virulent anti-Catholics like Alexander Hislop who accused the Church of perpetuating Babylonian mysteries, as well as 19th-century rationalists who regarded Christ as just another dying savior-god.

8.    Astonishingly, Brown claims that Jews in Solomon’s Temple adored Yahweh and his feminine counterpart, the Shekinah, via the services of sacred prostitutes—possibly a twisted version of the Temple’s corruption after Solomon    (1 Kings 14:24 and 2 Kings 23:4-15). Moreover, he says that the tetragrammaton YHWH derives from “Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.” But as any first-year Scripture student could tell you, Jehovah is actually a 16th-century rendering of Yahweh using the vowels of Adonai (“Lord”). In fact, goddesses did not dominate the pre-Christian world—not in the religions of Rome, her barbarian subjects, Egypt, or even Semitic lands where the hieros gamoswas an ancient practice. Nor did the Hellenized cult of Isis appear to have included sex in its secret rites.

9.    One last point. We have copies of the four Gospels that are significantly earlier than Constantine and the Council of Nicaea (or Nicea). Although none of the copies are complete, we do have nearly complete copies of both Luke and John in a codex dated between A.D. 175 and 225—at least a hundred years before Nicaea. Another manuscript, dating from about A.D. 200 or earlier, contains most of John’s Gospel.{8}

10.  So, contrary to what’s implied in the novel, it certainly wasn’t written by Mary Magdalene—or any of Jesus’ other original followers.{24} If we want reliable information about Mary, we must turn to our earliest sources—the New Testament Gospels. These sources tell us that Mary was a follower of Jesus from the town of Magdala. After Jesus cast seven demons out of her, she (along with other women) helped support His ministry (Luke 8:1-3). She witnessed Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, and was the first to see the risen Christ (Matt. 27:55-61; John 20:11-18). Jesus even entrusted her with proclaiming His resurrection to His male disciples (John 20:17-18). In this sense, Mary was an “apostle” to the apostles.{25} This is all the Gospels tell us about Mary.{26} We can agree with our non-Christian friends that she was a very important woman. But we must also remind them that there’s nothing to suggest that she was Jesus’ wife, or that He intended her to lead the church.

The Real Attack:

 This book‘s driving claim is nothing less than that Christianity is based upon a Big Lie (the deity of Christ) used by patriarchal oppressors to deny the true worship of the Divine Feminine.  Brown has crossed the line between a suspense novel and a book promoting a barely hidden agenda, to attack the Christian church and the Gospel.

1.  Attacks the Deity of Jesus Christ

2.  Attacks the Plan of Salvation

3.  Attacks the Inspiration of Scripture

4.  Attacks the Authority of God

Those attacks are as old as the Garden of Eden. Satan’s lies were very similar.

Remember the 1st temptation in God’s Word ? Genesis 3. Let’s turn there and be reminded of Satan’s 4 spiritual flaws he tries to instill in us! The Four Spiritual Flaws: Satan is in an all out attack to make you and me Think wrongly about God!

SATAN’S FOUR SPIRITUAL FLAWS: (Gen. 3)

·    Doubt God’s Word v. 3a “hath”

·    Doubt God’s Trustworthiness v. 3b “not eat”

·    Doubt God’s Salvation v. 4 “not die”

·    Doubt God’s Deity v. 5 “eyes open”

GOD’S FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS:

·    TRUST His Word Ps 119:89 “forever settled”

·    REST in His Goodness Rom 11:33 “Of Him, to Him”

·    SUBMIT to His Authority Acts 4:12 “Neither is there Salvation”

·    FOLLOW His Plan John 14:6 “I am the Way”


 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Da_Vinci_Code

[2]  Drawn from an article  published in the July 2004 ABR Electronic Newsletter, The Historical Basis of Dan Brown’s  The Da Vinci Code by Rev. Gary A. Byers.

[3] Fact and Fiction: Checking the Da Vinci Code History, March 6, 2006, byDavid Witmer , http://abr.christiananswers.net/articles/article29.html

 
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