THE DA VINCI CODE - A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
BREAKING THE DA VINCI CODE
So the divine Jesus and infallible Word emerged out of a fourth-century power-play? Get real. By Collin Hansen | posted 11/07/2003
Perhaps you've heard of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. This fictional thriller has captured the coveted number one sales ranking at Amazon.com, camped out for 32 weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller List, and inspired a one-hour ABC News special. Along the way, it has sparked debates about the legitimacy of Western and Christian history.
While the ABC News feature focused on Brown's fascination with an alleged marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, The Da Vinci Code contains many more (equally dubious) claims about Christianity's historic origins and theological development. The central claim Brown's novel makes about Christianity is that "almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false." Why? Because of a single meeting of bishops in 325, at the city of Nicea in modern-day Turkey. There, argues Brown, church leaders who wanted to consolidate their power base (he calls this, anachronistically, "the Vatican" or "the Roman Catholic church") created a divine Christ and an infallible Scripture?both of them novelties that had never before existed among Christians. Watershed at Nicea
Brown is right about one thing (and not much more). In the course of Christian history, few events loom larger than the Council of Nicea in 325. When the newly converted Roman Emperor Constantine called bishops from around the world to present-day Turkey, the church had reached a theological crossroads.
Led by an Alexandrian theologian named Arius, one school of thought argued that Jesus had undoubtedly been a remarkable leader, but he was not God in flesh. Arius proved an expert logician and master of extracting biblical proof texts that seemingly illustrated differences between Jesus and God, such as John 14:28: "the Father is greater than I." In essence, Arius argued that Jesus of Nazareth could not possibly share God the Father's unique divinity.
In The Da Vinci Code, Brown apparently adopts Arius as his representative for all pre-Nicene Christianity. Referring to the Council of Nicea, Brown claims that "until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet ? a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless."
In reality, early Christians overwhelmingly worshipped Jesus Christ as their risen Savior and Lord. Before the church adopted comprehensive doctrinal creeds, early Christian leaders developed a set of instructional summaries of belief, termed the "Rule" or "Canon" of Faith, which affirmed this truth. To take one example, the canon of prominent second-century bishop Irenaeus took its cue from 1 Corinthians 8:6: "Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ."
The term used here?Lord, Kyrios?deserves a bit more attention. Kyrios was used by the Greeks to denote divinity (though sometimes also, it is true, as a simple honorific). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint, pre-dating Christ), this term became the preferred substitution for "Jahweh," the holy name of God. The Romans also used it to denote the divinity of their emperor, and the first-century Jewish writer Josephus tells us that the Jews refused to use it of the emperor for precisely this reason: only God himself was kyrios.
The Christians took over this usage of kyrios and applied it to Jesus, from the earliest days of the church. They did so not only in Scripture itself (which Brown argues was doctored after Nicea), but in the earliest extra-canonical Christian book, the Didache, which scholars agree was written no later than the late 100s. In this book, the earliest Aramaic-speaking Christians refer to Jesus as Lord.
In addition, pre-Nicene Christians acknowledged Jesus's divinity by petitioning God the Father in Christ's name. Church leaders, including Justin Martyr, a second-century luminary and the first great church apologist, baptized in the name of the triune God?Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?thereby acknowledging the equality of the one Lord's three distinct persons.
The Council of Nicea did not entirely end the controversy over Arius's teachings, nor did the gathering impose a foreign doctrine of Christ's divinity on the church. The participating bishops merely affirmed the historic and standard Christian beliefs, erecting a united front against future efforts to dilute Christ's gift of salvation.
"Fax from Heaven"?
With the Bible playing a central role in Christianity, the question of Scripture's historic validity bears tremendous implications. Brown claims that Constantine commissioned and bankrolled a staff to manipulate existing texts and thereby divinize the human Christ.
Yet for a number of reasons, Brown's speculations fall flat. Brown correctly points out that "the Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven." Indeed, the Bible's composition and consolidation may appear a bit too human for the comfort of some Christians. But Brown overlooks the fact that the human process of canonization had progressed for centuries before Nicea, resulting in a nearly complete canon of Scripture before Nicea or even Constantine's legalization of Christianity in 313.
Ironically, the process of collecting and consolidating Scripture was launched when a rival sect produced its own quasi-biblical canon. Around 140 a Gnostic leader named Marcion began spreading a theory that the New and Old Testaments didn't share the same God. Marcion argued that the Old Testament's God represented law and wrath while the New Testament's God, represented by Christ, exemplified love. As a result Marcion rejected the Old Testament and the most overtly Jewish New Testament writings, including Matthew, Mark, Acts, and Hebrews. He manipulated other books to downplay their Jewish tendencies. Though in 144 the church in Rome declared his views heretical, Marcion's teaching sparked a new cult. Challenged by Marcion's threat, church leaders began to consider earnestly their own views on a definitive list of Scriptural books including both the Old and New Testaments.
Another rival theology nudged the church toward consolidating the New Testament. During the mid- to late-second century, a man from Asia Minor named Montanus boasted of receiving a revelation from God about an impending apocalypse. The four Gospels and Paul's epistles achieved wide circulation and largely unquestioned authority within the early church but hadn't yet been collected in a single authoritative book. Montanus saw in this fact an opportunity to spread his message, by claiming authoritative status for his new revelation. Church leaders met the challenge around 190 and circulated a definitive list of apostolic writings that is today called the Muratorian Canon, after its modern discoverer. The Muratorian Canon bears striking resemblance to today's New Testament but includes two books, Revelation of Peter and Wisdom of Solomon, which were later excluded from the canon.
By the time of Nicea, church leaders debated the legitimacy of only a few books that we accept today, chief among them Hebrews and Revelation, because their authorship remained in doubt. In fact, authorship was the most important consideration for those who worked to solidify the canon. Early church leaders considered letters and eyewitness accounts authoritative and binding only if they were written by an apostle or close disciple of an apostle. This way they could be assured of the documents' reliability. As pastors and preachers, they also observed which books did in fact build up the church?a good sign, they felt, that such books were inspired Scripture. The results speak for themselves: the books of today's Bible have allowed Christianity to spread, flourish, and endure worldwide.
Though unoriginal in its allegations, The Da Vinci Code proves that some misguided theories never entirely fade away. They just reappear periodically in a different disguise. Brown's claims resemble those of Arius and his numerous heirs throughout history, who have contradicted the united testimony of the apostles and the early church they built. Those witnesses have always attested that Jesus Christ was and remains God himself. It didn't take an ancient council to make this true. And the pseudohistorical claims of a modern novel can't make it false.
For more on what the early church fathers can teach us about Jesus and the Bible, see our sequel to this article. To schedule an interview with Collin Hansen, please contact him contact him at email@example.com.
Copyright 2003 by the author or Christianity Today International/Christian History magazine.
A Review and Critique of The DaVinci Code
Copyright 2003 by James Patrick Holding, Tekton Apologetics Ministries
A few inquires have come our way concerning Dan Brown's best-selling work of fiction, The DaVinci Code. This book muscled its way onto the bestseller list, inspiring a lot of media attention, and questions and concerns from critical readers, including Christians, who find problems with the historical ?facts? woven throughout the narrative. Recently, it was the topic of a prime time television news special on the ABC network,1 and it has been announced that Sony Pictures has acquired the film rights to the book.2 Sony has assembled a talented group to produce the film, which is said to include prominent director Ron Howard.
This review and critique is meant to examine the historical ?facts? and conspiratorial leaps that permeate the story. It is important to remember, however, that the book is a work of fiction; as such, we will begin our critique with a short literary evaluation. The story of The DaVinci Code brings to mind the proverb about eating Chinese food and being hungry again later: Though weighing in at 450 pages, the tale simply doesn?t satisfy. It begins with a murder, and for the next 400 or so pages, the major characters scramble around France and England. The hero races from one cryptographical puzzle to the next, taking extraordinary time to figure out solutions to puzzles that most of us figured out the moment they were introduced. In the process of zipping around, these characters leave behind nearly all vestiges of unique personality. The reader is introduced to the typical hero, heroine, turncoat, righteous villain, and a plethora of other cardboard secondary characters, like the flat detective who is in pursuit of the "good guys." Brown's idea of giving dimension to a character seems to be either having them switch allegiances without warning, or endowing them with a disabling condition, like albinism or walking on crutches. (Improbably, Brown's albino character seems to suffer none of the usual loss of visual acuity, which accompanies that condition in reality.3) The plot, though fast-paced and engaging on the surface level, is tiredly predictable. The most intriguing part of the book is the intermittent revelation of "facts" and conspiracies, the focus of this critique.
The narrative is driven by the ancient quest for the Holy Grail. It?s not the cup of the Last Supper most of the world pictures, but rather in Brown's universe, shaped as it is by popular conspiracy-theory speculations rather than certified scholarship, it is a "royal bloodline" composed of descendants of Jesus Christ and (who else?) Mary Magdalene. This theory has been promoted without success before, most notably in the 1983 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh (New York: Dell). That book has been soundly critiqued by numerous scholars, historians, and fantasy debunkers.
(See, for example, http://anzwers.org/free/posmis/ , http://www.alpheus.org/html/articles/esoteric_history/richardson1.html and http://www.anzwers.org/free/posdebunking/.) The book has been shown to be based on fraudulent manuscripts and poor scholarship. Why, then, does Brown use it as his primary source?
The quest for the Holy Grail in The DaVinci Code ends up being the search for Mary Magdalene's tomb, in which are interred secret documents whose contents will wreck Christianity as we know it. These documents contain the "true" gospel - one whose foundation is the feminized divine known in goddess worship. If revealed to the world, these recovered "truths" will pave the way for us to return to a more enlightened spirituality centered on this divine feminine. In fact, however, the idea that religion was originally matriarchal (female centered) and then was changed to be patriarchal (male centered) by the Jews and perpetuated by later Christians is simply NOT true. There is no evidence that any significant religious movement, including early Christianity, 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).]
In another cheap trick, Brown closes his novel with the lead character finding the location of Mary's tomb, and instead of revealing the all important truths to the shock of the world, he decides to leave it alone and disclose nothing to anyone, thus perpetuating the "false" truths of Christianity and keeping secret the "real" truths of the goddess that have been hidden for generations. Why is the hero motivated to do this? What enlightenment does he undergo that causes him to cover-up the "truth" in the same way that Leonardo DaVinci and the museum curator and countless others did before him? Why do all of these enlightened people not want to inform the masses and get them back to worshipping the divine goddess? None of these questions is adequately addressed in the novel. One is left to conclude that like all great conspiracies, the discoverers of the cover-ups deem the truth too scary for the masses to calmly handle and the revealing of it would lead to scary, lethal consequences from "them."
Prior to the uninspiring close of the novel, Brown litters his narrative with historical "facts," and it is to these that we now turn our attention.
But It's Just Fiction.....
"Is this not a work of fiction? Why worry about a few misplaced facts"
I'll tell you why. While waiting in line to purchase The DaVinci Code at the local Borders bookstore, I scanned a primary chapter of concern, having been informed by Bob Passantino of its historically inaccurate content. A woman behind me spoke up: "Oh! That's a great book!" I looked back at her. "Not really," I replied shortly. "It's full of poor scholarship." The woman was shocked. "But it's just fiction," she replied. Curious nevertheless, she asked for an example. So, I picked one. "Well, it has the date of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls wrong.4 If the author cannot get something that elementary and fundamental right, it is reasonable to wonder what other historical "facts" presented in this text are wrong. And there are a lot of wrong "facts" presented as the historical background to this fiction book. "Interesting," she said, nodding. This is why it is important that someone worry about the historical inaccuracies that serve as the historical basis of this fiction book?because most people are not equipped to filter fact from fiction and they will absorb as truth whatever someone says is true.
Brown opens his novel with the words "FACT" in bold, capital letters and this statement:
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
In terms of documents and rituals, however - and even artwork and architecture5 -- The DaVinci Code contains few "facts" and what few it does contain require serious qualification. All of this might be excused, except that Brown baptizes such aspects of the book with the brand of "FACT," giving credence to his claims in the eyes of most readers. Also, he puts many of these "facts" into the mouth of a character named Teabing who is described as a reputable historian, which further encourages the reader to accept the historical "facts" in the novel as a factual backbone to the fictional story. I rather think if any genuine, academic historian made certain statements attributed to Teabing, he would be promptly demoted to janitorial duties and remanded for training in History 101. Sadly, Brown's sleight-of-hand under the cloak of fact has tricked others, including the Book Review Editor of the New York Daily News, who commented naively that "his research is impeccable."
On the television special, Brown confesses that he "became a believer" in the theories that he weaves throughout The DaVinci Code after allegedly trying to disprove them. This lends further credence to unsuspecting readers who aren't equipped to question the facts the world presents to them.
We must remember that TV commercials are written to get the maximum yield from consumers to buy the products, and the "truth" claims in TV commercials should be easier to dismiss as fraudulent by many - though the truth is that just like a five year old who wants a Slinky because it will glide down the stairs as gracefully as it does on TV, most of the audience will buy Crest White Strips because it has been proven to whiten teeth best, the girl on the commercial has a dazzling smile, the background music reminds them of their childhood, or whatever. Most consumers - and most readers of fiction - are unable to discern fact from fiction - and that's a fact.
I believe that we should no more let the truth claims in this book pass as truth than we would the truth claims in a fictional work rooted in the premise that a particular race was inferior. Imagine if an author put those claims into the mouth of someone cast as a trained anthropologist, and prefaced the entire work with the statement that, "All descriptions of cultures, biology, sociology, and genetics in this novel are accurate." Would such a book stay long on the shelves of a Barnes and Noble? I think not. It is only because Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, is considered "fair game" that this sort of work is received not with outrage, but with a Ho Hum.
Leaving aside questions of literary deficiencies and inaccuracies concerning other minor areas, our material of concern does not emerge until about halfway through the book in Chapter 55. The statements that follow are all put in the mouth of the historian character, Teabing, as he answers some questions from the two lead characters about the nature and background of their quest. To begin:
"...The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven" 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.?6
Even in this vague summary, a host of problems emerges:
The implied view being addressed - that "the Bible arrived by fax from heaven" or "dropped out of the clouds" - is a tendentious straw man. Biblical scholars and informed Christian believers do not believe that this is how God transferred the Bible to us.
The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is key to the transmission of the gospel to humans. No one claims it was dropped out of the clouds, but rather it is held that God chose specific instruments from men and that the Spirit guided them.7
"Countless translations, etc." 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. Generally however, these considerations may be offered:
Translation issues for the Bible are not different than translation issues for any document, and cause no more difficulty. The statement implies that there is some great confusion over translation that is cause for concern. It is true that there are issues one may discuss in terms of translating the Bible from ancient Hebrew and Greek to any modern language, but this is a natural function of all translation processes, and in no way is this ever thought to detract from offering a "definitive," reasonable account of what has been written. In fact, the transmission of the ancient texts, the voluminous quality 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 rendition of what was originally said. This subject has been covered so comprehensively and so well by so many scholars that Brown's misrepresentation of the facts is inexcusable.
Brown's imaginary arguments undermining the trustworthiness of the Biblical text are so unsophisticated and off the mark that one example will suffice to show his inadequacies. In Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel, Biblical scholar Maurice Casey examines the process of Mark's use of Aramaic sources in composing his Greek Gospel and offers a list of inevitable complications of translation and bilingualism and actual examples in practice. How a bilingual learns a language -- and how they keep up with it -inevitably affects their translation ability. There is a vast difference between a person who grows up with both languages (and may therefore be less proficient in both of them) and a person who learned a second language, and did not use their first language for many years. A modern scholar who learns ancient Greek or Hebrew must encounter similar difficulties. As Casey puts it, "All bilinguals suffer from interference," and translators more so.8 A few examples offered by Casey bring this point home:
1. Bilinguals "often use a linguistic item more frequently because it has a close parallel in their other language." Thus: "...Danish students are reported using the English definite article more often than monoglot speakers of English. This reflects 'the fact that Danish and English seem to have slightly different conceptions of what constitutes generic as opposed to specific reference.' "Or: "...there is a tendency for English loanwords among speakers of Australian German to be feminine -- die Road, die Yard, etc. -- and this is probably due to the similarity in sound between the German die and the accented form of English 'the', whereas the German masculine der and neuter das sound different."
2. When a source text is culture-specific, there is great need for changes to make the text intelligible. The example of how two German editions of Alice in Wonderland translated a particular passage differently serves well:
"Perhaps it doesn't understand English," thought Alice, "I dare say it's a French mouse, come over with William the Conqueror."
One edition substituted "English" so that the translation simply said that the mouse did not understand much, and to make the reference to William the Conqueror intelligible, added a phrase about William coming from England. A different translation made the language not understood by the mouse into German, and changed William the Conqueror into Napoleon.9 There were thus two different methods used to make the text intelligible to native readers.
3. A German person on a bus asks a person next to an empty seat, "Ist dieser Platz frei?" It is literally in English, "Is this place free?" But an English person would say, "Is this seat taken?" Or, a polite request in Polish to a distinguished guest to take a seat is literally, in English, "Mrs Vanessa! Please! Sit! Sit!" The "short imperative" to "Sit!" sounds "like a command rather than a polite request" made to someone unruly rather than to a distinguished guest.10
Such then are typical problems of translating from one language to another. The sort of exhaustive knowledge required to perform an exact translation is simply beyond the understanding of most people, and presents a practical impossibility. This does not mean we must press a panic button over not being able to provide "definitive" translations of every single word immediately, thus giving us the full range of meaning implied in every word. For instance, the examples above clearly transmit an accurate rendering of the message, even if some nuance is lost to non-native speakers. Linguistic studies continue to be performed to this day giving us new insight into ancient languages. This is so not only for Biblical languages, but other ancient languages like Latin, and a professional historian, unlike our fictional Teabing, would never offer such a ridiculously generalized statement.
Additions and revisions are also of no more issue than those found in any other document. Again, without a specific "addition" or "revision" to address, we can only offer some general points. There are a number of "checkpoints" that give us reasonable certainty of what the Bible originally said when written. The first set of checkpoints comes through the process called textual criticism. Put simply, scholars collect and compare copies of the work in question, work out their relative ages, and by this means decide what the likeliest reading of the original document was. In terms of evidence, it is common to speak of the "embarrassing" wealth of evidence we have for the text of the New Testament, comprised of over 24,000 copies or pieces of manuscripts, some dating as early as the second and third century. In contrast, consider that the words of the Roman historian Tacitus, writing about 100 AD, are attested to by a mere handful of manuscripts (less than a dozen) which date to a far later time at the earliest (the eleventh century!). The Old Testament does not have quite as much or the same quality of manuscript evidence, but does still exceed significantly what is available from the likes of Tacitus and most other ancient works. On this basis, it is difficult to justify any claim that we do not possess a "definitive" idea of what the Bible actually said in its originals, or autographa, unless one wants to throw out all other ancient writings with it.
In terms of revisions, ancient writers did have justifiable reasons for performing certain types of revisions: As language changed or as certain facts become less known, it would become necessary to adjust the text in order for it to remain coherent to later readers. The Greek historian Herodotus, for example, used Greek measurement units to report weight, currency, and distance, which would not have been used by the people of the places he reported upon. He does this even when translating inscriptions made by the people he is studying. Such revisions are easy to discern and are not problematic for arriving at a "definitive" version of the biblical text. Moreover, they should not be mistaken for wholesale content-revisions, or changes in ideology. Furthermore, they are certainly not "countless," if we are to have any respect at all for the evidence provided by textual criticism.
Teabing goes on with more specific claims:
"Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen....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...The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great."11
Was Jesus a figure of "staggering influence" about whom "thousands of followers" wrote? The answers to these questions is, "No, not exactly," and "No, not that the evidence would allow."
Jesus became a figure of "staggering influence" only AFTER the Christian church became a prominent force. As far as the historians of the day were concerned, Jesus was just a "blip" on the screen. Jesus was not considered to be historically significant by historians of his time. He did not address the Roman Senate, or write extensive Greek philosophical treatises; He never traveled outside of the regions of Palestine, and was not a member of any known political party. It is only because Christians later made Jesus a "celebrity" that He became known. Historian E. P. Sanders, comparing Jesus to Alexander the Great, notes that the latter "so greatly altered the political situation in a large part of the world that the main outline of his public life is very well known indeed. Jesus did not change the social, political and economic circumstances in Palestine...the superiority of evidence for Jesus is seen when we ask what he thought."12 Jesus was also executed as a criminal, providing him with the ultimate "marginality". He lived an offensive lifestyle and alienated many people. He associated with the despised and rejected: Tax collectors, prostitutes, and the band of fishermen He had as disciples. Finally, he was a poor, rural person in a land run by wealthy urbanites. The idea that Jesus had a "staggering influence" during his own life on earth is completely in error, which means that he could not have had "thousands of followers" to write authoritative biographies. In fact, three or four biographies would be the most we should expect - especially since 90 percent of all ancient persons were illiterate and unable to write such a work to begin with!
Were there eighty Gospels out of which four were chosen? If this is so, then we are justified in asking several questions:
What are the dates of the manuscripts of the "excluded" Gospels? If we are to consider any such work, we need to know how close it is to the time when Jesus lived. One way of determining this is to know what the earliest manuscript of it is. When we look at the evidence (sadly, evidence doesn?t seem to bother Brown in the least), we find that while there is near universal Christian knowledge and acceptance of the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) by the middle of the second century, none of the non-canonical Gospels were even close in date of composition, breadth of distribution, or proportion of acceptance. These were, for the most part, pseudo-gospels attributed to other Apostles but generally disqualified by most churches because they had no historical "chain of evidence" actually connecting them to real Apostles, and/or because they made claims that were contrary to what was already accepted in the canonical Gospels. This issue is also well known among Biblical scholars and information is easily obtainable in books written on a lay level such as Norman Geisler and William Nix?s A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986) or online in sources such documented by the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia's documents at
Is there any evidence of this "excluded" Gospel being used at an earlier date? It is also useful to find citations of a work in contemporary writers, for if they quote a work then it proves that the quoted document existed at the time of their writing. Although there may have been as many as 50 pseudepigraphal gospels, most are known only by name from a few isolated statements by early church writers. The most significant ones are well known and the reasons they were never accepted by the majority of the church is well known and has never been kept secret by any hierarchy. Geisler and Nix provide lay readers with a good summary of this issue in their book referenced above saying, "the extra-canonical literature, taken as a whole, manifests a surprising poverty. The bulk of it is legendary, and bears the clear mark of a forgery. Only here and there amid a mass of worthless rubbish, do we come across a priceless jewel" (311). In fact, that "priceless jewel" in almost every instance is a mere repetition of what we find in one or more of the canonical Gospels.
Does the context cohere with what we would expect of the historical Jesus? In other words, if Jesus is said to open a "refrigerator" and take out a "burrito" and put it in a "microwave oven," then we can be fairly sure that it does not accurately report the activities of a Jesus living in the first century. For example, in the Gospel of the Ebionites we find that John the Baptist didn't eat honey and locusts, as the canonical Gospels record, but only honey. The Ebionites were vegetarians and didn't let the truth get in the way of their dietary agenda. The Gospel of Peter laid the blame for the crucifixion solely at the feet of the Jews, exonerating the Romans - an anti-Semitic stance Brown should consider intolerable. The very "Gospels" Brown brings forth to undermine the consistent story of the canonical Gospels promote teachings completely contrary to the "secret" Christianity Brown says they represented!
It is this sort of data that scholars take into account when deciding whether a document is an authoritative source. In this chapter Brown does not name any of the other Gospels he has in mind, but he will name two of them in a later chapter, and we will address them in our discussion of those chapters. Finally, it is worth noting that Brown's putative historian perpetrates two enormous blunders that would be an embarrassment to any scholar:
"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."13
First, as I explained to the woman at the bookstore, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, not in the 1950s. Second, they did not contain any "gospels" or anything mentioning Jesus. They overwhelmingly predate the New Testament and are mostly copies of Old Testament books and internal documents for the Qumran community.14 Brown also has his character allege that the Vatican "tried very hard to suppress the release of these Scrolls" because they contained damaging information. This is merely an obnoxious conspiracy theory found in popular writers, with no basis in fact.15 Again, the evidence concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls has been written about in so many books, journals, and articles (many on a lay level) that Brown can only make his erroneous statements with a complete disregard for the facts. There is nothing in the Dead Sea Scrolls that promotes either traditional or deviant Christianity. The community at Qumran responsible for the Scrolls was not Christian, but Jewish. While the Dead Sea Scrolls say nothing directly about Christianity, they do provide two important substantiations of traditional Christianity. First, the texts of the Old Testament preserved among the Dead Sea Scrolls provide us with verification that the Old Testament preserved by Jews and Christians throughout the centuries after Christ was an accurate rendition of what was known to Jews of Jesus' day. Second, the community at Qumran reflects a first century Judaism much more like that depicted by the New Testament writers than it does the Judaism that developed after the destruction of the Second Temple in A. D. 70. Those who speculated in times past that the Judaism presented in the New Testament was a later invention by Christian opposers to Judaism were refuted by what we have learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Did Constantine decide the canon? How did the process work?16 Constantine was not the decider of the canon. In fact, he played no role in its assembly; the church at large was the party responsible. The process of canonizing the New Testament was based on a model that had existed for centuries whereby various religions chose a collection of normative sacred books. It is likely that Paul himself began the process by collecting his own letters, or that one of his friends like Luke or Timothy did so. Far from being an arbitrary process, or one decided upon by Constantine much later, the formation of the canon was the result of carefully weighed choices over time by concerned church officials and members. Later votes on the canon were merely the most definitive steps taken at the end of a long and careful, sometimes difficult, process. Biblical scholar Robert Grant, in The Formation of the New Testament, writes that the New Testament canon was:
...not the product of official assemblies or even of the studies of a few theologians. It reflects and expresses the ideal self-understanding of a whole religious movement which, in spite of temporal, geographical, and even ideological differences, could finally be united in accepting these 27 diverse documents as expressing the meaning of God's revelation in Jesus Christ and to his church. 17
To claim that Constantine was behind the canon, or was responsible for destroying Gospels he did not approve of, is a ludicrous distortion of history. In fact, Constantine convened the Council at Nicea, paid the travel expenses of those who attended, and provided his summer lake palace for the site, but he had no ecclesiastical authority at all. The information we have on the Council is fascinating and in no way supports the idea of a pagan Roman's overthrow of "early Christianity" or any conspiracy. A good introduction to the facts about the Council is available in the Summer 1996 issue of Christian History magazine, "Heresy in the Early Church," at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/51h/ .
Brown goes on to discredit the Christianity that is practiced today:
The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable. Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints. Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus. And virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual - the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of "God-eathing" - were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions.18
In his text, Brown only names one mystery religion as the source for Christian practices and beliefs (see below).
The taking over of symbolism is true - but signifies ideological victory, not borrowing. Note to begin with that we are talking here not of apostolic Christianity of the first century, but of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries. What we see here is not "borrowing," but rather a sort of advertising campaign. The pagan deity Mithra was depicted slaying the bull while riding its back; the church did a look-a-like scene with Samson killing a lion - this does not mean that Samson did not historically kill a lion, but rather that the way that the historical event was depicted artistically echoes the art of previous generations. Another example of this is the artistic image of Mithra sending arrows into a rock to bring forth water; the church changed that into Moses getting water from the rock at Horeb - a historical event depicted in a way that artistically echoes a similar mythical event. This was done because this was an age when art was usually imitative. This is because the people of the New Testament world thought in terms of what could be "probabilities," or verification from general or prior experience. Imitation was a way of asserting superiority: "Mithra is not the real hero. Samson is. Ignore Mithra. Mithra does not perform miracles. Moses does. This mystery religion uses a miter as a sign of power. Well, we have the true power. We claim the miter for our own." Note that the imitating only involved artistic images - it did not involve borrowing of ideology.
Brown claims that Christianity borrowed heavily from Mithraism:
"The pre-Christian God Mithras - called the Son of God and the Light of the World - was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days."
Not surprisingly, scholars of Mithraism know nothing of any of this. Let's breakdown these claims and discredit them once and for all.
"He was called the Son of God and the Light of the World."
This is simply false. I have previously surveyed Mithraic studies literature and neither of these titles is noted by Mithraic scholars.19
"He was born on December 25."
This may be true, but it is of no relevance, for the New Testament, as the New Testament does not associate Dec. 25th with Jesus? birth at all. When the Christian Church chose December 25 as the birthday celebration for Jesus Christ, they did so in direct opposition to the pagan mid-winter festival of Saturnalia, not because they believed Jesus was born, like the pagan god(s), on that date. Again, this is not borrowing, but rather giving the formerly pagan masses a holiday rooted in Christianity in place of their old pagan holiday.
"He died and was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days."
This is simply false. The Mithraic scholar Richard Gordon says plainly that there is "no death of Mithras"20 - which means, there can be no burial of Mithras, and no resurrection of Mithras. Some amateur writers cite the church writer of the fourth century, Firmicus, who says that the Mithraists mourn the image of a dead Mithras, but this is far too late to have influenced Christianity (if anything, the influence was the other way around). After reading the work of Firmicus, I personally found no such reference at all. More relevant perhaps is the late second-century church writer Tertullian's Prescription Against Heretics, chapter 40, which says, "If my memory still serves me, Mithra... sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown..." The argument therefore relies on Tertullian's memory, and it isn't the initiates of Mithra, but Mithra himself who introduces an "image" of a resurrection(?) ? he is not "resurrected" himself.
Therefore, the comment of Brown's character is a dismally erroneous assessment of what is reported by Mithraic scholarship.
"Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun."21
This is also simply false. All available evidence indicates that Christianity was honoring Sunday long before Constantine. Brown is perhaps confused because certain New Testament passages, for example, record Paul going to the synagogue on the Sabbath to preach to the Jews. (If one wants to preach to the Jews and the Gentile God-fearers who attended with them, then it is logical to look for them where they are found on the Sabbath - in the synagogue!) It is clear, however, that Christian observations are held on the "first day of the week" (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:12; cf. Rev. 1:10), and there is also ample evidence of Sunday being observed well before Constantine:
So once again, Brown's "historian" receives a failing grade in history.
Let's continue examining the "truth" claims present in this novel.
"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... until 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."22
This is a half-truth. The Council of Nicea did seriously consider alternating views of Jesus, not whether he was merely mortal or divine, but rather whether he was created or eternal. Not as "human" versus "God" but as "eternal" versus "created." They were debating this and other such theological nuances because there were growing movements that claimed aberrant and heretical ideologies. The most important theological belief refined at the Council of Nicea was in response to the presbyter Arius and his followers, who maintained that Jesus was not divine by nature, but was created in ages past by God. (As an aside, Constantine, on whom Teabing places much of the blame for the changes of the Christian religion, was himself sympathetic to the Arians!)23 Beyond this, the New Testament gives clear evidence of Jesus being viewed as divine:24
Chapter 55 of The DaVinci Code is laden with error and represents some of the poorest scholarship one will find between two covers. To put these sorts of statements into the mouth of a historian is an insult to the profession.
We pick up with more historical errors in Chapter 58. As before, Teabing and his implied authority as a historian are responsible for the relevant statements:
"...Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more sense than our standard biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor...... Because Jesus was a Jew... the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried. According to Jewish custom, celibacy was condemned, and the obligation for a Jewish father was to find a suitable wife for his son. If Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible's gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood."25
All of this is in service of an explanation that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and is taken not from any reputable source on Jewish customs, but from Baigent and Leigh's material (see below). Once again Teabing would be pulled over by the History Police for this sort of bungle. First, he is committing the classic fallacy of argument from silence - you cannot affirm something simply because the text doesn't deny it. Second, the following data from Glenn Miller's Christian ThinkTank overturns his speculations altogether:26 It would have been "normal" for [Jesus] to have been married, but not obligatory for that time (or any other time, for that matter).
1. The rabbinic literature - which is what people sometimes use to argue that celibacy was a capital offense - notes and gives rules for exceptions to rules which were themselves non-binding:
Celibacy was, in fact, not common, and was disapproved by the rabbis, who taught that a man should marry at eighteen, and that if he passed the age of twenty without taking a wife he transgressed a divine command and incurred God's displeasure. Postponement of marriage was permitted students of the Law that they might concentrate their attention on their studies, free from the cares of support a wife. Cases like that of Simeon be 'Azzai, who never married, were evidently infrequent. He had himself said that a man who did not marry was like one who shed blood, and diminished the likeness of God. One of his colleagues threw up to him that he was better at preaching that at practicing, to which he replied, What shall I do? My soul is enamored of the Law; the population of the world can be kept up by others...It is not to be imagined that pronouncements about the duty of marrying and the age at which people should marry actually regulated practice." [HI:JFCCE:2.119f]...
2. Judaism at the time of Jesus, of course, was a "many splintered thing," with the forerunners of the rabbinics being only one sect among many, one viewpoint (actually, multiple viewpoints!) on a spectrum of viewpoints. Accordingly, there were other groups at the time that either (a) required celibacy; or (b) allowed it.
3. But the dominant class of individuals who were "allowed" or "expected" to be celibate were prophetic figures, throughout Jewish history:
"More well-known, though still exceptional, would have been the undoubted celibacy of wilderness prophets like Banus (Josephus Life 2.11) and John the Baptist." [DictNTB, s.v. "marriage"]
4. Although the Rabbinic writers stressed the importance of marriage for procreation, it is noteworthy that this prophetic ideal of celibacy still showed up in the rabbinics:
Judaism saw nothing wrong in portraying as celibate the great primordial prophet, seer, and lawgiver Moses (though only after the Lord had begun to speak to him). We see this interpretation already beginning to develop in Philo in the 1st century A.D. What is more surprising is that this idea is also reflected in various rabbinic passages. The gist of the tradition is an a fortiori argument. If the Israelites at Sinai had to abstain from women temporarily to prepare for God's brief, once-and- for-all address to them, how much more should Moses be permanently chaste, since God spoke regularly to him (see, e.g., b. Yabb. 87a). The same tradition, but from the viewpoint of the deprived wife, is related in the Sipre on Numbers 12.1 (99). Since the rabbis in general were unsympathetic--not to say hostile--to religious celibacy, the survival of this Moses tradition even in later rabbinic writings argues that the tradition was long-lived and widespread by the time of the rabbis... In view of this "marginal" tradition in early Judaism, it is hardly surprising that the Jewish scholar Geza Vermes has no difficulty in seeing Jesus as celibate and explaining his unusual state by his prophetic call and the reception of the Spirit." [MJ:1.340f]
So, although it would have been "normal" and expected for a young Jewish man to be married, we have examples of where celibacy was accepted, encouraged, or required. Therefore, Jesus would not have had to be married...
Miller adds that it is a mistake to misuse Rabbinical literature (as Teabing is likely doing by Brown?s account) to assume that a rabbinic opinion was somehow a law. As the historian E.P. Sanders notes, according to Miller:
"There is also a more general point with regard to calling an opinion a law: once one starts quoting rabbinic statements as laws governing Palestine, one may draw absolutely any portrait of first-century Palestine that one wants. There are thousands and thousands of pages, filled with opinions." [JPB:463]
These "laws" may not be laws, but anything from "a simple description of common practice, which someone finally decided to write down" to a prohibition offered precisely because so many people were doing the opposite. It may be something intended only for the Pharisees, or may be an expression of an ideal that was never followed. As Miller notes, quoting Jewish scholar Ze'ev Safrai:
The public at large did not obey the rabbis. Among the Jews, only a minority followed the rabbis, obeyed their decisions and was influenced by their sermons and moral teachings... The scholar or reader who wishes to do real history must take into account all sorts of possibilities when he or she faces a rabbinic passage; the response, 'everybody did it because the rabbis laid it down' is seldom the correct one.
Therefore, it is false to say that Jesus as a married man "makes infinitely more sense;" it is simply false to claim that the "social decorum" (or anything else) "virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried;" it is false that "celibacy was condemned," and the silence on the subject in the Gospels is not room for a positive proof whatsoever.
In a section following, Brown's "historian" repeats his error about Gospels being found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also appeals to a collection of texts found at a location called Nag Hammadi in 1945. Surprisingly, Teabing makes no mention of the most famous alternative gospel found in this collection, the Gospel of Thomas. Why this is so is quite clear: The Gospel of Thomas ends with an admonition by Jesus that women must "become male" in order to find salvation!27 Needless to say, this would not fit in with Brown's tale of seekers after a feminine divine!
Instead, Brown cherry-picks The Gospel of Philip. Teabing recommends this text as a "good place to start." Brown quotes a portion of the text in which Jesus is said to often "kiss" Mary Magdalene "on the mouth" and thereby invoke the jealousy of Peter. Teabing goes on to point out that Mary is described as Jesus's "companion," and this is supposedly troubling for the canonical Gospel view. 28 Is it? Brown has Teabing say little about this gospel of Philip, and for good reason. Scholarship has utterly rejected this work as having any authentic historical recollections not derived from the canonical Gospels. Philip Jenkins, a Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University, is our Philip who debunks Teabing?s Philip. In his book Hidden Gospels, Jenkins explodes the myth of the Gospel of Philip as a reliable or contemporary source for the life of Jesus:
Teabing also appeals briefly to a second document titled The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.31 Claiming that "modern historians" have already explored the issue (and implying a positive finding), this gospel also shows Jesus treating Mary as a companion, and depicts Peter's jealousy after Jesus gives Mary special instructions to carry out to run the Church after his crucifixion. Leading up to the idea of Mary Magdalene as the "female womb that carried Jesus" royal bloodline,"32 Teabing comments, "Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene."
This gospel, however, fares no better than Philip under critical analysis. It, too, is a Gnostic document that reflects no reality found among Palestinian Jews of the first century; the earliest fragments, Jenkins notes, are dated to the third century, and most scholars date it no earlier than 180-200 AD, as far from Jesus are we are from the Civil War.33 What Brown has actually done here is uncritically accept as valid specific fringe views that sober scholars like Jenkins reject. Brown sits with those who claim that goddess worship and Mary Magdalene's prominence was the original, which the early, evil, male-dominated church erased; but as Jenkins observes:
"...the Gnostic world should rather be seen as the first of many popular reactions against the institutional structures of the existing church, of the sort that would be commonplace through the middle ages and beyond."34
Put simply, the church has a better claim to have "been there first." Their documents have the evidence of earlier composition -- in terms of manuscript evidence, internal linguistic evidence, and external attestation - and the evidence of context, for the "male dominated" society that is so despised by ideologues like Brown is better matched in the Jewish culture in which Christianity formed, while the "divinized female" ideal that they prefer is found only in much later Gnostic materials.
Thus we find (even in Brown) necessary "excuses" to explain why the evidence is all in the church's favor, thus assuming the blindness of scholars like Jenkins with no axe to grind for either party: "The history is written by the winners," it is said, and all the evidence for a Christianity with an idealized feminism was destroyed. Yet this begs the very question of how, and why, the winners won. It assumes that the fight was not honest, that the Church hit below the belt. Evidence such as the Gospel of Mary is taken as evidence; and non-evidence like lack of copies of it any earlier than the third century is also taken as evidence. There is simply no way the Church is allowed to win - there can be no evidence in its favor at all, so that Brown and his cohorts have stacked the deck.35
In all of this it is assumed that the early Church was patriarchal and bigoted, but that is simply not the case. As Jenkins observes, the New Testament notes a number of prominent women even as it stands (before being "edited or altered" to whatever convenient extent conspiracy theorists require). Several commentators on the prime time television program hinted that Mary, while perhaps not Jesus? wife, was in some sense close to Jesus. This is true, but not in the way that Brown or these commentators think. Women like Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna "ministered unto [Jesus] of their substance." (Luke 8-2:3). The impact of this passage is not appreciated because we have lost track of the contextual meaning: It means that these two women were Jesus' well-off patrons, and they financed his ministry - such that, in that day and age, he would have been a "client" who was in some sense obligated to them. Later in the New Testament, figures like Lydia, Junia, Priscilla, and Phoebe figure prominently. This is not to say that the early Church was entirely egalitarian, but it would be a mistake to assume that it was misogynistic - and when the authority structures did become less favorable to women, Jenkins adds, it was because the Church started following Roman models of administration.36
The use of Mary Magdalene reflects a Gnostic tactical measure in every way. As Jenkins observes, the Gnostics, needing to overthrow apostolic authority (note that their doing so presupposes that the apostolic tradition had the upper hand to begin with!), had to choose a person close to Jesus, yet not part of the apostolic band.37 The Gnostics also had a worldview that "demanded that spiritual beings exist in male and female pairs," so that choosing a woman as Jesus? counterpart was inevitable. In Jenkins' words, the resort to these late texts "represent a triumph of hope over judgment."38 Brown earns no credibility putting an endorsement of these texts into his characters' mouths.39
Chapter 60 offers us what is as close to a research bibliography as Brown intends to provide. His historian character says that "the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians." That score is reduced to but four, but a closer look at these "historians" reveals some anomalies. The persons who authored these texts are certainly not "historians" in any academic sense, that is, of possessing known academic degrees in these subjects or publishing material in peer-reviewed journals. Nor are the books published by academic presses. Let's have a look at Brown's recommended titles:
1. The Templar Revelation by Picknett and Prince.
Historians they are not; the credits on their book list them as "writers, researchers, and lecturers on the paranormal, the occult, and historical and religious mysteries." Their other authorial credits include such masterpieces of critical history as The Stargate Conspiracy: The Truth About Extraterrestrial Life and the Mysteries of Ancient Egypt and The Mammoth Book of UFOs
2. The Woman with the Alabaster Jar by Starbird and Sweeney.
Starbird's credentials are given, a Masters degree and that she studied at a divinity school, but we do not know what her Masters degree is in or if she completed her studies at the divinity school. Her Masters could be in underwater basket weaving for all we know.
3. The Goddess in the Gospels.40 Also by Starbird. Starbird says that the fourth book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail was a great influence on her, which also calls her worthiness to be called a scholar into question, as we shall see.
4. Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent and Leigh. This book, a bestseller that is the motherlode for Brown's sort of theorizing, is not entirely endorsed by Brown's historian character, who pins it for "dubious leaps of faith" but allows that its "fundamental premise [is] sound." It's nice to know something is, because the authors' qualifications are not. The lead author Baigent's sole credential is a degree in psychology. Leigh is described in one location (a Web site promoting his virtues as a speaker) as "a writer and university lecturer with a thorough knowledge of history, philosophy, psychology and esoterica," which seems a roundabout way of saying he has no relevant credentials in the subject.
None of these "scholars" are scholars at all. They aren't even regarded as experts in the fields they are writing in. No genuine New Testament scholars, liberal or conservative, are cited. I feel the need here to recommend a couple of good lay introductions to New Testament scholarship: Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998) and The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000).
In the above we have the bulk of Brown's biblical material. Hereafter we find only a few points of consideration. In Chapter 74 there is a claim that "early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex" in the Jewish Temple, and that YHWH was worshipped along with a female consort named Shekinah. Where Brown derives this "information" is difficult to say. It is found in no scholarly source to my awareness; it is not certified by any leading archaeologist or Biblical commentator.41
Chapter 77 Brown offers a comment about a proper name, Sheshach, which he says is "mentioned repeatedly in the Book of Jeremiah." This name is a codeword for Babylon. While this latter point is true, it seems excessive to say that something mentioned but twice (Jer. 25:26, Jer. 51:41) is mentioned "repeatedly."
It is suitable in closing to consider some comments from Chapter 82. Brown's hero remarks that "every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith - acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove."42 It is no mystery that a contextual study of the word "faith" (pistis) in the New Testament and its contemporary literature does not bear this definition out. The word is used as a noun to refer to the Christian "faith" as a set of convictions, but in far many more cases the meaning intended is in the sense of faithfulness, or loyalty as owed to one in whom one is embedded for service. The relationship between the believer and God is framed in the New Testament terms of an ancient client-patron relationship. As God's "clients" to whom he has shown unmerited favor (grace), our response should be an awareness of prescribed duties toward those to whom we are indebted (God) and the group in which we are embedded (God's kin group, the body of Christ). This awareness is the expression of our faithfulness of loyalty -- in other words, this is our pistis, or faith. "Faith" is not acceptance of what we cannot prove, but trust in one who has proven himself, our pledge to trust, and be reliable servants to, our patron (God), who has provided us with tangible gifts (Christ) and proof thereby of His own reliability. Faith is not imagination, but the reaction we provide to evidence. The missionaries of the New Testament did not appeal to feelings, but to facts: the resurrection and empty tomb; Jesus' miracles; his fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. In other words, evidence.
Those who adhere to Brown's idealized caricature, however, would for obvious reasons prefer the more nebulous sort of "faith." It is clear why: All of their documents are dated far too late, all of their evidence is "destroyed," all of their ideas are gross decontexualizations. It is not surprising that The DaVinci Code ends with Mary's tomb unopened and the secrets left unsaid. If Brown's ideologues are indeed in possession of ancient and secret documents that turn the world upside down, why are they not now in the hands of paleographers, linguistic experts, or other scholars to be dated? Christian missionaries risked their lives in preaching the Gospel - what is it the revisionists fear?
Brown is not the first to propose that Christianity is a vast conspiracy by the Vatican and/or others to hoodwink the world about the true Jesus. He will not be the last. What is surprising is not that he would boldly label "FACT" what has been so totally refuted by the evidence. What is surprising is that our culture is so ill-equipped so as not to be able to discern fact from fiction, misinformed about Christianity, woefully ignorant of history, and clueless about the Bible - its origin, composition, preservation, and translation. This novel is based on such flimsy fabrication that if it used any other setting - an ethnic neighborhood, a police investigation, an environmental conservation movement, for example - no one would be able to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the story. That millions of people are not turned off by the lack of authenticity in The DaVinci Code is more than surprising?it is sad. That critics and even news media are so gullible is more than revealing about the state of our culture - it reveals the tragic truth that our culture is in need of rediscovering Truth.
For Further Reading
Virginia Heffernan, "The Volatile Notion of a Married Jesus," New York Times online. Registration required.
Sandra Miesel, "Dismantling the DaVinci Code," Crisis http://www.crisismagazine.com/september2003/feature1.htm
Albert Mohler, "Deciphering the DaVinci Code," http://www.crosswalk.com/fun/1212187.html
Thomas Roeser, "Potshots Hit Catholics Again," Chicago Sun-Times, September 27, 2003. Available online at http://www.opusdei.org/art.php?w=32&p=6440
1 "Jesus, Mary and DaVinci," ABC, November 3, 2003.
2 See "Behind Tonight?s ABC Jesus Special,"
3 See http://www.albinism.org/publications/what_is_albinism.html
4 The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, as any introductory text will attest (see, for example, http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/D/DeadS1eaS1.asp ).
5 Though beyond our general scope, it is worthwhile to point to a few of Brown's more egregious factual errors in this area, and in others, that have been noted by reviewers of the book:
* The theory that Leonardo DaVinci included Mary Magdalene in his painting The Last Supper is not accepted by art historians, who say that the "feminine" figure seated to the left of Jesus is the boyish Apostle John as he is normally depicted in artwork of the period. This identification was explicitly rejected by Carmen Bombach, an expert on DaVinci interviewed by Katie Couric on the Today show. The ABC special was only able to locate one art historian, Carlo Pedretti, who agreed that DaVinci had painted this figure as a woman, based seemingly on a faint resemblance of the figure to a woman in another painting. Brown's response to expert art historians who disagree with him is simply, "We see what we've been told to see."
* Brown incorrectly reports that the ancient Olympics were held to honor Aphrodite. In fact they were held to honor Zeus.
* Contrary to Brown, the Knights Templar had nothing to do with the building of cathedrals.
* A chief henchman in the book is identified as a "monk" of the Opus Dei Catholic organization, although the organization has no monks.
* Brown reports that the Pyramid of the Louvre is composed of 666 panes of glass. In fact, it is composed of 673. See "The Louvre's Pyramid celebrates its 10th Anniversary from 7 to 21 April 1999,"
* It is claimed that the Church burned five million women as witches over its history. The actual number executed in the "witch crazes" of Europe was somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000; not all were women, not all were burned, and not all were executed by the Church, but rather by political figures using religion to "justify" their deeds
[See Bob and Gretchen Passantino, Satanism [Zondervan, 1995), 33-34).
6 Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code (Doubleday, 2003), 231.
7 Brown is woefully ignorant of the origin and composition of the Bible. There are many sources available on the subject, such as Revelation, Inspiration, and Illumination at http://www.answers.org/theology/illumination.html .
8 Maurice Casey, The Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 94.
9 Casey, 101.
10 Casey, 105.
11 Brown, 231.
12 E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (Penguin Books), 3.
13 Brown, 234.
14 There are a handful of scholars who think there might have been fragments of New Testament documents among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Without disputing their theories, for the purposes of this article they are irrelevant, even if genuine, because they would be merely reproducing fragmentary portions of New Testament texts, not establishing or promoting any particular Christian or pseudo-Christian ideas or teachings. An introduction to this thesis is available at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/7547/ntmss.html .
15 A good start for on-line information on the Dead Sea Scrolls is at http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/back_dss.html .For a sober account of the controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, see Mahlon Smith's compiliation at http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~religion/iho/dss.html
16 For further reading on this subject, see "Seven Principles for Rrecognizing Canonical Books,"
http://www.answers.org/bible/canonicity.html; J. P. Holding, "Canon Fire," http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_02_01_01.html
17 Robert M. Grant, The Formation of the New Testament (Harper and Row, 1965), 10.
18 Brown, 232.
19 See J. P. Holding, "Mighty Mithraic Madness," http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_04_02_04_MMM.html
20 Richard Gordon, Image and Value in the Greco-Roman World (Variorum, 1996,), 96.
21 Brown, 232-3.
22 Brown, 233.
23 Albert Mohler (see Further Reading) notes a particularly glaring error by Teabing, who claims that the divinity of Jesus was decided at Nicea by a "relatively close vote." In actuality only two out of 300 bishops at the Council did not sign the resulting creedal statement affirming the full deity of Christ and condemning any view of Him that was less!
24 A full accounting of the various titles ascribed to Jesus by himself and by the authors of the New Testament can be found at J. P. Holding, "The Divine Claims of Jesus," http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_01_02_01.html
25 Brown, 245. This point was reiterated by feminist divinity professor Karen King on the television program, who stated that it was "normal practice" for a Jewish man of this day to be married.
26Glenn Miller, "Did the Bible Lie About Jesus Not Being Married", http://www.christian-thinktank.com/singlejesus.html
27 Jesus says of Mary in the final passage of Thomas, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male.... For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven." For an examination of the reliability of the Gospel of Thomas, see "Is the Gospel of Thomas Reliable",
http://www.answers.org/bible/gospelofthomas.html; J. P. Holding, "Thomas Gospel Tizzy,"
28 Brown, 246. On the Today show interview, Biblical scholar Roy Heller of Perkins University noted another of Brown's egregious errors, as he stated that Mary was called Jesus's "companion" and that this word in Aramaic meant "spouse." Heller noted that the Gospel of Philip was written not in Aramaic, but in Greek.
29 The dating of the canonical Gospels is a complex issue. For an introduction to the arguments, see J. P. Holding, "Gospel Dates, Gospel Authors," http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_02_02_02.html There are also related issues of the Gospels' use of sources, and of each other; for an introduction to these issues, see "The Mysterious Case of the Missing Q," http://www.answers.org/bible/missing_q.html; J. P. Holding, "Q Tips,"
30 Philip Jenkins, Hidden Gospels (Oxford Press, 2002), 69, 117. On the prime time ABC program Elaine Pagels is quoted as saying that it is possible that documents like these are "very early," though it is not clear whether she means "to the first century" or "very early, as in 150 AD, compared to the fourth century date others assign." If she means the earlier date, she is only supposing this to be the case; there is absolutely no evidence the support it. If she means 150 AD or later, they are already facing the formidable challenge of the church-wide common acceptance already of the four gospels which became canonical.
31 Brown, 247.
32 Brown, 248-9.
33 Jenkins, 139.
34 Jenkins, 118.
35 For an answer to charges of the Bible's unreliability, see "How Far Can We Trust the Bible"
http://www.answers.org/apologetics/contradictions.html; "Is the Bible Reliable",
http://www.answers.org/bible/reliable.html; "The Testimony of Two or Three Witnesses: We Can Trust the Factuality of the Gospel", http://www.answers.org/bible/two_witnesses.html; W. R. Miller,"The Truthfulness of the Bible," http://www.tektonics.org/truthfulness.htm . Outstanding scholars whose information on Bible reliability is available on line are many, of whom Daniel B. Wallace is only one example (see his Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism at http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/inspiration.htm , The Conspiracy Behind the New Bible Translations at http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/conspire.htm , and "Why So Many Versions" at http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/versions.htm ).
36 Jenkins, 131, 133.
37 Jenkins, 142.
38 Jenkins, 146.
39 For an excellent overview of the favorable treatment of women in the Bible, see Glenn Miller's extended series at http://www.christian-thinktank.com/femalex.html For an example of how attempts to make original Christianity "Gnostic" are defeated, see J. P. Holding, "Those Naughty Gnostys!", http://www.tektonics.org/gnostpaul.html .
40 Starbird was featured on the prime time television program, where she argued that John 20:17, "Touch me not," implied a very close relationship between Mary and Jesus, for the word "touch" meant to cling to. Evangelical scholar Darrell Bock replied that Mary's reaction was simply that of ordinary devotion and emotion. Bob Passantino comments, "Jesus was going to be around for forty days providing multiple evidences of his resurrection, so Mary did not need to fear that he would leave immediately and not return. There was no reason to cling to one who was in no hurry to go off! The whole point of the resurrection appearances was to prove that he was resurrected in the same body, now glorified, that had hung on the cross. It was not an emphemeral "spiritual" resurrection unable to be empirically verified (Luke 24:39).?
41 Miesel (see Further Reading) finds this claim by Brown astonishing and adds this specific criticism of another claim: "Moreover, [Brown] 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"). The tetragrammaton actually derives from the Hebrew verb for "to be" and is an indication of God's eternal nature, not any gender or gender mixing.
42 Brown, 341.