Was Jesus really a husband and father?  Did the early church hide secret information that could change the meaning of the faith"The Da Vinci Code," the best-selling novel by Dan Brown that is also being made into a movie, has captured the popular imagination by raising such questions.  But by claiming that this work of fiction is as accurate as nonfiction, Brown has led readers into confusion instead of enlightenment, says biblical scholar Darrell Bock

Bock, who serves as Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, has written "Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone’s Asking" to clear up the confusion swirling around these vital issues.  It’s smart for Christians to ask questions about their faith, says Bock.  But it’s crucial to be able to discern the difference between “virtual reality” and “historical reality” when doing so.

“To break the Da Vinci Code is to ask questions about who Jesus really was – and is,” Bock writes as he helps readers navigate their way through issues such as whether Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, whether early church leaders suppressed vital documents when assembling the New Testament gospels, and whether their conspiracy has been kept secret for years by a society whose members included artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci.

“There is an element of mystery and intrigue in such claims. And everyone loves to be in on a secret,” Bock says.  “Secrets also suggest that there is something we do not know that we should know. We love to be in the know and on the inside. Unfortunately, in this case, the secrets are not really secrets. We have known about these other gospels [the Gnostic gospels] and the other variations of the Christian faith for centuries as a reading of the early generations of writers from the church shows us. So part of my goal was to take the secret out of the secret.”

While there was no conspiracy by early church leaders to suppress information about Jesus, Bock says, there is an agenda today to try to revise the Christian faith, and "The Da Vinci Code" is a part of that agenda.  “The goal is to make Christianity into one of many religious options and to remove the uniqueness of Jesus, to attempt to neuter His impact by relativizing the Christian faith into one option among many that can work.  Jesus said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life, no one can come to the Father but by me.’  The two views are opposed to each other.”

Readers seeking to sift truth from lies should use their critical skills when reading any type of book, says Bock.  And when a novel claims to be based on truth, readers should always investigate those claims.  “The major thing is to have some knowledge of the topic or know where to go to get an understanding of the issues a novel may raise. In most cases, novels do not claim or are not concerned to be completely accurate and bear a disclaimer to make the point. What made this novel different was the claim by the author that had he written non-fiction, he would not have changed anything and that his work was the product of research that he claimed was credible.  Above all, when the Christian faith is being discussed, never forget that the best sources for understanding the Christian faith are its sacred documents as found in Bible.”

Only by relying on Scripture that has passed historical tests – the gospels in the canon – can readers find an accurate portrait of Jesus, Bock says.  “Our culture is sending out numerous, distinct portraits of Jesus. Most of them claim He was a political revolutionary, a great religious leader or a prophet of some kind, but not the unique revelation from God, what John’s gospel calls the Word and what the other books of the New Testament portray as a Savior or Son of God.  These biblical portraits makes Him absolutely unique. The real Jesus is this unique Jesus.  Having a relationship with Jesus, which is a core element of the Christian faith, means having access neither to a guru nor a prophet, but to One whose work paid our debt for sin and who intercedes for us before God.  To demean the status of Jesus is not only to demean our faith, but also to demean the power of our access to God.”