Author Seeks to Break "The Da Vinci Code"
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2004 6 May
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.”
The experience of writing "Breaking the Da Vinci Code" deepened Bock’s own faith. “It allowed me to renew my understanding of the early years of the history of the church and sense how God had worked through faithful servants to guide the later church into a concern for the truth of the faith. That was an example of faithfulness for me.”
Reviewing how the canon of Scripture came to be formed also proved “reassuring,” he says. “ … the four gospels were already well established by the end of the second century. This is a good 125 years before the council of Nicea, where "The Da Vinci Code" claims the four gospels were chosen from an alleged 80 gospels to make Jesus divine. We do not have anywhere near that many gospels, biblical and extra-biblical. The count is closer to 16, and none but the four (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) ever made a significant penetration across the breadth of the church. By the time of Nicea, these four gospels had solidly established themselves as unique and the church recognized this.”
"Breaking the Da Vinci Code" will hopefully help all readers discover the truth about Jesus for themselves, Bock says. “My goal was to write a book that someone with no theological training could follow. Whether someone has questions having read the novel or knows someone asking questions, the goal was to lay out the ancient record so that the reader could see the historical record and make their own evaluation. Like a tour guide, my goal was to lead and organize the material in a readily accessible way. Hopefully the effort will help to show where the truth lies about the early history of Christianity.”
For more information about Darrell Bock and "Breaking the Da Vinci Code" (Thomas Nelson Publishers), click here.