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The Bible vs. The Da Vinci Code

  • Chip Ingram
  • Published Mar 25, 2004
The Bible vs. <I>The Da Vinci Code</I>
Heresy or history? That's the question swirling around one of the hottest selling books in America, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Although a novel, the 450-page thriller claims to contain “facts” that demolish the foundation of Christianity. The book's allegations include such bombshells as these:
· The four Gospels were frauds imposed upon the church by the Roman emperor Constantine and a circle of power-mad theologians at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. These Gospels replaced the true written accounts of Christ's life and doctrine, which were systematically hunted down and burned.
· Jesus was not, and never claimed to be, God. There was no resurrection. The virgin birth and resurrection were borrowed from pagan mythology.
· Jesus married Mary Magdalene. After His death, she fled to France with their child, where their bloodline still exists.
· The truth has been kept for centuries by a secret society that has included painter Leonardo da Vinci, who encoded the story via symbols in his most famous works of art.

Too crazy to be believable? Guess again!

The Da Vinci Code has been number one on Amazon.com, a New York Times bestseller for 32 weeks, the subject of positive media coverage such as an ABC News special, and has been purchased by Sony for a major motion picture to be directed by Ron Howard.

And the “unbelievable” is being believed. Non-Christians have been drawn to the theory like a magnet, and even large numbers of Christians say their faith has been shaken or that they don't know how to respond.

CRACKS IN THE CODE Because the mission of Living on the Edge includes transforming “how America thinks about God” and “how individual believers live out their faith,” we want to equip you with some facts about The Da Vinci Code.

You need to have intellectual confidence in your faith to weather the trials and challenges of life. If the Bible is erroneous about Christ, then maybe it's wrong about sex, marriage, prayer, life after death, heaven, hell, and God's love, right?

Frankly, The Da Vinci Code is too crowded with errors to begin to cover all of them. But here is some information to help you decode the deception and fortify your faith.

Is The Da Vinci Code thesis supported, as it claims, by well-accepted historical and art authorities?
Just the opposite. Brown, not a scholar or historian, cites no accepted historians or New Testament scholars to back him up. But a long line of scholars - Christian and non-Christian, conservative and liberal - has dismissed the book's allegations.

Brown does cite in his favor a handful of conspiracy theorists as if they were reputable sources, yet none is regarded as an expert or scholar in history. One of them has even written a book claiming that Egyptian culture was shaped by space aliens!

Further, The Da Vinci Code bungles elementary facts, raising serious doubts about its overall reliability:
· The famous Dead Sea Scrolls are said to have been discovered in the 1950s. They weren't.
· Brown says the Dead Sea Scrolls contained outlawed gospels that have shed new light on “the truth” about Jesus. In fact, it is well-known that the Scrolls contain no material about Jesus. Most date to about 200 years before Jesus lived, and their main significance is that they include Old Testament documents.
· Brown claims the vote on Christ's deity at the Council of Nicea was “relatively close.” The actual count was 298-2!

Are the four Gospels in our New Testament reliable, or were they invented at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325?
The four Gospel accounts are considered to be accurate histories of Christ because they pass several tests:
1) We possess early portions of the Gospels, written mainly on papyrus, including some fragments dating back to almost the first century.
2) There are thousands of early copies of the Gospels-many even dating before the Council of Nicea - that come from various parts of the old Roman Empire. This indicates that they were widely circulated and accurately transmitted throughout the international Christian community.
3) The Gospels are extensively quoted by the numerous writings of church fathers in documents dating before the Council of Nicea.
4) The Gospels harmonized with the theology of the entire church and letters of the apostles and were widely accepted.
5) The Gospels contain specific names, dates, places, and details that are characteristic of accurate history and eyewitness testimony.

Scholar Robert Grant sums up the consensus of historians when he states that the New Testament “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 . . . united in accepting these 27 diverse documents as expressing the meaning of God's revelation.”

Aren't there “other gospels” about Jesus that were suppressed for political reasons?
The Da Vinci Code claims there were “at least 80” gospels that boast more evidence of authenticity than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

In reality, there are about 50 other so-called gospels cited in ancient literature. None comes close to meeting the tests of authenticity previously mentioned. Most are filled with bizarre tales and wildly heretical theology such as Jesus claiming that women must “become male” to go to heaven.

Finally, there is no historical evidence of any widespread destruction of these false gospels. In fact, the emperor Constantine, who Brown alleges engineered the destruction, disagreed with the key affirmation of the Council of Nicea - the deity of Christ. It makes little sense that he would suppress a doctrine he believed in.

Did the early church believe Jesus was God, or instead was His status “upgraded” in A.D. 325, as The Da Vinci Code alleges?
Christ's deity is not only mentioned in the four Gospels and throughout the New Testament, but also in documents and citations by other writers dating before A.D. 325. Even pagan historians, also writing before 325, accuse Christians of worshipping Jesus as God.

Are the virgin birth and resurrection borrowed from pagan myths such as that of Mithras, as asserted in The Da Vinci Code?
Historians who have examined such myths have found that, in many cases, the myths were written after the advent of Christianity (thus, probably borrowed from Christianity) or that the similarities are exaggerated.

Scholars who have read Mithras literature refute Brown's claims. They say Mithras was never called “the Son of God and Light of the World,” as Brown claims. Mithras was also never said to be “buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days,” as Brown claims. His comparison is simply false and easily discredited.

Did Jesus marry Mary Magdalene and appoint her to lead the church
There exists no evidence for either claim and much evidence against them. In a literary sleight of hand, Brown even inserts words in his main “source,” the discredited Gospel of Philip (which Brown mistakenly says was written in Aramaic - in reality, it was Greek), to make it appear to say something (that Jesus kissed Mary on the mouth) that isn't even in that text.

The earliest, most widespread, most historically credible documents - the four New Testament Gospels - mention Mary as a devoted disciple who received an exorcism from Jesus and witnessed His death and resurrection appearance. That is all we know.

In summary, The Da Vinci Code is like a gleaming used car whose odometer has been altered and its documents falsified-a nice-looking lemon. Buyer beware.

Sources for this article, or to do further research:

Not InDavincible by James Patrick Holding, Tekton Apologetics, www.tektonics.org.

Was Jesus Married to Mary Magdalene? by Dr. Darrell Bock, abcnews.com/sections/World/Primetime/da_vinci_code_031112.html

Deciphering ‘The Da Vinci Code' by Dr. Albert Mohler, crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/1212006.html.

The Da Vinci Code: Is Christianity a Big Lie? by Dr. Mike Ladra www.fpcsalinas.org

General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce New Testament Evidences by Wallace Warwick The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell Why I Believe (series and booklet) by Chip Ingram

Excerpted from EdgeNotes, the bi-monthly newsletter of Living on the Edge. Used with permission. Copyright 2004 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved. About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.