Thursday, June 01, 2006
Nearly everyone on planet Earth has heard of The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. As of May 2006 there have been 60.5 million copies of his book sold and translated into 44 languages! If he makes one dollar off of every book sold . . . he is set for several life times. It is now a blockbuster hit approaching 150 million at the theater. But I do not begrude him that. I have read the book and seen the movie (I went with my colleague last Tuesday).
The DaVinci Code has the label "Fiction" on the back cover, I wonder if that label covers the story only or the details as well. Brown claims, in a note at the start of his book, first that the architectural details of the places mentioned are correct and second that there really is a secret society called The Priory of Sion to which people like Da Vinci himself, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and others belonged. But Brown is careless, extremely careless, about his "facts" to the point of being simply absurd or lazy. A simple internet search could have eliminated most of the faux paus. Despite the claims for even accuracy of architectural details Brown simply reveals his top ten hooters for all the world to see.
The Top 10
10) Westminster Abbey does not have spires
9) There are no frescos in Notre Dame
8) Why would Isaac Newton be afraid of the Roman Catholic Church in 17th century England? (perhaps Brown never heard of the Reformation!)
7) Constantine collated the Christian Bible at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.
6) There was a close vote on the deity of Christ at the Council of Nicaea. There was a vote regarding Arianism. The vote was 218 to 3 . . . if it were not for the hanging chads Constantine may not have won the day!!
5) Q was a "gospel" possibly written by Jesus' own hand (DaVinci Code, p. 343)!!.
4) The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1950s and is a collection of the earliest Christian writings. These hooters just keep getting better don't they!
3) Jesus is portrayed with more "human traits" in the Gospels banished by Constantine. This one is patently absurd! Jesus looses all identification as a real human being in the Gnostic texts of Thomas, Philip, Peter and the recently discovered Gospel of Judas. In these texts Jesus becomes a super deity with little connection to the flesh and blood.
In fact the canonical Gospels stress the humanity of Jesus as much as the deity of Christ. As John says "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." This is the deity for sure. Then it says "the Word became flesh." That is the "humanity" of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus gets hungry, tired, overwhelmed with stress . . . and the most "human" trait of all he dies! And in Gnostic theology this most of all human traits is simply denied.
2) Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. In fact Grail scholar Professor Lee Teabag . . . I mean Leigh Teabing . . . in a show of unbelievable ignorance overwhelms Sophie Neveu with a citation of the Gospel of Philip
"There were three who always walked with the lord: Mary his mother and her sister and the Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary."
The brilliant Teabag, I mean Teabing, says "As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion in those days, literally meant spouse" (DaVinci Code, p. 246). There is no Aramaic word for "companion" in the Gospel of Philip for an Aramaic scholar to define. Philip is written in Coptic, not Aramaic. Second the word "companion" in the Gospel of Philip is a Greek loanword (not Aramaic) koinonos which does not mean wife or spouse but "companion," "friend," or "associate."
In all of the ancient literature, Orthodox or Gnostic, there is not a single place, in ANY "Gospel" that even alludes to a marriage or "romantic" relationship between Jesus and Mary. The writings of Paul, the "Gospel" of Peter, "Gospel" of Thomas, "Gospel" of Philip (cited by Teabing), "Gospel" of the Egyptians . . . not even the "Gospel" of Mary Magdalene suggests the existence of this secret love of Jesus (Bart Erhman has a very good discussion on this in his Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code, pp. 141-162. Erhman is a "happy agnostic" on the subject of religion so I find his writing especially interesting though I disagree with him on many details as well).
1) Jesus was not thought of as "divine" until the infamous Council of Nicaea. As Teabag, I mean Teabing says
"My dear,' Teabing declared, 'until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nontheless. A mortal.
Not the Son of God?
Right,' Teabing said, 'Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea." (DaVinci Code, p.233)
Brown finds himself in some serious self-contradictory speaking through Teabag. How do we explain the mere existence of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that "won" at Nicaea if no one thought of Jesus as divine before 325? In those Gospels, all of which date to the First Century, Christians already were calling Jesus God. What of the writings of Paul? He clearly thought of Jesus as divine. And as we have seen the Gnostic Gospels themselves (the ones supposedly suppressed by Constantine) affirm the deity of Christ (their issue is that the humanness of Jesus is cast aside . . . despite the claim of Teabag, I mean Teabing).
But what of Ignatius who died about 110 A.D.? In his letter to the Ephesians, in the very first paragraph, he writes "by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God . . ." In chapter 18 he writes, speaking of the death of Jesus, "For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb of Mary according to a dispensation, of the seed of David but also of the Holy Spirit . . ." In his letter to the Romans he writes "by faith and love towards Jesus Christ our God . . ." Later in chapter 3 he writes, "For our God Jesus Christ, being in the Father, is the more plainly visible." Ignatius is loaded with this stuff. What of Pliny who writes to Trajan for advice on how to deal with Christians along the Black Sea. He talks of Christians who sing to Christ "as if to a god."
This, in my view, is truly Dan Brown's biggest hooter of all!
Yet Dan Brown, perhaps, has placed all of us in his debt because people are actually seeking out information about the history of Christianity. The Bible did not come via fax from God. Brown's history (whether of art, architecture, or Christian) is full of hooters. But if Christians grow then it is all worth it. Ours is a historical faith and perhaps Brown has, unwittingly, helped many to see that great truth.