The Da Vinci Code phenomenon continues to gain steam with the release of the movie May 19, new books on secret Christian con-spiracies and the recent release of the Gospel of Judas. Dan Brown's work of fiction, which has now sold 40 million copies (the new paperback has already sold 6 million), continues to fascinate some readers and frustrate others.
And the movie, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, promises to expose millions more people to what Brown claims is the darkest conspiracy in the history of the church. Ron Howard, in an interview with Newsweek, boldly proclaims the movie is faithful to the book: "It would be ludicrous to take on this subject and then try to take the edges off. We're doing this movie because we like the book."
The "edges" Howard describes are what the Da Vinci controversy is all about: a deep, dark conspiracy about hiding the true nature of Jesus. According to The Da Vinci Code, Jesus was really just a human being, married to Mary Magdalene, and he has a royal bloodline that continues to this day. The Church, in order to hide the true nature of Jesus, destroyed the earlier, Gnostic Gospels that had the evidence of Jesus' humanity, and declared them heretical in a play for political power. Voting to make Jesus divine at the Council of Nicea, all other points of view were brutally suppressed. Secret societies such as Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion had members like Leonardo Da Vinci and are involved in CIA-type cover-up operations over Jesus' true identity.
The story also has the familiar allegations that the New Testament is based on pagan mythology, that there was goddess worship (the "sacred feminine") early on in the history of the church, and that all this was suppressed in a play for patriarchal power.
Critics charge that Brown's claim, in the beginning of the book, that "all descriptions of art, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate" is really misleading: that in fact, very little of the story is factual. One Da Vinci scholar, interviewed in Science and Theology News, said that Brown's book is to "da Vinci scholarship as going to McDonald's is to gourmet cooking...It's not something to be taken seriously."
Nevertheless, the Da Vinci Code raises a number of questions:
LeaderU has new interviews with the experts, extensive articles on the Da Vinci Code, as well as a number of classic articles on the nature of the New Testament, Jesus, and the radical scholarship attempting to redefine the historical Jesus.
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Interview with Darrell Bock, author of Breaking the Da Vinci Code
Seminary professor Dr. Darrell L. Bock answers questions about The Da Vinci Code such as: Did Constantine make Jesus a divine figure? Should the Gnostic Gospels be included in the New Testament? Is the New Testament based on pagan mythology?
Josh McDowell Answers Questions about the New Testament
Apologist and author Josh McDowell, author of The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers, talks about the New Testament documents, how the New Testament Canon was decided, and the reliability of the Christian faith.
Q&A on the Gospel of Judas with Dr. Clinton Arnold
Professor and author Dr. Clinton E. Arnold answers questions about the newly released Gospel of Judas, including questions such as: Does it contain actual historical information about Jesus or Judas? When is it dated and what does it contain? Will it redefine Christianity? Arnold concludes it is not historical, nor will it significantly affect Christian belief.
Crash Goes The Da Vinci Code
Dr. Ron Rhodes
Master apologist and recognized author Dr. Ron Rhodes painstakingly deconstructs the major errors of The Da Vinci Code novel in a question and answer format. The inclusion of direct quotations and page numbers from the hardback edition provide a real aid for those seeking proof and answers. Very comprehensive.
Mary, Mary, Extraordinary
Ben Witherington III
The Da Vinci Code has resurrected an old debate about whether Mary Magdalene was an intimate disciple of Christ's, even his wife. Biblical scholar and seminary professor Witherington writes, "She was an important disciple and witness for Jesus, but there is no historical evidence for a more intimate relationship."
Was Jesus Married?
Darrell L. Bock, Ph.D.
Seminary professor and writer Darrell L. Bock, Ph.D writes that "all the available evidence points to the answer 'no'."
Dismantling The Da Vinci Code
Miesel, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax, dismantles the shoddy history and willfully irresponsible writing of Dan Brown. She delves into the sources Brown cited, scrutinizing his pick-and-choose methodology. She critiques his tortured Christology, built upon Gnostic texts and the wild claim of a Constantinian edict that first divinized Christ. She briefly deals with Brown's erroneous treatment of Mary Magdalene and misuse of Gnostic extra-canonical gospels, as well as his misrepresentation of The Knights Templar and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Deciphering the Da Vinci Code: A Symposium (audio, slide shows)
Dr. Darrell Bock, various others
Dr. Darrell Bock and a supporting cast of speakers from a three-night symposium on all aspects of The Da Vinci Code: Mary Magdalene's relationship to Jesus, the biblical canon, sex, goddess worship, The Jesus Seminar, oppression, "The Church, the Academy and the Culture," spiritual trends in America and more. A full array of lectures and Q&A sessions via streaming audio and PowerPoint slide shows (opens on a separate site).
Core to understanding and believing the Bible is assessing its reliability. But how does one know that it or any other work of antiquity is trustworthy? And how did we get our Bible (canon)? Why and how were certain texts chosen and others rejected? Also, how does the Catholic Church, accused of hiding the true Gospel accounts, interpret the Bible?
The Christian Canon
This essay gives the reader an introduction to how the Bible came to include the books currently recognized as canonical.
Truth Journal: The Gospels as Historical Sources for Jesus, The Founder of Christianity
R. T. France
Various writings outside of the New Testament are considered for their historical merit regarding the life of Christ. After sorting through them, we are left with the Gospel accounts. How accurate are they? Should they be trusted?
The New Testament: Can I Trust It?
Rusty and Linda Wright
"How can any well-educated person believe the New Testament? It was written so long after the events it records that we can't possibly trust it as historically reliable." This is a common question and deserves an honest answer. The Wrights provide three tests: internal, external and bibliographic. A very accessible article for the nontechnical.
Are the Biblical Documents Reliable?
We can trust that the Bible we hold in our hands today is the same as when the various documents were written. This essay provides evidence for the trustworthiness of the biblical documents. Includes a particularly helpful chart on extant New Testament manuscripts as compared with other works of antiquity.
Are the Gospels Mythical?
Are the Gospels mythical? More specifically, is the story of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus more than a story? Since ancient times, it has been compared to Greek myths in order to undermine the uniqueness, and thus the validity, of Christianity. The Da Vinci Code's storyline rests upon this kind of mythological foundation, inverting the accepted gospel accounts as fabrication and replacing Goddess mythology as the repressed truth. If the accepted gospel message is not mythological in origin, the novel's basis is less believable.
Catholicism and the Bible: An Interview with Albert Vanhoye
Interviewer: Peter Williamson
Father Albert Vanhoye recently began his second five-year term as Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. In this interview with Catholic writer and lay theologian Peter Williamson, given in Rome on January 14, 1997, Vanhoye reflects upon key issues in Catholic interpretation of Scripture.
The Da Vinci Code retreads for popular consumption several historically contentious theological issues, including the divinity of Christ and when it was first acknowledged. Brown's novel sets forth the claim of Christ's divinity as a power grab by the Christian Emperor Constantine in a vote at the Nicene Council. The so-called search for the historical Jesus has its roots in liberal 19th-century theology and was made popularly known in the mid-1990s by the Jesus Seminar, whose scholarly members' "findings" were detailed in the book The Five Gospels.
Recommended Books (courtesy Apologia Report):
The Jesus Seminar
Jimmy Williams, Founder, Probe Ministries
An analysis of the Jesus Seminar findings in light of five critical areas: purpose of the Jesus Seminar fellows, philosophical presuppositions, Canonical Gospels, chronology and Christological differences.
Chapter 6: Christ: The Man Who is God
Dr. Alan K. Scholes
From his book (online in its entirety here) What Christianity is All About. Scholes' breadth and clarity make this a valuable resource, especially the section on the "historical Jesus" and the Jesus Seminar. This provides background for assessing the presumptions of The Da Vinci Code regarding the early Church's claim to Christ's divinity.
Historical Creeds of the Christian Faith
Actual texts of the Apostles' Creed ((c. 700, earlier forms from c. 200 A.D.) and Nicene Creed ((325, 381 A.D.).
Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar
Dr. William Lane Craig
In this first part of a two-part article, the presuppositions and pretensions of the Jesus Seminar are exposited and assessed. It is found that the principal presuppositions of (i) scientific naturalism, (ii) the primacy of the apocryphal gospels, and (iii) the necessity of a politically correct Jesus are unjustified and issue in a distorted portrait of the historical Jesus. Although the Jesus Seminar makes a pretention of speaking for scholarship on the quest of the historical Jesus, it is shown that in fact it is a small body of critics in pursuit of a cultural agenda.
The Evidence For Jesus
Dr. William Lane Craig
Five reasons are presented for thinking that critics who accept the historical credibility of the gospel accounts of Jesus do not bear a special burden of proof relative to more skeptical critics. Then the historicity of a few specific aspects of Jesus' life are addressed, including his radical self-concept as the divine Son of God, his role as a miracle-worker, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead. The former is most pertinent to a discussion of The Da Vinci Code.
The Historical Christ
Rick Wade examines the PBS special "From Jesus to Christ" by focusing on the theological presuppositions of those who deny the supernatural and instead search for the "historical Jesus." He examines the development of these views from Davis Strauss, to Rudolf Bultmann, to the Jesus Seminar and the work of Dominic Crosson. Drawing from the work of Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminar, the author ably presents arguments for the early dating of the Synoptic Gospels and the historical accuracy and authenticity of their authors. Finally, he demonstrates that the differences in the synoptic accounts can be reconciled without resorting to questioning their historicity. The conclusion is that the Christ of faith is indeed the Jesus of history.
The Corrected Jesus
First Things Review by Richard B. Hays
Hays dissects the volume written by the much-discussed (and maligned) Jesus Seminar, "The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus." The "fifth Gospel" refers to the Gospel of Thomas, "a text known to us through a fourth-century Coptic text discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt" in 1945 and the "Quelle" or "Q Source."
Wesley Center Online (Wesley Center for Applied Theology, Northwest Nazarene University)
"Documents to Aid Students and Scholars in Biblical Interpretation." Links to both Old Testament and New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha and other non-canonical early Christian literature.
First Things Books in Review: The Jesus Quest & The Real Jesus
Reviewed by Richard B. Hays
In this review essay, Richard B. Hays considers two books on the historicity of Jesus: "The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth" by Ben Witherington III and "The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels."
The Da Vinci Code's plot portrays Mary Magdalene as the chief apostle (as well as the wife of Christ), a mainstay of feminist theologians. We offer one view of Christ's perspective on women from a book with a contrary perspective on women's roles in general (complementarian view, as opposed to feminist). We are open to suggestions for resources from the egalitarian viewpoint as well, as long as it is Christian in nature.
Women in the Life and Teachings of Jesus
James A. Borland
Borland offers a brief study of the place of women in Christ's life and ministry, a chapter from the complementarian book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
The official Da Vinci Code Web site and a related site put up by publisher Random House (Doubleday) both feature mysterious music and a secret-code game format. (Even the book's cover art supposedly is full of clues to the encoded messages central to the plot.) Since secret codes seem to be such a draw, we thought another kind of code-based issue related to the Bible that made a big splash in the 90's would be of interest.
The Bible Code
How can thinking Christians respond to purported information embedded in the Bible's original language? There is more to "The Bible Code" than meets the eye.
First Things Books in Review: Cracking the Bible Code
Reviewed by William A. Dembski
Intelligent Design spokesman known for his own work in probabilities reviews "Cracking the Bible Code" by Jeffrey Satinover. An accessible, intelligent review that helps put the issue in perspective while analyzing the book.