Glad you asked. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, is much more than simply an engaging novel. If it were just that, people would pick it up for a good read, be entertained for a spell, and move on. But it’s much more than just a piece of fiction. In fact, in weaving his skillful tale Dan Brown, repeatedly blurs the line between fact and fiction. One ends up wondering whether we have been misled all over lives, and if the Christianity we have been taught is just an elaborate fabrication.
The Da Vinci Code claims to be true. Is it? Let’s examine the assertions that Dan Brown puts forth in his novel, The Da Vinci Code, and see just how they square with real history, and hard evidence. Let’s examine the evidence as see for ourselves if this is a truthful work (as it purports to be), or a clever set of deceptions packaged to defame the church while making someone a lot of money.
So What are the Issues with The Da Vinci Code?
The problems with the Da Vinci Code are many2. And because most people today are not educated about the Bible or church history, and do not get their information from reading up and checking out the facts, MANY are being deceived. Here’s a sampling of what’s wrong with the Da Vinci Code:
1. It claims to be based on “fact” and historically accurate, but it clearly not the truth. This deception starts with an introductory page to the novel which is titled “FACT”, stating that “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate”. The evidence indicates otherwise – it is far from accurate.
2. In place of truthful reporting, it repeatedly misrepresents people, places and events. It’s OK if a fictional tale takes liberties with places and events IF the novel makes this clear up front. But the Da Vinci Code claims to accurately represent people, places and events, and then plainly doesn’t. It confuses the Vatican with the Catholic Church, claiming at one point that the Vatican was expanding its power base during the time of Constantine (when the Vatican didn’t even exist at that time!). Other people and institutions misrepresented (beside of course our Lord!) include Mary Magdalene, Constantine, Opus Dei, the Catholic Church, the Vatican, etc.
3. It misrepresents and distorts the truth about Jesus, the Church, Christianity and the Bible. There are numerous inaccuracies about all of these subjects, held very dear to millions of Christians. See below for just a few of “the Da Vinci Code deceptions”. Bottom line, the Da Vinci Code is nothing less that a cleverly packaged attack on the very foundations of the Christian faith.
4. In distorting the truth, it seeks to promote a radical feminist agenda. The book makes the claim that the church has purposely suppressed the role of women, erased a Jesus who was the “original feminist”, and discredited a Mary Magdalene who was supposedly the leading apostle. If we check the facts, the evidence leads elsewhere. Yes, Jesus did break with tradition and treat women with dignity and respect. But to say He was a feminist is distorting the truth and seeking to promote an agenda that is not supported by the facts.
5. It promotes a set of beliefs which plagued the early church called “gnosticism”. Besides being persecuted by Romans during the first three centuries, the early Christian church was plagued by various teachers seeking to draw away the faithful after their own distorted teachings. Many of these distortions had common themes, one of them being “gnosis” – the notion that only an elite few who understand “secret knowledge” will inherit salvation. That salvation is not based in faith in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, but in one’s own efforts to gain secret knowledge that will lead to “enlightenment”.
Gnosticism promotes ideas which are popular with many today seeking an easy, compromising “religion” — the notion that we are essentially “good” at the core, that there is no such thing as sin, that there are many ways to the truth, that there is no need for redemption or a Redeemer, and that we can of our own efforts attain oneness with God. Fact is, the Bible teaches that “The hear is deceitful and desperately wicked — who can know it?”, and that “All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus said that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life — no one comes to the Father except by Me.” Gnosticism is far far removed from the teachings of Jesus and the central truths of Christianity.
Truth and The Da Vinci Code: Exposing the Deceptions
Deception: That until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., Jesus was viewed by His followers as nothing more than a mortal man.
P. 233: The character Teabing is pontificating on the origins of Christianity, and referring to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., says:“until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless… Constantine turned Jesus into a deity”.
- In the gospels, Jesus referred to Himself as deity numerous times. And based on
the evidence, His followers also clearly believed Him to be Lord and one with the Father. Let’s consider the evidence. He referred to Himself numerous times as “the Son of Man” and “Son of God”, conveying the notion that He was both fully Man and fully God. He declared to His followers that He was of the same essence as God on many occasions, and that He had come into this world for a special purpose: to bring mankind back into fellowship with his Creator. That is why the religious leaders of the time wanted time and again to stone Him. That is why they eventually put Him to death. It is also clear from the four gospels, and the early church writings of the New Testament, that the disciples believed Him to be deity:
- Matthew 20:28: “..the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Is 53:12)
- Matthew 26:63-65: “..the high priest answered and said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes…”
- Luke 8:24-25: In this passage Jesus is recorded as having calmed the stormy sea, saving His followers from destruction. Their remarks clearly indicate that His followers believed Him to be much more than a mere man: “.. And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”.
- John 1:1-2; 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
- John 17-18: “Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
- John 8:23-24: And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do no believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (here Jesus identifies Himself as the great “I am” – the name God had had given Moses when asked to identify Himself.
- John 8:58-59: “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” They then took us stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the Temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” Again Jesus identifies Himself with the God of the Old Testament (see Exodus 3:14).
- John 10:30-32: “I and My Father are one”. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.
- Acts 2:23-24: In this passage Peter is declaring that not only was Jesus more than a mere mortal — He was raised from the dead: “Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
- Col 2:9: Here Paul, an Apostle of the Lord, warns us of deceivers that will come, and exclaims the deity of Christ: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.
In sum, Jesus declared His divinity numerous times. His followers accepted and believed these claims, and many were eye-witnesses to His miracles and resurrections. According to the gospel accounts, the religious leaders attempted to have Him killed on several occasions because “He, being a man, made himself equal with God.” Millions were persecuted and died for their faith. They even develop a creed – called “The Apostles Creed” – to codify their beliefs, to help guard against deceptions plaguing the early church. There is no question – Christians well before the Council of Nicea overwhelming worshipped Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, of one substance with the Father.
P 245: “As I said earlier, the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record.” The character goes on to state that since Jesus was a Jew, and the social norm was for Jews to be married, He must have been married! In Teabing words, “celibacy was condemned”. Now let’s look at the facts.
- No where in the Bible does it indicate that Jesus was married. If He had been, there were plenty of opportunities for the writers to have conveyed this. When He is ministering, there is no mention of a wife. When He is tried and crucified, there is no mention of a wife. After He is risen, no mention of a wife. Instead, the only references that appear are to His followers, and “His mother and brothers”.
- Even though He was Jewish, and sometimes referred to as Rabbi (because He was their teacher), Jesus did not technically hold the office of a Rabbi. So there was no religious or social imperative for Him to take a wife.
- It is also not true that celibacy was universally “condemned” at the time. In fact, at the time there was a very dedicated sect called the Essenes who remained celibate as evidence for their consecration to God (see Josephus Antiquities 188.8.131.52; Jewish War 184.108.40.206-122).. Many of the Jews at the time respected this group, and their practice of not taking a wife.
- Mary Magdalene (who is more accurately called Miriam of Magdala) was, according to the scriptures and all available evidence, a member of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and the apostles. Although it is clear from Scripture and all the available evidence that Jesus loved Mary of Magdala dearly, there is no evidence for a more intimate relationship. See our article on Mary Magdalene for more.
Some of the “Gnostic” gospels, dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries (with uncertain authorship and origin, by the way), claim that Mary Magdalene was “the companion of Jesus”. But that’s as far as even these extra Biblical documents go. Bottom line – Jesus was single. There is no basis in fact for the claim made in “The Da Vinci Code”. Jesus was totally dedicated to His Father, and had consecrated His life totally to His Father’s will.
Deception: That there were “more than 80 gospels” considered for the New Testament, but only four were chosen – “collated” by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine.
- There were never “more than 80 gospels”, If one considers the Nag Hamadi documents, discovered in Egypt in 1945 and published in 1977, these mostly Gnostic texts consisted of 45 separate titles. Only a few of these re named as “gospels” – Truth, Thomas, Philip, Egyptians, and Mary. Most of the texts in the Hamadi collection are simply stories or texts that relate Gnostic teachings.
- An important point to realize is the criteria used by the early church to establish whether a document was “Scripture” or not. Of these criteria, authorship was among the most important. Church leaders considered documents authoritative if they were written by an apostle, or a close disciple of an apostle. This way they were assured of reliability. Another criteria used was whether or not the document “built up the church” – a worthy sign that the document was inspired Scripture. When one looks at the New Testament, one finds gospels and letters written by those who as John says were “eyewitnesses of His glory” – apostles, or close disciples of the apostles. On the other hand, if one considers the so-called “gospels” of the Nag Hamadi Library – the “gospels” of Truth, Thomas, Philip, Egyptians and Mary, these are all 1) of uncertain authorship, 2) date to several generations after the New Testament writings, 3) similar in that they espouse Gnostic (“secret knowledge”) teaching that is in direct contradiction to the core Christian teachings of the time – in other words, they did not “build up” the church.
- Dan Brown is right when he says that “the Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven”. But neither did the process of canonization wait or depend on the arrival of Constantine in 313 A.D. before nearly a complete canon took form. Canonization was actually an arduous process that occurred over the first two centuries, as the church sought to preserve the core teachings of Jesus and his apostles against all sorts of crazy ideas that were being bandied about.
- In fact, one of the forces that drove the formation of what was accepted as “scripture” vs. what was not was the appearance of “Gnostic” cults starting in the second century. For example, a Gnostic leader by the name of Marcion appeared on the scene around 140 A.D., spreading the notion that the God of the Old New Testament were different Gods (this dualistic idea of two Gods is at the core of Gnosticism). The God of the Old Testament was viewed as a God of wrath, while the God of the New Testament was scene as a God of love. As a result of this view, Marcion and those that followed him rejected the Old Testament and several of the overtly Jewish New Testament books. This caused the church in Rome to brand his views as “heretical” in 144 A.D., then to begin earnestly considering a list of the books that should be included in an official canon.
- Another cult that help drive the formation of the canon was one headed up by a man from Asia Minor named Montanus. During the mid to late second century, Montanus claimed to have received revelations from God about the apocalypse. By this time, the fours gospels and the writings of Paul had received widespread acceptance among the church as being authoritative – the problem was they hadn’t been bound into a single book yet. Montanus took the opportunity to claim authority for his revelations, hoping to gain acceptance along with the four gospels and Paul’s writings. The church met this challenge in 190 A.D. by defining what was called the “Muratorian Canon”, after its modern discover. This canon, dated to 190 A.D., is nearly identical to the New Testament we have today — the difference being that it included two books that were later excluded from the canon – 1) the Revelation of Peter, and 2) the Wisdom of Solomon. Bottom line – by the time of Nicea the canon was pretty much settled – the only debate was concerning a few books, chief of which were Hebrews and Revelation (due to questions of authorship).
For the Truth About The Da Vinci Code
See these References:
1. “Breaking the Da Vinci Code”, by Darrell L. Bock, Ph.D. A scholarly work by an expert in early Christianity and an educator.
2. “The Da Vinci Hoax”, by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel. An excellent treatment of the Da Vinci Code, its many errors and deceptions. Strongly recommended.
– Commentary on The Da Vinci Code, with links, book recommendations, Bible studies, and audio.
– Link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/special/davincicode.html
Catholic Church Special Report:
- A list of frequently asked questions and answers
– Link: http://www.catholic.com/library/cracking_da_vinci_code.asp
Bible Scholar Darrel Bock Debunks The Da Vinci Code:
– Link: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/145/story_14506_1.html
“Busting The Da Vinci Code” – Biblical Archeology Society
– Expose article by Ben Witherington III, noted biblical scholar. Ben Witherington III is professor of Biblical studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
– Link: http://www.bib-arch.org/DaVinci/bswbDaVinciMainPage.asp
“The Da Vinci Deception” – Dr. Chuck Missler
– Dr. Missler is a renowned expert in both Science and the Bible
– Read his exhaustive treatment of The Da Vinci Code
– Listen to audio from the book!
– Link: http://www.khouse.org/6640/BP110-1/