Dealing with The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code’s Other Bible
“We are presenting these texts as sacred books and sacred scriptures of the Gnostics.”
These words are found in the Introduction of The Gnostic Bible, a collection of documents which some believe give an alternate interpretation of the early days of Christianity. These writings lie at the heart of The Da Vinci Code and other kinds of esoteric literature which insist that originally Christianity was diverse, with no strict doctrines such as we find in the New Testament. In fact, according to this scenario, what we now call heresy was originally the teaching of the church. It is we, the traditionalists, who are the heretics!
Welcome to the battle for the canon!
The word canon originally referred to a measuring rod, and became applied to those books which “measured up” to the standard of divine inspiration and hence were regarded as authoritative by the early church. These books were collected over a period of time, and later generations have always contended that the canon is closed, not open for revision or the inclusion of new material.
Today, this is being challenged. Some want to include the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas in the canon, and others insist that The Gnostic Bible as a whole is a competing canon more in tune with the diversity of our do-it-yourself generation. These scholars insist that Christianity needs a makeover.
So, whose version of Christianity is most credible?
The Gnostics were teachers who combined Christianity with Greek philosophy. They believed that salvation was only possible through special knowledge (Gnosis means knowledge). Jesus was presented in their writings as a teacher who could bring enlightenment, but His death and resurrection were not necessary for salvation. In fact, because of the influence of Greek philosophy, which taught that matter was evil, the Gnostics almost universally denied both the Incarnation and the Resurrection.
So why should we reject their teachings and accept those of the New Testament?
In brief, for three reasons.
First, the Gnostic writings are dated after the events of the New Testament were long past. For example, my Gnostic Bible says that The Gospel of Philip (which refers to Jesus and Mary Magdalene) was written in Syria in A.D. 250. So I must ask: Whose description of George Washington would have more credibility — that of eye witnesses who knew him, or that of teachers who lived two hundred years after his time?
Second, the Gnostic writings have fraudulent authorship. No one — not even those who are most in favor of Gnostic Christianity — believes that the disciple Philip actually wrote The Gospel of Philip, or that Thomas actually wrote The Gospel of Thomas. The Gnostics were known to ascribe their writings to apostles to gain credibility. Paul in the New Testament refers to this popular practice and warns his readers about such deceivers (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
Finally, the clincher: The Gnostics have no historical ties to the Old Testament, but rather have their historical link to Plato. Many of the Gnostics believed in two different gods; they believed that the god who created the world failed when trying to make it perfect, but the second god has made things better. They taught many notions that are contradicted in the Old Testament, and thus made no claim that what they believed was consistent with previous Scriptures. Read the Gnostic Gospels and you will be not be struck with their similarity to the New Testament, but rather their radical differences. In the New Testament, Jesus is not just a great teacher but a Savior; indeed, the book of Hebrews shows in detail how He fulfills the whole sacrificial system of the book of Leviticus. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah and the prediction of, “Someone greater than Moses” as found in Deuteronomy are fulfilled in Jesus with breathtaking detail.
I was standing in line at a book store when the man ahead of me was purchasing a copy of The Gnostic Bible. The woman behind the counter said, “You will enjoy reading this… it will give you an entirely different picture of Christianity.” Of course I could not let that pass. I smiled and said, “Do you realize that the Gnostics were not eyewitnesses… and did you know that the early church was aware of these teachings and refuted them? The New Testament has much more historical credibility.”
To which she replied, “Well, we all have our interpretations, but I prefer The Gnostic Bible.”
And this explains why many who read The Da Vinci Code are prone to believe it: Forget historical investigation; forget the need for consistency; forget the need for continuity with the Old Testament. It comes down to the desire to have a tolerant faith that lets us pick and choose our beliefs, cafeteria style.
If we bring this battle for the canon back to rationality, consistency and historical investigation, we have nothing to fear. We can’t compete with people’s desires, but we can show that all the hard evidence is on our side.
Answering The Da Vinci Code
Millions of people are asking about the foundations of Christianity because of the book and movie The Da Vinci Code. It’s important for all of us to be able to give an answer, and show that The Da Vinci Code is on the fiction shelves for a very good reason! We asked Pastor Lutzer to help us clarify the difference between historical fact and the myths that are now widely believed.
Q: What is the significance of Leonardo da Vinci in the novel The Da Vinci Code?
A: According to the author, Dan Brown, Leonardo da Vinci belonged to an organization known as the Priory of Sion, that for centuries has guarded the secrets about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, namely that they were married and had children who became a part of the French Royal Line. Members of this organization could not go public with this information without being assassinated by Opus Dei, the powerful Catholic organization charged with keeping the lid on the “truth.” So men like Leonardo had to communicate what they knew with codes and symbols.
So here’s the deal: According to Dan Brown, when Leonardo painted his famous picture of the Last Supper, the person seated to the right of Jesus was not John the Apostle as generally thought, but rather Mary Magdalene. And there is no cup on the table because Mary herself was the “holy grail” that bore in her own body the blood of Jesus by bearing His child.
Q: Is this credible?
A: No, it is not! For one thing the Priory of Sion did not exist until the 20th century; documents that supposedly proved its existence were admitted to be a hoax. Second, no reputable art historians accept the notion that Mary Magdalene is next to Jesus in Leonardo’s famous painting.
Q: What evidence does Dan Brown use to show that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married?
A: There is a statement in the so-called Gnostic Gospel of Philip which says that the companion of Jesus was Mary Magdalene. Even if this is true, it says nothing about marriage. However, this Gnostic Gospel, just like the others, is known to be fraudulent for reasons I’ve already discussed in my opening article. Myths about Mary Magdalene going to France in a small boat with Jesus’ child date to about the 9th century. The bottom line: Dan Brown’s assertion that the marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene is a matter of historical fact, is pure rubbish!
Q: Could Jesus have been married?
A: I strongly believe the answer is no! Yes, marriage is honorable and undefiled, but Jesus had a holy, divine nature. It is unthinkable to me that Jesus could have been joined to a sinner in the most intimate union and become one body with her. Seems to me that the only person Jesus could have married is someone who was as holy as He Himself is — which limited His options!
Some day Jesus will be married to His church; we as the bride will be joined to Him, not in the intimacy of sexual union, but rather the blessed intimacy of fellowship and fulfillment.
Q: Dan Brown says Constantine made Jesus into a God for political purposes at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. Your thoughts?
A: Nonsense! Yes, Constantine did call that conference, because a heretic by the name of Arius was denying the deity of Jesus. But this teaching was immediately dismissed as heresy. What occupied the delegates was whether the nature of Jesus was the same as God the Father, or just similar to that of God the Father. As we know, they affirmed that the nature of Jesus was the same as that of God the Father. “God of very God, of the same substance as the Father…” They simply clarified a doctrine that had already been taught for nearly 300 years! And by the way, it was not a close vote as Dan Brown says! Only two of the 318 delegates refused to sign the document.
Q: So what do we do in light of this cultural phenomenon, namely the book and the movie called The Da Vinci Code?
A: Whether or not people see the movie is a matter of conscience, but we have to make a choice: We can run and hide or we can be trained to give credible answers to the questions people are asking about Jesus and the origins of Christianity.