Sharper than any Two-Edged Sword
Beyond The Da Vinci Code
Don’t think for a moment that The Da Vinci Code is just a fad whose effects have disappeared from our cultural radar. Just as the Tsunami moved off the headlines but the people continue to live with the damage, so the teachings of The Da Vinci Code continue to impact our society. In fact, I predict that the real battle for the heart and soul of Christianity is not behind us, but still lies in our future.
There is a bitter war heating up against the Bible and we had better be prepared to answer those who are bent on destroying our faith. If you were to take a course in early Christianity in our colleges and universities, you might hear a professor say something like this, “Historic Christianity has it all wrong… the real authentic faith belongs to the Gnostics who were the original and true Christians!”
Go into almost any bookstore and you can buy your own Gnostic Bible which will introduce you to a Jesus who makes esoteric comments but who did not die on the cross or rise from the dead. You will be introduced to a manageable Jesus who will never interfere with sin in your life or expect you to follow Him with your whole heart. And this Jesus, some scholars say, is the real Jesus of history.
The Da Vinci Code introduced millions of people to these so-called Gnostic Gospels, and scholars are taking the debate a step further by giving these fraudulent documents some level of historical credibility. Recently, I read an article in Newsweek that said that the discovery of these Gnostic Gospels has turned the history of early Christianity “on its head.” In other words, they are saying that the very historical foundations of Christianity are being undermined by these writings despite their obvious deficiencies.
Others have hopped onto The Da Vinci Code bandwagon and are touting “The Lost Gospels” or “The Secret Life of Jesus” or “The Banned Gospels.” There are books such as The Jesus Papers and The Jesus Dynasty, each trying to say that traditional Christianity is wrong and we have to reformulate the way we think about the origins of Christianity. The message is loud and clear: we must discard ancient notions about the divinity of Jesus and His supposed miracles and realize that there are many different ways to be Christian. As Tom Hanks said in the movie The Da Vinci Code, “Everyone sees in history what they want to see.”
What is the motivation that lies behind this movie and related books? Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale, says The Gnostic Bible, and specifically The Gospel of Thomas, “spares us the crucifixion, makes the resurrection unnecessary and does not present us with a God named Jesus. If you turn to The Gospel of Thomas, you encounter a Jesus who is unsponsored and free.”
So there you have it: the Gnostics do not give us a divine Jesus, nor do they give us a Savior. He is a Jesus who is really no different from us except that He has words of enlightenment that can help us enter another realm. Ignorance and not sin is our problem.
The Da Vinci Code has given impetus to a movement that was already gaining momentum. The headlines might be gone but the real battle is just beginning.
Uncovering the Gnostic Gospels
With the release of The Da Vinci Code, both the book and the movie, the Gnostic Gospels have been on many people’s minds. In fact, they’ve even infiltrated some of our colleges and universities, and are being taught as truth. Are they true? We sat down with Pastor Lutzer to find out more about these documents many claim provide life-changing insights into Christianity and the life of Jesus.
Q: Where did the Gnostic Gospels come from?
A: They were written by teachers who tried to combine Greek philosophy with Christianity and so used the Bible in bizarre ways to try to promote their views.
Q: What happened to these documents and how old are they?
A: At some point in the early centuries these documents disappeared, probably because as Gnosticism faded off the scene there was not enough interest among the masses to recopy them. A group of these documents was buried in Egypt and found in 1945. They date back to about the third and fourth centuries and are written in Coptic, that is to say, Egyptian.
Q: Were these documents being studied before The Da Vinci Code made them famous?
A: Most assuredly. They have been analyzed and debated for many years. But now they are being talked about in the media and popular articles about them are everywhere. All kinds of wild claims are being made about them in an anxious desire to see them replace the traditional Gospels.
Q: Can you comment on the so-called Gospel of Judas?
A: Here is an example of silly hype that should make the National Geographic blush.
First, the Judas document was known by the early apologist Irenaeus who wrote against the foolish ideas of the Gnostics in AD 180—so its discovery 30 years ago really does not shed much more additional light on it.
Second, all scholars agree that it was written about a hundred years after the time of Jesus, so obviously it is a fictitious account of the Judas story.
Third, it was written by Gnostics who rebelled against the Old Testament God and adopted any person who stood against God as their hero: some considered themselves followers of the serpent who brought enlightenment to the woman, others called themselves Cainites because they extolled Cain, the first murderer, and others even admired the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Now let me ask: is it any wonder that such people would take Judas, the villain of the New Testament, and turn him into a hero?
Q: What about the book, The Jesus Papers?
A: It is a bizarre fictional account about Jesus surviving the crucifixion and spending the rest of his life in Egypt! Although the author has no basis for his views beyond a fertile imagination, the book is being passed off as plausible history. A shining example of the extent to which people are willing to fabricate history in a vain attempt to debunk the New Testament accounts.
Q: Can you summarize what you mean when you say that all the good evidence is on our side?
A: To make a very long story short: We have a rope (not a thread but a rope) that extends from the Council of Nicaea all the way back to Jesus and you can pull on that rope and it will not break because it is corroborated with so many strands. In contrast, the Gnostic Gospels have nothing that compares to this.