Thursday, November 23, 2006

DA Vinci Code - Article in Forerunner magazine

The Da Vinci Code…

I am sure that the title has prompted you to read this article or at least tingled your curiosity as to what is this article all about.
Let me get started… This book that bears the title “Da Vinci Code” has sold more than 40 million copies since its release in 2003 and has been translated to more than 30 languages. I am sure you know someone who has read the book and some of you might have read it yourself or watched programs about this book on TV or might have been asked by a friend or colleague about it.

So what’s the fuss all about? What is so worth our time to examine this “32 weeks New York Times best seller”? Let me list just a few of the claims made by this book.
(1) Jesus is not God; he was only a man. (2)Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and she is to be worshiped as a goddess. (3) Jesus got her pregnant, and the two had a daughter. (4) That daughter gave rise to a prominent family line that is still present in Europe today. (5) The Bible was put together by a pagan Roman emperor. (6) Jesus was viewed as a man and not as God until the fourth century, when he was deified by the emperor Constantine. (7) The Gospels have been edited to support the claims of later Christians. (8) In the original Gospels, Mary Magdalene rather than Peter was directed to establish the Church. (9) There is a secret society known as the Priory of Sion that still worships Mary Magdalene as a goddess and is trying to keep the truth alive. (10) The Catholic Church is aware of all this and has been fighting for centuries to keep it suppressed. It often has committed murder to do so. (11)The Catholic Church is willing to and often has assassinated the descendents of Christ to keep his bloodline from growing.

In addition to all this, the author Dan Brown also goes on to say in his FACT page that all the above mentioned hoaxes are facts…Although a work of fiction, the book claims to be meticulously researched, and it goes to great lengths to convey the impression that it is based on facts. As a result, many Christian and non-Christian readers are taking the book's ideas way too seriously. To make matters worse this book is going to be made in to movie. By the time you get to read this article, the release of the movie would be only a few days away.

The question that we as Christians need to ask is “IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO ALL THIS?” If you ask this to any Christian, the answer would be a blatant “NO”. But what have you got to prove otherwise. The author claims that he has got proof to all these (misinterpreted or misquoted though). Do you have any proof? Do your church members know the truth; can they historically prove these allegations as false?

Let’s begin by asking a few questions.
Is this book a threat to our faith or the church?
Of course! The offensive claims of The Da Vinci Code aim to strike the core of the Christian faith itself. If the book's claims were true, then all forms of Christianity would be false. This book challenges some of the most important doctrines and beliefs of the church and in the words of Stuart McAllister, “If we are wrong about this, then we are wrong about everything”.

Why do people believe the views expressed by this book are true even though Dan Brown says that this is fictional book?
First and foremost is the fact that the author cleverly inter-twines major historical events and places with his concocted story to make it sound as a big historical FACT, for example historical events like the Council of Nicaea at 325 AD and historical places like Louvre museum, ancient Rome, etc,. He uses big names like Da Vinci, Emperor Constantine, Opus Dei, Knights Templar and many more very freely giving an impression that it definitely has to be true. Most important the author gets these claims expressed by FICTIONAL characters whose credentials are beyond question. For example, the main character Robert Langdon (FICTIONAL) is a “Professor of religious symbology, HARVARD UNIVERSITY” and I quote from the book – “
"Ladies and gentlemen..." the hostess had announced to a full house at the American University of Paris's Pavilion Dauphine, "Our guest tonight needs no introduction. He is the author of numerous books: The Symbology of Secret Sects, The An of the Illuminati, The Lost Language of Ideograms, and when I say he wrote the book on Religious Iconology, I mean that quite literally. Many of you use his textbooks in class." “- how do you argue with that kind of credentials? And another main character is Leigh Teabing (FICTIONAL) a descendant of Britain's First Duke of Lancaster, a very rich man and the authority on the Holy Grail, who has presented a historical documentary on the Holy Grail along with 3 major historians in BBC. I quote from the book –."Besides, the Grail has been Teabing's life, and hearing the story of the Holy Grail from Leigh Teabing will be like hearing the theory of relativity from Einstein himself." & "Believe me; Leigh Teabing knows more about the Priory of Sion and the Holy Grail than anyone on earth." ” – How in the world can you doubt something coming out of these people, but, we forget the fact or the author helps us to forget the fact these are but, FICTIONAL characters.

What evidence is there that the Bible formed independently of Constantine?Jesus and the apostles already recognized the authority of the Old Testament writings that existed in their time, as illustrated by the following verses: Luke 24:27, John 5:39, Acts 17:2-3, 2 Tim. 3:15, NIV. In the first century the apostles and their associates wrote the books of the New Testament, which were passed down to succeeding generations of Christians and read in the churches. In the second and third centuries, Gnostic heretics began to manufacture writings that falsely claimed to be from the apostles, but since they had not been passed down in the churches from the beginning, they were rejected (One major topic hotly discussed in the same line is “The Gospel of Judas”). In response to these new, false writings the churches drew up lists of the authentic books that had been handed down from the apostles. There have been various Church Fathers who have documented those lists, to name a few: Origen(186 - 254) - Same as our 27 books, but reports doubts on James and Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 & 3 John, Eusebius(260 - 339) - Same as our 27 books, but says that the above six and Revelation doubted by some, Athanasius(209 - 373) - Same as our 27 books, Cyril of Jerusalem (315 -386) - Same as our 27 books, except omits (possibly accidentally) Revelation, Council of Laodicea(364) -Same as our 27 books, except omits Revelation, Epiphanious (367 - 403) - Same as our 27 books, Gregory Nazianzen (329 - 389) - Same as our 27 books, except omits Revelation, Philastrius (380) - Same as our 27 books, except omits Hebrews and Revelation, but elsewhere acknowledges them, Augustine (354 - 430) - Same as our 27 books, Jerome (341 - 420) - Same as our 27 books (although doubting Pauline authorship of Hebrews) and Council of Carthage (400) - Same as our 27 books
As we can see from the list above that the “Canonization” (compilation) of the New Testament started well before Constantine and the council of Nicaea and went on for more than 75 years after. It is clear that he made no contribution to the formation of the Bible.

Dan Brown says that there were more than 80 gospels considered to be a part of the New Testament canon. Is this true?
Bart Ehrman a secular expert and the author of books like Lost Christianities and Lost scriptures in his book “Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code” says –“The reality is that we don’t even know how many other Gospels were written; we certainly do not have eighty available to us today, although there are at least a couple dozen that we know about. Most of these Gospels have become available only in relatively recent times, as they have been discovered accidentally, for example, in the Nag Hammadi library, uncovered in 1945”.

There are a lot more questions that we need to ask and address. Some important ones like “what can I do about this?”, “How do I go about talking to my church and my friends about this book and such false heresies?”

Consider this book and this movie an opportunity for dialog and not confrontation…

The Bible says, “These are the kinds of people who smooth-talk themselves into the homes...take up with every new religious fad that calls itself truth... They were rejects from the faith, twisted in their thinking, defying truth itself.” (II Tim 3:7-8 MSG) & “I can’t believe your fickleness- how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message. It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: if one of us - even if an angel from heaven! - were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I say it again if anyone regardless of reputation or credentials preaches something other than what you received originally; let him be cursed.” (Gal 1:6-9 MSG)

For further information, list of reference books or if you want a detailed presentation to be given to your team or your church, about this topic or how to respond, please feel free to write to me.
Lawrence A. Doss B.D, (M.Div)

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