Response to The Da Vinci Code
By Roger Cotton
The Da Vinci Code claims to be only a novel and as such I found it to be very engaging. It fabricates a very recent search for the Holy Grail, which it proposes is really secret documents showing that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and produced a royal bloodline. The use of a narrator, who comments philosophically and theologically on life, religion, and the church — using exaggerated language — causes those assertions within the novel to sound like truths we should consider — hidden truths we need to recover to free ourselves from the lies of the church. That interests people and sells books.
However, a leading New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington III, in his book The Gospel Code, (InterVarsity, 2004), responding to The Da Vinci Code, said: “It can be quite entertaining but also misleading. We need to treat this book as what it really is—not historical fiction but almost entirely fiction, at least when it comes to its assumptions and assertions about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and early Christianity” (p. 27).
I would like to clarify both the major mistakes in relation to church history and the Bible, and as well, the key points of our Christian faith from the Scriptures which are opposed by the ideas of this book. I am indebted to Witherington’s excellent research into the facts.
The first major fiction asserted in the book is that there are many other documents equal to or better than our four Gospels, which the church has suppressed, and which would exalt the “sacred feminine” and teach that Jesus was only human and not divine. The truth is that all other such documents (around 20, not 80) are clearly written after the writing of the New Testament. They are by groups outside the mainstream of the Early Church. The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish and say nothing about Jesus. The Gnostic Gospels that Brown often refers to actually teach that the material world is evil, including sex, and that men should be in authority over women. These ideas are contrary to what Brown’s book teaches and yet he claims these documents support his ideas that are in opposition to the Bible. Brown says these documents clearly state that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, but Witherington shows that he misquotes these documents. Furthermore, they were never on any one’s list of inspired, authoritative, Scriptures.
A second major area of fiction is that Constantine and the church council of Nicea brought in the new, unbiblical, teaching that Christ is divine and voted out the truth of His humanity and marriage to Mary Magdalene and eliminated the books that taught those things. The truth is the council did not propose the beliefs stated in the creeds or the list of canonical Scriptures but formalized what the majority had believed all along. The New Testament clearly always taught that Jesus is God, John 1:1-3,18; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 1:2,3; 1 John 5:20.
The third fiction is that the Church was threatened by the idea of Jesus having a wife and children because then He could not be divine and the Church would lose its powerful claim to be the only way to God. On the contrary, the Bible clearly claims that Jesus is the only way to God and the Church does not control the way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). On the other point, the Bible teaches that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is fully God and fully human so that He could have married and had children but He chose not to, in the plan of God.
Regarding the idea of the “sacred feminine” and the sacredness of sex the Bible and Christianity do not put down sex but affirm that it is very special and belongs only in marriage. However, it is not a route to spiritual fulfillment and experience of God as claimed in the book (p. 310). The whole Bible is against bringing sex into worship as the heathen have done since ancient times. The Bible clearly opposes all goddess worship. The One True God is neither male nor female but Jesus uses the term Father and teaches us to do the same. One major reason for not referring to God as mother is that, as Elizabeth Achtemeier has shown, in “Why God is not Mother” Christianity Today, August 16, 1993, it leads to the idea of God giving birth to us and thus lowering God to be one with us and with nature and raising us up to be gods.
The Da Vinci Code expresses many of the current popular ideas of our world and helps us see where the issues are for our faith. The attitudes encouraged by this book which are the most serious opposition to the truth God has revealed in the Scriptures are the following: to depersonalize God, to bring God down to our level and us up to deity—taking away from His holiness, to deny the need for a savior outside of ourselves and the need of repentance that sees ourselves as dead without Christ, to treat Jesus as only a great man, to deny that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, to make sex a part of worship, to take away most objective moral law, to deny that there is any absolute truth, to make our experiences the only spiritual/religious authority for our lives, and to disregard history as of any value.
The main Bible truths I think we must be clear on and affirm continually are the following: 1) God is personal, acting for our good in the world, which He created and from which He is totally distinct, and communicating openly with us in real human language, written down in the Bible, and not in hidden codes. 2) God made us, loves us, and wants to restore the personal, intimate, everlasting relationship we broke with Him through our selfish choices. He has provided the only way to Him through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, the Christ, who is fully God and fully human. He gives our lives meaning and purpose. 3) He made us to enjoy the greatest fulfillment through a life in harmony with His will, character, and values, through the Holy Spirit. This includes keeping sexual intimacy and intercourse within a life-long, exclusive, marital (male-female), relationship.
In conclusion, the best antidote is reading and meditating on the truth in the Scriptures and keeping our relationship with the Lord fresh and experiential. Here are some of the clear statements of the Scriptures that give some of the basic beliefs of the Christian faith. Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 1:1-5, 10-12, 14, 18; 3:16-18; 14:6, Acts 4:12; 10:34-43; 17:30-31; Romans 1:16-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 17-19; 2 Timothy 3:15-16; Hebrews 1:1-3; 1 John 1:2,3, 5-2:2; 4:1-16; 5:1-5, 11-12, 18-21; Revelation 22:12-17.