Monday, March 20, 2006

about The Da Vinci Code

Nearly thirty million copies have been sold of Dan Brown's fictional work, The Da Vinci Code. This best-selling book is being made into a movie and that movie is scheduled debut two months from now on May 19. This book/movie has much to say about Jesus and his family, but you might be wondering "why should I care?" Christopher Heard, a professor at Pepperdine University answers that question well:
"The Da Vinci Code has become the source for what I call 'pseudo-knowledge' about the Christian faith. Pseudo-knowledge is that stuff 'everybody knows,' such as the 'fact' that Humphrey Bogart said 'Play it again, Sam' -- except he didn't. Pseudo-knowledge doesn't matter much when the issue is the script of 'Casablanca.' It matters greatly when it adversely affects the most sacred beliefs of a billion people, and when it levels the charge that the Catholic Church is essentially a vast 'Murder Incorporated' network founded on maintaining the lie of Jesus' divinity and resurrection."
George Barna's take on how Christians should respond to The Da Vinci Code book and movie online. Barna, the leading Christian demographic pollster of our time, has some very interesting statistics in this article. Following is a single paragraph excerpt:
"In 2005, adults watched an average of 45 movies. The mean was identical for born again Christians and nominal Christians. And that figure doesn’t even include the movie clips that they were shown while the faithful were in church! Currently, two-thirds of all Protestant churches have big-screen projection capabilities. In congregations that use movie clips for teaching purposes, 77% of congregants contend that those visual media are helpful in their spiritual development. Movies have become the benign educator of choice in our media-happy society."
Christopher's Heard's quote was taken from a post that references an interview of Mark Shea, co-author of a book entitled The Da Vinci Deception, a guide that reveals the fact and fiction behind The Da Vinci Code. You can read an interview of Sheas online at: http://tinyurl.com/mxbxn

Crucial to the plot of The Da Vinci Code is what did or did not happen at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) and the accounts of non-canonical writings. The preface of Luke's Gospel (Luke 1:1-4) makes it clear that from very early on in Christian history, there were a number of written accounts claiming to state the facts of Christian origins ("many have undertaken to draw up an account" - 1:1). Luke specifically wrote so that we might "know the certainty of the things . . . taught" (1:4). But how is fact to be sorted from fiction? Which accounts are to be believed, why should others be rejected and on what basis? Along those lines, let me recommend the following articles and books for your research.

D.H. Williams, a professor of patristics and historical theology at Baylor University, had an article entitled "Do You Know Whom You Worship?" published in Christian History just this past winter. The article is subtitled " Did the Nicene Creed distort the pure gospel, or did it embody and protect it?"

Craig Keener (http://tinyurl.com/fraco), a fine scholar who has made the canonical Gospels his speciality, also had an article published (2004) in Christian History entitled "The Da Vinci Code, Corrected."

Ben Witherington, one of my favorite authors, had a fine article a couple of years ago in Christianity Today entitled "Why the 'Lost Gospels' Lost Out." Witherington is a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and an author of many books, one of which is a debunking of the Da Vinci Code ("The Gospel Code: Novel Claims About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Da Vinci"). Incidentally, Witherington keeps a blog that is more than worthy of a bookmark in your browser.

Darrell Bock, another fine scholar of the canonical Gospels, has written a book that takes head-on some of the questions the Da Vinci Code raises, such as: (1) Who was Mary Magdalene?, (2) Was Jesus married?, (3) Do the so-called secret Gnostic Gospels help us understand Jesus? and (4) What is the remaining relevance of The Da Vinci Code? Bock's book is entitled Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Asking. Bock has another work along these lines set to be released this coming August entitled The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities. Bock is Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX. You can read Bock's answer to the question "Was Jesus married" here.

Collin Hansen's article "Breaking the Da Vinci Code," written three years ago, is also well worth your time.

The publisher of the book, The Da Vinci Code, has a website specifically for this book. You can also read Dan Brown's website.