CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Decoding the Code

May 18, 2006

Fans of Dan Brown’s bestseller will be pleased to know that The Da Vinci Code film is fairly faithful to the book. It’s a pity though that neither the book nor the film are faithful to history or to the truth.

But I already hear the protests: “What are you getting all shook up about? It’s only fiction!” But there are at least three reasons why one might be concerned: 1) With over 40 million copies of the book sold into 44 different languages, it is having a huge impact. And the film will expose even more people to its spurious claims.

2) Although a novel, Dan Brown clearly states in it – and on his website –  that it is accurate, based on fact and solid research. Thus it is more than just a good read, but is making claims about fact and truth.

3) The subject matter of the book is vitally important. Indeed, it concerns someone who is arguably the most important person in human history: Jesus Christ.

Those who are not easily taken in by conspiracy theories and Christianity-bashing know that this book (and film) are riddled with many errors. There are mistakes about art, architecture, history, and theology, to name but a few. Even non-Christians are dismayed at Brown’s sloppiness and his looseness with the facts.

But the world’s 2 billion Christians have even more reason to complain, as the book seeks to undermine the very basis of the faith. Indeed, Dan Brown argues, through his character Teabing that “almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false”. Is that so?

The truth is, there is not a scrap of evidence for the many outrageous claims made by Brown. We have no reliable evidence anywhere that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children. Many leading prophets and teachers were single, including John the Baptist.

As to the claim that the Emperor Constantine invented the deity of Christ in the fourth century, well that really is fiction. Both Jesus and the earliest of his disciples understood that Jesus was more than a mere man. Indeed, Christ and his followers got into big trouble for making just such claims.

When the Council of Nicea was convened in 325 AD, there was no debate about which books belonged in the Bible, or whether Jesus was God. They did discuss how the deity of Christ was to be understood, and they did condemn the heresy of Arianism.

But there was no close vote on the deity issue. Of the over 300 Bishops assembled to discuss Christ’s deity, in the end only two did not vote for the new creed. Hardly a close vote.

And no, the person sitting on the right hand of Jesus is not Mary, as Brown claims, but the apostle John. Even Leonardo Da Vinci is clear about this.

And no, the early church did not suppress the truth about the divine goddess, and instead push for a male-dominated religion. Nor are the supporting texts that Brown appeals to of any help. The so-called Gnostic gospels in fact as a whole had a very low view of women. Female leadership was out of the question, and even the much vaunted Gospel of Thomas says that females need to become males in order to enter God’s kingdom (find salvation)!

And no, there was no secret society, the Priory of Sion, founded in 1099, to guard the secret of Jesus’ marriage and royal bloodline (the Holy Grail).

On and on we could go, looking at the many howlers in Brown’s book. But suffice it to say that the book is one long attack on the truth claims of the world’s largest religion. Of course there is nothing new in that, but Brown has been laughing all the way to the bank with the success of his work.

So where does all this leave us? If you are a fan of the book, and want to see the film, go ahead. But if you want to know the truth about Jesus, then start reading the real story in one of the four authoritative gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

And what about believers? My humble suggestion is that you see the film with a non-believing friend, then go out for a coffee afterwards, and explain the truth about who Christ actually was and what he actually did.

For those looking for an adventure, and for some startling claims, the real thing is light-years ahead of the foolishness found in Brown’s book.

[751 words]

11 Responses to Decoding the Code

  • Good work Bill!! Dan Brown has put togther something people like, because people generally like to bag Jesus. In reality, they don’t know who they’re messing with. Lets hope Jesus’ disciples will have an answer for the hope they have in Him, in view of the Da Vinci Code’s claims.

    Simon van der Wel, Geelong

  • Bill I want to ask why the Da Vinci Code has not been the subject of a searching investigation by the managers of Victoria’s vilification laws.

    The ‘code’, whether book or movie, ridicules the fundamentals of Christianity particularly that Jesus Christ was true God and true man, who preached a message of love built on truth.

    He freely suffered a humiliating death to bring His message to fulfillment for the benefit of all humanity. His followers down the centuries have been prepared to also freely suffer humiliating deaths because they were unwilling to to reject Jesus’ message of truth and love.

    While anyone may not accept Jesus’ message, the ‘code’ attacks that message in a manner that has been harshly dealt with under the Victorian law in another case.

    Is this Victorian law not to be used when the Christian message is attacked on a broad scale?

    Pat Healy, Hamilton, Vic.

  • I have not read the book but your review does press questions for me:

    (1) Why does an author use some details from a major world religion (Christianity) and then spin off some fantastic imaginery picture that has little resemblance to that factual religion? I guess it’s poetic licence, but it helps to confuse those who are not discerning.

    (2) How can we use this literary invention to get to the facts about Christ and the heart of why He died?

    I note that in the “Decoding the code” that you have had published in ON LINE Opinion, it has given rise to some antagonism and distortion of the Scriptures by secularists. That’s to be expected and it does give opportunity for those who want to enter the apologetic “lions’ den.” However, with the reduced (nearly zero) emphasis on biblical theology in churches up my way, I think that apologetic engagement in the secular “lions’ den” will be the ministry of only a few.

    I commend you for your Christ-honouring ministry of addressing contemporary issues from a biblical perspective. Cultural apologetics in this declining Australian culture will continue to face challenges of this nature.

    Spencer Gear, Bundaberg, Qld.

  • Hey there Bill,
    I went and saw the movie and saw for myself the inconsistencies with history and certain artifacts. Funny that Da Vinci wrote 21st Century English – I thought he was Italian!
    If this in itself is incorrect, it should testify to the errors of the underlying message and the extent of his distortion of the truth.

    Danii Rizzo, Melbourne

  • Hi Pat,

    Regarding your question as to why Christians have not employed the Victorian vilification laws against the DVC.

    My guess would be that the last thing Christians want to do is to bring legitimacy to these laws by using them to pursue their own vilification claims.

    The sooner these laws are ammended / overturned the better, and not just for the sake of the Christians.

    Steve Bergen, Melbourne

  • Quite right Steve. My feelings exactly.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • A few points which the subject matter of the original post, as well as a few of the later comments, touches on might be worth raising here.

    First, I’m afraid I can’t see the sense of us believers going to see the film at all. We don’t need to taste cyanide ourselves in order to know that it’s bad for us, do we? Don’t need to walk out ourselves and sit in the middle of the road in order to know that oncoming traffic can kill us, do we? Surely the whole notion of us going to see the film is just one more example of the “personal-experience-as-authority” disease which is helping to kill Christendom.

    Secondly, if only our vilification laws could be used to defend us, rather than to defend (as they are being used to defend) our enemies, could we have any serious moral objection to their existence? I know I couldn’t. I want to make it illegal for Christ to be attacked in public. I want the Andres Serranos and the smearers-of-the-Virgin-Mary-with-dung to do prison time.

    R J Stove, Melbourne

  • Thanks Rob

    On the several occasions where I did suggest that we might see the film, it was always with the proviso that we bring along a non-believing friend who may have already wanted to go see it, and then after the film, talk to him or her about the real Jesus, and the truth of the Biblical version of events. Thus my aim in mind was evangelistic and/or apologetic. Otherwise you are quite right. We do not need to expereice something firsthand before we can comment on it, or warn against it.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Many thanks for your clarification, Bill. I see your point. But I still reckon it doesn’t outweigh the objective moral evil of attending the film in the first place.

    If we knowingly give money to enrich the promoters of pernicious tripe, then I’d have thought that we are ourselves helping to aid and abet such promoters. When powerful lay censorship movements against Hollywood existed from the 1930s to the 1960s, they didn’t ascribe evangelistic value to the movies they condemned. They called for boycotts, full stop. And if anyone doesn’t believe that boycotts were effective, read the history of Baby Doll (an almost ludicrously mild film by modern standards), which was comprehensively boycotted on sexual grounds in the 1950s, when it came out. The boycott against it hurt the makers of it.

    Ultimately I reckon that if we’re not in the business of hurting present-day Hollywood, we might as well submit to its evils.

    R J Stove. Melbourne

  • Historically speaking, the claims of Dan Brown are recycled and reused. These claims (e.g. Christ’s mortality/humanity, unreliability of the Bible, etc.) have all been refuted and renounced to be false and untrue to the historical evidence of the Bible and Jesus Christ.

    I don’t know what you think about the movie though. In my opinion, I thought it was a dud! And not because of its outrageous, exagerated claims, but because it was…well…dry. I’m hoping that the movie’s dry, boring nature will put an end to this so-called phenomenon.

    Paul Magno, Melbourne

  • The Christophobes who pontificate against Christians by saying that TDVC is just fiction are not sincere. Imagine a novel that proclaimed that the Holocaust is a myth or that Martin Luther King, Jr. raped white girls, and that these claims were put in the mouth of an erudite professor or reputable historian. Such a book would be rightly condemned for being anti-Semitic or racist, and would not be given a free pass simply because it was fiction. Yet the secular media demands that Christians give Brown’s Christophobia this same acceptance.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

Leave a Reply