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Sunday, August 22, 2004

Cracks in The Da Vinci Code

While I've not read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code by all accounts it is a page-turner and a fairly well written book. Unfortunately, I've also heard that it promotes a view of Christianity that is questionable at best and relies on unhistorical information. This morning in church our pastor gave a five point talk on "Cracks in The Da Vinci Code". In short, here were his main points:

1. Bad Background. Although Brown says he bases his book in historical facts wrapped in fictional characters and events his "factual basis" is anything but. In particular his use of "The Priory of Sion" as the secret society that has protected the secrets of Christianity has no foundation. In actuality, the French man who started The Priory of Sion in the 1960s I believe admitted years ago under oath that the organization was not based on anything historical. His list of "Grand Masters" and the rest were entirely made up. By the way, he also thought he was descended from Jesus and was the rightful king of France. Unfortunately, information about the group was put into the book Holy Blood Holy Grail from which Brown apparently pulled it. His use of Opus Dei and the role he gives the organization within the Catholic Church is also not realistic.

2. Jesus annointed as divince at the council of Nicea. Brown states in the book that Jesus was only declared divine at the council in 325AD and that his early followers saw him only as a prophet. The problem with that view is that it is not supported by historical documentation. From the writings of the church fathers dating from 105AD up to 300AD it is clear that considering Jesus as divine was normative in the church well before Nicea. Of course, the New Testament writings of Paul and Peter makes this clear as well. Nicea addressed the heresy of Arius of Jesus as being a separate created being but that view was not widely held in the church before or after Nicea.

3. The gnostic gospels were suppressed at the council of Nicea. Brown's view is that the gnostic gospels like Phillip were suppressed at Nicea in favor of gospels that promoted Jesus as divine and the NT gospels were "embellished". Unfortunately for Brown the historical record shows that the gnostic gospels were written in the late 2nd to 4th centuries well after the four NT gospels, and that the council of Nicea did not address the question of the canon. The canon of the NT was substantially in place by the early 2nd century and consolidated by the end of the 2nd century. In fact, when the church fathers criticized various heresies (for example in Against Heresies) they don't even quote from the gnostic gospels because they were not a part of mainstream Christian thought. Secondly, his claim that the NT gospels were embellished is empirically false since numerous copies of the gospels and citations from both before and after Nicea exist. When you compare them there are not substantial differences.

4. A Revisionist view of the development of the NT canon. Brown relies on the revisionist view of history, namely that history is written by the winners, and so the early beliefs of Christianity and the secret history of the church have been suppressed by powerful forces starting at Nicea. While this is an increasingly popular view of history and you can find scholarly proponents of it such as Elaine Pagels, there is no actual evidence to support it.

Here are a couple of critical reviews of the book:

Breaking the Da Vinci Code

Not InDavincible

1 comment:

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