Since its release in 2003, forty-six million copies of The Da Vinci Code have been circulated. On May 19, Sony Pictures released a movie based upon this book. The main theme of this book is the portrayal of the greatest conspiracy theory of all time, concerning the identity of Jesus Christ. The Da Vinci Code is based upon some history mixed with a lot of fiction. The problem with this method of writing is that it is hard for the reader to discern where historical facts leave off and fiction begins. To make things even worse, the author deceitfully claims, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Anchor Books, 2006, a page after the title page and acknowledgments—emphasis supplied) Most people are not familiar enough with history to discern the difference between fact and fiction in this book, and very few people will take the time to examine history to discover what is truth. Many will be left confused about Christ’s true identity and accept the theories put forth in this book as fact.
All of this would be of little consequence if it did not have such profound effects upon how we view Christ, and especially how we see God’s love for us in giving His Son. The author, Dan Brown, presents several theories in his book, mixed with some solid historical facts. Commenting on the pagan influences in Christianity, Christmas is mentioned. “December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus.” (Ibid., ch. 55, p. 252—all page numbers referenced in this article are from the paperback edition.) This is historical fact, as well as the following: “Originally,… Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan’s veneration day of the sun.… To this day, most churchgoers attend services on Sunday morning with no idea that they are there on account of the pagan sun god’s weekly tribute—Sunday.” (Ibid. ch. 55, p. 252)
Yet, mixed with these facts are some serious errors, of which the most notable are:
- The New Testament Bible we have today cannot be relied upon because early church leaders suppressed over 75 more-accurate gospels to cover up history, and to hide the humanity of Christ and His relationship to Mary Magdalene. (Ibid., ch. 55, p. 250)
- Jesus married Mary Magdalene and produced children who became a royal bloodline in France. (Ibid., ch. 58, p. 270)
- Jesus was nothing more than a man whom the Council of Nicaea (in 325 AD) narrowly voted to be the divine Son of God. (Ibid., ch. 55, p. 253)
Let’s take some time to examine these theories to see if they are valid.
Can the New Testament be trusted?
In his book, Dan Brown claims, “More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion… The Bible as we know it today was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.” (Ibid., ch. 55, p. 251)
It is true that there were other accounts of certain aspects of the life of Christ, but they were never generally considered authentic works from the apostles, and they were definitely not considered for inclusion in the New Testament. This was because they were written long after the apostles were dead, and their accounts were contrary to the rest of the Bible and the early accounts of Christ’s life. These spurious gospels were given apostolic names to make them appear authentic. None of these supposed “gospels” were biographies of Christ’s life from his birth to the cross, as are the authentic ones. These spurious “gospels” are fictitious works focusing on some aspect of Christ’s life presented in a clearly anti-christian manner.
For example, a document given the name, “The Gospel of Thomas,” claims to portray the childhood of Christ as a powerful and evil person. It says, in part:
This child Jesus, when five years old, …having made some soft clay, He fashioned out of it twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when He did these things.… And Jesus clapped His hands, and cried out to the sparrows, and said to them: Off you go! And the sparrows flew, and went off crying.…
After that He was again passing through the village; and a boy ran up against Him, and struck His shoulder. And Jesus was angry, and said to him: Thou shalt not go back the way thou camest. And immediately he fell down dead. (A spurious “Gospel of Thomas,” Verses 2-4, found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 8, “The Apocrypha of the New Testament.”)
In the first few verses of this supposed “gospel” we read of Jesus creating animals on the Sabbath and killing little children for interfering with his play. Both of these are clearly contrary to how the Old Testament Scriptures’, as well as the widely accepted New Testament writings, portray the character of God and Christ. Luke says that the child “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) He could not have increased in favor with men if he was killing their children.
This supposed “Gospel of Thomas” surfaced long after Thomas was dead, and it was never generally considered as a valid gospel. It was never “considered for the New Testament” as the The Da Vinci Code presents.
In keeping with the primary lie that the The Da Vinci Code attempts to establish, one of the characters proclaims, “Any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible.” (The Da Vinci Code, ch. 58, p. 264) This statement leads people to believe that there was a conspiracy to only allow gospels into the New Testament that portray the divinity of Christ and to keep those out which portray the human nature of Christ. Yet, we noticed that the “Gospel of Thomas” portrays Jesus with supernatural powers to create life and kill children, which is much more divine and less human than the authentic gospels portray, thus showing the fallacy of this claim. If this conspiracy theory were correct, “The Gospel of Thomas” would have been at the top of the list of gospels the conspirators would have chosen to be part of the New Testament.
There is at least one other document given the name, “The Gospel of Thomas.” It is one of the supposed “gospels” in the Nag Hammadi Library, mentioned in The Da Vinci Code. The Da Vinci Code depicts these Gnostic documents in the Nag Hammadi Library as the original gospels, and the ones in our Bibles today as spurious. It espouses the idea that these Nag Hammadi gospels portray Christ as just a human and nothing more, while Matthew, Mark, Luke and John present Christ as the divine Son of God and deny his human nature.
The Da Vinci Code also makes the claim that Constantine decided which gospels would be in the New Testament and which ones would be left out. But most of the books of the New Testament as we have them today had been regarded as the legitimate Scripture for over a hundred years before Constantine came on the scene. Constantine had nothing to do with the decision of what books would be in the New Testament.
“By AD 200, 20 of the 27 books of the New Testament seem to have been generally regarded as authoritative.” (The Encarta Encyclopedia, article: Bible)
The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were among these books that were all accepted long before Constantine came on the scene. These were all written during the lifetime of the apostles, by the apostles themselves, or by those closely interacting with them. If they did not portray an accurate account of Christ’s life, they would have been disputed and rejected immediately by those who were eye witnesses to the events. It would have been impossible to deceive the people who lived contemporaneously with the apostles by presenting a falsified account of Christ’s life. That is why all the spurious accounts of Christ’s life had to arise on the scene much later, because they were clearly out of harmony with the established and accepted history of Christ’s life. When these false gospels did arrive on the scene they were naturally rejected even though they were given names of the apostles, such as Thomas, Philip, Peter, James, Matthew, etc.
It is a serious charge against God to say, “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God.” (A fictitious character, Sir Leigh Teabing, The Da Vinci Code, ch. 55, p. 250) This idea charges God with the inability to divinely protect His word, and the irresponsibility of leaving the world with no way of knowing Him. This is a work of the devil to instill doubt in God, His word, and His love for us.
It is very odd that The Da Vinci Code attempts to establish the idea that Jesus was nothing more than a human, and relies upon the Gnostic gospels of the Nag Hammadi Library and other spurious gospels as proof for this assertion. The Da Vinci Code claims that Constantine “omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike.” (Ibid., ch. 55, p. 254) However, these spurious gospels present a much more supernatural Jesus than our current gospels, so this book relies upon evidence that proves the opposite of this claim.
Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene?
The silence in the original gospels on this point should be enough to silence this question. There is absolutely no evidence in the Bible that Jesus married Mary Magdalene. When Jesus was upon the cross He took great care to provide for the needs of his mother, whom He was about to leave behind. The Bible says, “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:26, 27) Jesus, however, did not mention the needs of a widow or little children. Surely, if Jesus had left a widow and children He would have wanted them to be cared for as well, but He made no such provisions.
Was Jesus merely a human?
One of the leading characters in The Da Vinci Code says,
“During this fusion of religions, Constantine needed to strengthen the new Christian tradition, and held a famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicaea.”… “At this gathering,” Teabing said, “many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon [including] the divinity of Jesus… until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.” [Sophie says] “Not the Son of God?” “Right,” Teabing said. “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.” [Sophie says] “Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?” “A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing added. (Ibid., ch. 55, pp. 252, 253)
It is true that there was a vote at the Council of Nicaea (held in 325 AD) regarding the identity of Jesus Christ. It is also true that that vote introduced a new and heretical concept of Christ’s identity. But it happened differently than The Da Vinci Code portrays. It was not a vote to decide whether Jesus was the Son of God, but regarding the meaning of the words, “the only begotten Son of God.” The reality that Jesus is the Son of God was known and believed for centuries before this council was called. Hundreds of years before this council Jesus was declared to be of divine origin. The apostle Peter said to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Peter also said, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69) John the Baptist said, “I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34) The Apostle Paul “preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)
The fact that God has a begotten Son was not a new concept at the Council of Nicaea. This understanding was an established fact long before Jesus came into this world. He said through Solomon, “Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth [literally: begotten or born].” (Proverbs 8:25) The Bible says, “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Proverbs 30:4)
The disciples and apostles of Christ’s day, along with the large majority of Christians who lived in the first few centuries after Christ’s death, understood Jesus Christ to be the literal begotten Son of God without any mysterious definition attached to these words. For example, Justin Martyr (110-165 AD), quoting from Proverbs 8, refers to Christ in the following statement:
“The Lord… begets me before all the hills.” He adds: “You perceive, my hearers, if you bestow attention, that the Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 129)
Novatian (210-280 AD) wrote,
“God the Father, the Founder and Creator of all things, who only knows no beginning, invisible, infinite, immortal, eternal, is one God;… of whom, when He willed it, the Son, the Word, was born… the Father also precedes Him,… Because it is essential that He who knows no beginning must go before Him who has a beginning;… [The Son has] an origin because He is born, and of like nature with the Father in some measure by His nativity, although He has a beginning in that He is born, inasmuch as He is born of that Father who alone has no beginning.” (Novation, Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, “A Treatise on the Trinity,” Chapter 31)
There are many more examples of early Christians, accepting the Word of God just as it reads, who believed Christ to be the literal begotten Son of God who was born before all creation.
Interestingly, the author of The Da Vinci Code refers to the spurious gospels in the Nag Hammadi Library and others as support of his theory that “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.” And that “until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.… Not the Son of God?” (The Da Vinci Code, ch. 55, pp. 253, 254) But when anyone turns to the Nag Hammadi Library to verify this claim (which can easily be done at www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html) he is faced with a multitude of statements that Jesus is the Son of God. For example:
Jesus Christ, the son of the living God. (The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles)
[God’s] only-begotten Son,… Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior,… (The Gospel of the Egyptians)
Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior… (The Teachings of Silvanus)
Jesus Christ, the Son of God… (Melchizedek)
I am the first son who was begotten.… I am the son of the Father. (The [Second] Apocalypse of James)
We give thanks to you and we celebrate the eucharist, O Father, remembering for the sake of thy Son, Jesus Christ… Glory be to thee through thy Son and thy offspring Jesus Christ from now and forever. Amen. (On the Eucharist)
The Christ, the only-begotten God.… He is! The Son of God! (Trimorphic Protennoia)
Truly he was the Son of God. (The Gospel of Peter)
All of these quotations are found in the Nag Hammadi Library, proving that these documents also taught that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Council of Nicaea
If, as The Da Vinci Code claims, the idea that Jesus is the Son of God first surfaced at the Council of Nicaea, then there would have been those at the council who did not believe in this doctrine before coming to the council. But history is clear that this was the very reason the council was called—to settle the debate over what the term, “the only begotten Son of God” really means. There was nobody at this council who believed that Jesus was just a man. The 318 bishops at this council were divided into three parties:
- Those who believed that Jesus Christ had a beginning by being created out of nothing, like the angels. (There were about 20 bishops holding to this belief, with Arius as their leader. These are commonly called “Arians” by theologians and historians today.)
- Those who believed that Christ had a beginning by being literally begotten of His Father before anything was created, and thus He was divine. (There were at least 278 bishops holding to this belief, with Eusebius of Caesarea as their leader. These are commonly called “Semi-Arians” by theologians and historians today.)
- Those who believed that Christ had no beginning whatsoever, being the same age as God, the Father.. (This group was in the minority with less than 20 bishops holding to this belief, with Alexander as their leader. These are commonly called “Orthodox Trinitarians” by theologians and historians today.)
As you can see, the vast majority believed that Christ had a beginning by being literally begotten of His Father before anything was created. This was the commonly-held belief of the early Christians. Very early in the Council of Nicaea Eusebius of Caesarea, who led the largest group, presented a confession espousing his views, of which “He stated that this confession of faith was one which he had learned in his childhood, from the bishop of Cæsarea, and one which he accepted at his baptism, and which he had taught through his whole career, both as a presbyter and as a bishop.” (The Two Republics, by Alonzo T. Jones, 1891, pp. 347, 348)
Unfortunately, those who were in the minority gained the approval of Constantine, and used his power to force all to sign a creed condemning as heretics all who claimed that Christ had a beginning of any kind. This creed is known today as the Nicene Creed. “The emperor… commanded all to sign it under penalty of banishment.” (Ibid., p. 350) With this measure all but two of the bishops finally signed the disputed creed, most of whom did so against their will. The two who would not sign under any circumstances were banished.
After this alarming use of force to secure conformity, one bishop complained, “We have never heard, my Lord, of two beings unbegotten, nor of one divided into two;… but that there is one unbegotten, and another truly from Him,… We believe not only that His origin cannot be explained in words, but that it cannot be comprehended,…” (Letter written by Eusebius of Nicomedia as found in A Historical View of the Council of Nice, by Isaac Boyle, p. 41—emphasis supplied)
It is clear that there was a new teaching that arose and gained approval at the Council of Nicaea, but it was not the idea that Jesus is the Son of God. Instead, it was the idea that Jesus had no beginning whatsoever. This is the reality of what took place at the Council of Nicaea. The Arian controversy was between two extreme views of Christ, neither of which are taught in the Scriptures. According to the Bible, Christ is neither created out of nothing, nor is He without beginning but, rather, He was begotten “in the express image” of His Father before anything was created. (Hebrews 1:1-6; Proverbs 8:24-36; Colossians 1:15; 1 John 4:9, etc.) This is what was believed and taught by the majority of those at the Council of Nicaea.
This middle group, led by Eusebius of Caesarea, is an embarrassment to Trinitarians because it comprised the vast majority of the council and they maintained that Christ was truly begotten of God, rather than created or without beginning. Therefore, many Trinitarian historians completely ignore this group as if it did not exist, and when it is mentioned it is called the Semi-Arian group as if it were a group that came after, and sprang out of, the “Arian heresy.” However, the facts reveal that the belief that is called Semi-Arianism existed long before Arius was born.
As evidence of the widespread denial of this middle group, notice what one historian has to say:
The ancient and the Roman Catholic historians… generally assume only two parties, an orthodox majority and a heretical minority. But the position of Eusebius of Caesarea, the character of his confession, and the subsequent history of the controversy, prove the existence of a middle, Semi-Arian party. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 3, Footnote on page 627)
The Council of Nicaea voted (by force) to proclaim Jesus Christ to be the same age as the Father. This council laid the foundation for the trinity doctrine, but there was no discussion or vote regarding the Holy Spirit as the third person of the trinity. The idea that God is made up of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit did not arise on the scene until the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD.
The Catholic Church, who formulated the doctrine of the trinity says,
The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of the Catholic Faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church…
The Church studied this mystery with great care and, after four centuries of clarification, decided to state the doctrine in this way: in the unity of the Godhead there are three Persons,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit… (Handbook for Today’s Catholic, p. 11)
The idea that God is a trinity emerged upon the pages of history rather late—far too late to be considered part of the religion of the Bible. It is interesting that one of the documents in the Nag Hammadi Library says, “God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…” (The Tripartite Tractate) This proves that, at least this document in the Nag Hammadi Library, was written at a much later date than the writings of the apostles. “The 52 [Nag Hammadi] manuscripts are in Coptic. Copied in the 4th century AD (as inscribed on some of them),…” (The Encarta Encyclopedia, article: Naj Hammadi)
(For further information on the history of the the various views regarding the identity of Jesus Christ, please contact us and request the booklets entitled, God’s Love on Trial and The Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity.)
Sadly, The Da Vinci Code is bound to have some success in convincing people that Jesus is just a man, because when people read the Bible to see if these things are so they will find that God is the Father, consistently, and not a trinity of persons. Many will think that they are left with only two choices: 1) Jesus is God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, or 2) He was just a human. The Bible is clear that the first proposition is incorrect, so many will be drawn to the only other option they think they have. Yet, there is another option, the biblical view, that Jesus is the “only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18), who is divine by right of His inheritance from God, His Father. (Hebrews 1:3, 4) Knowing the relationship of Jesus to God is vitally important because it is the only way we can comprehend the love of God in giving His Son. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Understanding this vital relationship is the only way that we can love God with all our hearts, souls, strength and minds. (See 1 John 4:16, 17, 19.) Every false theory about the identity of Jesus Christ distorts the love of God in giving His Son to die for our sins, and will thus limit our ability to love God in return and overcome when we are tempted. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5)
Beloved, I pray that the love of God will fill your hearts and flow out to all those whom you meet. I pray that Satan would not be allowed to cloud your minds with false theories about God and His beloved Son. For, in proportion to our limited view of God’s love will our ability to love God in return be limited. The view of God’s character that we behold is the character that will be reproduced in our lives. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) May we all be changed into the right image. May we all “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2), and not as Satan would have us see Him.