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Christianity as "borrowed"

One significant Da Vinci Code statement pertains to Dan Brown's perception of the relationship between Christianity and paganism: "By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, [Constantine] created a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties... The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable... Virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual... were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions... Nothing in Christianity is original" (DVC, 232). These statements are both true and false.

The false: Christianity is, at its core, antithetical to every other world religion, all of which can be depicted as humankind striving to reach God or to experience some form of inner peace. Christianity is the account of God reaching out to humanity, granting people the opportunity to experience purpose and peace through his offer of salvation. Christianity is summarized as God, in light of humanity's inability to reach him, taking the initiative, bridging the gap; a person is redeemed not by what he or she can do but by what God has already done. In contrast to Brown's claim that "nothing in Christianity is original," Christianity represents a unique and original understanding of the spiritual realm.

The true: The Christian faith does have symbols and words that have come from pagan, pre-Christian sources. However, this is not because early Christianity was so impoverished as to be unable to create its own symbols; rather, its early growth was so rapid that it tended to "retool" already-existing cultural concepts and give them new meaning. For example:

  • Baptism was a pre-Christian concept that Christianity redefined as an event whereby a believer identifies first with Jesus' death (going under the water) and then with his resurrection (coming up out of the water).
  • The Greek term agape was a pre-Christian word that in Paul's writings takes on new content, depicting God's spectacular love for humanity.
  • Easter, once a pagan holiday and even a pagan term (Eostre), is now viewed by billions worldwide as the primary celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Brown suggests that Sunday was originally for the pagan "sun god" and that unsuspecting Christians now worship on that day by default (DVC, 233). Actually, believers worship weekly on the day that commemorates the resurrection of Christ, which affirms Jesus' authority over life itself — and every other entity — on all the days of the week. Also, contrary to The Da Vinci Code, Sunday worship began over two hundred years before Constantine supposedly initiated the change from Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) to Sunday. Brown seems to see the Christian "taking" of the Christmas date (December 25) for the celebration of Jesus' birth as a sort of sinister or covert replacement of a pagan holiday. We don't know the actual date of Christ's birth; the point is, Christianity has adapted well to preceding cultural constructs, often by adopting and redefining them. The compelling, magnetic nature of Jesus' message has proven to be so prevailing that the movement has grown from 120 in a small room (Acts 1:15) to over two billion, with about one-third of the earth's population identifying with the name of Jesus Christ.

The issue is less about the church "borrowing" pagan concepts and more about authentic Christianity's magnificent capacity to adapt and adopt without losing the core of its Christocentric message. See also Constantine the Great; Council of Nicaea; December 25; Sabbath; Sol Invictus.

Printed with permission from Bethany House Publishers, South Bloomington, Minnesota from the book "The Da Vinci Codebreaker : an easy-to-use fact checker for truth seekers" by James L. Garlow.

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Da Vinci Code Truth

  : This website is a response to Sony Pictures movie "The Da Vinci Code"
  based on Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code