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A CALL, PERHAPS, TO STUDY FAITH
BY FRED R. EICHELAMN
Roanoke Times & World News
"The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown, has been on the best-seller list for three years and soon will become a motion picture that questions the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is on the surface a thriller; however, Brown's motives go deeper than just a work of fiction.
Brown purports to be a "real" historian and claims that his novel is based upon "proven" facts. He admits that he is trying to create a new theology. On ABC's "20/20," Brown spoke of "conversion to a new Christianity," and he saw himself as on a mission to bring his religious message to America. In actuality, his research is drawn from books written and discredited years ago.
A number of books are on the market revealing the fraud behind Brown's book, and there are two that I find the most detailed in making the case against Brown's historical revisionism.
The first is "Cracking Da Vinci's Code," by Dr. James L. Garlow and Dr. Peter Jones. Garlow is the senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego and is heard daily on 300 radio stations nationwide. Jones is director of Christian Witness To A Pagan Planet and is adjunct professor of New Testament history at Western Seminary in California.
The second book, "The Da Vinci Hoax," is authored by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Meisel. Olson is the former editor of Envoy magazine and author of many books on church history. Meisel is a medieval historian and a widely published journalist.
Using careful documentation, both books dissect "The Da Vinci Code" point by point, revealing the fraud that it is. Space limits me to examine only two issues.
1. Brown sells the idea that Jesus divinity was the result of bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., who in a close vote declared Jesus the Son of God. Most early Christians, he argues, instead saw Jesus as simply a man. Part of Brown's argument is based upon the Gnostic writings.
The truth: The New Testament books alone, all written by the early second century, witness over and over the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. (There are also ties to the Old Testament.) Jesus himself testifies to this. There is also the testimony of numerous Christian writers between 100 A.D. and 300 A.D. to the belief in Jesus' divinity. The Gnostic gospels were written later.
The Council of Nicaea's vote on the divinity of Christ was overwhelming, and neither the bishops nor even Emperor Constantine would have dared go against the belief of the great majority of Christians. There was no doubt about his Godhood.
Brown's main attack is on the Catholic Church, and he links a conspiracy between Constantine and the Vatican. He demonstrates a sloppy knowledge of history here, as there was no Vatican at that time and the very area where the Vatican is today was then a swamp.
2. Brown supports the thesis that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that she was his No. 1 disciple.
The Truth: There is no real evidence that Mary Magdalene was also Mary the prostitute or Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. There is no real evidence of any romantic relationship with a specific Mary, and here again Brown relies on Gnostic writings, which often disagree with one another, as well as a couple of discredited books from the early 20th century.
One of his proofs is Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," in which Brown claims that the "beloved disciple" is not John as depicted, but Mary. Not only does this not square with Gospel texts, it also flies in the face of art scholars who have identified each disciple portrayed.
The concern here is not with the 7 million or more who have read the book, but with the many millions more who will see the motion picture. There are already readers who consider the book gospel truth, and this could be multiplied many times by those who see the film and who may not take the time to examine the facts.
Christians should become more literate about the Bible and early church history and be aware of the heresies out there. If nothing else, we should be prepared to use the book and film to witness the true Gospel. When approached by a fan who raves about the novel or film, we should welcome the opportunity to help that person analyze what the true story is.
That may not be Dan Brown's agenda, but it may be God's way of waking us up to the need to be more responsible in our own Christian witness and study.
Fred R. Eichelman
Eichelman, of Salem, is director of Point North Outreach Inc.
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