Patterico's Pontifications

4/7/2006

The Da Vinci Code: A Question for Christians

Filed under: Books,General — Patterico @ 10:48 am



[Warning: there are certain to be spoilers in the post and comments, for the one person out there who hasn’t read this book.]

So, I finished the Da Vinci Code. My question for Christians who have read it: didn’t you find it the least bit, as Homer Simpson would say, sacrilicious?

I remember a huge uproar when “The Last Temptation of Christ” came out. Boycotts, picket lines, and violence. It seems to me that there is plenty in this book equally at odds with the traditional view of Jesus. The book even cites the movie as a specific instance of the Mary Magdalene/Grail tale. Yet I don’t recall similar outrage over the book. What gives?

Then again, maybe there was outrage, and I just averted my eyes. Because I didn’t want to know the slightest thing about it, I have avoided all news about the book since I first heard about it.

Anyway, what do the Christians among you think about this book and the things it says? Do you just appreciate it as a good yarn and not get too wound up about the sacrilege? Were you outraged by it? Or what?

See Dubya? Can we hear from you? How about Brotherico?

P.S. And are widespread protests a phenomenon relating more to movies and not to books? Will we see them in May when the movie comes out?

UPDATE: This is an interesting article on the subject. It casts doubt on much of the basis of the novel.

84 Responses to “The Da Vinci Code: A Question for Christians”

  1. From what I remember, the people most upset at the sacrelicious tended to be very fundamentalist.

    The Catholic Church doesn’t get treated well in the Da Vinci Code.

    Usually, that’s A-OK with group #1.

    Angry Clam (fa7fff)

  2. The book is well written, to be sure, and it speeds the reader onwards quite nicely. Knowing this (ie. it’s a work of FICTION), I wasn’t terribly bothered by the obvious silliness of its “assertions” about Christianity and the Church. It is, after all, a work of FICTION.

    Fred (c8da8d)

  3. Yeah, I haven’t read it myself yet, but you know that enormous explosion that killed everyone at Random House?

    Not me, but I went to Vacation Bible School with the guy. He’s now in Paradise, drinkin’ wine, spodee-odee, drinkin’ wine.

    [You should read it. You’re now the last known literate being on the planet who hasn’t. (Actually, you and another commenter here.) I’d be interested in your reaction. Do you know what the fuss is about? — Patterico]

    See Dubya (f3a346)

  4. I’m not even (much of) a Christian, and the DVC sure struck me the way you say it struck Homer. But it’s fast-moving and well written; I suspect that covers for a multitude of sins.

    More seriously, Dan Brown has his academic characters speak in authoritative voices about all sorts of historical events and church doctrines, mixing what’s true with speculation that ranges from plausible to absurd fabrication. I suspect it’s hard for most people to know what’s what–who wants to make an accusation like “heresy!” only to find out that at least some part of what they object to is at least arguably factual?

    AMac (b6037f)

  5. Sacrilicious? Do you mean sacrilegious?

    [Homer Simpson says “Sacrilicious.” I think that’s a better word because it’s funnier. — P]

    Haven’t read the book. I agree with Fred, though, that since it’s an obvious work of fiction, it isn’t anything anyone (including those of us who are practicing Christians) should get all riled up about.

    [But he explicitly claims that much of what he describes in the novel is factually accurate. And this message is reaching a lot of people . . . — P]

    Ann (cc9923)

  6. I won’t read it; why should I? My opinion, as a Christian, is that the book is exploitive, and just another historical fantasy, and so what.

    RJN (c3a4a3)

  7. Yeah, someone claims that the apostle John in Leonardo’s Last Supper actually used to be Mary Magdalene and it was painted over to be John because of the implication–kept alive by a secret society through history–that Jesus and MM actually got married, which is pretty subversive to the Catholic Church so they go around killing people who believe that and wiping out traces of it happening. And some researchers find out about this and it turns into car chases and Indiana Jones stuff.

    (The Catholic Church is the bad guy, because they actually believe something–the Episcopalians aren’t going to kill anybody–but they’re also richer and international and more historical-sounding than if it was, say, Oral Roberts issuing the fatwas.)

    I’m frankly more concerned about Abdul Rahman, The Prayer of Jabez cash-machine theology, and deviations from orthodoxy on the part of actual Christian ministers who advance wacky theories like Brown’s (or worse) than I am about some guy writing it up in an airplane novel. I don’t like it, but even though I’ve got a dog in the fight I think there are bigger problems for Christians to be concerned about. If someone loses his faith because of a book-of-the-month novel, I don’t think his faith was rooted very deep to start with.

    As a book, I suspect it’s going to be a mild dose compared to Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, so that’s why it’s pretty far back on my pleasure-reading queue.

    Do you guys think Dan Brown believes this stuff?

    [He *says* he does. You don’t have the plot quite right, but I hate to give too much away. The question is: how much of what Brown claims is fact, actually is? And where can one go to find an unbiased and authoritative discussion of the issue? — P]

    See Dubya (f3a346)

  8. I’ll agree that DVC is fast-paced. It is not, however, well-written. The characters are quite poorly drawn.

    Brown deliberately blurs the line between fact and fiction with his preface about how, while the plot is fiction, the things it’s based on (like the bloodline of Christ) are fact. THAT’s where there’s room to get upset.

    That being said, there’s very little to get upset over. The book is dumb. It will eventually die, just like “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and everything else in the conspiracy genre. It will be revived in our grandchildren’s time as a “shocking new theory, one that was suppressed back in the 20-aughts…” and so on.

    Kate B. (ade1a8)

  9. Do you guys think Dan Brown believes this stuff?

    Made me laugh. About as likely as Mel Brooks’ character in The Producers buying into that version of history.
    But then, given the wacky things people manage to swallow–maybe Brown does believe these stories. At least a little.

    AMac (b6037f)

  10. I don’t know about unbiased, but Hugh Hewitt’s written for these guys: http://www.thedavincidialogue.com/faq.cfm

    That’s Sony’s “we’re sensitive to Christians” site and they have religious guys in there to talk about why it’s a bunch of crap. I don’t know, maybe Dan Brown comes in and sets them straight.

    See Dubya (f3a346)

  11. Slightly OT but, seeing as a bunch of lawers are here I guess its kind of relevant.

    At my blog I noted that Dan Brown won against the two authors who were seeking a share of the proceeds because they claimned he based his fictional work on their “non-fiction” history book. The really interesting point is that, since the case was heard in the UK, they got socked for costs for wasting everyone’s time and the publisher had a rather expensive taste in lawyers os they now owe about half a million pounds (not much under US$1 million) each

    Francis (8e04ae)

  12. Count me as another person who hasn’t read the book. But some of the cable channels (Discovery, etc) have done pretty good analyses on the book. According to those shows, a lot of what Brown says is true really isn’t. Brown may believe it, but if that’s the case he apparently didn’t perform due diligence on the “facts”.

    Steverino (6d41f5)

  13. A lot of Christian writers and bloggers have worked hard to rebut his factual errors. (Amy Welborn’s has been out for two years.)

    Speaking as a non-Catholic i saw very little difference between the DVC and the the stuff anti-Semites crank out about the hidden history of the Jews.

    craig henry (d59821)

  14. Not on my reading list. As I understand it, yeah it’s sacreligious, but on the other hand, unlike the MSM (NBC at least) with the so-called “Gospel of Judas,” it isn’t being presented as a challenge to our faith. Just as a work of fiction.

    Jeff (fccab8)

  15. Does the term FICTION mean anything to anybody any more. The whole controversy puzzles me. HE MADE IT UP FOLKS. IT’S NOT TRUE. A good read for sure. Hello……….

    [But he claims on page one that important aspects of it *are* true. — Patterico]

    J Winters (a5008f)

  16. The most egregious historical error in the book is its treatment of early religious documents. This is used to support a claim that orthodox Christianity did not exist until the 4th century, where it came into being via a vote of an ecumenical council. This simply isn’t true and is easily demonstrable.

    It is undisputed, for example, that the canonical documents known as the letters of Paul were written (approximately) between 48-64 AD. These are the documents that most strongly proclaim orthodox Christian beliefs (Jesus is God, etc.) A scriptural scholar would say they have “the highest Christology”.

    The Gnostic documents that Dan Brown references in the book to support his alternate version of events are, with minimal dispute, second to fourth century documents.

    Hence, in the case of Paul’s letters, people involved were the original eyewitnesses to the life and death of Jesus. Further, the documents were available to the original eyewitnesses (friendly and hostile) for criticism. Legendary development to a narrative would not be expected to come about until a significant time elapsed after the death of this first generation. The gnostic documents appear at just about the time one expects legendary accrual to the narrative.

    Secondly, actual gnostic belief as referenced in the apocrypha could hardly be more different then the depiction given in the The Da Vinci Code. The Da Vinci Code depicts gnostics as worshipers of “the sacred feminine” and celebrators of human sensuality. Actual gnostics were heavily influenced by Greek philosophy that taught that the physical world, of which our bodies are part, is lowest and most corrupted form of existence. Further, the Gospel of Thomas, an early gnostic document from the 2nd century, actually states (by words put into the mouth of Jesus) that Mary Magdelene could not receive salvation unless she first became male. This could hardly be more anti-feminist.

    The fact is, the gnostic documents do not say what Dan Brown (and others) wish them to say. Nor are they at all comparable in their trustworthiness to canonical documents such as the letters of Paul.

    The popularity of the Da Vinci Code is a perfect opportunity for the Christian Church (Catholic and Protestant) to share with others how demonstrably weak are the views of its opponents.

    James Sinclair (e32761)

  17. D’oh! Not only have I not read the book, I guess it’s obvious that I also don’t watch The Simpsons!

    I guess I’d better read the book at some point. I don’t think I’ll be convinced of any extra-biblical info that Brown claims to be factual, but I will withhold that judgment for now.

    Ann (cc9923)

  18. My friend Irina put it as follows:
    The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: YOU CAN NOT HAVE ELEVEN APOSTELES AND ONE CHICK, PEOPLE. ARE WE THE ONLY ONES WHO SEE THAT?!?!?!

    As for myself, it was a fun read, and I really don’t have a problem with the idea of Jesus being married, and if He did have kids, it’s not too out there to imagine that His descendents are out there running around, but I don’t think there’s some huge conspiracy by the Catholic Church to cover it up, and I can understand why Catholics don’t appreciate the suggestion.

    Randi (921379)

  19. I would say blasphemous, but having read Nietzsche’s “Antichrist”, Kazantzakis’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (in Greek), and Dostoevski’s “The Grand Inquisitor” as well as the internet-available version of the Gnostic Gospels, I consider it too much of a fluff-piece to be outraged about. The guys I mentioned had the talent and credibility to be dangerous. (BTW: The movie version of “The Last Temptation of Christ” falls far short of the book. It was too low-budget and Scorsese is no Kazantzakis.) “The Wild Bunch” is one of my all-time favorite movies. Should I be offended because William Holden, referring to innocent train station customers says, “If they move, kill them”? Thank God, we live in a country society which can distinguish between heresy and entertainment.

    nk (8214ee)

  20. Let’s get serious, people. No one is ever going to take some ridiculous pulp novel and build an entire religion around it. People just aren’t that stupid. It would never work, so there’s nothing to worry about.

    O/T, what happened to Chef on South Park?

    [Good one. — P]

    See Dubya (f3a346)

  21. Brownie points for #2-0, See Dubya!

    AMac (b6037f)

  22. O/T, what happened to Chef on South Park?

    He quit after joining a religion built entirely around some ridiculous pulp novel.

    Xrlq (65a3e8)

  23. Your point is irrelevant, See Dubya. The question is not whether someone will “build an entire religion around it”.

    The book is passable, but it is not great fiction. It hasn’t become an international best-seller because of its quality writing. It is precisely because of what the book says about Christianity that it has sold so many copies and spawned an industry of TV specials and commentaries.

    The book speaks directly to the common person; it reaches places that legitimate scholarship does not. Hence it is tremendously influential with regard to the plausibility of Christianity.

    If you’re are a Christian, get your head out of the sand.

    [O/T, did everyone see the South Park episode where everyone buried their heads in the sand? — P]

    James Sinclair (e32761)

  24. X

    sarcasm, buddy.

    JS

    Why should I worry about this more than Scientology? As I’ve admitted, I haven’t read it.

    See Dubya (f3a346)

  25. The movie was made and sold as an attack on Christianity. Brown did not write his book to attack religion. A very big difference. The book is not kind to religion, but it is not a frontal attack on religion; the movie was.

    J Winters — both the movie and the book were/are fiction. The Last Temptation was (like Fairenheight 911) fiction designed to attack. A very significant and important distinction.

    Rod Stanton (08316d)

  26. By reading DVC, you’ve just read every book by Dan Brown. I’ve also read “Angels and Demons” and “Deception Point” and the plots are practically identical: the secret society; the global conspiracy, the architect of which is the same type of person (without giving too much away); the killer/assassin who gets a near-sexual thrill from killing. It’s like he took one book, used search/replace, and created a new book.

    Rob (e354c9)

  27. As someone who’s not a Christian I wasn’t offended by anything. I tried to keep my eyes open for things that might be offensive to others, but it was difficult because I had to constantly fight to stay awake. Geez, what a rotten book. What an overhyped, oversold piece of popular trash. I can’t believe this is what passes for literature these days.

    Fortunately I was able to purge it from my mind by reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Highly recommended.

    Voice of Reason (766133)

  28. In the next fortnight, the Sydney Anglican church will unveil a significant rebuttal of Dan Brown lore via the Challenging Da Vinci website.

    Trailer is here.

    Stay tuned.

    Manny C (69487a)

  29. […] Michelle Malkin discusses last night’s excellent South Park episode regarding Mohammed cartoons. I already mentioned this in a comment, here, but thought I’d give it its own post. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Last Night’s South Park (421107)

  30. I will de-lurk to say that 1)I am a Christian, and 2)I’ve read the book. I’m not a fundamentalist Christian, but I recognized the book as fiction, and I enjoyed it immensely as just that.

    In fact, the main plotpoint in the book (i.e., the MM/Holy Grail connection) invited another question for me: Is it possible that MM, and not John, authored the Fourth Gospel? After all, the true author of that Gospel continally refers to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved,” does (s)he not? I also read an article here that makes a somewhat convincing case for MM as the author. Of course, my friends and relatives who are more knowledgable about the Bible have refused to accept that argument, but they also haven’t quite been able to prove why John, and not MM, is the author (beyond the “because he is” argument, of course). At any rate (to finally get around to answering your question), the book, if anything, deepened my interest in Christianity, and it made me do something I hadn’t done in years: open the Bible.

    SPJ (1eda38)

  31. That’s funny, my wife just finished this book tonight. Weird.

    She was not impressed with the story and/or the writing. She thought it was very predictable.

    I am a little puzzled by the claims of “it’s only fiction, people.” As Patterico said, Dan Brown has made claims that “some” (ah, that elusive some) of it is true. Moreover, whether or not the common man should believe everything he reads in a book (I vote for “no”), the truth is lots and lots of people do believe what they read. After all, the author has done “research.” For example, after reading Shaara’s Civil War books, I was a little miffed (because I am a NERD who likes history) at the way he portrayed some events and people. How would someone uneducated on the topic know which claims are “true” and which are just for the purposes of the novel?

    That said, can you still call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe there’s any problem with Christ having been married? I think, sure, why not?

    [Yeah, but not if you believe that he wasn’t really the Son of God, and that Constantine just made up that part hundreds of years later. — P]

    jinnmabe (0fb1ed)

  32. I’m much less bothered by the “sacrilariousness” of this “Saturday morning serial in novel form” than I was by the short part of the “Left Behind” series I read. That sounded very subtly, but seriously, anti-semitic. The mumbo jumbo in Brown’s novel is almost all rehashed conspiracy and symbolism from all the way back to the 4th or 5th century AD. Nothing new here, folks, move on. The LaHaye series has, in my invaluable opinion ( ;-{) ), more to be worried about than Dan Brown’s work.

    p.s., his other work, Demons and Angels is about as good as the DaVinci Code. His Digital Fortress is hackneyed and cliched to the point that it is unreadable (to me).

    Steve G. (feb53c)

  33. Read the book. It’s fiction. With a wink and a nudge at the preface he set everyone up to do what fiction writers are supposed to do; Make money and create buzz about their book.
    Religions don’t like mud thrown in their face, hence all the ‘refutations’, websites, other books, TV programs. They should have shrugged their collective shoulders and moved on. By enhancing all the hue and cry, they [established religions] lend credibility to the premise of the book. It’s just another ‘what if’ premise on a topic most rational people become unhinged about-religion. Bah, read it or not it’s just another commercial product.

    paul (464e99)

  34. See Dubya:

    sarcasm, buddy.

    I think it’s spelled “sarchasm,” assuming you’re referring to what I fell into.

    Xrlq (51d90f)

  35. This brilliant takedown of Brown’s novel by Christian humorist Eric Metaxas is a must read.

    Joe Parana (777a0c)

  36. How is Left Behind anti-semetic?

    sharon (fecb65)

  37. I am friendly with “Silas”. As has been published in the New York Times (!) he is from Nigeria. I also know his wife. Strange monk.
    Is this part of the true statements?

    Raul Alessandri (ba72e8)

  38. Gee, a fictional tale building upon the even more fictional tale of Jesus of Nazareth, of whom not one truly historical trace can be found, in an era of well-documented histories!

    Second “Greatest Story Ever Sold”, the first being the tale of Jesus!

    earl T (c8b79e)

  39. To be honest, I think most Christians such as my self are getting… a bit weary of the fight with culture deliberately and openly attacking and mocking our faith. Mild cartoons about Mohammed make newspapers hide and flee, but an entire book mocking and attacking the Bible gets a movie deal.

    We’re just tired I think. And we’re working in a different way these days. Protests don’t accomplish much, but getting into the industry to make better movies to compete does. Crying about it on national TV doesn’t make a difference, but writing books to set the record straight and writing better fiction does.

    Unlike commenter 1 above says, this book doesn’t simply skewer the Roman Catholic Church, it skewers the core of Christian faith, the Bible, and the nature of Christ Himself.

    The answer to this is not protest and whining, but truth.

    Christopher Taylor (9e1f4d)

  40. Incidentally, if you want something that gives the historical facts and theological straight talk to refute the invented nonsense of DaVinci Code, there are several resources. One is the book DaVinci Deception by Erwin Lutzer, another is the book Breaking the DaVinci Code by Darrell L. Bock. Stand to Reason has an article coming out soon in their regular newsletter and this link covers the basic problems fairly quickly:
    http://answers.org/issues/davincicode.html

    There are some very solid books written about the validity of the Bible and how historically accurate and carefully, accurately translated it has been for almost 2000 years. The resources are pretty easy to find.

    one note though:

    The book is not kind to religion, but it is not a frontal attack on religion

    True, but it’s an attack, a direct attack on Christianity.

    Christopher Taylor (9e1f4d)

  41. He even misidentified the painting in The Little Mermaid. And the language the Gospel of Philip was written in. It seems as though Brown didn’t even bother to do even rudimentary research. The whole thing about the manuscript on the Priory os Sion was exposed as a French hoax years ago, in sworn testimony.

    I was challenged by a coworker to read it, and I agreed to if she would read my comments. So here they are. After a while it got to be pretty tedious.

    My favorite post is the one on Saint Mary Magdalene.

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  42. [He *says* he does. You don’t have the plot quite right, but I hate to give too much away. The question is: how much of what Brown claims is fact, actually is? And where can one go to find an unbiased and authoritative discussion of the issue? — P]

    I think if any one is interested in the subject and wants to really look for academic, unbiased information you could start with Barbara Thiering, who is a theologian and a biblical scholar. She has spent something like 30 years studying the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel. She has a PhD in Theology and taught at the University of Sydney, is fluent in Greek and Hebrew. Her books “Jesus the Man”, “Jesus of the Apocalypse” are wonderful, factual reads about Jesus during the Gospel period and after the Crucifixion.

    If you want to study further you could read “The Dead Sea Scrolls in English” by Vermes and “The Nag Hammadi Library in English” by Robinson. To obtain an “eyewitness” account of history at the time you could study Flavius Josephus’ works, especially “Jewish Antiquities” and some overlap by Philo to include “The Contemplative Life” and “Every good man is Free”.

    There really is a wealth of study of the period available. Most Christians would not study these works as they present an “alternative” narrative as to Jesus’ life and the political realities of that time period.

    RLS (0516f0)

  43. Sacrilegious? Yes, but that doesn’t trouble me. I have a big God who can defend himself if he chooses. I worship a God who allowed himself to be crucified. I think he can handle this.

    Brown’s pathetic arguments are not much of a threat anyway. And I thought Foucault’s Pendulum was a much better novel. It was written along the same lines but with more imagination and without the absurd pagan preaching.

    I like the new skepticism, it allows me to talk to people about things that are usually off-limits. It allows me to bring up the issues Brown avoids like the plague – human sinfulness, redemption, and Christ’s resurrection. And, of course, the veracity of scripture.

    But I don’t have all the answers. I’m searching for the truth just like everyone else.

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  44. Christopher, is that really you? It’s good to hear from you, and I hope you are well!

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  45. … the even more fictional tale of Jesus of Nazareth, of whom not one truly historical trace can be found, in an era of well-documented histories!

    earl, sorry you feel that way. I recommend you look into the historicity and veracity of the New Testament documents, however. Far more contemporary manuscript evidence than any of what you consider “well-documented histories”. And the extant New Testament documents are far more contemporaneous than the other “well-documented histories”. The evidence is there if you are willing to look with an open mind.

    Perhaps if Jesus had been Roman instead of Jewish there would be more interest among the Roman historians.

    Sure were a lot of people willing to die for what they should have known to be a myth, though. Something in the first century sure changed their outlook on life and death.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  46. … the even more fictional tale of Jesus of Nazareth, of whom not one truly historical trace can be found, in an era of well-documented histories!

    There certainly can be disagreements about Jesus’ life and what kind of person he was, i.e, his spirituality, his politics, his social standing, the amount of influence or popularity,etc. but I don’t think anyone who is serious can dispute his existence during that time. Josephus even makes mention of him and the Dead Sea Scrolls have numerous cites.

    People that dismiss the existence of Jesus are not serious scholars and should not be taken seriously.

    RLS (0516f0)

  47. You can’t judge a book…

    It’s all smoke and metaphor. The book is only a disguised attack on pedophiles. You see, Elvis died and left a daughter who was largely ignored by the media and her father’s fans. But she took up Scientology and married a changed man. The rest is history.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  48. I’m not saying I follow Brown’s version, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that if Jesus were married, he wasn’t the Son of God. I see those as two independent questions. Maybe I didn’t make clear, but I haven’t read his book, just picked up on what others have said about it. Does Brown use the idea of one to refute the other?

    jinnmabe (0fb1ed)

  49. I haven’t read the book. How about a hint at the “sacrilicious” element ..

    PrestoPundit (fa2820)

  50. PrestoPundit: The Resurrection is the central tenet of Christianity. Anyway, if you want to read a much, much better fictional attack on Christianity, read Harry Harrison’s “The Hammer and the “Cross trilogy. It’s dark and disturbing but a very good adventure story and in no way boring.

    nk (77d95e)

  51. j, … I don’t think it necessarily follows that if Jesus were married, he wasn’t the Son of God. I see those as two independent questions.

    If we can’t trust the NT documents on these details we can’t trust them at all. If Jesus is who he claimed to be – God in human flesh – I would argue this mitigates against a marital relationship with any of his created beings. Therefore, if Jesus was married the clear implication is that he was not who he claimed to be.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  52. Pat, … I don’t recall similar outrage over the book. What gives?

    Perhaps we could have a book-burning? That would fit into a particular stereotype and produce abosolutely nothing, as would demonstrations.

    First and foremost, the response to this book has been largely “in house”. The preponderance of the responses have been to Christians within the Christian community, responding to error with facts. That is as it should be.

    Personally, I don’t see this book as significantly different from other previous efforts, e.g., The Passover Plot, to question the veracity of the historic Christian faith, just a bit more subtle in its approach. Of course there is the “plausible deniability” of “it’s only a work of fiction (based in fact)” built in. The author is then able to have it both ways.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  53. You all realise that, in a very eerie similiarity, the reaction to this bit of entertainment is analogous to a recent uproar about cartoons….
    Before I put on my helmet and duck into this lurker bunker, I want to agree with Amphipolis’ comment:
    I have a big God who can defend himself if he chooses.
    Mine too, how about yours?

    paul (464e99)

  54. An excellent, very readable and very short little book on the subject of the reliability of the NT documents is The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce, M.A., D.D., Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism.

    Dr. Bruce documents the evidence from early Jewish and gentile writers, archaeology, manuscripts and the early church fathers for the historical trustworthiness of the NT as we have it today.

    Perhaps we can appreciate how wealthy the New Testament is in manuscript attestation if we compare the textual material for other ancient historical works. For Caesar’s “Gallic War” (composed between 58 and 50 BC) there are several extant MSS, but only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day. Of the 142 books of the Roman History of Livy (59 BC-AD 17) only thirty-five survive; these are known to us from not more than twenty MSS of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing fragments of Books iii-vi, is as old as the fourth century. Of the fourteen books of the “Histories” of Tacitus (c. AD 100) only four and a half survice; of the sixteen books of his “Annals”, ten survive in full and two in part.[followed by a number of similar examples] … Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.

    But how different is the situtation of the New Testament in this respect! In addition to the two excellent MSS of the fourth century mentioned above, which are the earliest of some thousands known to us, considerable fragments remain of papyrus copies of books of the New Testament dated 100 to 200 years earlier still. [and so on]

    For contemporary manuscript evidence the NT documents are unmatched among the “well documented histories” of the time. It is fair to examine the NT documents for historical accuracy. It is not fair or intellectually sound to accord them an inferior status among other historical documents simply because their subject matter includes other “religious” ideas about which we might disagree. Furthermore, in terms of their historical veracity in those areas that can be cross-checked with other contemporary “histories”, the NT documents have been found repeatedly to be accurate and trustworthy.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  55. I want to agree with Amphipolis’ comment:
    I have a big God who can defend himself if he chooses.
    Mine too, how about yours?

    Yep! Short, sweet, and to the point, my friends. This is precisely why I have chosen not to attend any of the Christian riots … Also can’t recall any Christian clergy suggesting that it is our Christian duty to kill the author …

    And this is why a rational, civil discussion is really the only appropriate WWJD response.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  56. from Marshall J. Gauvin:

    “If Christ lived, if he was a reformer, if he performed wonderful works that attracted the attention of the multitude, if he came in conflict with the authorities and was crucified — how shall we explain the fact that history has not even recorded his name? The age in which he is said to have lived was an age of scholars and thinkers. In Greece, Rome and Palestine, there were philosophers, historians, poets, orators, jurists and statesmen. Every fact of importance was noted by interested and inquiring minds. Some of the greatest writers the Jewish race has produced lived in that age. And yet, in all the writings of that period, there is not one line, not one word, not one letter, about Jesus. Great writers wrote extensively of events of minor importance, but not one of them wrote a word about the mightiest character who had ever appeared on earth — a man at whose command the leprous were made clean, a man who fed five thousand people with a satchel full of bread, a man whose word defied the grave and gave life to the dead.

    John E. Remsburg, in his scholarly work on “The Christ,” has compiled a list of forty-two writers who lived and wrote during the time or within a century after the time, of Christ, not one of whom ever mentioned him.

    Philo, one of the most renowned writers the Jewish race has produced, was born before the beginning of the Christian Era, and lived for many years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to have died. His home was in or near Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to have preached, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified, and to have risen from the dead. Had Jesus done these things, the writings of Philo would certainly contain some record of his life. Yet this philosopher, who must have been familiar with Herod’s massacre of the innocents, and with the preaching, miracles and death of Jesus, had these things occurred; who wrote an account of the Jews, covering this period, and discussed the very questions that are said to have been near to Christ’s heart, never once mentioned the name of, or any deed connected with, the reputed Savior of the world.

    In the closing years of the first century, Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, wrote his famous work on “The Antiquities of the Jews.” In this work, the historian made no mention of Christ, and for two hundred years after the death of Josephus, the name of Christ did not appear in his history. There were no printing presses in those days. Books were multiplied by being copied. It was, therefore, easy to add to or change what an author had written. The church felt that Josephus ought to recognize Christ, and the dead historian was made to do it. In the fourth century, a copy of “The Antiquities of the Jews” appeared, in which occurred this passage: “Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

    Not scholarly? Hardly! Rest ye all knowledge of Christ in faith, but do not sully that of history with that of mythology!

    earl T (c8b79e)

  57. earl T,

    Josephus also mentions Jesus in the context of James as he notes “James the brother of Jesus”, separate from the context you cite. I really think that if one reads the “experts” on the DSS, you would be hard pressed to declaritively state that Jesus did not live at that period in time.

    I think that because Jesus and his faction were such a minority, or such a minor sect, that in the grand history of the time (Roman Empire) they merit little or no historical interest. Add to that the location where the Gospels take place (Qumrum), an isolated community in a barren location whose activities have basically no impact on the center of government (Rome) and you can see how Josephus or Philo would give him (them) barely a footnote in historical documents.

    Jesus was basically a “municipal official”, in a podunk outback town during this time. Much like one picking up a “Comprehensive History of the American Revolution” you would not expect to read about the political machinations of the local “councilmen” of sparsely populated municipalities.

    I do recommend Barbara Thiering’s books for anyone that would be interested in learning the history of the time and the “minor sect” that Jesus led.

    For the record, I am an atheist.

    RLS (0516f0)

  58. Christ’s marriage is more important to Brown’s theory than his celibacy is to Christianity. Christ’s celibacy is not part of the historical creeds or confessions. While Christ’s marriage could bring up some potentially awkward theological implications for Christians, his celibacy would be fatal to Brown’s theory.

    Therefore I don’t think Christians should bother trying to prove Christ’s celibacy. The burden of proof is on Brown to prove his marriage. But Brown has not proven Christ’s marriage – all he has given is speculation. Without a marriage, he has nothing.

    If the Gospels were so altered by Constantine, you would think that an explicit statement of Christ’s celibacy would have been added. But one passage that apparently was added deals with Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9). Funny how reality does not conform to The Theory.

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  59. Therefore I don’t think Christians should bother trying to prove Christ’s celibacy. The burden of proof is on Brown to prove his marriage. But Brown has not proven Christ’s marriage – all he has given is speculation. Without a marriage, he has nothing.

    Brown borrows much from Thiering’s writings without attribution. Then just “makes stuff up”, which, I guess is what fiction is all about. Thiering makes a compelling case for, not only one but two, marriages and at least four children: a daughter born 33AD (Tamar), a son born 36AD (Jesus Justus) and a son born 44AD (name unknown) all by Mary and one child by Lydia, the second wife.

    Jesus Justus became the leader of the “Christian” movement.

    RLS (0516f0)

  60. “I don’t recall similar outrage over the book. What gives?”

    I dispute the premise. There was quite a bit of outrage over the book, including quite a few books written as rebuttal. The form of the outrage may have been slightly differnt, given the absence of a big “opening weekend” to rally around, but it was mostly similar. In fact, this thread is pretty good evidence that the outrage persists today.

    By the way, the book was awesome, but Angels & Demons was better. Deception point was good, Digital Fortress was “eh.”

    Spoons (68d828)

  61. RLS:

    I could find no compelling argument there. A list of completely unsubstantiated statements is not an argument.

    At least she gives a clue to the problem with the one extant manuscript of the Gospel of Philip – she provides brackets for the [lacuna]. Unlike Brown, she at least gives a clue of where she is making up the document. And reading the rest of the document does not increase one’s confidence in it. I had a post on my site referenced above that deals with these books.

    Can you give an example of an argument that you think is compelling?

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  62. I had a post on my site referenced above that deals with these books.

    I did not find any comments on Thiering’s works in your post. I see where you dealt with Brown’s fiction. I think Thiering makes a compelling arguement when dealing with Jesus as a member of a dynastic line that must continue that line. Her analysis of the dates of birth, the reasons for those dates and the political realities of the day are, in my opinion, compelling arguements.

    Thiering has, for over 20 years, been involved in research into the Dead Sea Scrolls. She has documented her research extensively and is a serious theological scholar.

    RLS (0516f0)

  63. I dealt with the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene in Chapter 58 Part 3 – In Which the Author Tends to Destruct His Own Evidence.

    A son was conceived in September 36 AD and born in June 37 AD (Acts 6:7).

    A long list of assumptions such as this one pulled from thin air is not an argument. It is not even speculation. It is fiction masquerading as scholarship.

    His wife was Mary Magdalene. When Luke 8:2 says that seven demons had gone out of her, it simply means that when she married Jesus, she ceased being under the authority of Judas Iscariot, the militant successor of Judas the Galilean. He was the Chief Levite in charge of the Virgins, that is nuns.

    It’s funny how definitive she is about this stuff. No doubt about it. Whatever she thinks up is what happened.

    Conspicuously absent are the actual words of Jesus. I suggest you read the Gospels and see for yourself what Jesus taught about himself.

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  64. from wikipedia:

    Thiering’s ideas have, however, not been embraced by other scholars in her field and she is generally regarded as a fringe theorist. As noted Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Geza Vermes put it:

    “Professor Barbara Thiering’s reinterpretation of the New Testament, in which the married, divorced, and remarried Jesus, father of four, becomes the “Wicked Priest” of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has made no impact on learned opinion. Scroll scholars and New Testament experts alike have found the basis of the new theory, Thiering’s use of the so-called “pesher technique,” without substance.” (‘New York Review of Books’, Dec 1, 1994)

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  65. Yes brother it’s me :) Good to see you too.

    There are more mentions of Jesus in contemporary and ancient nonreligious texts than most other single figures in history. I’ve read that attempt to pretend the mention of Jesus was inserted into Josephus and it’s without literary or historical merit. It also doesn’t deal with the mention of Christ by various other historians such as Tacitus.

    Attempting to pretend Jesus was a ficticious person is lamentable scholarship – he’s very reliably corroborated by various sources, not to mention four distinct biographies written about the man in the most venerated book of human history. There is no serious scholar of history who doubts Jesus Christ existed.

    Christopher Taylor (9e1f4d)

  66. Some First Century Roman reports:

    Seutonius on Claudius – V.25:

    Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.

    Seutonius on Nero – VI.16:

    Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievious religious belief

    Amphipolis (346a88)

  67. The Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod is a historical event. Augustus Caesar even commented on it.

    nk (9495ab)

  68. What I find remarkable, as a non christian, is the steafast adherence to the bible as it stands in the New Testament. Bearing in mind that the document was ‘cobbled together’ at the behest of King James the completeness of the document is held as total by the faithful [which I realise is where their name comes from.]. Rationally, the fact that man has heavily edited the new testament means a reasonable person could not make any historical assestments of Jesus’ celibacy or marriage. Who knows what was left ‘on the cutting room floor’ so to speak.
    BTW, the strategy of Dan Brown and his publishers has worked on me, I broke down and bought Angels and Demons.

    paul (001f65)

  69. paul:

    We have manuscripts of the Gospels from 1000 years before King James, and fragments from the first century. I think there are several times more extant manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient book put together. If you don’t trust the New Testament, throw out all of your ancient history. We have the writings of the early Roman pre-Constantine Church Fathers that refer to them (and the Deity of Christ) extensively. We have not one, but four independent accounts, whose basic facts corroborate one another. The fact that they are not identical would strongly suggest that they were independent. We now have the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls that the book of Isaiah was transcribed virtually unchanged for a thousand years. I suggest you check your facts.

    And, while Bible-believing Christians would claim that the original autographs were inspired (literally God-breathed) and therefore inerrant, we acknowledge that there have been errors and manipulations in transmission and translation. I referred to one above. But no essential element of Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. I don’t care how many stalls of horses Solomon had, but the fact that I know there is a discrepancy shows how good my information is.

    See my link’s Chapter 55 Part 2 – A False Dilemma for a brief discussion of this. Some Christians hold the King James Version to be inerrant. If that’s what you are referring to, I agree with you!

    As I’ve said, I don’t have all the answers. But the information is more available now than any other time in history. Investigate for yourself, but make sure you listen to both sides.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  70. By the way, the thing I find most humorous about the book is that the author seems to not be aware that the al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were already built on the Temple Mount during the time of the Templars. And the Romans had built a pagan temple there much earlier.

    He seems to think that the ruins of the First Century temple were still there, undisturbed, in the 12th Century.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  71. Amphipolis-

    Your manuscriptology needs work. Sure, we have tons of copies. However, most of those are copies of only a few originals; many other ancient (and popular) works, like the Aeneid, have more confirmed source documents for the manuscripts.

    This is not to say, however, that the copies are inaccurate or forgeries. I’ve personally worked with papyrus fragments of the Gospels from the early second century A.D.

    Also, I’m curious how you consider that there are four documents with the same basic story… John is exceedingly divergent from the synoptic Gospels, excluding things like the Last Supper in favor of the washing of the feet (not told elsewhere) and so forth.

    Angry Clam (fa7fff)

  72. Clam,
    Would it be safe to assume that the old testament has a greater ‘chance of veracity’ due to the Jewish methods and traditions of copying it than the New testament? The Same, greater or lesser? I’ve been wondering, you seem better informed than I. What do you think?

    paul (001f65)

  73. I’m not sure, as it depends on when those methods were instituted. Generally, such religious demands for accuracy do in fact serve to preserve more accurate and archaic reproductions than otherwise (see, for example, the Hindu Vedas, which have preserved the Sanskrit language essentially unchanged for about 4,000 years).

    However, please don’t confuse “accurately preserved text” with “accurately relates the contents of the text.” The contents of the Old Testament may be better preserved in their original forms (or at least their forms when these copying strictures were instituted) than other texts, but that does not mean that what is related within the writings has any higher claim to accuracy- imagine if, instead of the Old Testament, there was some cultural taboo demanding the accuracy of copying, say, Moby Dick. 2,500 years later, the text might be astonishingly close to Melville’s actual words, but that doesn’t mean that Ahab existed.

    You can still call me Ishmael, however.

    Angry Clam (fa7fff)

  74. Angry Clam:

    no time, quick response –

    John does not give the same detail, but the Last Supper is mentioned – 13:1-3 clearly is the same event.

    Aren’t there less than a dozen ancient manuscripts of the Aeneid?

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  75. I wish people would treat the Bible like they do any other ancient manuscript. Seriously, the standards of proof, the skepticism and the outright denial of facts regarding the Bible are way out of proportion than regarding any other historical ancient document. If some crackpot 200 years after Thucydides put out an account radically different adding in odd and contradictory information, scholars would laugh and put it in the crank file. But when a Gnostic does this with the Bible, well it’s a stunning historical find!

    When I tell a story about an event that varies from how my buddy tells the same story nobody says “one or both of you LIES!!!” they simply assume each of us tells the story from our perspective and ephasizes or bring up different details.

    There’s something behind this “skepticism” and it’s not a desire for better scholoarship.

    Christopher Taylor (9e1f4d)

  76. “Aren’t there less than a dozen ancient manuscripts of the Aeneid?”

    Ancientness of the manuscript isn’t the important factor, Amphipolis (except insofar as it can rebut claims of later forgery). Besides, if you wanted to be technical about it, the Aeneid includes two of the five most ancient codicies attested (The Vatican Vergil and the Codex Romanus; with the fragmentary Ambrosian Iliad being the third; the other two are the Codecies Vaticanus and Sinaiticus).

    Manuscriptology is like a family tree. For things like the Aeneid, we have a much fuller pedigree to compare against (that it, known or supposed ancient manuscript source documents). I don’t have my copy with an apparatus criticus here, so I can’t tell you how many. I can assure you that it is quite substantial.

    The New Testament, however, really goes back to a handful- the Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus, and the Codex Alexandrinus. Nearly all of the Textus Receptus can be traced to readings from these manuscripts.

    Angry Clam (fa7fff)

  77. Brown publishes altered versions of the gnostic gospels with the lacuna conveniently filled in and calls them unaltered gospels in the same chapter.

    The man’s a modern wonder.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  78. Amphipolis,
    Brown publishes altered versions of the gnostic gospels with the lacuna conveniently filled in and calls them unaltered gospels in the same chapter.

    The man’s a modern wonder.

    No he is not. He’s merely an entertainer.

    paul (001f65)

  79. Amphipolis,

    You got suckered into the “documentation” trap. Christ did not write, he spoke. People heard him and told other people. Some who heard him wrote it down. The Apostles witnessed and told other people. He was the Word. The spread of Christianity did not come from the Gospels or the Epistles. (How many people were literate in those days, anyway?) It came from the Apostles actually going out there and preaching and their preaching being repeated. To the “journalists”, who want a Certified Stenographic Reporter with audio and video at The Mount, do you really think that a writing which is inconsistent with commonly-held belief passed down orally could survive? Whenever the Gospels may have been written, they document what early Christians believed and the reasons they believed it. And it’s as good a documentation as any, and better than most, of news or history you will hear of or read in your lives.

    nk (54c569)

  80. Hi i just wanted to say i am a beliver in God and that Jesus is the sun of God but i loved the book and believe that most of the DVC is factuaul and that Jesus does have desendants running around. Because for one there was no birth control back then, if you “did it” you were pregnant and i highly doubt, a man who was said to walk on water and heal the mute and blind didn’t have the best of the best woman flocking to his feet. Lastly no where in the book does it say that Jesus wasn’t the sun of God. All it says is that the church is once again trying to claim that they know all the answers and anyone who contradicts what they say can only be trying to destroy the religion, when their is only good going to come out of Jesus having a family.

    tt johnes (40490d)

  81. people i am a devout believer in God andJesus but come on already Jesus IS NOT!! AND I REPEAT NOT GOD he is THE SON OF GOD NOT GOD HIMSELF!!!

    tt johnes (40490d)

  82. Wow, I thought that the Arian heresy died out a long time ago.

    Angry Clam (a7c6b1)

  83. It left progeny. Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.

    nk (947b03)

  84. (sorry for the bold print but can’t seem to be able to turn it off)

    ttj, recommend you begin with John’s gospel:

    John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.

    John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us …

    John 10:30 I and my Father are one. :31The the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

    John 20:28 And Thomas answered, and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

    … from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

    Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; :16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers – all things were created by him, and for him;

    Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

    Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

    Rev 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. :16 I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify …

    These are but a few of the many references to Jesus as “God the son” to be found in the NT. A central tenant of the historic Christian faith is the doctrine of the trinitarian existance of God: there is only one God who exists in three distinct and co-equal persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus is fully God and fully man. The NT really allows for no other conclusion.

    This doctrine explains Christ’s vicarious suffering for our sin. And it makes sense of Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God (see John 3:18, 3:36 and several other similar passages). Yes, this was Jesus’ claim, not something the church has “made up” to create an exclusive club. Nothing really surprising about God claiming to be the only way to God …

    To argue that the creator/God-man, would condescend to mate with his creatures or to suggest that he would co-habitate with women who were “flocking at his feet” is bordering upon, if not outright blasphemy. There is simply no Biblical evidence whatsoever that Jesus was married, had a family, or sired offspring. Not to mention that common sense strongly suggests otherwise.

    I would suggest that the best way to treat Brown’s book is as the author himself has suggested: as a work of fiction.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)


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