Tackling the Da Vinci Code

“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”

- 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NRSV)

The best selling novel The Da Vinci Code was a publishing phenomenon. It was on the New York Times best-seller list for over 60 weeks, most of the time as number one or two. Seven million copies were in print, and it was being translated in 40 languages. A film version from Sony Pictures was released in May 2006.

The novel makes allegedly well-researched claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children, that Mary Magdalene rather than Peter was the head apostle, that Jesus was not considered divine until Emperor Constantine insisted on it for political expediency in 325 AD, and that the Church subsequently suppressed these truths and the alternative “gospels” that documented them by terror and force.

Many non-believers have embraced the book’s claims as further evidence for the groundlessness of organized Christianity. Some believers, perhaps ignorant of the history of the early church, have been enthralled by the new possibilities and spiritualities the book seems to open up.

In four Sunday sessions from August 1 to August 29, 2004, we took on some of the claims of The Da Vinci Code and put them to the test of history and current scholarship.

On Sunday, June 4, 2006, following a Fellowship outing to see the newly released movie, we met for a synopsis presentation of the issues discussed in the above four sessions.

Presentations were by David Monyak.

Downloads: Presentations

1: What is Gnosticism? What are the Gnostic gospels?

2: Who was Mary Magdalene? What was the role of women in the early church?

3: How and when did the early Church understand Jesus was both human and divine?

4: How and when did the early Church decide on the books in the New Testament?

Synopsis (an abridged, one session version)

References

Primary

Breaking the Da Vinci Code, by Darrell L. Bock, Nelson Books, Nashville, 2004, ISBN 0-7852-6046-3

The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in the Da Vinci Code, by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2004, ISBN 1-58617-034-1

The Gospel Code. Novel Claims About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Da Vinci, by Ben Witherington III, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2004, ISBN 0-8308-3267-X

Secondary

Credo. Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. Jaroslav Pelikan, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2003. ISBN 0-300-09388-8

Early Christian Doctrines. Revised Edition. J. N. D. Kelly, HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 1978 (revised edition). ISBN 0-06-064334-X

Early Christianity and its Sacred Literature. Lee Martin McDonald and Stanley E. Porter. Hendrickson Publishers, 2000. ISBN: 1565632664

Lost Christianities. The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Bart D. Ehrman. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-514183-0

Lost Scriptures. Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. Bart D. Ehrman. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-514182-2

The Creed. What Christians Believe and Why It Matters. Luke Timothy Johnson, Doubleday, New York, 2003. ISBN 0-385-50247-8

The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). Volume 1 of The Christian Tradition. A History of the Development of Doctrine. Jaroslav Pelikan, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1971, ISBN 0-226-65371-4

The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ. Martin Hengel, Trinity Press International, Harrisburg, 2000. ISBN 1-56338-300-4

The Gnostic Gospels. Elaine Pagels, Vintage, 1989. ISBN: 0679724532

The Penguin History of the Church 1. The Early Church. Revised Edition. Henry Chadwick, Penguin Books, London, 1993 (revised edition). ISBN 0-14-023199-4

The Spirit of Early Christian Thought. Seeking the Face of God. Robert Louis Wilken, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2003. ISBN 0-300-09708-5