The Fool’s Folly Uncovered
by James White
The many biblical errors of the The Da Vinci Code are clustered in two vitally important portions of the story of Dan Brown’s blockbuster fictional work. First, the vast majority of statements concerning the Bible appear in the narration of events in the home of Sir Leigh Teabing, where he and Langdon “educate” Sophie Neveu about the true nature of the Holy Grail (pp. 231–267), and secondly on Teabing’s aircraft as they again expand upon the Grail legend (p. 309). Though the work is presented as fiction, its assertions regarding the Bible are presented as bald facts without the slightest balance or attempt at fairness. The falsehoods touted by Brown through his characters reflect some of the worst anti-Christian bigotry ever to sell more than twenty million copies and spawn a major motion picture. Sadly, most of those exposed to these falsehoods will never hear a sound, compelling refutation that would allow them to consider the Gospel message when it is presented from Scripture. This makes The Da Vinci Code a barrier to evangelism in our culture.
The central message Brown communicates through his characters is that the Bible represents a radically corrupted, maliciously edited collection of non-historical, politically motivated writings. Compiled by a pagan emperor to promote his own elevation of Jesus to a divine status, the Bible is little more than the political propaganda of the male-centered Catholic church, designed to assist in the destruction of those who continue to serve the “divine feminine.” Brown begins his assault on the Christian Scriptures:
“The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible…has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book” (The Da Vinci Code, Doubleday, 2003, p. 231).
The intention of such rhetoric is clear: to lay the foundation for the complete denial of scriptural authority. But since Brown can hide behind the mantle of fiction he does not bother to offer refutable specifics. He claims the Bible is human without any divine origin, and he casts unwarranted doubt upon the transmission of the text over time. Brown expands upon these false claims:
“Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land.… More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.
“‘Who chose which gospels to include?’ Sophie asked.
“‘Aha!’ Teabing burst in with enthusiasm. ‘The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great’” (p. 231).
The number of utterly non-provable assertions presented here is beyond our space to document. If Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were “among” the gospels “chosen,” what are the others? Where are these eighty other gospels? Even including second-century gnostic gospels, there are nowhere near eighty gospels with even the slightest historical pedigree. Further, the life of Jesus was not recorded by “thousands” of followers. Not a shred of historical evidence exists to substantiate such an assertion. And the idea that the canon of the entire Bible, including the Hebrew Scriptures, was decided upon by Constantine three centuries after the ministry of Christ is absurd in the extreme.
“Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned” (p. 234).
Constantine did in fact expend imperial funds for the copying of a number of Bibles. It is a leap of immense proportions to go from his having copies of the Scriptures made to asserting he had anything at all to do with editing the content of the Scriptures. Imagine the Christians who had endured only a decade and a half before horrific persecution for the cause of Christ allowing the Roman emperor to change their very own Scriptures!
Just as untenable a claim is the idea that the texts of the Gospels were edited wholesale as Brown asserts. He is evidently unaware of the fact that numerous papyri manuscripts exist today that predate the days of Constantine, and they bear no testimony to any such wholesale alteration. Further, any serious reader knows the canonical Gospels bear eloquent and balanced testimony to both the humanity and deity of Christ, again refuting Brown’s erroneous assertions. Brown will later identify the findings at Nag Hammadi (mainly Gnostic texts) and the Dead Sea Scrolls as the “earliest Christian records” (p. 245) and as the “unaltered gospels” (p. 248), relegating the canonical Gospels to the status of later, edited, redacted records. The fact is the sources to which Brown looks are the later writings, not the other way around.
Brown’s thesis is that Constantine elevated Jesus to a status of divinity almost four centuries after His death. Why? To denigrate the divine feminine, evidently; but why he would do so, we are not really told. Nonetheless, the assertions are bold and, likewise, completely false: “Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.… Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea.… Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man.… The scrolls (Nag Hammadi) highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda — to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base” (pp. 233–234).
Again hiding behind the cloak of fiction, Brown can avoid having to give specifics. The assertion of wholesale editing of the Bible is outrageous and easily refuted: no end of manuscripts exist identifying Jesus as the Son of God that were buried in the sands of time before Constantine ever drew a breath. Numerous early church writings likewise testify to the early belief in the deity of Christ (Ignatius of Antioch, Melito of Sardis, etc.), all of whom had lived and died long before Nicea. Which of the Nag Hammadi scrolls are we to examine to support such sweeping claims? What historical fabrications does the Bible contain? The Gnostic gospels upon which such fanciful theories are based are, in fact, the ones devoid of meaningful historical foundations and are instead filled with fabrications drawn from a much later period of time than the canonical Gospels. Of course, the Gnostic gospels all present a divine Jesus — just not the truly divine Jesus of the New Testament, for they put His divinity in a foreign context rather than the biblical context of Scripture. In any case, we see once again the fraudulent nature of Brown’s claims and the completely non-historical nature of his supposed “history.”
All of this fraudulent attack upon the text of Scripture is necessary to lay the foundation of The Da Vinci Code’s primary message: that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and that Mary is the “Holy Grail” who bore a child named Sarah, through whom a bloodline continues to exist to this day: “The early church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible. Unfortunately for the early editors, one particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the gospels. Mary Magdalene…. More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ…. It is a matter of historical record” (p. 244).
What is a matter of historical record is that the New Testament itself, long before Constantine, along with the early church writers who lived before that time period, proclaimed Jesus the Son of God and divine. The matter of historical record is that the canonical Gospels record Jesus’ full humanity, but neither they, nor any other meaningful historical record, ever say a word about Jesus being married. Those are the historical facts.
Finally, Brown blunders badly in asserting that “the Jewish tetragrammaton YHWH — the sacred name of God — in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah” (p. 309). In reality, Jehovah is a term derived from late Germanic usage, coming into existence a good, two-thousand years after the general usage of the tetragrammaton in the Old Testament: Brown has an ancient Hebrew term “deriving” from a modern German one. There is not the slightest bit of evidence that the name of Eve is at all related to Yahweh, let alone anything supportive of this kind of absurd linguistic conglomeration.
Dan Brown’s frontal attack upon the Christian faith and the Bible in particular has brought him millions. One shudders to consider what it will be like to stand before the God who authored the Scriptures to explain this kind of money-driven slander of the Word that has been settled forever in heaven (Ps. 119:89).