Articles & Reviews
Frequently Asked Questions about The Da Vinci Code
- Q: Is it true that the Bible as we know it today was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine the Great at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.?
No. To quote Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, best-selling author of Pontius Pilate, and Professor of the Year according to the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education:
“This is an embarrassing howler on the part of Dan Brown. Constantine had nothing whatsoever to do with which books were in the New Testament. And the Council of Nicea did not decide which books should go into the canon. None of that is true.”
- Q: Is it true that the Priory of Sion guards the lineage of Jesus, as revealed in “Les Dossiers Secret” in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris?
No. The Priory of Sion is a 20th Century fraud. Historian Alice Jouve says: “The Priory of Sion documents are all completely made up—a hoax. None of this is true.”
- Q: Is it true that Mary Magdalene appears in “The Last Supper” by Da Vinci, in the spot most people think is occupied by John?
No. Leonardo was simply following tradition in painting John as a beardless young man with long hair. His depiction was not a secret code or even unique; all other paintings of John contemporary to Leonardo depict him the same way. The world’s leading Leonardo expert, J.V. Field, art historian at the University of London and president of the Leonardo da Vinci Society, says:
“As a historian, I can only say that… the theory is absurd.” Joseph Forte, art historian at Sarah Lawrence College, says, “I know of no serious scholar who has proposed this notion.”
- Q: Is it true that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene?
The Bible teaches that Jesus was 100% human as well as 100% divine, so marriage would not have been an impossibility or a sin for Him. However, there is no evidence anywhere that Jesus was married.
“When he was in ministry, there is no mention of a wife. When he was tried and crucified, there is no mention of his having a wife. After his death, there is no mention of a wife. Whenever Jesus’ family is referred to, his brothers and sisters are mentioned, but never a wife. …The rest of the apostles, Peter, and the brothers of the Lord, all …are said to have had wives in 1 Corinthians 9:5. This passage shows the church was not embarrassed to reveal its leaders were married—or to suggest that they had the right to be.”
—Darrel Bock, Research Professor, Dallas Theological Seminary.
- Q: Is it true that, throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church killed millions of free-thinking women, calling them witches?
Tens of thousands of men and women were accused, and many killed, for alleged witchcraft from around 1500–1600. But the culprits were local courts in villages where the authority of both the church and state had broken down. The Catholic Church was almost never involved, and, in fact, successfully stopped some witch hunts.
Jenny Gibbons is a historian—and a self-described pagan—who has researched this topic thoroughly. She says that, in truth, the Christians had rules against even accusing people of witchcraft.
For example, the Synod of St. Patrick ruled that “a Christian who believes that there is a a witch—and lays that reputation upon a living being—shall not be received into the church until he revokes with his own voice the crime that he has committed.”
In fact, killing people for witchcraft was—according to church law—a capital offense. Pope Alexander IV explicitly refused to allow the Spanish Inquisition to investigate any charges of witchcraft. Even while sanctioning torture and executions of Christian “heretics” and Jews, Inquisition authorities also proactively suppressed witchcraft trials. For example, in 1609, a French witch-craze triggered a panic, but the Spanish Inquisition issued an edict making all witch trials illegal and successfully stopped the killings. The infamous witch hunt manual “Malleus Malefactorum” was almost immediately denounced by the Church upon its publication on the grounds that its author was demented, but it was reprinted several times and used mostly by local courts and self-appointed witch hunters as a guide for their abuses.
How many were killed? Secular historian Richard Kieckhefer (in his book “European Witch Trials”) reports exactly 702 definite executions in all of Europe from 1300–1500. Then from 1500–1600, there was a witch hunt panic primarily in Germany and Switzerland, where all central authority had collapsed, leading to about 24,000 executions for alleged witchcraft (it should be pointed out that tens of thousands of Christians were also killed in these regions for alleged heresy). Accusations of witchcraft, heresy, and treason flew unhindered as tribal and family feuds ran wild during this time of social ferment without the restraining effect of strong central authority. But all agree the number of executions never approached even one million, let alone the figures of five or nine million frequently heard.
- Q: Is it true that the Church has, as one character in the movie claims, “an unbroken 2,000 year record of oppression”?
The church has definitely been very un-Christ-like and unbiblical at times, and needs to always be on guard against abuses. But to say it has an unbroken history of oppression impugns the deeds of the millions of Christians who selflessly gave their very lives to serve others over those 2,000 years.
Does this sound like an unbroken history of oppression? The Christian church began the first organized movement to start public hospitals; in fact, at the popularly maligned Council of Nicea, the bishops decreed that wherever a new church was planted, a new public hospital should be started as well. This eventually led to the rise of the first nursing societies. Christians also started the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the YMCA… Christians led movements against the socially accepted practices of infanticide and infant abandonment, led the slavery abolition movement both in the US and England, and were the key leaders of the US civil rights movement. To this day, the overwhelming majority of charitable health and education organizations at work in the world are rooted in or actually operated by Christian churches.
Christian monks were largely responsible for preserving the ancient Greek classics and preserving literacy in Europe throughout the dark ages; in fact, the first efforts at organized education of the general population originated with Christians. This tradition of education eventually led to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and NYU being founded by Christians with specifically Christian missions. Since the early middle ages, Christians have developed the alphabets and writing systems for nearly every new written language in the world.
Talented men and women inspired by the Bible have contributed immensely to the world’s art: Imagine a world without Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Victor Hugo, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Madelyn L’Engle, Maya Angelou, etc.
Again, the church has had abuses in its history; but all of its abuses are a result of practices at odds with its own teachings. When Christians worship God with the spirit of grace and humility they’re taught to have in Scripture, amazing contributions to the world result.
- Q: Were rival “Christianities” competing in the ancient world? Is Christian orthodoxy just arbitrary, the result of one faction politically outmaneuvering and oppressing the other?
It’s always been known that from about AD 125 to about AD 600, to quote New Testament scholar Gary Burge, “people with active imaginations wrote numerous gospels.” But, as he goes on to point out in a recent article, while most of these gospels claim to come from an apostle, virtually every scholar knows these claims are fictitious. So did the early church. They were well aware of these writings and understood that they offered a view of Christian faith entirely different than the four earliest gospels, which are in our Bibles today.
Importantly, though, they never saw these gospels as rivals; they simply saw them as wrong. A great resource is the soon-to-be-released book The Missing Gospels by Darrell Bock. He shows the paucity of evidence for a uniform Gnostic movement. He also examines the theory often heard lately that “orthodoxy” was arbitrarily applied to the “winners of history”. In fact, from their very first writings, early Christians made theological judgements based on a consistent theological view.
The bottom line: The lost gospels “lost out” because of the impenetrable mysticism and unsatisfying theology of their own content, not because most believers were actively suppressing them. To use a modern example, a lot of books are printed each year, but there are only a few best sellers that strike a chord with the public. The four gospels are best sellers, and were from the start. The “lost gospels” simply faded away.
René Schlaepfer, Teaching Pastor
Twin Lakes Church, Aptos, CA