"The Da Vinci Code" sends defenders of the faith into a tizzy
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Journal Contributing Writer
May 23, 2006, 01:29
Even before Ron Howard�s film version of Dan Brown�s The Da Vinci Code hit the theaters, the
Catholic Church and the Christian Right were disparaging and preparing �to Defend Against the
�Code�.� Interesting how those whose dogma forbids independent thought and
embraces only unconscious, unquestioning acceptance and obedience are so
fearful of a movie that just might make people think.
Philadelphia�s Cardinal Rigali was �not
telling anyone they shouldn�t see the movie, but �It would be odd for
Christians, without some particular reason, to go and support financially this
project, which is enormous.��
Wuerl, who will replace Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June, advised
Roman Catholics who want to see The Da
Vinci Code to read the New Testament gospels first. His reasoning, so they
will know �what actually happened.� Wuerl confessed he started but could not
finish reading the novel because he found it �so unrelated to the reality of
and others� claims to absolute, definitive knowledge (itself a preposterous
proposition), no one knows �what
actually happened.� And as for the �reality of the church,� does he mean the
historical and still clandestine workings and machinations of Opus
Dei? Perhaps he means the conspiracy
to cover up decades of pedophilia by priests. Or perhaps he means the Vatican�s
ongoing refusal to recognize the social realities of life in the twenty-first
Focus on the Family set up a special web site � �Know
the truth . . . Share the truth.� The site claimed
Da Vinci Code challenges Jesus� identity and deeds, the content of the
Bible, the origin of the church, the motives of early Christian leaders and the
relevance of the church today � but it does so without any historical, logical or theological credibility.
Actually, it does so with more historical, human logic than
any concocted theology or dogma or biblical literalism could possibly muster.
Rev. Mark Creech, a seraphim of biblical literalism,
theology and dogma who once claimed �to doubt a literal interpretation of the
creation account is to undermine everything taught in the Bible,� was among
about what he called �factual
errors� in The Da Vinci Code.
Although much of The Da Vinci Code is based on factual errors, none of its
assertions is more egregious than the claim that Emperor Constantine of Rome
financed a staff to manipulate existing biblical texts to make Christ divine. The Da Vinci Code advocates that before
the Council of Nicea in 325 [c.e.], �Jesus was viewed by his
followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man
The same issue was raised by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel
in their article
for �Know the truth . . . Share the truth�:
The Divinity of Jesus
Much attention has been given to The Da
Vinci Code�s claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. But an even
more audacious claim of the novel is that the divinity of Jesus was first raised
and established at the Council of Nicaea in 325 a.d.;
and that prior to that time, no one � not even Jesus� followers � believed
Jesus was anything more than a �mortal prophet� and great man. . . .
And how did Creech respond? The same way Olson and Miesel did.
They used the Bible and self-serving dogma as �proof�:
In his seminal study, Early Christian Doctrines, noted scholar
J.N.D. Kelly writes: �The all but universal Christian conviction in the
[centuries prior to the Council of Nicaea] had been that Jesus Christ was
divine as well as human. The most primitive confession had been �Jesus is Lord�
[Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11], and its import had been elaborated and
deepened in the apostolic age.�
The Bible was not written by historians with an eye to truth
or veracity or accuracy. The texts selected
for canonization were written by men whose sole
purpose � like that of the men who chose the texts � was to create a belief
structure and the dogma to support it. Add to this the fact that the canonized
texts were written decades � sometimes centuries � after the �facts� they
purport to report, and using the Bible as a source of historical truth becomes
even more dubious, if that�s possible.
Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, made an appropriate
comment in responding
to Matt Lauer�s question:
�There have been calls from some religious groups, they wanted a disclaimer at
the beginning of this movie saying it is fiction because one of the themes in
the book really knocks Christianity right on its ear, if Christ survived the
crucifixion, he did not die for our sins and therefore was not resurrected.
What I'm saying is, people wanted this to say �fiction, fiction, fiction.� How
would you all have felt if there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the
movie? Would it have been okay with you?�
McKellen: �Well, I�ve often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the
front saying, �This is fiction.� . . ."
McKellen also made another poignant comment:
�I�m very happy to believe that Jesus was married . . . I know the Catholic
Church has problems with gay people and I thought this would be absolute proof
that Jesus was not gay.�
Historically speaking, the Bible is a compilation of beliefs
and dogma, which is exactly what the Council of
Nicea was all about:
When Constantine defeated Emperor
Licinius in 323 AD he ended the persecutions against the Christian church.
Shortly afterwards Christians faced a trouble from within: the Arian
controversy began and threatened to divide the church. The problem began in
Alexandria, it started as a debate between the bishop Alexander and the
presbyter (pastor, or priest) Arius.
Arius proposed that if the Father begat
the Son, the latter must have had a beginning, that there was a time when he
was not, and that his substance was from nothing like the rest of creation. The
Council of Nicea, a gathering similar to the one described in Acts
15:4-22, condemned the beliefs of Arius and wrote the first version of the
now famous creed proclaiming that the Son was �one in being with the Father� by
use of the Greek word �homoousius.�
To resolve the problem of two �Gods� � Father and Son � the
inventive bishops at the Council of Nicea instituted the dogmatic concoction
known as �the
in 325, the
Council of Nicea set out to officially define the relationship of the Son to
the Father, in response to the controversial teachings of Arius. Led by bishop
Athanasius, the council established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy
and condemned Arius� teaching that Christ was the first creation of God. The
creed adopted by the council described Christ as �God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios) with the Father.� 4
. . .
post-Nicene theological discussion of the Trinity consisted of attempts to
understand and explain such a unique concept. Gregory of Nyssa, in his treatise,
That There are Not Three Gods,
compared the divinity shared by the three persons of the Trinity to the common
�humanness,� or human nature, that is shared by individual human beings.
(Ironically, this initially promising explanation has been seen by some to
yield a conclusion quite opposite than the title of his work.)
It would have been better to leave Yeshua as what he was: an
enlightened man, a teacher, a messianic �prophet� instead of making him into a
god, a mistake all other Western and Eastern religions avoided.
A character in a previous �sacrilegious� film, Kevin Smith�s
1999 Dogma, made the point. �Rufus,�
the thirteenth apostle left out of the Bible because he was black, was
explaining things to Bethany, the �last Zion� and genetic relative of Jesus:
Rufus: His [Jesus�] only real beef with
mankind is the shit that gets carried out in His name � wars, bigotry,
televangelism. The big one though is the factioning of all the religions. He
said mankind got it all wrong by taking a good idea and building a belief
structure on it.
Bethany: Having beliefs is a bad thing?
Rufus: I just think it's better to have
ideas. I mean, you can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. People
die for it. People kill for it. . . .
And people get all bent out of shape over a movie that
challenges their �belief structure� which has no basis other than its own
According to Olson
and Miesel, �one of the more laughable claims of Brown�s novel is that the
early Christians �literally� stole Jesus and shrouded his �human message . . . in
an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and us[ed] it to expand their own power.��
Without question, throughout history Christian churches in
all their factional incarnations have used their dogma to expand their own
social and political power. They overtly
continue to do so to this day. Witness the dogma-based battle against civil
equality and equal rights for gays and lesbians: �Pope
Declares War On Italy's Government Over Gay Unions� despite the
fact that �more than 71 percent
of Italians are favorable to gay civil unions such as those allowed in the
U.K., Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, according to a January report by
research group Eurispes.�
The Catholic Church, like their brethren in the Protestant
Christian Right, will defend their dogmatic belief structure until the end, but
people are beginning to think for themselves and question discredited
And that may be exactly why the
Catholic Church and the Christian Right are raising such a fuss about The Da Vinci Code.
One dogmatic defender
took note of a Barna Group poll: �among
adults who are aligned with a Christian church, 59 percent do not believe that
Satan exists, 42 percent contend that Jesus Christ committed sins during his
earthly tenure, and just 11 percent believe that the Bible is the source of
absolute moral truth. Thirty-nine percent flatly state that the Bible cannot be
A poll conducted in Britain also worried the dogmatists:
The Opinion Research Business (ORB)
found that when people read Dan Brown's fictional bestseller The Da Vinci Code, their beliefs about
the Roman Catholic Church and about the life of Jesus Christ are likely to be
altered, Reuters reported.
ORB interviewed more than 1,000 people
in Britain and found that, of those who had read the book, 60 percent believed
that Jesus had fathered children with Mary Magdalene . . .
The book also portrays the Catholic
group Opus Dei as a murderous organization responsible for killing people to
cover up church secrets. And, according to the ORB poll, people who read the
book were four times more likely to think that to be true than those who had
Was Jesus the consubstantial �Son of God?� That�s a question
Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married?
The Gospel of John (20:1) states that she was
the first person who, alone, visited the cave where Jesus� body was laid. That
would have typically been the role of a wife in that society.
John (20:2-10) describes how
other followers came to the tomb and left to return home. But Mary stayed.
Again this would have been the behavior of a wife. [links added]
If Jesus and Mary were married or sexually intimate, did
they produce children?
We may never know the answers to those historical questions. But after stripping away the shrouding dogma,
they are certainly distinct possibilities.
Does the Vatican know the truth? Are they concealing it?
Perhaps. If the Holy See wanted to help put an end to the controversy, they
could open � without purging them first � the Vatican�s inaccessible libraries
and confidential archives to international researchers and scholars. What are
the odds of that happening?
you do have to wonder . . .
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