Monday, May 22, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Cont.

The Da Vinci Code makes several claims about the Bible and Jesus. As best I can tell, these are the claims it makes:

1. The people who were in power in the 4th century decided which books to canonize based on a political agenda. In the process, they excluded the books that depicted the truth about Jesus.
2. The books that we commonly call Gnostic Gospels are the books that were excluded, but they are the ones that contain the truth.
3. Gnostic Gospels depict Jesus as being human while the Gospels in the New Testament only show him as being divine.
4. Gnostic Gospels clearly show that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child.
5. Gnostic Gospels also show that women were a major force in the early church, but the Bible as we have it limits the impact of women.
6. The early church was forced to cover up this information because it would have destroyed Christianity; therefore they burned all the evidence. Luckily some of the books have survived and the story of Jesus and Mary has been kept among a small group.
7. The Holy Grail, which is the bloodline of Jesus, contains this secrete.

To begin with, I want to talk specifically about claims 1 2, and 3. The Da Vinci Code makes it appear that there were around eight books that could have made it into the New Testament, but the group that was in power chose to only selected the 27 that spoke of Jesus’ divinity. I am quite certain that this is not the case. Rather, I understand the Bible came to take the shape it did primarily because the books that were included were the ones that were use by most of the communities in the early church. In other words, the New Testament that we use today were the letters and books that were given priority by the early church and these were the books that led the church to form the belief in Jesus’ divinity. Here are the reasons why I think this:

A. The council of Niece met for the reason of clarifying the nature of Jesus divinity. The question that was debated was whether or not Jesus was “of the same substance” or of “similar substance” as the Father. The latter was the Arian position. The interesting thing about the Arians was that they defended their position by using the four gospels. The Arians lost the debate and the doctrine of Jesus was that he was of the same substance as the father. Therefore the Nicene Creed reads, “We believe in one Lore, Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father.” Just to make sure everyone got the point, it goes on to say, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.” Again, the thing to note is that the Arian still appealed to the same set of texts as those who believed in what we called “Orthodox Christianity.” This means that the Gnostic Gospels were not authoritative in the same way the four gospels were, even before the Bible was officially put together.

B. The Gnostic Gospels tend to be written well after the four gospels we find in the New Testament. It is suspected that the earliest Gospel is Mark, written near 70A.D. It is believed that Matthew and Luke were written sometime after this and that they both used a copy of Mark and a document called Q which is a set of sayings that are found in Matthew and Luck, but not in Mark. Then, the gospel of John was written in the 90’s. The earliest Gnostic Gospel written was the Gospel of Thomas, which was not composed until the mid to late 100’s. This means that if one were to weigh the historical evidence, the Gnostic Gospels would be less reliable than the four accounts we have in the New Testament.

C. The Gnostic Gospels themselves contain material that is directly opposed to the larger teachings on the New Testament. This means that the material that most of the church used to construct its belief about God and Jesus did not match up with the teachings of the Gnostics. For example, Gnostics teach that certain people receive “special revelation” and that this is the correct knowledge. This revelation remains secrete to the world at large. The New Testament teaches the opposite. It teaches that the church is to be a light to the world and the Jesus love the whole world and revealed himself the world he loved. Gnostics also believed that the body was completely evil and spirit is completely good. The New Testament teaches that all creation is good, including the body and that God wants to redeem all of creation and restore it to its original goodness.

D. The Gnostics believed that Jesus was purely a spiritual being, which would make him “antihuman.” Ironically, the Da Vinci Code claims that Jesus is only human and that the Bible teaches us only of his divinity. The truth is that it is the Gnostic Gospels that only teach that Jesus is divine. The Gospel of Mark in particular that shows us that Jesus is both human and divine. This is the position that the early church takes as well.

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