The Implications of The Da Vinci Code: Part 2 of 3
Announcer:The 21st century has ushered in events and issues that cause us to ask, "Where is God in today's world?" In response, Dallas Theological Seminary presents DTS Dialogue - Issues of God and Culture: The Implications of The Da Vinci Code. Although considered fiction, Dan Brown's novel challenges orthodox Christianity in serious ways. Thanks for joining us as we discuss what all believers need to know about The Da Vinci Code, Part 2.
Dr. Mark Bailey:It's Brown's contention that those who followed him developed the doctrine of Jesus moving from the human Jesus to the divine Jesus over these four centuries. What biblical texts come to your men's minds in refuting this? What texts would you put on the table to say this is clearly a Biblical doctrine and not that had to wait five centuries to develop?
Dr. Darrell Bock:Well, I think the key thing here to, is particularly in making this argument in talking with people who may or may not share a high view of the Bible, I think it is important to say it this way. That our earliest Christian texts as a matter of history, as a matter of historical sources, affirm the divinity of Jesus Christ starting with the earliest texts that we possess. By that I mean the epistles of Paul starting with the book of First Corinthians in the 50s, has a statement, it is one of these doctrinal summaries I was talking about earlier, it is First Corrinthians 8:4-6 in which the point is made that although there are many gods around us looking at the polytheism of the Greco Roman world for us there is one God and there is the mention of the Father and his role in creation and the mention of Jesus Christ and his role in creation and for a Jewish person to attribute the work of creation to a figure who also is alongside and included in the mention of one God is to make a statement of deity. That's in the 50s. That's long before Nicea in 325.
A second book is Philippians. Here we have got a hymlic section in Philippians 2. Jesus empties himself because he doesn't see a deity a thing to be grasped even though he could remain there. He empties himself, takes on humanity. He is exalted back to the right hand of the Father and one day every man will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord and that language comes out of the book of Isaiah where it is describing the God of Israel and yet it is being applied to Jesus. In Colassians 1 we have another hymnic section where Jesus is both creator and redeemer. In Hebrews 1, that's in the 60s in Hebrews, which is also written in 60s, Jesus is said to be the very stamp of God's person. In John 1 written in the 90s, John 1:1 and John 14, "In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God the Word was God." And then it says, "the Word became flesh" in verse 14. That's in the 90s.
So our earliest Christian sources, this is very, very important, as a matter of history you don't have to mark these texts out as biblical, as a matter of history show that the earliest Christians were responding to Jesus' God or worshiping him. We even have this in extra biblical material, in non-Christian text, Pliny the Younger writes to Trajan emperor AD 117 he talks about observing in the worship services of Christians that hymns are sung to Jesus as if he is God. This is a non-Christian text it is not even a biblical text, that is affirming this. This is in Bithia, which is up in Turkey, long way from Israel in the early part of the second century. So there is a lot of evidence that shows that the belief that Jesus is divine comes very, very early on in the history of the church. In fact, it shows up as soon as we have text showing up.
There is one other important piece of evidence, however, and it is this. Paul writes in the fifties but we know that Paul was converted in the 30s. In fact, he was converted sometime within a year or two probably of the crucifixion of Jesus. That means that the autobiographical experience that he records for us in Galassians is actually reflective of an experience he had all the way back in the 30s. This takes us all the way back to the very period of the Apostles themselves right after these events happened and if we go one step back more into Jesus' testimony before the Jewish leadership which is recorded in the Gospels, we have Jesus himself saying "You will see me seated at the right hand of God coming at the clouds of heaven." That's a declaration of God's vindication of Jesus placing him at God's side. So the point here is that teaching exists in the early material of the Church because it goes back to Jesus himself.
The idea that Jesus was divine was already ancient history by the time of the Counsel of Nicea because it goes back to Jesus himself.
Mark:What are some of the statements from the Lord himself that would lead us? It comes to mind in John, Chapter 5 where Jesus said that the right of judgment has been given to him. That all judgment has been handed over to me by my Father so that all may honor the Son even as they honor the father for whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father than sent him. Jesus clearly was claiming equality with God but in fact Jews wanted to kill him because they saw him claiming equality with the miracle in John 5 at the pool of Bethesda that he made himself out equal with God. There is a lot of people who will show up on our doorsteps on a Saturday morning that would deny that Jesus is the Son of God but clearly there's claims all he way through the life of Christ as well as the passages Darrell that you just mentioned where a biblical doctrine of the deity of Christ as early as you mentioned recording what Jesus claimed and so it really comes down to the veracity not only of the Scriptures but also the testimony of Jesus himself.
Darrell:One of the difficulties in this discussion depending on how sophisticated the person is who you are interacting with on this material, for example, whether or not they have taken some of these classes at the university or not is whether or not they will be comfortable with the evidence that you will present from the Bible. Because, what they are being told in their university classes is that many of these gospel texts reflect the theology of, say, the period when John is written in the 90's rather than being a reflection of what Jesus actually said.
Now, there is a way to make a defense against that. The fact is, if the person is real sophisticated; they may say something like, well, that is from the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is very direct about what Jesus says and it is not quite the same picture as you get in the synoptics. Because, the synoptics tend to do this more indirectly.
The way, or a way I think you would respond to this is; there are two ways to do it. One is to defend the integrity of John. The other way is to say well, let's take this more indirect material that you are wanting us to talk about and to show that it is even in that material.
It is a hard move to make as a Christian because you want to embrace the entirety of the Bible and be biblical about the presentation on the one hand; but, if the person is not valuing the evidence at that level; you are left in a practical position of them not being persuaded by what you are raising to them. So, if you can pick a text that more people might accept on a non-biblical basis, if I can say it that way, that ends up being more persuasive. That is why testimony from outside the Bible by Pliny the Younger is so important. No one can claim bias on the part of Pliny on behalf of Christians as he writes. That is why texts that are situated in the backdrop of Judaism as Jesus is encountering the high priests; in fact, the testimony that leads to his crucifixion is so important. Because, it comes right at the most important moment in Jesus' life. When everything is on the line; his life is on the line. Yet, he still makes this claim in that situation.
So, that is part of what goes on in some of the discussion if you are dealing with someone who comes out of a background where they have actually received instruction against the Bible. That is what they have received, instruction against the Bible. Then the questions is, how do you handle it when a situation comes up like that?
Mark:Mary Magdalene plays an important part in the book of Dan Brown. Why is it significant about how she is presented? And, is there any evidence to support those claims? Darrell, let me start with you, then, come back to Jeff for his comments.
Darrell:Well, the role Mary Magdalene plays in the novel is that she is portrayed as the wife of Jesus who has children. This is a secret in the plot that some people know. And, the belief is that if this secret gets out; that Jesus was married and had children that it would impinge against the belief of his deity.
The problem with that is two-fold. First, if Jesus were married, as a matter of hypothesis; because, we do not have any evidence anywhere; we do not have any text anywhere; and, we have lots of text, lots of text. We don't have any text anywhere that says Jesus was married to anybody. What we have, and what the novel writes, and these are the only two texts that even, where you can even make an inference for it that I am aware of are two gospels, one is the Gospel of Peter and the other, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, two of these extra-biblical second and third century gospels in which it is said, that "Jesus loved Mary more than he did the disciples." And, in one of them it suggests that Jesus kissed Mary in public; although, where, there is a blank in the manuscript at the point at which that is said. So, the inference is made, if he loved her more than the disciples; and, in one text he kissed her in public; then, he must be married to her. That is the sum total of the case. And, we are talking lots of materials.
I have a collection of texts from the first five centuries in my office. It is a very well known series, The Anti-Nicene, Niciene and Post-Nicene Fathers. It is a 37-volume, single-spaced, small font, what do I mean by small font? If you are over 40, you are wearing glasses to read it. It is double-columned, single-spaced. It is 37 volumes. It stretches across a whole shelf that runs across my wall! Out of all of those texts, we only have these two texts that could only infer it. The evidence is so weak, that John Domick Crossing who is not a conservative. He is a a well-known liberal Christian writer, when asked to write a piece, "Was Jesus Married?" for beliefnet.com used a proverb. And the proverb was, "If it walks like a duck, acts like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a camel." And, the point that he was making is that all the evidence tells us Jesus was single. Okay. But, we have got some people wanting to argue that he was married. And, I tell my classes that when you get a liberal and a conservative agreeing about the historical Jesus, it is probably true. [laughter].
Mark: Jeffrey, is there anything you would want to add?
Dr. Jeffrey Bingham:Well, of course the entire contribution of this discussion of Mary Magdalene in Dan Brown's book raises the entire social question and the entire canonical question. And, that is, that this material wants to, Dan Brown wants to set forth this material in order to make something like this claim: You really need to pay more attention to the Gnostic gospels. You need to pay more attention to this collection of books about which we are discussing, other than those which you find in your Bible because they give us secret information about Jesus' marital status which your Bible does not give you. In addition, they give you a insight into the important role that women had in the church and the important place in which women were held in the early church by these other Gnostic communities which makes them a much more socially sensitive community than Christian orthodoxy.
Dan Brown wants to kind of suggest through what he says and what he does not say that the orthodox community did not treat women with the same degree of respect or give them the same positions of spiritual contribution that they had in the Gnostic communities. So, the role that Mary Magdalene plays in the book, through what Brown says and does not say; is again another way of saying that these other gospels, these other books are just a better representation of the kind of values which 20th and 21st century people want to hold to.
The truth is that women had an extremely important role in the early church. Women were greatly respected in the early church. Women were frequently portrayed as those who were the first to testify about Jesus, frequently the first to glorify God. So, the New Testament scriptures in no way minimize; but rather emphasize the important role that women have within orthodox Christianity. You do not need to go to the Gnostic writings in order to find a favored position for the feminine in Christianity. Orthodoxy values the feminine just as much as it values the masculine.
Darrell:What is interesting here, is that if you actually look at this material, this Gnostic material for what it says about women; it is not that affirming. There is a wonderful text, well; maybe it is not so wonderful in Thomas 1:14 in which Peter wants to send Mary away because he argues that she is not worthy of kingdom life as a woman. Jesus replies to him and says this, this is saying in 1:14 in the gospel of Thomas, "I, Myself shall lead her in order to make her male so that she may become a living spirit resembling you males, for every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom."
Now, that is not a very feminine affirming text. The way people who like this gospel respond to it is to is in one of two ways. They argue, well, that was not in there; it was added on later. It was not an original part of Thomas, which is real convenient. Or, they argue this is spiritualized; it is really looking at the ultimate oneness that God is going to give to all people. But, the reply to that is; it is still affirming the oneness through the male prism. It does not help you. So, that is one text.
The second text that is important is the way the creation is portrayed in these texts. In the Gnostic creation story, some of the versions have Pistas or Pistas Sophia, who is portrayed as the divine feminine, a female, engaging in the creation because she did not consult her consort. She did not check with her mate. That is step one. Then she creates; and, she botches the job. It is a mess. So, the result is a flawed creation, a corrupt creation, a creation so corrupt it cannot be redeemed. Which means, that the reason we are in all of this mess is because of the divine feminine. So, if you are going to ask for the divine feminine from this material, you might want to ask what kind of divine feminine do you get. You do not get one that is respected. You get one that is denigrated. These are texts, generally speaking, that are not brought forward when this feminine emphasis is put out of this material. And, so, it represents an imbalance in this material.
Mark: It does not support the desire.
Darrell:It does not support the desire at all. It is being handled very selectively. Just like, for example, and, I did not mention this earlier; but, I should have. When we look at the Gnostic material with respect to Jesus; we do not have texts that present a human Jesus. We do not have any texts that present Jesus as a human figure that have been preserved for us. What we have are texts that make Jesus so divine; he cannot become human because he cannot take on the corrupt body. That is something a deity cannot do; so, he only appears to be human. Or, a substitute takes his place.
In some of these texts, when Jesus is being crucified, this is interesting, when Jesus is being crucified; he is in heaven laughing because a substitute has taken his place on the cross. And, they think they are really crucifying Him; and, He is really up in heaven and not suffering at all. Now, you could not get a more different picture of what the cross is than that picture you are getting in some of these Gnostic materials. So, you are not even getting a proper representation of what these materials actually teach in the material that is being presented in the public.
Mark: So, there is great selectivity, proof testing for convenience...
Mark: And, and not a holistic teaching about what those texts teach.
Darrell: Exactly right.
Jeffrey:Right. It is important to realize this selective use of the material has been in academia for many, many years. Scholars have been studying these texts and writing about these texts in order to bring forward, and to emphasize certain social agendas, in order to emphasize certain theological agendas, in order to emphasize certain canonical agendas. They have been in the universities and in the scholarly books for many, many years.
What Dan Brown did, was simply to popularize something that scholars had been talking about. What has taken place here, now, is a popular selectivity which we have seen in academia for many, many years.
Darrell:This is actually a crossover novel. And, what it has done is put it out in the public sphere. Which means now that people in the church need to be prepared to interact with this and need to understand a little more of their church history in order to engage it. Because it is out there. It is not going away. These books are coming out regularly, almost once a month now. They are being popularized in documentaries. It is literally everywhere. So, the day when it was just confined to the ivory tower is now gone.
Darrell:And, so we are not left in a position of the people in the church having to prepare people to understand where its' Bible came from, what the early history of the church was, what the nature, the history of the understanding of the person of Christ is, those kinds of issues, in order to begin to address some of these issues. And, in some cases also, to be able to have a little bit of knowledge about what these extra-biblical materials say so that you are aware of the selectivity with which this material is being presented. [music]
Announcer:This concludes part 2, please continue on with part 3. For more information about Dallas Theological Seminary, please visit our website at www.dts.edu.