Da Vinci Code Error
There is little doubt that the Da Vinci Code has hit a cultural nerve. It has been on the best seller list in the USA for two years. The same is true of many other countries around the world. Sales estimates run at forty-three million, while reader estimates reach as high as one hundred million. A major movie produced by Ron Howard with Tom Hanks in a lead role is on the world’s radar screen. The novel’s combination of mystery, history, conspiracy and the use of romantic locations and figures have made it a popular piece of fiction. Its plot has intrigued its readers and raised many questions about the history of early Christianity. Polls by George Barna show that 43 to 53 percent of its readers have felt spiritually benefited from reading the book. By any count, that means many people are being influenced by its claims, even though it is fiction.
It is my view that the interest in this novel shows a few things about contemporary culture. There is a keen interest in things related to the origins of Christianity, Indeed, there is a spiritual hunger of sorts out there. However, it is not a very discerning kind of quest. This makes it all the more important that those who teach about early Christian history today know the roots of the early history of Christianity and communicate some of that to their students, who in turn can have informed discussions with their inquisitive neighbors.
I have found four types of people responding to the novel. (1) Some treat the novel as fiction and do not believe its claims. Just have a nice conversation with them. (2) Others never having been in the church have heard this for the first time and have no way of knowing whether it is true or not. (3) Others in the church are in a similar position never having been taught about this material. What they need is good information. (4) Some are looking for a reason, or, for reasons, not to believe. The novel’s misinformation is something they grab onto for support.
Dan Brown’s fictional best seller, The Da Vinci Code, sat at the top of the best seller’s list for weeks. Goddess worshippers and Christian haters around the globe have not only given it rave reviews, but offer it up as proof that Christianity is a lie. You might be wondering how a fiction novel can have such an impact. It’s because Brown makes the claim that the book is based on fact. In bold letters in the front of the book Brown alerts the reader that what they are about to read, while being a fictional story, is based on historical fact. Many have argued that we shouldn’t be so concerned about a work of fiction, and in one sense they are right.
If people knew their history, their Bibles, and studied their own religion thoroughly, we wouldn’t need to be concerned about this book. However, many of the numerous factual errors and boldface lies in Brown’s books won’t be obvious to the general public. Brown knows that the majority of readers will accept his conspiracy theories and distortions of history, because he knows most people don’t know, for example, what the Gnostic gospels even are. Most people wouldn’t pick up on the fact that Brown can’t even get the date of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery right.
To counter Brown’s attempt to deceive the lost and attack Christianity, I have compiled a list of some of the errors found in the Da Vinci Code. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of the poor scholarship and deceitfulness of Dan Brown. Hopefully, it will also equip you with some of the information you will need to battle the revival of paganism that has, no doubt, been helped along by this book.
Error #1: More than once in the book, the protagonist, Teabing, makes the claim that the canonical gospels are not the earliest gospels. Instead, he claims, the suppressed Gnostic gospels are the earliest written gospels and the canonical gospels were selected from among 80 other gospels.
There were only less than half that many books written about Jesus life. The two Gnostic gospels Brown relies on most heavily weren’t written until the second century A.D., long after the New Testament gospels were written. It makes sense that the Gnostic gospels came about in the late second century, as this is when Gnostic thought was most prevalent. However, the New Testament was complete before the end of the 1st Century.
As a side note - The Gospel of Peter, one of the very Gospels that Brown claims as an earlier writing, blames the Jews for the crucifixion. Another Gnostic Gospel, the Gospel of Thomas, claims women must become men in order to receive salvation. Apparently Brown’s Gospel is not only anti-Semitic, but also chauvinistic.
Error #2: The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1950’s.
This one’s priceless. It seems Brown can’t even get a simple date right. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, not in the 1950’s.
Error #3: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi are the earliest Christian Records.
Another howler. The Dead Sea Scrolls are strictly Jewish documents. They don’t contain any gospels or anything even mentioning Jesus. There is also absolutely no evidence that any of the gnostic documents were written before the late second century AD anyway.
Error #4: Jesus Christ never claimed to be divine and was never worshipped as a deity until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.
This is just plain false. Jesus is called God (theos) seven times in the New Testament and is called Lord in the divine sense several times. Everyone knows that the texts of the New Testament predate the Council of Nicea, and that these were first century beliefs.
Error #5: Christianity borrowed its beliefs from the pagan religion of Mithraism. Mithraism worshipped the pre-Christian God Mithras, called the Son of God and Light of the World, who was born on December 25th, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days.
Scholars of Mithraism would strongly disagree with Brown on all of these points. Nowhere is Mithras given the title Son of God and the Light of the World. Brown apparently made this up because it sounded good. Mithras was born on December 25th, however this proves nothing. The New Testament never associated December 25th with the birth of Christ. The early Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Christ on this day intentionally to oppose the pagan mid-winter festival of Saturnalia. They never claimed Jesus was actually born on that date. The claim that Mithras died and was buried in a rock tomb is just not true. Scholars will tell you that in Mithraism there is no death of Mithras at all. So, there was no rock tomb and no resurrection.
Error #6: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
The New Testament never mentions Jesus being married or even suggests it, so Brown uses one of the Gnostic gospels, the Gospel of Philip to support this claim. We only have fragments of the text he uses as his support and that text reads as follows:
“And the companion of the…Mary Magdalene…her more than…the disciples…kiss her…on her…” (Philip 63:33-36). Philip 58-59 seems to indicate that the kiss would have been on the lips. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul mentions this kind of chaste kiss of fellowship, and this is likely what is meant here. However, we need not rest on that argument.
The protagonist in Brown’s book claims that the word “companion” in this verse actually means spouse because that’s what the Aramaic word really means. I kind of feel sorry for Brown here. This document wasn’t written in Aramaic. It was written in Coptic. The word used for companion is koinonos and it means companion, not spouse.
Error #7: Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine changed the day to coincide with the pagan veneration day of the sun.
Once again, Brown is just flat wrong. All available evidence shows that Christians were honoring Sunday as the Sabbath long before Constantine. Brown may be confusing Paul’s trips to the synagogue on the Sabbath to preach to the Jews. If you wanted to preach to the Jews about Jesus, where would you find a large gathering of Jews to preach too? Perhaps the synagogue on the Sabbath? In any case, it is clear from scripture that the Christian Sabbath is on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2).
There are many more errors found in Brown’s book, but this should be sufficient to demonstrate that his scholarship is poor, his theories are not based on fact, and, in my opinion, his intention is to discredit Christianity by promoting goddess worship and paganism based on heretical texts. It’s important that Christians expose these kind of attacks on our faith, and imperative that we educate people on the true history and message of the Word of God. We have an advantage. Because our faith is built on God’s Word and on truth, we can depend on facts to present our case. We don’t have to resort to lies, conspiracy theories, and revisionist history.