Monday, May 28, 2012

The Da Vinci Code: FACT?

I am not worried that Dan Brown's The Da Vince Code harms anyone's faith. If a so-so novel brimming with falsehoods can destroy one's faith, then one's faith was not very strong to begin with.

I am, however, concerned about one thing, and it stems from Brown's statement of "fact" at the beginning of The Da Vinci Code. His novel begins with a page entitled FACT, and this quote: 

"All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." Dan Brown 

Brown's quote on his FACT page is displayed prominently at the beginning of the book. Historians and biblical scholars alike have debunked this claim over and over since the book's publication, they have done so in dozens of articles and books (I recommend Ben Witherington's book, The Gospel Code.), yet the public seems to have, by and large, bought this fabrication to this day.

Whenever this comes up in conversation, someone often says to me, "Yeah, Bert, but it's just a novel." And that is unquestionably true. But how many bestselling novels have you read that begin with a page entitled FACT, and how many of them have a FACT page with false claims about the Bible?

There are three inaccuracies in this single sentence about ancient documents we call gospels:

"More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament and yet only a relatively few were chosen for inclusion - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them." Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, p. 231

Brown says this statement is factual, since the gospels are among the documents that he claims on his FACT page to describe accurately in his novel. But he is wrong:

  1. We know of 32 gospels--34 if you include the hypothetical gospels of "Q" and "Signs". Thirty-two is far from "over eighty."
  2. No one knows how many gospels were considered by the early church for inclusion in the biblical canon. So far as we know, the four gospels in the Bible are the only gospels that were considered.
  3. When Brown wrote that relatively few gospels were chosen for inclusion in the Bible--"Mathew, Mark, Luke and John among them" (emphasis mine), he's wrong again. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not four among others included in the Bible. They are the only gospels included in the Bible.

By these three inaccuracies alone, it must be concluded that Brown's universal claim of FACT concerning his descriptions of documents in The Da Vinci Code is patently false, but there is more.

The most absurd claim to me in Brown's novel is the claim that the four gospels in the Bible suppress Jesus' humanity and emphasize his divinity--a repeated claim in The Da Vinci Code. Brown paints this “fact” as the biggest conspiracy and cover-up in history. He further claims that the gospels not included in the Bible have been suppressed, and that they emphasize Jesus' humanity, and are therefore truer than the four biblical gospels. Dan Brown has this exactly backwards. Our four New Testament gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - emphasize Jesus' humanity, and the bulk of the other gospels not found in the Bible (most of them considered to be Gnostic gospels) emphasize Jesus' divinity. Brown, claiming the opposite, could not be more wrong.

Is Brown intentionally lying about the Bible? I don't know. Either he is a shoddy researcher or he's misleading the public on purpose for profit. If the former, why not just apologize for his misstatements? If the latter, shame on him and buyer beware.