Answering the Questions Raised by the Da Vinci Code/Program 2
|By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2005
|Dr. Lutzer looks at the Gnostic gospels and compare them with the New Testament.
Today on The John Ankerberg Show, why has the fictional book, The Da Vinci Code, caused so much controversy?
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Even though The Da Vinci Code is fiction, it’s being passed off as a historical novel. And Dan Brown says in the book that many things are fact, and he gives the impression that all that is fact. And those who have read it will know that it is a vicious attack against the Christian faith.
At the beginning of his book Dan Brown makes this declaration, “Fact: All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” But is this true? And what about the claims in his book:
- That Jesus had sexual relations with Mary Magdalene resulting in children;
- That all the early Christians believed Jesus was only a man, and it wasn’t until 300 AD that the church invented the idea that he was God;
- That Jesus was the original feminist, and power hungry men in the church suppressed this information, then recast sex as something shameful in order to put down women;
- That the early Christians believed that men encountered God only through sexual union with a woman;
- That the original gospels about Jesus life were burned by the Roman Emperor Constantine around 325 AD and false documents were put in their place that form the Bible we now have;
- That the church has been hiding the truth of Jesus’ marriage in order to suppress the truth of who he really was. If this secret were uncovered, it would destroy Christianity as we know it.
- Lutzer: It takes old, heretical ideas and wraps them in a fast-paced novel so people are reading the novel, and they’re getting the idea, number one, the Jesus Christ isn’t God at all; he’s a mere man, but he was elevated to the status of godhood by a man by the name of Constantine, whom we are going to be talking about. And, secondly, people are saying that there is another Bible out there. It’s called a Gnostic Bible, the Gnostic gospels; and these Gospels are more accurate than our New Testament.
Our purpose in this series is twofold. First, if you have read The Da Vinci Code, we want to provide you with accurate historical information about the questions raised in this book. Second, if you are Christian, we want to help you know how to answer the questions of family and friends who have been troubled by this book.
- Lutzer: I remember a young woman in a restaurant telling me, she said, “I can never go to church having read The Da Vinci Code, because,” she said, “the church clearly is based on lies.”
My guest today is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, author of The Da Vinci Deception. He has been interviewed by NBC, ABC, and CNN as a Christian authority on this topic, and is senior Pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois.
- Lutzer: The Da Vinci Code strikes at the heart of Christianity by denying the deity of Jesus Christ and the validity of the New Testament documents. Now, John, what our listeners need to understand up front is simply this, that the claims of The Da Vinci Code can be shown to be false.
To learn the truth about The Da Vinci Code, we invite you to join us.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. Have you read The Da Vinci Code? If you haven’t, you’ve heard about it, right? Well, my guest was interviewed on NBC, on The Today Show, and you might have seen him there, because he wrote a book about the Da Vinci book. It’s called The Da Vinci Deception. And my guest is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, who is pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois.
- You know Erwin, it’s interesting what some of the critics has said about The Da Vinci Code. The Library Journal characterized this work as “a compelling blend of history and page-turning suspense. A masterpiece that should be mandatory reading.”
- The problem is, in this novel, which is fiction, there are some things that are passed off as fact. For example, Brown claims, through his characters, that Constantine not only eliminated goddess worship in the Roman Empire, he also collected and collated the Bible; used Christianity for political gain; moved Christian worship from Saturday to Sunday; decided that Jesus should be made into a deity—he was just a man before that—and he did this so he could consolidate power.
- Actually, every one of those things that Brown claims is false, historically. And yet, people are buying into it. Talk about some of the folks that you have talked with that have looked at this book and believe that he’s telling the truth, when he’s not.
- Lutzer: You see, it is a skillful blend of mythology and history, passing the myth off as history. For example, we know that Constantine did convene the Council of Nicea. I think also it may be true that he standardized worship and spoke about Sunday. The things that are false, however, that Dan Brown claims to be true are, number one, that Constantine invented the divinity of Jesus. That is just pure bogus. We actually dealt with that in the last program. And then, secondly, that Constantine tampered with what books would be in the Bible. And we touched on this last time, that indeed, he did not. There is not a shred of evidence that Constantine accepted Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and rejected other gospels. And we’re going to be talking about those other gospels in this program, by the way, because The Da Vinci Code speaks about the Gnostic gospels, and we’re going to get into those. But the Gnostic gospels were never debated as part of the New Testament, whether or not they should be accepted as authoritative. As we’ll notice, they are totally spurious documents.
- What Constantine did do, is he commissioned the historian Eusebius to copy 50 copies of the New Testament for the churches in Constantinople. Unfortunately, we don’t have any of those manuscripts. We wish that we did. But most Bible scholars that I have read believe that those 50 copies contained the 27 books of our New Testament. And they’re not just speculating on that, there are powerful reasons why that would have been so.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, let’s back up for people that don’t know their church history again, Jesus lived [and] died by about 30 AD; Constantine is found here at 320; Nicea is at 325 AD. So, 300 years later is what Brown is talking about. Now, a whole bunch happened between the time of Jesus and the time we get to Constantine.
- And we have the entire writing of The New Testament, by 90 AD. Some like William Albright, of Johns Hopkins University, who is the foremost biblical archeologist in the world, said that in his opinion, “every book in the New Testament, from Matthew to Revelation, was written by a baptized Jew between 40 to 75 [AD].” Then he says, “Well, let’s put it up 50 to 80.” Okay? Even the guys in the Jesus Seminar would say it’s about that. So the books that we are quoting, that are from the eyewitnesses, and those who knew the eyewitnesses in Jesus own life, who wrote the New Testament.
- Then, you have the Church Fathers; then you have these Gnostic gospels, which came up. And any person that was worthwhile in the ancient world, eventually, people wrote legends and wrote stories about him or her, and that came in later on. It wasn’t fact, and nobody believed it to be fact. And that happened concerning Jesus and the apostles. Well, that happens down here 150 to 200 AD. And then we get down to Constantine here and the Council of Nicea about 300.
- Here’s what Brown says in the book, with that as background. He has his character, Teabing— another professor—say that Constantine, at that time in 300 AD, commissioned and financed a new Bible which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. That’s completely false.
- Lutzer: Total mythology, total mythology.
- Ankerberg: Now, why?
- Lutzer: Because there is no evidence for it, that’s why. When we are dealing with these matters, what we need to do is to go back to the primary documents. You have somebody like Eusebius, who attended the Council of Nicea. And what you need to do is to read him. There are other historians that give us some insight as to what happed at Nicea. I read an entire book on Constantine, which had chapters on the Council of Nicea. And out of the Council of Nicea you had 20 different rulings come for the churches. Not one of them had to do with the contents of the New Testament or what books were to be accepted. We will, in another program, talk about the development of the canon. People need to understand how the books were collected.
- Ankerberg: What is the canon, is it a big gun?
- Lutzer: The canon has to do with, it actually is based on, the word “rule,” and it’s the rule of faith. It refers to the books that are in the New Testament. And, of course, there is an Old Testament canon, the books that were in the Old Testament.
- We have to explain to people how the canon developed. But, for today, let’s talk about those Gnostic gospels that The Da Vinci Code uses. Because, remember, it is said that they didn’t make it into The New Testament because they were pro-feminine. Well, right off the top, let’s simply say they were never candidates for inclusion in the New Testament.
- Ankerberg: Right.
- Lutzer: On this show, we’re going to be reading a few excerpts from them to help people to understand what Gnosticism is, what the Gnostic gospels are. But, they were never a part of the discussion as to whether or not they should fit into the New Testament.
- Ankerberg: Let’s start with a definition. People don’t even know what Gnosticism is or what it means.
- Lutzer: Yes. Alright. The word “Gnostic” has to do with knowledge. And after the time of Jesus, maybe even during the time of Jesus, but after the time of Jesus, the movement began to gain a number of adherents, important adherents. The idea was that one could access God directly and have a vision of knowledge and insight, for the initiated, independently of Jesus Christ. The Gnostics used Jesus, as we will point out in a moment, but the Gnostics denied the incarnation; they universally denied the resurrection. But they believed that one could have a vision of Jesus in his own soul.
- So, these are the Gnostics now. Their ideas were very esoteric; they bordered on the occultic; and they were the ones who took their ideas and put them into the mouth of Jesus. Now, just for the listeners to understand, here you have these Gnostics that lived say 150; after the year 150 and following. The Early Church knew about their writings. A man by the name of Irenaeus wrote a book entitled Against Heresies, where he said, “This is what the Gnostics believe; this is why we reject what the Gnostics say; they do not have an independent source of knowledge, what they’re saying is fraudulent.” And today we know that those documents are fraudulent. But, let’s fast forward: 1945 in Egypt near Nag Hammadi, you have a find of documents. Gnostic documents were discovered.
- Ankerberg: Books.
- Lutzer: Books. These were written in Coptic, and they were, of course, divulged to the world, which indeed, they should be. I mean, anything that you find historically should be made known to everybody. And now, there was a lot of interest that came about as a result of this find, as we might expect. The surprise, the good surprise, from the standpoint of historic Christianity is that, essentially, they taught us nothing new. These new documents—of course they weren’t new—but the new find of documents, essentially taught us nothing about the Gnostics that we already didn’t know, because the Early Church knew about them and wrote against them.
- Ankerberg: It substantiated what Irenaeus said in his writings when he was contradicting them.
- Lutzer: Yeah, exactly. So, if anything, it validates what the Early Church was saying about the Gnostics. But today, of course, you have people reading the Gnostic gospels and saying, “These are the alternative documents to Christianity.”
- Now, because I wrote a book on this, as you well know; I decided to buy a Gnostic gospel; a Gnostic Bible—an “alternative” Bible.
- Ankerberg: We’ve got to hold that until we come back now. Alright, what we’re going to do is, we’re going to have the people listen to you read some portions from these Gnostic gospels. Now, what we also have to tell the people, look, if it’s 150 to 250 [AD]—and that’s where scholars put some of these writings—remember, that’s 100 years after Jesus. This is after the New Testament has been written already, okay? And, what’s happening is, these folks down here, and some modern scholars today, are saying, “This is the real scoop,” but that’s like saying, 100 years after the fact, we’re going to tell you what this guy really said.
- But, I think just in listening to the quotes that are in those Gnostic gospels, and comparing them with what was said in the New Testament, people that are in our audience will be able to understand clearly. It is really funny. I hope you’ll stay tune. We’ll be right back.
- Ankerberg: Alright we’re back. We are talking about The Da Vinci Code. Have you read it? Have you heard about it? You might be looking forward to Ron Howard’s movie about that topic. Would you like to know the truth about it? Let me give you four straight out lies that Brown makes through his characters. Then I want Erwin to comment on these lies.
- Page 231 in the book, Brown has his characters say, “It’s true that more then 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament, but they were turned down by the church and then destroyed.” So that’s lie #1.
- Number two: “It’s true that these gospels, part of the ancient library at Nag Hammadi, highlight glaring discrepancies and fabrications of the Bible we’ve got today; the modern Bible.” That’s completely false.
- Number three: “It’s true that these scrolls are the earliest Christian records,” page 245 is where he makes that statement.
- Number four: “It’s true that many scholars claim that the Early Church literally stole Jesus from his original followers and hijacked his human message, shrouding it in an independent cloak of divinity and used it to expand their own power.”
- Those are four straight out historical lies. Now maybe you don’t know why, and that’s why we’ve got Erwin Lutzer here, pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, who has written a book on this topic. Unscramble these four lies.
- Lutzer: Alright, let’s begin with number one: the idea that there were 80 gospels that competed for recognition in the New Testament. Two lies are in that one statement: number one: the Gnostic gospels were never considered by any prominent Christian for inclusion of the New Testament; that’s number one. Number two: There weren’t 80; there were 52 scrolls that have been found; five claim to be gospels, and those are the ones that we’re talking about today. So, so much for lie number one. What’s number two there on your list?
- Ankerberg: That the scrolls that you’ve got, that you’re going to read from here, they highlight glaring discrepancies and fabrications in the Bible that we’ve got.
- Lutzer: Alright, let’s stop there. The question is: What kind of fabrications are we talking about? It is the Gnostic gospels that are fabrications. I need to give a word just before I read a few quotes from them.
- Ankerberg: Right.
- Lutzer: These Gnostics took their ideas and put them into the mouth of Jesus. And, there are two reasons why we reject these Gnostic gospels. By the way, when I wrote my book, I went into Borders and I bought a copy of the Gnostic Bible, big thick book. In it, it says in the Introduction, “We offered these as sacred texts.” John, our listeners need to know that there is competition there as to what Bible we’re going to accept. Are we going to accept the traditional one or this supposed new one, this Gnostic Bible?
- Now there are two reasons why the Gnostic gospels are fraudulent. They were known to the Early Church to be fraudulent, and we know them today to be fraudulent. Why? Number one, because of spurious authorship. Not a person that I know actually believes that Thomas wrote the book of Thomas; and then there’s the book of Philip. Nobody believes that the book of Philip was written by Philip. My own Gnostic Bible, which was not written by evangelical Christians, says that it was written in the year 250 in Syria. We’re talking about 200 years after the time of Jesus. So, whose description of Abraham Lincoln would you believe? Somebody who knew Abraham Lincoln, or somebody who lived 150 years after?
- Ankerberg: Well, let’s even stop it. The fact is, our country is only about 200 years old, okay? Just a little over 200. Now, you want to talk about George Washington? That’s what we’re talking about here in terms of the Gnostics versus Jesus, that time span.
- Lutzer: Yes. Right. So, you have fraudulent authorship. Interestingly, the New Testament rejects any book that is written by a fraudulent author. The apostle Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2: “We ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report, or letter supposed to have come from us saying that the day of the Lord has already come.”
- Already then, people were writing the name of the apostle Paul to their documents. The apostle Paul clearly is saying that you should reject all letters that are fraudulently signed. People wanted to write their ideas and put their ideas into Paul’s mouth. Paul says, “Reject them.” That’s what the Gnostic gospels are all about.
- Now, are you ready for some of the Gnostic gospels?
- Ankerberg: Well, hit the other two. It’s real easy. Number three, “It’s true these scrolls are the earliest Christian records.” That’s just false, just by the scholars dating where they are at.
- Lutzer: Exactly.
- Ankerberg: Okay?
- Lutzer: Exactly, exactly. I already refuted that.
- Ankerberg: Right. Gnostic gospels—[at the] earliest, 150 up to 250. Remember, the whole New Testament was on the bookshelves around Jerusalem and parts of the Roman Empire by 90 AD, okay? Number four, that the message that you’re going to read there, hijacked the original one. Okay? And that’s just nuts. And now, I think it’s time to read from these documents.
- Lutzer: You see, John, when people read the Gnostic gospels, they are not struck by its similarity to the New Testament, but its radical differences. The Gnostic gospels are filled with foolishness. Let’s have some.
- This is from the famous Gospel of Thomas, which the Jesus Seminar says should be part of our gospels, okay? Jesus said, “Blessings on the lion if a human eats it, making the lion human. Foul is the human if a lion eats it, making the lion human.” Hasn’t that blessed your soul, John?
- Ankerberg: [Laughter]
- Lutzer: But here’s what I really like. How do you like this in the lips of Jesus? “Jesus said to them, ‘When you make the two into one and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner and the upper like the lower and the lower like the upper; and when you make the male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be a male; nor the female be a female; when you make eyes in the place of an eye, a hand in the place of a hand, a foot in the place of a foot, an image in the place of an image; then you will enter the kingdom.’” There you go, John. That’s the way.
- Ankerberg: [Laughter]
- Lutzer: Let me give you one more. “Jesus said, ‘Whoever has come to know the world, has discovered a carcass; and whoever has discovered a carcass, of that person the world is not worthy.’” Now, I could have chosen hundreds of quotes like this. This is foolishness. These are esoteric ideas that are put into the mouths of people.
- Let me give you another quote from the Gospel of Philip. This says, “God is a dyer”—that’s somebody who dyes clothing, you know—“God is a dyer, the good dyes, true dyes, dissolve into things dyed in them. So too, for things God has dyed. His dyes are imperishable because of their colors. What God dips, he dips in water.” Is your soul blessed?
- Ankerberg: [Laughter]
- Lutzer: You know, when I was choosing a few quotes, John, I had, I would say, 50 quotes, and then I had to decide which one to use; all of them as foolish as these quotes. This is what we’re talking about. And are you telling me that Dan Brown is making the assertion that somehow the gospels of the New Testament hijacked the true Christian faith, and that what we read in the Gnostic gospels is the true faith; and that what we have is spurious revelation?
- The opposite is true. Let any unbiased historian read the documents and they will be convinced that the New Testament has excellent compelling evidence in comparison to the Gnostic gospels and their foolishness, which was written 100-200 years after the time of Jesus. No competition at all.
- Ankerberg: Some people say, “Come on, these people are smart people. Are they just dishonest?” Answer is, “Yes”. They know this is not true. They know this other evidence. They are choosing not to hold on to the stuff that’s been there, what we call the traditional evidence. It didn’t go away.
- Lutzer: Right, and let me tell you why; because if you go the Gnostic route, you can pretty well believe whatever you want to believe. Like one scholar says, that when you go the Gnostic route, you can take and you can pick and choose; you don’t have to believe in the virgin birth, you don’t believe in the resurrection, you don’t believe in the uniqueness of Jesus. Everybody can have their own experience.
- So, Gnosticism is really the religion of the day here in America. Dan Brown, capitalizing on that, has taken the route that these Gnostics have more credibility than the New Testament. Let every person listening to this program today hear me when I say, just simply consider the evidence rationally, based on good principles of history, and you will end up being overwhelmed by the power and the validity of the New Testament documents, and see these others for the straw that they really are.
- Ankerberg: Yes. Talking about straw, Raymond Brown, the New Testament Roman Catholic scholar that is so well known across the world, said that, “The early Christians looked at the Gnostic gospels and they said it was rubbish.” And he says, “I’ve looked at it today and it’s still rubbish.”
- Lutzer: [Laughter]
- Ankerberg: Alright, where are we going next week?
- Lutzer: Well, next week, I think what we’re going to talk about is Jesus and Mary Magdalene, because we have to answer the question, was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? And we’re going to get into the Gnostic gospels again, because Dan Brown says that the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is historical fact based on these Gnostic gospels. Nobody should miss next week.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we hope that this encourages you; strengthens you in your faith; makes you start to think about the evidence, that your faith will be based on evidence, not just speculation out there. Join us next week; we’re going to take this next part.