Answering the Questions Raised by the Da Vinci Code/Program 3

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2005
Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? Dan Brown says that the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is historical fact based on these Gnostic Gospels.



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? What did you think? Do you know somebody that read it? What does The Da Vinci Code have to do with Jesus Christ? Well, my guest today has written a book about that book; it’s called The Da Vinci Deception. Dr. Erwin Lutzer is pastor of one of the world-famous churches, Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. He is also a theologian and an author.
And, Erwin, people want to know what this fictional novel, called The Da Vinci Code, has to do with Christianity; and why are there some people saying, “Look, I read that book, I gave up Christianity; I gave up belief in the deity of Christ; I’m not going to the Christian church anymore,” and they’re not going to embrace a paganistic philosophy. What’s going on? What’s the title all about?
Lutzer: Well, you’ve really asked two questions, and I’ll begin with the first one. The reason that people are reading The Da Vinci Code and leaving the church is because The Da Vinci Code, though it is a novel, purports to be based on history. And it makes Jesus Christ into a mere man. Thankfully, historically, there’s no evidence for that. And then, secondly, The Da Vinci Code argues that there is another Bible out there, another New Testament, if you will, and it’s called the Gnostic gospels, and we discussed that in the last program. So, theoretically, The Da Vinci Code undercuts Christianity. But of course, as we’ve noticed, that all of its claims, in terms of its criticisms of Christianity, are based actually on myths, speculation, and Dan Brown connects dots that don’t even exist.
Ankerberg: That’s why you’re saying it is The Da Vinci Deception?
Lutzer: Deception. That’s why the book is The Da Vinci Deception that I wrote to counteract The Da Vinci Code.
Ankerberg: Alright, let me start you off here. Part of the deception is, you’ve got a fictional novel where the characters make some statements that seem historical. But for people that don’t know their history, it throws them off. And here are some of the lies, straight out historical deceptions that he makes, that we want to talk about today: [1] The church cooked up Jesus. (We’ve talked about that, but this is one of the assumptions.) [2] The church suppressed women. [3] The church made sex the original sin. [4] The church made Mary Magdalene into a prostitute. And one of the evidences for all of this is found in Leonardo Da Vinci’s picture of The Last Supper. Now, goodness sakes, how did he weave all that together?
Lutzer: Well, let’s just plunge right into the middle and ask the question, why is The Da Vinci Code called The Da Vinci Code?
Ankerberg: Right.
Lutzer: And, this will get us into all of those other issues, alright? The idea is this: Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene; but this truth had to be suppressed, it had to be kept under wraps. In fact, Dan Brown says there are all kinds of documents that would prove it, but they’re hidden and nobody has ever found them, which is kind of interesting.
Ankerberg: And he doesn’t bring them forth now, either!
Lutzer: Right. You know, what he’s doing is he’s basing his unbelief on documents that have never been seen by anyone. But anyway, the idea is, Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene; this had to be kept under wraps. So there is an organization called The Priory of Sion that is committed to holding these documents and knowing the truth. But, of course, they couldn’t tell the truth openly, or they’d be stoned or beheaded by the church. Supposedly, in the novel, that’s why Opus Dei exists. It’s the responsibility of the Catholic organization, Opus Dei, to keep a lid on all these secrets, you see.
And what Dan Brown claims is that when Leonardo painted a picture of The Last Supper—now remember, Leonardo is part of the Priory of Sion, therefore, he knows the secret; that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene—Dan Brown claims that the person to the right of Jesus is not the apostle John, as we’ve always believed, it’s actually, of all things, Mary Magdalene. And then he looks at the table and notices that there is not chalice or cup; therefore, what he says is that the actual chalice, or cup, is Mary Magdalene, who bore in her own body the blood of Jesus when she gave birth to his child, which I think The Da Vinci Code says, was Sarah. And then, they go to France, and there they become part of French royalty. That’s the novel, okay? But, it’s passed off as history.
So the question that we have to ask is this: Is this a legitimate reading of Leonardo? And, John, because I’m not an art historian, all that I can do is to quote art historians. I think, for example, of Jack Wasserman, who is a retired art professor, in fact, he’s a professor of the history of art. He says, and I quote here, “Virtually everything that Dan Brown says about Leonardo is false.” So that’s good enough for me. And there are other art historians who agree that it is false.
Now, when you look at the picture, you do notice that John the apostle does look effeminate. But actually, that’s consistent with other paintings in Florence. And furthermore, as you look at the picture, you have to ask the question, “If John the apostle is not in the picture, if this is Mary Magdalene, where is the beloved apostle in all of this?” Well, the answer is he didn’t attend the Last Supper, apparently, which is kind of strange.
Ankerberg: Right.
Lutzer: So, it’s a stretch to believe that that is Mary Magdalene. It’s a stretch to believe that they are married, which, of course, is totally based on myth, and there’s evidence to the contrary; and, most assuredly, that they went to France. All that really is based on mythology that grew up in France in about the twelfth century. So what we have and we’re dealing with here in Dan Brown’s book is a lot of mythology.
Ankerberg: People say, well, why would he do that? Why would he insinuate that?
Lutzer: Well, first of all, because if you go to France, you will find that there are these myths that circulate that date back to the 12th century. So, if you’re interested in mythology, you can go ahead and make these claims. The problem is, John, that if our faith is based on mythology, we don’t have much hope to hang on to. What we need to do is to always ask the question, “What is the best historical evidence? Where does it point?” And, that’s why we’re actually having this show today, to be able to contrast the historical evidence of the New Testament, which is based such good historical fact, versus the myths and the insinuations based on myths.
Ankerberg: Summarize the solid foundation that we have for people that didn’t hear the first two programs. Versus the myth, Christianity is based on a solid rock of fact. What kind of facts?
Lutzer: Well, first of all, we can look at the New Testament documents and evaluate them. We can point out that the manuscript tradition of the New Testament is very strong. And we have quotations from the New Testament Fathers. We can point out that the New Testament that we have in our hands is based on documents that were written; and that we have, essentially, in our hands, those documents. That’s number one.
Number two: internally, the New Testament documents are not self-contradictory. We don’t have time to go into this, John, but just think of Luke 1, where Luke says, “I did a careful investigation to study the life of Jesus.” Luke was around when he could actually talk to people and ask them, “What did you see?” And he talks about the careful way in which he investigated when he wrote.
And then, of course, you have external evidence. We have archeology which confirms the New Testament. We have other documents that confirm the New Testament. Now, contrast that with the Gnostic gospels, which we spoke about and we’re going to have to speak about today again. Because it is the Gnostic gospels that supposedly say the Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Compare those. The Gnostic gospels have no references to lakes, to rivers, to cities. These are esoteric writings, and remember, as we showed in the previous program, written about 250 years after the time of Jesus. And I need to ask again, whose description of George Washington would you believe? Someone who knew George Washington? Or someone who lived 200 years after George Washington and wanted to put his own political ideas into George Washington’s mouth?
Ankerberg: Exactly.
Lutzer: That’s what we’re up against.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break and when we come back, then we’re going to get to the key question: was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? Why did the Pope, at about 550, why did he claim that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute? All of those questions when we come right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking about The Da Vinci Code. And the question we want to entertain right now is; did Jesus wed Mary Magdalene? Is there any historical evidence? In this novel, Brown makes claims, some assumptions, that are not historical. Now, people have always speculated and thought that the prime candidate for “Mrs. Jesus” would be Mary Magdalene. But here’s what Brown does. He says, “The Early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal Jesus, the mortal prophet Jesus, was a divine being. Therefore, any Gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible,” and they got rid of them. [Brown says,] “Unfortunately, for the early editors, one particularly troubling, earthly theme kept reoccurring in the Gospels.” What was that? It was this, “Mary Magdalene, more specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ,” that’s what was kept out. And Brown says through his characters, “it’s a matter of historical record,” on page 244.
Now Erwin, this is a straight out fabrication. Tell us why.
Lutzer: Well, two things that you have read that are false. Number one: It is nonsense to say that any Gospel that talked about the earthly aspects of Jesus Christ’s life, or his humanity, were rejected from the New Testament. You get into John 11, what does it say? Does it say Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus wept? Jesus is on the well as Samaria, weary with his journey.
John, we’ll emphasize this in a moment, but if Jesus were married to Mary Magdalene, that would have been big news. It would have appeared in the New Testament. Let’s just lay that out on the table. And so the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene as being a matter of historical fact is, of course, a fabrication.
But let’s talk about Brown’s evidence for a moment. We do have to ask the question, “What did he base it on?” He based it on what we call the Gnostic gospels. I hope that all who are watching this program were able to see the program, the previous one that you and I did together. And if they haven’t, it would be great for them to be able to get a copy of it, because, there we talked about the Gnostic gospels. Spurious writings: they were not written by the people who purported to write them. We have the Gospel of Philip, which I’m going to quote in a moment. There isn’t a scholar around who believes that the Gospel of Philip was written by Philip the apostle. These Gnostics took their esoteric ideas and they tried to pass them off as Christianity. The Early Church recognized that back in the second and third centuries. We recognize that today. So let’s understand that.
But, let me give you the quote, alright? This is the famous quote that Dan Brown uses to show that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. This is from the Gospel of Philip, the Gnostic gospel: “The companion is Mary of Magdalene. Jesus loved her more than his students, he kissed her often on the face more than all of his students, and they said, ‘Why do you love her more than us?’ The savior answered saying to them, ‘Why do I not love you like her? If a blind man and one who sees are together in darkness, they are the same. When light comes, the one who sees will see light, the blind man stays in darkness.’”
Couple of comments: First of all, the phrase where it says “he kissed her often on the face,” as my translation says, that is inserted in the text. In the actual Coptic scroll, there’s a blank there, because obviously these scrolls are very old and, therefore, some of them have faded. So nobody knows what’s there. Maybe it means that he kissed her on the hand, it could be that he kissed her on the cheek, because, it says, “as he did the other apostles.”
Ankerberg: Yes, so you have to put your own assumption in there.
Lutzer: Right.
Ankerberg: Fill in the blank.
Lutzer: Right. And in the Middle East, even today, you know they kiss one another on the cheek. So that’s possibly what is meant. But the other question is, is there any reason to even believe this? Oh, first of all I should say that Brown says the word “companion,” when it says that Mary Magdalene was the companion of Jesus, means that she was married. There’s no evidence of that. Obviously, the word companion means companion; it doesn’t mean marriage like Brown says it does.
But even after all that is said, do we have any reason to believe this account at all? And the answer is “No,” for two reasons. Number one: my Gnostic Bible, which is not an evangelical book, says that this book was written in Syria in the year 250. So if we’re talking about a document written fully 200 years after the time of Jesus, how reliable is it? Well, the answer is, of course, it isn’t reliable.
There is a second reason why we know that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were not married. You know, the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:5, “Do we not have a right to have a wife as the other apostles and Peter?” Obviously, if Jesus had been married, that would have been part of the record of the New Testament.
Ankerberg: Okay, now, let’s slow that down, because what Paul is arguing is, that they do, as apostles, have a right to take a wife, okay? Now, if you going to prove that point and you’re willing to use Peter and the other apostles as being the substantive proof, if Jesus had been married, you wouldn’t have to recognize these other guys; that would have knocked the ball out of the park. That would have settled the question. The apostle Paul doesn’t mention Jesus at all, he mentions these other guys. That is a powerful bit of evidence—not silence, that’s powerful bit of evidence that shows Jesus was not married; he was celibate.
Lutzer: And there are powerful reasons why Jesus could not have been married, in my opinion. I’ll get to them in one second. And that is that also, the Gospel of Philip, this gospel that says that, it actually contains the quote I gave in the previous program about, “God is a dyer, the good dyes, the true dyes….” These are foolish writings. I say to people who think, “Oh, these writings compete with the New Testament,” really read them, and you will come across…
Ankerberg: Take one. Just give us one.
Lutzer: Well, I’m thinking of the one in Philip where it says that God dyes things by dipping them in water: “His dyes are imperishable because of their colors. What God dips, he dips in water.” And it says, another quote, the world came into being through error. The agent who made it wanted it to be imperishable and immortal. He failed. That’s a quote from the book. Now, are you going to accept the theology of a book that is written by Gnostics who had very, very far out ideas that they wanted to proclaim?
Ankerberg: 200 years after Jesus.
Lutzer: 200 years after the time of Jesus. No. And then, of course, there’s the Gospel of Mary, which says that Jesus gave Mary a special revelation. We can reject that too. The reason it was probably included is that the Gnostics were anxious to try to show two things: First of all, that you don’t need historical facts for a revelation; that Mary received this vision of Jesus directly. Secondly, that you don’t have to go to a bishop. A woman can receive revelations. So this was thrown in, as well. But we’re talking about these documents that the Early Church knew are fraudulent.
Ankerberg: Alright, now let’s take some of verses in the New Testament that show Jesus had a pretty close relationship with Mary. And let’s talk about this thing of, why did the Pope, around 550, why did he change Jesus’ relationship with Mary? He helped her as a sinner, but he made her into a prostitute in 550 AD.
Lutzer: Yes. Very important, John, and I can answer that very quickly, okay? In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 8, what you have is the story of Mary Magdalene and the seven demons that were cast out, okay? In Luke 7, just the previous section, you have the story of the prostitute who came to Jesus. So what Pope Gregory did—and I think the date was 591—he preached a sermon in which he identified Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. That was a mistake. He should not have made that connection. Now, what Dan Brown says is that this was made deliberately to put Mary down. As long as Mary Magdalene was known as a prostitute, then of course, she could be dismissed. I doubt whether or not that was the Pope’s intention. But that’s what Dan Brown’s novel says.
But let’s just clarify the fact that, in the New Testament, there is no proof that she was a prostitute. But clearly, she had seven demons; Jesus delivered her; and also, she and other women followed Jesus. That’s a whole separate story of how Jesus in the New Testament elevated women. No rabbi would have allowed these women to follow him.
Now, John, there’s another thing we should work into this program and I hope we have time, and that is to discuss the question of whether or not Jesus could have been married. And the answer is “No.” I believe that very strongly. There is nothing wrong with sex—the marriage bed is undefiled, the Bible says—so it’s not because sexuality is somehow impure or dirty. Within marriage it is blessed and sanctioned by God.
But, marriage brings together two people in the most intimate union imaginable. Jesus, being both divine and human, being absolutely perfect, because his humanity, of course, was united with his deity; in a sexual relationship, even in marriage, would be joined in the most intimate level to a sinner. And, what I always say is this, Jesus could have been married, if He could have found someone who is was holy as He Himself is. Which meant that He really had no options along that line.
But that said, Jesus is going to be married. The New Testament speaks about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and it talks about us being gathered there along with Mary Magdalene, obviously, as a believer. And Jesus is going to be married to the church; that’s to us, we are his bride; not in any kind of sexual union, but in a union of fellowship that is going to be blessed, and is going to be sanctioned, and going to actually introduce us to a marvelous eternity if we trust Christ as savior.
Ankerberg: What do you make of his false assertion that Jesus had to be married, otherwise, he couldn’t have been a part of Jewish society in that day?
Lutzer: Dan Brown is groping wildly when he makes a statement like that. Of course, possibly, the rabbis in that day, it was customary to be married. But, there are exceptions to all kinds of things. And you can’t argue from silence like this to try to pull out of history a historical fact that you want to find.
Ankerberg: Yes, Josephus shows that there was high honor given to the Essenes, and they were celibate. John the Baptist was single, and he was honored as a great prophet of God. So there is no reason why Jesus couldn’t have remained single and been honored and a prophet of God.
Lutzer: That’s right. And what we need to do is to understand that Jesus Christ’s mission was to die. He actually came, you know, to become a sacrifice for sinners and died at possibly the age of 33. And there is not a shred of evidence that Jesus had a romantic relationship with a woman. Mary Magdalene is sometimes called the Apostle of the Apostles by some writers, because Jesus entrusted to her the responsibility of telling the others about the resurrection. I find this so beautiful, John. Just think: here’s a woman, she may not have been a prostitute, but she had seven demons cast from her. I mean, imagine how she was plagued by evil spirits. Jesus delivers her. She becomes a companion, along with other women, of Jesus. They apparently help him financially and so forth. And then Jesus elevates her, and says to Mary, who was there at the tomb, “Go and tell the other apostles what you have seen.” This is so beautiful, Jesus elevating women, elevating the role of Mary Magdalene. No evidence of marriage, no evidence of a romantic relationship; but, he is saying to this woman, “You have the privilege of telling others about the resurrection.”
Ankerberg: Where do we want to go next week?
Lutzer: Next week, what we want to do is talk about the canon of the New Testament. You see there are many people who think that, at some Council, there was this big debate. “Do you like the book of 1 Peter?” “Yes, I like it.” “But, I don’t” “Let’s tough it out and figure out what books are in the New Testament.” Totally bogus! We will discuss how it all happened.
Ankerberg: Join us next week.

Read Part 4

Leave a Comment