What About the Missing Gospels and Lost Christianities? – Program 6

By: Dr. Darrell Bock; ©2006
Was Jesus married? If so, what would that say about his divinity? Is it true that no one believed Jesus was God until the Council of Nicea?

The Divinity of Jesus


Today on The John Ankerberg Show, What about the Missing Gospels and Lost Christianities that archaeologists say they have now? Some scholars at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale claim that these lost Gospels and alternative Christian groups existed shortly after the time of Jesus and the apostles.

Further, these people claimed to be true Christians, but did not believe Jesus was God, nor did they believe in his resurrection from the dead. Some scholars claim that this new evidence indicates we must rewrite church history and give up traditional beliefs about Jesus. God, and the Bible. Is this true? What evidence refutes these views?

Today, you will find out. My guest is considered one of the top historical Jesus scholars in the world. He is Dr. Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He has appeared on ABC with Diane Sawyer, on NBC’s dateline with Stone Phillips, and with Bill O’Reilly on Fox. His new book The Missing Gospels, Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities, examines these lost Gospels and tells why they are not true Christianity. He has also written 13 other books including, Breaking the Da Vinci Code.

We invite you to join us.


Ankerberg: Alright, we’re talking with one of my favorite guests, Dr. Darrell Bock, and we’re talking about The Hidden Gospels. And I want to bring it to The Da Vinci Code. Most of you have probably read the book The Da Vinci Code. It’s coming out in a movie right now. And there is a real key point that has gotten everybody’s attention. Television specials have been done on this topic. And that is, was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? And was his marriage kept hidden, kept secret, for centuries for the reason that the Church feared that it would undermine his claims to divinity.
Now, you’ve written this book, Breaking the Da Vinci Code, which is a great book. Summarize what you saw in The Da Vinci Code, and tell me the hype, the historical errors, why it was based on the “hidden gospels,” and what does true history tell us here about this. Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene?
Bock: Okay, let’s summarize what we’ve already covered. We’ve already suggested that Jesus didn’t become divine at the Council of Nicea, and Constantine didn’t have anything to do with it. That goes back to the very beginning roots of Christianity, and can be seen in the encounter that he has with the Jewish leadership. So we’ve taken care of that one.
We’ve talked about the fact that the Canon, even though the naming of the books didn’t end up being finalized until the fourth century, that the Gospels themselves were functioning by the end of the second century, and that if you look at the material within the Gospels, there are traditional materials, hymns, and worship rites that were teaching theology, and that theology was consistent all the way through. That includes the doctrine of God, the person of Jesus, and the nature of salvation. And we’ve gone through that already in great detail.
The one detail that’s left to deal with is the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. And in some ways this is the easiest point to deal with. Beliefnet.com asked me and John Dominic Crossan, who is a theological liberal, to write on the question, Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? And we both responded that he was single, that he wasn’t married to her.
And that was interesting in and of itself, because as you can tell, it isn’t very often that conservatives and liberals agree with one another. In fact, I tell my classes that when you get a conservative and a liberal agreeing about something on the historical Jesus, it’s probably true.
But what’s interesting was the way John Dominic Crossan made the argument. He basically used a proverb, and the proverb went, “If it acts like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it must be a camel.” And he said that’s the argument. The argument is, all the evidence points to the fact that Jesus was single. In fact, we don’t have a single text that states that Jesus was married anywhere—in the alternative materials or in the traditional materials. And yet the claim is that two texts that suggest that Jesus had a special relationship to Mary Magdalene get magnified into being the fact that she was married.
This is just unlikely. We have gobs of material; I have 38 volumes in my library in my office on church history. Now, these 38 volumes are hundreds of pages long, single spaced, small font, okay, double columned, okay. And out of all that material, 38 volumes, multiple hundred pages each, there’s not a single text that says that Jesus was married. The idea that Jesus was married is so farfetched that even liberal and conservative Christians agree it’s not the case.
Ankerberg: Pull back some of the statements that are made in The Da Vinci Code and unscramble them.
Bock: Well, one of the most interesting parts of The Da Vinci Code is the way in which women are handled, and so we probably should handle some of the statements about women and the role of women in the early church. For example, the suggestion is made that the early church taught that Mary Magdalene was an apostle to the apostles, and therefore that she held a very significant office. Now, there are two problems with this statement, which actually, if you trace it down, is a slightly inaccurate representation of something Hippolytus said. Hippolytus lived at the end…
Ankerberg: Christian.
Bock: Christian, and lived at the end of the second century. And he wrote about the women who were witnesses at the tomb—all of them, not just Mary—and said they were apostles, plural, to the apostles. But they weren’t using apostles in the technical sense of church office. They were using apostles with its generic, everyday meaning. An apostle is someone who is commissioned with a message, and who speaks on behalf of another.
An example of an apostle in our day is the Press Secretary. The Press Secretary speaks for the President. Or at least he speaks for the President unless he says something wrong, and then the President will distance himself from it. But the general point is that when the Press Secretary speaks, the White House speaks. When the White House speaks, the President speaks.
Ankerberg: He’s the apostle for the President.
Bock: He’s an apostle for the President, exactly right. That’s the picture. Well, these women were apostles for Jesus, because their message was, “He is risen, and the resurrection is real.” And so, in that sense, they were apostles to the apostles. Not in a church office sense. So that puts a different twist on both what the Church Father was saying, and what the evidence was about the role of offices for women in the earliest church. At least, in this particular case.
Now, let’s deal with another issue related to the issue of women, because that’s a culturally sensitive issue related to The Da Vinci Code, and that’s the claims about the Divine Feminine. And one of these we’ve actually already covered, and that is the role of Sophia, or Pista Sophia, the Divine Feminine in the creation in these alternative Christianities, that she is responsible for the flawed creation according to some of these accounts.
So the question you’ve got to ask yourself is, if we’re going to lift up the role of women and say that she’s a part of divinity, we’d better think about what kind of Divine Feminine we want! Because in this particular case, she’s responsible for the flaws in creation. And I don’t think my wife would appreciate it if I walked up to her and said, “You know what, honey? Your progenitor is really responsible for why we’re in all this mess!” That’s not a very affirming role of femininity!
Ankerberg: Slow that down. The fact is, when they say the Divine Feminine, they’re talking about God. And these Gnostic texts talked about Father, Mother and Son being in the Godhead.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Some of them had the Mother-God as an underling who actually created the world and screwed it all up.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Okay, and the fact is that therefore matter is evil, and so on. But Dan Brown in his Da Vinci Code is making this sound like this was the thing back in Jesus’ day. This is what Jesus taught.
Bock: Yes, and these men suppressed this. They were suppressing this feminine element. It was a way of keeping the women under control. That is a very poor reading of early church history. And let me give you another text that shows you this even more, how do I want to say it, more vividly. It’s a very famous text; it comes from our most famous alternative text. It is The Gospel of Thomas. It is the last saying in that Gospel. It’s The Gospel of Thomas saying 114. That’s in case anyone wants to have devotions in it later.
Now, I need to issue a cultural warning before I read this. This is very politically incorrect, so I’m just warning you.
Ankerberg: But this is what the current scholars, this is one of the things they kind of leave out, but this is part, if you accept what they’re saying, you’ve got to accept this too.
Bock: Exactly right. And I will say to Elaine Pagels’ credit, she actually tries to tackle this text, and we’ll talk about what she says in just a second. Here’s what the text says. Peter is complaining that Mary is not worthy of kingdom life. And Jesus replies, “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 shall make herself male will enter the kingdom.” End of saying, end of Gospel of Thomas. So it’s quite a climactic note. And the point here is that the woman has to become a man in order to enter the kingdom. Now, that’s not a very positive view of the role of femininity. We’re just going to wipe it off the map in order for people to get into the kingdom. So when these groups are suggesting that these texts are pro-women, they are selling you a bill of good.
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s take a break. We’re going to come back, we’ll talk about other things that are in The Da Vinci Code, as well as this thing that the Council of Nicea actually brought about the Canon and invented this whole concept that Jesus was God; before that, nobody ever thought that he was God. And we’ll talk about it when we come right back.


Ankerberg: Alright, we’re talking about some of the claims that are being made in the popular book The Da Vinci Code. We’re talking about The Hidden Gospels, what you find in real history. And one of the questions that surfaces in the book, Darrell, is, the fact is, if Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, would that have destroyed his being deity? Interesting question.
Bock: It is an interesting question, and Christians don’t agree on the answer. Some will say, well, if there had been a descendent there would have been some question as to who this person would have been, whether he would have attracted attention, practical kinds of questions. And then the more theological amongst us asks, you know, how do you deal with the sin/sinless problem, if Jesus actually had given birth to a physical child. So they think it’s theoretically impossible.
I think it’s theoretically possible. My view would be that, had Jesus given birth to a child, all this would have done was to show that he was human: he got tired, he had to drink, he had to sleep, etc.; he died; you know, and so it’s just another aspect of his humanity, and it wouldn’t touch the perception of his divinity at all.
What’s interesting is that when the ABC special was done, I was asked this question, a church historical colleague of mine was asked this question, and a Catholic priest was asked this question. None of us knew we were asked this question—all being asked the same question—to see what our reaction was. We all three gave the same answer, “No, this didn’t impact, this wouldn’t impact, the perception of Jesus’ divinity at all.” So the premise upon which the book is base, for the cover-up, and destroying of divinity, itself is very, very questionable.
Ankerberg: Oh, yes. If Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene, every one of the Gospels would have said that. I mean, they would have gone out of their way to point that out.
Bock: No need to be embarrassed about it at all.
Ankerberg: Alright. Talking about the deity of Jesus Christ, you know, Da Vinci Code says everything your father told you about the church is wrong, and implying that all the things the Church Fathers told us about the church are wrong, and that Jesus’ deity was actually cooked up by the Council of Nicea. Well, if it wasn’t cooked up by the Council of Nicea, and it’s based on something else, people want to know what was it based upon? And also, about this Canon, okay? If we didn’t have the New Testament until after 325 AD, what did people refer to in the first 200 years of Christianity? Because these are the important questions where the public is at right now.
Bock: Okay, let me work backwards. Let’s start with the Council of Nicea and what it is and then just go backwards. Because it’s also a good way to review what we’ve been saying.
Ankerberg: Uh huh.
Bock: In AD 325, Constantine called together a Council, and he drew together the Bishops of Christendom of the time, 216 gathered there. They did not gather to vote on the divinity of Jesus. In fact, there was never a vote taken at the Council of Nicea. All that was done is that a creed was written, known as the Nicene Creed.
The debate that existed about Jesus at that conference was not WHETHER Jesus was divine, but HOW he was divine. And there were two primary views: One view was called Arianism, coming from the person, Arius. And what he believed is that Jesus was the first and greatest exalted created being, basically. He existed before the creation, but he was the first created being. But he was still son of God.
The alternative that ended up being placed into the Creed was the statement that Jesus was eternally with the Father. That they shared the same personhood, if you would, they both were “very God.” They were totally divine. And that was what was decided upon.
Now, there was no vote at Nicea, as I said. What you did is you signed on to the Creed once it was created. Of the 216 Bishops who were there, 214 signed on to the Creed. Now, if I do my math, and think of this as a political contest, there were no hanging chads at Nicea, it wasn’t that close. CNN didn’t come on at 2:00 in the morning saying, “We’re going to be up until the morning counting the votes.” Okay? What we have is a plurality—A plurality? A MAJORITY!—of, what is it, almost 99%, around the 99? Now, I would guess that most politicians, if they were in an election, would hail a 99% vote.
Ankerberg: Yes, and Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, just lies through his character at that point when he says it was “a close vote. He hardly made it.”
Bock: That’s right. Okay, now that’s the situation in 325. Now, if we just work back, Jesus is both divine and human; the idea that he’s just divinity is wrong, the idea that he’s just human is wrong. But he’s both divine and human. And you can see it in statements that go from Irenaeus and Tertullian in the third and the end of the second century, to Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century, back to the Church Fathers at the beginning of the second century. And then you dive into the books that are now a part of our Bible, and you see that they’re all the way through there as well. And it goes all the way back to the implications of what Jesus said and taught that caused him to be crucified.
And these things are being summarized, not only in these books, because another question that we have to ask is, and you raised it earlier, is what did people appeal to when there wasn’t a New Testament to appeal to? A functioning New Testament to appeal to?
Well, they may have appealed to one or two of these books that might have been read in their local churches, or a handful of them. The later we get, the more books were probably available for them to appeal to, and the more they would have appealed to them. But before 180, when Irenaeus tells us there are four gospels functioning, the epistles of Paul are functioning, what did they do?
Well, what they did is, they had these little snippets of theological tradition that summarized what the core doctrines were. Or they had hymnic portions that they were singing that summarized what these key doctrines were. Or they had the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist, which summarized the most central act of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf.
And all of this goes back into the teaching of the apostles and the teaching of the ministry of Jesus. And so what you’ve got is, you know, you sometimes hear the discussion that there’s a purple thread of redemption running through Church History, well, what you really have is a traditional rope of theology—I’m not going to call it a thread, because it’s thick, okay—it’s a rope of theology running all the way from the Nicene Creed, all the way back into the ministry of Jesus. And when you tug on that rope, it’s not coming apart, because it’s made up of several corroborative strands.
Ankerberg: Fantastic stuff, Darrell. Now, summarize all that we’ve seen in light of the hype that’s going on about these secret Gnostic gospels that have come out, these “hidden gospels” that are supposed to take the place here, and we need to rewrite church history. In light of what we’re saying, keep going, and let’s step back and get the broader picture yet of what scholarship is saying. You’ve got these hidden gospels, that’s the popular view, as The Da Vinci Code, but the fact is, what the scholars are saying over here, take that and relationship to this thread, this rope going right back to Jesus.
Bock: And I think what I would say is this, that if you look at this alternative Christian theology, it not only doesn’t fit historically in terms of the nature of the sources, and lateness of the sources, but it also is a violation of the fundamental genealogical relationship of Christianity to Judaism. And so the reason there was a reaction was not only because it had a faulty view of Jesus, but it also had a faulty view of God. And that combination,… it had a faulty view of resurrection, and those combination of factors meant that at several different levels it was flipping switches, okay?
The innovation is the resurrection, a physical resurrection of Jesus in the midst of history rather than at the end, which is where Judaism had it. What caused that innovation? What caused that innovation, traditional Christianity says, is the resurrection itself.
Now, what is the resurrection, theologically, and what does it mean to this discussion? Well, it means everything. Because the resurrection is the vindication of God about Jesus and his claims. It is God’s vote in this matter. And when it comes to theology, only one vote counts, and that’s the vote of God.
And so when Jesus is laid in the tomb, and he’s left for dead, and his followers are a little distraught because they think it’s all over; and then Jesus raises from the dead, and he’s at the right hand of the Father, and he begins to appear to people, what God was saying in that act is, “This is my son.” And when the Spirit was distributed to the people of God afterwards, he was saying, “This is my promise which comes through my son.” And the distribution of the Spirit shows that forgiveness of sins is on offer, and that God is at work within the lives of people. And that, my friends, is good news.
Ankerberg: Doesn’t mean we understand it all clearly.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: But the fact is, you’re face to face with this guy that did rise from the dead and claimed to be God’s son. That’s what we’re looking at.
Bock: What they understood, as a result of that act, is that everything that Jesus claimed about who he was and what he was doing in relationship to representing humanity and in relationship to being sent by God, there are lots of statements in the Gospel, “I have come” in order to do certain things, or the son of man has come in order to do certain things, “to seek and save the lost,” “to be a ransom for many,” etc. All those statements become truth claims. They’re not only truth claims, they become the truth.
Ankerberg: One last comment. The person that’s been listening to all of this says, “Okay, I believe Jesus is special, he is the historical Jesus, he did claim to be God, what do I do with that information?”
Bock: What you do with that information is you turn in faith to Jesus Christ and say, “I believe that I’m a sinner. I believe what you taught is true. I believe that you have taken my place, and that you’re offering your forgiveness. I want that forgiveness. I believe that you are the one whom God raised from the dead, that you’re at the right hand of the Father and you are my Lord. And I am now entering into a relationship that you’re offering to me so that I can follow you forever and ever. Amen.”
Ankerberg: Folks, I hope that you will do that. Anything that you see that Darrell Bock has written in the bookstore, buy it. It’s great stuff. Darrell, thank you. Thank you very much for sharing this information.
Bock: My pleasure.
Appendix: Nicene Creed
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic [universal] and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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