The Da Vinci Code: “FACTS”?

The Da Vinci Code (DVC), “A Novel” written by Dan Brown, is a work of fiction published in March 2003. The book has sparked a tremendous amount of interest. There was at least one prime time TV news special on the book, the book has been on The New York Times “Best Seller” list for 50-plus weeks, and as of May 2004 over 7 million copies have been sold in more than 40 languages. Sony Pictures is making a movie based on the book, directed by Ron Howard. The novel is about the quest for the Holy Grail, which is NOT the “Cup of the Last Supper” of Christ, but rather “The Royal Bloodline of Jesus Christ,” who was married to Mary Magdalene. This “fact” is not new with DVC, for it can be found in the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh (1983). Nor is it true, for it lacks the solid evidence needed to substantiate it.

Unfortunately, DVC utilizes half-truths, falsities and liberal scholarship to support its fictional tale, and many readers, Christian and non-Christian alike, have been misled by many of its “FACTS.”

There are a few fictional characters worth mentioning: Robert Langdon—Harvard Symbologist, Teabing—Historian who is considered a reputable historian, and Sophie—a female character to whom Langdon and Teabing reveal the mystery and real meaning of the Holy Grail.

The book starts with assertions under the heading “FACT.” One of them reads, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” This, in my opinion, shapes the mind of the reader to believe that “FACT” underlies the fictional tale.

Of key interest is chapter 55, wherein Christianity as we know it is a product of power figures of the past who suppressed the truth of the Holy Grail in part by making Jesus divine, inventing the story of his resurrection, and propagating the divine inspiration of the Bible. As Teabing and Langdon enlighten Sophie to the mystery of the Grail, certain “FACTS” are stated. I shall document a few of these “FACTS” and answer with “TRUTH.”

DVC “FACT”: “The Bible did not arrive by fax from Heaven. . . . The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds . . . and it has evolved through countless translations, additions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book” (231).

TRUTH: (1) The above starts with a “straw man” statement; that is, it accuses Christians of believing something they in fact do not (or should not) believe. We do not believe that the Bible dropped out of heaven. Rather, writers moved / inspired by the Spirit of God wrote the scriptures in real-life situations. The Bible, then, is a product of both God and man. (2) The Bible has NOT “evolved through countless translations, additions and revisions.” For example, when comparing the New Testament we have today to the writings of early church theologians of the first several centuries, we find that the whole New Testament, with the exception of 11 verses, could be collected from their writings. Hardly evidence that the New Testament “evolved,” for if it evolved we would find an abundance of evidence of transition after the early church theologians’ writings up to our current versions of the New Testament. Such evidence does not exist. Further, the earliest copies (from 125 – 450 AD) of the New Testament we possess largely coincide with what we have in today’s translations. If it “evolved,” certainly there would be transitional manuscripts reflecting evolving to the degree that DVC implies, but there aren’t any. Thus, we DO have a definitive version of the book.

DVC “FACT”: “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great” (231).

TRUTH: Constantine was NOT involved in the formation of the Bible. Further, he had no absolute or sole authority at all when it came to church matters. Constantine convened the Council of Nicea (325 AD), which, by the way, did not decide on a collation of books that should make up the Bible, but rather debated the issue of whether or not Christ shared in the same nature as his Father.

DVC “FACT”: “’Originally,’ Langdon said, ‘Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan’s veneration day of the sun [Sunday]” (232-33).

TRUTH: Among several early writings that predate Constantine, Sunday is prescribed as the day of worship. For example, “On the Lord’s very own day [Sunday], gather together, break bread, give thanks” (Didache, c. 100 AD), “If, then, those walking in the ancient practices attain to newness of hope, not observing the Sabbath, but fitting their lives after the Lord’s Day, on which our life arose as well” (Ignatius, 110 AD). See also Acts 20:7.

DVC “FACT”: “‘At this gathering [the Council of Nicea in 325 AD],’ Teabing said, ‘many aspects of Christianity were voted upon . . . [including] the divinity of Jesus. . . . My dear, until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal'” (233).

TRUTH: The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus’ earlier followers (not even counting the New Testament writings!) viewed him as God the Son. See the writings of early church theologians such as Ignatius (c. 110 AD), Justin Martyr (c. 150 AD), Irenaeus (c. 180 AD), and Tertullian (c. 200 AD), to name but a few. These predate the date of the Council of Nicea.

DVC “FACT”: “The Jewish tetragrammaton YHWH—the sacred name of God—in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah” (309, chap. 74).

TRUTH: (1) YHWH cannot derive from “Jehovah,” for the spelling of “Jehovah” comes from the sixteenth century AD when the vowels for adonai (Lord) where inserted in the Hebrew tetragrammaton, YHWH, which is found in Hebrew manuscripts several centuries before the spelling of “Jehovah.” (2) The tetragrammaton YHWH derives NOT from Jah and Havah, as DVC would lead us to think, but from the Hebrew verb “to be,” which communicates God’s eternal existence.

DVC “FACT”: “The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s” (234).

TRUTH: 1947

To conclude, DVC, though a work of fiction, can mislead people to believe that the “FACTS” that underlie the novel are indeed true. I have experienced, in conversation, how this book can be taken as “The Truth about Christianity.” And I have heard reports about how the book has led unbelievers further away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, it has weakened or threatened the faith of many who profess the biblical Christ as Savior and Lord. Now, chances are this book will be mentioned to you in casual conversation. When this happens, it will be good to have a few of the “FACTS” of DVC in your mind and answer them with TRUTH.

Transcendental Meditation

The Scene:
Exeter, New Hampshire
Public Library

The Event: Public Lecture

The Title: “All about TM”

I remember sitting in that public library praying about what I should say and how I should say it. There were, along with myself, about twenty-five people in the room when the lecturer began by stating, “The purpose of Transcendental Meditation is to get you in touch with the source of all thought.” I raised my hand and asked, “Is Source with an upper-case ‘S,’ and is it defined the same as the atman-Brahman [God-soul] in Hinduism?” “Um, yes, that’s correct,” replied the woman behind the podium.

Not a Religion?

Many representatives of Transcendental Meditation (TM), founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, claim that TM is not a religion. But the fact is that it certainly is a religion with a definite theology and spiritual practice (meditation).

Part of the problem associated with the claim that TM is not a religion is that it is often presented to the common, everyday westerner in non-religious-sounding terminology (like our example above). When the right questions are asked, though, it can be shown to be nothing else than eastern spirituality.

Another part of the puzzle concerns the actual books written by the Maharishi and TM practitioners. When examined they betray the oft-paraded public image of TM.

Mantras, Meditation, and Worship

TM espouses a meditative technique using mantras. Though sometimes described as a meaningless sound, the mantra is to be recited over and over again, aiding the practitioner in reaching “God Realization,” that is, realizing that one is, in fact, God. “This is the state described in the words: Be still and know that I am God” (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, The Science of Being and Art of Living, p. 302).

In order to become a practitioner of TM, one must first be initiated into the movement. What does this involve? The initiation itself is called a Puja Ceremony. Puja is a Sanskrit word meaning “worship” or “religious ceremony.” The initiate is asked to bring flowers, fresh fruit and a white handkerchief to the ceremony. These are then placed on an altar in front of a picture of the Maharishi. The initiate kneels before the picture and the Puja is sung and recited, wherein occur invocations to the Lord Narayana, to lotus-born Brahma the creator, and to other deities. A series of offerings are then given to the Maharishi, each recited in single turn, and each ending with the phrase “I bow down.”

Of the mantra the Maharishi states, “We do something here according to Vedic rites, particular, specific chanting [of mantras] to produce an effect in some other world, draw the attention of those higher beings or gods living there” (Meditations of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, p. 17).

On Christ

TM also has a view of Christ. When asked why it is that such emphasis is laid upon Christ’s suffering, the Maharishi answers, “Due to not understanding the life of Christ and not understanding the message of Christ. I don’t think Christ ever suffered or Christ could suffer” (ibid., 123). Further, according to the Maharishi, Jesus is one of many saviors who gave “The message of liberation” (ibid., 124-25).

I purposefully left out one important element from my experience at the Exeter Public Library. There were people of all persuasions attending, including people who claimed to be Christians. Not only does TM offer its solutions to life’s problems in, at first, non-religious language, it does so to people who claim to follow Christ. The mission, then, not only includes sharing the Gospel with people who wholly embrace TM, and with those who have no anchor in any religious waters, but to inform Christians concerning the religious and anti-Christian nature of TM.