Author Topic: Learning How To Decode Da Vinci  (Read 1253 times)

Devious Viper
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Learning How To Decode Da Vinci
« on: May 16, 2006, 05:48:04 am »
"The key issues regarding the Code don't concern art history or details of the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. (For the record, Da Vinci had no "code"; art historians are as frustrated with Dan Brown's misstatements as are Catholic and evangelical theologians.) The key issues are historical and theological in nature.

The Da Vinci Code claims that Jesus was not perceived as being divine until the 4th century, that his divinity was an "invention" by the Council of Nicea in 325, done for purely political reasons - and passing by only "a close vote." In fact, the vote was lopsided, probably 218-2. Nor was it a "declaration." It was an "affirmation" of a truth for which Christians had been willing to die for 300 years.

And then there is the Code's claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. But there is not one shred of credible evidence that Jesus was married - not in the New Testament, not in the writings of the early church fathers, and not in the Gnostic Writings, with which Dan Brown is so enthralled.

Yet, the "marriage claim" will launch many believers into an examination of the Nag Hammadi texts, specifically the Gospel of Philip, which does not say, "Jesus kissed Marry often on the lips" as Dan Brown claims. It actually says "Jesus kissed Mary on the..." - and at that point the manuscript is torn. Was it "forehead"? Was it "cheek"? "Hand"? Looking at the text more closely, a Greek word meaning "fellowship" is used in the context, which has no sexualized "content" at all. In other words, the infamous kiss was a greeting, not unlike that which is used in the Middle East today.

What is this Gospel of Philip? Who wrote it? The "Philip" of the New Testament? No. Then who? And why is it not a part of our New Testament? The answers to these questions, and plenty of others, have been covered by many authors, but the answers are not my focus. My focus is the "process." Once again, we see that Dan Brown has blessed the church by agitating her into careful study.

There are likely thousands of Christians about to study the Gospel of Philip - along with the other Nag Hammadi discoveries - for the first time. The Gospel of Thomas will likely be discussed, as will the never-seen, never-discovered, elusive "Q" source. And what will be the result? If carefully examined, they will come to a much deeper appreciation of the authority and reliability of the New Testament.

Christians who previously took the 27 books of the New Testament for granted are about to learn how those books came together. The movie will state that Constantine, through the Council of Nicea, commissioned and financed a "new" Bible in the 4th century. Believers will be forced to examine Dan Brown's claim that Constantine made a "quick switch" of sorts, taking out the "original" Gospels, replacing them with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all done for purelypolitical purposes.

Is this true? Of course not. The famous Council of Nicea never dealt with the issue of what should be in the New Testament.

The intrigue doesn't stop with textual analysis. Dan Brown claims that the church led a smear campaign against women - specifically defaming Mary Magdalene. True? No. But to come to that conclusion, you'll have to examine the confusion created by Gregory the Great in the 6th century, when he associated Mary Magdalene of Luke 8 with the unnamed sinful woman or prostitute of Luke 7. In the process, you'll discover the exalted role that Mary Magdalene held in the Bible - as the first witness of the Resurrection.

Readers and moviegoers will be shocked at Dan Brown's assertion that the church killed 5 million women during the Middle Ages - for being witches. Careful study will reveal it was not 5 million, but more like 30 - 50,000. Then they will discover that it was less the church than it was the government - and that approximately 25 percent of those killed were not women, but men. And they will learn that the church condemned the killings. But what is the value of this process? Not the facts themselves, but rather the confidence that will come from the process of becoming better informed about the history of the church - with its glory, and yes, with its sins and failures.

When Dan Brown states that the church demonized sex, they will know this not to be the case (with the exception of some unfortunate, and sub-Scriptural, writings by some of the early church fathers). Instead, Christians can reflect
on the beauty of sexual expression found in the "one flesh" statements of Genesis, the loving imagery of the Song of Solomon, and the "undefiled" nature of the marriage bed in Hebrews.

In the end, it may be that what Dan Brown has revealed is not that we are not so much "short" on faith, as we are weak in church history. We don't really know "our story." But a novel and movie may help us all become better students.

Brown is helping to motivate the church to learn its story. And if it learns its story, it will be able to defend itself against not only The Da Vinci Code, but other attacks on Christianity.

Thank you, Dan Brown, for what you have done. You have helped us connect withourselves - our church!"

Dr. Jim Garlow
« Last Edit: May 16, 2006, 05:49:36 am by Devious Viper »

Devious Viper
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Re: Learning How To Decode Da Vinci
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2006, 06:35:51 am »
By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News
     
If there is one topic of particular interest to Latter-day Saints in "The Da Vinci Code," it is the assertion that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, because many believe it could well be true.

Formal doctrine and scripture unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that, in order to obtain the highest level of "exaltation" in the afterlife, members must be "sealed" or married in one of the faith's temples for "time and all eternity," and that such unions are a central part of God's plan for humanity.
     
So while the question of Christ's marital status isn't new among Latter-day Saints, a trio of LDS scholars who have fielded numerous questions about it since the book's release three years ago decided to address the topic head-on in the first LDS book to answer queries sure to be raised again with the film's premiere next week.
     
"What Da Vinci Didn't Know," a 124-page book explaining what LDS doctrine does and doesn't say about Christ's marital status and other issues, has been published by Deseret Book. Authored by three Brigham Young University religion professors Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Andrew C. Skinner and Thomas A. Wayment it contains a list of factual errors in the book and details the historical documents and context used by author Dan Brown.
     
In discussions with students, family members, friends and strangers about the novel, the authors found "excitement fades" when they outline how the book was based more on "imagination than solid historical foundation."
     
They sometimes find they are not just correcting misinformation but dismissing "a precious facet of a reader's inner life, having given him or her some sort of 'gnosis' or special knowledge. Somehow, pop history, obtained with little effort or thought, helps some people define themselves and their relationships to others," they write.
     
Skinner, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU with a master's degree in theology from Harvard and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Denver, said part of the reason is the general decline in readership of non-fiction works and primary source documents among the population in general, rather than Latter-day Saints in particular. "There is a lot of truth out there, but not all truth is of equal value ... That's certainly true with documents that were produced in the Christian age up to about 600 A.D.," including the Gnostic gospels, on which parts of Brown's novel were based. "Some of them are spurious from an LDS point of view, we know them to be patently false. It takes more effort than it used to, to keep up with all information we're being deluged with," Skinner said.
     
 As for questions about Jesus' marital status, there's nothing wrong with asking the question, "but when the debate focuses solely on the question of his marriage, that does us a great disservice" by deflecting attention away from Christ's role as the Savior of mankind.
     
The book notes that many LDS leaders, including church founder Joseph Smith, "have inferred or believed that Jesus was married," including former church president Joseph F. Smith, who taught that Christ was married and "fulfilled the entire law of God and asked men and women to follow him."
     
Other LDS leaders, including Orson Hyde and former president Wilford Woodruff, concurred, while others have been more cautious on the subject. "In recent years, we have, in fact, been counseled by current prophets and apostles ... that where the scriptures are silent, we should pass over them with reverence and focus on those doctrines that are revealed with clarity."
     
 As for future discovery of extra-biblical texts referenced in "The Da Vinci Code," Skinner said LDS scholars expect "a continual discovery of records from the Earth and other religious documents" to surface in years go come. As director of BYU's Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Skinner said the school is leading out in preservation and translation of ancient religious texts from a variety of faith traditions.

"They are not going to go away, but will continue to flood the market."