Summary: Brown offers an revisionist, alternative, speculative view of the historical Jesus that lacks historical evidence, in the guise of a conspiracy thriller.
Dan Brown’s provocative book, The Da Vinci Code, has topped the best-seller list for over half a year and has inspired TV documentaries; the movie will be out in 2005, directed by Ron Howard. In the guise of a thriller, Brown has raised serious questions about the legitimacy of Christianity. This work of fiction paints a revisionist view of Jesus, a modern spin claiming that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, but instead married Mary Magdalene; they had several children, and moved to France. In the novel, the “Holy Grail” turns out to be, not the chalice used at the Last Supper, but the bloodline, the children born of the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The heroes of the book go in search for Mary’s tomb, which promises to reveal hidden secrets that will shake the Christian world. It all sounds preposterous, even blasphemous, but many people are buying it as fact. Brown offers an alternative, speculative view of history that lacks historical evidence.
Dr. Karen King, professor of Church History at Harvard, authored a book, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala. In it she disputes any theory of a married Jesus as myth and legend completely devoid of any historical basis. King also disputes Brown’s claim of accuracy for the supposed “facts” within his fiction. Unfortunately, King’s scholarly book isn’t a bestseller, while Dan Brown’s book is causing many people to wonder if the truth about Jesus has been suppressed. Brown bases his conspiracy theory on the “Gnostic Gospels” discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. They are a collection of unconventional writings about Christ.
It should come as no surprise that the writers the Holy Spirit used to produce the NT weren’t the only ones writing about Jesus. We know that Paul wrote letters that weren’t included. Not everything “made the cut”. As evangelical Christians, we believe that God superintended the process by which godly church leaders determined what to include in the canon, i.e. the list of writings that were declared the inspired word of God. Some writings were turned down because they contained false teachings, or were late (post-1st Century works) or because the authorship was questionable.
Although the non-canonical Gnostic writings were rejected, there was no secret conspiracy afoot to suppress them. They were simply never considered Scripture. The Gnostic writers claim their writings reveal secret knowledge, but many of them simply quote and reinterpret existing Bible passages. A common Gnostic theme is that all knowledge worth knowing comes from looking within one’s own self to discover the divine…all of which sounds suspiciously like the message of the Eastern Hindu and Buddhist religions. The Gnostic gospels present a Jesus far different than the One found in the New Testament; he is an enlightened Revealer, an “Illuminator,” but not a crucified Redeemer.