Seperating Fact from Fiction
About the Guest
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and the soon-to-be-released movie by the same name portray a gripping conspiracy story that brilliantly mixes fact with fiction. Today on the broadcast, various authors and theologians share their thoughts about this controversial movie and help cull the facts from historical fiction.
Various authors and theologians share their thoughts about The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
Seperating Fact from Fiction
Bob: There's a lot of interest in the new movie, "The DaVinci Code," which opens this weekend. It's based, of course, on the bestselling novel by author Dan Brown. But is the premise historically accurate, as Brown seems to assert? Here is history professor Paul Meyer.
Paul: I am angrier at "The DaVinci Code" as a professor of ancient history than I am as a Christian. As a Christian, what do you know – another attack on the faith. Well, the church has been attacked for 2,000 years now, I think it will survive. But as an ancient historian, I can't stand facts which are in concrete, universally agreed upon by scholars lied about. This is what I can't take. If one of my students produced something like this, I'd have to fail them in the course.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 15th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. "The DaVinci Code" may be a great story, but we're going to look today at some of the things that are supposed to be true and see if they really are.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. A big Hollywood weekend coming up – the opening –
Dennis: Yeah, I've got a question for you, Bob.
Dennis: You're not going to know the answer to this.
Bob: All right.
Dennis: What book has sold nearly 40 million copies? Count 'em, in 40 languages.
Bob: It would be the one that they're making the movie of, right?
Dennis: And it is fiction presented as fact.
Bob: There is a lot presented in the book that is allegedly factual, but, as you said, it is fiction. The book is called "The DaVinci Code" and, of course, the movie comes out this weekend. Ron Howard is the director and Tom Hanks is the star, and it's going to make millions and millions of dollars.
Dennis: And it's shaking the faith of millions of Christians around the world because it is fiction presented as fact.
Bob: There's a lot in the book about Jesus and about Mary and about the church, and a lot of allegations that the Bible doesn't get it right, and that history proves that things that we don't believe really did happen, right?
Dennis: You know, I was thinking, Bob, in preparation for just these broadcasts where we're talking about "The DaVinci Code" about a little scene I saw on "Oprah." She was interviewing a young man whose name was James Frey, and if you missed this scene, it was a classic scene, because she confronts him that he had written a book about his life, which was a book that was called "A Million Little Pieces," and it was about his recovery as a drug and alcohol addict, and all the strange types of stories surrounding that behavior, and she confronts him that he presented his life as the truth when, in reality, it was a lie. And that caused me to reflect about "The DaVinci Code" because here is a book that is clearly a novel that's fictitious, it's not the truth, where a lot of Christians around the world are buying this as the Gospel.
It's interesting, Bob, one of my children read "The DaVinci Code" early on when it first came out almost three years ago. And this child – this is one of my adult children said – "You know, it really was unsettling to my faith for just a few days, but I worked through it, and it's okay." And I thought, "I wonder how many who are becoming followers of Christ or perhaps interested in Christ and His claims for their life have turned away from Him because of this fictitious work." That's a real danger as this movie comes out.
Bob: And that's the reason that we asked Hugh Duncan, who does a podcast that's called "New Clarity" – we asked Hugh if he would get with a number of the authors who have written books about "The DaVinci Code" and have pointed out the fallacies in the book and just spend some time digging into this book and seeing what Dan Brown is saying and what others are saying about what Dan Brown is saying.
Hugh: There sure is a lot of buzz surrounding "The DaVinci Code" – I wondered what the fuss was all about as I shelled out my $15 to buy one of 40 million copies that are in print, doing my little part to contribute to Dan Brown's ever-increasing net worth.
I discovered that the very first word of the story is "fact."
And in his first few pages, I can see how it's easy to get sucked in. It's not great literature, but it is definitely a page-turner. And it's not just the murder mystery that's so engaging, it's this idea of fact. The main character specializes in symbolism, and he spouts out all kinds of facts about paganism, church history, architecture, and art history. It makes for this world where everything – every building, every sign and landmark has this hidden meaning.
It's fascinating, but I have to wonder – are all these ideas really facts? For instance, did Leonardo DaVinci really preside over a secret society? Is there really a church in Paris built on top of the ruins of a pagan temple to the Goddess Isis? Does the planet Venus really trace a perfect pentagram in the sky every eight years?
Richard: It's just all wrong.
Hugh: Richard Abanes has written "The Truth Behind the DaVinci Code."
Richard: Truly, I mean it is about as fictional as you can get and, sadly, he, you know, in the beginning of the book says it's filled with all these facts.
Hugh: For instance, on the very first page, there is the supposed fact that the Priory of Sion, a secret society, was founded in 1099.
Richard: But if you look at the documentation you'll find the Priory of Sion was actually a little club that was founded by a common man in France.
Paul: And it wasn't founded in 1099 but in 1956 A.D.
Hugh: Paul Maier co-wrote a book called "The DaVinci Code – Fact or Fiction?"
Paul: It was founded by a fraud named Pierre Plantard, who was known as an anti-Semitic crook.
Richard: He even forged documents and put them into the various libraries and document repositories in France, and these are the very documents that Dan Brown quotes from.
Hugh: So as I continued to read, I wondered about all sorts of little facts like these – the characters visit the Louvre Museum and say that the pyramid outside is build of exactly 666 panes of glass.
Richard: No, actually, that is one of the many false things that Dan Brown has in his book.
Hugh: The Louvre website says there are actually nearly 800 panes of glass, but maybe things get better inside the museum. One of the characters says that Leonardo painted a half-man, half-woman and named the portrait "The Mona Lisa." Even the name is a combination of male and female – the male god Ammon and the goddess Isis.
Richard: Dan Brown doesn't seem to know that Leonardo really never titled his paintings. There was just somebody who came along later on who named it that because it was a portrait of an aristocratic woman by the name of Lisa, Madam Lisa, in Italy at the time.
Hugh: Because Dan Brown alters so many facts, page after page, it's like he's creating something different than a regular novel. Here is Paul Maier.
Paul: Novels have a foreground in which you have fictional characters doing their thing. Of course, nobody is going to criticize a novelist for that. But novels also have a background, and the background is usually always painted accurately in the interests of credibility.
For example, a novel set in New York is going to have New York in the background, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, obviously, okay. Now, what Dan Brown has done, he's fictionalized the foreground – of course, that's his privilege, help himself. But he has also lied about the background, and readers aren't used to that.
Hugh: Well, I still thought it made for a pretty entertaining story, and I didn't quite see what all the intense controversy was about until I got halfway through.
At this point, the characters are still reinventing facts, but now they're talking about things I care about a lot – they say things like the Bible is a product of man not of God. History has never had a definitive version of the book.
Richard: More than 80 Gospels were considered for the New Testament. The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine.
Hugh: They say nothing in Christianity is original.
Richard: Jesus's establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on at the Council of Nicaea.
The early church literally stole Jesus from His original followers. He says they made up all this stuff about divinity.
Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.
Hugh: I've actually heard some of these ideas before and done some studying, and it's driving me crazy that he's getting the facts all wrong. Somebody's got to do something. Somebody's got to set these facts straight.
So I started looking into these claims about the Council of Nicaea and the new New Testament and all these other Gospels.
Paul: One of the greatest errors, I think, in the book is the claim that there are 80 Gospels.
Hugh: Darrell Bock wrote "Breaking the DaVinci Code."
Darrell: To the best of my knowledge, there may be a dozen and a half. That includes the four Gospels in Scripture.
Hugh: One of the things that sets those four apart is that they were written much earlier than the rest. They were written in the 1st century.
Paul: Unlike the Gnostic Gospels, which were written in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and therefore don't have the same historical credibility.
Hugh: These later Gnostic Gospels are what Dan Brown's characters quote from throughout "The DaVinci Code," and he gets it backwards. He calls "The Gnostic Gospels" the earlier Gospels. And the late date is not the only reason that these were excluded from the canon of Scripture. While Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written by eyewitness or friends of eyewitnesses, these Gnostic Gospels were written by – well, who know?
Lee: Even though they bear the names of Philip and Mary Magdalene, they really don't have any link to the historical Philip and the historical Mary Magdalene. They just took those names and attached them to these documents to try to give them credibility.
Hugh: This is Lee Strobel, co-author of "Exploring the DaVinci Code."
Lee: These documents that Dan Brown relies upon do not have the same historical validity and credibility as the Gospels that we have in the Bible.
Even if you were to take these Gnostic Gospels at face value, they still don't say what Dan Brown claims they say.
Man: For example, you know, he talks about one of the Gnostic Gospels wherein it supposedly talks about Mary Magdalene being the one who was supposed to take over the church after Christ died. And there is nothing in there specifically that says that at all. It's really quite extraordinary how this has been passed off as fact.
Hugh: According to "The DaVinci Code" Constantine took most of these Gnostic Gospels and burned them, even though there is no evidence that that actually happened. He also supposedly altered Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and created the New Testament that we know. This would have happened in the 4th century, and this isn't the case according to Erwin Lutzer, author of "The DaVinci Deception."
Erwin: Throughout a long period of time, the church itself selected those books that it had reason to believe were authoritative. Now, there were discussions going on and in later church council, actually the affirmation of the 27 books in the New Testament.
Hugh: This is James Garlow, co-author of "Cracking DaVinci's Code."
James: There are only a few of them that were really in discussion and disputed for a while. Revelation being one – difficult to understand. We don't know who wrote the book of Hebrews, so some people question that.
Paul: 2 Peter, it's canonicity was questioned because some weren't convinced that Peter wrote 2 Peter, et cetera. But over a period of time these books surfaced as the ones that were regarded as the authoritative Word of God.
James: Effectively, the canon, the four-fifths of the canon was accepted – the New Testament, that is, accepted by the year 100 A.D.
Hugh: "The DaVinci Code" also gives the Emperor Constantine credit for inventing the deity of Christ, that it was proposed and voted on at the Council of Nicaea.
James: That is probably one of the most amazing of all of his claims.
Man: It's shocking that anyone would actually believe that it's true.
Man: We have a line of testimony running back to our earliest Christian documents declaring Jesus to be divine, starting in material that comes from the 50s of the 1st century.
Man: Then we see Jesus, even in the earliest Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, making the claim that he's the Son of God and then proving it by returning from the dead.
Hugh: In Nicaea, it was taken for granted that Jesus was the Son of God. What the bishops affirmed was the Jesus had existed as God from eternity past, and that He was fully God, just like the Father was. "The DaVinci Code" says there was a relatively close vote taken. In reality, there wasn't any vote. The bishops just signed a document that we now know as "The Nicene Creed."
Man: Of the 300 or 318 who attended the Council, only two refused to sign the document. And so according to my arithmetic, you know, 302 is not very close.
Hugh: It seems so clear that "The DaVinci Code" is unreliable, and if I just lay out all of these facts for its readers, they are going to be convinced that the Bible is true, right? Well, maybe not. It seems like there's at least one complication.
Man: If the Gospels in the Bible are true, then there are demands that God makes on us, and we are judged by Him, and we need to repent and find faith in Christ. We need to live a life consistent with how God wants us to live. That's not easy.
Hugh: To me, the story presented in the Bible is entirely logical and rational. But it's a lot more than that – becoming a disciple of Jesus isn't just about affirming true facts, it's an invitation to be loved intensely. It's an adventure, and unless someone is willing to be in that kind of an intense daily adventurous love relationship, I think they're going to usually choose the less logical path – will jump toward the shaky history of "The DaVinci Code" because it will rescue them from the commitment required to be in that kind of a relationship.
Man: And I think one of the reasons that "The DaVinci Code" is popular is because you can kind of have religion without having a life change.
Hugh: Should we even bother talking about the facts if they don't really compel very many people to change their lifestyle? James Garlow says yes.
James: Well, I don't think they compel by themselves, but I still think there is value and merit in proclaiming truth so long as we are able to, alongside those statements of truth, then present the life in Christ in a compelling and magnetic way.
Hugh: Lee Strobel was compelled because of a life in Christ. He was an atheist who became convinced that the Bible is true not just because of the facts but also because of someone's example.
Lee: All of the things that point toward the reality of the Resurrection were very persuasive to me in terms of embracing Christianity. At the same time, there were other factors as well. There were people praying for me, and I was also witnessing the transformation of my own wife, who had become a Christian and whose lifestyle and character were changing for the positive right in front of my eyes.
Hugh: A lot of the authors I've talked with have put together programs, and they all kind of do the same thing – they want you to buy their book, get the facts straight, then they want you to go to "The DaVinci Code" movie with an unchurched person and then meet afterwards to engage in a conversation about it. It seems to me like this approach has a lot of value – not so you can manipulate people into giving you a chance to spout out facts, but if you're the kind of generous person who will buy your friend a movie ticket; if you're the kind of person who wants to spend time with your friend just because you care about them; and you spend as much time listening as you do talking; you show your friend, through your life, what it's like to have that adventurous love relationship; then they're going to be a lot more likely to listen to the facts.
Bob: Well, our thanks to Hugh Duncan for his work in talking with all of those folks and getting the facts straight and reminding us that it's not just about the facts.
Dennis: You know, when Jesus walked this planet, He was tested, and at a point He turned to His disciples, and He said to them, "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter got this right – he said, "You are the Christ, you are the Son of the Living God." And, you know, the real issue and the real question for every listener right now is not who Dan Brown thinks Jesus Christ is, but the question is who do you say Jesus Christ is? And if He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and He came to die for your sins, then the question is what are you going to do about His claims that He made about His life? Because His claims are not fiction, they're fact. He claimed to be God, He claimed to die for our sins, and He historically came back from the dead and is alive today and because He is alive, is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and He intercedes for us and you know what? And He can redeem you. He can wash away your sins and make you a child of God.
And for those who already know Christ, will you engage in a dialog with your office worker, friend, family member, neighbor, and instead of being ashamed of being a follower of Christ, talk about Him. And, if you are, we have a tool that we want to make available to you. It's called "The DaVinci Code – A Companion Guide to the Movie," and we're making these available in packs of 10, Bob, so people can order 10, and they can give them away to a family member, a friend, or maybe pass them out to a bunch of your child's teenage buddies who undoubtedly will flock to this movie.
Bob: And inside the magazine, they explore did Jesus really claim to be God? Was He married to Mary Magdalene? Are there hidden messages in Leonardo DaVinci's art? And then there is an interview with Josh McDowell, who has also written a book called "A Quest for Answers on the DaVinci Code." We've got these resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with the book by Richard Abanes, which we heard on today's program, who wrote a book called "The Truth Behind The DaVinci Code," and the thing I like about this book is that it shows what is asserted in "The DaVinci Code," kind of assertion by assertion followed by what is factually true about that assertion, and it really helps people see that this is a work of fiction even in some of the things that are supposed to be based on fact related to architecture or art.
Again, we have all of these resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and these would be great to have on hand as you come home from the movie or great to pass out to a friend who may go see the movie and become fascinated by what's presented there and want to dig a little deeper. It's a great way to open the door for a spiritual conversation, as you said, Dennis.
Go to our website at FamilyLife.com. In the middle of the screen, you'll see a button that says "Go." It's a red button. If you click on that, it will take you right to the page where you can get more information on these resources that are available related to "The DaVinci Code." Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and you click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you'll be able to order online. Or you can call 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources sent to you.
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Well, tomorrow we want to see how an ancient heresy has been given new life in "The DaVinci Code." We're going to look at the relationship between gnosticism and Dan Brown's novel and the new movie that's coming out this weekend. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. Special thanks to Hugh Duncan of New Clarity for his help with today's program. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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