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Christian Scholars Launch Counterattack on "The Da Vinci Code"

( [email protected] ) Jun 12, 2004 05:08 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- As “The Da Vinci Code,” written by Dan Brown, becomes the New York Times’ fiction best-seller, sold more than 6 million copies, theologians and many defenders of traditional Christianity who used to be indifferent toward the book when it first came out in March 2003, are taking action to prevent readers from taking the novel’s historical claims as fact.

It’s been known that some Christians who read the “The Da Vinci Code” came to question whether the love relationship shared between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene really existed as the book claims.

Outraged by that kind of reaction, defenders of traditional Christian beliefs have been publishing various books and articles in counterattack to Dan Brown's fiction. Among the works that have been published are “Dismantling the Da Vinci Code,” "Cracking the Da Vinci Code," and “The Da Vinci Deception.” Even at churches, pastors are giving sermons in response to what the book claims about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, calling its views heretical.

What drives many Christian leaders most irritating is the assertion made by the author of “The Da Vinci Code,” which is printed on the first page of the book. It reads: “"All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

According to the Baptist Standard, the three major Christian beliefs that have been negatively portrayed in the book include divinity of Jesus, celibacy of Jesus, and inerrancy of the Bible.

Concerning Jesus' divinity, Brown wrote that Constantine collated the Bible, omitting some 80 gospels emphasizing Jesus' human traits in favor of four that made him God. This was supposedly done at the Council of Nicea, "in a relatively close vote."

But the actual vote was 300-2, said Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, and it did not determine Jesus' divinity. That was attested to much earlier "by many New Testament passages, as well as by the earliest Christians and all the church fathers, even if there was some disagreement as to the precise nature of that deity," Maier said.

He added that the Council of Nicea "did not debate over whether Jesus was only mortal or divine, but whether he was created or eternal."

In terms of questions surrounding Jesus’ celibacy, even feminist scholars, such as Karen King, a Harvard professor who may be the world's leading authority on early non-biblical texts about Mary Magdalene, have said there is no evidence that Jesus was married to her or to anyone else.

Cardinal Francis George and other traditionalists hold the same view, calling the claim “absurd.”

"All I have to say is, nobody ever told me to keep secret the fact that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene," he told The Chicago Sun-Times.

"All those martyrs the first 300 years, they were covering up the fact that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene? Why in heaven's name would someone go to their death to protect that secret? It's absurd."

Concerning the Bible's inerrancy, Peter Jones, co-author of "Cracking the Da Vinci Code," said that in trying to establish that the Bible was cooked by Constantine and his partners, Brown disregarded the fact that four-fifths of what is now called The New Testament was considered divinely inspired in the first century--two centuries before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.

Yet there are some Christian leaders who don’t perceive the book as threatening. They rather say the book is giving an opportunity for Christianity to receive much attention from the public as it is unraveling early Christian history.

"It's only a threat if people read this fictional book naively, don't think critically about it and don't pursue truth," said Mark Roberts, pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, Calif. "Now that we have people thinking and talking, we can look at the real evidence of Jesus."