"As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be anathema" (Galatians 1:4).
The Media Storm
Last month, on April 7th, a London High Court Judge ruled that Dan Brown, the author of the "Da Vinci Code," was not guilty of plagiarizing or infringing upon the copyright protection of a similar book penned a few years earlier by Michael Beignet and Richard Leigh, called, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." This decision was greeted with cheers on both sides of the Atlantic; first for the author, who has made millions of dollars since the book's release; second, for Random House Publishing, the publisher of both "The Da Vinci Code" and "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" for whom the court case was a financial windfall because for them there was no "losing" side; third, for Sony Pictures who will now be able to release their film, "The Da Vinci Code;" and fourth, by the great Parisian museum, The Louvre, whose halls Brown devotees have stampeded (the story begins with the murder of the curator of the Louve).
Christians around the world have mounted a major reaction to the book's mega-hit status. For the principal assertion of "The Da Vinci Code," is that the Jesus in Whom most people believe was not the actual Jesus of history. Dan Brown's fictional supposition is that the religious figure millions of people across the globe confess to be the Divine Son of God, "Jesus the Christ," was no different than you or I - who during his life-time married Mary Magdalene and sired a "secret line" of heirs - among whom were the Merovingian Kings and the Knights Templar.
Part of the response by Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Christians has been to expose that which is historically flawed in the book. This is an admirable thing to do, for sure. The history of the Church is an essential part of the Christian Tradition. One must know the Church's history in order to be grounded in his or her faith.
A Failed History Lesson
Be that as it may, Dan Brown, has taken it upon himself to publish many so called "facts" that are simply laughable to those who know the primary events of the 4th century Byzantine/Roman epoch. For example, Brown writes that it was Constantine the Great who "commissioned and financed a new Bible," the Bible that we use today. This however is false: the scriptures we use today began to be written some 200 years before Constantine was ever born.
Dan Brown also writes that it was the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea, convened in the year 325 AD, that first elevated Jesus to a divine status by being "of one essence" with God the Father. Yet this too, is wrong. Christians were confessing Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God from the very beginning as witnessed by countless martyrs who died precisely because they believed Christ to be their "Lord" in the divine sense of the word.
Dan Brown once more writes that it was the "Vatican power-base" of the fourth century that began the conspiracy of a doctrinal "cover-up" in order to keep the masses from knowing the truth about the authentic "Jesus of history." Yet once again, this is a total fabrication simply because the "Vatican power base" that exists in Rome today did not come into existence until 10th century AD! (For a good overview of the rest of Brown's historical inaccuracies, read "The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code" by Richard Abanes. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2004).
The World Rejects The Gospel
Yet to date, I have not seen anyone set forth in writing what I consider to be the true source of the polemic generated by "The Da Vinci Code." This is simply that the modern world refuses to believe in the appearance of the God-Man, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity incarnate from a Virgin Mother, the "Word made flesh." Those who "love the darkness" (John 3:19) more than the light cannot receive the Savior because He is far too heavenly for them i.e., He is too pure, too holy, too beautiful, too gracious, too noble, too humble and too loving. They have thus cut Him down to "their size" in order to make Him for appealing to the masses.
Those who belong to the fallen world (which St. John the Evangelist depicts as being filled with the "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" [1 John 1:16]) cannot accept a Christ Who dies such a shameful death upon a Cross in order to save the human race. For this reason the gospel continues to be a "scandal " to all the nations of the earth, until the very end of time itself. "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians, 3:23-24).
Who Do Men Say That I Am?
The "Da Vinci Code" is yet one more falsification of the Jesus story on account of its denial of the Son of God as the One Who was crucified and risen from the dead "in the flesh." (1 Timothy 3:16). Indeed, the question at the center of all the debating is the one Christ asked His disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13).
For Dan Brown, and all of the other "Historical Jesus" authors and enthusiasts ("The Passover Plot," "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," "The Da Vinci Code," "The Jesus Papers: the Greatest Cover Up in History," etc.), Jesus was a virtuous rabbi whose offering to the world was a new set of ethics based on the golden rule. For in the end, it is much easier to believe in a system of ethics (which can be manipulated for self-convenience) than to believe in the living person of Jesus Christ (who cannot, by definition, ever be manipulated because He is the only Lord of heaven and earth).
All the same, for those who follow in the steps of the Holy Apostle Peter, the true Jesus of history was and is nothing less than the "Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16).
Fr. Paul Jannakos pastors St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church in Fenton, Michigan.