‘The Da Vinci Code’ errs debunking Christ’s divinity | VailDaily.com

‘The Da Vinci Code’ errs debunking Christ’s divinity

Rev. Jack Van Ens

If you have a difficult time believing a resurrection from the dead could really happen, read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” Concocting a script bursting with dramatic intrigue, mysterious symbols and harrowing action, Brown raises from the dead hackneyed, tired, worn arguments debunking Christ’s divinity.What helps Brown’s case against Christ’s divinity is our society’s ignorance about how key Christian beliefs emerged. Our culture doesn’t know why early Christian leaders, after lively debate and careful research, defended Jesus’ divinity, Brown gets away with resurrecting specious claims that were buried long ago.He makes assertions that knock down Jesus to being merely human. In “The Da Vinci Code,” we read contrived “facts” such as: “The early church literally stole Jesus from his original followers, hijacking his human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity … to expand their own power.” Here’s an erroneous conclusion Brown asserts through characters who discuss Jesus’ identity: “Until that moment in history Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet … a great and powerful man but a man nonetheless.” “Not the Son of God,” agrees another character. “Right … Jesus’ establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea … and a relatively close vote at that.”Brown misconstrues how early Christians gained confidence in Jesus’ divinity. Jesus was only human, alleges Brown, and admired greatly by leaders in the early church. These shifty bureaucrats desperately wanted power to rule the masses and rake in money. They concocted an edict at a conference held in Nicea. Brown spins his own fantasy, asserting that Jesus didn’t gain divinity status until A.D. 325. Then the Emperor Constantine, for political power, manipulated a vast majority of bishops at Nicea to vote Jesus as God.Brown’s purported facts debunking Jesus’ divinity are thin and false in “The Da Vinci Code.” He wraps all these fabrications around an imaginative story making for an exciting read. Brown, in a June 9, 2003, interview on NBC’s “Today” show, strenuously contended that material he used in the book is proven true but hidden for centuries by church authorities who wanted to protect their turf and power.Matt Lauer: “How much of this is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred?”Dan Brown: “Absolutely all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies – all of that is historical fact.” Brown wants his readers to believe that the fourth-century Council of Nicea concocted Christ’s divinity. This summit of church leaders neither proposed the doctrine of God’s incarnation in Jesus, nor did they attempt to pull the wool over believers’ eyes. Rather, these Nicene church leaders affirmed that Jesus is God, what the Bible repeatedly infers or states. For instance, Jesus teaches, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son but those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” Matthew 11:27. Certainly, even readers unschooled in biblical scholarship sense in this passage an intimacy between Jesus and God. Jesus testifies to camaraderie of mind, spirit and heart with God, merging into a unity of thought, word and action.The Council of Nicea didn’t make up Jesus’ divine identity. Brown is wrong on several counts. The bishops at the Council of Nicea translated very Jewish, Semitic expressions of God’s incarnation into thought forms and key words that the philosophical Greek and Roman world understood. Brown maintains that Jesus became divine “by a close vote” at Nicea. He was shoved into a divine mold, so to speak, by a small majority of bishops. Do 318 of the 320 bishops who voted to affirm what the Bible reveals about Christ’s divinity seem to constitute an edict that merely squeaked by?Novelist Brown’s weak attempt to legitimize what is not true about Jesus always attracts debunkers. Thomas Jefferson succeeded in his elderly years at what Brown attempts to pull off today.Jefferson rejected Jesus’ divinity because it was unreasonable. It could not be proved. He wanted in his old age to read a Bible that substantiated his religious convictions. In 1819 or 1820, when at least 75 years old, Jefferson pasted together an 82-page manuscript. “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” he titled it, bound in Red Morocco leather. He kept this Jefferson Bible hidden from family. They didn’t discover it until after his death in 1826.Using a razor, Jefferson cut up the Bible to make his own version that rubber-stamped his denial of Jesus’ divinity. He lined up and pasted side by side four columns of his approved Gospel text, moving left to right from Greek to Latin to French to English. Jefferson mastered this scriptural editing because, before falling asleep, he often read the Bible in its original Hebrew and Greek. “The Life and Morals of Jesus” – the Jefferson Bible – strips away even the slightest insinuation that Jesus is divine. Jefferson concluded this book with Calvary, cutting out Christ’s resurrection. For instance, the last verse of the Jefferson Bible merges the end of John 19:42 (“There laid they Jesus”) with the end of Matthew 27:60 (“and … rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” Jefferson excised from the Bible a sure sign of divinity – Christ’s resurrection. He and Dan Brown share literary cahoots. They roll a great stone over what’s true, what’s biblical and what the early Church didn’t make up: The same Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee is one with God – then, now and forever. The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship through lively storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores for $7.95.Vail, Colorado

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