Critique of the Da Vinci Code,
a book by Dan Brown

Galatians 1:6-9

By Rod Hemphill

The DaVinci Code (DVC) is an argument and defense for the rising spiritual movement, neo-paganism, a westernized mysticism that includes notions such as personal truth through the mystical experience, history as subjective and unreliable, hidden knowledge, the God within, religious pluralism, and the spiritualization(*) of science.  These notions exist also in secularism, expressed as a radical individualism which sees the self as Sovereign, truth as personal and subjective, science as the fountainhead of knowledge, and institutions (particularly religious ones) as corrupt.     

(*)scientific investigation and conclusions driven by atheistic belief.

Among its many errors, the three prongs of its attack on Christianity are (1) the denial of Christ's divinity, (2) an assertion of a divine goddess, and (3) a rejection of the apostolic (Biblical) testimony.

Dan Brown's characters assert that history is more creation than discovery.  Then they create their own version of history  ―They claim historians can never confirm the authenticity of the Bible because "history is always written by the winners."  Oh really? this means that the Bible was written by Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans???

After discrediting the validity of history to discredit the validity of the Bible, advocates of Gnostic gospels themselves use historical methods and documents to corroborate their novel teachings of early Christianity.  So also, DBrown maligns the historicity of NT gospels, while giving credence to alternate accounts dated much later.

Then Brown asserts:  As every intelligent person "knows," religion and science are inherently at odds, one being about myth and allegory, and the other about reality and truth.  (Actually, an examination of the facts reveals that Christianity and science complement each other, and that everything else is what is based on myth and allegory.)


DVC:  Constantine established Christianity as the religion of the realm and called the Council of Nicea in 325 AD to establish what he wanted its orthodoxy to be.  It was here that the Vatican established its power.

  • The Vatican did not exist in 325 AD.

  • Constantine did not establish Christianity as the religion of the realm.  Rather, he changed its status from that of an outlawed religion to a legal religion.

  • Constantine did not control the Council of Nicea.  The Council's deliberations were conducted without interference from Constantine.

DVC:  The Canon of Biblical books was not established until the Council of Nicea in 4th century AD.  Over 80 gospels were considered for inclusion in the canon

  • For the several centuries prior to the Council of Nicea, there definitely existed a canon of sacred scriptures in the general consensus of the Christian community, even though this canon had not been formally declared to be so.

    • This canon included the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament, abbreviated as LXX) and the Christian writings that were generally accepted by the Christian community as scriptures.

    • There is solid evidence that the four traditional gospels and the letters of Paul were circulated together in book form in the early second century.

    • In 140 AD, Marcion compiled a list of what he accepted as scriptures containing a truncated version of Luke's gospel and 10 of Paul's letters, but none of the alternate gospels. 

    • The organized church of the 4th century AD did not create the canon; it simply affirmed the canon that had been created by common consensus in the Christian community up to that time

  • The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas was written after the 4 NT Gospels were recognized as authoritative and were being widely circulated.  All other major Gnostic texts clearly were written in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

  • The Gnostic writings were never actually considered for inclusion in a canon of Christian scriptures, one reason being that they were not written by people in direct touch with the apostolic tradition, much less with the apostles themselves.

DVC:  After the Council of Nicea (325 AD), The NT was written/edited for church purposes and is church propaganda rather than authentic history.  For example, all references to the "sacred feminine" (as revealed in the Gnostic gospels) were excised from the Biblical record.

  • The Gospels were written to demonstrate that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and the Son of God in power, and to show us the humanity of God, and that in Jesus, God revealed himself to us in human form.  But writing for a purpose does not necessitate compromising factual integrity.  The Bible demonstrates an historical accuracy far beyond any other ancient writings.

  • The copyists of scriptural MSS were very conscious that they were dealing with something sacred.  They never excised anything from the text.  If something didn't seem right, they copied it anyway.  If there was a marginal notation that might have been the later insertion of something inadvertently left out, they copied that too to ensure that whichever may have been the authentic text was not left out.  This faithfulness to the integrity of the received text rules out the possibility that copyists purged the original gospels of anything exalting Mary Magdalene or enhanced anything suggesting that Jesus may have been deity.

  • We have 5000 Greek manuscripts of NT + 24,000 copies of portions, whereas Homer's Illiad, with the 2nd best manuscript (MSS) support, has only ~650 known copies.  All other assured authentic MSS of ancient writers are far less, fragmentary and/or corrupt.

  • The interval between the original documents of the NT and the first known copies of them is less than 100 years, far closer to the originals than that of any other ancient writings.

  • Textual variation of New Testament (NT) manuscripts is extremely small.  Only about 0.005% of the NT is under competent dispute, none of which affects any material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and doctrine (as compared to Homer's Illiad which contains over 100 times as many textual differences as the Bible).

  • There are so many extra-Biblical quotations from 2nd and 3rd century writers that the NT could virtually be reconstructed from them alone, so that the content of the Gospels is not dependent on the Biblical MSS alone.

  • The entire NT must have been written in the 1st century, most likely before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

    • It's hard to imagine that a major Jewish catastrophe such as the devastation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple would not have been alluded to somewhere in the NT.

    • Jesus had predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, and the event would have given tremendous weight to Jesus' messianic claims

  • Even Jesus' enemies acknowledged the otherwise unexplainable disappearance of Jesus' body.

  • The apostle Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 15 that more than 500 people were eye-witnesses of Christ's resurrection, and that most of them were still alive at the time of his writing for hostile skeptics to seek out and question.

  • Over 300 prophecies in the LXX (~150-250 BC) re the life and death of Jesus.  Any attempt to fudge the facts to make it appear that Jesus had fulfilled them would have been readily contested by Jesus' hostile contemporaries.

  • The basic facts of Jesus and early Christianity are corroborated by the Jewish historian, Josephus, and the Roman historian, Tacitus, and are supported by the historical reliability of the gospel accounts themselves.

DVC:  Early Christianity was very diversified –there were many alternate forms of Christianity until the Council of Nicea declared them to be heresies.

  • The Gnostic-influenced Marcion (~140 AD) was eventually branded as a heretic and excommunicated from the church, versus the DVC claim that orthodoxy and heresy were not defined as such until the 4th century Council of Nicea.

  • The early church fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian wrote against Gnosticism in the 2nd century, and the Muratorian Canon (~170 AD) refers to Gnostic gospels as heretical.

  • Within the NT itself, the writers John and Paul contended against these false doctrines.

  • The Old Testament (OT) and the writings of Paul were already accepted as scripture and as inspired by God even before the close of the apostolic period.  (2 Timothy 3.16;  2 Peter 3.16)

    • Since Gnosticism rejected Jewish theology and its Creator God, and therefore rejected the Old Testament, it pre‑emptively precluded itself in any of its forms from being included as a legitimate Christian expression.

    • Whereas the Gnostic believed himself to be a "spark" of divinity that had become separated from the godhead, the Christian was always aware of the distinction between man and God.  Man is made in God's image, but God is the Creator, and man is his creation.

  • By the 2nd century AD, there were lists of orthodox scriptures and lists of Gnostic writings.  But never did either of the lists contain any writings from the other list.

  • The Gnostic gospels are frequently referred to as "alternate" gospels or the "lost" gospels, which might imply that they are legitimate elements of the true gospel and have been only recently discovered or deliberately suppressed.

    • They've never been lost.  We've always known about them, although some actual MSS may have been recently found.  They were known and referred to in early church writings and in the NT itself, and always were regarded by the early church as fraudulent and erroneous.

    • Rather than being rejected from inclusion in the canon of sacred scriptures at the Council of Nicea (325 AD), they were never even considered for inclusion, having been rejected by the Christian community from its earliest days.  The fact that once they appeared, they existed along side the Christian writings, in no way implies that they were considered "alternate" expressions of Christianity.

  • There is no evidence at all that there existed a Gnostic side to the 1st century church or later.  Gnosticism in every form was resisted as heretical from the beginning.  One critic describes a Gnostic gospel as "one guy with a pen and no followers."

  • The only gospel preached in the early church is expressed in 1 Corinthians 15.1-3.

  • The unity of the church (as opposed to DVC's claim of diversification) is expressed in Ephesians 4.4-6.  It was this set of core beliefs that made the church stand out from other religious groups of the 1st century (including Gnosticism) in the eyes of both the Jews and pagans.  It was this distinction that enabled the authorities to single out the Christians for persecution.

DVC:  Christ's divinity was not a tenet of early church doctrine.

  • The DVC asserts that the deity of Christ was not a tenet of church doctrine until Constantine and the Council of Nicea (AD 325) declared Christ to be divine.  Constantine had the NT gospels re-written to reflect this new idea, and the older authentic gospels were gathered up and burned.

    • First of all, these Gnostic gospels were written considerably later, not earlier.

    • The church fathers, from the 1st century onward, wrote explicitly that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully deity.

    • From the 1st century onward, any teaching that Christ was not fully God was regarded as heresy, and heretical elements within the church were excommunicated.

    • The deity of Jesus Christ:    John 1.1-5, 14-18.  Philippians 2.5-11.  Colossians 1.15‑20;  2.8-9.  1 Timothy 3.16.  Hebrews 1.1-12.  1 John 1.1-3; 4.2-3.

DVC:  Early Christians worshipped Mary Magdalene (the Divine Mother), and not Jesus.

  • Pure speculation.  No evidence at all to support this.  And totally at variance with the NT.

  • Mary's only importance was her relationship with Jesus, who the DVC insists was only human and not divine.  But if Jesus was just another human being, why would she be the subject of so much secret veneration and high intrigue for two millennia of church history?

  • The "sacred feminine" was part of many pagan cultures.  Even about 580 BC, Jeremiah warned against feminizing God or worshipping a female deity (Jeremiah 44.17ff.).

  • As a spirit, God is neither masculine nor feminine.  The presentation of the Fatherhood of God is only a vehicle God uses to help us understand His nature and character and the way He relates to us.
DVC:  Jesus and Mary were married and had a daughter.    (Pure speculation)

DVC:  The Priory of Sion is a real secret society entrusted to protect these "truths" from a paranoid and murderous church.    (Pure speculation)

  • The Priory of Sion was established in 1099 by the Crusaders, and disappeared with them.

  • A different organization was founded with that name in the 1980s for about a year as a (fraudulent) charitable organization, and then reinvented again in the 1990s for purposes of establishing another fraud, which scam was admitted in a court of law.  When DBrown says the Priory of Sion exists today, he is trying to connect this present fraud with the Crusader organization, implying that the original organization has existed in secret all these centuries.

DVC:  Opus Dei is a secretive RCC organization with sinister activities.

  • Opus Dei is a small charitable order of the RCC with no similarities to the DVC's description of it.  It and its monks are dedicated to good works and personal piety.

Conclusion & Points to Consider

Dan Brown's "history":

  • Throughout the book, Dan Brown's "facts" are wrong, or his "facts" are distorted, or the application or background explanation of his facts are wrong.

  • Since DBrown says "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate," how do we know when he's playing fast and loose with the facts?  ―When his lips are moving.

What is the DVC's point of elevating Mary Magdalene to mother-goddess status?

  • With Mary Magdalene as the consort of the son of God, sexual intercourse as a religious rite is deemed to be validated and enjoined as the means of ascending into the (Gnostic) godhead and experiencing to some degree that fullness (πληρωμα) of divinity.  This is basically an attempt to change the whole orientation of worship and religious faith, and is an attack on Christianity.

  • Instead of the Christian "I and Thou" relationship of the believer with God, the Gnostic is looking for a religious experience in which he realizes that "I am Thou"!    In today's terms, this would be the ultimate "self-realization."

  • It "frees" people from moral responsibility, to do as they please.

  • It redefines salvation from that of being saved from a fallen nature to that of regaining union with god.

What would it mean to Christian faith if Christ had married and had a daughter? 

  • If the Church had succumbed to Gnosticism in the first five centuries when Gnosticism was strong, especially if intertwined with speculative myths concerning a sensual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, Mary Magdalene would probably have been enthroned as the "Queen of Heaven" and worship would have been directed to her as a co‑equal of Christ.

  • If so, sexual religious rites would have become established as a sacrament in the Church.

  • Man's religious quest would have become the achievement of self-realization instead of finding fulfillment in serving the Creator-Redeemer God.

  • The Church would have disappeared by the 5th or 6th century along with all the other Gnostic religions.

  • But in terms of the Church as we know it today, and assuming none of the 4 points above happened –what would it mean to Christian faith if Jesus and Mary had had a child?

    • Nothing!  Christ's messianic ministry and accomplishment had everything to do with Him alone and who he is.  None of it was transferable to anybody else because deity and mission are not genetic traits.     (John 1.1-18)

    Consider how the deity of Jesus Christ impinges on man's desire for self-autonomy.

    How important is the attack on the Bible's integrity as the authentic apostolic witness?  (1 Corinthians 15.1-8.  Galatians 1.6-9.  Colossians 1.19-23.)

    DBrown's work is religious propaganda promoting do it yourself religion, pick and choose to create your own religion.

    • What are some problems of this approach to religion?

      • We most likely would have neither the accomplishments of modern science nor the freedoms of American democracy since both are the outgrowth of the Biblical worldview.
        • It was the Biblical worldview of a Creator God which gave mankind the understanding that the world and universe operates by consistent rational laws, and is not governed by mystical, capricious, or arbitrary forces.

        • It is Biblical values that is the founding hallmark of American democracy, and essential to its continuing to function as we have inherited it.  The democracies of nations with other value systems are just collections of people who are able to elect their own leaders, but their societies can be just as corrupt and tyrannical as any other form of government.
      • We most likely would have the social problems which have been developing since the 1960s in proportion to our abandonment of Christian values, and which have enveloped the post-Christian European democracies.

      • Pick and Choose to create your own religion or type of spirituality means you have no non-subjective basis for determining truth,  you lack a moral compass by which you can distinguish the direction of right from wrong,  you are adrift (lost) in the universe, without purpose or meaning, you have no salvation from your own shortcomings because all you have is all you have, and you have no basis for a  future of hope.

        • We see the disaster that happens in the lives of children who are not disciplined, who are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want to do, and who grow up to be dysfunctional, never having learned the lessons of discipline and authority.

        • This is also observed in the lives of individuals and societies that throw off the discipline of living within the rules that govern a successful humanity, insisting on their individualism and exalting personal autonomy.

        • Though they try to justify their attitudes and behavior, they cannot change reality and the way mankind was created to live, and so against all reason they have destined themselves to failure.

        • Unfortunately, they not only "crash and burn" themselves, but their failure affects their families.  And their friends, their neighborhoods.  When there's enough of them, they degrade their societies, their nations.

        "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

        This commentary was adapted from sermon notes, and as such sources were not noted.  However, I wish to acknowledge the writings of Regis Nicoll in his e-mail newsletter, Thinking Christianly, especially the two issues entitled The Gospel According to Dan, Parts 1 and 2.  Beyond this, the critique is a combination of historical facts which can be found throughout many of the voluminous writings on this subject available on the internet, and my own application of these facts.
        Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at:

        This critique is also available as a PDF. The PDF version is suitable to be handed out by your church or ministry, or used on your website. Download the PDF.

        Other articles from Rod:
        The Tomb of Jesus. . . and Mary, and Son Joseph?
        How and Why We Can Afford to Give Disbelievers Their "Best Shot"
        Refiner's Fire
        Should Christian Kids Read Harry Potter?

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