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Broken Codes

I recently began reading Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel, The Da Vinci Code. I found it to be a gripping mystery filled with page-turning cliffhangers. No wonder this book has sparked such a reaction.

Many novelists have written copycats, hoping to strike similar gold. On the other hand, countless Christian writers and theologians have fought an uphill battle trying to set the historical record straight. Darrell Bock is one of them, and he debunks Brown’s ideas in his book, Breaking the Da Vinci Code.

Many have wondered why biblical scholars would take such an interest in fiction, but Brown asserts many spurious claims about Christianity, and his charges must be answered. Among his assertions:

Jesus Christ, a mere man, was married to Mary Magdalene, one of his followers.

Christ’s deity was invented by a group of men centuries after his death.

The church in Rome entered into a 2,000-year-old conspiracy to hide these and other “facts.”

The artist Leonardo da Vinci, among others, knew these secrets and planted clues in some of his paintings.

Whether contained in a novel or in a non-fiction book, such allegations are an affront to Christians and must be dealt with in a reasoned and biblical manner. Bock formidably rises to the challenge as he exposes the flaws found in the pages of The Da Vinci Code. Bock’s 188-page refutation, which includes a helpful bibliography and glossary, is concise and offers a solid biblical defense of the faith.

A professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Bock presents seven “codes” that are implied or explicitly stated in Brown’s book. He methodically breaks down the codes and separates fact from fiction. In explaining his methodology he writes, “Our research for uncovering the validity of these codes will focus on the 325 years immediately following the birth of Christ, for the claims of the novel rise or fall on the basis of things emerging from this period.”

Fans of The Da Vinci Code often dismiss Christians’ concerns by singing a chorus of “It’s only fiction.” However, they overlook that the bestseller does contain a misleading brief section entitled “Fact” at the front of the book: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”

Bock responds by asserting: “No longer is The Da Vinci Code a mere piece of fiction. It is a novel clothed in claims of historical truth, critical of institutions and beliefs held by millions of people around the world.”

One “historical truth” found in Brown’s novel is that Jesus was not only married to Mary, but that he fathered a child with her. Bock examines the biblical canon and extrabiblical sources to demonstrate that Jesus and Mary were not married. This is vitally important because, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ entered finite time as a human to do his Father’s will, not to marry and to sire a child. Instead, Jesus came to die on a cross to pay for the sins of those he came to save.

Despite its inaccuracies, Brown’s book has proven useful in the cultural debate. In a Christianity Today article entitled “The Good News of Da Vinci,” Bock writes:

[T]he popularity of… the book… points to our culture’s continuing fascination with Jesus. And even when that curiosity borders on the perverse, we need to be engaged in the conversation…

Christians are called to be ambassadors of Christ and proclaim his lordship to the world; thus they must stay engaged and stand firm against secular culture. As Breaking the Da Vinci Code confirms, Darrell Bock is faithful to that call.

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