Going head-to-head with a reader over the Da Vinci Code fraud
Dear Mr Wishart: In reply to your article regarding Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, it would seem to me that Mr Brown has hit a nerve with you. I’m not sure I can put my religious beliefs into a box and label them nicely as one particular religion. I do, however, have a deep-seated interest in the Bible and all the people it talks about, especially Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
I say it hit a nerve because you were unable to support your views with scholarly investigative methods. In fact the only points raised in reply were from the very ‘book’ in question (and a few vague references to academics).
I’d like to comment on the two points you have issues with.
1) You have to remember that Mr Brown’s book is fiction with a few facts thrown in. “More than eighty gospels” is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but not for the reasons you stated. How then can you
explain the omission of the Gospel of Mary written by Mary Magdalene? She was there too! How is her Gospel any less credible or authentic than the others? You say in your article, “the first Christians – those who had seen Jesus alive, watched his crucifixion and witnessed the Resurrection…” This includes Mary Magdalene. I think it was because she was a woman and because although she was with Jesus throughout his ministry she has always been portrayed as the fallen woman, the repentant whore. I ask you to show me where in the Bible it says this. It doesn’t.
2) Jesus’ divinity. Perhaps another reason many gospels were not included in the Bible was that they showed Jesus as a real man, with needs and wants like any other man. There is no doubt in my mind that
he really did walk this Earth, as a mortal man, not a God. He ate, slept, and defecated, like we do. He loved and hated and cried and laughed, like we do. He bled when cut, like we do. He had human needs and human desires. How is it so inconceivable that he married too? That maybe he had a family? Funny how Mary Magdalene figures in this too.
The Council of Nicea decided what would be included in the Bible. This is fact. Research it. It was pointed out recently to me that all the gospels in the Bible tell the story while the ones which were omitted tell of the message. Which do you think is the more important? Have you actually read any of the other gospels? Doesn’t sound like it.
Is it fair to comment on something you have not investigated yourself?
Given your strong stance on the Bible and Jesus I was hoping you could explain a few things to me:
One story in the Bible which has always intrigued me is the story of when Jesus, Peter and Mary Magdalene go to the temple. Jesus and Mary go inside while Peter has to wait outside. Why? Why does Mary go inside and Peter stay outside? The only reason a woman would enter a temple is if she was a priestess herself. (Whoa! Another out-there theory to upset Mr Wishart). Think about it: she saw Jesus after his crucifixion. Why her, and how could she see a dead person? The only logical answer is that she was clairvoyant and she saw his spirit. Jesus could have been the most famous clairvoyant and healer we have ever seen. He was definitely an enlightened man. Whyis this such an impossible scenario?
It is never disputed that Jesus was of the House of David. How can he have a lineage from a mortal father (Joseph) and yet be divine with God as his father. How does this work? And if Mary was a virgin how come Jesus had brothers and sisters. He mentions them repeatedly throughout the Bible. Symbolic meanings, maybe? If so, does it not follow that other things may be symbolic also, like Jesus’ divinity, a virgin birth, miracles? No? Too many contradictions for me!
Dear Jane: I’m not sure after that whose nerve was hit hardest. You dismiss with a mere wave of the hand my assertion that the other gospels came from “dubious sources”. I was actually much stronger than that, stating they were frauds written by followers of a rival religion, Gnosticism. Nor were they written within the lifetime of anyone who witnessed the crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus: the Gnostic “gospels”, including the Gospel of Mary you refer to, were written from about 140AD onwards. The Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Peter and a range of others could not have been written by the real Thomas, Mary, Peter, etc., because those disciples died at least 60 years before the Gnostics wrote books in their name.
Karen King’s book on the Gospel of Mary is interesting but utterly worthless. It sheds no light on the real Jesus Christ or the real Mary Magdalene, and is no more biblically authentic than a Taiwanese Rolex.
To illustrate the pointlessness of treating the Gnostic “gospels” as authentic, consider this little dilemma. The Gospel of Peter purports to have been written by the Apostle Peter, except of course that he was actually executed by the Romans nearly 100 years earlier, and that his real gospel is the one written by Mark, who was Peter’s assistant in Rome. Mark’s Gospel was published and in circulation as early as only a decade after the crucifixion.
Regarding Mary Magdalene, you are entirely right that nowhere in the Bible does it say she was a “fallen woman”. Nor do I say it. This is a tradition of the Catholic Church, not founded in Scripture.
Regarding your second point on the divinity of Jesus: while Jesus was both human and divine, he was also sinless. Nowhere in either the Bible, or in contemporaneous extrabiblical accounts, is there a suggestion otherwise. You can be absolutely certain that if Jesus had a wife the real Gospels would have recorded it, because they would have regarded it as a relevant witness to the world. They certainly would not have covered it up, because that would indicate that the Gospel writers themselves were ashamed of Jesus, in which case why would they write the Gospels and why would they be willing to be executed in his name? Doesn’t make sense. Just another daft conspiracy theory from people like Dan Brown.
A wife would also have detracted from Jesus’ stated mission: he was not here to found an earthly kingdom or a divine royal lineage, he was here to sacrifice himself for humanity.
You also wrote: “The Council of Nicea decided what would be included in the Bible. This is fact. Research it.”
I’m sorry, but whomever you’re talking to knows nothing of early church history. And I have researched it. Again, the Council of Nicea was a mere rubber-stamp on what Christians since 50AD had already decided were the authentic Gospels and Epistles. It was no more within the power of the bishops at Nicea to suddenly reinvent Christianity in their own image than it is within my power to prevent a tide coming in. Copies of the New Testament pre-dating Nicea contain the same books and words as copies of the New Testament produced afterwards. As a further sign that the early church regarded only the real Gospels as authentic, you’ll find if you study the writings of the first Christians more than 200 years before the Council of Nicea, that between them they quoted almost the entire New Testament in their letters, and it matches what we have today.
In contrast, one of the early “fathers” of Gnosticism, Marcion, wrote a list of what he regarded as the authentic New Testament in 140AD, the so-called Marcionite Canon, which included the Gospel of Luke and ten of Paul’s Epistles. His list contained none of the Gnostic books, indicating they had not yet been crafted.
The Gnostic gospels were, and are, a crock. A religious flat-earth theory. They suffered their final defeat at Nicea along with their main promoter, a wayward bishop named Arius (much like Lloyd Geering or John Shelby Spong today). Their reappearance today says more about the state of denial some people are prepared to live in than anything about their actual worth.
The primary message of Jesus Christ, and attested to by the genuine Gospels, is that God took on human form, walked the earth in Galilee and gave his life that those who believed in that Act and its significance might repent of their sins and be saved to a resurrection life after death. First and foremost, the message of Christ was spiritual, not social. Good works follow faith, they do not precede it or supersede it.
Concerning Mary Magdalene, it may be my eyes, but I’m unable to find a reference to Jesus, Mary and Peter going to the Temple and Peter having to remain outside. However, the main thrust of your point is that Mary was only allowed in because she was a Priestess/Clairvoyant, because other women were not permitted.
With respect, you are mistaken. There are numerous references in the Gospels to ordinary women entering the Temple to pray and worship. There is no suggestion in the authentic Gospels that Magdalene was a clairvoyant, but assuming that she was for the sake of your argument, I can only presume that the 11 surviving male disciples and around 500 others who witnessed the resurrection appearances were all clairvoyants as well? Even Peter, whom you say had to remain outside?
On to your other questions:
How was Jesus directly descended from David when Joseph was only his adoptive father?
Through his mother, Mary. The genealogy in Luke 3 is via Mary’s father, Heli, back to Nathan, a son of King David and his wife Bathsheba. Jesus was doubly blessed however because under Jewish inheritance rules Joseph was “of the House of David” and so too was his adopted son Jesus.
If Mary was a virgin, how did Jesus have brothers and sisters?
The “brothers and sisters” of Jesus followed later as the full biological children of Mary and Joseph. The idea that Mary was an eternal virgin is, again, a tradition of the Catholic Church not supported by the Bible itself.
Divinity, virgin birth, miracles? No!
For a woman who is prepared to accept, with a lot less evidence, clairvoyancy and ghosts, you then grapple with supernatural themes in the Bible and find them too hard to believe? Sorry Jane, you contradict yourself here. Once you accept any possibility of a supernatural realm you are forced to accept all of its potential, just like you can’t be just a little bit pregnant.
If you wish to read a well-researched book on the authenticity and accuracy of the Gospels in order to get a balanced view, I can recommend Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Gary Habermas’ The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ, or Josh McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, which should all be available at your local library.