Pre-assingnment essay of Da Vinci Code

My pre-assingnment essay on Dan Brown's description of Gnosticism and the Gnostic Gospels in his novel Da Vinci Code.

Dan Brown (=DB) mentions in his list of "Fact" that "All descriptions of - documents - are accurate". It is my task to try to find what is fact and fiction of Gnosticism and the Gnostic Gospels within Early Christianity in DB's novel. So I will show, not all, but a number of issues.

Fact is that "The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds" (p. 312) and "History has never had a definitive version of the book" (p. 313), but it is mostly fiction to say that the Bible "has evolved through countless translations, additions and revisions" (p. 312-313). The textual history of the Bible is quite well known and counted through the manuscripts both in its original languages and translations. On the one hand for the NT texts we have hundreds of manuscript fragments and several manuscripts for the whole NT or for separate books in the NT, but on the other hand for the Gnostic Gospels we have only one or two manuscripts altogether. So it is also mere fiction to say that Jesus' "life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land" (p. 313), because it is well known that no one recorded the facts of Jesus' life while he was still living.

It is fiction to say that "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them" (p. 313). All in all there were fifty-two texts in Nag Hammadi Library and they were not all Gospels and not even 'gnostic' texts. There were not eighty Gospels considered for inclusion. The four Gospels are not "among" those gospels included in the NT, because they were the only gospels included.

It is fiction to say that "The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great" and that "He was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest" (p. 313). It was not Constantine who collated the Bible, as we know it today. The formation of the Bible began much before Constantine and ended finally much after Constantine. The so-called Canon Muratori for example is said to have been ready earliest in late second century common era in Alexandria (c. 170 e.g by Bruce M. Metzger), but it might have been ready only in the fourth century as well and originally even in the Eastern part of Christianity (by Albert C. Sundberg, Jr., Canon Muratori: A Fourth Century List in HTR 66.1. Jan. 1973 pp. 1-41). So the formation of our canonical Scriptures seems to be much more complicated process. It was also not uncommon to be baptized just before death, and so this might well be a fact in Constantine's life. But again it is fiction that Constantine was a lifelong pagan. Constantine began to see himself as a Christian in some sense surely after his experience in 312 just before the battle in Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River. Constantine's experience to be Christian did not depend on his baptism. After all it was not really Constantine, who prohibited the so called Gnostic Gospels to be accepted in our Bible.

It is not a fact to say that there are "thousands of ancient documents as scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony" and NT "is based on fabrications" (p. 451), because all our source materials are fabrications of the writers. So we need to have source criticism all the time while using our sources as evidence. Look what I said previously of the manuscripts of the NT and Gnostic Gospel texts.

It is DB's fiction that "Three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Christ's followers had multiplied exponentially. Christians and pagans began warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it threatened to rend Rome in two" (p. 313). This is pure fiction, because Christians were a minority among the pagans i.e. non-Christians. Christians were not a threat for Rome.

It is fiction that "Nothing in Christianity is original" (p. 314). There seems to be consensus that there is original in Christianity at least the idea of suffering Messiah.

It is DB's fiction that "until that moment", the gathering known as the Council of Nicaea, "in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet … a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal"(p.315). Jesus was viewed by His followers in some sense both mortal human and divine much before the Council of Nicaea. In some sense this is already to be seen in the writings of Paul and in the four gospels in the NT. So it is also fiction to say that "Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?" just because there was no vote of the divinity of Jesus, but a vote of how Jesus was divine, and so it is pure fiction and exaggeration to say that "thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man" (p. 316).

It is fiction to say that "The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s" (p. 317), because it is a fact that those scrolls were found in 1947. It is also fiction to write of "the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi" (p. 317), because it is fact that these texts were not scrolls but a collection of 13 codices of the so called Gnostic Scriptures. It is pure fiction that there is "the true Grail story" (p. 317) in our documents, because there is no Grail story in either of these documents. It is also fiction that "these documents speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms", because it is a fact that firstly the Dead Sea Scrolls are totally Jewish and there is nothing written of Christ and secondly it is a fact that in Nag Hammadi codices Christ/Jesus is described both in human and divine terms.

It is fiction that "Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female's creative power by ignoring biological truth and making man the Creator" (p. 322). It is fiction just because it was an Aristotelian idea that the male was the giver of "seed" and the female played a passive role by providing the "soil" in which the "seed" could grow. It was only after finding of female egg cell by the Estonian embryologist Karl von Baer (1827) that it was possible to acknowledge the biological truth of female's creative power.

There is a text from the (Valentinian according to Marjanen) Gospel of Philip, one of the so called Gnostic Gospels, which is cited by DB (p. 331). The cited text is made far too unproblematic by DB. I compared the text with the same text cited by Elaine Pagels (p. 84). According to Pagels there are lacunas in the original manuscript. So it is not so easy to interpret the information in the text as DB seems to do. DB writes e.g. that "As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse" (p. 331). Firstly the text in the manuscript was not written in Aramaic but in Coptic. Secondly it is fiction that "the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record" (p. 330), because there is no such record. The text according to the Gospel of Philip is calling Mary Magdalene "the companion" (p. 331) with the Greek loan word (Coptic koinoonos The Gospel of Philip 59,9; 63:32-33), which is to be translated by the word "companion", "associate" or "partner", not by the word "spouse". There is also a Coptic equivalent ( hootree) for this Greek loan word. So there is a kind of spiritual partnership in question between Jesus and Mary Magdalene according to the Gospel of Philip, and not a kind of "romantic" (DB p. 332) or sexual relationship. There is another different word for the spouse or wife in Coptic (shime The Gospel of Philip 65,20; 70,19; 76,7; 82,1 Marjanen, Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library & Related Documents p. 154). So it is also pure fiction to speak about "the countless references to Jesus and Magdalene's union" (p. 333) and about Jesus' marriage or of His wife. DB cites also the so-called 'non-gnostic' Gospel of Mary to argue for a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene (p. 333). "The similarity of the statements", however only, "suggest that the author of the Gospel of Mary is familiar with a tradition, utilized also in the Gospel of Philip, according to which Mary Magdalene was known to be a special favourite of Jesus" (Marjanen ibid. p.95). The same tradition should never t be considered as a historical fact as DB wants to present it in his book. Same kind of presentations and descriptions can tell only about the similar traditions but whether behind of those traditions is something historical is far more difficult to say. For me it seems to be very one sided to speak of Gnosticism in DB's way while using only one Valentinian source and possibly one 'non-gnostic' source. There are so many other Gnostic sources as well.

It is really naive fiction to speak about "unaltered gospels" (s. 334) while writing of the position of Mary Magdalene in the Gnostic Gospels because there are numerous alterations in all our sources included both NT and the so-called Gnostic material. So source criticism has a priority!

Last but not least my main task was to analyse how DB succeeds in his novel to describe what is "Fact". I must say that the major problem in DB's novel is that for an uneducated people in biblical studies there is mostly no way of separating historical facts from fiction. So I like to call DB's information (mostly by Leigh Teabing's mouth) in his novel as a "faction" (the term fact + fiction according to American medical novelist Robin Cook).