Da Vinci story flunks truth test

By Krista Kafer krista555@msn.com G.K. Chesterton once said, "The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." A well-positioned sliver of truth can grant legitimacy to a lie. A little evidence can make an implausible theory appear sound.

In The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown employs historical half-truths as well as outright fallacies to dispute the central tenet of Christianity – that Christ was the Son of God who came to earth to redeem mankind through his death and resurrection. The premise of Brown’s book and movie, which he asserts is true, alleges that the church has cynically conspired over the past two millennia to deify an ordinary man, all to amass and retain power.

I usually find conspiracy theories amusing, but when originators claim their stories to be true, I stop laughing. Ever since Michael Moore pontificated on the reasons behind the tragedy at my alma mater in Bowling for Columbine, I’ve generally avoided anything by him for this very reason. (I did think he did a nice acting job in Team America, however).

For Moore and Brown, half-truths have made great allies. They have brought fame and fortune. Yet glory and greenbacks can’t be the only reasons for the open season on Christianity in Hollywood. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but where are the films blasting other religions?

Where are the films debunking Judaism, Islam or Buddhism? Instead we see Comedy Central pull a South Park scene ridiculing Islam and replace it with one defaming Christ. Sitcoms like Sex in the City, Will and Grace, and others routinely make fun of Christianity and its adherents. Actors sneer at Christians in character, and offstage in interviews.

Then every few years a film hits the screen attacking Christianity head on. Where’s the balance? Not that I want Buddha take one to the stomach, but why is Christianity the popular bunching bag? It’s an interesting question.

"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions," Chesterton also said. However fashionable it may be to distort or denigrate the truth, facts have a habit of coming to light. Just as the truth can become the tool of a lie in a half-truth, so a lie can be made to serve the truth when it is exposed. Here are a few false assertions from The Da Vinci Code, with the counterfact for each:

Fallacy: The Bible has been extensively rewritten and revised. Therefore, its original meaning has been lost.

Fact: Translation issues for the Bible are not different from translation issues for any other document, and cause no more difficulty. In fact, the means of transmission of the ancient texts, the voluminous quantity of manuscript copies, the science of textual criticism and the art of translation ensure that any reputable modern translation of the Bible is an accurate rendering of the original text.

Fallacy: "Fortunately for historians . . . some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert." (DVC, p. 234)

Fact: Constantine was never involved in any attempt to eradicate any gospels. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 and contained no gospels, nor any reference to Jesus. They contained only Old Testament Texts and other writings.

Fallacy: "The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great." (DVC, p. 232)

Fact: The Old Testament was compiled even before the time of Jesus. The New Testament began to be recognized by the end of the 1st century. Fallacy: Many "gospels" existed recounting the life of Christ, some of which were suppressed: "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, . . . " (DVC, p. 231)

Fact: The "gospels" to which Brown refers are the Gnostic gospels. They were written from about 250-350 A.D., several hundred years after Christ lived. They were written to reinterpret the life of Christ and His teachings, based upon Gnostic philosophy. There were never as many as 80, and they were never considered for inclusion in the New Testament.

Fallacy: Christianity as we know it was "invented" by people, rather than revealed by God. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, bishops decided to make Christ divine. Previously Christians, including the original apostles, believed Christ was just a man, not the son of God.

Fact: The Council of Nicaea debated only one issue: Was Jesus coeternal with the Father? Although Jesus' disciples were fearful skeptics who initially did not clearly understand who Christ was and what He came to do, after the resurrection they willingly sacrificed their lives for proclaiming that He was indeed God in the flesh.

Fallacy: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

Fact: None of the Gnostic gospels contain any references to a marriage between Mary and Jesus. There is no support for this claim in the Scriptures or in early church traditions.

Fallacy: Brown's novel is based on fact. "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." (DVC Page 1)

Fact: Contrary to the book's claim that early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex, the Old Testament carefully defined and steadfastly condemned sexual immorality. The novel contends that Da Vinci painted the Apostle John as representing Mary Magdalene. However, John's appearance reflects the way Florentine artists traditionally depicted John. The claims of ". . . hidden documents that detail the truth about Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and their lineage . . . " (DVC, p. 160) are based on forgeries.

Source Note: I swiped these fallacies and facts from Focus on the Family and edited them for space.