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A bunch of 'Da Vinci Code' updates

Okay, y’all, it's been awhile since my last Da Vinci Code update, but here's another (and it’s a long one).

The best out of the omnibus comes again from The Da Vinci Dialogue. In Was Jesus Merely Human, or Also Divine?, Mark Mittelberg (author of Becoming a Contagious Christian and contributor to Outreach Magazine) takes care of some basic necessities in his introduction:

Dan Brown makes a claim in his book The Da Vinci Code that, if true, would be devastating to the historic Christian faith. He says through his fictional character Teabing (p. 233-234), that up until the Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 A.D., “Jesus was viewed as a mortal prophet … a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.… Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.... Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity.… Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death.…”

However, this short excerpt from Brown’s book is fraught with inaccuracies.

Mittelberg gives a basic response to those (a very good, succinct list) relating to the timing of the Council and that Jesus’ divinity was recognized very early on (“three days after his death,” in fact). Then, he gets into his main topic: "I’d simply like to focus on the actual teachings of the Bible and in particular the New Testament — a collection of books which has withstood these kinds of attacks for thousands of years." Mittelberg establishes the Bible’s authority and then delves into what it says. He lists prophecies from Isaiah and Daniel (the “Son of Man” reference) that refer to a coming divine messiah, then moves to New Testament references that show Jesus not only thought of himself as divine but accepted the worship of others. He shows the disciples and Paul (whom he notes wrote some of the earliest Christian writings) thought of Jesus as divine as well.

Mettelburg concludes well (I really like this essay):

Some people wonder why Christians are so concerned about a book and movie that are “mere fiction.” It is because packed within the pages of this intriguing thriller are real claims about critically important matters of history — including those concerning Jesus and his identity. But Jesus and his followers made the truth very clear, as we’ve seen in the pages of the earliest records, concerning who he was and is — and how imperative it is that we understand and embrace that truth. Look at his sobering words about the vital importance of his identity. Then decide who you’re going to trust: Dan Brown, or Jesus Christ . . . .”
The same site has another post, Mary Mary, Extraordinary, by Ben Witherington III ( Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary). He looks into Mary Magdalene (or, I should say, Miriam of Magdala):

Over the last few years, there certainly have been some extravagant claims made about Mary of Magdala. Was she really Jesus’ paramour? Did she become a famous preacher after the Easter events? Did she later find Christian communities with distinctive theologies with a feminist or Gnostic twinge? What then can we say with some certainty about the other most famous Mary of the New Testament?
The first thing Witherington does is let us in on her real name (Miriam) and then he gives us a good on background of Mary—I mean, Miriam—in the Gospels and explains her significance. He concludes:

. . . we have more than enough to say that a strong case can be made that she was an important early disciple of and witness for Jesus, self-sacrificially serving him, and we can say with equally certainty that there is absolutely no early historical evidence that Miriam’s relationship with Jesus was anything other than that of a disciple to her Master teacher.
A solid essay from one of the best Da Vinci Code rebuttal resources online. (For other Da Vinci resources, Crosswalk.com lists some “[m]aterials and events are being produced to prepare Christians for the release of the movie” at the end of this article.)

And here are some interesting tidbits from a few of the other articles I perused.

This Christian Science Monitor article introduced me (where have I been?) to the term, “alternative Christianity,” which, I think, is a take on Christianity that holds Gnostic material as more reliable than Scripture (someone correct me if I’m wrong). The same article also reveals that the “concern is global” concerning the film: "The Russian Orthodox Church has complained about the film, and Evangelicals in South Korea are even trying to keep it out of theaters. One Christian leader, according to Yonghap News Agency, has compared it to the Danish cartoons denigrating Islam." The article also states that evangelicals are putting together a web site of their own, apparently “[b]acked by an anonymous philanthropist and hosted by Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia, the project also involves people close to Billy Graham.” I wasn’t able to find anything with a quick Google search, but I’m still looking.

Catholic Online ran an article that repeats an observation worth hearing again and gives some interesting info on faith-questioning occurring in Judiasm:

Many people today are seeking spiritual answers outside mainstream religions, and the Catholic Church is not the only one dealing with misconceptions and revisionist theories about the foundations of the faith.

Some in Judaism, for example, are questioning whether Abraham really existed or the Exodus actually took place, said Rabbi Herbert Baumgard, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest.

Associate minister Priscilla Felisky Whitehead also makes a nifty comment about the effects of the novel's popularity in the same article: "It's no longer inappropriate to talk about Jesus at a cocktail party."

While many evangelicals see the upcoming film as an opportunity for God-talk in open spaces, Dr. Ted Baehr is telling folks to “Shun ‘The Da Vinci Code’”. While not from the evangelical neck of the woods, it sounds some like some other folks aren't so happy with the film’s fallout either:

According to a story published July 28 by Bloomberg News Germany, a sign hung in St. Sulpice says that "contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent bestselling novel, this is not a vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this placement." The sign goes on to say that "the letters P and S in the small round windows at both ends of the transept refer to Peter and Sulpice, the patron saints of the church, not an imaginary 'Priory of Sion,'" as Brown wrote in The Da Vinci Code.
And, in case you haven’t accepted yet the idea that this thing has graduated to a full-blown phenomenon, check out the Da Vinci Code video game (I'm not kidding) and the plethora of books making their way into bookstores here (including a book “saying Jesus survived the crucifixion and an Evangelical novel with a modern-day Mary Magdalene heroine”) and here. And, if you haven’t got the news, the novel is now out in paperback.

And that’s more than enough for now.

(Poster copyright by Sony Pictures)

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