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Da Vinci Code Sermon

Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2006 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Popular Culture  
This past Sunday (May 21) I preached on the Da Vinci Code, and I thought I would pass along my sermon if anyone is interested. I came across some entertaining quotes about the book that I include in my introduction, and which are fun to read. I also have attached a list of web pages that are relevant. We sold some books to those who wanted them, and we sold 11 copies of The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction and 19 copies of The Story of Christianity. I was amazed how many people bought them. That is ten percent of our church who bought a book on church history! My conclusion, which may or may not surprise you (just to play it safe!), is that the book is a gift to the church.

This morning we are going to talk about the Da Vinci Code. As most of you well know, we are not the only ones talking about it. Everyone, it seems, is talking about the book, and now the movie as well. And not only are people talking about the book, it seems that everyone has an opinion. Let’s take a look at some of those opinions.

“Even if you lived under a rock – a rock in a remote area of the Arizona desert – you could not avoid hearing about the Da Vinci Code.” Fort-Worth Star Telegram

“Thriller writing doesn’t get any better than this.” The Denver Post

“This is pure genius.” Nelson Demille

“Brown’s novel is a page-turner... and you’ll never view ‘The Last Supper’ the same way again.” Christian Science Moniter

“This books is one of the worst-written things I have ever read. The characters are cardboard, the prose is turgid, and he writes dialogue like George Lucas.” Internet Fan

“I've read Star Trek novels that were more profound, thought-provoking, and better researched.” – Internet Fan

“John Grisham teaches you about torts. Tom Clancy teaches you about military technology. Dan Brown gives you a crash course in art history and the Catholic Church.” Stephen Rubin

“When you finish the book – like it or not – you’ve learned a ton.” Dan Brown

“The most amazing thing about the novel is that it’s based on fact.” Charles Taylor

“So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth.” Sandra Miesel

“Pretty much all of the historical facts are real.” Internet fan

“This book is awesome and confirms many things for me.” Internet fan

“The Da Vinci Code completely turned my opinion of the Bible and the Catholic Church upside down.” Internet fan

“If you know someone who was upset by Martin Scorsese’s film the Last Temptation of Christ, The Da Vinci Code should make them fall down frothing at the mouth.” Charles Taylor

“I will boycott this movie and will never watch another film done by Ron Howard or Tom Hanks. This is much more than a fictional book. This is an outright attack against Christ, Christ died for our sins and received the most violent death possible and to make a film such as this to say that Christ and everything done for us is a lie is an attack from Satan himself which means that Ron Howard and Tom Hanks is under demonic control.” – Internet Fan

“As Dan Brown says, “I am not the first person to tell the story of Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail.  This idea is centuries old.  I am one in a long line of people who has offered up this alternative history.”  He’s right.  In fact, the line of people offering up “alternative history” began with Satan.” John MacArthur


            As you can see, people have very different opinions about the book. But why is everyone talking about the book? Well, there are several reasons for that. One is that the book is enormously popular. Tens of millions of copies of the book have been sold, all in hardback. The paperback only came out recently, and it currently is the second most sold book on Amazon.com. And the hardback version is still #10 on that same list. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for a very long time. The book has been translated into dozens of languages, such as the Hebrew version which I read when I first read the book. And now, the book has become a movie which just came out two days ago worldwide. One of the reasons everyone is talking about the book is because it is very popular.

            But another more fundamental reason everyone is talking about the book is the claims the book puts forth. The history presented in the book is radically different from what you learned in Sunday School. As one of the characters in the books says, “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” Let’s take a look at what the book actually claims.

I’m not going to tell you the plot, but I will tell you the major claims presented in the book. Jesus was not God, but was a normal human being. He married Mary Magdalene, and Mary was pregnant when Jesus died. Jesus was not resurrected, and Mary fled to France, where her baby Sarah was born. Eventually, a few hundred years later, their descendants became one of the line of kings in France. The bones of Mary and many documents proving the marriage of Jesus was eventually buried under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the Knights Templar during the Crusades found it and blackmailed the Roman Catholic Church with it. They set up a group to safeguard the documents and the bones of Mary, and this organization was the Priory of Sion, a group which still exists today. The plot of the book is how an American professor gets involved with this group and finds out who they are and what they are doing. This is essentially the major claim of the book. Not what you learned in Sunday School, huh?

            Well, you might ask, if this is the truth, where did the stuff come from that we do learn in Sunday School? Well, Dan Brown will be happy to tell you what he thinks. He thinks that the books of the Bible that we have are not true, and instead a group of books called the Gnostic Gospels are true and tell us about the true Jesus. We do not know much about these Gospels today, because the church has suppressed them and put their own books in their place. Most of this is the fault of Constantine, who decided that he wanted a deified Jesus to unite the empire. So he proposed the idea, and convinced the Council of Nicea to vote for it, and then suppresed all the books that went against his theory. Another part of true religion that the church has been suppressing is the sacred feminine, seeing holiness in the female body and finding female symbolism everyone throughout history and art.

            A little different than what you learned in church, isn’t it? Well, is this something worth getting excited about? After all, it is a novel! It is being sold as a fiction book. It does say at the beginning: “This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.”

            Well, the problem is what Dan Brown says just before the story begins. The previous quote was from the publisher. Here is what Dan Brown says.


The priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci… All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.

            You see, Dan Brown claims all the historical background to the book is true! Since he claims the Priory of Sion is real, then all the history claimed about Mary Magdalene is true. Dan Brown himself claims to believe all the history that he wrote about, although that might just be a marketing ploy. I would guess that most people do not take as truth the premise about Mary Magdalene being married to Jesus, although many do. But the majority take as truth the history about Christianity that is told along the way, especially the way that Constantine forced Christianity onto the empire and totally changed Christianity from what it was before.

            Is it important what we believe about these issues? The ending of the movie is quite a bit different from the book, and the movie adds a scene of dialogue between two of the characters at the end that is not in the book. In that dialogue, Sophie, the female companion of Tom Hanks, for advice about what to believe. Tom Hanks’ character responds that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as you believe it. This is a very American sentiment: it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe and you do not hurt anyone. But this is far from the truth. I want to take a look briefly at a few verses from 1 Corinthians 15 about this topic before we discuss some of the errors of the Da Vinci Code in more detail. Does it matter what we believe about history?

Turn to 1 Corinthians 15:13-17. In this section, Paul is discussing the resurrection of the dead. Will it happen? He says that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ was resurrected out of the dead. And if he is still dead, then Paul’s preaching is in vain and is worthless. Paul is preaching a lie if Jesus is still dead. And if Christ is still dead, then our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins. The gospel, the good news of salvation becomes a lie if Jesus did not come back to life.

All humans have sinned, and the punishment of sin is eternal separation from God in eternal torment in hell. God must punish sin because he is holy. Therefore, all of us deserve to be separated from God forever because of our sin. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that Jesus, the son of God, came to earth and died for us as our substitute. Since he was without sin, he could take our sin upon himself and take the punishment which we deserved. On the cross, Jesus defeated sin and death. When we believe in Jesus, or trust him, recognizing that we are sinners, stopping our own attempts to save ourselves, and turning to Jesus to save us entirely, then our punishment is taken away and we have new life. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are free to serve God. But Paul says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then he did not conquer sin and he did not pay the punishment for your sin, and therefore, you still have to do that in hell someday! When the Da Vinci Code claims that Jesus was not resurrected and was only a mere man, does that matter? Yes! If Dan Brown is right, then we have no hope, and we have only an eternity in hell to look forward to. Our only hope for salvation from the punishment we deserve is through the work of Christ on the cross and in resurrection.

            But is Dan Brown correct? He claimed to have spent year of research on the book. Did he get things right? Well, the short answer is no. He basically gets nothing right. Finding errors in the Da Vinci Code has been compared to shooting fish in a barrel, or finding hay in a haystack. If you read the book, you’ll do well if you just assume that he gets everything wrong unless proven otherwise. We could spend a long time this morning looking at all the errors of the Da Vinci Code, but we are just going to look at a few of them. By the way, this pattern of fighting error with the truth has been very important in the history of the church. Many of our NT books were written because of some error going on. Many of the early debates on important points of theology happened because of heretics who forced the church to think through important issues.

            Just for starters, we’ll take a look at a few minor errors. Brown claims that the pyramid in front of the Louvre in Paris has exactly 666 panes of glass, and then he goes on to connect this with some kind of Satanic thought (page 23). But actually, the pyramid has 673 panes of glass (Abanes 11). On a more serious note, Brown claims that there was ritualistic sexual practices done in the Temple in Jerusalem during the OT, and this was what God commanded (336). But there is absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever. Dan Brown has made this up in his head. Then he goes on to say that the name of God in the OT, YHWH, is derived from two separate names, one a masculine Yah and the other the feminine name of Eve, Havah (336). There are many parts of history in the book that I know nothing about, like the details of French History. But the Old Testament is my speciality, and this claim by Dan Brown is rubbish. It is like saying the name Stewart comes from the word stew and the word part.

            Another example is how he proves that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus. Here is the quote from a Gnostic Gospel. "Companion of savior is Mary Magdalene.  Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth.  The disciples were offended at this." Gospel of Philip  The Da Vinci Code p. 266. Here as well is the comment that the character makes about the quote. As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse.” Unfortunately for Dan Brown, there are many problems. First, this gospel was written probably sometime around 300 AD, almost three hundred years after Christ died. Second, the copy we have is in Coptic, an Egyptian language, not Aramaic. It may have been originally written in Greek. Then there is no Aramaic word that means companion and spouse. Finally, the text is not complete at this spot, so it does not actually say where Jesus kissed her. It could have very well been on the cheek.

            This is a good spot to talk about the Gnostics. They were a group in the early church that believed in duality: all spirit was good and all flesh was bad. They wrote a variety of books that were supposedly written by the apostles to support their views. The Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic Gospel that was recently published. These Gospel are written at least 150 years after Jesus died and rose again. The Gospel of Judas gives a good example of duality. Jesus wants Judas to betray him, so that the spirit (who is the true person) can escape the evil flesh. Dan Brown claims these Gospels give us a true view of what Jesus was actually like and tell us about how the early church suppressed females. One of the favorite gospels of the feminists is the Gospel of Thomas. However, the last verse of the book is not usually referred to, where Jesus tells Peter that Mary must become a man so that she can be saved.

            Dan Brown also has the Gnostics all wrong in another way as well. He claims that the Gnostic Gospel show us a more human Christ that has all the divine aspects taken out. Actually, the Gnostics believed that Jesus was only divine and not human at all. Dan Brown has it totally opposite.

            Dan Brown claims that the Bible was not established until Constantine. He made the Bible what it is today, he claims, and until then it was very in flux. This is simply not true. About 90% of the Bible was never in any doubt, and we have proof of this from writers as early as 100 AD. There were some books that were debated, such as Jude, 2 Peter, and Philemon, but the canon was essentially what we have today by the mid-second century, 150 years before Constantine lived.

            Dan Brown claims that there were eighty gospels in the early church, but only 4 of them made the cut. This is pure falsehood. We have copies of 11 different gospels, and if you count all the references to other gospels from the early church fathers, there are only 25 or so gospels total.

            Another major error that Dan Brown makes is to claim that some of the material Constantine suppressed has been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (and he also misdates the date of discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls). But the major problem is that there is no Christian material in the Dead Sea Scrolls!

            The last major error that Dan Brown makes is in regard to the deity of Christ. He claims that Christ was only a man, but that the church made up the idea of his deity. Constantine proposed the idea at the Council of Nicea, and it was voted on there. But as early as the NT, Jesus is already viewed as being God. There are a plethora of early church fathers who ascribe deity to Jesus. This is nothing new at all. And the vote was not close at Nicea, as Brown claims, unless you think that two versus several hundred is a close call!

            As you can see, the book is filled with errors. It takes far more faith to believe what Dan Brown presents as the truth than it takes to follow what the Bible says. Where the Bible can be tested, it is shown to be true. There are multiple examples of places where scholars claimed the Bible was wrong, only to have the Bible proved correct by archaeology. Since the Bible is trustworthy in the areas that can be tested, it is reasonable for us to trust what it is says about God. But where Dan Brown can be tested, he comes up lacking. He routinely gets details wrong. He cannot get his facts straight. He does not inspire confidence, and there is little reason to trust anything he says.

            So what should our response be to the book? Some Christians hate the book and cannot say a nice thing about it. They wish it had never been written, and that everyone should stop talking about it right way.

            However, I have a different opinion. I think that Dan Brown has given a gift to the church. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a follower of the theories of Dan Brown. I think that trying to find a true statement in the book is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But God is at work through the Da Vinci Code. Pastor Dan has been preaching through Acts in the morning services recently, and a common theme in Acts is how various events happen that seem like they should hinder the gospel and the work of God. For example, Stephen makes a speech before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. In the speech Stephen proclaims Jesus and tells the Jews that they are being hard-hearted when they resist Jesus. In response, the Jews kill Stephen and a massive persecution is enacted against the Christians. This does not look good for the Christians. But actually, God was at work through this persecution. What happened is that the Christians fled Jerusalem and went elsewhere, telling people wherever they went about the Gospel. And the rest is history! I think that this is what is happening with the Da Vinci Code. While it might look like God is losing in the whole Da Vinci Code battle, I think that the Da Vinci Code is a gift to the church.

Here are two reasons why Dan Brown has done the church a favor. The first is that all of a sudden, church history is cool. When was the last time church history was the cool thing to talk about? Especially for Americans? This is outstanding! We Americans are not very interested in history anyway, and the phrase “church history” in our churches has somewhat become identical with “so boring I am going to fall asleep without delay!” But now with the Da Vinci Code, not only can we not get away from church history, it is everywhere, and people outside the church are rapidly coming to know more about church history than we do. For those of you who are interested in church history, we have made several books available to you to buy or check out from the church library. The second reason that Dan Brown has given the church a gift, is that everyone is now talking about Christianity and Christ. This is a great way to start conversations. It is a natural way to direct the conversation to spiritual topics, and people want to talk about it. We are also selling a book today about the Da Vinci Code entitled “The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?” You do not really need to read the book to talk about the topic with people, although you certainly can read the book or see the movie if you want to. If you do, I would recommend that you read one of the books about the Da Vinci code as well. Even I got sucked in occasionally when I was reading the book into thinking that what he was saying about history was true, and these other books help us to know what is true and what is not true.

In closing, I encourage you to recognize God at work. Do not despair and think that the church is going to fall apart. But be challenged by the Da Vinci Code. Get to know some church history. Use it as a tool to talk to people about Jesus. And know that we have a reasonable faith. We are not stupid for believing what we believe, but it is backed up by fact and by truth.


Da Vinci Code Web Pages



A Review of the Da Vinci Code



The Truth About the Da Vinci Code



Deciphering 'The Da Vinci Code'



Books about the Da Vinci Code



A Collection of Articles about the Da Vinci Code



A List of Errors in the Da Vinci Code



Was Jesus Married?



Da Vinci Code Workshop: Hours of Lecture About the Book



A Series of Articles on the Da Vinci Code



The Gospel of Judas Web Pages


A Review of the Gospel of Judas



The Judas We Never Knew



The Jesus and Judas Papers: A Look at Recent Claims about Jesus



The Official Page on the Gospel of Judas


Tuesday, May 23, 2006 12:44 PM

Brian wrote: Wow.

This is a ton of useful information, and your analysis of the opportunity the Da Vinci Code presents us is exciting.

The other analysis of the Da Vinci Code I appreciated is over at Magic Statistics: Da Vinci Code’s popularity signals spiritual cowardice.

Thank you for educating me about some of the key facts that Dan Brown perverted.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 2:17 PM

mingman wrote:  did dan brown do a favor for the church or the church do a favor for dan brown? given the economic statistics of the movie...i am thinking the latter. sure God is at work, but i am not quite sure if His people are at work. deficient sunday school teachers. biblical ineptitude among christians. sad state of affairs for an apologetic response for the "success" of the book.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 4:08 PM

Charlie wrote:  I had not thought about it from this perspective, but you are correct about the church being a gift to Dan Brown. I also agree that the reason the book is a gift to the church is that the church has been lacking. But salvation is a gift for the same reason: we had a problem, and something had to be done. Although I'll take Jesus over the Da Vinci Code any day!

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