Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Myths and the Da Vinci code

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Martha of Bethany, and exactly one week after the feast of St. Mary Magdelene (July 22nd). These two are women, believed to be sisters, are venerated by the Catholic Church as Saints. Mary Magdelene was also the center of the book and movie "The Da Vinci code" by Dan Brown. I but decided to watch the movie, not with the hope of learning anything, but more out of curiosity, since the book has sold so many copies. One of the few things I learned from the movie is that either the author has little idea or has got mixed up about the Bible, early Christianity, Church history and quite a few other facts. A friend told me not enough is done to clarify the facts, so here goes:

Myth 1 - Mary Magdelene was the wife of Jesus, but the Catholic Church defamed her reputation

The Catholic Church actually venerates Mary Magdelene as a Saint, and an important one, at that. So she is someone to emulate and pray to for intercession. The sources quoted in Dan Brown's movie - the gospel of Mary Magdelene and the gospel of Philip are the so called Gnostic gospels. These were written centuries after the life of Jesus, and centuries after the lives of Philip and Mary Magdalene (the Gospel of Philip was written about 250 AD), needless to say they could not have been written by Philip or Mary Magdalene.

Celibacy is not something invented by the Catholic Church. The Prophet Jeremiah was a celibate, and so were members of an ancient Jewish group called the Qumran community. This group actually advocated celibacy. Jesus told His apostles "blessed are those who become eunuchs for the kingdom of God", and Saint Paul writing to the early Christians said "I'd prefer you to be [celibate] as I am". Celibacy was by no means unnatural or unheard of among the early Christians, and co-existed alongside marriage.

Myth 2 - The Catholic Church invented the idea that Jesus was divine at the Council of Nicaea and changed the existing known understanding of a mortal, married Jesus

The divinity of Jesus was never in question to the early Christians as known by several references at different points in the Church's history. People living in Jesus time and leaders of the early Church spoke of Jesus divinity, some of which I quote here:

Jesus is called Lord, God, and Son of God in all four canonical Gospels (Matt 1:23; 4:3,6; 14:33; 16:16; 26:63-66; 27:40,43,54; Mark 1:1; 3:11-12; 14:61-62; 15:39; Luke 1:32,35; 8:28; 22:70; John 1:1-3,14,18,34,49; 3:16-18; 5:18,25-29; 8:58-59; 10:30-36; 11:27; 19:7; 20:28,31; etc), in Acts of the Apostles (Acts
3:13; 8:37; 9:20; 20:28; etc) and the New Testament epistles (Romans 1:3-4; 5:10; 8:3; 9:5; 10:9-10; 1 Cor 8:4-6; Gal 2:20; 4:4; Eph 4:13; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8-10; 4:14; 5:8; 10:29; 2 Peter 1:1,17; 1 John 3:8; 4:9-10,15; 5:5-13,20; etc). The divinity and deity of Jesus Christ is really unquestioned in the New Testament itself. These are the earliest Christian documents we have, despite the false claims of Brown. They are dated (with few exceptions) to the first century AD by all biblical scholars conservative or liberal.

St Ignatius of Antioch was a Christian leader who lived little after the time of Jesus (c.110AD). To quote his letter to the Ephesians:

Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Ephesus in Asia, which is worthy of all felicitation, blessed as it is with greatness by the fullness of God the Father, predestined from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father IN JESUS CHRIST OUR GOD...."

"For OUR GOD, JESUS CHRIST, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit.

This is from Ignatius letter to the Ephesians, the people of Ephesus (an ancient Roman city in modern day Turkey). Other places this can be seen in the same document are 7:2; 9:1; 18:2. Ignatius also calls Jesus Lord in his letter to the Smyrnaeans in chapter 1 verse 1.

St. Justin the 'martyr' (c.100 - 165 AD) wrote in his First Apology:

"Although the Jews were always of the opinion that it was the Father of all who had spoken to Moses, IT WAS IN FACT THE SON OF GOD, who is called both Angel and Apostle, who spoke to him; they are, therefore, justly accused by both the prophetic Spirit and by Christ Himself of knowing neither the Father nor the Son. They who assert that the Son is the Father are proved to know neither the Father, nor that the Father of all has a Son, who is both the first-born Word of God AND IS GOD [John 1:1].

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c.40 - 202 AD) wrote in Against Heresies

....and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to re-establish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOR AND KING, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess Him, and that He may make just judgment of them all....

Myth 3 - 325 - 30 = nearly 400

On a more humourous note, the Council of Nicaea supposedly happened almost 4 centuries after Christ, according to Brown, while its actual date is around 325 AD. The Council of Nicaea was not responsible for establishing belief in the divinity of Jesus. The Council was called to clarify precisely how the Son of God related to God the Father (as "one in being [or substance or essence] with the Father" as the Creed states). As for it being a "relatively close vote" -- the final tally was 300 bishops (give or take a few, the exact number is uncertain) to two. Nobody at the Council was there thinking Jesus was just a "mortal prophet" -- not even the Arian heretics who clearly believed Jesus was "divine" or "God" in some sense. The Council of Nicaea clarified the exact nature and meaning of Jesus as "Lord and God." The Council of Constantinople in 381 AD clarified further how the Holy Spirit related to the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14).

1 comment:

  1. there's more to clarify, will do so at a later date..