extracted from (http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/DaVinciCode.htm)
The Da Vinci Code is an extremely popular thriller- religious- conspiracy novel (and movie) by Dan Brown (movie directed by Ron Howard) that reinterprets historical Christianity along radical feminist- Gnostic- “New Age” lines. Jesus was not the Son of God portrayed in the Gospels (John 3:16-18; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35; cf. Romans 1:3-4; etc), was not divine or God incarnate (Matthew 1:23; John 1:1,14; 5:18; 8:58-59; 10:30-33; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Col 2:9; etc), did not die for our sins, nor was raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-8). Rather, Jesus was the first “feminist,” was married to Mary Magdalene, and she was intended by Christ to be head of the Church, not the apostle Peter (Matthew 16:18-19; John 21:15-17). Mary Magdalene and Jesus had a child whose relatives and “bloodline” is with us to this day. This “bloodline” from Mary Magdalene (not the cup of the Last Supper) is the real “Holy Grail” and scholars through history such as Leonardo da Vinci were “in” on this “dangerous secret” that the Roman Catholic Church has been trying to suppress for 2000 years.
While it is “just” a novel, the author claims the information contained in it is based on truth and historical facts, and for that reason many (rather ignorant and uninformed) folks have been taking it seriously. And given the explosive popularity of the novel (#1 multiple months on the Best-Seller lists, tens of millions of copies sold, major motion picture released worldwide 5/19/2006, etc) it therefore seems right to dedicate a page to it on my Catholic apologetics site.
The author also takes his claims as dead serious. Author Dan Brown states in an online FAQ: “…the secret behind The Da Vinci Code was too well documented and significant for me to dismiss” (see above). On the novel’s first page we read: “FACT:…. All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” In an interview for WCVB-TV’s “Chronicle” with Mary Richardson, Dan Brown says: “When I started researching Da Vinci Code I really was skeptical, and I expected on some level to disprove all of this history that’s unearthed in the book[s]. But after three trips to Paris, and a lot of interviews, I became a believer.”
The following will discuss some of the main historical claims, the people, groups, and important subjects in the novel, and the fabrications, falsehoods, and many errors of Dan Brown. I have written Fiction (False Claims) citing The Da Vinci Code (DVC refers to the original 2003 hardcover edition) and Response (Truth) giving a factual response to the Fiction. This is just an outline. Many more details are found in the well-researched and documented books, articles, and other links on this page.
Fiction (False Claims) on Jesus Christ
- until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, Jesus was viewed by His followers as only a mortal prophet (DVC 233)
- Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea which was a relatively close vote (DVC 233)
- Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacked His human message, shrouded it in a cloak of divinity, and used it to expand the Church’s power (DVC 233)
- almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false (DVC 235)
- the early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being so any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life were omitted from the Bible (DVC 244)
- The marriage of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene was one particularly troubling earthly theme that kept recurring in the gospels, and is a matter of historical record (DVC 244)
- Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more sense than our standard biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor (DVC 245)
- there are countless references to Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s union and this has been explored ad nauseum by modern historians (DVC 247)
- Jesus was the original feminist who intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene (DVC 248)
- the greatest cover-up in human history is not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father (DVC 249)
- The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians (DVC 253)
Response (Truth): This is probably the most offensive part of the novel to Christians as it contains many unhistorical blunders and outright lies about our Lord and Savior. Many books and online articles have refuted these errors extensively. I will try to add a little bit to these already good Christian responses.
Jesus was indeed viewed as a prophet (Matt 10:41; 13:57; 21:11; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24; 24:19; John 4:19,44; 9:17; etc) but He was much more than that. He not only spoke the Word of God like the prophets (2 Peter 1:19-21), He was the Word of God (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1-3). He is fully God and fully man in one divine Person. This is the mystery of the Incarnation (John 1:14; 1 John 4:1-3; 1 Tim 3:16).
Jesus was viewed as Lord and God from the very beginning of Christianity. He 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 in the novel. They are all dated (with few exceptions) to the first century AD by all biblical scholars conservative or liberal.
You have to believe that Dan Brown, his publishers, his characters “Robert Langdon,” “Leigh Teabing,” and “Sophie Neveu” never cracked open the New Testament in their life. Jesus is called the Son of God, Lord and God throughout, by friends, enemies, and Jesus Himself. This is at least 250 years before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.
Starting in the 2nd century (c. 100 AD) and beyond, we have numerous early Church Fathers, Christian Saints, and Catholic Bishops explicitly calling Jesus Christ Lord, God, and Son of God with a rudimentary understanding of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God in three divine Persons). This is anywhere from 200 to 100 years before the Council of Nicaea:
St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 AD) —
“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.” (Letter to Ephesians addr; also 7:2; 9:1; 18:2; from Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers, volume 1, p. 17-18; see also Letter to the Smyrnaeans 1:1; Jurgens, p. 24)
St. Justin the Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD) —
“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].” (First Apology 6, 61, 63, 66, 67; Jurgens, p. 51, 54-55; see also Dialogue with Trypho 48; Jurgens, p. 60)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 140 – 202 AD) —
“….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….” (Against Heresies 1:10:1; Jurgens, p. 84-104; see also numerous examples from Against Heresies)
I also have quotes from Aristides of Athens (c. 140); St. Melito of Sardes (c. 177); Athenagoras of Athens (c. 180); St. Theophilus of Antioch (c. 181), St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – 216 AD); St. Hippolytus of Rome (c. 200 AD); Origen (c. 185 – 254 AD); Tertullian (c. 155 – 250 AD); Novatian (c. 235 AD); St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250 AD); St. Dionysius of Rome (c. 262 AD). There is no question the ante-Nicene Fathers and early Church writers, from all parts of the Church Catholic (east and west) knew Jesus Christ was Lord, God, and Son of God.
The Council of Nicaea was not responsible for establishing those beliefs. 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).
As for the “earthly aspects” of Jesus’ life supposedly being “omitted from the Bible,” again Dan Brown has not read the canonical Gospels. Jesus is fully human (God became man is what the Incarnation means). Jesus walks in a human body, talks, touches, eats, sleeps, weeps, feels real pain and anguish, shows righteous anger and other human emotions, etc. He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15; cf. 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). He was fully human, yet sinless. God became a sinless man so that sinful man could be united and reconciled to God, and partake of the divine nature (Romans 5:5-12; 1 John 4:9-14; 2 Peter 1:4). That is the basic message of the Christian gospel: Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Cor 15:1-8), and by believing in Him we might have life, and that more abundantly (John 3:16; 5:24; 10:10). Dan Brown does not discuss the Resurrection in his novel (however, see the recommended and exhaustive books by Anglican scholar N.T. Wright below).
That Jesus was not married to Mary Magdalene, and remained single and celibate does not make him any less human, which is what Dan Brown and his novel implies. The Bible states Jesus is spiritually married as the bridegroom to His Church, called “the Bride of Christ” (Eph 5:20-33; cf. Matt 25:1ff; Rev 21:2,9; 22:17). That is at least one good theological reason why Jesus remained single and celibate: He is married to His Church, and loves Her as a husband loves his wife. Jesus’ celibacy is in fact the basis for the celibacy of the Catholic priesthood (see recommended books by Cardinal Stickler and Christian Cochini below).
Other examples of single and celibate Jews and prophets include John the Baptist, Jeremiah the prophet, Moses probably after his encounter with God, the Essene community at Qumran, the great St. Paul the Apostle, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, according to Catholics and Orthodox Christians, etc. Jesus Himself said some become eunuchs (virgins or celibates) for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:10-12). St. Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 7 it is sometimes better to remain single as he himself was; in 1 Corinthians 9 he mentions other apostles having wives, but never mentions Jesus having a wife when it would have been greatly advantageous to his argument (see chapter by Darrell Bock, “Was Jesus Married?” in Breaking the Da Vinci Code).
There is in fact no historical evidence whatsoever that Jesus was married (except to His Church) in the canonical Gospels, the New Testament, or the first 800 years of orthodox Christianity (the patristic era of the Fathers, Saints, and Bishops). There is also no evidence in the apocryphal or so-called “secret” Gnostic Gospels or non-canonical writings (despite false arguments made from the Gospel of Philip, see below The Bible). There is therefore no evidence for a “royal bloodline” either.
That the Catholic Church does not put down marriage we know from the fact it is elevated to a Sacrament (from the Catechism of the Catholic Church):
1642. Christ is the source of this grace. “Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony” (Vatican II, GS 48 § 2). Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21; cf. Gal 6:2) and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.
In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb:
“How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father? …..How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.” (Tertullian, Ad uxorem 2,8,6-7; Migne PL 1,1412-1413)
Recommended Books and Articles:
The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels by Luke Timothy Johnson (HarperCollins, 1996)
An Introduction to New Testament Christology by Raymond E. Brown (Paulist Press, 1994)
Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly (HarperCollins, 1978)
The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, volume 1 by Jaroslav Pelikan (Univ of Chicago Press, 1971)
The Faith of the Early Fathers edited by William Jurgens (The Liturgical Press, 3 volumes)
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright (Fortress Press, 2003)
The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue by J.D. Crossan and N.T. Wright edited by Robert B. Stewart (Fortress Press, 2006)
To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed (Ignatius Press, 1992)
The Lord by Romano Guardini (Gateway Editions, 1982)
The Case for Clerical Celibacy: Its Historical Development and Theological Foundation by Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler (Ignatius Press, 1995)
The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by Christian Cochini (Ignatius Press, 1990)
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (a classic)
The Gospels of the New Testament (in any translation that you will read them)
Jesus Christ (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Jesus Christ (Wikipedia)
A History of the Council of Nicaea by Philip Hughes
Decrees of the First Council of Nicaea edited by Norman Tanner
Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ based on chapter 8 from Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft / Tacelli
Fiction (False Claims) on Mary Magdalene
- Mary Magdalene is the woman who single-handedly could crumble the Church (DVC 243)
- The misconception that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early Church; she was recast as a whore in order to erase evidence of her powerful family ties (DVC 244, 249)
- The Holy Grail is Mary Magdalene, the mother of the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ; she was the womb that carried His royal lineage (DVC 253, 255)
- The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her dangerous secret as the Holy Grail (DVC 244)
- According to the “unaltered gospels” it was not Peter to whom Christ gave directions with which to establish the Christian Church, it was Mary Magdalene (DVC 248)
- Mary Magdalene was pregnant at the time of the crucifixion, and for the safety of Christ’s unborn child, she had to flee the Holy Land and secretly traveled to France where she gave birth to a daughter, Sarah (DVC 255)
- When the Church outlawed speaking of the shunned Mary Magdalene, her story and importance had to be passed on through more discreet channels (DVC 281)
Response (Truth): There is no “smear campaign” against St. Mary Magdalene. She is a celebrated Saint in the Catholic Church. She is the first human witness of the empty tomb and the Resurrected Christ in the canonical Gospels (Matt 28:1ff; Mark 16:1,9; Luke 24:1ff; John 20:1ff,18), and was with Him at the Crucifixion and His burial (John 19:25; Matt 27:55ff; Mark 15:40ff). She was a close disciple or follower of Jesus and one of several “Marys” (Mariam or Miriam was a common name) mentioned in the New Testament. Many Catholic and Orthodox and Episcopal churches have been built honoring her name through the centuries:
- Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham, England (and others in the U.K.) built between the 12th and 14th centuries;
- the Russian Maria Magdalena Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem founded in 1886;
- the Anglo-Catholic Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Toronto, Canada founded in 1888;
- St. John and St. Mary Magdalene Church (built 1916) in Goldthorpe, a village in South Yorkshire, England;
- many St. Mary Magdalene Catholic churches and parishes named in her honor in the U.S. and the world.
If there is a “smear campaign” and “silencing” of the Saint going on, the Catholic Church and the rest of Christianity is certainly incompetent about keeping her name quiet. We don’t keep her “secret” or “erase evidence” or “defame” her; there is no “outlawing” and “shunning” going on; Catholics and Christians honor her publicly. She is part of the liturgical calendar in Catholicism (her feast day is July 22).
There is no evidence for a “wife” of Jesus Christ; therefore there is no “bloodline” of Jesus Christ. Christ is (spiritually) married to His Church, the body of Christ, who is called His “Bride” (Ephesians 5; see above Jesus Christ).
The Holy Grail is not Mary Magdalene; the Holy Grail is the cup or dish of the Last Supper. The English word “Grail” derives from the medieval Latin word gradale, which became in Old French graal or greal which means “grail” or “cup” or “dish” (see below Holy Grail). The Grail romances date from 1180 to 1240 AD and none of them refer to the Grail as a “person.”
There are no “unaltered” vs. “altered gospels” — the earliest Gospels we have are the canonical ones we find in the New Testament. They clearly point to St. Peter as the earthly or visible head of the Church (while Christ is the invisible head in heaven). This is an “intramural” debate within Christianity, but the primacy of the apostle Peter in the New Testament is clear (Matthew 16:18-19; John 21:15-17; Luke 22:31-32), and was recognized very early by the Catholic Bishops, Fathers, and Saints. The 4th century eastern Church Father, St. Ephraim the Syrian wrote in his homilies, interpreting and expanding the Peter-Rock-Keys passage of Matthew 16:18-19:
“[Jesus said:] Simon [Peter], my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on Earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the firstborn in my institution so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures.” (Homilies 4:1 [351 AD])
Hundreds of such quotes can be found in the early Fathers. See my apologetics articles for more historical material on Peter’s primacy and evidence for the early Papacy (see especially the articles by Dom John Chapman on St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, St. Jerome, and St. John Chrysostom). While St. Mary Magdalene was one of Christ’s closest disciples, she was not chosen to be the head or even a leader in the Church. Christ chose his Twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2ff), with Peter being first and the rock (Kepha in Aramaic, petra or petros in Greek) upon which the Church would be built (Matthew 16:18; cf. Eph 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4ff; Rev 21:14), and the keys of the kingdom (symbolic of authority) were given to him (Matthew 16:19; cf. Isaiah 22:15ff; Rev 3:7).
The idea that St. Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute or “whore” (the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50) came from conflating the women and Marys of the Gospels. It was not out of malice or because the Church was covering up anything. It was an honest mistake. This was first done by Tertullian, who equated Mary of Bethany with Luke’s sinful woman (De pudicitia or On Modesty 11:2, c. 200 AD), for each were said to have anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them dry with her hair, while He was reclining at a banquet (Luke 7:38,46; John 12:3; see the New Catholic Encyclopedia [NCE, 2nd edition, 2003], volume 9, article “St. Mary Magdalene” page 287).
Pope St. Gregory the Great (in his Homily 25:1:10, c. 591 AD) equated the sinful woman, and Mary of Bethany, with St. Mary Magdalene. “Following Gregory, the Latin Church, generally but not universally, has continued to identify the three women and honors them and their different virtues under the title of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22. Following Origen, the Greek churches honor them, more appropriately, as separate and distinct saints.” (NCE, volume 9, page 287). Amy Welborn, in her excellent little study De-Coding Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legend, and Lies (Our Sunday Visitor, 2006) explains:
“In this homily, Gregory is not just examining Mary Magdalene for her own sake. He’s offering her up to his listeners as an example of the possibility of repentance and the promise of forgiveness. That’s sometimes forgotten in contemporary discussion of the imagery here, which tend to excoriate Gregory for not just an apparent error in interpretation, but also misogyny and a desire to demean Mary Magdalene. It’s clear that no such diminishment was in his mind.” (Welborn, page 54).
The Church honored St. Mary Magdalene as a holy example of repentance, despite Gregory’s mistake of equating her with the prostitute of Luke 7. “Mary Magdalene isn’t being held up as a figure to be scorned. The impact of Gregory’s associating her with Luke’s sinful woman was not to degrade her, nor was it intended to do so. She was held up as a model….and an inspiration. This was no plot to demean women. It was an expression of a desire to find our own story of loss and hope in the Gospel story.” (Welborn, page 55)
Concerning the medieval legends about Mary Magdalene: “The late legend that Mary Magdalene….was miraculously transported to southern France in an oarless boat deserves no credence.” (NCE, volume 9, page 287). This legend dates from the 9th century AD (see also Olson / Miesel, page 87-89; and Welborn, chapter 6 “The Golden Legend”), and never involved “Grails” (which romance stories date from the 12th and 13th centuries) or supposed “children” of Jesus and Mary Magdalene as Dan Brown’s novel maintains (and Margaret Starbird’s unscholarly books who he follows).
The true story of St. Mary Magdalene could and does single-handedly crumble the nonsense in The Da Vinci Code.
From Easten’s Bible Dictionary:
Mary Magdalene, i.e., Mary of Magdala, a town on the western shore of the Lake of Tiberias. She is for the first time noticed in Luke 8:2 as one of the women who “ministered to Christ of their substance.” Their motive was that of gratitude for deliverances he had wrought for them. Out of Mary were cast seven demons. Gratitude to her great Deliverer prompted her to become his follower. These women accompanied him also on his last journey to Jerusalem (Mt 27:55; Mk 15:41; Lk 23:55). They stood near the cross. There Mary remained till all was over, and the body was taken down and laid in Joseph’s tomb.
Again, in the earliest dawn of the first day of the week she, with Salome and Mary the mother of James (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1) came to the sepulchre, bringing with them sweet spices, that they might anoint the body of Jesus. They found the sepulchre empty, but saw the “vision of angels” (Mt 28:5). She hastens to tell Peter and John, who were probably living together at this time (Jn 20:1,2) and again immediately returns to the sepulchre. There she lingers thoughtfully, weeping at the door of the tomb. The risen Lord appears to her, but at first she knows him not. His utterance of her name “Mary” recalls her to consciousness, and she utters the joyful, reverent cry, “Rabboni.” She would fain cling to him, but he forbids her, saying, “Touch me not [or do not cling to me]; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” This is the last record regarding Mary of Magdala, who now returned to Jerusalem. The idea that this Mary was “the woman who was a sinner, ” or that she was unchaste, is altogether groundless.
Recommended Books and Articles:
De-Coding Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legend, and Lies by Amy Welborn (Our Sunday Visitor, 2006)
Mary Magdalene: Truth and Myth by Susan Haskins (Pimlico, 2005)
The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha, and the Christian Testament by Jane Schaberg (Continuum, 2002)
Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Bock, chapter “Who Was Mary Magdalene?”
The Da Vinci Hoax by Olson / Miesel, chapter “The Magdalene: Saint, Sinner, or Goddess?”
The World’s First Love by Fulton J. Sheen (Ignatius Press, 1996)
Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture by Jaroslav Pelikan (Yale Univ Press, 1998)
The Gospels of the New Testament (in any translation that you will read them)
Fiction (False Claims) on Constantine
- The Bible as we know it today was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great (DVC 231)
- Constantine was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest (DVC 232)
- In Constantine’s day, Rome’s official religion was sun worship — the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun — and Constantine was its head priest (DVC 232)
- By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, Constantine created a hybrid religion that was acceptable to both (DVC 232)
- Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan’s veneration day of the sun, the pagan sun god’s weekly tribute — Sunday (DVC 232-233)
- By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world (DVC 233)
- Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man (DVC 234)
- Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike; the earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned (DVC 234)
Response (Truth): Dan Brown (and his novel’s characters) gets it all wrong again. Constantine was indeed a Roman emperor (reigned from 306 to 337 AD, born in Naissus [Nish] in modern Yugoslavia, about 280) but was not a lifelong pagan; he became a Christian sometime in 312 AD. His deathbed baptism was not against his will, and its delay was not unusual. Since in orthodox Catholic teaching this Sacrament cleansed one from all sin, where one became “saved” and “born again” by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-7; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5), some in the early Church postponed this powerful Sacrament’s effects (e.g. see Tertullian On Baptism 18; and St. Augustine Confessions 1:17-18). Infants were also frequently baptized (Origen Commentary on Romans 5:9; St. Cyprian of Carthage Letters 64:2-5; St. Gregory of Nazianz Orations on Holy Baptism 40:17; St. Augustine Forgiveness…and Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43; Letters 98:2).
Constantine did not “collate” the Bible, he had nothing to do with the canon of Scripture. The NT canon and four canonical Gospels (the earliest Christian documents we have) were generally recognized by the 2nd century AD, while the full and explicit 27-book NT canon wasn’t established until the late 4th century (St. Athanasius, Festal Letter 39 of 367 AD, and the local Councils of Rome, Hippo, Carthage, see below The Bible).
Constantine did not “shift” the day of worship to Sunday; this day (called the “Lord’s day”) was well established in the New Testament (Rev 1:10; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Col 2:13ff), and recognized by the earliest Christian believers and Fathers, Bishops and Saints. Ignatius (c. 110 AD), Justin (c. 150), the Didache (1st or 2nd century AD), Clement of Alexandria (c. 200), Tertullian (c. 200), all identify the “Lord’s day” with the day of public Christian worship in honor of Christ’s Resurrection on the “first day of the week” which is Sunday (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2,9; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1).
As already pointed out, neither Constantine nor the Council of Nicaea “upgraded Jesus’ status” or “turned Jesus into a deity” since His deity (as Lord, God, and Son of God) is clearly affirmed and established in the New Testament documents and by the Church Fathers, Bishops, and Saints hundreds of years before the Council of Nicaea (see above Jesus Christ). As for Christ’s “human traits” they are on full display in the four canonical Gospels; it is the so-called “Gnostic Gospels” where the humanity of Christ is denied (see below The Bible). Also Dan Brown can’t count, since the Council (325 AD) would be less than three centuries after Jesus’ death (c. 30 AD), not “almost four centuries.”
Here are some facts on Constantine summarized from the New Catholic Encyclopedia (NCE, 2003, 2nd edition) article “Constantine I, the Great, Roman Emperor” (NCE, volume 4, pages 179-181):
- Before his conversion to Christianity, Constantine refused to accept the rank of caesar given him by Galerius and Licinius (Nov 11, 308); he practiced forbearance in regard to the Christians;
- the Emperor Galerius published (Apr 30, 311) an edict of religious tolerance for Christians signed by Constantine;
- Each emperor (Constantine, Licinius, and Maximin Daia in the east) issued mandates restoring rights and property to Christians (Lactantius, De morte 48; Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 10:5:1-14);
- Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in 312 is “now almost universally acknowledged” although the quality of his conversion is still disputed; that he postponed Baptism until his deathbed is no criterion since this was common, and he late insisted he hoped to be baptized in the Jordan;
- Lactantius claimed (De morte 44) the emperor saw Christ in a dream and was told to paint on his army’s shields a Chi-Rho (transversa X littera summo capite circumflexo) which formed the Christian monogram;
- In Vita Constantini (Life of Constantine) Eusebius maintains that before the battle Constantine saw a cross over the sun with the inscription “In this sign, conquer” — that night Christ appeared to him and told him to paint the cross (called the Labarum, a staff surmounted with globe, and capped with the Chi-Rho) on his soldier’s shields (Vita 1:27-32); the authenticity of the Vita (c. 335 or 338) is generally admitted;
- Constantine wrote to Maximin Daia opposing the persecution of Christians and gave the palace of Fausta at the Lateran to Pope Miltiades for a synod, later as the papal residence;
- He completed the building of a civil basilica, constructed new public baths, and erected a Christian church at the Lateran which was completed with a baptistery;
- He published the decree of Galerius giving religious freedom in his realm, and ordered the prefect in Africa (Anullinus) to restore Christian property and aid the bishops;
- He dedicated a statue of himself in the Forum with the inscription “Through this salutary sign…I have freed your city from the yoke of the tyrant” (Eusebius, Eccl History 10:4:16; Vita 1:40) — the vexillum, first known on the statue of an emperor, apparently was decorated with the Christian Chi-Rho monogram;
- Silver coins struck at Treves in 312 or 313 depict the emperor’s crown with a helmet and the Christian monogram — although the Sol Invictus and other pagan signs did not disappear until after 321, the vexillum and Christian monogram appeared regularly after 320, the Labarum after 326;
- the Constantinian arch depicting his victory over Maxentius contains pagan symbols, but no gods are named; the victory is attributed to an instinctu divinitatis (an impulse of divinity), an expression acceptable to Christians and pagans;
- Constantine attempted (313) to settle the Donatist schism in Africa; on appeal against the Catholic Bishop Caecillian he had Pope Miltiades hold a Roman synod that condemned the Donatist heretics (Eusebius, Eccl History 10:5:18-20); on second appeal he ordered a synod in Arles (314) and wrote to the bishops asking them to achieve unity and not allow critics to dishonor the Christian religion;
- He recognized the bishops as counselors of state, extended to them juridical rights; he gave legal force to their solution of civil suits, permitted the emancipation of slaves in church, and recognized bequests to the Church; he considered himself a colleague of the bishops (Codex Theodosianus 1:27:1; 16:2:4);
- Constantine seems to have felt himself divinely prompted to handle situations beyond the power of the bishops, gradually becoming involved in all the Church’s affairs;
- He wrote to the Persian King Sapor in favor of Christians in his realm, and supported the Christian kingdom of Armenia;
- He did not enroll among the catechumens, but read the Scriptures and organized religious ceremonies for the Christian community in his palace;
- He made Sunday a civil holiday and freed Christian soldiers for religious services (Codex Theodosianus 2:8:1);
- the majority of his citizens were pagans, so he retained the office of pontifex maximus and continued the Sol Invictus and lux perpetua legends on his coinage and monuments which were expressions of the eternal quality of the Roman state;
- the Sol Invictus had been adopted in a Christian sense as demonstrated in the Christ as Apollo-Helios in a mausoleum (c. 250) discovered beneath St. Peter’s in the Vatican;
- In a letter to the Orient, Constantine spoke of his experience of God’s providence (Vita 2:24-42) and claimed a divine vocation to protect Christians in the Orient and the West; in a second letter he exhorted pagans to convert to “God’s holy law” but proclaimed religious liberty for all (2:48-60);
- In an appendix to book 4 of the Vita, Eusebius edited an Oration to the Assembly of Saints that he attributed to Constantine; its authenticity is disputed, but it is a model of contemporary Christian apologetics;
- Constantine refused religious honors to the Roman Senate on the anniversaries Decennalia and Vicennalia (316 and 326);
- He leveled a cemetary on Vatican hill and built a vast martyr basilica on the spot where tradition located the grave of St. Peter the apostle;
- He induced his mother Helena to become a Christian, and she built a church on her property near the Lateran known as the Sessorianum, later called Santa Croce in Gerusalemme;
- He constructed the churches of St. Agnes, St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls, and Sts. Peter and Marcellinus in conjunction with Helena’s mausoleum;
- A double church was built at Treves and in Antioch (328), an octagonal edifice close to the imperial palace;
- He aided in the construction of the Nativity basilica in Bethlehem (Vita 3:41-43), the Eleona church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives (3:41-43), the basilica on the site of Abraham’s sacrifice (3:51-53), and the basilica of the Resurrection in Jerusalem (3:25-40) to whose dedication he called the bishops from a synod at Tyre (4:43-46) in 335;
- In 330 he wrote to Eusebius, asking him to have fifty copies of the Christian scriptures (both Testaments in Greek) prepared for use by the churches in the city; the fifty copies were made on good parchment by trained scribes, the emperor would defray the entire cost and authorize use of two public carriages to transport the copies to Constantinople; Eusebius proceeded without delay and the scriptures were prepared as specified and sent in “magnificent and elaborately bound volumes” (Vita or Life of Constantine 4:36-37; see F.F. Bruce The Canon of Scripture, page 203).
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (NCE, 2003, 2nd edition) article concludes:
“As a colleague, then as guide of the bishops, the emperor felt he had a vocation to lead all men to unity in honoring the divinity within the Christian Church (Vita 2:65:1). In the Scriptures, Constantine found justification for his idea of the Church as a peace-bringing house of truth, the unifying element of the state as a kingdom of God (Vita 2:56,67). He respected the decisions of the bishops in synod, particularly the decrees of the Council of Nicaea, and considered all further theological dispute as nugatory. Hence his policy hardened toward pagans and Jews as time wore on. Although he employed pagan terms in speaking of the ‘divinity,’ ‘the highest god,’ and ‘divine providence,’ he had in mind the unique God of the Christians, the creator and judge of all who saved fallen man through His Son….In dealing with heretics and in his policy toward pagans, he exercised astute forbearance. There can be no doubt that he was a convinced Christian, whatever may have been the limitations in his understanding of the full significance of that faith.” (NCE, volume 4, page 182)
See also the thoroughly documented chapter “Constantine, Paganism, and Nicaea” by Carl Olson in The Da Vinci Hoax.
Recommended Books and Articles:
Life of Constantine by Eusebius of Caesarea (Oxford Univ Press, 1999)
Constantine and the Christian Empire by Charles M. Odahl (Routledge, 2004)
The Emperor Constantine by Hans A. Pohlsander (Routledge, 2004)
Constantine: History, Historiography, and Legend by Samuel Lieu and Dominic Montserrat (Routledge, 1998)
Constantine the Great: The Man and His Times by Michael Grant (Scribners / Macmillan, 1994)
Constantine and Eusebius by Timothy D. Barnes (Harvard Univ Press, 1981)
Fiction (False Claims) on Leonardo da Vinci
- “Da Vinci” has always been an awkward subject for historians especially in the Christian tradition; despite his genius he was a flamboyant homosexual, a worshipper of Nature’s divine order, and this placed him in a perpetual state of sin against God (DVC 45)
- “Da Vinci” had an enormous output of breathtaking Christian art and accepted hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions (DVC 45)
- “Da Vinci” painted Christian themes not as an expression of his own beliefs but rather as a commercial venture; he incorporated in many of his Christian paintings hidden symbolism that was anything but Christian, tributes to his own beliefs, and a thumbing his nose at the Church (DVC 45-46)
- Leonardo was a well-documented devotee of the ancient ways of the goddess (DVC 96)
- his famous fresco The Last Supper is one of the most astonishing tributes to the sacred feminine you will ever see (DVC 96)
- the one seated in the place of honor, at the right hand of Jesus, in the Last Supper has flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom; it is without doubt a female, the woman Mary Magdalene (DVC 243)
- The Last Supper practically shouts at the viewer that Jesus and Magdalene were a pair (DVC 244)
See also Brown’s inaccurate and speculative discussion of the Mona Lisa, DVC 118-121; and Madonna [or Virgin] of the Rocks, DVC 138-139.
Response (Truth): Brown can’t even get the man’s name right. Leonardo is his name. Da Vinci means “from Vinci” which is his place of birth in the small village of Vinci, near Florence, Italy. To be fair, many of the anti-DVC critics in their books have also mistakenly referred to Leonardo as “Da Vinci” as if that was his last name. Leonardo is his name.
Most modern Leonardo scholars conclude he probably was homosexual. He never married. There was a sodomy charge early in life, but it was dropped. There are some what might be called “homoerotic” drawings (e.g. Angelo incarnato, folio 44 of the Codex Arundel, etc) in his sketchbooks. If he was gay, he wasn’t “flamboyant” about it. See especially Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind by Charles Nicholl (he discusses this in a couple of pages):
“It is all, in the end, a matter of interpretation. Like most students of Leonardo today, I interpret him as homosexual — though there is some piquant evidence, which I will look at later, that he was not exclusively so. The allegation laid against him in 1476 [the sodomy charge] is plausible enough, though this is not the same as saying it was true.” (Nicholl, page 116)
As for Leonardo producing an “enormous output” of Christian art, here are the numbers: he might have worked on 20 paintings, a dozen of which survive; of these, only seven are of unchallenged provenance (see Math and the Mona Lisa by Bulent Atalay, page xvi). Nevertheless, it is first as a Christian artist that Leonardo is generally remembered. Also, he did not accept “hundreds” of Vatican commissions, only one, which he did not finish (see “The Real Leonardo” by Elizabeth Lev).
The idea that Leonardo left “codes” in his paintings such as The Last Supper (e.g. the apostle John is actually a woman, Mary Magdalene who is the “Holy Grail”) has been called “absurd” by art historians, including one of the most learned scholars of Leonardo, Professor Judith Veronica Field of the University of London and current president of the Leonardo da Vinci Society (Gary Stern, “Experts Dismiss Theories in Popular Book,” The Journal News, November 2, 2003).
In addition, The Last Supper is not a “fresco” as called repeatedly in Dan Brown’s novel, but an experimental medium of tempera on stone which caused it to deteriorate shortly after completion. There have been several restoration attempts, the last completed in 1999.
See link below for an analysis of the painting by professional art historians and curators: Martin Kemp, A. Richard Turner, Serge Bramly, Bruce Boucher, and Elizabeth Lev; the latter has said: “Nothing in Leonardo’s writings suggests that the person next to Jesus is anyone other than John.” Included are many examples of a young St. John as he was painted during the Renaissance: curly hair, effeminate, without beard and the “rough” features associated with elder males (see especially Last Supper examples from Jacomart c. 1450, Ghirlandaio c. 1486, Bassano c. 1542, also Leonardo’s own St. John the Baptist). There is nothing unusual about Leonardo’s young apostle John, portrayed as the Renaissance type “student.”
“….St. John was invariably represented as a beautiful young man whose special affinity with Jesus was expressed by his being seated at Jesus’ right. Leonardo’s St. John conforms to this type, and parallels for the absence of a chalice appear in earlier Italian examples.” (Bruce Boucher, “Does the Da Vinci Code Crack Leonardo?”)
“A classic type, common to many Renaissance paintings is the ‘student.’ A favored follower, a protege or disciple, is always portrayed as very youthful, long-haired and clean-shaven…Throughout the Renaissance, artists portray St. John in this fashion. He is the ‘disciple Jesus loved’ ….Only a colossal fool would paint a heresy where the monks could study it day after day. While no evidence suggest that Leonardo held the church in contempt, proof abounds that he was no fool.” (Elizabeth Lev, “The Real Leonardo”)
Even admitting that Leonardo thought that the person sitting next to Christ in The Last Supper was a woman, we have to ask how this demonstrates:
(a) he thought that person to be Mary Magdalene;
(b) the fact that Leonardo thought this would somehow make it true;
(c) that Mary Magdalene participated in the Last Supper because she was Jesus’ “wife”;
(d) the two had children and established a “bloodline”;
(e) Magdalene and her “bloodline” should have governed the Church;
(f) to preserve this “truth” a secret society was born, the “Priory of Sion”;
(g) and Leonardo was a member of this Priory.
Each of these must be supported independently, but there is no evidence for any of them. If St. John is “Mary Magdalene” then where is the apostle? Leonardo is depicting a typical biblical scene, that of the Last Supper, the point at which Jesus announces one of his twelve apostles will betray him (Matthew 26:20-25; cf. John 13:18-30). And those Twelve are clearly named in the Gospels: “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Matthew 10:2-4; also Mark 3:16-19)
At the end of his life, Leonardo gave an explicit confession of Catholic faith, as Vasari noted (one of his early biographers). Leonardo “desired scrupulously to be informed of Catholic practice and of the good and holy Christian religion, then, after many tears, he repented and confessed. Since he could no longer stand upright, he had himself supported by his friends and servants in order to receive the holy sacrament in piety outside his bed.” (Vasari cited in Leonardo: Discovering the Life of Leonardo da Vinci by Serge Bramly, page 406)
The Leonardo biographer Bramly also comments:
“The will appears to confirm this return to religion. Leonardo commends his soul to Almighty God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to Saint Michael and all angels and saints in paradise. The first wishes he expresses are pious arrangements for his burial. He asks to be interred at the church of Saint-Florentin in Amboise; that his coffin be carried by the chaplains of this church and followed by the prior, the curates, the minor friars of the church; that three high masses be celebrated by the deacon and subdeacon, and thirty low Gregorian masses at Saint-Florentin and Saint-Denis….” (Bramly, page 406)
So much for Dan Brown’s claim that Leonardo was some kind of arch-heretic who worshipped the “goddess.” And his art was explicitly biblical and Catholic, no hidden “codes” required: The Annunciation (tempera on wood c. 1472-75, oil on panel c. 1478-82), Benois Madonna (c. 1478), Adoration of the Magi (c. 1481-82), St. Jerome (c. 1482), The Madonna (Virgin) of the Rocks (c. 1483-85), The Last Supper (1495-1498), The Virgin and Child with St. Anne (charcoal and oil), St. John the Baptist (c. 1513-1516), possibly others.
See Restoration of Leonardo’s Last Supper, with comparisons of paintings of a young St. John, along with comments by prominent art historians.
Recommended Books and Articles:
The World of Leonardo da Vinci: Man of Science, Engineer, and Dreamer of Flight by Ivor B. Hart (Macdonald, 1961)
Leonardo the Scientist by Zammattio / Marinoni / Brizio (McGraw-Hill, 1980)
Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man by Martin Kemp (Harvard Univ Press, 1981)
Leonardo: Discovering the Life of Leonardo da Vinci by Serge Bramly (Edward Burlingame / HarperCollins, 1991)
Inventing Leonardo by A. Richard Turner (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993)
Math and the Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci by Bulent Atalay (Smithsonian Books, 2004)
Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind by Charles Nicholl (Viking Penguin, 2004)
Fiction (False Claims) on the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Gnostic Gospels
- The Bible is a product of man not God; man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions (DVC 231)
- 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 (DVC 231)
- The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, and in telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms (DVC 234)
- The Vatican, in keeping with their tradition of misinformation, tried very hard to suppress the release of these scrolls (DVC 234)
- The scrolls highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda — to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base (DVC 234)
- the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea scrolls are the earliest Christian records, and they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible (DVC 245-246)
- in the Gospel of Philip, as any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse….”And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene” (DVC 246)
- the New Testament is false testimony and based on fabrications (DVC 341)
- every faith in the world is based on fabrications since that is the definition of faith — acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove (DVC 341)
Response (Truth): At least Dan Brown is consistent: consistently wrong. The Bible is a product of God and man; that is the Catholic doctrine and is the understanding of most orthodox Christians. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
136. God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth [cf. Vatican II, DV 11].
Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), and the Scriptures are “inspired by God and profitable for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16). This section is not going to “prove” the divine inspiration of Scripture,but merely point out the gross errors of The Da Vinci Code.
The divine inspiration of Scripture, and the divine authority of the Catholic Church which recognized the canon of Scripture, can be shown from the divinity and authority of Jesus Christ (see above Jesus Christ). He claimed to be God, He then proved to be God by His Resurrection and miracles, and He authorized the Church, His body, to teach and pass on all that He taught His apostles in His name (Matthew 10:19-20; 18:17-18; 28:18-20; Luke 10:16; John 16:13; 20:21-23; 2 Thess 2:15) which includes His Scriptures which “cannot be broken” (John 10:35; cf. Matthew 4; 1 Cor 14:37). Jesus also promised to be with His Church to the end of time thus ensuring faithfulness to His teaching (Matthew 16:18; 28:20; John 14:16f; 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Tim 2:2).
As for “translations, additions, and revisions,” this objection is too vague to mean anything. Are there different translations of the Scriptures? Yes, that will always be necessary since not everyone can read the original languages: OT Hebrew and NT Greek. Most Christians in the early centuries and through the Middle Ages were illiterate and depended on the Church entirely for knowledge of the Faith. The translation committees today do the best they can with the best knowledge they have in producing the most accurate translation from the original texts. Those original texts are known by textual criticism to within an accuracy of 98-99% pure (Geisler / Nix, page 474). We have well over 5000+ Greek manuscripts, over 10000+ Latin manuscripts, over 36000+ citations from the Church Fathers, from which to reconstruct an accurate original text (Geisler / Nix, page 466-467, 385, 345-346, etc).
As for “eighty gospels” that were supposedly “considered for the New Testament,” that’s simply not true. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the only ones ever considered, and their canonical status was clearly recognized by the second century AD. The earliest Christian writings cite these Gospels as the only authoritative and authentic written words about Jesus: the epistle of Barnabas (c. 70-100 AD), the Didache (c. 70-130), St. Clement of Rome (c. 95), the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110), Papias (c. 120), the Shepherd of Hermas (c. 140), and the Muratorian fragment (or canon c. 170 AD), all quote or allude to all four canonical Gospels (Geisler / Nix, page 288-291). The rest of the New Testament (the 27-book canon) is quoted or alluded to by these same writers, plus the earliest orthodox Church Fathers: St. Ignatius (c. 110), St. Justin Martyr (c. 150), St. Irenaeus (c. 180), St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 200), Origen (c. 220), etc. There is a growing recognition of the extent of the New Testament canon, and this began early in the second century AD.
“In the first half of the second century, then, collections of Christian writings which were due one day to be given canonical status were already taking shape — notably the fourfold gospel and the corpus of Pauline letters….from the early second century onward Paul’s letters circulated not singly, but as a collection [cf. 2 Peter 3:15f]. It was as a collection that Christians of the second century and later knew them, both orthodox and heterodox.” (F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, page 123-124, 130)
There simply are not even “eighty gospels” in existence to be considered. The Gnostic writings include a few that are called “Gospels” (e.g. the Gospel of Thomas being the most popular among scholars), but they are late (second century AD or later), contain an unorthodox Gnostic theology, and were simply never considered for inclusion in the NT canon. The canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) are all first century texts so they are the earliest Gospels we have of the words and deeds of Christ. According to tradition, they are rooted in eyewitness testimony (cf. Luke 1:1-4; 24:48; Acts 1:1-4; 1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 2 Peter 1:16; Matthew and John were apostles, Mark and Luke were associated with apostles).
The first major Church historian Eusebius (c. 260-340), writing at the time of emperor Constantine, distinguishes three categories of New Testament Scriptures: (1) universally acknowledged, (2) disputed, and (3) spurious (or simply “uncanonical”). In category (1) as universally acknowledged he places the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Acts of the Apostles (Acts), the epistles of Paul (which are 14 including Hebrews), the first epistle of John (1 John), the first epistle of Peter (1 Peter), and “should it seem right, John’s Apocalypse” (book of Revelation). In category (2) as “disputed, but recognized by the majority” he places the epistles of James, Jude, 2nd Peter, 2nd and 3rd John. In category (3) as non-canonical he includes the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the epistle of Barnabas, and the Teachings of the Apostles (or Didache), the “Gospel According to the Hebrews,” and Revelation “should it seem right” since “some reject it, while others count it among the acknowledged books” (see F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, page 198-199).
Therefore, the only books that were ever doubted by a few were James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, sometimes Hebrews and Revelation. The rest were universally acknowledged. The 27-book NT canon became explicit with St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (Festal Letter 39, c. 367 AD), the local or regional Councils of Rome (under Pope Damasus, c. 380 AD), the Councils of Hippo (393 AD), and Carthage (397 / 419 AD), and Popes Boniface I, Innocent I, and Gelasius confirmed this same canon (see F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, page 232-235).
Here is a summary of points from Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Intervarsity, 1994) by Peter Kreeft / Ronald Tacelli on why the Gospels and New Testament should be considered reliable and authentic, not myth or legend:
- The style of the Gospels is radically and clearly different from the style of all myths; there are no overblown, spectacular, exaggerated events; nothing is arbitrary, everything is meaningful;
- There was not enough time for myth to develop; several generations have to pass before the added mythological elements can be mistakenly believed to be facts; eyewitnesses would be around before that to discredit the new, mythic versions;
- The first witnesses of the Resurrection were women; in first-century Judaism, women had low social status and no legal right to serve as witnesses; if the empty tomb were an invented legend, its inventors surely would not have had it discovered by women, whose testimony was considered worthless; if the writers were simply reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth;
- The New Testament could not be myth misinterpreted and confused with fact because it specifically distinguishes the two and repudiates the mythic interpretation (2 Peter 1:16);
- The Gospels were written by eyewitnesses from internal evidence: the style of writing in the Gospels is simple and alive; the Gospels show an intimate knowledge of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in AD 70; the Gospels are full of proper names, dates, cultural details, historical events, and customs and opinions of that time;
- The stories of Jesus’ human weaknesses and of the disciples’ faults also bespeak the Gospels’ accuracy: the Gospels do not try to suppress apparent discrepancies, which indicates their originality; the Gospels do not contain anachronisms; the authors appear to have been first-century Jews who were witnesses of the events;
- The disciples must have left some writings, engaged as they were in giving lessons to and counseling believers who were geographically distant; what could these writings be if not the Gospels and epistles themselves;
- There were many eyewitnesses who were still alive when the books were written who could testify whether they came from their purported authors or not;
- The external evidence: extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors; with a single exception, no apocryphal gospel is ever quoted by any known author during the first three hundred years after Christ; there is no evidence that any inauthentic gospel whatever existed in the first century in which all four Gospels and Acts were written;
- No other ancient work is available in so many copies and languages, and yet all these various versions agree in content;
- The text has remained unmarred by heretical additions; the abundance of manuscripts over a wide geographical distribution demonstrates that the text has been transmitted with only trifling discrepancies; the quotations of the New Testament books in the early Church Fathers all coincide; no one could have corrupted all the manuscripts;
- The text of the New Testament is every bit as good as the text of the classical works of antiquity; to repudiate the textual purity of the Gospels would be to reject all the works of antiquity, since the text of those works is less certain than that of the Gospels.
So much for “false testimony” and “based on fabrications.” There is no evidence for that claim and it is answered above.
The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were not “found in the 1950s” — they were first discovered in 1947, with subsequent finds in the 1950s. The Nag Hammadi (NH) documents are not “scrolls” — they are codices which are an ancient form of book. Neither the DSS nor the NH documents contain teachings about “Christ’s ministry in very human terms.” The DSS do not even mention Jesus Christ since they are Jewish documents dating mainly before the time of Christ. The Gnostic writings in general present a “divine” Christ who is NOT human. They deny Christ really died or even lived in a human body (also called Docetism). I shall show this with a brief examination of the Gospel of Philip and other Gnostic writings below.
The following are a summary of facts from the New Catholic Encyclopedia (2003, 2nd edition) articles “Dead Sea Scrolls” (volume 4, page 560ff) and “Gnosticism” (volume 6, page 255ff).
What are the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS); what are their contents; when are they dated; and where were they found?
- the DSS is the generic title for six groups of documents discovered between 1947 and 1956 in caves and sites of the Judean Desert near the western side of the Dead Sea; the most important group was found in eleven caves near the Wadi Qumran often called the “Qumran Scrolls” (QS);
- from these eleven caves came scrolls and fragments, dating from the end of the third century B.C. to A.D. 68, mostly in Hebrew, many in Aramaic, a few in Greek; four stages are recognized: Archaic (250-150 BC), Hasmonean (150-30 BC), Herodian (30 BC – 70 AD), Post-Herodian / Ornamental (after 70 AD);
- in 1991 (Zurich, Switzerland) and 1995 (Tucson, Arizona) the palaeographical dates were confirmed by radiocarbon dating methods;
- in total the DSS number today about 820 texts divided into three classes: biblical, sectarian, and inter-testamental Jewish writings;
- of the 820 QS, about 25% are copies of OT books; in Cave 4 alone 127 biblical texts are represented including every proto-canonical book except Esther; all 66 chapters of Isaiah were preserved in Cave 1 (1QIsa) dated to 125-100 BC; this Qumran Isaiah text is 1000 years older than the previously known oldest copy (895 AD) yet testifies in general to the care with which Jewish scribes copied this book throughout the centuries;
- the “inter-testamental” writings include Jubilees, 1 Enoch, forerunners of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and other literary, liturgical, and sapiential texts previously unknown, especially Aramaic writings which Qumran Jews read but probably did not compose;
- in the DSS there is no mention of John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, his apostles or disciples, or anything Christian;
- the first Qumran cave (called Qumran Cave 1) was discovered by Bedouin shepherd boys in 1947, and seven major scrolls and fragments and seventy other texts were retrieved;
- four of the seven (Isaiah A, Manual of Discipline, Pesher on Habakkuk, and Genesis Apocryphon) were acquired by the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of St. Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem, who allowed three of them to be published almost immediately by the American Schools of Oriental Research, edited by M. Burrows, 1950-51;
- the other three of seven (War Scroll, Thanksgiving Psalms, Isaiah B) were acquired by E. L. Sukenik, professor of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and published by him in 1954-55;
- the fragments of Cave 1 were published by Clarendon Press (Oxford) in 1955 as volume 1 of Discoveries in the Judaean Desert which is the official publication for the vast majority of the DSS;
- between 1952 and 1956 ten further caves were discovered either by Bedouins or archaeologists in the Jordan-controlled West Bank; the scrolls and fragments from Qumran Caves 1-3, and 5-11 were published with reasonable dispatch;
- the big problem was the Cave 4 material discovered in 1952 from which came no full scroll, but more than 15,000 fragments which had to be assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle; in 1954 an international and inter-confessional team of seven scholars was set up to work on the fragments housed in the Palestine Archaeological Museum (Jordan-controlled East Jerusalem, which explains why no Jewish scholar was allowed to be on the team); after many delays the majority of the Cave 4 texts were finally published officially by 2001;
- the complete list of the DSS can be found in Encyclopedia of the DSS, 2.1013-1049 (Qumran, Masada, Murabba’at, H ever-Seiyal, Mishmar-Nar, Mird); F. Garcia Martinez, Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 465-519 (Qumran only); Garcia Martinez and Tigchelaar, DSS: Study Edition, 2.1311-1361.
What are the Nag Hammadi (NH) documents; what are their contents; when are they dated; and where were they found?
- in the mid-18th century there began a series of discoveries of original Gnostic documents found near the site of the ancient village of Chenoboskion (modern Nag-Hammadi), Egypt in 1946 (or 1945);
- all of these papyri are written in Coptic but are presumably translations from Greek originals;
- most significant is these are the writings of the Gnostics themselves, many of them known previously only by title or in fragments; though detailed study will continue, it is already established that they reinforce the reliability of the patristic (orthodox Church Fathers) descriptions of these sects;
- the three codices found prior to the Chenoboskion collection are the Askew Codex acquired by the British Museum in 1785, published in translation some 65 years later; the Bruce Codex discovered in 1769 was published in 1891; and the Berlin Codex 8502 discovered in 1896 was finally published in 1955; however these discoveries were dwarfed in extent and importance by the Chenoboskion texts;
- the Chenoboskion find consists of 13 codices containing some 51 Gnostic works in Coptic dialects; included are two works previously known: the Apocryphon of John and another writing of the Berlin Codex; several works known by name but thought lost, the Gospel of Truth of Valentinus, and others completely unknown such as the celebrated Gospel of Thomas; the codices appear to form the library of a 4th-century AD Sethian group but includes Hermetic and Valentinian compositions;
- while it is difficult to present an overview of the contents of Gnostic teaching to include all the pseudo-Christian forms, the basic structure of Gnosticism can be grouped around five headings: God, the world, man, salvation, and morality; the distinguishing traits of Gnosticism include dualism, emanationism, and salvation through esoteric knowledge (or gnosis in Greek);
- as for soteriology, its most distinguishing feature is that salvation is accomplished not by the power of God nor by human faith nor by cooperation with the will of God, but by assimilation of esoteric knowledge;
- the Gnostic “savior” is scarcely recognizable from the New Testament point of view; he is a semi-divine personage, a messenger from God Himself; but Christ does not become man; Gnosticism is Docetic in holding that the redeemer merely seems to become incarnate; various devices are used to explain away the Passion and death of Jesus;
- one of the most common charges leveled against the Gnostics by patristic writers was immorality, made more heinous because the Gnostics defended their practice; the Gnostic attitude, called an antinomian libertarianism, is but a consequence of the Gnostic theory;
- their life on earth was meant to be an ever more complete withdrawal from matter; this withdrawal could be practiced in two opposite extremes: severe ascetical abstention from the pleasures of life, such as we find in Marcionism; or reckless indulgence in them, which was more common in the popular sects; contempt for the material was best shown by systematic flouting of all earthly standards of morality;
- Gnostic writings show disdain for marriage and sexual relations, while their authors practiced sexual promiscuity without fear of either convention or consequences.
As we can see, the DSS and NH documents say nothing about the “Grail” (see below Holy Grail); they say nothing about “Christ’s ministry in very human terms“; the Vatican had nothing to do with delaying or suppressing the publication of these scrolls and codices; the “glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications” are found in the “Gnostic Gospels” not the New Testament; the DSS and NH documents are definitely not “the earliest Christian records” and they have nothing to do with the canon of the New Testament which was early recognized by the Church as authoritative. Dan Brown is completely wrong on the DSS and NH documents.
As for the Gospel of Philip teaching the supposed “marriage” of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, all one has to do is read the Gospel of Philip (available online) or the summary of that “Gospel” translated by Wesley W. Isenberg (see The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by James M. Robinson):
- The Gospel of Philip is a compilation of statements pertaining primarily to the meaning and value of sacraments within the context of a Valentinian conception of the human predicament and life after death.
- The Gospel of Philip is not a gospel like one of the New Testament Gospels, but it does provide the occasional word or deed of Jesus.
- It contains 17 sayings of Jesus, 9 of which are citations and interpretations of Jesus’ words already found in the canonical Gospels (55, 33-34; 57,3-5; 68,8-12; 68,26-27; 72,33-73; 77,18; 83,11-13; 84,7-9; 85,29-31).
- Jesus’ three female companions were each named Mary (59,6-11), though he had an apparent preference for Mary Magdalene (63,32-36).
- The most relevant point in response to The Da Vinci Code, according to the Gospel of Philip: “Defiled women” are all women who participate in sexual intercourse; i.e. in “the marriage of defilement,” which is fleshly and lustful (81,34 – 82,10); unclean spirits seek to defile men and women sexually (65,1-23).
- “Free men and virgins” are those called “Christians” (74,13-16) who possess “the resurrection, the light, the cross, the holy spirit” (74,18-21), they are the opposite of “animals, slaves, and defiled women.”
- The title of this text may be derived merely from the fact that Philip is the only apostle named in it (73,8), though Philip, along with Thomas and Matthew, had an eminence among Gnostics as a privileged recipient and custodian of dominical revelation.
- The Coptic text is undoubtedly a translation of a Greek text which was written perhaps as late as the second half of the third century C.E. (or > 250 AD). (from Robinson, pages 139-141)
In summary, it is dated late (c. at least 250 AD), is written in Coptic (not in Aramaic, probably originally in Greek), teaches marriage and sex is defilement, and virgins are those who are Christians. Therefore Jesus and Mary Magdalene could not be married according to this “Gospel.” The best understanding of the “kiss” and “companion” passage (63-64, there are many gaps in the manuscript) is that Jesus was relaying a special knowledge or “gnosis” (esoteric teaching) to Mary, one of his close disciples. This was frequently “revealed” in Gnostic teaching with a “kiss” (see also Gospel of Philip 58-59 and detailed discussion in The Da Vinci Hoax, pages 92-96). There is no “sexual” or “marriage” connotation implied nor can there be according to this Gospel. Marriage is defilement since it is fleshly. Gnosticism seeks to do away with the flesh, which is the opposite of New Testament teaching on the Incarnation, where God became flesh (cf. John 1:1,14; 1 John 4:1-3; 1 Tim 3:16; Col 2:9; etc), and man and woman “become one flesh” in marriage (cf. Matt 19:5-6; Mark 10:8; Eph 5:31; Genesis 2:23-24).
Let’s also consider the end of the Gospel of Thomas, found on the previous page from the Gospel of Philip in the volume edited by Robinson:
“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ” (Gospel of Thomas 114, from Robinson, page 138)
This “Gospel” rejects and repudiates The Da Vinci Code’s “sacred feminine” theology. Women must become men for eternal life? Did author Dan Brown even read these so-called Gospels? Apparently not!
I’ll end with John Paul II’s wonderful Letter to Women from 1995:
This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.
Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.
Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.
Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.
Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.
Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God’s love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a “spousal” relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.
Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.
— Pope John Paul II, Letter to Women (June 29, 1995)
Recommended Books and Articles:
A General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler / William Nix (Moody, 1986)
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg (Intervarsity, 1987)
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce (Intervarsity, 1984)
An Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond E. Brown (Doubleday, 1997)
The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce (Intervarsity, 1988)
The Nag Hammadi Library (The Gnostic Writings in English) edited by James M. Robinson (HarperSanFrancisco, 1990)
Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Writings by Majella Franzmann (T and T Clark, 1996)
Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? by Norman Golb (Scribner, 1995)
The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: their significance for understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity by James VanderKam and Peter Flint (HarperSanFrancisco, 2002)
The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities by Darrell Bock (Nelson Books, 2006)
Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church by Henry G. Graham (TAN Books, 1977)
What Faith Really Means: A Simple Explanation by Henry G. Graham (TAN Books, 1982)
Fiction (False Claims) on the Catholic Church
- the early Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican’s campaign was to eradicate pagan religions and convert the masses to Christianity, so the Church launched a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses, recasting their divine symbols as evil (DVC 37)
- the vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable: Egyptian sun disks became halos; Isis nursing Horus became the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus; virtually all elements of Catholic ritual — the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of ‘God-eating’ — were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions; nothing in Christianity is original (DVC 232)
- at the Council of Nicaea many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon — the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus; establishing Christ’s divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base (DVC 233)
- Knights who claimed to be ‘searching for the chalice’ were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned nonbelievers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine (DVC 239)
- the early Church feared that if the lineage were permitted to grow, the secret of Jesus and Magdalene would eventually surface and challenge the fundamental Catholic doctrine — that of a divine Messiah who did not consort with women or engage in sexual union (DVC 257)
- Rome has been seeking the Grail for centuries, has killed to protect itself, has wanted to destroy the documents that reveal the great deception; the Church’s version of the Christ story is inaccurate, the greatest story ever told is, in fact, the greatest story ever sold (DVC 266-267, 295)
- the Church has two thousand years of experience pressuring those who threaten to unveil its lies; since the days of Constantine, the Church has successfully hidden the truth about Mary Magdalene and Jesus (DVC 407)
- the Church may no longer employ crusaders to slaughter non-believers, but their influence is no less persuasive, no less insidious, the Church has a precedent of murder when it comes to silencing the Sangreal (DVC 407)
Response (Truth): Good to see Dan Brown admits the “Roman Catholic Church” and “the Vatican” goes back to the fourth century or even earlier. That’s more than many fundamentalist Christians who also oppose Catholicism will admit. The secular historian Will Durant agrees:
“If art is the organization of materials, the Roman Catholic Church is among the most imposing masterpieces of history. Through nineteen centuries, each heavy with crisis, she has held her faithful together, following them with her ministrations to the ends of the earth, forming their minds, molding their morals, encouraging their fertility, solemnizing their marriages, consoling their bereavements, lifting their momentary lives into eternal drama, harvesting their gifts, surviving every heresy and revolt, and patiently building again every broken support of her power.” (Durant, from “The Progress of Christianity” in Story of Civilization: The Age of Faith [volume 4], page 44).
Technically the Church is not the “Roman Catholic Church” since there are both eastern (Greek) and western (Latin) rites — the official name is simply the Catholic Church (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 830ff), called such since the time of St. Ignatius of Antioch early in the 2nd century AD. Also, the “Vatican” did not exist at the time of Constantine; as Carl Olson points out, it was mostly “swamp land” in the fourth century. The Vatican (and its “power base” DVC page 233-234) did not become the official residence of the papacy until the 14th century (The Da Vinci Hoax, page 34).
The Catholic Church is accused again of a “smear campaign,” of eradicating and forbidding pagan religions, at the same time of copying pagan religions (a seeming contradiction), of subjugating, banishing, burning women and nonbelievers, of hiding the truth, of lying, killing, murdering, deceiving, etc. So many anti-Catholic accusations, I’ll just deal with these briefly. For more detailed responses, see the recommended books and articles below. The following material on the supposed “pagan parallels” to Catholic teaching is adapted from Carl Olson’s original article on The Da Vinci Code in Envoy Magazine.
The halo (or nimbus) found in Christian art was used by a number of pre-Christian cultures, including the Greeks and Romans. For example, Roman emperors were depicted on coins with radiantly lit heads. Christians gradually appropriated this cultural element and used it for Christian art. Moses’ face radiated light after he came down from Mount Sinai (Exod 34:29-35) and Jesus’ face at the Transfiguration “shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt 17:2). The use of halos in Christian iconography is simply the Church recognizing the usefulness of an artistic motif.
The pagan mystery religions were quite different from Christianity in significant ways: they were based on an annual vegetation cycle; they stressed esoteric or hidden knowledge; they emphasized emotional ecstasy over doctrine; their central goal was mystical experience. They were also very syncretistic and had little regard for an established teaching or belief system — contrary to the apostolic tradition (2 Thess 2:15; 1 Tim 6:20-21; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2 Tim 2:2) so intensely guarded by the early Christians. There is also a sharp contrast between the mythological character of pagan mystery religions and the historical character of the Gospels and the New Testament (see above The Bible).
The image of a nursing mother is hardly unique to one religion since all cultures have mothers and children. One of the earliest pictures of Mary is a late second-century fresco found on a wall of the catacombs of Priscilla in Rome, mentioned by Pope John Paul II in a general audience on May 23, 1990. The Madonna and Child image has been depicted in numerous ways throughout history, often reflecting the culture of the respective painters or sculptors.
The word miter (or mitre) is derived from the Greek mitra, meaning “turban” or “headband.” It is the liturgical head-dress and part of the insignia of the bishop, and it didn’t appear in the West until the middle of the tenth century. It was not used by bishops in the East until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In the eastern Churches it appears to be derived from the crowns worn by Byzantine Emperors; in the West or Latin Church it is a variation of unofficial hat, the camelaucum, worn by the Pope in processions. In neither case is the mitre connected with pagan mystery religions.
There are over three hundred references to altars in the Old Testament. The first Christians, who were all Jewish, would hardly see the concept of an altar as new. The altar in the Temple was a focal point of the Jewish religion, and there are several references to altars in the New Testament (Matt 5:23-24; 23:18-20; Luke 1:11; Hebrews 13:10; Rev 6:9; 8:3-5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:8; 16:7; etc). Altars became a part of early Christian worship and celebration of the Eucharist with many references found in St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 AD), Tertullian (c. 200), St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250), etc.
A doxology is simply a hymn or ascription of praise and glory (from doxa = glory + logos = word). Virtually all religions have statements about the glory and power of a deity, reflecting the natural human desire to recognize what is sacred. In historic Christianity, there are three types of doxology: the Great, the Less, and the Metrical Forms, and the language of the doxologies (e.g. “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace….”) are taken directly from the New Testament, and reflect the unique beliefs of Christians.
“God-eating” is likely an appeal to Mithraism since it was the only mystery religion that celebrated anything resembling Holy Communion. The Christian’s sacramental outlook differed in several respects: initiates in those cults were not baptized into the name of the Savior (god or goddess), and the Christian Eucharist was strongly connected to a life of holiness and purity (1 Cor 11:23-29), while in the Mystery cults initiation was an end in itself despite any ethical considerations. In the Mithras cult, the god does not die, but is a “savior-god” by virtue of killing a bull. Although at higher stages in the cult, the members participated in a sacred meal of bread and water (or possibly wine), there is no indication that those participating believed they were engaging in “God-eating.”
The Jewish character and context of the Passover Meal, the Last Supper, and the Eucharist are the essential elements that shape the Christian understanding of the sacrament and ritual — not pagan rites.
As Amy Welborn concludes: “There is no evidence to suggest, as Brown does, a direct adaptation of the fundamentals of Christian thought and practice from pagan mystery religions. The roots of Christianity are in Judaism.” (De-Decoding Da Vinci, page 90). Carl Olson adds: “…there is little or no evidence that most pagan mystery religions such as the Egyptian cult of Isis and Osiris or the cult of Mithras existed in the forms described in their books prior to the mid-first century….much of the existing evidence indicates that the third- and fourth-century beliefs and practices of certain pagan mystery religions are read back into the first-century beliefs of Christians….” (The Da Vinci Hoax, page 145, which cites the work of Ronald Nash, Bruce Metzger, and others).
Many of the claims that Catholicism and Christianity “copied” from ancient pagan deities comes from Kersey Graves infamous 19th century book The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. Even atheists like Richard Carrier rejects Graves history and “parallels” as poor scholarship: “Most scholars immediately recognize many of his findings as unsupported and dismiss Graves as useless. After all, a scholar who rarely cites a source isn’t useful to have as a reference even if he is right….A very helpful discussion of related methodological problems by renowned scholar Bruce Metzger is also well worth reading (“Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity” 2002)…In general, even when the evidence is real, it often only appears many years after Christianity began, and thus might be evidence of diffusion in the other direction.” (from Carrier, Kersey Graves and The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors)
No doubt the early Christians were influenced by paganism and sometimes used the same terms and motifs as their pagan neighbors. However, the success of the Christian religion was impossible for pagans to ignore, and conversely some of them borrowed Christian ideas in their rituals and practices.
As explained earlier, while the Council of Nicaea did make many administrative decisions, that Jesus was divine was not one of them, since the teaching that Jesus is Lord, God, and Son of God (in the New Testament and the early Fathers) was clearly believed for hundreds of years before Nicaea (see above Jesus Christ).
The “fundamental Catholic doctrine” is not that Jesus was celibate. The fundamental Catholic doctrine is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again for our salvation and justification (1 Cor 15:1-8; Rom 4:22-25). That is the basic Christian gospel. The celibacy of Jesus follows from the theological teaching of Christ as the bridegroom to His Church, the Bride (Eph 5:20-33; see above Jesus Christ). The truth about Jesus and Mary Magdalene is not hidden, and is very easy to find; one simply has to read the canonical Gospels (see above Mary Magdalene).
Jesus indeed consorted with and elevated the women of His day who were some of His closest followers, but He chose twelve men to be His apostles, the leaders in His Church, with St. Peter as the head and rock upon which His Church is built (Matt 10:2ff; 16:18f). And as for supposed matriarchical societies ruled by women or “goddesses” there is no evidence such existed, so the Catholic Church could hardly have banished or forbidden such things. Critics Garlow / Jones in Cracking Da Vinci’s Code cite sociologist Steven Goldberg:
“The point is that authority and leadership are, and always have been, associated with the male in every society, and I refer to this when I say that patriarchy is universal and that there has never been a matriarchy….the findings of the past 50 years failed to include a single shred of evidence that such matriarchies had ever existed and demonstrated the inability of all such theories to deal with reality.” (Steven Goldberg, Dept of Sociology at City College, City University of New York, cited in Garlow / Jones, page 61). “[Margaret] Mead acknowledged that ‘It is true…that all the claims so glibly made about societies ruled by women are nonsense. We have no reason to believe that they ever existed.’ ” (from Steven Goldberg, Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance [Open Court, 1993], cited in Garlow / Jones, page 61)
Amy Welborn adds: “….the ideology driving these conclusions [for an ancient matriarchy], the ambiguous nature of these purported artifacts, and the discovery of weapons and clear evidence of traditional gender-based division of labor in many of these sites, has driven a stake into the myth of the Mother Goddess. There is no evidence to suggest that such an era ever existed.” (De-Coding Da Vinci, page 74).
Subjugated women? Forbidden reverence for the sacred feminine? Hello?
Has Dan Brown not heard of Catholic and Orthodox hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary?
|Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us O Holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
(Hail Holy Queen, the Salve Regina)
|Hail, O you, through whom Joy will shine forth!
Hail, O you, through whom the curse will disappear!
Hail, O Restoration of the Fallen Adam!
Hail, O Redemption of the Tears of Eve!
Hail, O Peak above the reach of human thought!
Hail, O Depth even beyond the sight of angels!
Hail, O you who have become a Kingly Throne!
Hail, O you who carry Him Who Carries All!
Hail, O Star who manifest the Sun!
Hail, O Womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Hail, O you through whom creation is renewed!
Hail, O you through whom the Creator becomes a Babe!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!
(The Akathistos hymn, Byzantine prayer to the Virgin Mary)
To show this is not limited to Catholic or Orthodox piety, the original Protestant Reformers had some things to say about her. Martin Luther preached on the Feast of the Visitation (July 2, 1532) after his break with Rome:
“She, the Lady above heaven and earth, must have a heart so humble that she might have no shame in washing the swaddling clothes or preparing a bath for St. John the Baptist, like a servant girl. What humility! It would surely have been more just to have arranged for her a golden coach, pulled by 4,000 horses, and to cry and proclaim as the carriage proceeded: ‘Here passes the woman who is raised far above all women, indeed above the whole human race.’ ”
French Reformed pastor Charles Drelincourt (who well represents the Protestant Reformed/Calvinist tradition of the 17th century) wrote:
“We do not simply believe that God has favoured the holy and blessed Virgin more than all the Patriarchs and the Prophets, but also that He has exalted her above all Seraphim. The angels can only qualify as servants of the Son of God, the creatures and workmanship of his hands; but the holy Virgin is not only the servant and the creature but also the Mother of this great and living God.” (see these quotations in Calvinist theologian Max Thurian’s study Mary, Mother of All Christians)
The Blessed Mother is not a “goddess” in Catholic and Orthodox Marian piety and devotion. She surpasses the pagan “myths” of so-called “goddesses.” The Blessed Virgin Mary is the preeminent saint, the Mother of God the Son (Theotokos), the first believing Christian and therefore first member of the Church. She is the most blessed of all women (Luke 1:42) and all generations will call her blessed (Luke 1:48) since she is a perfect model, as a human creature, of Christian holiness and obedience to the Lord. Because of her loving obedience and cooperation in the Incarnation which brought the Savior into the world, by her present prayer and intercession in heaven, she is called the Co-Redemptrix of humanity and Mediatrix of all graces and Queen of Heaven in Catholic teaching, among other honorific titles.
She is highly honored; in fact the most highly honored human creature in Christianity is a woman. And Dan Brown forgets to mention her in The Da Vinci Code? A glaring omission!
“She, who is the Cosmopolitan Woman, gives us the Cosmopolitan Man, for which giving all generations shall call her blessed [Luke 1:48]. She was the inspiration to womanhood…because of a transcendence in function that made her superior to a man, inasmuch as she could encompass a man, as Isaias foretold [Isaiah 7:14; 9:6] . Great men we need….but we need women still more: women like Mary of Cleophas, who will raise sons to lift up white hosts to a Heavenly Father; woman like Magdalene, who will take hold of the tangled skeins of a seemingly wrecked and ruined life and weave out of them the beautiful tapestry of saintliness and holiness; and women, above all, like Mary [the Blessed Mother], the Lady of Equity, who will leave the lights and glamors of the world for the shades and shadows of the Cross, where saints are made. When women of this kind return to save the world with equity, then we shall toast them, we shall salute them, not as ‘the modern woman, once our superior and now our equal’ but as the Christian woman closest to the Cross on Good Friday and first at the Tomb on Easter morn.” (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God, page 182)
Recommended Books and Articles:
Catechism of the Catholic Church (Image, 1995 paperback, 1997 revised from the Latin)
A History of the Church by Philip Hughes (several volumes)
The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils by Philip Hughes (1961)
Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church by H.W. Crocker III (Prima Lifestyles, 2001)
The Faith of the Early Fathers edited by William Jurgens (The Liturgical Press, 3 volumes)
Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero (Ignatius Press, 1999)
De-Coding Da Vinci by Amy Welborn, chapters “The Age of the Goddess?” and “Stolen Gods? Christianity and Mystery Religions”
The Da Vinci Hoax by Olson / Miesel, chapter “Constantine, Paganism, and Nicaea”
Cracking Da Vinci’s Code by Garlow / Jones, chapter “Women are More Sacred and Feminine than the ‘Sacred Feminine’ ”
Does Christianity Squash Women?: A Christian Looks at Womanhood by Rebecca Jones (Broadman and Holman, 2005)
Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life by Johnnette Benkovic (Charis Books, 1998)
Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism by Donna Steichen (Ignatius Press, 1991)
Inquisition by Edward Peters (Univ of CA Press, 1989)
The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision by Henry Kamen (Yale Univ Press, 1998)
Council of Nicaea (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Council of Nicaea (Wikipedia)
A History of the Council of Nicaea by Philip Hughes
Decrees of the First Council of Nicaea edited by Norman Tanner
Catholic Church (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Catholic Church (Wikipedia)
Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions? by Ronald Nash
www.Catholic.com apologetics site of Catholic Answers (articles, radio programs, books, discussion forums)
see especially two issues of This Rock (May/June 2005, May/June 2006) on Jesus/Buddha, Da Vinci Code, and pagan religions
www.Tektonics.org apologetics site by J.P Holding (specializes in pseudo-Christian “parallels” and “myths”)
Fiction (False Claims) on the Holy Grail
- Holy Grail is the literal meaning of Sangreal; the phrase derives from the French Sangraal, which evolved to Sangreal, and was eventually split into two words, San Greal = Holy Grail; the word Sangreal derived from San Greal — or Holy Grail, but in its most ancient form, the word Sangreal was divided as Sang Real which literally meant Royal Blood (DVC 162, 250)
- according to the Priory of Sion, the Holy Grail is not a cup at all; the Grail legend — that of a chalice — is actually an ingeniously conceived allegory; the Holy Grail is in fact a person (DVC 162, 236)
- the Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church (DVC 238)
- Legends of chivalric quests for the lost Grail were in fact stories of forbidden quests to find the lost sacred feminine (DVC 238)
- the legend of the Holy Grail is a legend about royal blood; when Grail legend speaks of ‘the chalice that held the blood of Christ’ it speaks of Mary Magdalene — the female womb that carried Jesus’ royal bloodline (DVC 249)
- the quest for the Holy Grail is literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene; a journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the lost sacred feminine (DVC 257)
Response (Truth): None of what Brown’s characters say in his novel about the Holy Grail is correct. The Holy Grail or legendary sacred vessel is indeed identified with the “chalice” of the Eucharist or the “dish” of the paschal lamb, and has been the theme of famous medieval romances.
The generally accepted origin of the word “Grail” is that given by the Cistercian chronicler Helinandus (died c. 1230 AD), who mentions a hermit’s vision (from c. 717 AD) concerning the vessel used by our Lord at the Last Supper. The hermit wrote a Latin book simply called “Gradale” which is the original term:
“Now in French, Gradalis or Gradale means a dish [scutella], wide and somewhat deep, in which costly viands are wont to be served to the rich successively [gradatim], one morsel after another. In popular speech it is also called ‘Graalz‘ because it is pleasing [grata] and acceptable to him eating therein.” (Migne PL 212:814, cited in the New Catholic Encyclopedia [NCE, 2003, 2nd edition], volume 7, page 26 on “Holy Grail”)
The original medieval Latin word gradale became in Old French graal, greal, or greel, which is where we get the English word grail. The explanation of San greal as sang real (kingly or royal blood) was not current until the later Middle Ages (NCE, volume 7, page 26). This “holy blood” never referred to a “royal bloodline” or the “person” of Mary Magdalene, but the literal blood of Christ transformed in the chalice or dish of the Holy Eucharist and Catholic Mass, or that saving blood of Christ shed in His sacrifice on the cross for our sins. That is why the quest for the Holy Grail relic was so noble and precious.
While originally independent, the Grail legends are closely connected with that of Perceval and King Arthur. The Perceval legend is part of the Arthurian legend. The great body of Grail romances developed between 1180 and 1240, with little being added after the 13th century. Most of these romances are in French, but there are versions in German, English, Norwegian, Italian, and Portuguese (some of which are adaptations of the French). These may be classed into “Quest” and “Early History” versions (NCE, volume 7, page 26-28).
Of the Quest versions are the Perceval or Conte del Graal of Chretien de Troyes, a vast poetic compilation of some 60,000 verses composed between 1180 and 1240. Of the Early History versions, the oldest extent is the metrical Joseph or Roman de l’estoire dou Graal composed between 1170 and 1212 by Robert de Boron.
In the Early History versions the grail is invested with the greatest sanctity; it is the dish from which Christ ate the paschal lamb with his disciples and which passed into possession of Joseph of Arimathea, to be used by him to gather the Precious Blood from Christ’s body on the cross. It becomes identified also with the chalice of the Eucharist.
The origin of the legend of the Grail is obscure, and scholars hold various views. There are Oriental, Celtic, and purely Christian origins claimed.
The most detailed history of the Grail is found in the Grand Saint Graal, also called L’Estoire del Saint Graal, a bulky French prose romance from the first half of the 13th century, where it says Christ himself presented the book containing this history to a pious hermit. This version is followed by a Merlin and a Queste del Saint Graal, well known to English readers since it was adapted in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur.
From Richard Barber, one of Britain’s leading authorities on medieval history, in a book published by Harvard University Press (2004), we learn the full story of the Grail and its legends. They are associated with the chalice of the Last Supper, the Eucharist and Catholic Mass, and the sacrifice of Christ. Needless to say, nothing about the “person” of Mary Magdalene or a “sacred feminine” appears in any scholarly works on the Grail.
“…Malory learned from his French source that the Grail is more than the container for the Holy Blood: it is the original of all chalices in which the miracle of the transformation of wine into blood occurs. It is the dish of the Last Supper, and it is for this reason that it becomes the focal point of the knights’ quest. It is the most precious of all relics, tangible evidence of Christ’s sacrifice for mankind….For Malory, then, the Holy Grail and the Eucharist were closely linked, and both the images of the Trinity and of transubstantiation were understood by him….In the power of his language and the sharp focus of his narrative, he has created the supreme version of the medieval portrayal of the Grail….The Holy Grail exists in the borderland between orthodox doctrine and lay devotion, and it reflects the religious enthusiasm for relics, and for the Eucharist as the living relic of Christ and object of intense desire and adoration….there can be no doubt that the image which the authors [such as in Galahad’s vision] had in mind was the central mystery of the performance of the Mass.” (Richard Barber, The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief, pages 217, 221, 222)
Concerning the attitude of the Catholic Church, it would seem such a distinctively Christian legend would find official favor, but it has not. Except Helinandus (above), clerical writers do not mention the Grail (the apocryphal Joseph of Arimathea story and other legends were popularly adopted), and it was ignored since it contained elements the Church could not approve. It derives from apocryphal sources, not canonical Scripture, and some of the claims for the Grail’s sanctity were extravagant. The whole tradition concerning the Grail is of late origin (see NCE, volume 7, page 29).
Recommended Books and Articles:
The History of the Holy Grail by Henry Lovelich (Kraus Reprint, 1981, orig 1874, 1875)
The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol by Roger Sherman Loomis (Columbia Univ Press, 1963)
The Grail Legend by Emma Jung and Marie-Louise van Franz (Sigo Press / Conventure, 1986)
The Grail: A Casebook by Dhira B. Mahoney (Garland Publishing, 2000)
The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief by Richard Barber (Harvard Univ Press, 2004)
The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend by Alan Lupack (Oxford Univ Press, 2005) esp. chapter 4 “The Holy Grail“
Fiction (False Claims) on the Priory of Sion
- 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 (DVC 1)
- “Da Vinci” presided over the Priory between 1510 and 1519 as the brotherhood’s Grand Master (DVC 113)
- the Priory has a well-documented history of reverence for the sacred feminine and tradition of perpetuating goddess worship (DVC 113, 124)
- during their years in Jerusalem, the Priory learned of a stash of hidden documents buried beneath the ruins of Herod’s temple, which had been built atop the earlier ruins of Solomon’s Temple (DVC 158)
- previous Priory Grand Masters had also been distinguished public figures with artistic souls; proof of that fact had been uncovered years ago in Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale in papers that became known as Les Dossiers Secrets (DVC 206)
- every Priory historian and Grail buff has read the Dossiers which have been authenticated by many specialists and incontrovertibly confirmed what historians had suspected for a long time: Priory Grand Masters included Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and, more recently, Jean Cocteau, the famous Parisian artist (DVC 206)
- the Priory of Sion to this day still worships Mary Magdalene as the Goddess, the Holy Grail, the Rose, and the Divine Mother (DVC 255)
Response (Truth): There is no “well-documented” history of an ancient secret society called the “Priory of Sion” since it is a well-known hoax created in 1956 (and later embellished in the 1960s) by convicted con man and “confidence trickster” Pierre Plantard. It has no connection to Mary Magdalene, the Holy Grail, or any “goddess worship.” Here are the relevant facts on the hoax that is Dan Brown’s (and Pierre Plantard’s) “Priory of Sion” (information based on the detailed studies of Italian researcher Massimo Introvigne of CESNUR) :
- Certain documents called Les Dossiers secrets de Henri Lobineau were not “discovered” but rather deposited at the Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library) of Paris in 1967, not in 1975.
- The documents are not “parchments” but rather texts on how to interpret certain parchments; the parchments were never at the National Library of Paris, but were handed over by Pierre Plantard (1920-2000), along with a manuscript he wrote, to an author of popular books about “the mysteries of France” by the name of Gérard de Sède (1921-2004).
- De Sède enhanced and published them as L’Or de Rennes ou la Vie insolite de Bérenger Saunière, curé de Rennes-le-Château (Julliard, Paris, 1967).
- The parchments seem to be in possession of a controversial French author, Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who claims to have received them from Plantard in the 1970s, while Les Dossiers secrets can still be found at the National Library in Paris.
- There is no doubt that both Les Dossiers secrets and the parchments are false documents, compiled in the year 1967, and all the people involved in the falsification have admitted it.
- De Sède, who published them first, twenty years later defined them as “apocryphal” inspired by a “market sensationalism” (Rennes-le-Château. Le dossier, les impostures, les phantasmes, les hypothèses, Robert Laffont, Paris, 1988, page 107).
- According to de Sède, the parchments were fabricated by Philippe de Chérisey (1925-1985), an impoverished French marquis who was a professional TV actor and devotee of enigmatic riddles.
- De Chérisey has repeatedly admitted to the fabrication of these parchments, both in letters and published texts (Circuit, The Author, Liège 1968; L’Or de Rennes pour un Napoléon, The Author, Paris, 1975; L’Énigme de Rennes, The Author, Paris 1978).
- As early as October 8, 1967 (confirmed by a letter from his lawyer), de Chérisey began working (without success) on getting paid, as had been agreed, by Pierre Plantard and Gérard de Sède.
- Even the third man involved in the trick, Pierre Plantard, admitted that the documents were false: in April of 1989, in the first issue of the second series of his journal, Vaincre, Plantard granted an interview and declared that Les Dossier secrets (which are signed by a certain “Philippe Toscan du Plantier”) are false documents fabricated by Philippe de Chérisey and by Philippe Toscan du Plantier, the latter being, he claimed, a young disciple of his who operated under the influence of the drug LSD; it is also possible the latter “Philippe” did not exist and he was named after the well known figure in the French movie industry Daniel Toscan du Plantier, in which case the co-author of Les Dossiers secrets with Chérisey was Plantard himself.
- The essential point is that all three authors of the Dossier secrets and other “documents” deposited at the National Library of Paris have admitted, publicly and in writing, that they were false documents.
- According to Les Dossiers secrets de Henri Lobineau (a name invented by the three tricksters) the legitimate heirs to the throne of France to this very day are still the Merovingians, dethroned in 751 by the Carolingians; Plantard claimed they have surviving descendants the last of which in 1967 was himself, and therefore he is the only true contender for the King of France.
- In order to protect the Merovingian descendants from their enemies, a secret society was formed, the “Priory of Sion” which — according to the false documents deposited at the National Library of Paris — had as “Grand Masters” certain alchemists and esoteric personalities such as Nicolas Flamel (1330-1418) who is a historical person well known to “Harry Potter” readers; Robert Fludd (1574-1637) who is principal promoter of the Rosicrucian legend; Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654); and scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519); and Isaac Newton (1642-1727).
- The last of the Grand Masters would have been the writers Charles Nodier (1780-1844); Victor Hugo (1802-1885); musician Claude Debussy (1862-1918); poet and novelist Jean Cocteau (1889-1963); and Msgr. Francois Ducaud-Bourget (1897-1984), a priest with ties to the schismatic Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991).
- Ducaud-Bourget supposedly transferred the position to Plantard.
- It was also claimed that (by chance) the truth concerning the “Priory of Sion” and the famous parchments were hidden in the parish Church of a small French village, Rennes-le-Château, and were supposedly “discovered” in 1897 by the local parish priest, Berenger Saunière (1852-1917).
- Saunière, supposedly thanks to knowledge of the “secret,” came into contact with the esoteric and political milieu of the time and became incredibly wealthy (the source of his wealth turned out to be his dishonest “trafficking” in Masses).
- This “Priory of Sion” does not mention anything about a supposed relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene; this idea originated between 1969 and 1970, when an English actor, Henry Soskin (later known as Henry Lincoln, co-author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail), mostly known for his role in the TV series The Avengers, became interested in the “Priory of Sion.”
- Lincoln re-wrote the story of L’Or de Rennes and adapted it for a British audience, which aired as three documentaries by the BBC between 1972 and 1979 and later in a book published in 1982 with the help of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (Jonathan Cape, London).
- Since Lincoln realized that the identity of the person who was supposedly “the legitimate heir to the throne of France” was not very interesting for his British audience, he meshed a story published by Robert Ambelain (1907-1997), whom he had met through Plantard; in 1970 Ambelain had published Jésus ou Le mortel secret des templiers (Robert Laffont, Paris), in which he affirmed that Jesus Christ had a partner and identified this “concubine” as “Salome.”
- Lincoln incorporated Ambelain’s story about the marriage of Jesus with that of the Merovingians suggested by Plantard, and “revealed” that the Merovingians protected by the “Priory of Sion” were important, not because they were the heirs to the throne of France, but because they were the descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene (better suited than “Salome” since Magdalene had connections to the parish church in Rennes-le-Château and with Medieval legends that she eventually settled and died in southern France, although without “husband” and children which were never part of these legends).
- Lincoln knew the documents were false as well not only because in the French milieu of the esoteric organizations into which he was introduced more or less everybody knew they were false, but also because Philippe de Chérisey had told him so in letters (some reproduced in Pierre Jarnac, Les Archives de Rennes-le-Château. Tome 2, Belisane, Nice, 1988).
In a pro-Dan Brown, pro-Da Vinci Code documentary “Da Vinci Code Decoded” (produced by the “Disinformation Company”) author Henry Lincoln says:
“I understand that the great part of the readership of The Da Vinci Code, this thriller, believe that it is based in fact, because there exists in the French National Library, an assemblage of documents which are known as The Dossiers Secrets, the secret dossier. That because they’re there, they are reliable. They’re not….the documents are proof of absolutely nothing….they should not be looked upon as reliable evidence, because they just aren’t….[on Plantard and the “Priory of Sion”] we know almost nothing. The demonstrable and provable facts are very, very few. All the rest is hearsay evidence, guesswork, and interpretation. None of the books that have been written, including my own, have any validity whatsoever.”
Clive Prince, co-author of The Templar Revelation (another Dan Brown source), adds during the same documentary:
“As the person behind the Priory of Sion, and the material that he had put out in the 1960s, and 70s, Pierre Plantard is obviously an important figure. A lot of the material that Pierre Plantard was responsible for is provably false, it is a hoax.”
Dan Brown got his story about the “bloodline” of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the “Priory of Sion” connection from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (titled simply Holy Blood, Holy Grail in the U.S.) and co-authors Baigent and Leigh subsequently filed a lawsuit for plagiarism (which Dan Brown defeated in court); Brown got his ideas on Leonardo and “codes” primarily from The Templar Revelation by Picknett/Prince. All of these authors discount Pierre Plantard’s “Priory of Sion” documents as a hoax.
Since so many people knew about the dubious origin of the documents on which his story was based, in 1986 Lincoln and his associates tried to disconnect the story of the “Priory of Sion” from Plantard with the book The Messianic Legacy (Jonathan Cape, London).
Further facts on a modern “Priory of Sion” are as follows:
- A modern “Priory of Sion” does exist since it was founded on May 7, 1956 at Annemasse by Pierre Plantard with statutes duly filed with the Under-Prefect of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois with the complete name of Priory of Sion — C.I.R.C.U.I.T (Cavalry of Institution and Catholic Rule and of Independent Traditionalist Union).
- Article 3 of the statutes give an account of the origins of the name, which is derived not from Jerusalem but from Mount Zion (Mont Sion in French), that is a hill near Annemasse, where they were supposed to construct “a Priory which would be a center of investigation, meditation, rest and prayer” for what was intended to be one of the many small esoteric orders that were common at that time in France.
- This “Priory of Sion” was built along the model of the other (failed) organizations that Plantard had founded since he was 17 years old: Union Française, Rénovation Nationale Française and Alpha Galates; the common characteristics between these organizations and the “Priory of Sion” were that they were all political in nature.
- Plantard was originally interested in the monarchist movement Action Française, although at Annemasse it was involved in promoting low-income housing.
- The fact is they never had more than a dozen members.
- The “Priory of Sion” founded in 1956 at Annemasse in a sense still exists as a tiny organization within the larger subculture of esoteric societies of France. It was transferred to Plantard’s son, although it is now Gino Sandri, a well-known figure in the French esoteric milieu, who keeps alive Plantard’s 1956 creation.
- Pierre Plantard himself died in obscurity in 2000.
André Bonhomme, one of the four founding members of the Priory of Sion in Annemasse in 1956, gave this statement to the BBC in 1996, stating it was just a club of friends:
“The Priory of Sion doesn’t exist anymore. We were never involved in any activities of a political nature. It was four friends who came together to have fun. We called ourselves the Priory of Sion because there was a mountain by the same name close-by. I haven’t seen Pierre Plantard in over 20 years and I don’t know what he’s up to but he always had a great imagination. I don’t know why people try to make such a big thing out of nothing.”
There is no connection between this “Priory of Sion” and one supposedly founded by Godefroy de Bouillon (1060-1100) as claimed in the falsely “salted” documents Les Dossiers secrets de Henri Lobineau and mentioned as so-called “Fact” by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code (DVC, page 1).
During the 1960’s, as Plantard was preparing the Dossier secrets hoax, he borrowed the name “Priory of Sion” from a hill in Annemasse where he intended to build a center for spiritual retreats — but he also discovered in the history of the Crusades (which often inspired his fantasies) an “Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion” (note: Abbey, not “Priory”) founded in 1099 in Jerusalem by Godefroy de Bouillon, who later became King of Jerusalem after the First Crusade. “Our Lady” is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, not St. Mary Magdalene.
The community of monks of this Abbey (whose superior is called an “Abbot,” a “Prior” is superior of a Priory) in Palestine continued to exist until 1291, when it was destroyed by the advancing Muslims. The few surviving monks took refuge in Sicily, where their community ended sometime in the 14th century. This was a very normal community of Catholic monks with no ties to the Knights Templar, Mary Magdalene, “goddess worship” or esoteric secrets. Plantard was simply using their name and nothing more.
The names of the supposed “Grand Masters” of the Priory of Sion can (coincidentally) be found in texts by French leaders of AMORC (the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis). Many esoteric societies established from the 18th to the 20th century listed mythical “genealogies” that would include the Knights Templar, Noah, Saint John or King Solomon, etc as well as famous people of literature and art. Most of their members are aware of the merely symbolic character of these “genealogies.”
There is absolutely no evidence for any of Brown’s contentions regarding an ancient “Priory of Sion” of goddess worshippers or Jesus-Magdalene “bloodline” protectors. We do know with certainty by whom, when, where and how this legend of the “Priory of Sion” was invented. From the April 2006 CBS “60 Minutes” expose of the “Priory of Sion” and Pierre Plantard hoax:
“….Plantard gave the Priory of Sion a fictitious pedigree by drawing up that list of Grand Masters and depositing it in the Bibliotheque Nationale. [Historian Claude] Charlot says that apart from that list, no historian has found any evidence that the Priory of Sion existed before Plantard set up his version in 1956. ‘In other words, all that Plantard tells us, or what other people tell us about the Priory of Sion — that the Grand Master was Victor Hugo or Leonardo da Vinci — is sheer invention,’ says Charlot. The Priory of Sion, says Charlot, was just another figment of Plantard’s imagination.”
Recommended Books and Articles:
The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château — A Mystery Solved by Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood (Sutton Publishing, 2005)
most other reliable books on the “Priory” and Pierre Plantard are written in French
The original 1956 “Priory of Sion” founding papers in French (PDF)
The first issue of Plantard’s C.I.R.C.U.I.T. in French (PDF)
Will the Real ‘Priory of Sion’ Please Stand Up? by Massimo Introvigne
History and Myth of the ‘Priory of Sion’ by Massimo Introvigne
Priory of Sion (Wikipedia)
Facts, Theories, Mystery by Steven Mizrach
Priory of Sion Hoax by Robert Richardson
The Da Vinci Con by Laura Miller
Priory of Sion Exposed on CBS 60 Minutes
Priory of Sion Debunked by Paul Smith
see especially www.Priory-Of-Sion.com by researcher Paul Smith
Fiction (False Claims) on the Knights Templar
- the Priory of Sion created a military arm — a group of nine knights called the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, more commonly known as the Knights Templar (DVC 158)
- the idea of protection of pilgrims was the guise under which the Templars ran their mission; their true goal in the Holy Land was to retrieve the documents from beneath the ruins of the temple (DVC 158)
- nobody was certain whether the Knights had blackmailed the Vatican or whether the Church simply tried to buy the Knights’ silence, but Pope Innocent II issued an unprecedented papal bull that afforded the Knights Templar limitless power and declared them ‘a law unto themselves’ — an autonomous army independent of all interference from kings and prelates, both religious and political (DVC 159)
- by the 1300s, the Vatican sanction had helped the Knights amass so much power that Pope Clement V decided that something had to be done; working in concert with France’s King Philippe IV, the Pope devised an ingeniously planned sting operation to quash the Templars and seize their treasure, thus taking control of the secrets held over the Vatican (DVC 159)
- Pope Clement issued secret sealed orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe; Pope Clement had been asked by God to cleanse the earth by rounding up all the Knights and torturing them until they confessed their crimes against God; on that day, countless Knights were captured, tortured mercilessly, and finally burned at the stake as heretics (DVC 159-160)
- the Templars’ potent treasure trove of documents, which had apparently been their source of power, was Clement’s true objective; the documents had long since been entrusted to the Templars’ shadowy architects, the Priory of Sion (DVC 160)
- Pope Clement killed and interred hundreds of Knights Templar; many of them were burned at the stake and tossed unceremoniously into the Tiber River (DVC 338)
Response (Truth): Let’s start with what Dan Brown gets right on the Knights Templar: they existed as a powerful group of monk-knights; there were originally nine of them; they were named the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commili-tones Christi templi Salomonici). Everything else he gets wrong.
They were not created as a “military arm” of the “Priory of Sion” since such a Priory as described in Dan Brown’s novel did not exist (see above Priory of Sion). The Knights Templar were one of the first of 12 religious military orders of knighthood founded between 1100 and 1300 AD. It is generally accepted that the Burgundian knight, Hugh des Payens, and a knight from northern France, Godfrey of Saint-Omer, were its founders in 1119 AD (some sources suggest 1118, see Barber, page 5ff, and Lord, page 1ff for details).
The Order had been established in many kingdoms of Christendom. Gifts of money and property were lavished upon it by royal families, and spiritual gifts and privileges were bestowed by the popes. Because the Templars were defenders of the Church, they were exempt from paying tithes. At first only knights were admitted with no specific length of service required, but gradually the order began to admit three categories: knights and chaplains (priests) who generally joined for life, and sergeants consisting of wealthy bourgeois. For more than 100 years the Templars remained powerful, influential, and wealthy (see NCE, volume 13, page 803).
The protection of pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land was not a “guise” but is the exact reason they were founded according to the historical sources. William, Archbishop of Tyre (c. 1130 – 1190) wrote: “The first element of their profession, enjoined on them for the remission of their sins by the lord patriarch and the other bishops, was ‘that they should protect the roads and routes to the utmost of their ability against the ambushes of thieves and attackers, especially in regard to the safety of pilgrims.’ ” (Historia Rerum in Partibus Transmarinis Gestarum, book 12, chapter 7, cited in Barber, page 5-6). There is no evidence of “secret documents” hidden beneath the temple as the goal.
Pope Innocent II actually issued three papal bulls between 1139 and 1145, greeting the new Order of monk-knights with enthusiasm. Omne datum optimum (29 March 1139) approved the Templar Rule, took the Order under papal protection, granted free disposal of spoils of the infidel, permitted a chaplain in each house, and other housekeeping duties; Milites Templi (9 February 1143) awarded indulgences to benefactors of the Temple; Milicia Dei (7 April 1145) allowed the Order to build its own chapels, and bury its dead in their churchyards (Barber, page 8). They were also supported by the great St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) who wrote their rule patterned after his own Cistercians.
Pope Clement V did not plan any sinister “sting operation to quash the Templars” — the Templars demise was the fault of the ruthless king Philip IV (the Fair) of France. His motive was financial. The country was near bankruptcy and the Templars became quite prosperous through the donations of lands and rents from those they sought to protect. The reasons for these grants are described in charters such as those documented in Marquis D’Albon’s Cartulaire General de l’Ordre du Temple (see Lord, page 4ff). They were primarily personal and concerned with the spiritual health of the donor and the donor’s family, although grants were also made for the defense of the Holy Land. Again, there is no evidence of a “potent treasure trove of documents” as the source of their power.
It was the king’s soldiers (not the Pope’s) who ordered the Templars in France (not all of Europe) to be rounded up. They were not tortured and burned at the stake “on that day” but simply arrested. The reason for the arrests were trumped up charges made by Philip IV that were extracted by torture. As Barber notes in his Trial of the Templars: “It would now be difficult to argue, as some nineteenth century historians did, that the Templars were guilty of the accusations made against them by the regime of Philip the Fair, or that the confessions demonstrate anything more than the power of torture over the mental and physical resistance of all but the most extraordinary persons.” (Barber, page 243)
In addition, it was impossible for Pope Clement V to burn them as heretics and toss their ashes “unceremoniously into the Tiber River” since the Papacy at that time was located in Avignon, France (known as the “Avignon Papacy” 1305-1378). Rome (and the Tiber) was hundreds of miles away.
Eventually the Order was condemned as heretical based on false charges, and the Pope had no alternative but to dissolve the Templars. As noted by Barber, the trial and demise of the Templars can be explained by factors external to the Order, rather than any internal failings: the financial needs of Philip IV, the weakness of the Papacy after the defeat of Boniface VIII, the loss of Acre and its impact upon western Christiandom, and the chance that led Clement V to request (Grand Master) Jacques de Molay’s presence in France during one of the recurrent financial crises of Philip IV’s government (Barber, page 247).
For a scholarly history of the Templars, please visit a library. Or check out the two chapters in The Da Vinci Hoax written by Sandra Miesel, “The Real Templars” and “The Templar Myth.”
Recommended Books and Articles:
The Knights Templars by C.G. Addison (Longman, Brown, Green, 1853)
The Knights Templars: Their Rise and Fall by G.A. Campbell (Robert M. McBride, 1937)
The Knights Templar in England by Thomas W. Parker (Univ of Arizona Press, 1963)
The Templars in the Corona de Aragon by A.J. Forey (Oxford Univ Press, 1973)
The Trial of the Templars by Malcolm Barber (Cambridge Univ Press, 1978)
The Rule of the Templars (French text with English translation) by J.M. Upton-Ward (The Boydell Press, 1992)
The Knights Templar in Britain by Evelyn Lord (Pearson Education, 2002)
The Catalan Rule of the Templars by Judi Upton-Ward (The Boydell Press, 2003)
The Knights Templar: The History and Myths of the Legendary Military Order by Sean Martin (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004)
Fiction (False Claims) on the Merovingians
- Christ’s line grew quietly under cover in France until making a bold move in the fifth century when it intermarried with French royal blood and created a lineage known as the Merovingian bloodline (DVC 257)
- the Merovingians founded Paris which is why the Grail legend is so rich in France (DVC 257)
- the modern Priory of Sion has a threefold charge: the brotherhood must protect the Sangreal documents; they must protect the tomb of Mary Magdalene; and they must nurture and protect the bloodline of Christ — those few members of the royal Merovingian bloodline who have survived into modern times (DVC 258)
- only two direct lines of Merovingians remain: their family names are Plantard and Saint-Clair and both families live in hiding, probably protected by the Priory (DVC 260)
Response (Truth): The Merovingians are a family of Frankish origin which established an extensive kingdom in Gaul during the late 5th century AD, ruling until 751. They are named after Merovech, a legendary chieftain of the Salian Franks; the real founder of the dynasty was Clovis (r. 481-511), grandson of Merovech, whose succession as leader of the Salian Franks was by right of blood, giving the heirs of Merovech a sacral position (see NCE, volume 9, page 516).
The Merovingians did not found Paris; the city was founded by (and named after) the “Parisii” (Celtic Gauls) when they settled the area c. 250 BC. There is no evidence the Merovingian kings had anything to do with the Priory of Sion either which did not exist as Brown claims (see above Priory of Sion). There is no modern “Priory of Sion” with any charge to pass on anything to a “royal Merovingian bloodline.” There is no evidence the Merovingian bloodline survived after Pepin III who deposed the last Merovingian, Childeric III in 751. The Carolingians succeeded the Merovingians in the 8th century.
Brown’s ideas on this subject were taken from pseudo-historical books such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail. These claims originated with the fraudulent documents of Pierre Plantard salted into the National Library of Paris such as Genealogie des rois merovingiens (“a geneology of the Merovingian kings”) and Les descendants Merovingiens ou l’enigme du Razes Wisigoth (“the Merovingian descendants, or the enigma of the Visigothic Razes”) in his attempt to prove the bizarre claim that he was the “true king of France.” The Jesus-Magdalene “bloodline” concept was later combined with Plantard’s “Merovingian” fantasies by Henry Soskin (author Henry Lincoln). All of it is unsupportable and bogus history.
Recommended Books and Articles:
Before Germany and France: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World by Patrick J. Geary (Oxford Univ Press, 1988)
The Merovingian Kingdoms 450-751 by Ian Wood (Longman, 1994)
Settlement and Social Organization: The Merovingian Region of Metz by Guy Halsall (Cambridge Univ Press, 1995)
Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul A.D. 481-751 by Yitzhak Hen (E. J. Brill, 1995)
Late Merovingian France: History and Hagiography 640-720 by Paul Fouracre and Richard A. Gerberding (Manchester Univ Press, 1996)
Dreams, Visions, and Spiritual Authority in Merovingian Gaul by Isabel Moreira (Cornell Univ Press, 2000)
Fiction (False Claims) on Opus Dei
- the Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as ‘corporal mortification’ (DVC 1)
- Opus Dei is a Catholic Church (DVC 29)
- Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Pope himself (DVC 30)
- Opus Dei’s elevation occurred the same year the wealthy sect allegedly had transferred almost one billion dollars into the Vatican’s Institute for Religious Works — commonly known as the Vatican Bank — bailing it out of an embarrassing bankruptcy (DVC 40-41)
- Silas, an Opus Dei albino “monk” killed the only four people who knew where the keystone was hidden, and he had killed a nun inside Saint-Sulpice since “She was working against God! She scorned the work of Opus Dei!”….”the gun into which she [Sophie] was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino monk with long white hair; he looked at her with red eyes that radiated a frightening, disembodied quality; dressed in a wool robe with a rope tie, he resembled a medieval cleric” (DVC 166, 276)
Response (Truth): Opus Dei is perfectly capable of defending themselves (see recommended books and articles below), but I will give a brief description of what I have learned about them.
Opus Dei is Latin for “work of God.” It is called a personal prelature which is a type of jurisdiction within the Catholic Church. It is wrong to call them a “sect” or a “cult” or a “Catholic Church” or a “personal prelature of the Pope himself.” All members of Opus Dei are subject to their local Catholic bishop, who in turn are under the Pope. The overall leader of a personal prelature is called the “prelate.”
As has been stated repeatedly in response to the nonsense in Dan Brown’s novel, there are no monks in Opus Dei, neither albino, hunchback, cyclops, frightening, enormous, or otherwise. It is not an Order within the Catholic Church like the Jesuits, Dominicans, or Franciscans. It is primarily a lay organization helping individual Catholics live out their faith in God in their daily lives, while a few of its members are priests and bishops.
Opus Dei was founded by St. Josemarie Escriva in 1928 (he was canonized a saint under John Paul II’s papacy in 2002). His classic devotional book The Way (recently re-published by Doubleday) has been widely read and is how many are introduced to Opus Dei. There is no brainwashing, coercian, or dangerous practices unless one thinks living the faith in love (Gal 5:6), doing good (James 2:14-26), making sacrifices for holiness (Col 1:24; Rom 12:1; Heb 12:14), preaching the gospel and passing it on to others (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15) involves such things.
According to the Opus Dei FAQ in response to The Da Vinci Code: “Neither Opus Dei nor any of its members helped ‘bail out’ the Vatican bank. The Church authorities made Opus Dei a personal prelature in 1982 because they recognized that this new canonical category was a good fit for Opus Dei’s mission and structure….the personal prelature status is nothing special: it is simply one of several canonical categories the Church has for designating an institution that carries out special pastoral activities.”
However, Dan Brown is free to donate his recently acquired millions to Opus Dei or other Catholic charitable organizations such as Catholic Relief Services or Catholic Charities for helping those in need in the U.S. and internationally.
Corporal mortification is part of the Catholic doctrine of “redemptive suffering” where Christians identify with their Savior in suffering by making small sacrifices to increase in holiness and sanctification as part of His body, the Church. It has a long tradition within the historical Church and even non-Christian religions. Well known and beloved saints as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas More, St. Padre Pio, Blessed Mother Teresa, and the founder of Opus Dei all practiced forms of this discipline. “Mortification is by no means the centerpiece of the Christian life, but nobody can grow closer to God without it….Opus Dei emphasizes small sacrifices rather than extraordinary ones, in keeping with its spirit of integrating faith with secular life….Some Opus Dei members also make limited use of the cilice and discipline, types of mortification that have always had a place in the Catholic tradition because of their symbolic reference to Christ’s Passion.” (Opus Dei FAQ)
It is a biblical concept. Fasting is frequently recommended in the Bible (Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert, etc). The word “cilice” means “haircloth” — a French word, derived from the Latin cilicium and from the Greek word for “Cilicia.” In the Latin Vulgate, the word cilicium (or some variant) is quite prevalent, and frequently translated into English as “sackcloth” (synonym of haircloth). In the Old Testament, people would wear or sit upon haircloth and sackcloth for the purpose of fasting, mourning, lamenting, repenting and humility. Jesus continues this tradition, admonishing the residents of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum that the gentiles of Tyre and Sidon would use sackcloth in repentance of their sins (Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13). John the Baptist wears a garment of camel hair (Matt 3:4; Mark 1:6; cf. Rev 11:3). Other NT passages clearly teach the necessity of sacrifice and benefits of suffering for Christian sanctification and increasing in holiness:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1, all verses are Douay-Rheims translation)
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church…. (Colossians 1:24)
But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us: so also by Christ doth our comfort abound. Now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation: or whether we be exhorted, it is for your exhortation and salvation, which worketh the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer. That our hope for you may be steadfast: knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)
Christ therefore having suffered in the flesh, be you also armed with the same thought: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sins… (1 Peter 4:1)
Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who, having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God…Follow peace with all men and holiness: without which no man shall see God. (Hebrews 12:2,14)
Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then will he render to every man according to his works. (Matthew 16:24-27)