DaVinci Code ForumWilliam Lane Craig speaks in Georgia
Time : 01:07:30
William Lane Craig & Mike Licona at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Georgia. Topics covered include the divinity of Jesus, the formation of the Canon, early Christianity, and other issues.
MODERATOR: On May 19 Sony Pictures is going to release a movie, much anticipated. They spent upwards of 100 million dollars in promoting this film. And while it could be seen as an outright attack on Christianity – and that’s true, it is – it is also true that it is a great opportunity, an opportunity for us to share our faith with our family and friends and coworkers and neighbors. Let me just say from the outset that Mr. Brown’s book poses no serious scholarly threat to Christian history, to our beliefs, or to the Bible. Tonight we want to give you some answers to the book’s claims as we take a closer look at The Da Vinci Code.
I want to say, first of all, that we are using a small portion of a larger set of PowerPoint slides produced by Roads Publishing. The full 180 slides is what we prepared for you to pick up at the end, if you’d like to have those. And again as Barrett said, one per family. That way you don’t have to worry about taking lots of notes tonight. I am sure that you don’t want to sit here and take lots of notes. Lots of information will be given to you, but those notes will be available at the end if you would like those.
What is The Da Vinci Code? The Da Vinci Code is a fast paced novel. How many have read The Da Vinci Code? Raise your hand. Okay, a good number. It is filled with intricate puzzles and electrifying cliffhangers. The Da Vinci Code is a piece of fiction that has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. It is also in 48 different languages; so it has really been out there. It takes place in a number exotic locations, including the Louvre in France, also the Westminster Abby in Great Britain.
When we ask about The Da Vinci Code, what is The Da Vinci Code? The Da Vinci Code contains a lot of fiction hidden in the midst of a little truth. Notice how I have put fiction in red. It is fiction. But Dan Brown, the author, doesn’t view this as purely fiction. And if the book’s claims were treated only as fictional there probably wouldn’t be so much interest in it. What does Dan Brown claim? Dan Brown claims – and he had an interview with Matt Lauer, and in that interview Matt Lauer asked the question, “How much of the book’s explanation of history is based on actual events?” And Dan Brown’s answer was, absolutely all of it. A similar assertion appears in the book cover itself, where he says in capital letters, FACT, F-A-C-T, “FACT: All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in the novel are accurate.”
The rest of this presentation is going to answer several of the most important questions, fictional claims, regarding The Da Vinci Code. When you see DVC, page 1, that’s Da Vinci Code, the hardback version, page references. You’ll see those in the PowerPoint slides also.
So what is it, what is it that The Da Vinci Code claims? Well first of all, one of the first things that it asserts is that Christians didn’t recognize Jesus as divine until the fourth century when a group of bishops voted on his divinity. Another fictional claim is that the earliest records about Jesus, which it claims are the Gnostic gospels that were found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, are not the records that appear in the New Testament. Third claim is that the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were edited and embellished by emperor Constantine to make Jesus appear divine. And then the fourth is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child, and there are a whole lot of things connected with that, and that’s the fourth claim.
What are some of the answers? Well we are going to talk more in depth about these with our panelists in just a moment. But several claims found in The Da Vinci Code contradict centuries of Christian history, faith, and tradition. Other claims in this book are based on documents that have been proven to be false and unreliable. And again our hope is that this presentation will answer some of the most important questions. We can’t possibly cover all of the questions, but some of the most important questions in The Da Vinci Code. We want you to be able to discover how to separate the facts from the fiction in this. What I would like to do is just give you a brief summary of this book. I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t read it or seen the movie yet.
But the book opens with the curator of the Louvre museum in Paris being murdered in the museum, and then leaving signs as to his murder and other secrets about the holy grail, artwork, and secret rituals, and he has left them all in code. Enter the scene Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor played by Tom Hanks in the movie, enters the scene. He “happens to be in Paris giving a lecture on symbolism and art.” And because of that expertise the police want him to interpret the clues left by this museum curator. But wait, he is actually a suspect. And the chase is on. Enter the scene the beautiful cryptographer, Sophie Neveu, who is a special agent with the Paris police. But we find out that she has more than just a professional interest in this. She also has a past history that is part of this great mystery. Also in this story is the head of the police, who is involved in the story; an albino monk who is trying to kill people to cover up the 2,000 year old secret; and a British historian and grail expert, who gives much of the information out in the discussions, Sir Lee Teabing. The novel follows the basic pattern of discussion, solving clues, and running from danger – discussion, clues, running – it seems to go over and over again. What we are most concerned about are the discussions, and that’s what we are going to address.
Well in those discussions, why is it important? It is important because this is an assault on our Christian faith. There is a direct attack on the divinity of Christ and a direct attack on the authority of Scripture. But it is also important to us because it is an opportunity for us to share Christ. Let’s not miss that. This is a great opportunity for us to share Christ, to engage people in that discussion.
There are at least three main areas of concern that we are going to try to address tonight. The first is the nature of Jesus, especially his divinity, his relationship to Mary (the question is, was Jesus actually married?), and how reliable is the New Testament to tell us the truth? While there are many other topics that this book brings up, we are going to focus on these topics in the first part of this presentation because these are the main issues. And everything else is really incidental without these questions first being answered. And there is plenty other resources that you can get in the back as you leave that will cover these ancillary topics.
Why are people intrigued by The Da Vinci Code? A big question. Why are people so inclined to believe the claims of this book so quickly? Well I think one is that people like to discover something that has been hidden. It is just fun to do that. People enjoy murder mysteries and conspiracy theories and tales of hidden treasure. Those things have intrigued audiences for centuries. People love a conspiracy. Can you think of some? John F. Kennedy, the Beatles (all the things about them), the Illuminati was popular years ago. People like these conspiracy-type theories. But I think there is a third reason, one that is very important to us, and that’s Satan likes to confuse people on a clear Gospel message of salvation through faith alone and Christ alone.
Now before we begin with the questions, I am going to give the panelists an opportunity to make some opening statements and then we will start in with the questions. Gentlemen.
DR. CRAIG: Well, welcome this evening. I am very glad to be on the panel discussing these issues. I think this is one of those cases where knowledge is power. It is the Christian who is ignorant of the history and authorship of the New Testament who feels threatened by the claims of The Da Vinci Code and who perhaps feels insecure as a result in his faith, because he simply doesn’t know the facts. But once you learn the facts about the history and composition of the New Testament I think you’ll see that the sort of charges that Dan Brown makes simply dissolve, and you won’t even feel threatened by them at all. So I don’t think there is any need for alarmist reactions, or to get defensive. I am hoping that we can just have some fun tonight as we talk about these things because these really don’t constitute a serious threat, I think, to the Christian faith for those who are informed.
And perhaps the best evidence of this is the fact that even skeptical non-Christian critics have written books debunking The Da Vinci Code. Among the debunkers there are not only evangelical Christians like Darrel Bock and Ben Witherington, but also people like Bart Ehrman, who is a skeptic and not a Christian but who, as a New Testament scholar, has also written a book debunking The Da Vinci Code even though he himself isn’t an orthodox Christian at all. He also recognizes these claims to be spurious.
So I hope that the evening will be one that will be informative and interesting to you. There is no need I think to, as I say, be defensive or alarmed about these claims because they are in fact quite spurious.
DR. LICONA: I would just say first of all that I feel very honored to be sitting on this panel with Dr. William Lane Craig. He has been a hero of mine for years, and it is just great to be here with him. The book and the movie, in my opinion, are unfortunate. Notwithstanding I see this as just a tremendous opportunity for us as Christians to capitalize on this. You have Hollywood spending hundreds of millions of dollars, and we as Christians can basically take what they have done and use this to see open doors to share the Gospel with others. As Dr. Craig said, this stuff is easily handled, and it is pretty much a softball that has just been lobbed at us and we can knock it out of the park. I am pretty excited about that.
If you just think for a moment, if you were to bring a number of atheist friends or colleagues into the room and ask them, what is your stereotype of a Southern Baptist or Christian? And I think anti-intellectual, closed-minded, stubborn, ignoramus, and a few other adjectives would probably come to their mind. And I think it is something that we’ve earned. I would like to change that. And it is just a false perception. I am looking forward to engaging with those nonbelievers after they watch the movie to talk with them, and when they bring up these things say, “Wow, you know, that is an interesting issue, and that would really shake my faith if it were true. Why don’t we get together for lunch and discuss this. I would really like to see what in the movie impacted you the most.” And we can really turn this into some great opportunities to share our faith with others.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. Thank you, gentlemen. Let’s start in with the questions if we could. First question is: Was the recognition of Jesus as God really the result of a vote? In the book itself, in The Da Vinci Code, a character claimed that the recognition of Jesus as divine was the result of a vote, and a relatively close vote at that. Your response?
DR. CRAIG: He is referring to the Council of Nicaea in 325, which promulgated the Nicene Creed. And the fact of the matter is that Jesus is called God and is regarded as divine right from the time of the New Testament on up to the Council of Nicaea. But in the early church there were certain heretics following a presbyter from Alexandria in Egypt called Arius, and his followers were called Arians. And what Arius believed was that the Father and the Son don’t have the same essence. That whereas the Father is purely and truly divine, the Son is really a creature, he is the highest and greatest created being. So that the Father and Son are not the same in essence, they have different essences. Their view was basically the same view that has been brought again to our day by Jehovah's Witnesses, who believe that Jesus is a god with a little ‘g’, he is not the same essence as the Father. And these early Arians were, in a sense, the progenitors of what are today called Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Now Arius never managed to win very many converts to his side. But the difficulty that the early church faced was this: if you say that the Father is God and that the Son is God, then isn’t the Father the Son? And they didn’t want to say that. The Father didn’t die on the cross, the Son did; the Son didn’t send the Father, the Father sent the Son. So the early church was struggling with this problem of the unity of God and yet the plurality of persons. How can you say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and yet the Father is not the Son? And that’s what was the real subject of the debate. And at the Council of Nicaea, of the bishops who were represented there, this was an empire wide ecumenical council, the party that wanted to say, the Father and the Son are the same substance or the same essence, probably about sixty bishops. And then there were six Arians present who wanted to say, no, the Father and the Son are a different essence. And then the vast majority of the council, about two hundred, were caught in the middle and didn’t really know exactly how to formulate it. They knew that the Son was God, they knew that the Father was God, but they didn’t want to say that the Father was the Son. So that was the difficulty. How could you affirm that they are the same essence or substance without saying that they are the same person? And so what was finally drafted at Nicaea was the Trinitarian formula, that God is three persons in one substance; that there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who all share the same essence, they’re all equally divine, but they are not the same person. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different persons, but they are all equally divine, all equally God. So it is quite misleading to say that the early church sort of voted to ratify Jesus becoming God. He was believed to be God right from the beginning. The difficulty was, how do you say that he is God without saying he is the Father. And that’s what was finally hammered out at Nicaea. But it wasn’t a vote to declare the divinity of Christ.
DR. LICONA: That’s pretty good. You can see why he was my hero for so many years before this. [laughter] In the book it also mentions that it was at that moment, at the Council of Nicaea, and just prior to it, that Jesus was considered to be divine. Before that, and I know that brings us up to the next question, before that he was not considered to be anything more than just a mortal prophet; a great man, but nothing more. And that is just simply ridiculous because, as Dr. Craig said, you know, we can go to the New Testament, which was written in the first century. In fact almost all scholars would admit that the four Gospels we have were written in the [first] century, no matter when they would date those . . .
DR. CRAIG: First century.
DR. LICONA: First century, right. And all four of them present Jesus as being divine. You have got John who comes right out and calls him God. And then you have Matthew, Mark and Luke where he is referring to himself as the Son of God in a divine sense, and the Son of Man in a divine sense, the Son of Man that goes back to Daniel 7. And then, even prior to the Gospels, you’ve got Paul around the year 60, you have him in Philippians 2, which may even be earlier than Paul. And in 1 Corinthians 16:22 he says “maranatha,” or we would say “maranatha.” And these are Aramaic terms that he is using in a Greek text. And he doesn’t translate them which is really interesting because later on in the Gospels there are times when he gives Aramaic sayings of Jesus and then he says, “which translated means, ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” But in 1 Corinthians 16:22 he says, “maranatha” or “our Lord come.” And there is a cognate that we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls which is using pretty much the same thing that is referring to divinity, deity, Jehovah. And so what’s really neat about this, because Paul is writing this letter around the year 55-56 and he doesn’t translate that maranatha, this means that this term was adopted in the Corinthian church years before. And the example we could give would be, in our language today, if I were to say to you, “The reason I was late getting here is because my car when kaput” you would all know what I meant even though you never took German. And that would be because many years ago that word “kaput” was introduced by someone who maybe came back from war in Germany and said it and it caught on. And then it was just used and used and pretty soon we didn’t have to say, well what does kaput mean? It got assimilated into the English language. Well, by the year 55, maranatha was assimilated into the Greek speaking Corinthian church which means that this saying had been around for some time prior to then. And we are only talking within 25 years after Jesus at that point, not considering the years before that it had to be introduced in order to be put into the church. So to say that Jesus wasn’t regarded as divine until the fourth century, that is just unbelievable.
MODERATOR: Gentleman, I think also in the literature that I read that this agreement they came to in the end wasn’t actually a vote anyway. But the document they signed, it was three hundred fourteen who signed it and two who abstained from signing it, and that’s not exactly a relatively close vote, as we have been led to believe from this.
DR. CRAIG: Right, oh, no, no, as I said, there were only about six Arian bishops at this conference out of the hundreds that were there. So it was never a question as to whether or not Christ was divine. The question was the relationship between the Father and the Son. That was the very knotty issue that confronted the church. Because they wanted to say that they were both God but they didn’t want to say they were the same person. And so to represent this as a vote on the deity of Christ, as Mike says, is really quite a misrepresentation because the early church was calling Jesus God right from the very beginning. And this wonderful Aramaic prayer that Mike mentions – you hear the early church at prayer, don’t you? I mean, this is the early church speaking in their own language addressing Jesus as Lord, “our Lord come.” You hear the voice of the early church at prayer to Jesus as God. I think that’s fantastic and wonderful that we should find that in 1 Corinthians 16.
MODERATOR: Great, we have covered one question. We will segue to the next question now: Was Jesus a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless? Again, The Da Vinci Code: Jesus was a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. The Da Vinci Code also claims that the New Testament writings are false testimony to the true nature of Jesus Christ.
DR. CRAIG: Should I go ahead?
DR. LICONA: Sure.
DR. CRAIG: This is interesting because this is essentially the same claim that Muslims make about Jesus – that Jesus was one in a long line of great prophets. And I think one of the best refutations of that from Jesus’ own lips is his parable of the vineyard in Mark chapter 12. In this chapter, you may remember, Jesus tells a parable of how a man owns a vineyard and lets it out to some tenants while he is an absentee owner. Now the vineyard represents Israel, the owner of the vineyard is God, and the tenants are the Jewish religious leaders. And the owner sends his servants to the tenants of the vineyard to collect its fruit. But instead of giving him his due they beat his servants, they send them away, they kill some, and these are the various prophets sent over and over again by God to Israel, and Israel spurns them and mistreats them and refuses them. And finally in the parable the owner of the vineyard says, “I have one left to send, my only beloved son, they will listen to my son.” But instead they kill the son because he is the heir to the vineyard. Now this is undoubtedly an authentic parable of Jesus. Even radical skeptical critics accept this parable as authentic because it is also found in the Gospel of Thomas, which is one of their favorite sources. But what does this parable tell us about Jesus’ self-consciousness? It tells us that he thought of himself as God’s only son in a unique sense, distinct from all the prophets who had gone before, God’s final messenger to Israel, and even the heir of Israel itself. So this was no mere prophet. Jesus thought of himself as the unique Son of God distinct from everyone who had come before, and the heir to the nation of Israel. So this is really quite an incredible and radical self-understanding that Jesus shows in the parable.
DR. LICONA: I would add that since we can establish, as Dr. Craig has shown, that Jesus actually thought of himself as God’s uniquely divine Son, and we can also establish historically that Jesus predicted his violent death – imminent violent death – and subsequent vindication by God, that if Jesus was not God’s uniquely divine Son and if he did not die an imminent violent death and had experienced subsequent vindication by God, then he’s not a great prophet. There is no reason for us to believe it, as it would say here, that he was a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man. He would be a false prophet. And as Dr. Craig said Muslims do . . . this is the Muslim belief. But as is fun to point out to Muslims and watch them squirm is they think Jesus is a great prophet. But if he claimed to be God’s Son (and we can establish that he did) and he wasn’t God’s Son, and if he predicted his violent death and it didn’t happen (as Muslims would believe it didn’t happen) then he is not a great prophet. He is a false prophet whom no rational person should follow.
DR. CRAIG: In terms of a book that might be interesting to folks if you want to follow this up, my former Greek teacher Murray Harris has written a book called Jesus As God in which he goes through something like nine passages in the New Testament where Jesus is explicitly referred to as ho theos – “God” in the Greek. And so if you’re interested in a detailed examination of these various New Testament passages where Jesus is explicitly called God take a look at Murray Harris’ book Jesus As God.
MODERATOR: C.S. Lewis said he is either a liar, lunatic, or Lord, but not anything in between. Not just a prophet. Alright, next question is: Were the New Testament writings edited and embellished by the emperor Constantine to make Jesus appear God-like? The Da Vinci Code asserts that Jesus’ establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed by emperor Constantine in A.D. 325. Then the New Testament writings were edited and embellished by Constantine to make Jesus appear God-like.
DR. LICONA: Well, certainly this is easily disproved as well because we have all these documents, I should say, these writings, that come from the first century that we’ve been mentioning: 1 Corinthians, Philippians, even the Gospels, Romans 1:3-4, you could just keep going on and on with these. Plus a number of these have manuscripts that date back to the second century, long before Constantine was even around, which is in the 300s, and we’re talking in the 100s here. In fact Dan Wallace, who is a very prominent New Testament textual critic who actually photographs and deals with and has discovered a number of ancient manuscripts, says that today we have no less than nine manuscripts that date to the second century, probably eleven and as many as fifteen. And many of these have from the passages we are looking at here that would corroborate those as being early and unadulterated by Constantine.
DR. CRAIG: Let me say something else about that, to add to what Mike has mentioned. This is again, interestingly enough, the view of the New Testament that Muslims and Mormons take. They say that the original documents have been corrupted and falsified and that therefore the originals say something quite different than the copies that we have today, or the Greek texts that we have today. And as Mike said, this is a view that is untenable and not held in scholarship because scholars have reconstructed the Greek text of the New Testament on the basis of these thousands and thousands of manuscripts that exist which enable us to reconstruct with confidence what the original text actually said. And out of the 138,000 words that are contained in the text of the New Testament the amount of uncertainty that remains is only about 1,400 words. So out of 138,000 words uncertainties remain with respect to only about 1,400. In other words, the text is 99% established. When you sit down and read your Gospel of John, or your Acts of the Apostles, at least if you can read it in Greek, you are reading the text as it was originally written, 99% accurate. And that 1% that remains somewhat uncertain is utterly trivial, no doctrine hangs on any of these uncertainties. For example, in 1 John one variant says, “we write this that your joy may be full” but other manuscripts say, “we write this that our joy may be full.” The difference is between “your” and “our;” of no doctrinal significance at all. Even Bart Ehrman, whom I mentioned earlier as a man that I debated and who wrote a bestselling book called Misquoting Jesus, admits, if you press him, that the New Testament that we have today is pretty much exactly as it was written originally. I heard him on an interview program the other day, and the interviewer was under the impression that Ehrman was saying that the text had been greatly changed and miscopied and corrupted. And so he asked Ehrman, “What do you think the original New Testament said before it was changed?” And Ehrman said, “I don’t understand your question.” And the man says, “Wasn’t the New Testament significantly changed so that we don’t know what the original said?” And Ehrman’s response was, “Well, no. I think we have reconstructed the original text. It is pretty much exactly what we have today.” Indeed, 99% accurate. So there is no basis for thinking that later corruptions were made that introduced things like the deity of Christ either by Constantine or by other insidious copiers who were bent on distorting the text of the New Testament.
DR. LICONA: Can I throw one other thing in there? I think it would be of interest to most; just to add on to what Dr. Craig was saying. To give you an idea of what kind of wealth we have for the New Testament manuscript evidence. Herodotus and Thucydides are considered the two greatest ancient historians; in fact Herodotus the first historian. And both of these guys lived in the fifth century before Christ. Well, would you like to know how many manuscripts we have for each of their writings total? Eight. And even though they wrote in the fifth century before Christ, the earliest manuscript we have of their writings, the earliest, for each of them – more than 1,300 years later. With the New Testament, in just Greek manuscripts alone as of September of last year, we have 5,745 Greek manuscripts, nine for sure, probably eleven and maybe as many as fifteen are within 150 years of when they were written. We have more manuscripts for the New Testament within 150 years of the original than Herodotus or Thucydides has period. And their earliest is within little more than 1,300 years later. It is just so good for us it must be embarrassing for the others.
MODERATOR: I think I read somewhere that there is more manuscript evidence for the New Testament than the top ten works of ancient literature combined. Interesting. Next question: Is there any evidence that Jesus married Mary Magdalene? According to the central character in The Da Vinci Code, the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record.
DR. LICONA: No, there is no credible evidence at least that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. Brown uses reconstructed texts of the Gospel of Phillip, where it is an old manuscript that was amongst the Nag Hammadi library, discovered around the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s. It’s dated to the fourth century. It’s the only manuscript of the Gospel of Phillip we have. Because it is old it has some holes in it where some words are missing and Brown takes the liberty to reconstruct the text based of course on no external evidence or internal evidence – any evidence – and makes it sound as though Jesus were married. I know he says something about a word “companion” which is in a later question. But here’s the thing: no, there is no evidence, good evidence, that Jesus was married. But more than that, there is good reason to believe that Jesus was not married. And the reason being is, the silence here is just deafening. Normally we wouldn’t want to use an argument from silence, and the only time we would want to use it is when it is certainly a place that we would expect to see something and it’s absent. I think we can see this in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9, in the first couple of verses, where he says, “Don’t Barnabas and I have the right to take on a believing wife, like the rest of the apostles, and the Lord’s brothers, and Peter?” Now it seems to me that this would have been just the perfect place for Paul to say, as the Lord Jesus himself! But he doesn’t say that. It would have been the perfect time for him to do it. And when you put on top of that that none of the Gospels report that Jesus had a spouse – he’s taking care of his mom at the cross, nothing there for Mary Magdalene. If that was his wife at the time that would be kind of strange. So there is just no evidence whatsoever. And I guess one other thing I’d point out is that, I don’t know of any scholar but I know it has been suggested by some that maybe the wedding in Cana in John chapter 2 was the wedding of Jesus. But as Ben Witherington – every time I think of what he said it just makes me laugh – he says . . . and, you know, it is very true. I have been married 19 years and I can assure you that when I got married, when I left the church, I did not go home with mama. And yet that’s exactly what John reports Jesus did – he went home with Mary and his disciples.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, there isn’t any evidence that Jesus of Nazareth left behind a widow in the early church. It would be really astonishing if he had left behind a widow and we would have no record of it whatsoever. I think it is far more plausible that Jesus chose to remain celibate in view of the mission to which he believed God had called him, which he knew, as Mike said a moment ago, would ultimately end in his own death. And so he didn’t want to burden a wife with this, and he chose to live a celibate life rather than to take on a wife in view of his mission and his total dedication to it which would end ultimately in his death. And that is why, as Mike says, Paul couldn’t appeal to the example of the Lord for his right to be accompanied by a believing wife because Jesus had forgone that right. So there really isn’t any grounds for thinking that Jesus had married. Not that it would have made any difference anyway. I mean, there is nothing theological here of any importance. But there is no evidence to think that he did marry, and there is quite good evidence, as Mike says, to think that in fact he did not.
DR. LICONA: Can I ask you a question, Dr. Craig? I think you answered it, but I would like to see if you have some further comments. It sounds like you don’t think that there really would be a problem if Jesus had been married. Do you seen any – I don’t see any problems with it – but do you see any kind of ramifications if Jesus had married and had children? I mean, if he did have a son I wouldn’t mind having him on my baseball team [laughter], but is there anything that you can see that would be a problem if Jesus was married and had children?
DR. CRAIG: I don’t think so Mike, and this is an interesting conversation we’ve not had before. But because insofar as, say, Jesus had begotten a son he would have begotten him in his human nature. So it is not as though the son of Jesus would be divine as Jesus was because Jesus had a divine nature and a human nature, and insofar as, say, he was able to procreate with a human female, he would procreate his humanity. So his son wouldn’t be divine, I don’t think. Unless you were to think that somehow . . . maybe you hold to a Traducian view of the soul where the soul is produced by the parents and having a divine soul or something like that Jesus’ child might be divine. I don’t know. That wouldn’t be the typical view that the church fathers would have taken. But I am inclined to think that he would just beget human children with a human wife, if he had.
MODERATOR: Interesting thought. We are going to skip the next question because you’ve covered that pretty much, about the Gnostic gospels, and go right to one which you’ve mentioned, Mike, earlier, and that is, what does the word in the Gospel of Phillip that describes Mary as a companion of Jesus really mean. Lee Teabing in the story reads a passage from the Gospel of Phillip and says, “and the companion of the savior is Mary Magdalene.” It also goes on to say that the female protagonist Sophie Neveu argued that from this passage that the Gospel of Phillip said nothing of marriage and Teabing responded, “as any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word ‘companion’ in those days literally meant spouse.” Your thoughts?
DR. LICONA: Well the interesting thing about that is the Gospel of Phillip isn’t written in Aramaic, it’s written in Coptic which is Egyptian. And so that’s a major problem. The second problem is, the word used for companion there is a borrowed word from the Greek. It is the word koinonos, and koinonos – it is possible for it to mean spouse, but rarely does it. In fact it is used twice in the New Testament. One is when Paul refers to sharing – he is going to be a sharer in the glory of Christ – koinonos he uses, a sharer in the glory of Christ. The other time it is found in the New Testament, Paul uses it as well and it is referring to his koinonos, his companion, Titus. So it is just not used of a spouse in the New Testament. And again it is borrowed from the Greek, and the Greek usually just meant a colleague, or a companion, a friend, a disciple, something like that. So it’s kind of craziness.
DR. CRAIG: It just came to mind another argument that I recall Dan Brown using to show Mary and Jesus had a romantic relationship. It was that in the Gospel of John when Jesus appears to Mary at the tomb Jesus says to her, “Don’t cling to me because I have not yet ascended to the Father,” etc., etc. And Dan Brown speculates, well this shows that she had embraced him as a woman would embrace her husband. But I think when you look at the parallel passage in Matthew when Jesus appears to the women at the tomb, they fall on their faces at his feet and cling to his ankles in worship and adoration. And so Jesus responds, “Do not cling to me, I haven’t ascended to the father,” etc., etc. So there is nothing to suggest that there is some sort of romantic embrace. Quite the contrary, the parallel passage shows that they’re clutching his ankles in worship and adoration.
MODERATOR: And as much as my wife loves me I have never seen her clutch my ankles either in worship.
DR. LICONA: That’s proof that he wasn’t married, then, right?
DR. CRAIG: That’s turning the tables.
MODERATOR: The next questions is: Is the Bible a product of man or of God? In the fiction from the book Teabing says, “The Bible is a product of man, my dear, not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds.”
DR. CRAIG: Now this is a really interesting question because it raises questions about the nature of divine inspiration. I think that we want to affirm as Christians, very strongly, that the Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. That is, again, an Islamic view of divine revelation. On the Islamic view the Qur’an comes directly out of heaven from the mouth, so to speak, of Allah. It is not the product of a human author at all. It is a dictation or a recitation, and Muhammad simply writes down or recites the words of God dictated to him. By contrast, the books of the New Testament in particular very much reflect the personality and the circumstances and the education of their human authors. You see Paul’s personality fully displayed in his writings. You see his anger white hot with the Galatians as they are tempted to go back to the law, or in defending himself against the deniers of his apostleship in Corinth. You see his tenderness in the book of Philippians as he talks to his partners there who have supported his ministry. You see very much the personality of the authors reflected in their writings. So the answer to the question is that the New Testament is the product of both God and man. The Bible says that men, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God so that the Scriptures, the final product, is God breathed, or inspired. So the final text is a divine-human product written by persons who were moved by God in such a way that they would write what would be the very words of God to us.
MODERATOR: I am going to skip on past this question to the next. This has to do with these Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls as being the earliest Christian records.
DR. LICONA: Is there a chance we could go back to that question you wanted to skip? I think it’s important, if you don’t mind me saying.
QUESTION: Was the New Testament, as we know it, compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda to solidify their own power base?
DR. LICONA: The reason I think that’s important is because you have a number of people today – like Bart Ehrman, like Elaine Pagels, and others – who say that the books that made it into the . . . there were a number of different groups of Christians, the Proto-Orthodox, those bad bullies who won the day and got their books in the Bible, and then you had those poor ol’ Gnostics, those really nice people, but they got theirs banished and burned. And so it was the struggle for authority. And that just seems to me like it’s so easily disproved as well. I don’t think we need to talk about early Christianities, like Bart Ehrman and Pagels would like to do, unless you are going to define Christianity as anyone who embraced Christ in any form within the first three or four centuries. But if we want to say what was early Christianity like? Meaning, what did Jesus and the apostles teach, that is something entirely different. And when we go to the New Testament, when we go to the Gospels, when we go to the Pauline letters, when we go to Acts, and especially the sermon summaries, we see enshrined in those sermon summaries what scholars refer to as kerygma, the official and formal proclamation of the disciples. We find this in oral traditions peppered throughout Paul’s letters that predate even Paul’s writings themselves. And when we put this together and we realize . . . like, Paul in Galatians 2, he says he goes up to Jerusalem and he runs his Gospel past the pillars of the church, Peter, James, and John – imagine that for a dream team, being a fly on the wall with Peter, James, John, and Paul, discussing doctrine – and he says that they extended to him the right hand of fellowship; meaning, they approved everything that he was teaching, because that’s why we went up, to run all this past them. So you’ve got all the apostles teaching the same stuff, and then later on it is in the second century that you have these aberrations, these theological aberrations, from the apostolic doctrine. And so was the New Testament compiled just to move forward a particular political agenda? I don’t think so. But I think why the others were excluded was because they did not reflect apostolic authority. They weren’t the apostolic teachings. They contradicted clearly what the apostles and Jesus had taught. That’s why they were excluded. And they put the ones in there that contained the true apostolic teachings. So they were trying to preserve and forward true apostolic and Jesus traditions, rather than political. It was pure theology.
MODERATOR: One of the popular things said is that winners write history and losers don’t. And I think as you look at this, certainly the Christians in the first 300 years weren’t the winners. They were the ones that were persecuted, and they were certainly not on top at that time. Let’s see if we can get on to another question. We’ll move onto the one we had: The Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls – the earliest Christian records?
DR. LICONA: The Dead Sea Scrolls, of course, aren’t Christian records at all. They are all Jewish writings and they were written between 250 B.C. and A.D. 50. And they have every Old Testament book in it except Esther, and they have some others. But they don’t have any Christian records. And the Nag Hammadi, they are all Gnostic records, Gnostic writings. The earliest would be the Gospel of Thomas which most scholars date around the middle of the second century. A few would put it earlier. Elaine Pagels would put it at the end of the first century, but she is one of only a few who would do that. Most say around the middle of the second century, and that’s the earliest one. So there is no way that these are our earliest Christians records. Paul is much earlier than that. All four Gospels are first century. New Testament books, first century.
DR. CRAIG: Right, that’s the key thing for you to keep in mind, is that the books that eventually came to be put under the cover of the New Testament are all documents out of the first century, while the eyewitnesses were still alive. All, all of these other gospels and writings that you hear about in the news are later derivative forgeries that were written under the apostles names, 150, 200, 300, 400 years after the events. And that’s why they were universally rejected by the orthodox church, because everybody knew they were fakes. What they were were pieces of Gnostic literature, and they’re valuable in informing us of the nature of early Gnosticism. They’re a window onto this Gnostic cult. Now Gnosticism is not something that is of Christian origin. This is a pagan Greek idea which regards the material world as evil and the spiritual is good and so the goal of life is to slough off this material body that drags down the soul, and by inauguration into secret mysteries the soul will reach back to the highest spiritual reality. And this Gnostic system is unbelievably elaborate and complex. You can read about it in the early church father Irenaeus. And it is just unbelievable the different levels they have, these so-called eons or sort of emanations out of God, one level after another, and they all have names. It is the most fantastic Rube Goldberg construction of deities and spiritual realities that you could possibly imagine. And these Gnostics attempted to sort of piggy back on the early Christian movement by forging these documents and having Jesus and other figures in them become spokespersons for Gnostic doctrine. And so they used them as mouthpieces to put their Gnostic doctrines in. And so these are not valuable sources for the first century or for the life of Jesus. These are valuable sources to tell us about second and third century Gnosticism. But they don’t compare to the Gospels which are first century sources that go right back to the lifetime of the eyewitnesses.
DR. LICONA: And many of those things you just mentioned, too, are found in the Gospel of Judas. We see those apparent five specific names of those eons, secret knowledge, and the shedding of the body, all there in the Gospel of Judas.
MODERATOR: We would like to take some time for questions from the audience. Barrett has some of those questions. And we certainly can’t cover them all in the 15 minutes that we have, but we will try to address some of those. Barrett.
QUESTION: Many of the cards that folks have turned in have been covered very effectively by you gentlemen, one question here though: The book refers to Christianity's stealing symbols. For example, it mentions a person who died, was buried, and then raised from the dead three days later. Before Christ was there such a person or mythical figure that you know of? Or was that just fiction of Dan Brown?
DR. LICONA: You’re talking about the dying and rising gods that predate Christianity?
DR. LICONA: This is really interesting. This is something I have just spent some time researching. A lot of research has been done on this before, and in fact the most recent comprehensive treatment of this, I think, is T. N. D. Mettinger (he is a senior Swedish scholar) in a 2001 work called The Riddle of Resurrection. You can buy it, it costs you 62 dollars at Amazon, it’s a best seller. And Mettinger – he takes the position, he says, the consensus of scholars today, and has been for decades, nearly half a century, the consensus of scholars is that there are no accounts of dying and rising gods that predate Christianity. They all postdate it by more than 100 years. Mettinger then goes on to say that he, in his research, is going to take a contrary position. He identifies three examples which he says are certain of a dying and rising god that predates Christianity but he says these differ so much from what we have in the Christian account of the resurrection – and he lists the differences – he says these can’t in any sense be said to be a parallel. I’ll just give you one quick example. Baal is one of those he says are certain. The story of Baal is that he is a storm god and one of his friends or relatives lures him into coming down into the Netherworld and he sheds all of his divinity, deity, in the process, and this friend or relative swallows him up and eats him. Well this is known because he is the storm god, there is no more rain, and so you have this drought. And so the mom goes down to talk to this guy and treats him really harshly; and so he says, alright, well just stop treating me this way and I will let Baal go. And the only way that they know that Baal is gone is because it starts raining again. And as Mettinger says this is used as a legendary myth, a story that was used to explain why there were droughts. Much like if someone said, well, what’s this thunder? Well, it’s God moving furniture in heaven. That’s what the Baal story is. It’s never meant to be taken as real. But that’s completely different than what we have with the resurrection where there are post resurrection accounts even seen by the enemies of Jesus, and it’s within their lifetimes not a gray, distant, unnamed past.
DR. CRAIG: One of the most important insights of contemporary historical Jesus scholarship is that Jesus of Nazareth is to be properly interpreted against the background of first century Palestinian Judaism. And that it is simply a mistake to interpret him against the background of Greco-Roman mythology. Jesus is a Jew. He is firmly ensconced in Jewish culture and tradition, and it is as a Jew that he should be understood. And the myths of dying and rising gods, as Mike explained, are just symbols of the crop cycle. As the crops die in the dry season and then come back to life in the rainy season. And it would be unthinkable that anyone could come to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was actually risen from the dead because he had heard of these myths of dying and rising crop deities.
QUESTION: A little off the subject, but I had a history professor who stated that the first council of Nicaea resulted in bloodshed amongst some of the early church bishops. Is this true? Did the council that was forced by Constantine, enforced by Constantine, present huge differences in beliefs from then and how we believe today? It’s a two-parter; was there bloodshed?
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, I am not aware of the bloodshed claim. I don’t know, have you heard?
DR. LICONA: I have never heard of it.
DR. CRAIG: So we have not heard of it. And I think we have already addressed the other part of the question. They were crafting a doctrine of the Trinity which the church has come to accept.
QUESTION: Here is more of a, I guess, a belief question. What would you say to Christians who pick and choose what they believe in truth from God’s word? Do you feel that they would be more persuaded easily to believe The Da Vinci Code as fact rather than fiction? In other words is the church at risk for doubt, persuasion, given the facts presented in this book?
DR. CRAIG: Well, I certainly am not in favor of people picking and choosing from the Bible what they want to believe. I think that’s arbitrary and capricious. But I don’t think that’s the problem here. You’ll notice that the things that Mike and I have talked about primarily haven't been, so to speak, right out of the Bible itself. It’s been more about the Bible, about when were these documents written, by whom, what were these other documents, and it is ignorance of these facts of history that I think makes people especially susceptible to The Da Vinci Code sorts of claims about these Gnostic gospels and other forged writings.
QUESTION: Well gentlemen there are numerous questions about Dan Brown and what we know of him. For example, do we know anything about the book’s creator Dan Brown? Has anyone seriously confronted Dan Brown on the claims made? Are these responses recorded in written form? What are his scholarly credentials?
DR. LICONA: He doesn’t have any scholarly credentials. But I don’t know if anybody has confronted him. I can tell you an anecdotal story which is kind of funny. I have a friend who is married to a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, and she is brilliant, she had helped me prepare for a couple of my debates. And her in-laws moved to Florida, I believe it was, within the last couple of years. And shortly after that they had some people move in next door, and it happened to be Dan Brown’s parents. And they had a party welcoming the neighbors over to meet them, and it was at this time that her in-laws went over and met them, and they got introduced to Dan Brown and his wife. And his mom, Brown’s wife, when talking to her in-laws, had said, well, have you read my son’s book? And she said, oh no, I am not going to read that. Well then when she got introduced to Dan Brown he admitted that his wife did most of the research on the book. I didn’t tell that story because it is anecdotal. But recently on the stand in this trial that took place Brown admitted that his wife did most of the research for the book. I don’t know if anybody confronted him, but that is the closest I know of personally of someone who would have come close to that.
MODERATOR: In his interview on The Today Show I think he also said that his wife was an art historian, or something like that, and he credited her with a lot of the research.
QUESTION: Apparently the book has a comment about eighty different gospels. I assume most of those are Gnostic, we have addressed that? Are there eighty Gnostic gospels out there?
DR. CRAIG: Well, there’s not even eighty. I mean, there is a lot of spurious writings but they are not gospels, per say, they are not narratives of the life of Jesus. There are only about five or so, I think, of those in the Nag Hammadi collection, isn’t that right?
DR. LICONA: I think so. I know Ehrman, in his book Lost Scriptures, I think I counted seventeen gospels in there. But those would be outside the Nag Hammadi as well. Seventeen, and if you add the Gospel of Judas that would make eighteen. So that wouldn’t come anywhere near . . .
MODERATOR: Five is indeed what they quote in the research, five gospels.
DR. CRAIG: So, as I say, these are all later forgeries that arose in the second, third, fourth century and beyond, and are therefore not primary sources for the life of Jesus. They are just vehicles for Gnostic doctrine.
QUESTION: Gentlemen, do you know if the Knights of The Templar really existed, and if so, what was their role in the crusades?
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, I know a little bit about that. I read a wonderful book called Warriors of God about Richard the Lionhearted and Saladin and their tremendous battle in the third crusade. And, I think it was the second crusade, had reconquered the Holy Land, and had established actually a kind of medieval kingdom there called the Kingdom of Jerusalem. And there are medieval European castles dotting Palestine that still exist today that were built by these crusader knights. And they were primarily two orders, one were the Hospitallers, and then the other ones were the Knights of the Temple. And these were monks, these were military orders of monks, which is what is so interesting about them. It’s like monks that you would see, say, Benedictines or Dominicans, except these were military orders of monks, so these were monks who were soldiers. And they were entrusted with guarding the temple and guarding the Kingdom of Jerusalem. And Saladin, the great Islamic warlord, eventually conquered that kingdom, and then Richard the Lionhearted, who is famed from Robin Hood legend, actually led the third crusade to take back Jerusalem to the cause of Christendom, and went to the very gates of Jerusalem itself before he finally withdrew and negotiated a truce instead of having an armed attack on the city. When eventually the knights were thrown out of Palestine they went to the island of Rhodes. And you can still see on the island of Rhodes the great Templar Knight Castle that is there, where they inhabited for, I think, another 500 years they continued to live on Rhodes until finally they were attacked and cast off of there by other Muslim armies that cast them out finally from that island. It’s a fascinating history.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, I think that is probably all the questions we have time for. I would invite each of you, perhaps, to make some concluding remarks. Challenge us as the body of Christ for how we can respond to this in the coming weeks.
DR. CRAIG: Well I think that the main point to keep in mind with respect to all of these challenges when you hear them is that they all exhibit a very familiar pattern. The author will begin by describing his tremendous research into his subject area. He will then claim to have discovered some new document or novel interpretation of Jesus outside of the Gospels which cast the Gospels into doubt. And this new interpretation will be titillating and provocative, and he will claim, in light of this we must abandon the traditional understanding of Jesus and adopt this other interpretation instead which has probably been suppressed, probably by the Vatican, it’s always going to be some sort of conspiracy to suppress this. And now at last through his research the secret is out. And if you hear of books that follow this familiar pattern then I think you need to just have your antennae go up, you’re about to be duped. Because the fact is there just aren't any historical sources outside the New Testament that call into question the Gospel records of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. All of these other documents are forgeries that are hundreds of years later then the originals and do not reflect first century realities but are rather simply vehicles for later Gnostic or cultic teachings. So just be aware of that pattern so that you’ll recognize it when you hear it.
DR. LICONA: I guess I would say, if there is anyone here this evening who saw the sign out front or received a flyer somewhere and they came not a believer – maybe you are just a skeptic, maybe you are open, you are seeking – I would just first of all, I’d applaud you for coming. Because the movie does say to seek the truth. And I am just glad you’re here. I am glad that you have an open mind so at least you can get both sides of the story. And as Dr. Craig said earlier, all the magazines and TV, like Dateline, Primetime, History Channel, they all have negative reports and analyses of The Da Vinci Code in terms of its truth claims. And I hope that you keep that in mind as you consider some of these things, even if the secular media is coming out on a different side then Brown on this, then that might be saying something to you. There is extraordinary evidence for the historical Jesus, what he claimed about himself, and even the historical evidence for his resurrection is extraordinary. And I would encourage you that if you are here seeking tonight, and you are open minded, then continue to seek and look for those answers. There is a fantastic book that Dr. Craig may have brought this evening with him called Reasonable Faith. It is one of the best books in the whole world. And that would be just a great book for you to get and to look at some of the evidence that is actually there for Christianity. And again there’s other resources out in the lobby as well that could be helpful to you.
MODERATOR: And I would echo with these gentlemen that, research, check it out for yourself. We have just touched the tip of the iceberg. We have a number of resources out there that we encourage you to check into. But if you are here and you do not know Christ as your personal savior, it is worth your time to check into it. Let me encourage you, as these gentlemen have talked about, the New Testament documents are the most accurate descriptions of Christ. So why don’t you check it out; I encourage you to read the Gospel of John. 21 chapters, take the next 21 days and read the Gospel of John. Discuss it with someone who knows something about it, and check out the beliefs and ab