Da Vinci, ZEITGEIST or the Bible: Who is the Real Jesus?

Steve Schrader – Mt. Airy Bible Church

 

Introduction:

The Da Vinci Code novel and the ZEITGEIST internet movie have cast doubt on the credibility of the New Testament narratives. Additionally, the ZEITGEIST movie claims Jesus is not a historical person but just a myth. Contrary to the historical and biblical evidence, they both claim that Jesus is not divine and did not bodily rise from the dead.

 

The Da Vinci Code:

The Da Vinci Code claims the church suppressed the truth about Jesus by covering up the fact that He married Mary Magdalene and meant to establish the worship of “the sacred feminine,” and not a church that worships Him as the Son of God. According to the book, Mary Magdalene is the true “holy grail” since it was her womb that held the “sacred blood” of Jesus as she gave birth to a bloodline that would eventually become the Merovingian Dynasty, a medieval family of French kings. The central claim of the novel is that this was known to a secret society that kept the truth alive over the centuries. Leonardo da Vinci was allegedly in on this secret and revealed it in a series of secret codes encrypted in his paintings. The central theme of the book is “everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” Dan Brown’s novel claims these allegations are “fact.”

 

Response to some of Dan Brown’s claims in The Da Vinci Code:

Claim: the Bible was compiled by Constantine in the 4th century; there was no definitive version of the Bible before Constantine.

Response: Diocletian, the emperor before Constantine tried to burn every copy of the Bible – how could he do that if there was not a definitive version of it? The Old Testament has been in tact since 400-600 years before Constantine. We have complete copies of the New Testament from 200 A.D.

 

Claim: There were more than 80 gospels considered for the New Testament but only four were chosen for inclusion in the New Testament.

Response: At most there were 12 gospels and only the 4 canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are from the first century. The others are 2nd and 3rd century Gnostic gospels. They were not “hidden” gospels, the early church knew exactly what they were an rejected them.

 

Claim: Jesus was deified at the Council of Nicaea by a “close vote”

Response: The council of Nicaea had nothing to do with deciding Jesus’ divinity. The “close” vote was 300-2. Jesus himself claimed to be God (Jn 8:58, Mk 2, Mk 14); His followers claimed he was God (Jn. 20:28; Jn. 1:1; Titus2:13; Heb. 1:8-10; 2 Ptr 1:1); yhose who rejected him tried to stone him and eventually crucified him for blasphemy (claiming to be God; Jn. 10:33, Mk 2, Mk 14); and Justin Martyr said “being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God” around 150 A.D.

 

Claim: Jesus was married

Response: No early text (biblical or extrabiblical) indicates the presence of a wife; many texts refer to his mother, brothers and sisters but never to a wife; in 1 Cor. 9:4-6 Paul wrote, “Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wife, like the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” – if Jesus was married, Paul certainly would have noted it; while on the cross, Jesus was concerned about His mother and gave her into John’s care, but no wife was mentioned.

 

 

Claim: Nothing in Christianity is original

Response: Jesus is the only founder of a major world religion who claimed deity; Jesus is the only founder of a major world religion who said what you do with me decides where you will spend eternity; Jesus is the only founder of a major world religion who was raised from the dead.

 

The ZEITGEIST movie:

The ZEITGEIST movie is an intranet conspiracy theory documentary. It is popular on the intranet but not so much in real life. It sets itself up as a documentary that reveals groundbreaking and shocking unveiling of secrets about religion and politics. The documentary asserts that Jesus did not really exist, he is just copied from the ancient pagan myths like Horus, Osiris, Adonis, Attis and Mithra.

 

Response to some of the ZEITGEIST movie claims:

Claim: Jesus is a myth copied from the ancient pagan mystery religions:

Response:

1.       This is not a new claim. It originated in Germany in the 19th century with the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule (History of Religions School). The idea is that all religions are related to each other and evolved over time and Christianity is just the latest evolutionary step. This idea died out because scholars said there is no evidence to support it.

2.       There are going to be some similarities between religions but similarity does not imply dependence. All religions are going to have some form of deity; certain rites & ceremonies; some sort of meal (which is not the same as communion); and they deal with the universal human condition and the questions we all ask as human beings such as how do we ground meaning, purpose, and value; why do we struggle with weaknesses (what we call sin); and how do we answer why there is evil & suffering in the world.

3.       The whole argument is an example of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (aka post hoc fallacy or false-cause fallacy) which says Event A occurred before Event B therefore A caused B; the fact that a previous religion may have had a similar belief to that of Christianity does not in itself prove that the previous religion is the cause of the belief in Christianity. There must be evidence of a causal chain, it is not sufficient to simply assert parallels.

 

Claim: Jesus did not exist at all

Response: There are at least 8 eyewitness accounts in the New Testament alone. History dated by his life (2011 AD). The movie claims there are no non-Christian sources and by implication that Christian sources are biased and can’t be trusted. This is false on both accounts. The Bible is not one Book. It is not honest or fair to say “other than your 8 eyewitness testimonies, there is no 1st century source.” Jesus’ followers wrote about him and later these writings were collected in to one book. Anyone who saw the things Jesus did and wrote about them would be considered by skeptics to be a Christian source and then excluded.

 

Non-Christian Sources:

Thallus:

He rejected the claim about why the sun went dark when Jesus hung on the cross. He said it was because of an eclipse. He did not deny the existence or crucifixion of Jesus; he just came up with another explanation for the darkness that occurred during the crucifixion.

 

Mar Bar-Serapion:

A Jew writing to his son in the first century refers to the Jews executing their king and that their kingdom was then taken away. In the first century, there was one (Jesus) called “the king of the Jews” who was executed and soon thereafter the kingdom was taken from Israel by Rome.

 

Pliny the Younger:

At the end of the first century wrote to Emperor Trajan about the Christians; he noted that they offered prayers and songs to Christus as if he were a god.

 

Suetonius:

Wrote around AD 120 and calls Christus an instigator who stirred up the Jews which implies that Christus was an historical person.

 

Tacitus:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

 

Flavius Josephus:

“Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.”

 

Claim: there are virgin birth stories in many of the pagan myths such as Horus, Adonis, Krishna, Mithras, and Attis

 

Response:

Horus -- was the conception of Osiris and Isis. They were married, so there is no reason to believe she was a virgin. Osiris was killed by Seth, then cut up in to 14 pieces and buried all over Egypt. Isis collected 13 pieces (1 missing) and puts them back together. She creates a wooden phallus to replace the missing “piece” and has intercourse with it and conceives Horus – not a virgin birth.

Adonis -- born from a myrrh-tree, the bark of which burst after ten months' gestation, allowing the infant to come forth

Krishna -- was born to a mother who already had seven previous sons; virgin birth account comes from 7th century – 700 yrs after Jesus

Mithras -- born out of a rock on the banks of a river under a sacred fig-tree, came forth clenching a dagger in one hand and a torch in the other hand; which he used to illumine the depths from which he came

Attis -- Zeus masturbates and spills his seed on to a mountain, his seed becomes a pomegranate tree. Nana (Attis’ mother) is sitting under the tree when an apple drops in her lap and Attis is conceived – not quite the same as Jesus’ virgin birth

 

Sources:

Dr. Mark Foreman: Lecture given at Evangelical Philosophical Society Meeting November 2010.

 

Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007)

 

Ronald H. Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992, 2003)

 

J. Ed Komoszewksi, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: What the Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006).