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The Da Vinci Deception

The Da Vinci Deception

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by Erwin Lutzer

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2005 Gold Medallion Award finalist!
Was Jesus really married to Mary Magdalene? Did they actually have children who intermarried with the French royal family? Has the church been hiding the truth for centuries? In his best-selling work of fiction, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown blurs the lines between history and fiction, giving the impression they are one


2005 Gold Medallion Award finalist!
Was Jesus really married to Mary Magdalene? Did they actually have children who intermarried with the French royal family? Has the church been hiding the truth for centuries? In his best-selling work of fiction, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown blurs the lines between history and fiction, giving the impression they are one and the same and that Christianity is based on a lie. In The Da Vinci Deception, Erwin Lutzer, renowned theologian and pastor of the world-famous Moody Church in Chicago, examines the “facts” behind the best-selling novel, clarifies the issues involved in the deception, and equips readers with the truth. Mass paper edition includes study guide. Tyndale House Publishers

Editorial Reviews

The author of One Minute After You Die offers one Christian's rejoinder to the "deceptions" of Dan Brown mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code.

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Tyndale House Publishers
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4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.70(d)

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Copyright © 2006 Erwin Lutzer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4143-0633-4

Chapter One


We have good reason to be skeptical when a politician embraces religion-especially if religion helps him achieve his political ambitions.

Consider the emperor Constantine, who in The Da Vinci Code is said to have invented the deity of Christ in order to consolidate his power. And, we're told, he also eliminated those books from the New Testament that did not suit his political agenda.

In The Da Vinci Code, Brown asserts that by declaring the deity of Christ, Constantine solidified his rule and earned the right to declare those who disagreed with him as heretics. The emperor convened the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 to ratify this new doctrine that would give him the clout he craved. Sir Leigh Teabing, the Holy Grail enthusiast, explains to Sophie that at the council the delegates agreed on the divinity of Jesus. Then he adds, "Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet ... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."

So Constantine "upgraded Jesus' status almost three centuries after Jesus' death" for political reasons. In the process, he secured male dominance and the suppression of women. By forcing others to accept his views, the emperor demonstrated his power and was free to kill all who opposed him.

The second allegation in the novel is that Constantine rejected other gospels that were favorable to the divine feminine. To quote Teabing again, "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.... The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great."

In other words, Constantine recognized a good deal when he saw it and therefore called the council to ensure male power and accept those canonical documents that were favorable to his political agenda. In the novel, Langdon says, "The Priory believes that Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever." With this accomplishment, the course of church history was solidified according to Constantine's liking. "Remember it was all about power," we are told.

Let's begin to investigate these claims. In this chapter we'll separate fact from fiction, look into the ancient records, and discover exactly what Constantine did and didn't do.

Church historians agree that next to the events in the New Testament, the most important event in the history of Christianity is the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in AD 312. In brief, here's the story: Constantine's troops were positioned at the Milvian Bridge just outside of Rome, where they were preparing to overthrow the Roman emperor Maxentius. A victory would, in effect, make Constantine the sole ruler of the empire. But the night before the battle, Constantine saw a vision that changed his life and the history of the church.

In the words of Eusebius of Caesarea, who was both a historian and a confidant of Constantine, the emperor was praying to a pagan god when "he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross in the light of the heavens, above the sun and an inscription, Conquer By This attached to it.... Then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of this sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies."

To make a long story short, Constantine crossed over the bridge and won the battle, fighting under the banner of the Christian cross. Later he issued the Edict of Milan, decreeing that Christians were no longer to be persecuted. And now, although a politician, he took leadership in the doctrinal disputes that were disrupting the unity in his empire.

Let's travel back to Nicaea (modern-day Iznik in Turkey, about 125 miles from modern-day Istanbul) to find out what happened there 1,700 years ago.


Those of us reared in a country where religion is largely private and where diversity is gladly tolerated might find it difficult to believe that in the early fourth century, doctrinal disputes were tearing Constantine's empire apart. It is said that if you bought a loaf of bread in the marketplace of Constantinople, you might be asked whether you believe that God the Son was begotten or unbegotten and if you asked about the quality of the bread you might be told that the Father is greater and the Son is less.

Adding fuel to these disagreements was a man named Arius, who was gaining a wide following by teaching that Christ was not fully God but a created god of sorts. He believed that Christ was more than a man but less than God. Arius was a great communicator, and because he put his doctrinal ideas into musical jingles, his ideas became widely accepted. Although many church bishops declared him a heretic, the disputes nonetheless continued. Constantine called the first ecumenical council at Nicaea, hoping to suppress dissent and unify Christianity. In fact, the emperor even paid the expenses of the bishops who gathered.

Constantine did not care about the finer points of theology, so practically any creed would have satisfied him-as long as it would unify his subjects. As one historian has said, "Christianity became both a way to God and a way to unite the empire." He gave the opening speech himself, telling the delegates that doctrinal disunity was worse than war.

This intrusion of a politician into the doctrines and procedures of the church was resented by some of the delegates, but welcomed by others. For those who had gone through a period of bitter persecution, this conference, carried on under the imperial banner, was heaven on earth.


More than three hundred bishops met at Nicaea to settle disputes about Christology-that is, the doctrine of Christ. When Constantine finished his opening speech, the proceedings began.

Overwhelmingly, the council declared Arius a heretic. Though Arius was given an opportunity to defend his views, the delegates recognized that if Christ was not fully God, then God was not the Redeemer of mankind. To say that Christ was created was to deny the clear teaching of Scripture: "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him" (Colossians 1:16). Clearly, if he created all things, he most assuredly could not have been created himself! To this passage many others that teach the deity of Christ were added, both from the Gospels and the Epistles (John 1:1; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8; etc.).

Affirming the divinity of Jesus, the delegates turned their attention to the question of how he related to the Father. Eusebius the historian presented his view, claiming that Jesus had a nature that was similar to that of God the Father.

Present, but not invited to the actual proceedings, was the theologian Athanasius, who believed that even to say that Christ is similar to God the Father is to miss the full biblical teaching about Christ's divinity. His argument that Christ could only be God in the fullest sense if his nature was the same as that of the Father was expressed by his representative, Marcellus, a bishop from Asia Minor in the proceedings. Constantine, seeing that the debate was going in Athanasius's favor, accepted the suggestion of a scholarly bishop and advised the delegates to use the Greek word homoousion, which means "one and the same." In other words, Jesus had the very same nature as the Father.

The council agreed, and today we have the famous Nicene Creed. As anyone who has ever quoted the creed knows, Jesus Christ is declared to be "Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made" (italics added). There can be no question that the delegates affirmed that Christ was deity in the fullest sense.

Why should we be interested in this debate? Some critics have been amused that the Council of Nicaea split over one "iota." The difference between the Greek words for similar and same is but one letter of the alphabet: the letter i. Some argue that it's just like theologians to split hairs, arguing over minutiae that have little to do with the real world. How much better to help the poor or get involved in the politics of the day!

But William E. Hordern tells a story that illustrates how a single letter or comma can change the meaning of a message. Back in the days when messages were sent by telegraph there was a code for each punctuation mark. A woman touring Europe cabled her husband to ask whether she could buy a beautiful bracelet for $75,000. The husband sent this message back: "No, price too high." The cable operator, in transmitting the message, missed the signal for the comma. The woman received the message "No price too high." She bought the bracelet; the husband sued the company and won! After that, people using Morse code spelled out all punctuation. Clearly, a comma or an "iota" can make a big difference when communicating a message!

Although the Council of Nicaea was divided over the Greek words similar and same, the issue was incredibly important. Even if Christ were the highest and most noble creature of God's creation, God would then be only indirectly involved in the salvation of man. As one historian has said, Athanasius realized that "only if Christ is God, without qualification, has God entered humanity, and only then have fellowship with God, the forgiveness of sins, the truth of God, and immortality been certainly brought to men."

In The Da Vinci Code, we read that the doctrine of Christ's deity passed by a "relatively close vote." That is fiction, since only five out of more than three hundred bishops (the number is actually believed to have been 318) protested the creed. In fact, in the end, only two refused to sign it. The outcome was not exactly a cliff-hanger.

That's not to say that the Council of Nicaea ended all the disputes. Arianism continued to have its adherents, and subsequent emperors sided with whichever view suited them at the time. But from this point on, Christian orthodoxy maintained that Jesus was "God of very God."

Whether Constantine was a genuine convert to Christianity is a matter of debate. We do know that he had been a worshipper of the sun god before his "conversion," and it appears that he carried on such worship for the rest of his life. He is even credited with standardizing Christian worship by mandating Sunday as the official day of worship. There is no doubt that he used Christianity to further his own political ends.

But did he invent the divinity of Jesus? Before the council, was Christ believed to be just a remarkable man? There is not a single shred of historical evidence for such a notion. Not only was Christ's deity the consensus of the delegates, but as can easily be shown, this doctrine was held by the church centuries before the council met.

Contrary to Teabing's claim in The Da Vinci Code, many believed that Christ was more than a "mortal prophet" before the council met in AD 325. We must take a moment to read the writings of the apostolic fathers, those who knew the apostles and were taught by them. Then we can investigate writings of the second- and third-generation leaders, all affirming in their own way the divinity of Jesus.


Let me introduce you to someone who longed to die for Jesus. That was the attitude of Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch in Syria. In AD 110, he wrote a series of letters to several churches while on his way to martyrdom in Rome. The centerpiece of his doctrine was his conviction that Christ is God Incarnate. "There is One God who manifests himself through Jesus Christ his son." Another source elaborates further: Ignatius speaks of Jesus as "Son of Mary and Son of God ... Jesus Christ our Lord," calling Jesus "God Incarnate." In fact, he refers to him as "Christ God." Remember, he wrote this a full two hundred years before the Council of Nicaea!

Other examples include the following:

Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of the apostle John, sent a letter to the church at Philippi in about AD 112-118. In it, he assumes that those to whom it is addressed acknowledge the divinity of Jesus, his exaltation to heaven, and his subsequent glorification. Polycarp was martyred in about AD 160 and gave testimony of his faith in the presence of his executioners.

Justin Martyr was born in Palestine and was impressed with the ability of Christians to face death heroically. When he heard the gospel, he converted to Christianity and became a defender of the faith he loved. He said Christ was "the son and the apostle of God the Father and master of all." He was born about AD 100 and martyred in AD 165.

Irenaeus became the bishop of Lyons in AD 177. He spent much of his life combating the heresy of Gnosticism that we will examine in the next chapter. Speaking of passages such as John 1:1, he wrote that "all distinctions between the Father and the Son vanish, for the one God made all things through His word."

To this list could be added teachers like Tertullian (150-212), who one hundred years before Constantine advocated a fully divine and fully human Christ. Dozens of other writings from the early centuries of Christianity prove that the early church affirmed the deity of Jesus. Their convictions were rooted in the New Testament Scriptures that were already accepted as authoritative by the church. For the two and a half centuries before Nicaea, the nearly universal opinion of the church was that Christ was divine, just as the Scriptures taught.


We find more evidence that the divinity of Christ was not Constantine's idea when we remind ourselves of the persecutions in Rome. If we had belonged to a small congregation in Rome in the second or third century, we might have heard an announcement like this: "The emperor [Caesar Augustus] has issued a new order, requiring all Roman subjects to attend the religious/political ceremony designed to unify the nation and revive lagging patriotism within the empire." The Romans believed that if one had a god above Caesar, that person could not be trusted at a time of national emergency -a war, for instance. All good citizens were commanded to "worship the spirit of Rome and the genius of the emperor," as the edict read. Specifically, this ceremony involved the burning of incense and saying simply, "Caesar is Lord."

Sometimes persecution was directly targeted against those who worshipped Jesus. But for the most part, Caesar did not care what god a person worshipped. After one made the yearly obligatory confession that Caesar was Lord, that person was free to worship whatever god he or she wished-including Jesus. Christian congregations-and there were many of them-had to make a tough choice: They either complied as citizens or faced cruel retribution. Many of the Christians had watched as their relatives and friends were thrown to wild beasts or killed by gladiators for refusing to confess Caesar's lordship.

If Jesus were seen as one option among many, Christians could give allegiance to other expressions of the divine. Why not find common ground with the central unity of all religions? Not only would this have promoted harmony, but also the common good of the state. So the choice, strictly speaking, was not whether the Christians would worship Christ or Caesar but whether they would worship Christ and Caesar.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Rome, don't miss the Pantheon, one of the most ancient and beautiful buildings still standing today, completed in AD 126. It is a masterpiece of perfection with a grand hemispherical dome. This was the Roman "temple of the gods," the place where all the various gods of ancient Rome were housed. Filled with statues and artifacts, it is here that Rome's diverse religious worship was localized.

Interestingly, the pagans saw no conflict between emperor worship and the worship of their own gods. Paganism, both ancient and modern, has always been tolerant of other finite gods. After all, if your god is not a supreme deity, then indeed you have little choice but to make room for other gods and celebrate the splendor of diversity.


Excerpted from THE DA VINCI DECEPTION by ERWIN W. LUTZER Copyright © 2006 by Erwin Lutzer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Da Vinci Deception 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Da vinci code is obviously a work of fiction. A fantastic one might i add. If this book is in the fiction section of a book store why would you write a book proving that it is ficticious? The writer knows it is and so does everyone else. There was no point in writing this book.