“At this gathering [Council of Nicaea, 325] … many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon — the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments …”
So far so good …
“… and, of course, the divinity of Jesus … “
“… 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” … “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea” (p.233).
Total. Utter. Can you hear me? Nonsense.
In reality, early Christians overwhelmingly worshipped Jesus Christ as their risen Savior and Lord. Before the church adopted comprehensive doctrinal creeds, early Christian leaders developed a set of instructional summaries of belief, termed the “Rule” or “Canon” of Faith, which affirmed this truth. To take one example, the canon of prominent second-century bishop Irenaeus took its cue from 1 Corinthians 8:6: “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ.” Christianity Today
Let’s take a look at that word “Lord”. Pious Jews would not even write, much less say,”Yahweh” for fear of taking the Lord’s name in vain. They substituted the Hebrew word, Adonai — Lord — for the Tetragrammaton: YHWH (usually rendered Yahweh and translated “I Am” in English).
But the New Testament was written in Greek …
The term used here—Lord, Kyrios—deserves a bit more attention. Kyrios was used by the Greeks to denote divinity (though sometimes also, it is true, as a simple honorific). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint, pre-dating Christ), this term became the preferred substitution for “Jahweh,” the holy name of God. The Romans also used it to denote the divinity of their emperor, and the first-century Jewish writer Josephus tells us that the Jews refused to use it of the emperor for precisely this reason: only God himself was kyrios.
The Christians took over this usage of kyrios and applied it to Jesus, from the earliest days of the church. They did so not only in Scripture itself (which Brown argues was doctored after Nicea), but in the earliest extra-canonical Christian book, the Didache, which scholars agree was written no later than the late 100s. In this book, the earliest Aramaic-speaking Christians refer to Jesus as Lord.
In addition, pre-Nicene Christians acknowledged Jesus’s divinity by petitioning God the Father in Christ’s name. Church leaders, including Justin Martyr, a second-century luminary and the first great church apologist, baptized in the name of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—thereby acknowledging the equality of the one Lord’s three distinct persons. Christianity Today
Brown continually has his characters refer to the Council of Nicea as if it were some sort of Catechumen Constantine Controlled Country Club Kabal. Once again, he sounds like a misguided Chick-tract-hick. Here’s the longish scoop from various sources:
The Council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical of the Church, made possible by the patronage of Constantine and his desire to end the disunity and controversy being caused by the Arian heresy.
Arius (b. c. 260-80; d. 336) was a priest from Alexandria who was noted for his preaching and ascetic lifestyle. Around 319 or so he began to gain attention for his teaching that Jesus was not fully divine, but was lesser than the Father. Arius held that the Son had not existed for all of eternity past, but was a created being begotten by the Father as an instrument of, first, creation and the, later, salvation. Put another way, Arius believed that Jesus, the Son of God, was not God by nature, but instead was a lesser god.
This belief was condemned by the bishop Alexander at a local synod held in Alexandria around 320, with ninety-eight of a hundred bishops voting against Arius’s views. But the priest’s teachings attracted interest and spread quickly, partially due to Arius’s clever use of catchy songs proclaiming his doctrinal beliefs and also due to the patronage of Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea and one of the greatest scholars of his time. Arius’s beliefs were proving so popular and disruptive that Constantine decided to bring together the bishops and put an end to the controversy; his interest was most likely in unity over theological clarity, but he realized the former would defend in large part upon the latter.
On May 20, 325, a number of bishops, the vast majority of them from the East, convened at Nicaea (modern day Iznik, north of Constantinople); the council lasted until July 25 of the same year. The number of bishops in attendance has traditionally been listed as 318, likely a symbolic number (cf., Gen. 14:14); the actual number was probably around 220 to 250 (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1144). Due to poor health, the Pope did not attend, but sent two deacons to represent him. “The great bulk of the Council came from the Greek-speaking provinces of the Empire,” writes A.H.M. Jones, “The bulk of the gathering were simple pastors, who would naturally resent any innovation on the faith which they had learned and would have little sympathy with the intellectual paradoxes of Arius. Many could boast of the proud title of confessor, having endured imprisonment, torture, and penal servitude for the sake of their faith” ( Jones, 131).
This rugged and tried character of most of the bishops is completely contrary to The Da Vinci Code’s implication that the bishops meekly accepted whatever the Emperor told them. Many of the bishops at Nicaea were veterans of the persecution of Diocletian. Is it reasonable to think that they would quietly allow Constantine to change the faith for which they had already suffered and were willing to die?
Constantine, while actively involved in the Council, knew that his place was not to be a theologian or scholar, but to help facilitate as structured and productive gathering as possible. After all, one of the strengths of Roman culture was organization; the Greeks, on the other hand, were more attuned to theological nuance and detail.
In The Da Vinci Code, Teabing states that at the Council of Nicaea Jesus was established as “the Son of God” (p. 233). This is false; it is also taken from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which states, “Most important of all, the Council of Nicaea decided, by vote, that Jesus was a god, not a mortal prophet” (Holy Blood, Holy Grail,, 368. The irony is that Arius believed that Jesus was a god, but not fully God). As already noted, the Gospels alone refer to Jesus as the “Son of God” over forty times and this description is used often by the early Church fathers. Thus, the Council of Nicaea actually ratified, even more clearly and definitively, the consistent belief of the Church. As we have already seen, the belief in Jesus’ divinity and Godhead goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. The Council of Nicaea focused on clarifying the unique relationship between the Father and the Son and condemning those ideas of Arius that would imply, or assert outright, that the Son was lesser than the Father, was a created being, and was a lesser god. The Catechism of the Catholic Church ably summarizes the basic issue: “The first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is ‘begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father’, and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God ‘came to be from things that were not’ and that he was ‘from another substance’ than that of the Father” (CCC 465).
As for the “relatively close vote,” it is a figment of Teabing and Brown’s imaginations. Only two bishops out of some 250 voted in favor of Arius’s position–over 99% of the bishops upheld the belief that the Son was equal with the Father and of the same substance. Even Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which apparently provided much of Brown’s material for his comments on this topic, gets it right, acknowledging in a terse footnote: “218 for, 2 against” (Holy Blood, Holy Grail,, 473. It also adds, “The Son was then pronounced identical with the Father.” Not quite. He was pronounced “one in substance”; he is a separate Person). Once again, Brown’s embellished version of the facts is not only incorrect, it is completely contrary to the truth.” ENVOY
“… establishing Christ’s divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base” … “… now the followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves only via the established sacred channel — the Roman Catholic Church” (p.233).
Again, the Vatican did not exist at this time. Also, technically, the “Roman Catholic Church” — especially as Brown “understands” it — did not exist until much later.
“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” (p.234).
Garbage. Constantine wouldn’t know a new Bible if it bit him in the back. It won’t on the Council’s agenda. Besides, the earliest source of New Testament writings is from St Paul, shortly after the Ascension, during the Apostolic age. Someone should have clued Brown in — or else Constantine and cohorts should have taken St Paul’s writings out. But, of course, Brown’s no dummy. My guess is he presumes you are. Here’s some noteworthy quotes.
Also, there’s St Polycarp. We have actual testimony of this Saint’s martyrdom. (I’m sure that he would have been surprised to know that it was really all about Mary Magdalene and the Vatican’s power grab. Lord. Have. Mercy.) St Polycarp died for the Faith around 155 AD.
His sole surviving work, the Letter to the Philippians, and an account of The Martyrdom of Polycarp form part of the writings usually collected under the title “The Apostolic Fathers”. The latter is considered the earliest genuine post-biblical account of a Christian martyrdom, and one of the very few genuine such writings from the actual age of the persecutions. Source.
Here’s an excerpt from the Martyrdom of Polycarp …
Then, when he had been brought in, the proconsul asked him if he was Polycarp. And when he confessed, he would have persuaded him to deny, saying, Have respect unto thine age, and other things like these, as is their custom to say: Swear by the fortunes of Caesar; Repent; Say, Away with the Atheists. But Polycarp, when he had looked with a grave face at all the multitude of lawless heathen in the arena, having beckoned unto them with his hand, sighed, and looking up unto heaven, said, Away with the Atheists!
And when the proconsul pressed him, and said, Swear, and I will release thee, revile Christ; Polycarp said, Eighty and six years have I served him, and in nothing hath he wronged me; and how, then, can I blaspheme my King, who saved me? Source.
Here’s an excerpt from St Polycarp’s letter to the Phillipians …
If then we entreat the Lord that He would forgive us, we also ought to forgive: for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and we must all stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, and each man must give an account of himself.
Let us therefore so serve Him with fear and all reverence, as He himself gave commandment and the Apostles who preached the Gospel to us and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of our Lord; being zealous as touching that which is good, abstaining from offenses and from the false brethren and from them that bear the name of the Lord in hypocrisy, who lead foolish men astray.
For every one who shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist: and whosoever shall not confess the testimony of the Cross, is of the devil; and whosoever shall pervert the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts and say that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, that man is the firstborn of Satan. Source.
This, along with the quotes from St Paul, just goes to show that the divinity of Jesus was a matter of firm belief long before the Council of Nicea. What an idea!
“The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominantly male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean. It was man, not God, who created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy” (p.238).
Oh my! Sounds like Brown’s reading from a Women Church playbook. What utter, forgive the repetitive word here: nonsense. But then, Dan Brown’s got an agenda …
The major theme of Brown’s novel is the pressing need to recover the “sacred feminine” and a revitalized worship of a goddess or goddesses. Brown states, in responding on his website to the question about his novel being “empowering to women,” that,
“Two thousand years ago, we lived in a world of Gods and Goddesses. Today, we live in a world solely of Gods. Women in most cultures have been stripped of their spiritual power. The novel touches on questions of how and why this shift occurred…and on what lessons we might learn from it regarding our future.”
In an interview with CNN (July 17, 2003), Brown emphasized this point more than once, stating, “In the early days . . . we lived in a world of gods and goddesses. . . . Every Mars had an Athena. The god of war had the goddess of beauty; in the Egyptian tradition, Osiris and Isis. … And now we live in a world solely of gods. The female counterpart has been erased.” He continues: “It’s interesting to note that the word ‘god’ conjures power and awe, while the word ‘goddess’ sounds imaginary.” Then, revealing his understanding of how his novel might affect “traditional” Christians, he remarks, “There are some people in the church for whom this book is a little bit shocking. But the reaction from the vast majority of clergy and Christian scholars has been positive.” He adds: “Nuns, in particular, are exceptionally excited about the strong feminist message of the book.” ENVOY
Brown furthers his agenda in the following passages:
“The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church. The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominantly male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean. It was man, not God, who created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy” (p. 238).
“Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene” (p. 248).
“[The] concept of woman as life-bringer was the foundation of ancient religion. Childbirth was mystical and powerful. Sadly, Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female’s creative power by ignoring biological truth and making man the Creator. Genesis tells us the Eve was created from Adam’s rib. Woman became an offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess” (p.238).
Folks, really. Whether you’re Orthodox, Baptist, or Seventh Day Adventist, regardless of your pedigree … really. I realize there are people who wish to make Brown’s utterances true, but the above quote is just about the most asinine thing (tough competition) in his best-selling book.
“Ancient religion” must not include Judaism! As if there’s a generic brand and divine “ancient religion”. Far as I know, childbirth is STILL “mystical and powerful”. Christian “philosophy”? Eve’s being fashioned from Adam’s rib does not negate the wonder of woman nor childbearing. Besides, God is the fashioner, not man. Okay … woman is an “offshoot” of man and man is an “offshoot” of dirt. Point? Eve was not created sinful. Forgive me, I must move on, this is just beyond reason.
“That, my dear … is Mary Magdalene” … “The prostitute?” … Magdalene was no such thing. That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early Church. The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her dangerous secret — her role as the Holy Grail” (pp.243-4).
For what it’s worth, the Orthodox Church has never taught that the woman caught in adultery was Mary Magdalene. This, from Newsweek (no less):
Was Mary M. a prostitute?
This misperception probably began with a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great in A.D. 591 in which he conflated several figures into one. In 1969 the Vatican officially overruled Gregory. Source.
“Although many people still picture the Magdalen as a sinful woman who anointed Jesus and equate her with Mary of Bethany, that conflation is actually the later work of Pope St. Gregory the Great. The East has always kept them separate and said that the Magdalen, “apostle to the apostles,” died in Ephesus.” Source.
“Sophie was mesmerized. Sure enough, their clothes were inverse colors. Jesus wore a red robe and blue cloak; Mary Magdalene wore a blue robe and red cloak. Yin and yang” (p.244).
Former Catechumens, aka Orthodox Converts, will recognize the inverse colors scheme. However this is usually seen in icons picturing our Lord and his mother. That is, Christ the Pantocrator is normally portrayed wearing a red inner garment, symbolizing His divinity, and a blue outter garment, His assumed earthly humanity. On the other icon His mother, Mary, is portrayed wearing a blue inner garment, symbolizing her natural humanity, and a red outter garment, symbolizing her taking on the vocation of Mother of God. Incidentally, the image of the Christ that Mary holds is not of suckling babe, but of a little Man robed in Gold (symbolizing “truly God, truly Man”).
I have no idea what Brown is trying to prove.
“The Last Temptation of Christ … which was about Jesus having sex with a lady called Mary Magdalene” (p.26).
I read Kazantzakis’s “Last Temptation” and only remember the imaginary fantasy — not any actual ACT attributed to the main character. Not defending, mind you, Kazantzakis’s notion, and I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but Brown is misspeaking here, isn’t he?
“This is Saint Peter. The rock on which Jesus built His Church” … The same, except for one catch. According to these unaltered gospels, it was not Peter to whom Christ gave directions with which to establish the Christian Church. It was Mary Magdalene” (p.248).
Where did Christ ever give directions — to Peter or any other individual — with which to establish the Church? Smells, yet again, of anti-Catholic bias. If you’re a traditional Protestant, you already reject the “Peter notion” anyway. Brown’s kicking the envelope right over the edge is not, therefore, such a grievous foul. Of course the Orthodox — nowhere on Brown’s radar — understand the role of the Prince of the Apostles differently. It’s a foul worth crying about nonetheless.
“Magdalene was recast as a whore in order to erase evidence of her powerful family ties” (p.249).
Hogwash. See above.
“[T]he greatest cover-up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth!” (p.249).
What was sacred about anything if Jesus was just a man and Mary just a woman? Here Brown seems to be mixing ingredients that have already been discarded.
“The Church, in order to defend itself against the Magdalene’s power, perpetuated her image as a whore and buried evidence of Christ’s marriage to her, thereby defusing any potential claims that Christ had a surviving bloodline and was a mortal prophet” (p.254).
To what end? Brown seems to envision an established Church, much like the current Roman Catholic establishment, with worldwide treasure and power. My goodness. In the days of the early church losing one’s head — literally — ruled the day. We have countless stories of Martyrs and their horrific sacrifices for the Lord of Glory. Are we really to believe that this was all a ruse? Did the Church do nothing but fabricate tale after tale so as not to lose Her … what? Virginity? What Brown is actually saying is that the Church is a whore. “The Church, the Bride of God, is a lying whore,” suggests Dan Brown. And Christians by the millions buy it. The book, that is. At least I hope that’s all they’re buying.
“Langdon’s Jewish students always looked flabbergasted when he first told them that the early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex. In the Temple, no less. Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple housed not only God but also His powerful female equal, Shekinah. Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the Temple to visit priestesses — or hierodules — with whom they made love and experienced the divine through physical union. The Jewish tetragrammaton YHWH — the sacred name of God — in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah” (p.309).
Worst of all, in Brown’s eyes, is the fact that the pleasure-hating, sex-hating, woman-hating Church suppressed goddess worship and eliminated the divine feminine. He claims that goddess worship universally dominated pre-Christian paganism with the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) as its central rite. His enthusiasm for fertility rites is enthusiasm for sexuality, not procreation. What else would one expect of a Cathar sympathizer?
Astonishingly, Brown claims that Jews in Solomon’s Temple adored Yahweh and his feminine counterpart, the Shekinah, via the services of sacred prostitutes—possibly a twisted version of the Temple’s corruption after Solomon (1 Kings 14:24 and 2 Kings 23:4-15). Moreover, he says that the tetragrammaton YHWH derives from “Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.”
But as any first-year Scripture student could tell you, Jehovah is actually a 16th-century rendering of Yahweh using the vowels of Adonai (“Lord”). In fact, goddesses did not dominate the pre-Christian world—not in the religions of Rome, her barbarian subjects, Egypt, or even Semitic lands where the hieros gamos was an ancient practice. Nor did the Hellenized cult of Isis appear to have included sex in its secret rites.” Source.
“Hold on! He thinks a cathedral’s entrance represents a woman’s” … “Complete with receding labial ridges and a nice little cinquefoil clitoris above the doorway” (p.326).
Well I don’t know about that entire anatomy lesson, but some of the above may be true. At least that’s what I was taught. With Gothic Architecture, doors and cloister openings resembling the female “door”, shall we say, symbolize the Church as our Mother wherein Christians are born anew. Descriptions of this kind of imagery may be found by googling “female symbolism” & “gothic architecture”. Yet, this has nothing to do with carnal sex, as Brown would have one believe, but everything to do with the incarnational Reality of the Church and the new birth of redemption.
“Sophie, every religion in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith — acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove” (p.241).
Read carefully: Fabrication is the definition of faith. “The Church is a lying whore.”
“Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth? Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical” (p.342).
Yep. See what I mean? If you are really faithful you’ll understand that it’s all made up, bunk, fairy tales … metaphorical.
“My dear, 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 …” (p.407).
Do Roman Catholics read this book? I’m sure they do. Why is there no greater outcry? Because it’s fiction? I don’t know. It seems to me that the above sentence, among many, should give one pause. Then again …
“Do you really wonder why Catholics are leaving the Church? Look around you, Cardinal. People have lost respect. The rigors of the faith, are gone. The doctrine has become a buffet line. Abstinence, confession, communion, baptism, mass — take your pick — choose whatever combination pleases you and ignore the rest. What kind of spiritual guidance is the Church offering?” (p.416).
Caution: Preachy mode on …
Everyone considering themselves a member of the Church Catholic should be talking about this book, dissecting it, criticizing it. The scary part is I’m not sure many, relatively speaking, have bothered. Most are probably holding their breath waiting for the arrival of the next exciting book by Dan Brown.
We have become so gullible as a people — Believers, that is. Christianity has been dumbed down to an emotional experience where the only sin is being judgmental. “As long as you’re not hurting anybody.” (Besides, the novel’s only fiction. Right?)
We’ve become lukewarm. As in, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).
But, you know St Polycarp, it is a thrilling read.