At an important juncture in his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ asked his followers a question that has since echoed through the ages: “Who do men say that I am?” Even the B.C. / A.D. on the calendar reflects the historical impact of the man named Jesus, of Nazareth. Through the centuries, Jesus Christ has remained the single most influential human being who has ever lived, and has thus been the focal point of countless discussions about who he was and how he did what he did.
Now, The DaVinci Code brings that discussion to the silver screen. It purports that the early followers of Jesus viewed him as fully human. Many Church leaders are up in arms about that, saying that New Testament writers saw Jesus as “fully divine, i.e. “God in human flesh.” Some Christian leaders combine both of those opinions into a logically and etymologically problematic “fully God, fully man” concept of Jesus.
The DaVinci Code also suggests that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a bloodline, and that there was a systematic cover-up by subsequent generations of church leaders that involved a deliberate distortion of the Christian Scriptures. There is no biblical evidence for the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married or even had any kind of special friendship. When she saw him in the garden after his resurrection, she called him “Rabbi” (meaning “Teacher”). She did not say, “Hello, honey,” or anything with a shred of special familiarity. The biblical evidence is that Jesus never married nor had children.
Both the book and the movie are fictional, but do incorporate elements of truth that make the story sound plausible. This is the essence of the controversy. Were Dan Brown’s theories entirely fantasy, they would attract little attention.
How can we know the truth? Why not let Jesus speak for himself? Actually, he did, both in the words he spoke while on earth as recorded in the Four Gospels, and in the words he spoke after his ascension to the Apostle Paul, which we find in the Church Epistles (Romans – Thessalonians). He and his disciples made it clear that he was the fully human Christ, the Son of the living God. He was not “God in human flesh,” but God’s fully human son empowered by holy spirit. He was able to do what he did by trusting in his heavenly Father, just as he now asks us to do.
In our book, One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith, we argue that the Christian Church did add to God’s Word in the generations and centuries after Jesus Christ lived, died, was resurrected, and ascended on high. The “adjustments” of the Greek text occurred in two opposite directions. The first was directed against Gnostic theology, and sought to establish Jesus’ humanity, because the Gnostics considered him an immaterial representative of the divine realm. The second was directed against those believers who saw Jesus as the fully human Son of God, and added weight to the developing Trinitarian dogma that saw him as co-equally God along with “the Father” and “the Holy Spirit.” Richard Rubinstein’s book, When Jesus Became God, is another powerful source of historical information largely suppressed by mainstream Christians about the process by which Jesus was improperly elevated to divine status.
The DaVinci Code film will have people talking about Jesus, the Bible, and the Christian Church, and we should see this as a great opportunity to testify to the truth and provide answers for people who are spiritually hungry. Because Jesus is the Messiah, he is the fulcrum of history and “the diameter of the ages.” What people think of him will in large part determine their spiritual destiny. We want to help them know who he really is, and how they can get to know him personally.
The question that Jesus asked his followers is one that faces every person who has lived since then: “Who do you say that he is?” Knowing the answer is critical, not only to our everlasting destiny, but to our quality of life today. Is Jesus Christ who he said he was, the unique and human Son of God, or do the opinions of religious and irreligious people define him? Only the Bible, properly understood, answers that question and shows how you can now have a personal relationship with this unique man, the only man ever to perfectly trust God and exemplify His will and heart for humankind.