The Gospel Code

by Ben Witherington III, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL,
ISBN 0-8308-3267-X, 2004, 208 pages

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown has not only been a best seller, but it has also spawned a number of debunking books. Most of these books have exposed factual errors in Brown's book, but since the The DaVinci Code is a novel and only claims to be based on fact, these errors tend to be brushed aside. Criticism is also blunted because of the corruption that permeates organized religion and the increasing popularity of new-age beliefs, post-modernism, and relativism. What makes this book unique and especially useful is that it attacks all of these problems and approaches.

Ben Witherington III is a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. His Ph.D. is in the areas of study that this book is about, and he has written numerous books on this subject. This book begins by showing us that what is in The DaVinci Code is not a new idea. Books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1982 had the same ideas. Witherington then briefly explores seven major errors found in The DaVinci Code:

Error 1. The canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are not the earliest Gospels. Brown proposes that Gnostic Gospels are earlier. This is totally disproven by Witherington with several chapters dealing with Gnosticism.

Error 2. Jesus is a great man or prophet in the earliest historical sources, but was later proclaimed divine at the Counsel of Nicacea.

Error 3. Emperor Constantine suppressed the "earlier" Gnostic Gospels and imposed the canonical Gospels and the doctrine of the divinity of Christ on the Church.

Error 4. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

Error 5. Jesus must have been married since He was an early Jew.

Error 6. The Dead Sea Scrolls, along with the Nag Hammadi documents, are the earliest Christian records.

The seventh error is not a factual one, but Witherington shows clearly that Brown does not understand Christianity or God. This book explores all of these errors and gives us a vivid description of Gnosticism and canonicity.

Much of this book is about how we got the Bible and how canonicity works. Because the book is debunking Brown, it tends to focus on certain scholars and their errors. Marcus Borg, for example, gets a whole chapter including a rather strange personal miracle used to criticize Borg. There is a glossary, an index, and a Scripture index.

We recommend this book as a useful tool in handling biblical minimalists. It defends the Bible well and, in the process, does a good job of hitting at the assumptions and faulty understandings of The DaVinci Code.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec06.