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May 23, 2006



Beautifully put! Here's Balthasar making a complementary point: "it is no wonder that we already find a plurality of 'Christologies' in the New Testament. If it were otherwise, the incomprehensibility of God, whose Word became flesh, would be at an end." (Truth is Symphonic: Aspects of Christian Pluralism, p 60).


From the "Guardian" article linked above:

" With a fragmented plot that is less plausible than a Harry Potter movie, it combines the historical seriousness of Monty Python's Life of Brian with the deep emotional characterisation of the Wacky Races."

Now reading that particular paragraph was my DVC moment!


I feel terribly sorry for the art historian who wrote in the Guardian.
Poor man was deluged with comments. "it's just fiction! why are you scared of fiction that happens to say that the Church is evil? Because it -is- evil! Hahahaha!" :p
...I'm really glad my art history class in college 1) was before this monstrosity came out and 2) ended in the 1300s. I can only imagine how much "fun" discussing Leonardo's paintings would have been.

Nick Thompson

Well... in fact the canon of Scripture *was* decided by a precise point by a council: the Council of Trent, in 1547.

Of course there was a de facto canon before then -- just like the de facto, but non-written political constitutions of countries like the UK or New Zealand -- but it was only with the Reformation that the relation between Scripture and Tradition had become so fraught that a universal conciliar definition was deemed necessary. It was at that point, the Protestant confessions responded in kind.

This late date sometimes scandalises my Protestant students in Church History, but all the earlier examples that they cite (e.g. the Muratorian fragment and the list in one of Athanasius' Easter letters) are examples of local and regional churches making canons (and of course, the canon Muratorian fragment is still a bit dodgy)

I'm at a loss to know what Nicea I has to do with the canon at all. Academic's caution keeps me wondering whether there is some piece of evidence I've missed. If anyone can think of what it is, do let me know, and I'll write it into my next course!


Thanks for the articles, Amy. SLATE is especially helpful.

It is becoming more obvious to me at least that Dan Brown, potboiler author extraordinaire, was simply more susceptible to the present day expression of Gnosticism and had the ability to put it in fictional form for the masses also beset with the same religious disease.

Without wanting to scapegoat him, he is not unlike Adolf Hitler: the froth off the cauldron. Or perhaps, more kindly, the guy who saw what direction the mob was headed and got out in front of it calling, "This way!"


Hurtado is marvelous. His last two books are highly recommended.

Todd V

Gerard E.

Frank Rich, Prof. Kemp, the New Yorker reviewer-all Certified Chattering Class members- have issued their rulings. In part, condemning the poor bounders thumbing through their paperbacks on commuter trains. Kemp makes an excellent point. In all the theological fooferah, poor ol' Leonardo is both ignored and defamed. One of the ten legitimate front-burner human geniuses of all time gets thrown in a blender by Dan Brown, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and gets all smushed around. No love for a genius. Tough world we live in.


Nicaea has nothing to do with canon; but the Councils of Constantinople and Carthage were in the 4th century as well, and they're all really just the same, right?



sure! Nicaea, Constantinople, and Carthage all have exactly one 'c' and exactly one 'e' in them, so *obviously* they're all the same.

Donald R. McClarey

"Secondly, the last two decades have seen the unearthing of ancient evidence of real Christian debate and division in the early church. The discovery of the so-called Gnostic Gospels and the more recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas, has helped ordinary Christians see that the doctrinally correct history of the church as an unbroken arc of orthodoxy from St Peter to Benedict is historically false."

Mr. Sullivan is either completely ignorant or completely mendacious. My vote is for the latter. The idea that the Church has ever promulgated a "doctrinally correct history" of the Church which ignores heresy and schism is so ludicrous that I am certain that even Mr. Sullivan doesn't believe this.


Sullivan has long since established his credentials as mendacious. He cares passionately about exactly one "lifestyle" issue. When the facts get in the way of his defense of that position, well, then, he'll just change the facts.


For a Catholic, discovery of all these "new gospels" really does not amount to much. Look at what Dei Verbum said about this:

"For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence."

Italics added for emphasis


I know the answer to the Da Vinci Code madness. All we need is a very talented writer who knows a lot about church history and understands the modern publishing industry (Amy, this is a hint). She writes a mystery/suspense/action novel in which the main characters are confronted with some situation in which there are various clues and symbols that they are persuaded to believe are evidence of a sinister Vatican conspiracy, perhaps related to trying to cover up some historical scandal. Following this thread, they have adventures and people get killed, but ultimately they run in to a brick wall, and they come to realize, irrefutably (probably this would pack the most punch if the message is delivered by an old priest who lives in a small country village, maybe he baptized one of the main characters 30 years ago or something), that the so-called Vatican conspiracy never existed. All of the "clues" that pointed to it were really twisted, and they followed them because they allowed themselves to get caught up in this conspiratorial thinking. Once they look at things with the belief that the Church is good, and the various clergy, etc., who they think have been part of the plot are actually just trying to do their best to help people, everything REALLY falls in to place, and they solve the mystery (not without some regret for the lives that were needlessly lost because of the pursuit of the non-existant conspiracy theory). The idea would be to try and come up with something that would allow people in to the excitement of the conspiracy theory world-view, and then demonstrate how stupid and harmful it really is.
So, Amy, are you doing anything this summer?

Maclin Horton

I want to write a novel in which a New Englander named Dan Brown, a graduate of Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy, where he spent time as an English teacher before turning his efforts fully to writing, author of a best-selling novel called The Da Vinci Code, is discovered to have run a pedophilia ring while teaching at Exeter and committing several murders in the course of covering it up.

The novel would feature copious citations from a journal of his crimes injudiciously kept and even more injudiciously mislaid by Mr. Brown. In fact the plot might revolve around the discovery of the journal by a couple of Opus Dei members and their attempts to evade the assassins hired by Mr. Brown. Perhaps it might also include flashbacks in which a young Dan begins his life of perversion as an accomplice to his father's commission of the same crimes.

But that would be wrong. I guess.

Dale Price

Sullivan used to be able to think critically.

Too bad.


Most people know never to put blind faith in experts, whether they be doctors, lawyers or historians. There is always the need to evaluate with common sense what an expert tells you, because being an expert does not immunize a person from carelessness, bias or lack of judgment. Bias is particularly an issue when the area of expertise is the historicity of the Gospels.

I'm not a historian but here are my common sense reactions to the historical attacks on the Gospels:

1) The Gospels ring true unless you are prone to cynicism. What doesn't ring true to me is the notion that witnesses to Christ's presence would spin, lie, and invent to the extent that some historians claim. No one seems to doubt that the earliest followers of Christ were devout and holy. In my opinion a person's holiness counts as an important factor when considering whether a witness is credible.

2) In general I find the variations in detail enhance, rather than undermine, the credibility of the Gospels. As every litigation attorney knows, witnesses always recall events differently and their versions of events always vary in details (even among witnesses on the same side of a case). I would find it suspect if the four Gospels agreed in every detail.

3) The historians who are most insistent that the Gospels cannot be believed because their authors had an "agenda" are themselves typically among the most agenda driven of historians. If we can't believe anyone who has an agenda, why should we believe them? Why should we believe anyone?

4) Those who champion New Testament apocrypha are often those who say the canonical Gospels are unreliable. This is not just an irony -- it undermines the credibility of the critics of the canon. Imagine the attacks on, say, the Gospel of Thomas, had the Church fathers included it in the canon. It seems the only reason that the unreliability of the Gospel of Thomas is overlooked is that those nasty old Church Fathers didn't like it, so it must be good. Had the Church Fathers left John's Gospel out of the canon, it would no doubt be much loved by today's critic's of the canon ("Ah, God is love!").


Speaking of history:

Saw the DVC last night. Here's four things I haven't seen mentioned yet.

1) Those guys with the white robes and pointy headgear in the openening lecture power-point are not priests in Spain. They are members of penitential groups kind of like our Knights of Columbus, etc. They march in processions during Lent and probably other times as well. I think Dan got confused by the paintings of auto de fe which show these guys, but I don't think they were priests even then.

2) O My Gosh - it's a fleur-de-lis!!! I live near St Louis MO where the fleur-de-lis is all over the place and it is everywhere at my alma mater St. Louis U. as well. Just imagine how ubiquitous that emblem is in PARIS !!! Not to mention on drapes available at WalMart, etc.

3) O My Gosh - it's the symbol of a rose !!! Can there be a symbol that's even more ubiquitous than the fleur-de-lis???

4) At least 2 times Langdon incorrectly refers to something as an "icon".

Was Langdon at the end praying to Mary Magdalen as a goddess? And is the government of France in on the cover-up or who else was it who arranged for the pyramid to be built over MM's grave? The film was risible.

Sandra Miesel

The pointy caps are required costume for those condemed by the Inquisition although some penitenti groups wear similar garb--without markings.

Too bad for Brown and his sources but the fleur-di-lis wasn't a Merovingian symbol nor a French royal symbol until the time of the Capetians. (And of course the name Merovingian has nothing to do with "sea", "vine", or "Mary". It's a Latinization of the name of the dynasty's founder. Merovech/Meroveus)

The rose has never been a symbol for Mary Magdalene but rather for the Virgin Mary.

David C.

I found a wiki-based site that would benefit from this dialogue and exchange.

Looks like a ‘Code’ author has dumped his book content into a wiki so anyone can go in and edit what’s there or add new content. Seems interesting...the URL is http://secretsbehindthedavincicode.wetpaint.com

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