Monday, May 22, 2006

Decoding Da Vinci revisited

So on the afternoon after the evening before, did we decode Da Vinci?

We certainly had fun - many teams competing in our prize quiz. We had a good few texts raising interesting issues and asking sensible questions. And lots of people wanted to join in.

Concerns focused on two main areas. Firstly, the history - especially the Gnostic gospels and formation of the Christian canon. I've never been asked after a service to recommend quite so many history books!

Secondly, why the book is so popular. This is harder to answer but I suspect has something to do with Dan Brown capturing a mood. There have been lots of academic tomes questioning Christian origins - you have only to think Hugh Schonfield's The Passover Plot or john Allegro's book on scared mushrooms (I forget the title) or Barbara Tiering's Jesus the Man and a host of others. These came, caused a mild flutter and disappeared into the libraries only to emerge in footnotes in learned dissertations.

Brown's book landed in altogether different times. Institutions are no longer to be trusted so their version of events is automatically suspected. He capitalised on the success of the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and a host of other books bedecking the mysteries and mind, body and spirit sections of our bookshops. Our culture is looking for new myths from the cult of celebrity and big brother to the sacred feminine. The Da Vinci Code is just one more

Maybe it's just good marketing.

What I want to know, though, is why messers Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln, Brown and Teabing make no mention of the writings of the Apostle Paul in their reconstruction of Christian origins. While dating the gospels is tricky, dating Paul's letters - especially Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians - isn't. They all come from the fifties and sixties of the first century and they all affirm three things about Jesus - his humanity, his divinity and his resurrection from the dead.

So there you have it, 275 years before Constantine and the Council of Nicea, Paul told us that Jesus was God's Son, human and divine, raised from death for the salvation and re-creation of the world and that joining his Kingdom made us part of God's solution to human folly.

What we think about Jesus appears to matter a great deal after all, Sir Leigh...

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