by the Rev. Canon Mark A. Pearson
Nearly everyone has heard of Dan Brown’s best selling book (and movie) The Da Vinci Code. It purports to reveal “historical facts” that contradict Christian orthodoxy. The book would have us believe that Christianity as taught by Jesus, as known by the apostles, and as believed by the early Church was twisted and perverted by the emperor Constantine who rammed through a narrowly divided Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) a radically different theology. One supposed theological shift was about person of Jesus.
Until Nicaea, Brown has a character say, “Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet … a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal…. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power” (page 233). An incredible statement! Is it true? The fact is, Jesus, His closest followers and the early Church’s leaders all believed Him to be God made human.
What Jesus Said About Himself
*Jesus centered His teaching on Himself — how He could satisfy our inner hunger (John 6:35), bestow life after death (John 11:25-26), and grant access to God (John 14:6). These are megalomaniac claims, unless He were unlike anyone whoever lived.
*He claimed authority to forgive sin (Mark 2:1-12) and to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-46), claims to divinity not lost on His enemies.
*He claimed He was one with His Father in heaven (John 10:30-33) and the eternal I Am (the term God used to re-veal Himself to Moses) (John 8:58-59).
The Belief of Those Closest to Jesus
*The Apostle John knew Jesus to be divine. He wrote, “The Word was God … the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).
*The Apostle Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Notice that Jesus did not contradict him.
*The Apostle Paul said, “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
*The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews said, “He [Jesus] reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature…” (Hebrews 1:3).
The Belief of the Early Church
Contrary to the assertion of The Da Vinci Code, the leaders of the early Church testified to their belief in the divinity of Christ:
*God Himself was manifested in human form (Ignatius, 105 A.D.)
*It is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God (Clement, 150 A.D.)
*He is God, for the name Emmanuel indicates this” (Irenaeus, 180 A.D.)
*…He is not only man, but God also… (Novatian, 235 A.D.)
The Council of Nicaea did not change the Church’s belief about Who Jesus was, but reaffirmed it. And, far from being a close vote as Brown contends, there were only two dissenting votes. The Council of Nicaea, as its document The Nicene Creed testifies, upheld what Jesus taught, the New Testament enshrines and the early church asserted, that Jesus was God the Son.
Brown is a sloppy, inaccurate writer. He gets the geography of Paris and of the Holy Land wrong, he garbles what Da Vinci’s notebooks said, he misunderstands the history of the Papacy and of the Knights Templar, he totally misreads the Dead Sea Scrolls, and so on. Either he is an incredibly careless researcher or he wants to dupe a naïve, unsuspecting public with his theological agenda or both.
It is of the utmost importance that people understand correctly Who Jesus is. As Jesus pointed out, it is the truth that sets people free (John 8:32). An essential part of Jesus’ teaching mission involved correcting theological error. The fact that Jesus is God means:
*His words are infallibly true. He’s more than just an inspiring teacher who has great insights but, like any other human, sometimes gets it wrong. Jesus, as God-made-human, speaks infallibly. We need not try to figure out which of His words are really true, as we must with a merely human teacher. Everything He said is true.
*His redemption is totally effective. No one could truly pay the price our sins deserve except One Who was pure and sinless. Ultimately only God could redeem man. And He did! Just as God provided the sacrifice for Abraham so he wouldn’t have to sacrifice his son, so God provided His Son as the penalty price for our sin (Genesis 22:1-14, and see Mark 10:45, John 3:16).
*His commands are truly authoritative. When God speaks, we must obey. Jesus expected obedience from His followers then and He expects it now from us. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
*His promises are wonderfully real. Only God is loving and powerful enough to deliver supernatural blessings to us at our places of need. When Jesus makes a promise, He can and will keep it. Paul tells us God is able to do what He promises (see Romans 4:21).
We do not need another lawgiver, advice columnist, or government program. We need a teacher, saviour and lover of souls that is God-sized. We dare not attempt to settle for less. +