Breaking The Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone’s Asking
Darrell L. Bock, Ph.D.
Of all the books responding to The Da Vinci Code, Darrell L. Bock’s Breaking The Da Vinci Code is the one being voted most likely to succeed. Bock is a prominent seminary professor and a Jewish believer in Jesus whose opinion on Dan Brown’s controversial novel and claims has been sought by ABC News, beliefnet.com and other media outlets.
In order to crack The Da Vinci Code, Bock selects seven related questions that “everyone’s asking” and attempts to answer them from a historical-biblical-theological perspective. These questions include: Who Was Mary Magdalene? Was Jesus Married? Would Jesus Being Single Be Un-Jewish? Do the So-Called Secret, Gnostic Gospels Help Us Understand Jesus? How Were the New Testament Gospels Assembled?
Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of both the Tanakh and the New Testament, Bock’s refutations of Brown’s themes are well documented and well articulated. He points out inconsistencies in Brown’s history, such as Brown’s assertion that “Some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert” (p. 234). (The Qumran materials, which were discovered in 1947 and not in the 1950s, include writings that are included in the Tanakh only.)
Bock likewise demonstrates that there is no credible evidence that Jesus was married. His critics claim that much of Bock’s argument is one from silence, but Bock deftly manages to shift the burden of proof to Brown by pointing out that Brown’s “research” and “evidence” come from Gnostic sources that have never really been considered credible (see page 5).
A whole chapter is dedicated to the notion that as a Jew, and especially as a rabbi, for Jesus to be unmarried would be considered a complete anomaly. Bock responds by saying that there were numerous groups at the time, such as the Essenes, for whom marriage was not a requirement for leadership. Second, Bock refers to Jesus’ positive references to eunuchs in the Gospel of Matthew. Along with this, Bock reminds his readers that one of the chief reasons for a Jewish man to be celibate was “intense religious dedication.” So Jesus’ status as a single man was not unprecedented. The Major Prophets like Jeremiah, after all, were not known to have wives.
Bock’s most salient point in this regard is a reminder that Jesus was in fact known for going against the grain of the culture and religion of his time. His affirmation of women like Mary Magdalene is one example of his sometimes counter-cultural behavior. So the fact that he wasn’t married is consistent with what we know of him, rather than the opposite.
Bock ultimately concludes: “…The Da Vinci Code fails to deliver on its claim that its skeleton is historical. If the foundation of its argument about Jesus being married and having a bloodline is this thin, then all the subsequent history it relates becomes irrelevant. All the theories attached to the Sion Priory, the Knights Templar, Opus Dei [groups Brown claims are involved in the cover-up of Jesus’ “true nature”]…fall to the side. There is no good historical reason to discuss these later groups in relationship to a theory about Jesus whose foundation is lacking.”
The real strength of Bock’s work is mostly in the underlying issues he raises. From an articulate analysis of the role of women in biblical times, to an examination of biblical and rabbinic texts, to a strong critique of the so-called Gnostic gospels, Bock challenges the assumptions behind the charges Brown brings against followers of Jesus. Further, though Bock stops short of alleging a cover-up in the same vein as Brown, he does hit on the reason popular culture has embraced The Da Vinci Code with such fervor.
According to Bock, “The real secret…behind The Da Vinci Code…is nothing less than a conscious effort to obscure the uniqueness and validity of the Christian faith and message.”
He clarifies, “Two distinct views of spirituality emerge, one rooted in Jesus (that of John’s Gospel) and one rooted in the divine potential in each one of us.…These are two different theologies, two different faiths.” And as Bock admits, these two ideas cannot co-exist. Both cannot be right, for the latter view makes no room for a Jesus who is divine. In an age of diversity, people like to say, “Everyone has their own truth.” But to truly embrace diversity, one has to say the converse, as Brown does, that all faith is based on fabrication; this is the only way to make all faiths equal.
Bock demonstrates that the divinity and uniqueness of Jesus are beliefs that the earliest followers of Jesus, many of whom were Jewish, struggled over (and some were even martyred for what they believed). One might ask, who would die for a lie?
Breaking The Da Vinci Code does not go as in-depth into the subjects of art history and secret societies as some readers might hope. Bock sticks to what he knows best and breaks down the biblical arguments so that even someone unfamiliar with Scripture can understand his point of view. His discussion of rabbinic sources will certainly resonate with Jewish readers. He also includes a helpful glossary of terms. All in all, if one is interested in the overarching philosophy and theology of The Da Vinci Code, then Breaking The Da Vinci Code will clarify these issues.