DALLAS (BP)–The Southern Baptist Texan’s managing editor, Jerry Pierce, interviewed Darrell Bock, author of “Breaking the Da Vinci Code,” recently before Bock spoke at an SBC church in Dallas.
A New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Bock discussed evangelicals’ readiness in using Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” book and the upcoming movie as a springboard to explain and defend the New Testament canon and the divinity of Jesus. The movie will be released in theaters May 19.
Bock penned his book in 2004 as a response to Brown’s blockbuster fiction book, making The New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction. Bock has a new book due out in August called “The Missing Gospels,” which weighs the extra-biblical gospels, such as the recently publicized “gospel of Thomas,” against early church history and the New Testament canon.
Following is a transcript of the interview with Bock:
TEXAN: What is your biggest concern about the whole “Da Vinci Code” phenomenon?
BOCK: That many people in the church are utterly unprepared to deal with the issues that the book is going to raise, and not just the book but the discussion that has swirled around the book and other kinds of things that have arisen over the last few months as we have approached the opening of the movie. I’m talking about the “gospel of Judas.” I’m talking about the general history of the development of the Bible, particularly the New Testament. I’m talking about the history of the way in which the divinity of Jesus has been presented through the biblical materials and what is said about that. I’m talking about people not knowing what went on in the second hundred and third hundred years in the history of the church. So we’re talking about the year 100 to the year 325 or so, up to the Council of Nicea. We’re also talking about the Council of Nicea itself.
TEXAN: Specifically, what is the most potentially damaging aspect of “The Da Vinci Code” story?
BOCK: Well, I think there are probably two things that are about equal. One has to do with the idea that the four Gospels were chosen out of 80 gospels. And also, just the whole representation of how the Gospels became a part of the New Testament. And I also think evangelicals have problems (in being equipped at explaining the New Testament canon), and Dan Brown has problems with this question on the other end of the spectrum. So there’s that.
And then there’s the whole issue of recognition of the divinity of Christ, which is not a problem with evangelicals, but it is a problem with the novel. So those two issues are about equally problematic. The idea that Jesus was married (which the book asserts), we have no evidence or source of any kind anywhere. No Jesus scholar of any stripe really embraces that idea. So that’s just kind of a rogue idea. But those other two areas are more complex in terms of their discussion.
TEXAN: Why is the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) important in this discussion?
BOCK: The reason the Council of Nicea is important is because in the novel, the Council of Nicea is basically where Jesus’ divinity becomes established in the church, and it’s also the place where the exercise of church power over alternatives is decisively expressed. And of course, what all that ignores is the history leading up to that period. That is a problem. And then the second part that is important in that discussion is that if one essentially understands what Nicea is about, they’ll recognize Dan Brown’s description of what Nicea was is erroneous.
TEXAN: So do you see the “Da Vinci Code” phenomenon as more of a problem or more of an opportunity?
BOCK: I think it’s both a problem and an opportunity simultaneously. It’s a problem to the extent the church hasn’t prepared people for it, but it’s an opportunity to the extent that once people gain hold of the facts and what’s really going on, there’s a lot of affirmation that follows about what this early church history actually is.
TEXAN: What would you recommend churches do to prepare people for things like “The Da Vinci Code” and other challenges to the faith?
BOCK: I would encourage them to urge their people to read the resources that are produced as a result of the movie. There are numerous websites where they can get very good, compact information — all the way from the Da Vinci challenge (www.thedavincichallenge.com) site, which has a lot of articles written by Christians, to the site that Westminster Seminary just launched (www.thetruthaboutdavinci.com). Then there are several good books that deal with issues related to “The Da Vinci Code” that are not very difficult to read. They are written at the level of the average person. I would really recommend to ministers that they get those resources into the hands of their people. Then people can research at their leisure. But I do think it is important that people be able to talk about this with some facts at hand, not just simply reacting.
TEXAN: Some groups have asked people not to see the movie or read the book. What is your opinion on such advice?
BOCK: My opinion is that they are asking for trouble. This movie and this book have already hit the cultural nerve. So it is out there. The amount of money you spend buying your copy or your ticket to the movie is not going to significantly alter the monetary impact of what is going on here. What I would recommend is that you borrow the book from someone who already has it, if you are worried about spending the money on it, or go see the movie. So when you go to critique this and someone asks you, “Have you read the book or have you seen the movie?” you can say “yes” and not lose your credibility in the process. So I think having some direct exposure to what the book is about is important for this particular kind of dialogue.