Even in secular circles that would begrudge the notion, Jesus Christ of Nazareth is still the most important figure in history. The date at the top of this paper could easily be completed by the words, “year of our Lord.” Even a minimal listing of all the institutions, laws, lifestyles, and philosophies generated by reaction to His singular life would fill more tomes than the average library could hold. According to the organization Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, a multi-faith group, approximately three out of every four people think of themselves as Christians in North America.  So much hangs on Christ for so many, it perhaps should not be surprising that there is an ever growing abundant supply of those who would enjoy the credit of publicity received from discrediting Him, or at least decentralizing His influence on Western civilization. There have been many attempts to do so throughout history, using many different ways and means, but few as potentially dangerous to the uninformed public as the resurgence of a critical view of Christ’s resurrection known as the “swoon theory.” Though the swoon theory has been widely discredited for many years by conservative and liberal theologians alike, its admirers have been able to spin off imaginative new ways to undermine the veracity of the story of Easter. Cleverly re-packaged in a new, easy-to-swallow media formulation, this philosophical progeny of the swoon theory will entertain while it leads many to despair and disrepair of their faith. Packaged as an excellently written fictional novel, soon to be released as a blockbuster movie, The Da Vinci Code will break more than box office records; it may break many individual’s faith. In addition, many on the outside of faith in Christ will consider the information contained in either the novel or the movie as factual; and therein come to an end of their active investigation into the possibility that Christ is the Son of God. It is for those vulnerable within the faith and those considering the faith that this inquiry is written. When considering such an important question as one’s faith, it is crucial that the elements of that faith be carefully considered for accuracy.
THE SWOON THEORY
What is the “swoon theory”, and what part does it play in the novel, The Da Vinci Code? Simply stated, the swoon theory suggests that Jesus did not actually perish on the cross, but instead merely fainted, was taken down, placed into a cool tomb where He was revived and later presented as “risen.” The Koran was perhaps the first to claim that Jesus was not actually crucified. It states that God would condemn Israel for various transgressions.
And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of GOD. In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him - they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him.
In the Nineteenth century, H. E. G. Paulus in the form of the Swoon theory proposed an alternative naturalistic view of the resurrection.  While others jumped on board, perhaps the first to popularize this theory was D. H. Lawrence in a short story that imagined Jesus bolting to Egypt, where He fell in love with the priestess Isis. An air of conspiracy had been added to the theory in the early nineteenth century, when Karl Venturini among others suggested that Christ had been given a drug to simulate the condition of death. Conspiracy theorists cite that He had been given liquid on a sponge (Mark 15:36) and that Pilate had seemed surprised at the alacrity of Jesus’ death (Mark 15:44). The truly big press for this view began in 1965 with Hugh Schonfield’s best seller, The Passover Plot, which was followed by a movie of the same name in 1976. In Schonfield’s version, Jesus Himself conspires to escape the cross alive by taking the death-simulating drug, only to have His plan short-circuited by a Roman soldier stabbing Him. The next high water mark in conspiracy theory to hit the public market was a book by Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh entitled, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The authors purport to have spent over 10 years on a quest for the Holy Grail, tenaciously uncovering a tangled and intricate story of the Knights Templar, in particular a secret society called the Prieure de Sion. Though this society has been exposed as an elaborate hoax created by a Frenchman named Pierre Plantard beginning in 1956 by use of a pseudohistorical document created to provide Plantard with an imposter royalty bid in his political party, authors Baigent and partners ran with it. The inside flap of their book reads like a suspense thriller; Is it possible Christ did not die on the Cross? Is it possible Jesus was married, a father, and that his bloodline still exists? Is it possible that parchments found in the South of France a century ago reveal one of the best-kept secrets of Christendom? Is it possible that these parchments contain the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Grail? Their formula to capture the imagination of the public worked fabulously. In researching on this date (June 12, 2004) at the Amazon.com web site, their book, first published in 1982, currently ranks as number #131 in sales. Anything about Jesus is still big news, as a cursory glance at most grocery checkout stands would verify. But how would it work if you were to place Jesus in a mystery suspense thriller wherein you call into question a foundational paradigm of western culture? Apparently, it works very profitably.
THE DA VINCI CODE
Inspired by Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Dan Brown saw the elements of an enticing novel. Though he does not use the concept of the swoon theory directly, he borrows a device the swoon theory ultimately suggests; That Christ was a mere mortal. Not the Son of God, but a powerful teacher who the Church has conspired for their own purposes to hide the true nature of for millennia. And that He has physical descendants by His physical union with Mary Magdalene still living in the world today, known as the Merovingians.
Already a seasoned author of bestsellers, (Digital Fortress, Angels and Demons, and Deception Point) he knew how to wrap those elements into compelling reading. Just a few words on the inside flap of the hardcover novel hook you in: “A mind-bending code hidden in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci. A desperate race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe. An astonishing truth concealed for centuries…unveiled at last.” Spending much time at the number one slot in sales, still remaining in the top ten over a year later, The Da Vinci Code has had extremely large exposure. At the beginning of his book Dan Brown makes a list of some of the main elements of his story, labeling them, FACT. Additionally, many reviewers have labeled his work as “pure genius” (New York Times) and “an exhaustively researched page-turner” (Publisher’s Weekly) adding to the sense that Mr. Brown has indeed, uncovered hard-core facts hidden from the unwitting public by a conspiracy within the Church. According to the web site movies.com, a movie based on the book will be released sometime in 2004 directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe. Never before has a movie that degraded the traditional view of Christ’s resurrection and deity, or purported that “Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.” threatened to penetrate American culture so successfully. And if it does so, the damage done to the greater part of Christian culture largely uneducated in such esoteric theology will be difficult to assess. It is possible that many will feel duped, abandoned, and deceived by the picture of Christ that they have depended on with their very lives. The whole of scripture will also become meaningless.
I have little doubt Dan Brown has pondered this effect. His character Teabing explains to Robert Langdon (the story’s main character) why the Church would resort to murder to protect the secret of Christ’s mortality, progeny, and His marriage to Mary Magdalene in chapter 62.
Teabing chuckled. “The ivory towers of Harvard have made you soft, Robert. Yes, the clergy in Rome are blessed with potent faith, and because of this, their beliefs can weather any storm, including documents that contradict everything they hold dear. But what about the rest of the world? What about those who are not blessed with absolute certainty? What about those who look at the cruelty of the world and say, where is God today? … “I’ll tell you what happens if the documents get out,” Teabing said. “The Vatican faces a crisis of faith unprecedented in its two-millenium history.”
Though undocumented, my experience of over thirty years of Pastoral counseling has taught me one fact clearly; the average person in American society already feels a growing sense of existential abandonment, separation, and loneliness. If that same person becomes convinced that faith in Jesus Christ is truly a lie, he or she may in desperation, consider life itself to be futile. Paul examined that feeling as well, saying, “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 15:32b) NIV
THE “CODE’S” PREMISE
“Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”  This statement by the character Sir Leigh Teabing in Brown’s book well describes the central theme of the book. In short, at least three damaging ideas spring forth from the concept of the book, among others.
1. Seeing He was in danger of being crucified, He arranged (conspired) to secret Mary Magdalene away to France carrying His child. Constantine and the Church conspired to hide all documentation confirming that fact, rendering the New Testament record unreliable, and a device to control the faithful.
2. Christ was a mere mortal.
3. By inference, Christ was not resurrected.
IS THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON RELIABLE?
Brown’s suggestion in the book is that Christ was thought of as merely mortal by the huge body of documentation that existed at the time of Constantine. Constantine, seeing an opportunity to take advantage of the growing cult of Christianity for political purposes, commissioned and bankrolled a new Bible, which omitted all gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits, and then embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. Was there a sizeable portion of the early Church that stood in disagreement with the New Testament’s view of Christology? Was there a truly large body of documentation that would verify this? Citing Harvard Professor Karen King, author of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle (2003), Ben Witherington III examines and dismantles her arguments of an early Church where agreement was lacking.
King urges us to “accept that the norm of early Christianity was theological diversity, not consensus.” King also seems to completely ignore the existence of core beliefs about Jesus, his life and death, and his resurrection that united the earliest churches. What Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 has good claims to being true. This was the tradition that Paul and other apostles were passing down everywhere about Jesus and his death and resurrection.
The critics may ask, “But how do we truly know what the First century Church thought? We don’t have copies of the original New Testament texts, only copies of copies. How do we know that the monks financed by Constantine didn’t alter the texts to embellish the idea of Christ’s deity?” In studies of the more than five thousand manuscripts of original language text existent today, there is no “evidence of a systematic conspiracy by the orthodox church to doctor the text of the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, in order to prop up a new Christology.” The texts that were added to, or subtracted from by the scribes were in response to various heresies, including Gnosticism, and were done to highlight Christ’s humanity, or deity. The alterations were minimal, not importing new ideas into the text, but rather, may add the word Christ to Jesus to emphasize His status before birth. And most of those minor additions have been deleted in modern translations because text critics have shown they weren’t part of the originals. John Warwick Montgomery states that “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”
Further, and most damaging to the case of those who would question why other writings such as the Gnostic gospels weren’t included is dating. No document written after 120 was included in the canon, because those written after that date would have been done so by people out of direct touch with the apostolic tradition. The Gnostic gospels, written after that date, and in opposition to the assumption of characters within The Code, were never even considered for inclusion in the New Testament.
WAS CHRIST MERELY MORTAL?
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:61b-62 NIV) Jesus left no doubt as to whether he conceived of Himself as God. Referring to Daniel the seventh chapter left no doubt in the mind of the High Priest trying Him either. “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” (Mark 14:63b-64). Josh McDowell quotes Thomas Shulz: “Not one recognized religious leader, not Moses, Paul, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, etc., has ever claimed to be God; that is, with the exception of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only religious leader who has ever claimed to be deity and the only individual ever who has convinced a great portion of the world that He is God.”
Christ may have thought He was deity. But did others? He obviously had His detractors in a large retinue of the Pharisees, Scribes and Priests of His day. But among those closest to Him, there was no doubt. Who can forget Peter’s confession, or “Doubting” Thomas’ words after seeing, and touching the risen Lord; “My Lord and my God!”(John 20:28). Paul, perhaps the most educated and astute Theologian of the New Testament said in Romans 9:5, “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (NIV) Alistair McGrath noted,
Within the Jewish context in which the first Christians operated, it was God and God alone who was to be worshipped. Paul warned the Christians at Rome that there was a constant danger that humans would worship creatures, when they ought to be worshipping their creator. (Rom 1:23) Yet the early Christian Church worshipped Christ as God-a practice which is clearly reflected even in the New Testament.”
A modern seeker may look askance at the ancient’s ability to make judgements regarding charlatans, and fakes. Though Christ may have portrayed Himself as God, and people of the time may have been gullible enough to fall for it, is there any modern method to test His claims? In addition to the self-conception of Jesus, and the corporate perception of the early Church, the unlikelihood that Jesus could fulfill over three hundred prophecies written about the Christ perfectly is upon investigation, mathematically compelling. Jesus could have arranged His life to “fulfill” a few of the prophecies, or his followers could have falsified some of them, (only to have the eyewitnesses of the period call them to task), but that leaves the lion’s share to be either be fulfilled accidentally, or by divine design. Lee Strobel says the mathematician Peter W. Stoner computed the odds of fulfilling just 48 of those prophecies at “one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion.” Those odds would seem to make Christ’s claim to deity deserve respect even in empirical circles.
DID CHRIST RISE FROM THE DEAD?
There is a great body of evidence and a large number of details that would bolster the New Testament’s claim that Christ was raised from the dead. But since I have only this page remaining to make my case, let me offer the one most compelling to me. The changed life of believers, and the death of the martyrs testifies to me of their ultimate conviction that Christ indeed, had risen from the dead. The resurrection, and the many eyewitnesses of Christ after the resurrection, would be the only compelling reason why people by the thousands would follow Christ to their death. The resurrection of Christ not only proved His deity, but implicated solid hope for the resurrection of those who followed Him. That was an unexpected shock, one unpredicted within the context of their own world-view, and an overwhelmingly empowering one to the first century Jew. “This belief about resurrection in general, and about Jesus in particular, presses the historian to account for such a sudden and dramatic mutation from within the Jewish worldview.” Regardless of whether Christ was a powerful teacher, charismatic and influential, and whether or not He performed miracles, or claimed to be God, unless He demonstrated the ability to make good on the promise to raise the believer to new life, the faith itself would have died shortly after its founder. Sheer inertia within the first century would suggest that the most intimate inner core of His followers had deep conviction of the integrity of their story. The critics may suggest the swoon theory, an alternate “twin”, mass hallucination, or an endless string of new contrivances to discount this hinge pin of the Christian faith. But nothing logical can account for the closest of Christ’s followers being willing to face death for a lie. Josh McDowell quotes James Rosscup, who put it in profound terms: “The disciples were men of honor and could not have foisted a lie upon the people. They spent the rest of their lives proclaiming the message of the resurrection, as cowards transformed into men of courage. They were willing to face arrest, imprisonment, beating, and horrible deaths, and not one of them ever denied the Lord and recanted of his belief that Christ had risen.” In terms of hallucinations, twins, or other contrivances, a quote commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln seems to fit: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.” If something un-genuine happened pertaining to the resurrection, we can be confident those closest to Christ were unaware of it.
That can only leave us with three conclusions. If Christ is risen from the dead, He is God. And therefore, our hope remains. Being God, it is doubtful that His character would allow that He would unite with a human woman, create progeny, and then abandon her to flee to France.
The character Teabing asks an interesting question in The Code. “What happens to those people, Robert, if persuasive scientific evidence comes out that the Church’s version of the Christ story is inaccurate, and that the greatest story ever told is, in fact, the greatest story ever sold.” Dan Brown would do well to ask himself the same general questions about his own book. Is this accurate, what will the consequences be, and am I doing this only for profit?
 Surah IV:157
 Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 713.
 D. H. Lawrence, Love among the Haystacks and Other Stories (New York: Penguin, 1960), 125
 Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1998) 192
 From the Wikipedia web site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priory_of_Sion accessed 6/12/04.
 Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. (New York: Doubleday, 2003) front flap.
 Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday, 2003) 233.
 Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. (New York: Doubleday, 2003) 235
 Witherington III, Ben. “Why the ‘Lost Gospels’ Lost Out. Christianity Today (June 2004): 29-30
 ibid. 30
 Montgomery, John W. History and Christianity. (Downers Grove, Ill.:InterVarsity Press, 1971) 29.
 McDowell, Josh D. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson 1999) 138.
 McGrath, Alister. Christian Theology: An Introduction. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994) 280.
 Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1998) 183
 Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press, 2003) 9.
 McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. (Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 1999) 270.
 Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. (New York: Doubleday, 2003) 266-267