Due to the huge success of Dan Brown’s best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code., some have seemed to be more willing to make theologically inaccurate statements about Jesus’ divinity.
The Da Vinci Code improperly suggested that the idea of Jesus being divine was essentially a new concept that was not determined until the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.). Notice several of those statements:
Constantine…held a famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicaea…
until that moment in history, Jesus as viewed by His followers was a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal…
Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea (Brown D. The Da Vinci Code. Doubleday, New York, 2003,page 233).
The above is not true and many scholars and theologians objected to what The Da Vinci Code purported about the divinity of Jesus.
Since the book is fiction, why raise any this fuss about it?
Mainly, because it was a wildly popular book and it did not come across as purely fiction.
On page one (the page before the novel portion begins), which is titled FACT, the author of The Da Vinci Code stated:
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate (The Da Vinci Code, page 1).
So, because of that, some people latched onto to various statements in the book as historical fact as opposed to an embellished story. But enough complained about the Jesus divinity claims that this needed to be revisited.
Apparently because of complaints from critics, Christianity Today reported that the movie version changed this part of the story:
And the film’s version of Langdon explicitly says that Constantine did not invent the divinity of Jesus—which is almost the exact opposite of what the book’s version of Langdon says (The Da Vinci Code. Review by Peter T. Chattaway | posted 05/18/06) .
But what about the divinity of Jesus? Was it truly taught prior to the Council of Nicea?
While there are a variety of unitarian groups (with the Jehovah’s Witnesses being probably the largest) that deny the deity of Jesus, the plain truth is that Jesus’ divinity was taught from the beginning. It is both in the Bible and in early second century writings.
Here are three first century New Testament references on this subject:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, NKJV throughout).
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:28-29).
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
Here is a second century reference on the subject from Polycarp who was appointed by the apostles to lead the churches from Smyrna:
Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself, the [Son of] God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father (The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians in APOSTOLIC FATHERS (as translated by J.B. LIGHTFOOT) 12:6,7).
It probably should be noted that Dr. Lightfoot left out “Son of” in his translation, which is in the Latin. But either way, this passage does refer to Jesus as God.
For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God’s plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized so that by His submission He might purify the water (Ignatius of Antioch, Letters to the Ephesians 18,2–note this is translated the same by at least three separate translations as done by Dr. Lightfoot, J.H. Srawley, and Roberts & Donaldson).
Thus, there are first and second century documents that clearly claim that Jesus was considered as God and not simply a mortal prophet.
Hence, both the Bible and early writings show that Jesus was considered to be divine well prior to the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.)
What may have been confusing to the author of The Da Vinci Code, as well as to others, is that there were questions raised by some concerning the nature of Jesus and His divinity which was discussed in Constantine’s Council of Nicea. But despite what else happened then, that Council agreed with the New Testament and other Christian writers that Jesus was divine. And although this has not been changed in the book The Da Vinci Code, at least the movie did not perpetuate the myth that Jesus was not considered to be divine until the fourth century.
Some articles of possibly related interest may include:
The Da Vinci Code: Some Good, Most Bad Does The Da Vinci Code properly discuss Christianity? What does it have right and what does it have wrong about early Christianity and other gospel accounts?
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Is The Father God? What is the view of the Bible? What was the view of the early church?
Jesus is God, But Was Made Man Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The Da Vinci Code?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning This is a shorter article than the Binitarian View article, but has a little more information on binitarianism.