Among the many unsubstantiated accusations that author Dan Brown made in his bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code is one regarding the “unoriginality” of Christianity. Allegedly, “Nothing in Christianity is original” (Brown, 2003, p. 232). As “proof” of this statement, Brown’s fictional character, Sir Leigh Teabing, asserts:
“The pre-Christian God Mithras—called the Son of God and the Light of the World—was born on December 25, died, and was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans” (p. 232, italics in orig.).
Supposedly, the Gospel was nothing new 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born into the world. Stories that resemble “the Good News of Jesus” circulated centuries earlier. Pagans had previously worshipped and idolized god-like heroes who in some ways resembled Christ.
How can Christianity be “original” if stories that predate the time of Christ speak of gods who were born on December 25, presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, called the Son of God and Light of the World, and buried and raised only a few days after their deaths? As with so many things in The Da Vinci Code, this accusation is erroneous and terribly misleading.
First of all, the Bible nowhere indicates that Jesus was born on December 25. There are no Old Testament prophecies about Him being born on this date, nor does any New Testament writer suggest it. On the contrary, Luke hints that Jesus was most likely born in a month other than December. In chapter two of his gospel account, Luke wrote that Jesus was born when shepherds were “living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (2:8). It is highly unlikely that shepherds would have been “living out in the fields” with their sheep during the winter months. “Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in the latter part of October or the first of November, when the cold weather commenced” (Barnes, 1997). Late December simply was not a time when flocks were in the fields at night. Thus, as Adam Clarke concluded, “On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up” (1996).
The early church did not celebrate “Christmas” on December 25, since the inspired apostles and prophets never commanded its observance as a religious holy day. “Christmas” was not observed until the fourth century A.D. (see “Christmas,” 1997, 3:283), and even then it was most likely adopted “to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’” (“Christmas,” 3:283). In short, a December 25 “holy day” originated as a pagan feast, and true Christianity is not connected to this date in any way. Thus, the fact that history records stories of mythical gods being born on December 25 in no way diminishes the deity, superiority, or virgin birth of Christ.
Second, similarities between Christ and the stories of mythical hero “savior-gods” from the past are to be expected. Centuries before the time of Christ prophets foretold of the coming Savior of mankind Who would be “from everlasting” (Micah 5:2), yet enter the world miraculously by being born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He would be of royal blood (Isaiah 9:6-7), reign over a kingdom (Psalm 110:1-2) that will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44), and wear names such as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Finally, at His death He would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10), and yet His body would not see corruption (Psalm 16:10), i.e., He would be raised from the dead. Considering prophecies about the coming Messiah were being foretold since “the foundation of the world (i.e., since the fall of man—Genesis 3:15; cf. Luke 11:49-51) to both Jews and Gentiles (see Lyons, 2004), stories of various “savior-gods” who might sound similar to the true Messiah are to be expected. [NOTE: For further information, see Butt and Lyons, 2006, pp. 35-74.]
Third, although there are some parallels between the Gospel of Jesus and the “hero-god” stories that circulated centuries before Christ came to Earth, many of these professed similarities are untrue. For example, in hopes of casting doubt on the story of Jesus, Dan Brown asserted that, like Jesus, Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet, according to Amy Welborn, “There is not a single story in actual Hindu mythology of Krishna being presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh at his birth” (2004, p. 87). Brown may well have obtained this information regarding Krishna from Kersey Graves’ 1875 book The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. Not surprising, neither Brown nor Graves provided any documentation for their comparisons. Furthermore, as Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel observed: “The stories of Krishna’s childhood recorded in the Harivamsa Purana (c. A.D. 300) and the Bhagavata Purana (c. A.D. 800-900) don’t mention gifts at all. Even if they did, these latter works were written after the first century, making Graves’ claim absurd” (2004).
Finally, Christianity’s weekly “holy day” was not “stolen” from pagans. Since there are only seven days in a week, there was a one in seven chance that Christians would assemble on someone’s “holy day.” If Jesus had been raised on Saturday, and Christians assembled for worship on the seventh day rather than the first day, the Jews would have cried foul play. Were early Christians to meet on Monday, they may have been accused of worshiping the moon. In truth, Christians have been meeting on the first day of the week to worship God for 2,000 years because God set aside this day for us to worship Him, including eating the memorial feast (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-26). Christians know nothing of Sun-worship, but much of Son-worship. As Tertullian wrote 1,800 years ago in his “Apology,” Christians “devote Sun-day to rejoicing” for a “far different reason than Sun-worship” (XVI). To say that Christians “stole” their “holy day” from the pagans is an outright lie.
Sadly, Satan has used The Da Vinci Code and other popular writings and movies to deceive millions of people about the uniqueness of Christ and the originality of Christianity. Thankfully, however, even Satan cannot stop the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) from pricking the hearts of those who are open to the Truth (Matthew 13:1-23; cf. Acts 2:36-37; 16:14). May God help us all to distinguish between Truth and error, and obey that which God’s Truth teaches.
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“Christmas” (1997), The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Brittannica).
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Lyons, Eric (2004), “Resurrected ‘Savior-Gods’ and the Prophets of Old,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2858.
Olson, Carl E. and Sandra Miesel (2004), “A Da Vinci De-Coder,” [On-line], URL: http://www.carl-olson.com/articles/tca_tdvc_apr04.html.
Tertullian (1973 reprint), “Apology,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Welborn, Amy (2004), De-coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of The Da Vinci Code (United States: Our Sunday Visitor).
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