Greg Taylor of New Wineskins magazine emailed a thoughtful critique of The Da Vinci Codebreaker, to which I recently responded. I have copied our dialogue below ...
I am a coauthor of The DaVinci Codebreaker. I do not presume to represent either Dr. Garlow or Bethany House Publishers - I can represent only my thoughts and intentions. You write ...
Your first and critical response to Brown is that if he'd have just not insisted all elements of art, history, and theology were "FACT," the firestorm would not have been created. Yet, I find it ironic that the materials promoting your book claim at every turn that what's included in your book is completely and utterly factual.
From my perspective, when a book is launched - as The DaVinci Code was - with the explicit claim that it is historically factual, an adequate response to the book must meet the book on the playing-field of historical data. This is what we have tried to do in The DaVinci Codebreaker - to look carefully at the historical records and to point out places where Dan Brown's novel misconstrues or ignores historical evidences.
I'm not certain to which "materials promoting your book" you're referring, but I think I understand your point nonetheless. What this book attempted was to weigh even-handedly all of the historical evidences and to summarize these evidences for readers. When there is uncertainty about an issue - such as the exact date of a book' s composition - we have attempted to present these data in terms of " ranges of possibility." If you find any points at which these evidences have been summarized unfairly or inaccurately, please let me know.
Are there points at which we 've made mistakes? Yes - there have been two errors of which I am aware that readers have pointed out to us thus far (one of them has to do with the pillar of Boaz; the other one, I can' t recall at this moment). These two are likely not the only ones. The difference I see is that, as these errors have been pointed out to us, we have looked carefully at the evidences provided, admitted the error, and made plans for correction. Dan Brown has, even after the presentation of vast evidence demonstrating that he has misconstrued multiple historical sources, persistently maintained his claim that what he's written represents historical truth.
I understand the need to promote correct views over incorrect, but this is so typical of Christians who feel we have all the correct answers and anyone saying something opposed to orthodoxy cannot state the case so strongly. Is there a way to enter the conversation without immediately claiming we know answers to all these difficult and complex text critical issues?
If I have at any time claimed to know the answers to all these issues, I immediately stand corrected. I do not possess all of these answers. I can, however, look at certain bits of evidence and recognize that some of Dan Brown's claims stand outside the range of historical possibility - for example, the claim that the Gnostic Gospels represent a historical witness to the identity of Jesus Christ that precedes the New Testament Gospels or that the "Aramaic" word for "companion" literally means "spouse." I can look at the John Rylands Papyrus 52 and discover that John's Gospel was in wide circulation in the Roman Empire before 100 C.E., I can examine the Greek words that underlie the Coptic terms in the Gnostic Gospels and discover word-patterns that share the greatest number of affinities with post-160 C.E. Greek, and I can discover that there is no extant Aramaic manuscript of Gospel of Philip and that the Coptic word translated "companion" stems from a Greek word that, in the ancient world, rarely and only under certain grammatical conditions (which are not present in Gospel of Philip) carried the meaning of "spouse."
I view The DaVinci Codebreaker as being part of a continuing dialogue; if someone from an opposing perspective makes an alternative case that is based on honest examinations of actual historical evidences, I will welcome their perspective, and it will - as has The DaVinci Code - send me back to the historical evidences, where I will open-mindedly re-weigh, re-examine, and rethink what I believe. That's why, right now, I am carefully reading everything that Bart Ehrman has written - he challenges me with hard, historical evidence to rethink what I believe.
I do not have everything about the ancient documents figured out. At the same time, I do trust the apostolic eyewitness regarding Jesus Christ, and I find strong historical evidences that this apostolic witness is most adequately reflected in the New Testament documents.
Is there a way to enter the conversation without immediately claiming we know answers to all these difficult and complex text critical issues? Who can say we have all those ancient documents and how they became part of the canon figured out?
I would love to enter into this as a "conversation" - I would welcome an opportunity to collaborate on a project in which authentic dialogue and adducing of historical evidences from varying views occurs. Unfortunately, I and several others have tried to invite other viewpoints to such a conversation with no response.
Each time I have been interviewed about what I've written regarding The Da Vinci Code, I have said, "If I met Dan Brown, the first thing I would say to him is, 'Thank you - thank you for bringing this conversation to the forefront of so many people's minds, thank you for demonstrating that the history of early Christianity does truly matter.'" And I would.
I do not believe that I possess every right answer; I pray that I have never implied that to anyone. I do, however, believe that the Right Answer possesses me. And I am on a journey to discover more - not only historically but also existentially - about this One who has possessed me. This journey is one in which I will never find every answer but one in which "the road goes ever on and on," to borrow a line from Bilbo Baggins.
I don't know that I've answered your questions. If not, feel free to email me again. Seeing that you and I minister only about seven miles apart, perhaps we can discuss these issues in more depth at some point. In any case, I thank you for the congeniality of your response.
Still learning to be God's child,
Dr. Timothy Paul Jones
Author of Answers to The Da Vinci Code, Christian History Made Easy, and Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.
The complete text of Greg's letter reads:
In reading through The DaVinci Codebreaker, I find its format a helpful reader's companion to The DaVinci Code, but I have one question I feel I need to attempt receiving response from Dr. Garlow:
Your first and critical response to Brown is that if he'd have just not insisted all elements of art, history, and theology were "FACT," the firestorm would not have been created. Yet, I find it ironic that the materials promoting your book claim at every turn that what's included in your book is completely and utterly factual. I understand the need to promote correct views over incorrect, but this is so typical of Christians who feel we have all the correct answers and anyone saying something opposed to orthodoxy cannot state the case so strongly. Is there a way to enter the conversation without immediately claiming we know answers to all these difficult and complex text critical issues? Who can say we have all those ancient documents and how they became part of the canon figured out?
I appreciate your time and energies to respond to Wineskins.org .