I am not going to criticize the movie until I see it, or the book until I read it.
I’m speaking of course, of Da Vinci Code.
What I am going to do, for the few folks who might be inclined to take the Gnostic concepts and supposed history of the DaVinci Code franchise seriously, is to share what I’ve learned from my own personal study in the Biblical books of 1st and 2nd Timothy.
Today let’s look at the first few verses of 1 Timothy. Paul probably wrote it to Timothy after he and Timothy had been released from prison, in 64 or 65 AD. See Matthew McGee’s reconstruction of events) Paul was so eager for Timothy to remain in Ephesus for a long time that he apparently “begged” him to in person before they went their separate ways, and again implored him to by letter in 1 Timothy 1:3.
Why was Paul so interested for Timothy to go to and remain in Ephesus? So that he might confront, charge, challenge, “certain persons” that they no longer teach some things that were destructive to faith and the truths of the Gospel.
John MacArthur has some good deductions to draw from these words. He points out that the fact Paul didn’t name them, probably indicates they were right there in the Church, and Paul didn’t want to include some, and ignore others.
I think there is another reason, though: Paul expected the book to be written aloud, and he wanted to teach the principle in a way that was less personal and more focused on the idea. He knoew that folks in the audience would be able to decide “if the shoe fits”. He also knew that this would be a good way to strengthen Timothy’s authority in the eyes of the entire congregation. Paul was challenging some very strong doctrinal errors, yet he was committeed to resisting the spirit of division and separatiaon. Paul knew that once the Christian church bought into the idea of “maintainng purity of doctrine through division” that its witness in the world would end. I submit that, in hindsight , the vast majority of the true Church’s impact for good upon human society was spent by the time of the Nicene council in 325. From then on, the church began spending its energy policing itself, killing and exiling those who thought differently from the leaders. If “this is how men will know you are my disciples” — that they love one another, thhen, we can be equally sure that “this is how you will know they are not my disciples — that they do not love each other.”
The love Paul advocated to Timothy was the willingness that tough love be used by good leaders like Timothy — by talking about the differences, challenging those who have bought into error in a way that is confrontational but civil.
In today’s world, and really since about 300 A.D., the approach has been to simply hammer out a list of the “right words” — a creed — and then kick out anyone who doesn’t agree with it. It’s much tougher to follow Paul’s example, of having dialog on points of doctrine that threaten the integrity of the Gospel. Christianity is a relationship that is forged around a message. Allow the message to become corrupt, and the relationships are damaged or destroyed. So to keep the relationships whole, it is necessary to spend the time and agony it takes to keep clarifying, studying, and explaining the Message.
What were the essential elements of the teachings of these fellows? First Paul calls it “heterodidaskalia” – a different kind of teaching. What was different about it? in verse 4 he mentions two features: fables and endless genealogies.
Now, it is inconceivable that a Jewish scholar such as Paul would be critiquing anyone for studying the historical record of genealogies that we find in the Old Testament, or in the beginning of Luke and Matthew to establish the genealogy of Jesus. (here is what some scholars say on that point). He must be referring to a kind of myth or fable that was being taught to those early Christians at Ephesus, which relied upon speculative and lengthy genealogical reasoning. When we study the ideas prevalent in the 1st Century, it becomes quickly obvious that one of the leading categories of thought that he must have meant was called “Gnosticism”.
Gnosticism draws its name from Gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge. Jumping ahead to Paul’s warning to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul uses this word as part of the name of Timothy’s oponents: “O Timothy, guard that which is committed to you, turning away from the empty chatter and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called.” My posts the next few days will be looking at various aspects of “Gnosis” — knowledge — which is not really knowledge at all ….