IVP: What prompted you to write a book in response to The Da Vinci
Code? How soon after reading The Da Vinci Code did you decide you
wanted (or needed) to write about it?
Witherington: It was suggested to me by various friends, including those at InterVarsity Press. I also wrote this book because there were things that needed a public correction. The gospel must not be allowed to be perverted without correction.
IVP: Why do you think so many people have embraced The Da Vinci Code? Do you believe the spiritual climate in America today has contributed to its success, and if so, why?
Witherington: Indeed it has everything to do with the spiritual climate in America. We live in a Jesus-haunted culture that is largely biblically illiterate. In that environment almost anything will pass for knowledge of the historical Jesus.
IVP: Why do you think so many people have not only read The Da Vinci Code but also accepted it as fact rather than fiction?
Witherington: I think people have accepted The Da Vinci Code as fact because they have not been informed enough to know of the viable alternative and intelligent views on the historical Jesus.
IVP: Since it is fiction, why do you feel the need to refute Dan Brown’s research?
Witherington: Simply because Brown presents The Da Vinci Code as historical fiction when it is not historically accurate.
IVP: How do you respond when you hear people say things like, “It’s no big deal—after all, it’s only fiction”?
Witherington: I turn them to page one of The Da Vinci Code that has the heading “FACT.” On this page Brown claims that the information in the book is accurate, which in turn causes readers to take the information at face value. I’d respond by telling people to beware and recognize the book as not historical fiction, but purely fiction.
IVP: What kind of reaction has your book received?
Witherington: Go, Ben, go!
IVP: Do you believe some of Brown’s conclusions could damage a person’s faith? If so, which conclusions in particular would be most harmful?
Witherington: I think the whole thing is seductive, and for the young Christian or the largely biblically illiterate one, this stuff is deadly.
IVP: Which theological concepts addressed in the book do you feel require the greatest clarification?
Witherington: The misrepresentation of what the New Testament actually says about Jesus being both divine and human, attempting to fob this off the Council of Nicea as a later imposition of royal robes on a non-royal figure.
IVP: Which historical errors concern you the most?
Witherington: Statements about how the canon was formed, and which are the earliest and most authentic Christian documents.
IVP: Apart from the theological issues that are in dispute, the book contains what we now recognize as numerous factual errors. What responsibility do you think Doubleday should take, if any, for allowing those errors to go unchecked?
Witherington: I do think Doubleday has a responsibility to have a reader do some fact checking, especially in light of the first page that reads “FACT,” and gives the misleading impression that this is a work like that by Uris or Michener.
IVP: What is your opinion of the books Brown cited as historical resources, such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail and Margaret Starbird’s books on Mary Magdalene?
Witherington: They involve all kinds of interesting speculation with hardly a shred of solid historical evidence to support the claims. It’s all innuendo and inference from obscure clues.
IVP: Brown has said he would not change anything if he were to rewrite the book as nonfiction. What would you like to say to him about that?
Witherington: Shame on you. Is this an example of invincible arrogance?
IVP: What are you working on now?
Witherington: A commentary on Matthew for Smyth and Helwys.