Skip to comments.How Dark the Con of Dan (on the Da Vinci Code distortions)
Posted on 05/14/2006 9:41:34 AM PDT by Knitting A Conundrum
"A lie is halfway round the world while the truth is still putting its boots on."
--- Mark Twain
My first reaction to Dan Brown's novel, "The Da Vinci Code," was: "It's a work of fiction, a thriller, a page-turner. Everybody knows that." I was wrong. A young friend of mine met a classmate from Catholic high school who told him that she was seriously thinking of giving up her faith after reading "The Da Vinci Code." My friend said, "You'd give up your faith because of a novel?" She answered, "Oh, but it's all true!"
Oh, but it's not! Soon the movie version of "The Da Vinci Code" will open around the country. Carl Olson has shown us that this bestseller works on several levels: mystery novel, romance, thriller, conspiracy theory and spiritual manifesto. There's a good chance that the movie will work in many of those same ways. As Amy Wellborn points out, "The Da Vinci Code" is fiction but the author makes assertions about history and presents them as widely accepted facts, introduced by such phrases as "historians say" and "scholars understand."
Olson lists several claims made by Brown: Jesus was a mere man, and the earliest Christians didn't believe he was divine; Christianity is a despicable sham; all claims to objective religious truth are to be avoided. These assertions demand a non-fiction response from Christian believers. Now some readers might say that the faithful are merely reacting out of fear and anger toward a book that challenges their faith. That's why it is helpful to listen to critics writing from a literary perspective, without a religious slant.
One such critic is Laura Miller, in The New York Times Book Review ("The Da Vinci Con," Feb. 22, 2004, p. 23): "What seems increasingly clear is that 'The Da Vinci Code,' like 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail,' is based on a notorious hoax." Miller says that much of the material about Mary Magdalen and the Priory of Sion depends on fabricated documents planted in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris by one Pierre Plantard, "an inveterate rascal with a criminal record for fraud and affiliation with wartime anti-Semitic and right-wing groups."
Miller concludes: "The only thing more powerful than a worldwide conspiracy, it seems, is our desire to believe in one."
Here are some of the most important falsehoods in "The Da Vinci Code," and alongside are the matching truths that, as Twain said, are now "putting their boots on."
'Code' and Truth
DVC: " ... almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false!"
TRUTH: Ditto for everything Dan Brown "teaches" about Christ! Brown contends that, until the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), "Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. Not the Son of God." According to Brown, the emperor Constantine made Jesus divine in the fourth century.
However, in St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians (c. 55 A.D.) Jesus is portrayed as God's Son and worshipped as Lord. In St. John's Gospel, written almost two hundred years before Constantine was born, Thomas the Apostle sees the risen Jesus Christ and exclaims. "My Lord and my God!" Brown conveniently does not mention Docetism, a heresy circulating in the first century that claimed Jesus Christ was only God, and not human as well.
DVC: "Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more sense than our standard Biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor." [Here's why] "Because Jesus was a Jew, and the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried." " ... according to Jewish custom celibacy was condemned." "If Jesus was not married at least one of the Bible's Gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for his unnatural state of bachelorhood."
TRUTH: Jesus was unmarried, as were the prophet Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and members of the Essene community. The words of Jesus from the Cross, entrusting his mother to the care of John the Apostle, suggest the truth of this assertion.
Brown stresses the importance of the social decorum at that time. If "social decorum" had been a high priority for Jesus, he wouldn't have healed people on the Sabbath, talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, knocked over the moneychangers' tables in the Temple, or socialized often with public sinners.
As for a Gospel explanation for Jesus' "unnatural state," here is Jesus' teaching on celibacy, from Matthew's Gospel: "Some are incapable of marriage because they are born so; some, because they were made so by others; some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it" (Mt. 19:12).
DVC: "The Bible as we know it today was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great."
TRUTH: By 150 A.D. (175 years before Constantine) Christian writers were listing the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and Paul's letters as the most reliable sources of information about the life of Jesus and the faith of the apostles. Also, as Laura Miller observes in the New York Times, Brown tries to have it both ways in "The Da Vinci Code": "Sources --- such as the New Testament --- are qualified as 'questionable' and derivative when they contradict the conspiracy theory, then microscopically scrutinized for inconsistencies that might support it."
DVC: According to Brown, "Peter's party" among the early Christians slandered and demonized Mary Magdalen and, through her, all women.
TRUTH: From the beginning, the Church has honored Magdalen for her faithfulness at the foot of the Cross and at the tomb. Christian writers described her as "the apostle to the apostles" because she brought them the good news of Christ's resurrection. The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdalen on July 22 each year, and many churches are dedicated to her as their patron. In the Diocese of Salt Lake City the Cathedral is named for St. Mary Magdalen, and she is the heavenly patron of the entire diocese. That's a strange sort of demonizing.
DVC: " ... every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith --- acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove."
TRUTH: That's an unbeliever's definition of faith. How does a believer define faith? Perhaps as "a human response to God," or, "a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed." A fair-minded person would let a socialist give his definition of capitalism, but he or she would let the capitalist give his definition as well. Believers and unbelievers should be treated the same way.
DVC: "Virtually all the elements of Catholic ritual --- the miter, the altar, the doxology and communion, the act of 'God-eating' --- were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions."
TRUTH: Oh, dear. It's such a long-established fact that the roots of Catholic ritual are in Jewish worship, which is not surprising, inasmuch as all the first Christians were Jews, not former pagans. The Temple in Jerusalem had altars; the doxology is rooted in Psalms 8, 66 and 150; communion had its roots in the Jewish Passover, celebrated by Jesus and 12 other Jews at the Last Supper.
DVC: "Originally Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine [4th century] shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun. To this day most churchgoers attend services on Sunday morning with no idea that they are there on account of the pagan sun god's weekly tribute --- Sunday."
TRUTH: Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, a Sunday, so the weekly Eucharist was celebrated from the beginning on "the Lord's Day," a Sunday. Here is St. Justin Martyr, writing before 165 A.D.: "We hold our common assembly on the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead."
The names for the days of the week do come from the names of pagan gods such as Woden, Thor, Freia and Saturn. However, someone who goes to Thursday evening Bible study in 2006 is not therefore honoring the god Thor. Incidentally, the only thing Constantine did about this matter, in 321 A.D., was to declare Sunday a day of rest.
DVC: "The Church launched a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses, recasting their divine symbols as evil."
TRUTH: Well, that's what monotheistic religions do --- they oppose the worship of dozens or hundreds of greater and lesser gods. For example, Jews maligned Moloch, and discouraged the people from sacrificing newborn infants by tossing them into the fiery stove in the belly of the god. It's hard to cast that divine symbol as anything but evil. Islam also replaced the worship of minor deities in the lands to which it spread.
DVC: "The Church burned at the stake over five million women [as witches]."
TRUTH: Genuine scholars agree that most people executed as witches (20 percent were men) were put to death between 1500 and 1800 A.D. These historians estimate the total at 40,000, with an upward limit of 50,000. Most of those were poor, ordinary and unpopular citizens, not strong, independent-minded women as described by Brown. Their accusers were usually their fellow citizens, not clergymen. More than half of those accused were acquitted.
Some witches were executed by Catholics, some by Protestants, most by governments. Salem, Massachusetts in the 17th century, for example, could hardly be described as Catholic-dominated. Several popes condemned the practice of executing witches. Still, it doesn't seems uncharacteristic of Brown to multiply the total number of victims by 100, and then blame them all on the Catholic Church.
Why are these lies so easily believed?
Why then are so many people so easily misled? Amy Wellborn suggests that most people know very little about the historical origins of Christianity, so they are "easy targets for a cleverly packaged, sensationalized set of lies." Carl Olson suggests several traits of postmodern culture that make a book like "The Da Vinci Code" attractive: a relativistic attitude toward truth and religion; a dislike for religious authority; a fondness for conspiracy-based claims; a belief that reality is malleable and can be customized to each person's wishes.
Adam Gopnik, writing in The New Yorker, takes a more ironic view: "A cultural anthropologist, a hundred years from now, will doubtless find, in the unprecedented success of 'The Da Vinci Code,' during the time of a supposed religious revival, that, in the Elvis mode, what a lot of Americans mean by spirituality is simply an immense openness to occult superstitions of all kinds."
Is "The Da Vinci Code" Anti-Catholic?
"I have been educated to enmity toward everything that is Catholic, and sometimes, in consequence of this, I find it much easier to discover Catholic faults than Catholic virtues."
---Mark Twain, 'Innocents Abroad'
Let's begin by admitting that anti-Catholicism is as American as, well, Mark Twain. Of course Twain was more honest about himself and everything else than most of us are. The Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., remarked to the American Catholic historian, John Tracy Ellis, "I regard the prejudice against your church as the deepest bias in the history of the American people." The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, used to describe the anti-Catholicism of a few decades ago as the last socially acceptable form of bigotry in the United States. Such witnesses can't easily be waved aside.
Catholics in this country have even had a Dan Brown-style experience before this present one. In 1836 "The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk" was first published. It was a sensational success, and stayed in print for many years. One mob even burned down a convent school, partly because of that book. It took the dedicated investigative work of a Protestant newspaper editor, Colonel William Stone, to debunk the book's lurid portrayal of the decadent goings-on between priests and nuns, and the murder of their infant children. The Colonel did his work very well, but generations of readers continued to buy the book and believe it.
Is "The Da Vinci Code" anti-Catholic? Well, sure it is. The book is at least as anti-Catholic as it is anti-Christian. For instance, it's not only 1.1 billion Catholics who believe Jesus is divine, recite the Nicene Creed and accept the books of the New Testament while rejecting the Gnostic gospels; Protestants --- numbering 800 million worldwide --- and Orthodox Christians --- in excess of 200 million --- are mostly guilty of that same Christian behavior, though they get no mention in "The Da Vinci Code." Instead, it is "the Church" that does those terrible things.
Nevertheless, when we Catholics complain about anti-Catholicism, especially in the entertainment media, it is easy to hear us as whiners and special pleaders. Hence an outside opinion is helpful and enlightening.
Slightly over a year ago David Denby, a film critic for The New Yorker, wrote a review of a film titled, of all things, "Constantine." Denby described the movie as a "religio-satanic horror spectacle," starring Keanu Reeves. At the showing Denby attended, it was being watched "by rapt adults as well as teenagers."
After dealing with that particular film, the critic moved on to the difficult, more general topic of how Hollywood deals with matters Catholic. Denby wrote: "Which raises a touchy point. 'Constantine' turns Catholic doctrine, ritual and iconography into schlock. God's warrior wins, but is that enough to justify the tawdry, promiscuous borrowing? Will the trashy exploitation of Catholicism in movies ever end?"
Could any Catholic have asked those questions better? Denby went on to conjure up Jewish and Hindu variations of the frequent Catholic exploitation films: "Imagine a Jewish version of the spectacle --- 'Angel,' starring Vin Diesel, in which God's messenger stays Abraham's hand in mid-sacrifice and then earns His approval by lowering himself into cursed pharaonic tombs with tied together prayer shawls. In a Hindu version --- 'Vishnu," with Nicolas Cage --- Shiva unleashes his snakes on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie and starts a war between truck drivers and apple pickers."
Denby knew that the strategy of satire is often to take things over the top to show how ridiculous the situation has become, and he did that very well. In conclusion, however, he made a thoughtful and provocative remark:
"Somehow I think these projects might be shelved. Yet terrible movies like .... 'Constantine' get made and become enormously popular. I will leave the issue of blasphemy to experts. But maybe some of the audience should wonder if they aren't doing the Devil's work by sitting so quietly through movies that turn wonders into garbage."
"The Da Vinci Code" --- the book and probably the film --- presents Catholics with one set of problems, and those are best dealt with by knowing the facts of our Church's faith and its history. A broader challenge is an entertainment establishment that doesn't know very much about Catholicism, doesn't like what it thinks it knows, doesn't want to learn any more, and can't leave Catholic faith, practice and imagery alone.
Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco is a Los Angeles native originally ordained for the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1962. He served as Bishop of Salt Lake City before his assignment to San Francisco earlier this year. This article first appeared in Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the San Francisco Archdiocese.
thought you might find this interesting.
I suspect someone that shallow would have given up their faith, such as it was, after watching a Spongebob episode.
If one would give up their faith because of a novel, when there's plenty of good history and the teachings to let you know that it's full of hokey, then one might have been looking for an excuse...
It's excellent! Thank you. My daughter wanted to read DVC. I told her no and will print this out so hopefully she'll understand why I said no.
Dan Brown is a liar. It's that simple. He lied to make some cash and it worked. This is the world we live in. Get used to it because it ain't changing anytime soon.
"... no lie is of the truth."
- 1st John 2:21
Hi, I am a christian who admits to sin but prays for forgiveness. I would like to point out that the Catholic Chruch as also committed blasphemus acts.
You say that "Sunday was declared a day of rest" by the catholic church. This is a blasphemy. The day of rest is the seventh day and we should keep the seventh day holy. That day is SATURDAY not SUNDAY.
You say the following...
"The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdalen on July 22 each year, and many churches are dedicated to her as their patron. In the Diocese of Salt Lake City the Cathedral is named for St. Mary Magdalen, and she is the heavenly patron of the entire diocese. That's a strange sort of demonizing."
...You are quite right but it is blasphemy because Jesus expressly tells us to worship and give praise to God...not to Mary!
Catholics belive that the pope has the power to excommunicate. If you look into the meaning of this word you will find that it has no power in the christian faith...
Take from the bible...
"No one comes to me except through him"
...meaning that Jesus has the power to say who will enter into heaven (not the catholic church and certainly not the pope)
I have looked into many churches these days and have looked at the number of "idols" that we have errected. Every catholic church has an idol of Mary.
Please, all christians, read the commandments. The catholic church breaks these regularly. You do not need to be part of any church to be a christian.
Close your door and pray to god and give thanks to Jesus for his sacrifice.
23: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful;
24: and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
25: not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25
31: So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Sama'ria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied. Acts 9:31
25: So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul;
26: and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
Acts 11: 25-26
1: About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.
2: He killed James the brother of John with the sword;
3: and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
4: And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
5: So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Acts 12: 1-5
1: Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre'ne, Man'a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Acts 13: 1
27: And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
22: Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas
4: As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
5: So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Acts 16: 4-5
16: I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
17: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
18: having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
19: and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might
20: which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,
21: far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come;
22: and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,
23: which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1: 16-23
20: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,
21: to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3: 20-21
23: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
24: As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
25: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
26: that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27: that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28: Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29: For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church,
30: because we are members of his body
18: He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
Colossians 1: 18
14: Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
15: and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
James 5: 15-15
17: And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
18: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
19: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Matthew 16: 17-19
Don't expect me to argue with you. This is a discussion about the Da Vinci code. Others might take up the bait. But as for me,
8: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19: For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart."
20: Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21: For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
22: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23: but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24: but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25: For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
I Corinthians 1: 8-25
And if you want to argue with Archbishop Neideraur who wrote the article, you need to send your complaints to him, and don't use "you" in a way that seems far too much like a personal attack.
End of message, and end of my discussion on this subject.