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Christians try to debunk the "DaVinci Code"
The Seattle Times ^ | 02/28/04 | Mark O'Keefe

Posted on 02/29/2004 3:33:39 AM PST by JimVT

Christians try to debunk 'Da Vinci Code'

By Mark O'Keefe Newhouse News Service

After reading "The Da Vinci Code," Holly Jespersen wondered if Jesus Christ did in fact wed Mary Magdalene and father her child, as the novel claims.

"It definitely made me question all that I have been brought up to believe," said Jespersen, a Presbyterian who lives in Chicago.

Glen Gracia of Boston, a former practicing Catholic, had a similar reaction, questioning the validity of the Bible if, in fact, it was commissioned and manipulated by the Roman emperor Constantine for political purposes, as the book asserts. "I was basically floored," Gracia said.

Alarmed by reactions like these, defenders of traditional Christianity have launched a counteroffensive against author Dan Brown's fast-paced thriller, which is in its 48th week on The New York Times' fiction best-seller list. It has sold more than 6 million copies, is being translated into more than 40 languages and will be made into a Columbia Pictures film directed by Ron Howard.

Brown has stopped giving interviews. But on the book's first page, he makes an assertion that galls his critics: "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

Books and articles with titles like "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code" and "The Da Vinci Deception" have been or are about to be published. Preachers are giving sermons to church members who ask why they were never told there was a Mrs. Jesus. Web sites and discussion groups are humming over the book's "heresies."

In Seattle, about 500 people turned out Thursday night to hear the Rev. Michael Raschko, a theology professor at Seattle University, "help us separate fantasy from truth" about the book, according to a brochure circulated by parishioners from St. James Cathedral. The discussion was scheduled to be held at St. James but was moved across the street to a larger venue.

On Wednesday night, a similar forum on "the reality behind the fiction" has been scheduled at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue.

Some of the country's most influential clerics are joining in a collective Christian outcry.

In The Catholic New World, the Archdiocese of Chicago's newspaper, Cardinal Francis George calls the book "a work of bizarre religious imaginings" based on "a facade of scholarship" that exploits "gullibility for conspiracy."

When "The Da Vinci Code" was released last March, church leaders paid little attention. Brown was an obscure author, this wasn't the first time a novel had taken shots at Christianity — and it was, after all, fiction.

But as the book became a publishing phenomenon, religious leaders noticed that readers were taking the novel's historical claims as fact. "Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci," a November ABC special that seriously explored Brown's themes, made clear that this was a cultural force to be reckoned with.

Yet where some Christian leaders perceive a threat, others see an opportunity.

The book has sparked interest in early Christian history, with public fascination of topics like the Council of Nicea in 325.

"It's only a threat if people read this fictional book naively, don't think critically about it and don't pursue truth," said the Rev. Mark Roberts, pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, Calif. The plot centers on the search for the "Holy Grail" by a brilliant Harvard symbologist and a French cryptologist, who follow clues in the work of Leonardo Da Vinci.

For example, the feminine-looking person on Christ's right in Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" is supposedly not the apostle John, as is conventionally assumed, but Magdalene, described in the New Testament as a woman who had seven demons cast out of her, followed Christ and was the first to see him after his resurrection.

As the clues lead them through the museums and cathedrals of Europe, Brown's protagonists discover a centuries-old conspiracy, advanced by a patriarchal Roman Catholic Church bent on covering up the truth about the feminine roots of Christianity and the formative effect of its predecessor, pagan goddess worship.

Opus Dei, a Catholic organization based in New York, is portrayed as particularly sinister, with a corrupt bishop directing a devout albino assassin to do his dirty work.

George and other Catholics have accused Brown of prejudicially tapping into the public's suspicion of the Catholic hierarchy after the church's sex-abuse scandal.

"If someone were to say this is just a cute story, that would be fine," said Brian Finnerty, communications director for Opus Dei. "But to present this book as historical is fundamentally dishonest."

The greatest protest has been over the negative portrayal of central Christian beliefs, including:

• Christ's divinity. Brown writes that Constantine collated the Bible, omitting some 80 gospels emphasizing Christ's human traits in favor of four that made him God. This was supposedly done at the Council of Nicea, "in a relatively close vote."

But the actual vote was 300-2, said Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, and it did not determine Christ's divinity. That was attested to much earlier "by many New Testament passages, as well as by the earliest Christians and all the church fathers, even if there was some disagreement as to the precise nature of that deity," Maier said.

The Council of Nicea "did not debate over whether Jesus was only mortal or divine, but whether he was created or eternal."

• The Bible's inerrancy. Peter Jones, co-author of "Cracking the Da Vinci Code," says that in trying to establish that the Bible was cooked by Constantine and his cronies, Brown overlooks the fact that four-fifths of what is now called the New Testament was deemed divinely inspired in the first century — two centuries before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.

• Christ's celibacy. Even feminist scholars such as Karen King, a Harvard professor and leading authority on early non-biblical texts about Magdalene, have said there is no evidence Christ was married to Magdalene or to anyone else.

George and other traditionalists treat the claim as absurd. "All those martyrs the first 300 years, they were covering up the fact that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene? Why in heaven's name would someone go to their death to protect that secret? It's absurd."

The controversy leaves Jespersen confused. She is "still absolutely convinced that Christ is God," but thought Brown made a compelling argument that Jesus was married. Jespersen plans to attend an upcoming discussion on the book.

Regardless of what she learns, she's glad she read it, calling it a conversation piece that "has encouraged me to question what I have always accepted, just because it is what I was taught."

Seattle Times reporter Janet I. Tu contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: accurate; bookreview; davincicode; falsedoctrine; gnostics; how; is; it
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I kinda support Ms. Jespersen's view of the book.

While I don't base my every move on the Bible, I know it offers some enlightening wisdom.

But 2000 years of human editing and "spinning" give me, at least, some pause.

At the very least, Brown's book has value in instigating an interest in early Christianity

1 posted on 02/29/2004 3:33:39 AM PST by JimVT
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To: JimVT
My biggest complaint about Brown's novel (which, after all, is merely a simple potboiler) is its unoriginality -- there's nothing in the background of this book that wasn't already put forth in the schlock/conspiracy classic, Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent et al., published back in the early 1980's.
2 posted on 02/29/2004 3:41:28 AM PST by Cincinatus (Omnia relinquit servare Republicam)
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To: JimVT
But 2000 years of human editing and "spinning"

Do you have a firm basis from which you can make such a claim?

3 posted on 02/29/2004 3:45:48 AM PST by tbpiper
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To: JimVT
I haven't read the book but why would anyone think Da Vinci would have any special knowedge about any of this? The guy was born one and a half millennia after the events in the New Testament.
4 posted on 02/29/2004 3:50:06 AM PST by Straight Vermonter (06/07/04 - 1000 days since 09/11/01)
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there sure is alot of Christian basing these days.
Why is it that Christ, with nothing more than a simple message, peace, good will, harmony, love caring etc. is attacked so vehemently?
Yet, muhammad, a brutal, blood thirsty, robber rapist and murderer is not condemned for the fraud he is? he is the devils prophet that today is causing so much blood to be spilled, yet Christ makes it back into the scene, and it's nothing but slander toward him.
Shameful
5 posted on 02/29/2004 3:51:34 AM PST by Nathan Zachary
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To: JimVT
But 2000 years of human editing and "spinning" give me, at least, some pause.

You forget that the scriptures you have today are virtually identical with the oldest manuscripts known.

As I recall, the oldest portion of scripture that has been found was a papyrus scroll found in Egypt, containing a portion of the Gospel of Mark, dating from the early third century. It was written in Greek, I think, and is almost identical to Greek manuscripts from centuries later.

6 posted on 02/29/2004 3:57:39 AM PST by jimtorr
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To: JimVT
No, this isn't "early Christianity", these are the writings of the third century gnositc offshoots that mixed chirsitanity with their elitist beliefs.

The reason they are now so "popular" is that they affirm the gnositicm of modern USA. And a lot of it is due to modern theologians such as those in the "jesus seminar" who want to make a new scripture.

You might want to read Phillip Jenkins in his book "the Hidden gospels: How the search for Jesus lost it's way".

I don't know scripture studies but did a few courses in ancient history. A lot of his historical comments make sense to me. He points out that the gospels tell us a lot about first century culture, customs, and correspond to the intellectual trends of those days. And mnay of the new testament writings were quoted by early church fathers who are well documented on where they worked and where they were martyred, and whose writings CAN be historically dated thanks to Roman documents (Jesus' death was a routine execution, whereas Jestin Martyr had written to pagan philosophers, for example, and was better known to the intelligencia of his day)

These "gnostic gospels tell almost nothing about first century Judean culture, let alone first century Roman culture. Instead, they are fulll of mystical wishy washy stuff similar to writings in the late second and third century.

It would be like taking a nihilistic novel like Cold Mountain and claiming it was actually written after the civil war: but if it HAD been written then, the same story would have been written much differently, probably closer to "gods and generals": in cold mountain, the people acted and spoke like late twentieth century upper class new yorkers, not like southerners back then or even southerners today. So Jenkin's arguments make sense to me.
7 posted on 02/29/2004 3:58:59 AM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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To: JimVT
I read the book and found it an interesting read.It did not give me pause to question the Bible.It is a novel.
8 posted on 02/29/2004 3:59:35 AM PST by MEG33 (John Kerry's been AWOL for two decades on issues of National Security!)
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To: JimVT
Well, here's Hollywood's answer to Gibson and The Passion. The book will be optioned for a blockbuster film, and they can imply anything they want about Jesus with impunity. Artistic license is a big tent. Many would go to see that film, but not nearly as many will see The Passion.
9 posted on 02/29/2004 4:01:57 AM PST by hershey
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To: JimVT; All
I may be wrong, but the theory of the DaVinci Code I believe is the root of the "Albigensian Heresy" or "Cathar Heresy".

Someone out there with a good historical grounding in this subject, please lend a hand.

regards,

10 posted on 02/29/2004 4:04:55 AM PST by Jimmy Valentine (DemocRATS - when they speak, they lie; when they are silent, they are stealing the American Dream)
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To: JimVT
I've read the Da Vinci Code and found that it was quite a good book. But there is one thing that is very important to remember. It's Fiction.
11 posted on 02/29/2004 4:11:58 AM PST by SpottedBeaver (Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What's a sun-dial in the shade? - Benjamin Franklin)
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To: JimVT
But 2000 years of human editing and "spinning" give me, at least, some pause

The fundamental question is whether the Bible is the insprired word of God or not. (It claims to be over 1500 times).

But putting that aside for a moment, let's look at one example. The dead sea scrolls contain a complete copy of Isaiah 53 written sometime in the 1st century BC. When compared to our copy today, there are 17 word differences. Sixteen of the seventeen are simply tense differences are other insignificant variations that have no effect on the text. The seventeenth is a translation of the word "light" that is different than today. However, the difference is immaterial to the context. Take a look at Isaiah 53. It is not short.

The second thing I would point out is that there are over 5000 extant copies from the 1st and 2nd centuries of the New Testament texts. By the time we reach the 4th century, there are 20,000. By comparing all the texts, Bible scholars are able to determine with amazing accuracy the original text. For example, if 19 of 20 copies contain the word "fish" in a particular passage and the 20th does not, we can conclude the 20th is a human transcription error. No other ancient document can even come close to the number of texts with which to work.

Further, the dates we are talking about in terms of ancient text analysis make the copies we have essentially contemporary to the original writing. Most non-Biblical ancient texts have only a handful of copies to work with that were written several hundred years after the original.

But we don't need to rely only on the text. By looking at the writings of early church fathers, we can reconstruct all but a few verses of the the New Testament through their quoting of it.

Some texts were rejected by early church fathers as not divinely inspired - for example the Gospel of Thomas. But if one looks at the rejected texts, what you will find is that they bare little resemblance to the accepted texts often containing fantastic elements and myth - for example, giant dragons and enormous crosses and the like.

Finally, if we look at the history of New Testament development, we find that by about 160AD we have a copy of the New Testament that is essentially what we use today (there were a view debates concerning a few of the books - for example, Jude and 3 John. However, the Gospels, Acts, Paul's letters and the other Apostle writings have always been considered scripture - even at the time they were written. Peter refers to one of Paul's letters as scripture and Paul refers to one of the Gospels as scripture (the greek word for scripture used by Peter and Paul appears 57 times in the New Testament - 55 of the 57 are references to the Old Testament, which was accepted to be divinely inspired. The other two are the two I mentioned.)

The bottom line is that we can trust the text we have today.

12 posted on 02/29/2004 4:21:38 AM PST by Pete
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To: tbpiper
But 2000 years of human editing and "spinning"

If you look at the revisionism and spinning of events in our own time, such as the Vietnam War, the deifying of Kennedy (who started Vietnam), there is good cause to suspect that the absolute truth of the biblical times is lost forever. It may be better to concentrate on the wonderful mystical aspects of Christ rather than the vicious mass tortures and murders of the times.
13 posted on 02/29/2004 4:23:36 AM PST by tkathy (The liberal media: september 10th rhetoric in a september 11th world.)
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To: tkathy
If you look at the revisionism and spinning of events in our own time, such as the Vietnam War, the deifying of Kennedy (who started Vietnam), there is good cause to suspect that the absolute truth of the biblical times is lost forever

See my post #12 above.

14 posted on 02/29/2004 4:25:14 AM PST by Pete
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To: JimVT
sounds like the efforts to cash in by affiliation has begun. What next for sale holy relics?

Every JC movie ever made will be re-re-re-released and special released and director's cut released in the comming months.

Just a distraction from the release of a masterpiece of a movie.
15 posted on 02/29/2004 4:29:49 AM PST by longtermmemmory (Vote!)
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To: JimVT
you can debunk it by going to the front of the book and pointing out the place where it lists itself as 'fiction'
16 posted on 02/29/2004 4:30:17 AM PST by InvisibleChurch (Remember, God made you special and He loves you very much!)
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To: JimVT
Like they could keep that a secret (Jesus marriage) for over 2,000 years? geez!
17 posted on 02/29/2004 4:36:32 AM PST by moonman
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To: jimtorr
Odd how people don't seem to question the accuracy of the Iliad, despite it's many copies. It's just easier to question the authenticity of scripture because it is in our fallen nature to do so. It all started when we bought the first lie....."hast God said?"
18 posted on 02/29/2004 4:36:57 AM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: tkathy
there is good cause to suspect that the absolute truth of the biblical times is lost forever.

Not when you consider the fact that the earliest texts of what comprises the new testament are essentially the same texts we have today. There has been no spinning or editing. The absolute Truth is alive and well. Also the victims of "the vicious mass tortures and murders of the times" didn't die for some "wonderful mystical aspects of Christ" but for the reality of a risen Savior.

19 posted on 02/29/2004 4:37:15 AM PST by tbpiper
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To: JimVT
AMOS 8:11

Behold,the days come,saith the lord GOD, That I will send a famine in the land, not of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:

People are "starving to death(spiritual death)" because the words that are spoken from the pulpits of our land today are from the traditions of men, not the word of god.
20 posted on 02/29/2004 4:38:10 AM PST by repub32
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To: jimtorr
As I recall, the oldest portion of scripture that has been found was a papyrus scroll found in Egypt, containing a portion of the Gospel of Mark, dating from the early third century.

I believe you are mistaken. There is a fragment of the gospel of John (in John Rylands University Library of Manchester), Rylands Papyrus 52, discovered in Egypt in 1920 that dates back to ~125 AD, and fragments of the gospel of Matthew (in Magdalen College in Oxford), Magdalen Papyrus 64, that date back to the first century (66 AD).

Of course, this only asserts the accuracy of the point you were trying to make even more than your own post did...

21 posted on 02/29/2004 4:45:53 AM PST by Technogeeb
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To: JimVT
"It definitely made me question all that I have been brought up to believe,"


"Glen Gracia of Boston, a former practicing Catholic, had a similar reaction . . ."


People who make such statements after reading a work of fiction don't seem to know what the word "fiction" means.

They also need to read up on what the Council of Nicea was really about.
22 posted on 02/29/2004 4:46:33 AM PST by djpg
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To: JimVT
Yep, when I read that the cow had jumped over the moon in the first grade, I started questioning all that NASA said.

I was really ahead of my time as I was in the first grade in 1952...

23 posted on 02/29/2004 4:49:31 AM PST by sonofatpatcher2 (Love & a .45-- What more could you want, campers? };^)
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To: tbpiper
You don't think that in the 2000 years since Christ that there has been various interpretations and spin of Christianity by Christian sects? Most recently, David Koresh's bunch, early colonial times: the Salem Witch trials. Think about it. Various 'rules' in various present day religions have changed. For example, Homosexual clergy, fish on Friday....all the variants vary, depending on the human entities authoring the variants. None of these man made spins have anything to do with the core mystery and truths of Christianity.
24 posted on 02/29/2004 4:58:26 AM PST by Dudoight
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To: JimVT
I kinda support Ms. Jespersen's view of the book.

Let's look at what Ms. Jespersen was quoted as saying;

Regardless of what she learns, she's glad she read it, calling it a conversation piece that "has encouraged me to question what I have always accepted, just because it is what I was taught."

This is good in only one aspect, if you and her seriously search for truth, not contrivances.

25 posted on 02/29/2004 5:00:47 AM PST by sirchtruth
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To: Pete
Thanks for the post. Great read. Very informative.
26 posted on 02/29/2004 5:06:29 AM PST by AHerald
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To: Nathan Zachary
Excellent points
27 posted on 02/29/2004 5:13:56 AM PST by uncbob
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To: Dudoight
You don't think that in the 2000 years since Christ that there has been various interpretations and spin of Christianity by Christian sects?

I think you're missing the issue. The point tkathy was trying to make was that the absolute truth can't be known because biblical text has been 'editted and spun' for 2000 years. Dishonest scholarship or wronged headed interpretation by oddball sects does not alter the fundamental correctness of the scriptures.

None of these man made spins have anything to do with the core mystery and truths of Christianity.

I completely agree with this.

28 posted on 02/29/2004 5:15:39 AM PST by tbpiper
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To: Technogeeb
I believe you are mistaken. There is a fragment of the gospel of John (in John Rylands University Library of Manchester),Rylands Papyrus 52, discovered in Egypt in 1920 that dates back to ~125 AD, and fragments of the gospel of Matthew (in Magdalen College in Oxford), Magdalen Papyrus 64, that date back to the first century (66 AD).

Yes, I goofed. I should know better than to post before I've had my morning tea.

It was the fragment of John I was thinking of, and I meant to say the second century, not the third.

I beleive the dating of the Matthew fragment is disputed, though, so I don't refer to it.

I also forgot all the references to scripture, and the long quotes of scripture, by letters from the early church fathers. These begin sometime around 105 AD.

I especially like one quote(how I wish I could remember who wrote it, but he was a bishop). He wrote that the Apostles were no sooner dead and buried than people were worshipping them as Gods in their own tombs.

29 posted on 02/29/2004 5:18:19 AM PST by jimtorr
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To: JimVT
I wouldn't worry about this book

Real faith is a gift and those who now believe won't change because of some book

And any new comers who arrive will do so because of a void and need in their life and this book won't give them that but the classic gospels will

Those that don't believe and are psychologically comfortable with themseleves won't care either

Those on the left with some kind of hatred towards the Christian religion won't be anymore more so because of this book they are already as screwed up as they can get
30 posted on 02/29/2004 5:19:21 AM PST by uncbob
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To: Pete
"The bottom line is that we can trust the text we have today"

Thanks for that great exposition of the Gospels' legitimacy. I only wish that more people were aware of this simple truth. Unfortunately, the "people" love a good conspiracy and will swallow most anything.

31 posted on 02/29/2004 5:22:39 AM PST by Pietro
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To: SpottedBeaver
I've read the Da Vinci Code and found that it was quite a good book. But there is one thing that is very important to remember. It's Fiction.

Agree! Anyone who begins to "question their faith" as a result of reading this entertaining novel would again believe in the tooth fairy if they found a dollar under their pillow following a tooth extraction!

32 posted on 02/29/2004 5:26:34 AM PST by ExSES
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To: anniegetyourgun
anniegetyourgun wrote:

Odd how people don't seem to question the accuracy of the Iliad, despite it's many copies. It's just easier to question the authenticity of scripture because it is in our fallen nature to do so. It all started when we bought the first lie....."hast God said?"





Nobody has ever thought that "The Iliad" or "The Odyssey" were anything other than entertainment, and certainly no one has based a religion on them!
33 posted on 02/29/2004 5:28:39 AM PST by tiamat ("Just a Bronze-Age Gal, Trapped in a Techno World!")
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To: JimVT
Dismantling The Da Vinci Code
By Sandra Miesel

“The Grail,” Langdon said, “is symbolic of the lost goddess. When Christianity came along, the old pagan religions did not die easily. Legends of chivalric quests for the Holy Grail were in fact stories of forbidden quests to find the lost sacred feminine. Knights who claimed to be “searching for the chalice” were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned non-believers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine.” (The Da Vinci Code, pages 238-239)

The Holy Grail is a favorite metaphor for a desirable but difficult-to-attain goal, from the map of the human genome to Lord Stanley’s Cup. While the original Grail—the cup Jesus allegedly used at the Last Supper—normally inhabits the pages of Arthurian romance, Dan Brown’s recent mega–best-seller, The Da Vinci Code, rips it away to the realm of esoteric history.

But his book is more than just the story of a quest for the Grail—he wholly reinterprets the Grail legend. In doing so, Brown inverts the insight that a woman’s body is symbolically a container and makes a container symbolically a woman’s body. And that container has a name every Christian will recognize, for Brown claims that the Holy Grail was actually Mary Magdalene. She was the vessel that held the blood of Jesus Christ in her womb while bearing his children.

Over the centuries, the Grail-keepers have been guarding the true (and continuing) bloodline of Christ and the relics of the Magdalen, not a material vessel. Therefore Brown claims that “the quest for the Holy Grail is the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene,” a conclusion that would surely have surprised Sir Galahad and the other Grail knights who thought they were searching for the Chalice of the Last Supper.

The Da Vinci Code opens with the grisly murder of the Louvre’s curator inside the museum. The crime enmeshes hero Robert Langdon, a tweedy professor of symbolism from Harvard, and the victim’s granddaughter, burgundy-haired cryptologist Sophie Nevue. Together with crippled millionaire historian Leigh Teabing, they flee Paris for London one step ahead of the police and a mad albino Opus Dei “monk” named Silas who will stop at nothing to prevent them from finding the “Grail.”

But despite the frenetic pacing, at no point is action allowed to interfere with a good lecture. Before the story comes full circle back to the Louvre, readers face a barrage of codes, puzzles, mysteries, and conspiracies.

With his twice-stated principle, “Everybody loves a conspiracy,” Brown is reminiscent of the famous author who crafted her product by studying the features of ten earlier best-sellers. It would be too easy to criticize him for characters thin as plastic wrap, undistinguished prose, and improbable action. But Brown isn’t so much writing badly as writing in a particular way best calculated to attract a female audience. (Women, after all, buy most of the nation’s books.) He has married a thriller plot to a romance-novel technique. Notice how each character is an extreme type…effortlessly brilliant, smarmy, sinister, or psychotic as needed, moving against luxurious but curiously flat backdrops. Avoiding gore and bedroom gymnastics, he shows only one brief kiss and a sexual ritual performed by a married couple. The risqué allusions are fleeting although the text lingers over some bloody Opus Dei mortifications. In short, Brown has fabricated a novel perfect for a ladies’ book club.

Brown’s lack of seriousness shows in the games he plays with his character names—Robert Langdon, “bright fame long don” (distinguished and virile); Sophie Nevue, “wisdom New Eve”; the irascible taurine detective Bezu Fache, “zebu anger.” The servant who leads the police to them is Legaludec, “legal duce.” The murdered curator takes his surname, Saunière, from a real Catholic priest whose occult antics sparked interest in the Grail secret. As an inside joke, Brown even writes in his real-life editor (Faukman is Kaufman).

While his extensive use of fictional formulas may be the secret to Brown’s stardom, his anti-Christian message can’t have hurt him in publishing circles: The Da Vinci Code debuted atop the New York Times best-seller list. By manipulating his audience through the conventions of romance-writing, Brown invites readers to identify with his smart, glamorous characters who’ve seen through the impostures of the clerics who hide the “truth” about Jesus and his wife. Blasphemy is delivered in a soft voice with a knowing chuckle: “[E]very faith in the world is based on fabrication.”

But even Brown has his limits. To dodge charges of outright bigotry, he includes a climactic twist in the story that absolves the Church of assassination. And although he presents Christianity as a false root and branch, he’s willing to tolerate it for its charitable works.

(Of course, Catholic Christianity will become even more tolerable once the new liberal pope elected in Brown’s previous Langdon novel, Angels & Demons, abandons outmoded teachings. “Third-century laws cannot be applied to the modern followers of Christ,” says one of the book’s progressive cardinals.)

Where Is He Getting All of This?

Brown actually cites his principal sources within the text of his novel. One is a specimen of academic feminist scholarship: The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. The others are popular esoteric histories: The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln; The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, both by Margaret Starbird. (Starbird, a self-identified Catholic, has her books published by Matthew Fox’s outfit, Bear & Co.) Another influence, at least at second remove, is The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker.

The use of such unreliable sources belies Brown’s pretensions to intellectuality. But the act has apparently fooled at least some of his readers—the New York Daily News book reviewer trumpeted, “His research is impeccable.”

But despite Brown’s scholarly airs, a writer who thinks the Merovingians founded Paris and forgets that the popes once lived in Avignon is hardly a model researcher. And for him to state that the Church burned five million women as witches shows a willful—and malicious—ignorance of the historical record. The latest figures for deaths during the European witch craze are between 30,000 to 50,000 victims. Not all were executed by the Church, not all were women, and not all were burned. Brown’s claim that educated women, priestesses, and midwives were singled out by witch-hunters is not only false, it betrays his goddess-friendly sources.

A Multitude of Errors

So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth. A few examples of his “impeccable” research: He claims that the motions of the planet Venus trace a pentacle (the so-called Ishtar pentagram) symbolizing the goddess. But it isn’t a perfect figure and has nothing to do with the length of the Olympiad. The ancient Olympic games were celebrated in honor of Zeus Olympias, not Aphrodite, and occurred every four years. Brown’s contention that the five linked rings of the modern Olympic Games are a secret tribute to the goddess is also wrong—each set of games was supposed to add a ring to the design but the organizers stopped at five. And his efforts to read goddess propaganda into art, literature, and even Disney cartoons are simply ridiculous.

No datum is too dubious for inclusion, and reality falls quickly by the wayside. For instance, the Opus Dei bishop encourages his albino assassin by telling him that Noah was also an albino (a notion drawn from the non-canonical 1 Enoch 106:2). Yet albinism somehow fails to interfere with the man’s eyesight as it physiologically would.

But a far more important example is Brown’s treatment of Gothic architecture as a style full of goddess-worshipping symbols and coded messages to confound the uninitiated. Building on Barbara Walker’s claim that “like a pagan temple, the Gothic cathedral represented the body of the Goddess,” The Templar Revelation asserts: “Sexual symbolism is found in the great Gothic cathedrals which were masterminded by the Knights Templar...both of which represent intimate female anatomy: the arch, which draws the worshipper into the body of Mother Church, evokes the vulva.” In The Da Vinci Code, these sentiments are transformed into a character’s description of “a cathedral’s long hollow nave as a secret tribute to a woman’s womb...complete with receding labial ridges and a nice little cinquefoil clitoris above the doorway.”

These remarks cannot be brushed aside as opinions of the villain; Langdon, the book’s hero, refers to his own lectures about goddess-symbolism at Chartres.

These bizarre interpretations betray no acquaintance with the actual development or construction of Gothic architecture, and correcting the countless errors becomes a tiresome exercise: The Templars had nothing to do with the cathedrals of their time, which were commissioned by bishops and their canons throughout Europe. They were unlettered men with no arcane knowledge of “sacred geometry” passed down from the pyramid builders. They did not wield tools themselves on their own projects, nor did they found masons’ guilds to build for others. Not all their churches were round, nor was roundness a defiant insult to the Church. Rather than being a tribute to the divine feminine, their round churches honored the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Actually looking at Gothic churches and their predecessors deflates the idea of female symbolism. Large medieval churches typically had three front doors on the west plus triple entrances to their transepts on the north and south. (What part of a woman’s anatomy does a transept represent? Or the kink in Chartres’s main aisle?) Romanesque churches—including ones that predate the founding of the Templars—have similar bands of decoration arching over their entrances. Both Gothic and Romanesque churches have the long, rectangular nave inherited from Late Antique basilicas, ultimately derived from Roman public buildings. Neither Brown nor his sources consider what symbolism medieval churchmen such as Suger of St.-Denis or William Durandus read in church design. It certainly wasn’t goddess-worship.

False Claims

If the above seems like a pile driver applied to a gnat, the blows are necessary to demonstrate the utter falseness of Brown’s material. His willful distortions of documented history are more than matched by his outlandish claims about controversial subjects. But to a postmodernist, one construct of reality is as good as any other.

Brown’s approach seems to consist of grabbing large chunks of his stated sources and tossing them together in a salad of a story. From Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Brown lifts the concept of the Grail as a metaphor for a sacred lineage by arbitrarily breaking a medieval French term, Sangraal (Holy Grail), into sang (blood) and raal (royal). This holy blood, according to Brown, descended from Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene, to the Merovingian dynasty in Dark Ages France, surviving its fall to persist in several modern French families, including that of Pierre Plantard, a leader of the mysterious Priory of Sion. The Priory—an actual organization officially registered with the French government in 1956—makes extraordinary claims of antiquity as the “real” power behind the Knights Templar. It most likely originated after World War II and was first brought to public notice in 1962. With the exception of filmmaker Jean Cocteau, its illustrious list of Grand Masters—which include Leonardo da Vinci, Issac Newton, and Victor Hugo—is not credible, although it’s presented as true by Brown.

Brown doesn’t accept a political motivation for the Priory’s activities. Instead he picks up The Templar Revelation’s view of the organization as a cult of secret goddess-worshippers who have preserved ancient Gnostic wisdom and records of Christ’s true mission, which would completely overturn Christianity if released. Significantly, Brown omits the rest of the book’s thesis that makes Christ and Mary Magdalene unmarried sex partners performing the erotic mysteries of Isis. Perhaps even a gullible mass-market audience has its limits.

From both Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, Brown takes a negative view of the Bible and a grossly distorted image of Jesus. He’s neither the Messiah nor a humble carpenter but a wealthy, trained religious teacher bent on regaining the throne of David. His credentials are amplified by his relationship with the rich Magdalen who carries the royal blood of Benjamin: “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false,” laments one of Brown’s characters.

Yet it’s Brown’s Christology that’s false—and blindingly so. He requires the present New Testament to be a post-Constantinian fabrication that displaced true accounts now represented only by surviving Gnostic texts. He claims that Christ wasn’t considered divine until the Council of Nicea voted him so in 325 at the behest of the emperor. Then Constantine—a lifelong sun worshipper—ordered all older scriptural texts destroyed, which is why no complete set of Gospels predates the fourth century. Christians somehow failed to notice the sudden and drastic change in their doctrine.

But by Brown’s specious reasoning, the Old Testament can’t be authentic either because complete Hebrew Scriptures are no more than a thousand years old. And yet the texts were transmitted so accurately that they do match well with the Dead Sea Scrolls from a thousand years earlier. Analysis of textual families, comparison with fragments and quotations, plus historical correlations securely date the orthodox Gospels to the first century and indicate that they’re earlier than the Gnostic forgeries. (The Epistles of St. Paul are, of course, even earlier than the Gospels.)

Primitive Church documents and the testimony of the ante-Nicean Fathers confirm that Christians have always believed Jesus to be Lord, God, and Savior—even when that faith meant death. The earliest partial canon of Scripture dates from the late second century and already rejected Gnostic writings. For Brown, it isn’t enough to credit Constantine with the divinization of Jesus. The emperor’s old adherence to the cult of the Invincible Sun also meant repackaging sun worship as the new faith. Brown drags out old (and long-discredited) charges by virulent anti-Catholics like Alexander Hislop who accused the Church of perpetuating Babylonian mysteries, as well as 19th-century rationalists who regarded Christ as just another dying savior-god.

Unsurprisingly, Brown misses no opportunity to criticize Christianity and its pitiable adherents. (The church in question is always the Catholic Church, though his villain does sneer once at Anglicans—for their grimness, of all things.) He routinely and anachronistically refers to the Church as “the Vatican,” even when popes weren’t in residence there. He systematically portrays it throughout history as deceitful, power-crazed, crafty, and murderous: “The Church may no longer employ crusades to slaughter, but their influence is no less persuasive. No less insidious.”

Goddess Worship and the Magdalen

Worst of all, in Brown’s eyes, is the fact that the pleasure-hating, sex-hating, woman-hating Church suppressed goddess worship and eliminated the divine feminine. He claims that goddess worship universally dominated pre-Christian paganism with the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) as its central rite. His enthusiasm for fertility rites is enthusiasm for sexuality, not procreation. What else would one expect of a Cathar sympathizer?

Astonishingly, Brown claims that Jews in Solomon’s Temple adored Yahweh and his feminine counterpart, the Shekinah, via the services of sacred prostitutes—possibly a twisted version of the Temple’s corruption after Solomon (1 Kings 14:24 and 2 Kings 23:4-15). Moreover, he says that the tetragrammaton YHWH derives from “Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.”

But as any first-year Scripture student could tell you, Jehovah is actually a 16th-century rendering of Yahweh using the vowels of Adonai (“Lord”). In fact, goddesses did not dominate the pre-Christian world—not in the religions of Rome, her barbarian subjects, Egypt, or even Semitic lands where the hieros gamos was an ancient practice. Nor did the Hellenized cult of Isis appear to have included sex in its secret rites.

Contrary to yet another of Brown’s claims, Tarot cards do not teach goddess doctrine. They were invented for innocent gaming purposes in the 15th century and didn’t acquire occult associations until the late 18th. Playing-card suites carry no Grail symbolism. The notion of diamonds symbolizing pentacles is a deliberate misrepresentation by British occultist A. E. Waite. And the number five—so crucial to Brown’s puzzles—has some connections with the protective goddess but myriad others besides, including human life, the five senses, and the Five Wounds of Christ.

Brown’s treatment of Mary Magdalene is sheer delusion. In The Da Vinci Code, she’s no penitent whore but Christ’s royal consort and the intended head of His Church, supplanted by Peter and defamed by churchmen. She fled west with her offspring to Provence, where medieval Cathars would keep the original teachings of Jesus alive. The Priory of Sion still guards her relics and records, excavated by the Templars from the subterranean Holy of Holies. It also protects her descendants—including Brown’s heroine.

Although many people still picture the Magdalen as a sinful woman who anointed Jesus and equate her with Mary of Bethany, that conflation is actually the later work of Pope St. Gregory the Great. The East has always kept them separate and said that the Magdalen, “apostle to the apostles,” died in Ephesus. The legend of her voyage to Provence is no earlier than the ninth century, and her relics weren’t reported there until the 13th. Catholic critics, including the Bollandists, have been debunking the legend and distinguishing the three ladies since the 17th century.

Brown uses two Gnostic documents, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary, to prove that the Magdalen was Christ’s “companion,” meaning sexual partner. The apostles were jealous that Jesus used to “kiss her on the mouth” and favored her over them. He cites exactly the same passages quoted in Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation and even picks up the latter’s reference to The Last Temptation of Christ. What these books neglect to mention is the infamous final verse of the Gospel of Thomas. When Peter sneers that “women are not worthy of Life,” Jesus responds, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male.... For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

That’s certainly an odd way to “honor” one’s spouse or exalt the status of women. The Knights Templar

Brown likewise misrepresents the history of the Knights Templar. The oldest of the military-religious orders, the Knights were founded in 1118 to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. Their rule, attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, was approved in 1128 and generous donors granted them numerous properties in Europe for support. Rendered redundant after the last Crusader stronghold fell in 1291, the Templars’ pride and wealth—they were also bankers—earned them keen hostility.

Brown maliciously ascribes the suppression of the Templars to “Machiavellian” Pope Clement V, whom they were blackmailing with the Grail secret. His “ingeniously planned sting operation” had his soldiers suddenly arrest all Templars. Charged with Satanism, sodomy, and blasphemy, they were tortured into confessing and burned as heretics, their ashes “tossed unceremoniously into the Tiber.”

But in reality, the initiative for crushing the Templars came from King Philip the Fair of France, whose royal officials did the arresting in 1307. About 120 Templars were burned by local Inquisitorial courts in France for not confessing or retracting a confession, as happened with Grand Master Jacques de Molay. Few Templars suffered death elsewhere although their order was abolished in 1312. Clement, a weak, sickly Frenchman manipulated by his king, burned no one in Rome inasmuch as he was the first pope to reign from Avignon (so much for the ashes in the Tiber).

Moreover, the mysterious stone idol that the Templars were accused of worshiping is associated with fertility in only one of more than a hundred confessions. Sodomy was the scandalous—and possibly true—charge against the order, not ritual fornication. The Templars have been darlings of occultism since their myth as masters of secret wisdom and fabulous treasure began to coalesce in the late 18th century. Freemasons and even Nazis have hailed them as brothers. Now it’s the turn of neo-Gnostics.

Twisting da Vinci

Brown’s revisionist interpretations of da Vinci are as distorted as the rest of his information. He claims to have first run across these views “while I was studying art history in Seville,” but they correspond point for point to material in The Templar Revelation. A writer who sees a pointed finger as a throat-cutting gesture, who says the Madonna of the Rocks was painted for nuns instead of a lay confraternity of men, who claims that da Vinci received “hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions” (actually, it was just one…and it was never executed) is simply unreliable.

Brown’s analysis of da Vinci’s work is just as ridiculous. He presents the Mona Lisa as an androgynous self-portrait when it’s widely known to portray a real woman, Madonna Lisa, wife of Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo. The name is certainly not—as Brown claims—a mocking anagram of two Egyptian fertility deities Amon and L’Isa (Italian for Isis). How did he miss the theory, propounded by the authors of The Templar Revelation, that the Shroud of Turin is a photographed self-portrait of da Vinci?

Much of Brown’s argument centers around da Vinci’s Last Supper, a painting the author considers a coded message that reveals the truth about Jesus and the Grail. Brown points to the lack of a central chalice on the table as proof that the Grail isn’t a material vessel. But da Vinci’s painting specifically dramatizes the moment when Jesus warns, “One of you will betray me” (John 13:21). There is no Institution Narrative in St. John’s Gospel. The Eucharist is not shown there.

And the person sitting next to Jesus is not Mary Magdalene (as Brown claims) but St. John, portrayed as the usual effeminate da Vinci youth, comparable to his St. John the Baptist. Jesus is in the exact center of the painting, with two pyramidal groups of three apostles on each side. Although da Vinci was a spiritually troubled homosexual, Brown’s contention that he coded his paintings with anti-Christian messages simply can’t be sustained.

Brown’s Mess

In the end, Dan Brown has penned a poorly written, atrociously researched mess. So, why bother with such a close reading of a worthless novel? The answer is simple: The Da Vinci Code takes esoterica mainstream. It may well do for Gnosticism what The Mists of Avalon did for paganism—gain it popular acceptance. After all, how many lay readers will see the blazing inaccuracies put forward as buried truths?

What’s more, in making phony claims of scholarship, Brown’s book infects readers with a virulent hostility toward Catholicism. Dozens of occult history books, conveniently cross-linked by Amazon.com, are following in its wake. And booksellers’ shelves now bulge with falsehoods few would be buying without The Da Vinci Code connection. While Brown’s assault on the Catholic Church may be a backhanded compliment, it’s one we would have happily done without.

Sandra Miesel is a veteran Catholic journalist.

© 2003 Morley Publishing Group, Inc., the publisher of CRISIS Magazine

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a SMACKDOWN.

34 posted on 02/29/2004 5:30:40 AM PST by Skooz (My Biography: Psalm 40:1-3)
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To: JimVT
It was a good book; the idea of Jesus being married and had children has been kicking around for years. One of the earliest arguments I saw for this was that it would be unseemly for a Jewish Rabbi not to be married.

I don't think a married Jesus takes anything away from the message of the Gospels, but we'll probably never know the truth in this regard.

35 posted on 02/29/2004 5:37:49 AM PST by Junior (No animals were harmed in the making of this post)
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To: JimVT
But 2000 years of human editing and "spinning" give me, at least, some pause.

At least.

Compare Revelations and and the Gospel of John. In my opinion, those are two very different authors; but the traditionalist view has both are the writings of Apostle John.
I'm convinced Mary was the "Beloved disciple" and the Gospel of "John" is, in fact, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

Whether Christ was married or betrothed or not, it wouldn't make one jot of difference in my faith.

36 posted on 02/29/2004 5:45:33 AM PST by dread78645 (Sorry Mr. Franklin, We couldn't keep it.)
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To: Cincinatus
The 1980's? I'd say there is nothing in the book that hasn't been put forth for millennia. Throw together 2003 years of Christian mysticism, a liberal interpretation of certain Gnostic gospels, a pinch of Cathars and Templars for good measure... what do you get? Instant NY Times Best Seller, prime fodder for a media eager to discredit Christianity and church teaching, and an audience (most of whom don't know any better) and who are more than willing to soak it up and chat it up with friends. I know at least a few that are laughing all the way to the bank on this one.
37 posted on 02/29/2004 5:46:26 AM PST by truthchaser
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To: tkathy
Or, what is far simpler, to accept by faith that we've been given what we need in what we have.

This is a very old story, those who challenge the sources of the Bible.

38 posted on 02/29/2004 5:47:35 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: JimVT
There is a lot of fascination with Gnoticism. Its always been suspected The Templars brought back non-Catholic currents of Christianity with them from the Middle East during the Crusades and the suspicion they were harboring heresy along with their enormous wealth left them open to their enemies. The French King moved on them and shut down their order in 1314. If you really want a look at this stuff read Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. People never get tired of hearing about conspiracies, historical mysteries, secret societies, and mysticism.
39 posted on 02/29/2004 5:51:24 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: JimVT
Where have these people been? There's nothing new in The da Vinci Code. It's all old hat.

It's a fairly good read if you like whodunits, which I don't. Brown writes well. It moves rapidly, and the sophisticated background of Paris, London, the Louvre, etc. is fun. But it is so contrived! It gets silly, boring, and predictable, especially toward the end.

40 posted on 02/29/2004 5:52:29 AM PST by Savage Beast (Whom will the terrorists vote for? Not George W. Bush--that's for sure! ~Happy2BMe)
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To: Pete
The fundamental question is whether the Bible is the insprired word of God or not. (It claims to be over 1500 times).

And it has stood the test of time, the most read and popular book that there is, God will not allow His Word to be distorted, the Bible and the truth will prevail.

41 posted on 02/29/2004 5:54:55 AM PST by garylmoore (Now I know: It is as it was)
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To: Nathan Zachary
"Why is it that Christ, with nothing more than a simple message, peace, good will, harmony, love caring etc. is attacked so vehemently?"

Some HATE what is required to have that simple message of "peace", "good will", "harmony", "love caring etc.....". CHRIST


This is a WAR of GOOD and EVIL. Christ says He will return with a DOUBLE-EDGE SWORD and it cuts both ways. You think cleaning out the temple was viewed as a peaceful, good will gesture.




42 posted on 02/29/2004 5:55:44 AM PST by Just mythoughts
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To: Nathan Zachary
Live a life of truth, peace, good will, harmony, love, caring, etc., and you're likely to get yourself crucified. I'd be particulary cautious about trying it in one of the Islamic theocracies.
43 posted on 02/29/2004 5:56:38 AM PST by Savage Beast (Whom will the terrorists vote for? Not George W. Bush--that's for sure! ~Happy2BMe)
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To: ExSES
Anyone who begins to "question their faith" as a result of reading this entertaining novel would again believe in the tooth fairy if they found a dollar under their pillow following a tooth extraction!

The book The Lovely Bones had a similar effect on gullible people. A woman I know actually said she "didn't know heaven was like that." OMG!! Can you believe it?

44 posted on 02/29/2004 5:59:01 AM PST by PLK
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To: jimtorr
You forget that the scriptures you have today are virtually identical with the oldest manuscripts known.

I didn't realize that the scriptures were written in 20th century English.

45 posted on 02/29/2004 6:08:03 AM PST by Dave S
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To: JimVT
IF a book the is FICTION causes people to question their beliefs about Christianity, then their beliefs wern't too stong to begin with.
Alarmed by reactions like these, defenders of traditional Christianity have launched a counteroffensive against author Dan Brown's fast-paced thriller, which is in its 48th week on The New York Times' fiction best-seller list. It has sold more than 6 million copies, is being translated into more than 40 languages and will be made into a Columbia Pictures film directed by Ron Howard
Ron Howard hasn't done anything good with the film industry since he was on Andy Griffith with the exception of Apollo 13
46 posted on 02/29/2004 6:19:17 AM PST by armyboy (Posting from Sustainer Army Airfield Balad, Iraq. All Gave Some...Some Gave All)
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To: MEG33
I agree, I read it & found it to be an enormous *crock*!
47 posted on 02/29/2004 6:21:00 AM PST by Ditter
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To: Savage Beast
Good point.

We do have an example a little closer to home. President Bush came into office promoting all these things.

Look at all the good will he has reaped from these communists liars.
48 posted on 02/29/2004 6:22:22 AM PST by Just mythoughts
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To: Just mythoughts
Yes, that's a good point too.
49 posted on 02/29/2004 6:28:22 AM PST by Savage Beast (Whom will the terrorists vote for? Not George W. Bush--that's for sure! ~Happy2BMe)
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To: Just mythoughts
I'd also be particularly cautious about trying it in the "Liberal" enclaves of America--which are not much different from the Islamic theocracies and would be even more like them if the "Liberals" could get a way with it.
50 posted on 02/29/2004 6:30:49 AM PST by Savage Beast (Whom will the terrorists vote for? Not George W. Bush--that's for sure! ~Happy2BMe)
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