Skip to comments.Christians try to debunk the "DaVinci Code"
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
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
Do you have a firm basis from which you can make such a claim?
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.
Someone out there with a good historical grounding in this subject, please lend a hand.
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.
See my post #12 above.
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.
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...
I was really ahead of my time as I was in the first grade in 1952...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Stanleys Cup. While the original Grailthe cup Jesus allegedly used at the Last Suppernormally inhabits the pages of Arthurian romance, Dan Browns recent megabest-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 Grailhe wholly reinterprets the Grail legend. In doing so, Brown inverts the insight that a womans body is symbolically a container and makes a container symbolically a womans 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 Louvres curator inside the museum. The crime enmeshes hero Robert Langdon, a tweedy professor of symbolism from Harvard, and the victims 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 isnt so much writing badly as writing in a particular way best calculated to attract a female audience. (Women, after all, buy most of the nations 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.
Browns lack of seriousness shows in the games he plays with his character namesRobert 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 Browns stardom, his anti-Christian message cant 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 whove 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, hes willing to tolerate it for its charitable works.
(Of course, Catholic Christianity will become even more tolerable once the new liberal pope elected in Browns previous Langdon novel, Angels & Demons, abandons outmoded teachings. Third-century laws cannot be applied to the modern followers of Christ, says one of the books 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 Foxs outfit, Bear & Co.) Another influence, at least at second remove, is The Womans Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker.
The use of such unreliable sources belies Browns pretensions to intellectuality. But the act has apparently fooled at least some of his readersthe New York Daily News book reviewer trumpeted, His research is impeccable.
But despite Browns 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 willfuland maliciousignorance 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. Browns 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 isnt 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. Browns contention that the five linked rings of the modern Olympic Games are a secret tribute to the goddess is also wrongeach 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 mans eyesight as it physiologically would.
But a far more important example is Browns treatment of Gothic architecture as a style full of goddess-worshipping symbols and coded messages to confound the uninitiated. Building on Barbara Walkers 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 characters description of a cathedrals long hollow nave as a secret tribute to a womans 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 books 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 womans anatomy does a transept represent? Or the kink in Chartress main aisle?) Romanesque churchesincluding ones that predate the founding of the Templarshave 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 wasnt goddess-worship.
If the above seems like a pile driver applied to a gnat, the blows are necessary to demonstrate the utter falseness of Browns 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.
Browns 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 Prioryan actual organization officially registered with the French government in 1956makes 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 Masterswhich include Leonardo da Vinci, Issac Newton, and Victor Hugois not credible, although its presented as true by Brown.
Brown doesnt accept a political motivation for the Priorys activities. Instead he picks up The Templar Revelations view of the organization as a cult of secret goddess-worshippers who have preserved ancient Gnostic wisdom and records of Christs true mission, which would completely overturn Christianity if released. Significantly, Brown omits the rest of the books 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. Hes 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 Browns characters.
Yet its Browns Christology thats falseand 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 wasnt considered divine until the Council of Nicea voted him so in 325 at the behest of the emperor. Then Constantinea lifelong sun worshipperordered 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 Browns specious reasoning, the Old Testament cant 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 theyre 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 Savioreven 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 isnt enough to credit Constantine with the divinization of Jesus. The emperors 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 Anglicansfor their grimness, of all things.) He routinely and anachronistically refers to the Church as the Vatican, even when popes werent 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 Browns 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 Solomons Temple adored Yahweh and his feminine counterpart, the Shekinah, via the services of sacred prostitutespossibly a twisted version of the Temples 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 worldnot 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 Browns claims, Tarot cards do not teach goddess doctrine. They were invented for innocent gaming purposes in the 15th century and didnt 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 fiveso crucial to Browns puzzleshas some connections with the protective goddess but myriad others besides, including human life, the five senses, and the Five Wounds of Christ.
Browns treatment of Mary Magdalene is sheer delusion. In The Da Vinci Code, shes no penitent whore but Christs 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 descendantsincluding Browns 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 werent 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 Christs 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 latters 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.
Thats certainly an odd way to honor ones 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 wealththey were also bankersearned 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 scandalousand possibly truecharge 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 its the turn of neo-Gnostics.
Twisting da Vinci
Browns 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.
Browns analysis of da Vincis work is just as ridiculous. He presents the Mona Lisa as an androgynous self-portrait when its widely known to portray a real woman, Madonna Lisa, wife of Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo. The name is certainly notas Brown claimsa mocking anagram of two Egyptian fertility deities Amon and LIsa (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 Browns argument centers around da Vincis 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 isnt a material vessel. But da Vincis painting specifically dramatizes the moment when Jesus warns, One of you will betray me (John 13:21). There is no Institution Narrative in St. Johns 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, Browns contention that he coded his paintings with anti-Christian messages simply cant be sustained.
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 paganismgain it popular acceptance. After all, how many lay readers will see the blazing inaccuracies put forward as buried truths?
Whats more, in making phony claims of scholarship, Browns 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 Browns assault on the Catholic Church may be a backhanded compliment, its one we would have happily done without.
© 2003 Morley Publishing Group, Inc., the publisher of CRISIS Magazine
That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a SMACKDOWN.
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.
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.
This is a very old story, those who challenge the sources of the Bible.
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.
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?
I didn't realize that the scriptures were written in 20th century English.