The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
New York, Doubleday, 2003 ISBN 0-385-50420-9
If only The Da Vinci Code had been just a "rattling good yarn", with no claim to truth, maybe no harm would have been done. But by taking it seriously, it becomes a dagger aimed at the heart of Christianity. The response of the author, Dan Brown, on his own website, has been guarded. http://www.danbrown. com/novels/davinci_code/faqs.html
He affirms that, while the artwork, architecture, documents and rituals mentioned are all accurate, it is nevertheless a work of fiction, and it is not guaranteed that the use made out them portrays historical accuracy. He is well aware of the controversy about his work, but insists that this is a good thing because it will draw attention to issues surrounding the Church, religion and Christian religion and, in the course of research, produce a better informed public.
The reality is, of course, that many people uncritically accept propaganda, and the propagandist is more concerned with dissemination of his views than with truth.
As there are so many historical errors evident in the book, it needs to be tested against Barnesí rule of bringing history into line with the truth. Not every reader of The Da Vinci Code is going to do that. The film based on the Da Vinci Code is expected to be released in 2005. How many will just accept what is presented as genuine, without hunting down its references ending up with historical and philosophical distortions?
Certain elements critical of orthodox Christianity have seized on the massive popularity of the novel to promote its thesis and encourage heretical viewpoints, such as that of Henry Lincoln, a co-author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, whose promoter offers at http://www.renneslechateau.co.uk/index.html, "The real story behind 'the Da Vinci Code'."
The website says that: "With the publication of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, a whole new generation of readers has been made aware of the mystery that Henry Lincoln and his co-writers first introduced to the world twenty years ago with the publication of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. This site aims to give aficianados and Rennes-le-Ch‚teau 'newbies' alike access to an authoritative overview of the story and to bring readers up-to-date with some overview of the story and to bring readers up-to-date with some little-known yet startling discoveries made by Henry in the twenty years since Holy Blood was published." The website offers videos and DVDs promoting a Da Vinci-friendly viewpoint.
Essentially, the "Code" serves to back up much of what Henry Lincoln said in those earlier books. However, a critique from the Christian Research Institute, shows lack of historicity in Holy Blood, Holy Grail http://www. Equip.org/ free/DH028.htm
http://anzwers.org/free/posmis/; http://www.alpheus.org/html/articles/esoteric_history/richardson1.html and http://www.anzwers.org/free/posdebunking/.)
That "Da Vinci Code" is fascinating and well written is true enough, but is it history?
The general theme of the book is that a curator is found murdered and a search for the murderer depends on following clues found in Da Vinciís paintings, and a search into a sinister "Opus Dei" within the Roman Catholic Church. As a Protestant, I do not accept all the Catholic Church doctrine, and I take exception to the apparent assumption of the book that Christianity can only be identified with Catholicism. Many Catholic writers have exposed flaws in the bookís authenticity, but there is also an important book by a Protestant scholar, Dr Darrell Bockís Breaking the Da Vinci Code, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004, which also exposes many of the lies.
The themes of the book are heretical: it claims that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene; that she had children to Him; that she, rather than Peter, was head apostle; that the Catholic Church has kept this hidden; that Jesus was not Divine, but merely a good man deified by Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. As if all this were not startling enough, it is mixed in with themes advocating the "sacred feminine" and goddess worship.
There have been many critiques dismantling the Brown theories. One is Carl E. Olson, with Sandra Miesel, http://www.envoy magazine. com/planetenvoy/Review-DaVinci-part 1.htm.
This shows that Brown is using neo-Gnostic ideas of Mary Magdalene, also pushed by many websites, which insist that the material world is evil and man can escape from it through secret knowledge. The thesis of people alienated from this world resonates with many modern men and women who gives this philosophy credence. In Gnostic thinking, Jesus is not a God-man, but a human teacher who can facilitate greater understanding. In the novel, we are told that the secretive Priory of Sion accused the orthodox Catholic Church of suppressing knowledge of the sacred feminine, and imposing a patriarchy which did great harm. One Gnostic interpretation, supported by Brown, was that not only was God both masculine and feminine, but also humanity was this mixture. Consequently, Leonardoís Mona Lisa was neither male nor female, but androgynous.
However, art historians identify the Mona Lisa as a real woman, Madonna, wife of Francesco di Bortolomeo del Giocondo. As for a mysterious reference to a "coded message" in Leonardoís "The Last Supper", the person sitting next to Jesus is not Mary Magdalene, as Brown claims, but rather the Apostle John, painted as an effeminate youth.
Art historian, Bruce Boucher http://www.Newagepointofinfinity.com/new_page_10.htm
says that the lack of a chalice in the painting, does not indicate that there was no chalice, as Brown asserts, but simply that this painting marks Christís betrayal, not later celebration of the Eucharist.
There is no firm historical evidence for the amazing claim that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and that she bore Him children, which then became part of a royal line of Merovingian Kings, protected by the Knights Templar and then by the Priory of Sion. This is interesting stuff for a fantasy novel, but not historically proven.
The claim of the proponent, Teabing, in The Da Vinci Code is that the early followers of Jesus did not believe that He was Divine, but that this doctrine was first created by Constantine and promoted at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
In fact, although Prof. Bart D. Ehrman points out in his book, Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication, Chantilly, Virginia, The Teaching Company, 2002, that there was much dispute and disagreement in the early Church, nevertheless in the 2nd century AD, there arose the Marcionites who took Jesusí divinity to such lengths, they declared Him to be only God, and not a man. Belief in Christís Divinity was not something just created by Constantine or the Council of Nicea, and the Gospels themselves affirmed it. Many Christian martyrs went to their deaths affirming Christís Divinity rather than deny it.
The early Christian Church wanted to anchor Jesus in historical reality and not be subject to philosophical fables of Gnostics. As Olsen and Miesel say, the Gnostic version of Jesus is "a phantom-like creature who lectures at length about "the deficiency of aeons", "the mother", "the Arrogant One" and "the archons"-all terms that only the Gnostic elite would comprehend, hence their gnostic - secret knowledge - character." http:// www. Envoymagazine.com/PlanetEnvoy/Review-DaVinci-part2-Full. htm
Constantine did not cynically manipulate Christians into a belief in Christís divinity that they did not have before: he reaffirmed it, and gave it state backing. References to Christianityís alleged borrowing from other religions ignore major differences rather than similarities; secondly the "mystery religions" did not come into being before the end of the 1st century, long after Christian writers had written the Gospel accounts.
The Council of Nicea was set up largely by the desire of Constantine and his Council to end disunity caused by the Arian heresy, which taught that Jesus was not fully Divine, and did not coexist with God the Father but was a created being, and thus a lesser god.
The problem in dealing with Dan Brownís book is the wide variety of false assumptions and anti-historical analysis being made. One of the best analyses of it is The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing The Errors in the Da Vinci Hoax, by Carl Olsen and Sandra Miesel. Ft.Collins, Ignatius Press, 2004. But few theologians can give credence to such a collection of bogus history as The Da Vinci Code.
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