The Da Vinci Code
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Plot Summary
- 3 Part I: Mary Magdalene, Wife of the Messiah?
- 4 Part II: “Peter’s Party” vs. “Mary’s Party”
- 5 Part III: The Gnostics & the Non-canonical Gospels
- 6 Part IV: Constantine and the Council of Nicaea
- 7 Part V: Secret Societies
- 8 Part VI: Feminism in The Da Vinci Code
- 9 Part VII: Leonardo DaVinci
- 10 Part VIII: Dan Brown’s Representation of Christianity
- 11 Film adaptation
The Da Vinci Code is a bestselling novel by author Dan Brown. It has sold over 40 million copies worldwide, and has been translated into over 40 languages. (ParisInfo.com) It has been on the top of the NY Times Bestseller List since its release in 2003, and held the coveted #1 spot for many weeks. (Catholic.com) The book’s exciting storyline and interesting characters have contributed to its record sales—as has its highly controversial content.
The Da Vinci Code creates an alternate history of Christianity which contradicts much of the bible, leading to protests that the book is attacking the church. Dan Brown holds that he was merely writing a work of entertainment fiction, joking once that he should have "written about Buddha instead." Although only a novel, Dan Brown feeds the impression throughout The Da Vinci Code of having meticulously researched the history of Christianity, although many assertions have been pointed out as spurious, including the existence of the Priory of Sion, an organization created in 1099 in the book, while in truth it was a hoax created in 1956. He includes a fact page in the beginning of the book and makes references to numerous historical sources, historians and scholars throughout to give an appearance of scholarly research. In an interview on Good Morning America, Dan Brown stated with conviction that if he had been asked to write a non-fiction version of The Da Vinci Code he would change none of the historical material he included in the novel. Brown's critics of his claims for historicity asked him to appear with them and answer the charges of his many errors (over 30), but Brown refused to do so, saying he was too busy working on his next book.
Many authors have written books debunking the historical inaccuracies in the Brown's book, selling millions of copies.
The book is set up to be a thriller. Robert Langdon, a Harvard “symbologist” (a fictitious field of study), is summoned to help solve a murder committed at the Louvre. Langdon and Sophie Neveu, a cryptographer with the French police, are left with a trail of clues to unravel, and with the help of resident scholar Sir Leigh Teabing, crack the codes to uncover groundbreaking secrets.
The first astounding thing Langdon discovers is "the truth" about the biblical figure Mary Magdalene. In the novel Mary Magdalene was a Jewish woman from the tribe of Benjamin and Jesus’ single most important disciple—in fact she was more than his disciple, she was his lover and wife, and the mother of their child, Sarah. She was Jesus’ female counterpart, if not entirely “equal” to him, she was pretty close, and meant to be worshipped as a goddess.
Furthermore, according to the novel, Mary was actually intended to be the leader of the church after Jesus’ death (instead of Peter), but was demonized and diminished by Peter and his followers—the chauvinistic “winners"—until history saw her as nothing more than a prostitute. Although every historical document recording these so-called facts about Mary were destroyed by the “winners”, some groups of people throughout history knew and preserved the secret. Specifically, these organizations were the Knight’s Templar and the Priory of Scion who were dedicated to preserving the truth of who Mary Magdalene was. One way of doing this was through the legend of the Holy Grail, which the book says is Mary Magdalene’s womb—the sacred vessel which bore the blood line of Christ. Both organizations secretly worshipped Mary Magdalene as a goddess.
Jesus’ divinity in the novel is another issue altogether. It wasn’t until 300 years after his death that his divinity was invented by Constantine at the Council of Nicaea. His disciples did not view him as God in the flesh, but instead as a mere mortal prophet. As for the Biblical Gospels, well they were four of “over eighty” which were selected at the Council of Nicaea—the four gospels that emphasized Jesus’ divinity and demonized women the most. The rest were destroyed, and the Canon as we know it today is not the inspired Word of God as many believe.
It is story above revealing this fictional conspiracy that gives the Da Vinci Code its allure.
Part I: Mary Magdalene, Wife of the Messiah?
Mary Magdalene is a good place to start, because she and her supposed marriage to Jesus are the cornerstones upon which Brown’s claims rest. In The Da Vinci Code, Brown states that Mary Magdalene is a “royal” Jewish woman from the tribe of Benjamin and Jesus’ single most important disciple. She is not a prostitute—in fact this was a lie invented by the Catholic Church to demonize her. She is also his lover, wife, and the mother of their daughter, Sarah. She was supposed to be the leader of the church after Jesus’ death, but was forced by “Peter’s Party” aka “the winners” to escape to Provence, France with her daughter. Her womb is the “Holy Grail”, her bones are buried under the glass pyramid at the Louvre, the Priory of Scion and Knight’s Templar were dedicated to preserving her story and worshipped her as a goddess, she was the “Divine Mother” and represented the real purpose of Jesus’ life and teaching—to reintegrate the “Sacred Feminine” into society. However, Mary Magdalene is mentioned only a few times in the gospels—and never once is a single one of Brown’s claims about Mary supported by the Bible. (Welborn 63)
Where did all of these ideas come from? According to The Da Vinci Code’s resident scholar, Teabing, “the royal bloodline has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians,” citing The Templar Revelation and Holy Blood, Holy Grail as sources. Interestingly, these books (which are also found in Dan Brown’s official bibliography) are dismissed by all serious historians, and described as being “schlock pseudo-history and conspiracy-theory.” (Welborn 63) Teabing also mentions The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and The Goddess in the Gospels, both by Margaret Starbird, who uses, among other things, numerology (the sum of the numbers in her name), to conclude that Mary Magdalene was worshipped as a goddess. Additional sources for Brown’s claims lie in the Gnostic gospels (Welborn 63)
Even with these incredulous sources to occasionally back him up, most of Brown’s claims about Mary Magdalene have no historical evidence behind them whatsoever. There is no record anywhere to even suggest that Mary Magdalene was of the tribe of Benjamin—and this would not have made her “royal”. (Ehrman 160) It is true that in the gospels there is no mention of Mary Magdalene as having been a prostitute. This idea first came into existence 500 years after the gospels were written, and became popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In 1969, the Catholic Church issued a formal statement clearing Mary’s reputation, and separating her from Mary from Bethany, the “sinful woman.” (Van Biema)
The idea continually perpetuated by Brown throughout The Da Vinci Code that the church demonized Mary Magdalene (and women in general) for centuries is also highly inconsistent with historical record. Incidentally, this idea is not an original one—in fact, it is quite popular among feminist scholars and professors. (Welborn 68) They teach that Christianity is about men being “the winners” and women being suppressed and diminished and “use a few Gnostic gospels (written over 100 years after Jesus’ death) to speculate [their] ideologically-motivated interpretation of Christianity.” (Welborn 69)
This is totally incompatible with historical evidence, however. During the time period that Mary was supposedly being subdued by Peter’s party, prominent church leaders such as Hippolytus, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine were writing her praises in their literature, describing her as “the new Eve” and “the apostle to the apostles”. If the mainstream Christian church—the winners—were trying to eliminate Mary’s influence and reputation would they at the same time be extolling her virtues and cherishing the fact that she was the first to see Jesus after the Resurrection? (Welborn 69-70)
The evidence upon which the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married is found in a portion of the Gnostic gospel of Philip, written 200 years after Jesus’ death, which states, “and the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. […] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her […].” Brackets indicate where holes exist in the original manuscript, and clearly any interpretation of this passage requires much guesswork. Many assume [mouth] was the place where [Jesus] used to kiss Mary [often], however, it could just as likely have been forehead, cheek, arm, hand, or foot. There is no way of knowing if it was even speaking of Christ. (Bock 21) Teabing apparently is of the belief that Jesus used to kiss Mary on the mouth, and reports this to Sophie and Langdon as a fact without any explanation. He then goes on to inform a spellbound Sophie and Langdon that “as any Aramaic scholar can tell you, the word ‘companion,’ in those days, literally meant spouse.” (Ehrman 142) However the word is not Aramaic, the Gospel of Peter is written in Coptic and the actual word for companion is a loan word from Greek. The Greek koinόnos is a word used for friends and associates. (Ehrman 143)
There is no evidence anywhere that indicates that Jesus was married. (Bock 32) In the Bible, women are often identified by the men whom they are associated with. (Mary the mother of Jesus, the mother of Mark, and the wives of several of the apostles are mentioned.) Mary was never tied to any male when she was named. Instead, she was identified by her hometown, Magdala. (Bock 41) While the Bible talks in great detail about Jesus’ other relationships—his mother, father, siblings, aunt, uncle, disciples’ parents, disciples’ wives, not once is Jesus’ wife mentioned. (Welborn 60)
Additionally, when Jesus was dying on the cross, he turned to John and instructed him to take care of his mother. He shows no concern whatsoever for Mary Magdalene in his last moments, which seems odd. After all, if she was his wife, pregnant with his child, his last hope for restoring the sacred feminine, the future leader of his church, etc. …wouldn’t he be slightly worried about her well being? Widowed women in those days had little hope of anything but a destitute future with no caretaker. Perhaps the reason why Jesus did not mention her is because, well, she wasn’t his wife. (Bock 44) Further evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were not married is the fact that in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul cites reasons why men should marry. Darrell L. Bock, P.H.D. writes about this evidence against Jesus’ marriage in the following excerpt:
First Corinthians 9:4–6 may be the most important text for this topic. It reads, “Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wife, like the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work?” Paul noted in this aside that the apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas (Peter) had the right to a wife. In other words, they had every right to be married. It would have been simple for Paul to add that Jesus was married—had He been. Such a point would have sealed his argument, but he did not make that point…This 1 Corinthians 9 passage shows that the church was not embarrassed to reveal that its leaders were married—or to suggest that they had the right to be. The same would have been true of Jesus if He had been married. In fact, had Jesus been married, there would have been no better place for Paul to say it than here. It would have clinched Paul’s case that he also had the right to be married. Paul did not mention it because Jesus had not been married.
If it were true, Jesus’ marriage would have been a significant addition to Paul’s argument –but it is not mentioned. Perhaps this is because Jesus was not married.(Bock 42)
The Da Vinci Code assumes Jesus must be married “because Jesus was a Jew and the social decorum during that time virtually forbade a Jewish man to be unmarried. According to Jewish custom, celibacy was condemned.” Actually, celibacy was not condemned, nor was it even looked down upon. (Bock 53) Several Jewish sects—most notably the Essenes—lived celibate lives dedicating their time wholly to their religion. Additionally, many Jewish prophets and teachers were unmarried and chose to remain celibate: Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and many scholars believe, Paul. It was a way of expressing total devotion to God, but those who did choose to marry were not viewed as any less. (Welborn 60) In an article, Archbishop George H. Niederauer points out that when Brown talks about Jesus’ marriage, he “stresses the importance of the social decorum at that time. If “social decorum” had been a high priority for Jesus he wouldn’t have healed people on the Sabbath, talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, knocked over the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple, or socialized often with public sinners.” (Niederauer 2)
Teabing states that Jesus’ marriage is “a matter of historical record,” and has been meticulously documented by “scores of historians” throughout history. OK, so where might these historical records be found? The answer is, nowhere… except in Dan Brown’s imagination, perhaps. Essentially, in every single early Christian writing combined there is not one single reference to Jesus’ marriage. This includes the canonical and non-canonical texts—the Constantine-approved, biased selection of scripture known as the Bible as well as the unaltered, censored Gnostic gospels. (Ehrman 153) In his book, Darrell L. Bock explains… in my office there are 38 volumes or early church documents, each several hundred pages, double columns, in small print. The fact that out of all this material only two texts can be brought forward as even ancient candidates for the theory shows how unlikely it is..
Part II: “Peter’s Party” vs. “Mary’s Party”
While Dan Brown exalts Mary Magdalene to the point of goddess status, at the same time he ironically claims that the early church did not believe Jesus was divine, and in fact, that Jesus himself did not claim to be the Son of God! This is a myth invented by the “winners”, beginning with Jesus’ chauvinistic disciple Peter. According to Dan Brown, after Jesus’ death, Mary Magdalene was intended to be the leader of the church, but egotistical Peter took over, and Mary was forced to flee to France with her child. Peter’s goal was to suppress the truth about who Mary was.
This idea is inconsistent with Biblical record. You see, in all four of the Biblical gospels Mary Magdalene is the first witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the single most important events in the history of Christianity, the resurrection of Christ was first witnessed by Mary Magdalene. And the early church fathers made no attempt whatsoever to hide this. Yes, in the censored, biased, chauvinistic Bible the incredible honor of being the first to witness the resurrected Jesus is attributed to none other than the hated, demonized Mary Magdalene. It makes no sense at all. Perhaps if the Bible had been used while conducting research for The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown would have picked up on this logical inconsistency—but it is glaringly absent from his 30-item bibliography.
Instead, he relies on a sole passage from the Gnostic gospel of Mary Magdalene. (Welborn2)
And Peter said, 'did the savior really speak with a woman without our knowledge? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us? And Levi answered, 'Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like an adversary. If the savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us.
This gospel was written over a century after the events it speaks of. (Welborn 69) None of the Gnostic gospels are traceable to a single person who knew Jesus. (Welborn 55) But even if it were a more credible source, this excerpt is taken out of context from the rest of the Gnostic gospels. In The Da Vinci Code, after hearing this passage, Sophie remarks, “I daresay Peter was something of a sexist.” However, when a deeper look is taken, the Gnostic Jesus did not have very different views on women; observe his remarkably “sexist” words from the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, and two scholars’ explanation of it.
"Jesus said, ‘Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.’” (Gospel of Thomas 114) “Jesus is not suggesting a sex-change operation, but is using 'male' and 'female' metaphorically to refer to the higher and lower aspects of human nature. Mary is thus to undergo a spiritual transformation from her earthly, material, passionate nature (which the evangelist equates with the female) to a heavenly, spiritual, intellectual nature (which the evangelist equates with the male).” (Funk and Hoover 532)
If Brown had told the whole story, perhaps Sophie would not view the Gnostic Jesus as the “original feminist”. ("Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of the church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene." -Sir Leigh Teabing TDVC 248)
Part III: The Gnostics & the Non-canonical Gospels
So, the Peter-party myth has been “busted.” We have seen that the Bible does not demonize Mary Magdalene the way Dan Brown claims it does, and the Gnostic texts Brown used for “evidence” did not present an accurate representation of Gnosticism. So, who exactly were the Gnostics? They were one of the first of many cults—or groups that branched off from Christianity because of disagreements with aspects of Christian doctrine. Brown conveniently does not mention Docetism, a first century cult of the belief that Jesus Christ was only God, and not at all human. (Niederauer) Gnosticism arose in the century after Jesus’ death and (not unlike Dan Brown himself) believed they held the key to some secret, hidden knowledge (or gnosis) about Jesus. (Ehrman 42) The Gnostics claimed to rely entirely on knowledge or reason, and viewed God as an intangible, mystical force. The term “agnostic” is now used to refer to individuals who claim that understanding God is impossible because it is somehow beyond human reasoning. (Schlafly) However, what Dan Brown claims they believed about Jesus is a far cry from the truth.
Dan Brown asserts throughout The Da Vinci Code that Gnostics knew the truth about Mary Magdalene, wanted to restore the sacred feminine, and were even the first “feminists”. In spite of Brown’s wishful thinking, we have already seen conflicting evidence that Gnostics believed women were less than men.
Dan Brown is also of the belief that the Gnostics did not believe Jesus was divine. Brown states that orthodox Christianity ignored Jesus’ humanity, while the Gnostics—who believed Jesus was merely a mortal prophet—stressed his humanity far too much for the likes of the “winners.” Thus, their gospels were censored, and their hidden secret knowledge locked away and forgotten for centuries—until now. Brown presumes to reveal to his readers the truth about Jesus—that he was completely human, that he was married, and that he had sex.
Well, the Gnostic gospels do exactly the opposite. They do not extol the humanity of Jesus whatsoever, instead focusing on his divine, spiritual qualities. Most (if not all) of the Gnostics did not even believe Jesus was human, but a divine spirit in human form! (Ehrman 44) Furthermore, “the Gnostics thought the dominant church of the day was too earth bound, too worldly, too materialistic, too physical.” (Burnstein 99)
In the very same gospel that contains the famous “kiss” passage—the Gospel of Philip—the Gnostics describe sex as “beastly, literally comparing it to animals.” (Burnstein 99) In general, the Gnostics condemned the physical world and everything it contained. Salvation, the Gnostics believed, was “the freeing of the spirit from the contamination of matter…some held that Christ merely seemed to be man and was really pure spirit.” (Latourette 124)
The Da Vinci Code states that “over eighty” gospels were censored. First of all, there were nowhere near that many gospels, this number is total fabrication on Dan Brown’s part. There are about two dozen non-canonical gospels in existence—most found by accident fairly recently, like the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls. Brown states that the reason Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were chosen was that they were the ones that emphasized Jesus’ divinity and downplayed his humanity the most. We’ve also seen this to be untrue with the Gnostic gospels, but what about the rest of the non-canonical gospels?
Bart Ehrman in his book Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code, critiques six typical examples of non-canonical gospels. The gospels he discusses include The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter, The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, and The Gospels of Philip and Mary. Each one presents a consistently more divine picture of Jesus that the canonical gospels. Some even stand directly against the view that Jesus was human and deemphasize his humanity. (Ehrman 49-71)
Part IV: Constantine and the Council of Nicaea
…for inasmuch as error is falsification of truth, it must needs be that truth therefore precedes error. –Tertullian in Against Marcion
The Council of Nicaea (325 AD)—presided over by Roman Emperor Constantine—was the first ecumenical gathering of Christians. In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown makes some startling assertions about the Council Constantine.
First, Brown states that the Council was held to “strengthen the new Christian tradition.” This is not correct. The Council was held to reinforce and unify Christian teachings that had already been in existence since the days of Jesus. (religionfacts.com) No new teachings were strengthened at the Council of Nicaea, in fact it was the new teachings—most prominently Aryanism—that were brought under attack at the Council. (Latourette 120-160)
Second, Brown states that “many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon” at the Council of Nicaea. This is true. Among other things, the date of Easter was voted on at the Council. So was the divinity of Jesus. But not, as Brown suggests, the issue of whether or not Jesus was divine—just the manner of his divinity. “The debate and vote concerned whether Jesus was divine in the same sense as God the Father, or if he was a lesser deity created by the Father.” (religionfacts.com) Additionally, Jesus’ divinity was not determined by a “relatively close” vote as Brown states, but an overwhelming majority; there were a mere two dissenters out of the entire group of about 500 bishops. (Welborn 45)
Third, Brown makes this startling claim: “until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but a man nevertheless. A mortal.” This is entirely incorrect. In their book, Cracking the Da Vinci Code, James Garlow and Peter Jones list a dozen examples of church leaders—apart from the Bible—who spoke directly of Jesus’ divinity from 105 A.D. to 305 A.D.—historical proof of Christians who believed Jesus was divine at least two centuries before the Council. Clement said in 150 A.D., “It is fitting you should think of Jesus Christ as God,” and Novation, “He is not only man, but God also.” (Garlow and Jones 94)
Fourth, Brown states that "Establishing Christ's divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base…" Brown states that the divinity of Christ was an invention by power-hungry Constantine seeking to unify the Roman Empire under the banner of Christianity. If it hadn’t been for Constantine, Christianity would never have survived throughout history. We certainly would not have the great and powerful establishment know as “the Vatican” (which Brown apparently thinks is the sum total of Christianity) that we have today. Gradually, Christianity would have fizzled out and died and few would even remember the mortal prophet Jesus today.
Now, even if it were true that Constantine invented Christ’s divinity, it is highly doubtful that this would have had any effect on the power and success of Christianity…just look at Islam. Muhammad was a completely mortal prophet, yet the religion he founded “unified empires and gave great power to religious authorities.” (religiousfacts.com) According to Brown, the success of Christianity was the result of Constantine’s endorsement of the religion. However, the opposite was true! It is very likely that Constantine’s motive was “to enlist the cooperation of what had become the strongest element in the empire: Christianity”. Christianity would have survived with or without Constantine’s endorsement. (Latourette 105)
The last claim Brown makes is that Constantine personally compiled that Bible as we know it today at the Council. He included books that emphasize Jesus’ divinity, and excluded books that mention his humanity. We have already seen that the books excluded from the Bible, including the Gnostic texts, do not emphasize Jesus’ humanity whatsoever. In fact, they do the opposite. What Brown fails to note is that the Bible itself speaks much more, and in great detail about Jesus’ humanity. Once again, perhaps if Brown had bothered reading the Bible while conducting research, he wouldn’t have made this flagrant error.
The Gnostic Jesus ”shares wisdom, reveals secrets, and wanders around in a gently spiritual fog, and talks, and talks. And talks.” (Welborn 57) In the Bible, Jesus is described as “eating, drinking, being angry, frightened, lonely, grieving, suffering, and dying.” The poignantly human descriptions of Jesus found in the four Biblical gospels starkly contrast to the mystical, unapproachable and verbose Jesus of the Gnostic gospels. Only someone totally ignorant of the Bible would dream of saying its depiction of Jesus ignores his humanity. (Welborn 57)
Brown asserts that it was not until after the Council of Nicaea that the world saw the list of books we know today as the Bible. Historian Kurt Aland identifies this as error in the following excerpt:
The canon was not imposed from the top… and then accepted by communities. The organized church did not create the canon; it recognized the canon that had already been created. –Kurt Aland
The gospels were well established long before Constantine was born. In fact, 150 years before Constantine, Christian leaders dealt with issues radical Marcion raised about the canon, which proves a list of books very close to ours was in existence centuries before Constantine.
Brown also states that the four chosen gospels were “embellished” to further demonize Mary Magdalene, emphasize Jesus’ humanity and so forth. By the fourth century there were hundreds—maybe thousands of copies of those four gospels in existence. It is impossible that some authority ordered every copy altered. Today, among surviving ancient copies of these gospels no “embellished” versions exist. (Garlow and Jones 147)
Part V: Secret Societies
The first page in The Da Vinci Code is entitled “facts”. The following statement is made about the ancient, secret society known as the “Priory of Scion”:
The Priory of Sion—a European secret society founded in 1099—is a real organization. In 1975, Paris's Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.
The Priory of Scion, Dan Brown goes on to explain in further detail in the novel, is a secret organization founded to preserve the “Holy Grail”—or the truth about who Mary Magdalene was. It turns out, however, that the Priory of Scion is none of those things. It was founded in the mid-1950s by Pierre Plantard, “an anti-Semite who sought to ‘purify and renew’ France.” In an attempt to prove that he was an heir to the French throne, and a descendent of the royal Merovingian family, Plantard planted false documents in French libraries and archives. (Welborn 107) The so-called Les Dossiers Secrets are totally fabricated, modern documents, made to look ancient. They feature a list of members that include every “intellectual superstar” from the past 1,000 years—an unlikely combination of people of entirely different backgrounds and beliefs. (Welborn 108)
Brown also states that the Priory of Scion went on to found the Knights Templar, another organization dedicated to protecting the “Holy Grail”. This was a real, historical organization, but it was not founded by the Priory of Scion and its original purpose was to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. (Beyond TDVC) Brown also alleges that the Knights Templar became such a powerful organization because of its valuable secret. The Templar blackmailed the Catholic Church and became increasingly rich and powerful until Pope Clement finally had them arrested and disbanded. These claims are absurd to serious Templar historians. (Beyond TDVC)
The Templar’s wealth did not come from blackmailing the Vatican; it came from enormous popular support and gifts from wealthy patrons. (Beyond TDVC) Pope Clement did disband the Knights Templar, but it was not because of the secret they kept. It was for money. Clement was little more than a puppet of King Philip IV of France, who, being at war with England was in dire need of money. On Friday the 13th 1307, King Philip IV of France had every single member of the Knights Templar arrested, accused of heresy, and tutored. This allowed Philip to justify his looting of Templar treasuries. Pope Clement V was then pressured to disband them by King Philip, which he finally did in 1312. Incidentally, although Philip was supposed to turn over the Templar’s vast amounts of land and assets to the Knights Hospitallers, he retained much of it for himself. (wikipedia.org)
Part VI: Feminism in The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code is so much about the Church demonizing women throughout the centuries that it is no surprise it is a huge hit among women—and feminists in particular. The amount of ideologically-motivated material in The Da Vinci Code is startling. One example is that Brown perpetuates the idea of the “Sacred Feminine/Mother Goddess” throughout the book. This idea basically states that in ancient times, people primarily worshipped female deities. Because their religion was based on femininity, reproduction and therefore agriculture played an important part in their lives. Ancient societies were made up of peace-loving farmers, who were in tune with nature, respected women, did not engage in warfare or even own weapons designed for killing humans. (Welborn 74)
This school of thought holds that it was not until Indo-European invaders arrived that these egalitarian, matriarchal societies were brought to an end. Warfare, weapons, male warrior gods, and patriarchal society were introduced and the age of the mother goddess ended. (Welborn 74) Dan Brown presents this view of ancient civilization as historical fact, and states that Jesus’ main goal was to restore the sacred feminine by introducing Mary Magdalene as the new female deity, bringing things back to their natural order. However, there is one problem with this: numerous recent archaeological finds have proved the mother goddess theory to be nothing but a myth. There is no evidence that such a period in time ever existed. (Welborn 74)
Another area in which Dan Brown misconstrues facts to further the feminist cause is when, through the character Teabing, he makes the following declaration: "the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women" over a three-century time period (he doesn’t specify which three centuries, but it can be assumed he meant 1500-1800). Considerable recent research on this subject states the number to be around 40,000. Dan Brown is not even close.
The church certainly would not have felt threatened by any of these women, as Dan Brown suggests; they were poor and unpopular—not powerful, freethinking women. Furthermore, it was rare that church authorities accused witches; it was almost always ordinary citizens, and often other women! Interestingly, 20-25% of witchcraft charges were made against men and more than half of witch-trial defendants—male and female—were acquitted. As Amy Welborn puts it, “the witch-trial hype was apparently a nuisance to authorities.” (Welborn 77)
Additionally, Brown states that the Malleus Maleficarum “Hammer of the Witches” was a “universal guide” to witch trials, mass produced and used by church authorities everywhere— basically, the misogynist bible. The Malleus Maleficarum was a real book, and it certainly was an evil work, but it only went through 30 printings (amazon.com) and its author was not Catholic, but a Dominican Inquisitionist Heinrich Kramer, an unsuccessful fraud. Although Kramer claimed experience in over 100 trials, he actually only tried 8 women and was thrown out of the second town he went to. (Welborn 78)
Perhaps the most serious fact overlooked by Dan Brown in his representation of the Catholic Church as anti-female is Mary the Mother of Jesus. Dan Brown’s total silence on this matter is glaringly obvious to anyone who knows anything about Christianity. The truth is that the Catholic Church holds Mary in extremely high esteem—some even believe too much. She is such a central figure in the Catholic faith, that at times she appears as important as Jesus Christ himself. However, Dan Brown has seemingly never heard of her.
Part VII: Leonardo DaVinci
So, by this time you are probably thinking as I did, “Brown must have at least gotten Da Vinci right!” Well, as it turns out—and by this point, it should not be very surprising—he did not. The list of errors Brown makes about the title-inspiring Leonardo Da Vinci is lengthy. On his official website, Brown states that Leonardo was “a prankster and genius" who is "widely believed to have hidden secret messages within much of his artwork." This is simply not true; it's almost impossible to locate any serious art scholar or historian who believes that about Leonardo Da Vinci. (Olson and Miesel)
Additionally, a credible art historian would not dream of referring to the artist as “Da Vinci” –that was not his name. It was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, and it has been shortened to “Leonardo” in art history books. Da Vinci is merely a reference to the Tuscan province Leonardo was from. Brown’s reference to the artist as Da Vinci “grates on the nerves of everyone who is knowledgeable about art.” (Burnstein 260) Brown also claims that Leonardo received "hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions" in his lifetime. As a matter of fact, he only received one—which was never completed. (Beyond TDVC)
Dan Brown claims that "…Most scholars agree that even Da Vinci's most famous pieces —works like the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and Madonna of the Rocks — contain startling anomalies that all seem to be whispering the same cryptic message." However, most scholars do not agree with Brown’s interpretations of Leonardo’s artwork, instead viewing them as dubious at best. In the painting The Last Supper, Dan Brown interprets the disciple John seated on Jesus’ right to be Mary Magdalene, and the ‘M’ shape created by negative space behind those seated at the table to stand for Mary Magdalene.
Georgetown art historian Diane Cappadonna states,
I do not believe there is a woman in The Last Supper, and I do not believe in any way that it is Mary Magdalene. The ‘V’ shapes”—not a single ‘M’ as Brown interprets—“that are there serve a solely artistic purpose—to place emphasis in the composition on Christ and to emphasize perspective. (Burnstein 229-230)Brown also argues the case that the figure must be a woman because “Da Vinci was skilled at painting the difference between the sexes.” It certainly is true that Leonardo was a skilled painter; however all Renaissance artists depicted the disciple John as decidedly effeminate… Leonardo included. In fact, most young men were painted with very womanly features. In Leonardo’s painting St. John the Baptist; the face is astonishingly similar to John in The Last Supper—and equally feminine. Are we to suppose that this also is secretly Mary Magdalene?
In addition to The Last Supper, Brown states that "…works like the Mona Lisa and Madonna of the Rocks al[so] …seem to be whispering the same cryptic message. He goes on to describe the Mona Lisa as an androgynous self-portrait. Shelley Esaak explains Brown’s reasoning behind making such an assertion:
‘Mona Lisa’ is an anagram of ‘Amon’ and ‘Isis,’ if you write ‘Isis’ in the manner of some (unreferenced) ancient pictogram that roughly translates to ‘L'isa’ in Latin text. Thus PROVING that (quoting from p. 121) “… not only does the face of Mona Lisa look androgynous, but her name is an anagram of the divine union of male and female. And that, my friends, is Da Vinci's little secret, and the reason for Mona Lisa's knowing smile.’” (Esaak)
Unfortunately, Brown’s explanation is entirely fictitious. Leonardo did not name the 'Mona Lisa'. The painting remained completely unnamed until the year 1550—years after Leonardo’s death. (Esaak)
Brown also makes some errors when discussing the painting Madonna (or Virgin) on the Rocks. He states that nuns from the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception gave Leonardo particular instructions on what was to be the dimensions and content of the painting. Brown’s first mistake is in describing the members of the confraternity as nuns—it was definitely an entirely male group as the name (con) fraternity suggests! (Olson and Miesel)
Brown then goes on to state that “the nuns” wished for the painting to contain Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist and the angel Uriel. Leonardo followed “the nuns” instructions, but the first version he painted contained "explosive and disturbing details." Actually, the confraternity wanted God the Father overhead, with two prophets on the side panels and the Virgin of the Rocks centered in the middle. It is not known exactly what conspired between Leonardo and the monks, but it is know that Leonardo did not follow their original instructions. There was nothing startlingly “un-Christian” in either version. (Olson and Miesel)
Part VIII: Dan Brown’s Representation of Christianity
Throughout The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown paints a picture of Christianity, and most importantly, its central figure: Jesus Christ. In official interviews, he states that he himself is a Christian. (danbrown.com)
He repeatedly refers to the sum total of Christians as “the Vatican” or “Rome”. He does not distinguish between the Catholic and Protestant traditions whatsoever, and most importantly, does not seem to grasp the difference between a personal relationship with Jesus Christ based on serious convictions and a merely outward acceptance of the religion for political, social or other reasons.
It can be said that in the first 2 ½ centuries following Jesus’ death an outward, shallow acceptance of Christianity was virtually unknown. This is because before Constantine “endorsed“ Christianity, followers of Jesus Christ were met with intense persecution; there were no worldly benefits to becoming a Christian. As one author aptly states it: “would you die for a lie?” If it was not until The Council of Nicaea that Jesus Christ was viewed as God, and if Jesus were not really who he said he was, why was Christianity growing so rapidly, and why were hundreds of thousands willing to give their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ?
Ten major persecutions occurred, beginning with Nero in the first century and ending in the beginning of the fourth century. They are divided into two main periods: the first dating from the first century to the year 250 in which the persecutions were mostly local and did not involve great amounts of casualties. However, the second period of persecution, from 250 to Diocletian’s reign in the early fourth century was empire-wide. Christians were so vast in numbers, unified and zealous in their faith that they were viewed as a growing threat to national security, and martyrdom rose in numbers perhaps reaching hundreds of thousands. (Latourette 107)
Dan Brown states that the key to Christianity’s success was Constantine’s endorsement. However, many Christian scholars have different views:
In this victory of Christianity was also something of defeat. The victory had been accomplished by compromise, compromise with the world which had crucified Jesus. (Latourette 108) …Outwardly Christianity had triumphed, [yet] many of the nominal Christians paid only lip service to their ostensible faith and remained pagans at heart.(Latourette 97)
Christianity triumphed for one reason and one reason alone: Jesus Christ.
It was faith in Jesus and his resurrection which gave birth to the Christian fellowship…it was the love displayed in Christ which was, ideally and to a marked extent, the bond which held Christianity together. (Latourette 107)
The compromise Latourette speaks of did not come without a price, and that was the loss of the purity of original, organic Christianity as nothing but the worship of Jesus Christ and a desire to emulate his character, his example of self-sacrifice, love and mercy. Jesus’ message had nothing to do with restoring the sacred feminine—but it had everything to do with restoring and redeeming all of humankind. Brown fails to grasp this basic meaning of Christianity.
In addition to getting the historical facts wrong about the origins of Christianity, Brown also gets the message of Jesus Christ wrong. In spite of his seeming desire to make the truth known, Brown contradicts himself by having the attitude that, when all is said and done, it doesn’t really matter what the Bible says, or what history says… “what matters is what you believe.” (The Da Vinci Code, the movie) In an official interview on his website, Dan Brown states:
Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious--that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.
Apparently, Dan Brown believes there are no solid truths—that Christian doctrine is malleable and can be tailored to each person’s desires. However, he is gravely mistaken; faith is not a continuum. Christianity does not involve shaky, grey areas of doubt and confusion, but is based upon a solid foundation—the rock that is Jesus Christ. Christians do not rely on their "own paths of enlightenment", instead looking to the Bible and the Holy Spirit for truth and revelation. As Martin Lloyd-Jones describes it, Christianity “is to be the acceptance of certain truths, and the working out of a reasoned, logical argument on the basis of those truths. It is not to be something vague, and general, and intangible, which varies with one’s moods and feelings.” (Why Does God Allow War?) For Christians, the “spiritual quest” simply means following Jesus Christ and seeking to know him more deeply. Perhaps the biggest myth in The Da Vinci Code is the misrepresentation of Jesus Christ.
Director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and actor Tom Hanks teamed up to make a film adaptation of the novel. It opened at the Cannes Film Festival and was conformed of an ensemble cast. It failed to live up to box office expectations which called for a super blockbuster and was critically lambasted for its pacing and ridiculous sounding dialog.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, c1998.
Abanes, Richard. The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code: a Challenging Response to the Bestselling Novel. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, c2004.
Bock, Darrell L. Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everybody's Asking. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, c2004.
Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. New York: Doubleday, c2004.
Burstein, Daniel. Secrets of the Code: the Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code. New York, N.Y.: CDS Books in association with Squibnocket Partners, c2004.
Da Vinci, Leonardo and Suh, Anna H. Leonardo's Notebooks. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, c August 1, 2005.
Ehrman, Bart D. Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: a Historian Reveals What we Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine. New York: Oxford University Press, c2004.
Funk, Robert W. The Five Gospels. Harper San Francisco, c1993
Garlow, James L. and Jones, Peter. Cracking Da Vinci's code: You've Read the Fiction, Now Read the Facts. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor, c2004.
Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianity: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, c1975.
Rogak, Lisa. The Man Behind the Da Vinci Code: an Unauthorized Biography of Dan Brown. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews McMeel Pub., c2005.
Welborn, Amy. De-coding Da Vinci: the Facts behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code. Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, c2004.
Niederauer, Archbishop George H. “How Dark the Con of Man” jesusdecoded.com
Olson, Carl E. and Miesel, Sandra “Facts vs. Fiction in 'The Da Vinci Code'” Plugged In Magazine c2006
Miesel, Sandra “Dismantling The Da Vinci Code.” Crisis Magazine (September 2003)
Van Biema, David. Mary Magdalene: Saint or Sinner? Time Magazine, Monday, Aug. 11, 2003
Amazon.com “The Malleus Maleficarum of Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kraemer.” December 6, 2004. Available www.amazon.com
Blogcritics.org “On Da Vinci Mania” by Shane S-T. May 29, 2006. Available http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/05/29/120528.php
Brown, Dan. “An Interview with Dan Brown.” The Official Website of Dan Brown. Available http://www.danbrown.com
Brown, Dan. “Secrets: Bizarre True Facts from the Da Vinci Code” The Official Website of Dan Brown. Available http://www.danbrown.com
Esaak, Shelley “A Guide to Leonardo and His Art in The Da Vinci Code - Questions and Answers” Art History about.com
Kirby, Peter. “Gnostics, Gnostic Gospels, & Gnosticism.” Early Christian Writings. Online. Internet, c2003. Available ttp://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gnostics
Religionfacts.com “The Council of Nicea and The Da Vinci Code.” Available http://www.religionfacts.com/da_vinci_code/nicea.htm
Starbird, Margaret “The Little Mermaid and the Archetype of the Lost Bride.” C. 1999 Available: http://members.tripod.com/~Ramon_K_Jusino/littlemermaid.html
“Beyond the Da Vinci Code.” History Channel Documentary. History Channel. March 13, 2006.
“The Real Da Vinci Code.” Discovery Times Channel Special. Discovery Times Channel. March 4, 2006.
Schlafly, Andrew. World History Fourth Lecture – Ancient History. October 2006.