Friday, December 30, 2005
A Quick-Start Guide to the Problems with Dan Brown's "The da Vinci Code"
The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, achieved status on the New York Times best seller list for several months after its release in March of 2004. It is the story of the history-changing secret that Jesus was not divine, was married to Mary Magdalene, had children, that the Christian church altered the Bible, that it invented Jesus' divinity as it demonized the sacred-feminine in order to gain power and influence, and that the secret is held by a sect of the Catholic Church that goes to extreme lengths to preserve the secret lest it lose its power and influence.
The Da Vinci Code takes its title from the artist/inventor Leonardo Da Vinci, the former head of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion who, through the centuries, has been keeping the truth alive. The book mentions The Holy Grail, which is supposed to be Mary Magdalene herself, and attempts to draw the comparison between the traditional view of the Grail as a cup (container) from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper and the Mary Magdelene's body as a "container" for life; namely, Jesus' offspring. Therefore, the quest for the Holy Grail is really the quest to kneel at the bones of Mary which have been preserved by the secret society through the centuries.
The Da Vinci Code is well written and entertaining. But, we must take it more seriously than a standard fiction book because the author claims it is accurately researched and based on factual information. If Brown had stated in the introduction of his book that his material is conjecture, fiction, and not meant to be factual, then we'd have no problem with it at all. But, no such disclaimer exists. In his acknowledgment page at the beginning of the book, Brown says,
For their generous assistance in the research of this book, I would like to acknowledge the Louvre Museum, the French Ministry of Culture, Project Gutenberg, Bibliothèque Nationale, the Gnostic Society Library, the Department of Paintings Study and Documentation Service at the Lourvre, Catholic World News, Royal Observatory Greenwich, London Record Society, the Muniment Collection at Westminster Abbey, John Pike and the Federation of American Scientists, and the five members of Opus Dei (three active, two former) who recounted their stories, both positive and negative, regarding their experiences inside Opus Dei.
From such a listing a person could get the idea that the story presents factual information regarding the Christian Church, Jesus, the Bible. The truth is that it is poorly researched at best. Far too many people who do not know real history and the real facts to which the book alludes are liable to believe the numerous erroneous theories cited by Brown.
On Dan Brown's website (www.danbrown.com) he provides a list of books used in research for the Da Vinci Code. They are gnostic, new age, and speculative in nature: Here are some of them.
Rosslyn: Guardians of the Secret of the Holy Grail --Tim Wallace-Murphy & Marilyn Hopkins
The Woman With The Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail --Margaret Starbird
The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ --Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince
The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine --Margaret Starbird
The Dead Sea Deception --Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh
Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians --Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy
When God was a Woman --Merlin Stone
Beyond the Threshold: A Life in Opus Dei --Maria Del Carmen Tapia
The Pope's Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church --Gordon Urguhart
The list reveals Brown's lack of scholarly research since it does not contain competent research material from counter sources. Unfortunately, there is little fact in the book and far too much conjecture. To the untrained, the presentation of Brown's theory can be compelling and misguiding.
There have been many articles exposing the errors of the Da Vinci Code book so we will not going to too many details but we will provide several quotes from characters in the book followed by commentary demonstrating its inaccuracy.
Quote: "The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book...more than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few are chosen for inclusion-- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them... the Bible, as we know it today, was collected by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great." p. 231
Response: This is a very gross error. The Bible is not the product of "countless translation, additions, and revisions." The Bible is translated from copies of original documents, and has been static since before the council of Nicea.
Response: The Bible was not produced at the Council of Nicea by Constantine. The Old Testament documents were collected and known as an inspired work long before the Christian church was ever on the scene. The New Testament documents were written by the eyewitnesses of Jesus' Ministry or under the direction of those who were. The Christian Church knew which documents were authentic and which were not. At the initial formation of the Christian Church, the Christians were under Roman rule and did not have the freedom (due to initial persecution) to produce an "official" Bible. But that did not prevent them from knowing which documents were penned by the apostles themselves and which were spurious forgeries, of which many were in existence and are undoubtedly included in the "80 gospels" that Brown mentions.
Quote: "With the help of Jesus' trusted uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene secretly traveled to France, then known as Gaul. There she found safe refuge in the Jewish community. It was here in France that she gave birth to a daughter. Her name was Sarah." p. 255
Response: There is no evidence for this whatsoever.
Quote: "...the Piscean ideal believe that man must be told what to do by higher powers because man is incapable of thinking for himself. Hence it has been a time of fervent religion. Now, however, we are entering the age of Aquarius-- the water bearer-- whose ideals claim that man will learn the truth and be able to think for himself." p. 268
Response: It is interesting that Brown inserts pagan ideas and pagan concepts into the dialogue among his characters in an attempt to support the storyline. His comment is interesting in that it leaves a person with the impression that religion, in particular Christianity, does not want people to learn the truth or think for themselves. This cannot be further from fact. The Scriptures teach us to learn the facts and to be very responsible in our decisions and to think critically. Brown misrepresents, at the very least, the Christian faith.
Response: Following are scriptures telling us to think, to use our minds.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself," (Romans 14:5).
Quote: "Admittedly, the concept of sex as a pathway to God was mind-boggling at first. Langdon's Jewish students always looked flabbergasted when he first told them that the early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex. In the temple, no less. Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple housed not only God but also his powerful female equal, Shekinah. Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the temple to visit priestesses--or hierodules-- with whom they made love and experienced the divine through physical union. The Jewish tetragrammaton YHWH -- the sacred name of God -- in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Habraic name for Eve, Havah." p. 309
Response: We know of absolutely no documentation whatsoever supporting the idea that the early Jews considered the holy of holies a place where a female deity would dwell. Such an idea is ridiculous and in direct contradiction to the historic/biblical account for the purpose of the Holy of Holies. This is such a preposterous idea that we are surprised Mr. Brown inserted it into the story at all -- even knowing it is a fictional book.
Response: Brown makes a very fundamental error in his research regarding the tetragrammaton YHWH. It is not derived from a masculine and feminine set of words. Instead, YHWH is the English four letters that most closely represent the four Hebrew characters that designate the name of God which is derived from the verb "to be." Essentially, when God gives his own name he says, "I AM that I AM". The "I AM" is from the verb "to be" which is where we get YHWH. Brown is completely off on this.
Quote: "the next time you find yourself with a woman, look in your heart and see if you cannot approach sex as a mystical, spiritual act. Challenge yourself to find that spark of divinity that man can only achieve through union with the sacred feminine." p. 310
Response: This is a very subjective statement. Of course, it is just a fictional character giving a fictional opinion. But, the problem is that with the overall context of undermining biblical truth and historical fact, this comment takes on a more distracting meaning as it moves a person to think emotionally instead of using the mind...the very thing Brown, via his characters, accuses the church of not wanting. See point 3 above.
Quote: "... every faith in the world is based on fabrication. As the definition of faith -- acceptance of that which we imagined to be true, that which we can prove." p. 341
Response: No, this is not true. Christianity is based on fact: the reality of the nation of Israel, archaeological verification, eyewitness accounts recorded in written form regarding the birth of Christ, his ministry, his miracles, his teaching, his death, his burial, and his resurrection. Brown could not be further from the truth.
Quote: "those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories [i.e., Virgin birth of Jesus] are metaphorical." p. 342
Response: This is not true. Christianity is not based on metaphorical stories with hidden meanings. It is based on historical facts, i.e., the actual life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The witnesses recorded what they actually saw and wrote down actual events. Brown's character's assertion is (admittedly fictional) and completely erroneous.
Following is a brief and partial list of some of the many errors found in the Da Vinci Code.
A partial list of errors in the Da Vinci Code
The Bible is the product of "countless translations, additions, and revisions."
The biblical documents are static, unchanging, and we have multitudinous copies of them from the first, second, and third centuries.
The Bible was assembled by Emperor Constantine.
The Bible was assembled before Constantine.
There were 80 additional gospels
Though there were a few gospels circulating which claimed to be authentic but the early Christians knew were not, there is no where close to 80.
Opus Dei members have monks.
They do not.
The deity of Christ was invented by the Council of Nicea
The deity of Christ is found in the scriptures Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33; 28:9; John 9:35-38; and Heb. 1:6
Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene who is to be worshipped as a goddess.
There is absolutely no historical evidence for this.
Early "Christians" practiced goddess worship.
There is absolutely no historical evidence for this.
YHWH is derived from two Hebrew words, one masculine and the other feminine.
No, it is derived from the single Hebrew word "to be"
The Dead Sea Scrolls contained the earliest Christian writings
This cannot be true since the DSS's were written before Christianity existed.
Christianity borrowed its ideas from pagan sources
Similarities between Christianity and other religions does not mean Christianity borrowed from them or they borrowed from Christianity. Similarities exist in all religions. The assertion is a common one that has no basis.
The Da Vinci Code is an enjoyable read as far as fiction goes but it is not very accurate in his conclusions. Again, if Brown had stated that his book was simply fiction and he did not imply that everything in it was factual, then we would have no problem. But this is not what he has done. In fact, he's done the opposite and in so doing has provided a lot of misinformation and false conclusions that, unfortunately, too many people will believe.