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The Da Vinci Code: Is it true?

A lot of people I know have read “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, a runaway bestseller in which characters purport that the entire official history of Christianity is a lie. Some have asked me what I thought of the book, so I decided I’d pick it up over vacation and read it for myself.

“The Da Vinci Code” is a very enjoyable thriller in the Michael Crichton/Robert Ludlum tradition, but it has as its main plot twist some “startling revelations” about Jesus and the Church: Primarily, that Jesus was not divine, since he fathered a child with Mary Magdalene, and that she was his chosen successor, not Peter. Peter then chauvinistically shuttled Mary Magdalene and her child off to Southern France so his ambitious plans for power could proceed unhindered.

Since then, the Church has persecuted the more enlightened pagans and wiccans, many of whom share with a vast underground movement an understanding of the true, Gnostic nature of the church, and propagate this truth through secret symbols understand only by the initiated. They are forced to communicate their message through these occult symbols since the Church will squash all overt references to the truth; for example, it tried to destroy the true gospels, the Gnostic writings of the early centuries.

One of the church’s primary motivations behind this persecution: Subjugating women and restricting women’s rights, which were flourishing in a pro-female golden age in the ancient pagan religions.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to hear of conversations between Christians who seem to actually believe the fictional plot line of Brown’s novel. After all, Brown’s an expert practitioner of the “tall tale”; the story that sounds so real it just might be true. That’s his profession—he’s a storyteller.

Michael Crichton, another expert at this, has written that this is the aspect of fiction writing which fascinates him the most: What Crichton calls “verisimilitude”. How is your brain tricked by a book into believing its contents to be factual? In his introduction to the reissue of “The Thirteenth Warrior”, Crichton explains his method: Start with some historical and scientific fact, then weave, by referring to fictional authorities, more and more fantasy into the tale. That’s why, by the end of Crichton’s books, you’re convinced dinosaurs could be replicated from DNA found in amber, or that we’re just steps away from time-travel.

Similarly, Dan Brown starts with a few facts, and then rapidly piles fiction after fiction on this factual foundation, quoting all the time his own made-up authorities. For the opinions of actual theologians, historians, and researchers, see the links below, but I can save you time with a quote from one historian that seems to summarize the opinions of these academics about its historical accuracy: “It’s the only book I know that, after you’ve read it, you’re dumber than you were when you started.”

One of the crazier aspects of Brown’s plot involves his idea that pagan and gnostic systems promoted women’s rights. In fact, the Gnostic gospel of Thomas taught that ONLY men are allowed into the Kingdom of God, and that God must first make all females supernaturally male before they may go to heaven! One ancient Roman apologist for the Roman pagan religion denounced Christianity because, in his words, “The resurrection rests on tales of hysterical females.” (Celsus) In truth, according to University of Washington sociologist Rodney Stark in his book “The Rise of Christianity”, the faith grew primarily because Roman women adopted it in preference to the autocratic, male-dominated paganism of Rome.

What’s most intriguing to me is that the supposed bombshell revelation of the book, that Jesus was married and had a child, would not be a problem for orthodox Christian theology (Dallas Seminary profs agree with me in the ABC News special on the book! See links below.).

As the Bible states, the marriage bed is holy, and since Jesus was fully man as well as fully God, he could well have fathered a child in marriage with no risk to his divinity or message. Theoretically, the child could have received only his human nature, and the human nature of the mother. So it’s puzzling to me why this scenario is painted in the book as a shattering blow to Christian orthodoxy.

I’ll close my brief response to the book with some intriguing links. These authors range from liberal to conservative, from Baptist to Catholic to Episcopal to Presbyterian, but they all have one thing in common: They all point out the factual errors and outright fictions in “The Da Vinci Code”. If you sensed your faith was even a little bit shaken by this fun-to-read fantasy, you owe it to yourself to check these out:

http://www.crisismagazine.com/september2003/feature1.htm

http://www.explorefaith.org/daVinci/1.html

http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/sightings/archive_2003/0924.shtml

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/135/story_13520_1.html

http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?adate=7/29/2003

http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/newsletter/2003/nov7.html

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René Schlaepfer, Teaching Pastor
Twin Lakes Church, Aptos, CA

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