Why am I doing a four week study on the Da Vinci Code? Let me open simply with these quotes and letters:
"Honestly, [reading the book] shook my whole faith. I realize that the book is fiction, but much of what he wrote about seemed like it was based on historical facts aside from the characters…”1
"Yes, I think Dan Brown makes a lot of sense, especially the part about Jesus just being a mortal. I’d always kind of thought that way, but the facts in the book back it up."2
“…It was an interesting book until I got to the part where he’s talking about how Christianity began, how it’s all false, and that Christianity is basically a lie and stolen from pagan religions. … Is it all true? … Is the last 25+ years I’ve been a Christian all a lie? … Is everything I was raised to believe just made up for the sake of money? I have to know. I don’t know where else to turn. Now I am doubting if there is a heaven, a God, and Jesus. Please, help me! Please, in God’s name, help me. I’m brokenhearted, confused, and still crying.”3
In 2005, the National Geographic Channel commissioned a Canadian survey, finding that 32% of all Canadians who have read the Da Vinci Code believe that the theories outlined in it are true.4 1/3 of Canadians believe that Jesus’ descendants are walking among us.5
Nearly 100 million Americans have read the novel, keeping it on The New York Times Best Sellers for 148 weeks straight. 6 In fact 53% of Americans say this book has had a significant impact on their faith and understanding.7
The Da Vinci Code has sold over 40 million copies worldwide and that number is growing fast. So fast in fact that in 2005 Time magazine named Dan Brown one the world’s 100 most influential people8, among the likes of President George W. Bush and the Dalai Lama. 9
The da Vinci code provides “an instant conversation piece with non believers.”10 Thanks to Dan Brown it has become easy to bridge the divide between talking about the weather to talking about Jesus Christ. Now instead of the awkward jump we can just ask the question, “Have you seen/read the Da Vinci Code?” And then spearhead the conversation with the truth.
Don’t run and hide, invite the spiritual conversation and encourage vigorous debate. It’s not at all frightening, because we literally do have the truth on our side.
May 19th it will be released as a major motion picture. Look for it to top the charts. Do I suggest you go see it for fun? No.
However, if you have some unsaved friends going to see it; you might want to consider going with them and using the after movie ice-cream event as the perfect time to talk about the truth. Watch how you carry yourself. Don’t get angry. Be prepared, and know the truth before you go. To that end, let’s jump right in with the plotline.
I’m about to tell you the story and I have no problem spoiling it for you since our goal is the truth rather than the story.
The movie is about the search for and the ultimate discovery of the Holy Grail. Central to the story: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. She herself was the Holy Grail. The Grail not being a mystical cup of legend but instead a symbolic name to identify not just Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus but also their Child “Sarah” whom she carried. In terms of Medieval understanding then, Mary Magdalene was carrying the blood of Christ in her womb. They fled to Gaul (France) in order to be kept safe, she was assisted by Joseph of Aramathea.
Jesus and Mary’s descendants became the Merovingian line of French kings. The secret was handed on through a secret society named the Priory of Sion which has purportedly included members like Leonardo da Vinci among other famous figures of history.
Leonardo, he continues has hidden clues in his art to this secret. Thus the name “The Da Vinci Code”. Clues which the stories main Characters are braving death and danger to uncover in a breathless page turner of a story. In the end of course the main character does discover the bones of Mary Magdalene as well as discovering, surprise upon surprise, that the main heroine of the book/movie is in fact a descendant of Jesus Christ thus she is, in a sense, the grail.
Dan Brown’s theology overriding the story is that god is male and female. However the great conspiracy is that for the last 2000 years the male dominated church has suppressed “divine feminine” in an effort to keep the power. True worship, he believes is worship that includes worshipping the divine feminine.
So much for the plot line let’s move on to the problem.
When you consider that I’m spending four weeks and well over 100 hours of research on a fictional book it seems a bit like overkill doesn’t it? After all I have a copy of the book and it says “Fiction” on the cover. Lest you get confused “Fiction” is the word librarians use to classify a book as myth or fable; while “Non-fiction” is the term used for truth. The only reason I’m here doing this message is because Dan Brown intentionally tries to blur the line. He does that by claiming that he is basing the fictional story line on a number of “facts”. Dan Brown is a fair story teller, but he is neither a good logician – nor a good historian.
I’ve heard it said and I think I agree that “the only problem I really have with this book is the first page.”11 On the first page of the book, Dan Brown claims three facts which serve as pillars to support his story. However the fictional inferences he makes from these facts are still presented as truth and the line between them is exceptionally thin.
So let’s start with his three facts on page one.
THE PRIORY OF SION
The premise of Mr. Brown’s book is formed largely upon a set of documents known as “Les Dossiers Secrets” and a related group known as the Priory of Sion. These have been the caretakers of the secret of the Mary Magdalene and the grail for centuries. So you can see why it’s alarming that on the first page he states:
“The Priory of Sion – 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.”12
The Priory of Sion has undergone three incarnations. Once in history and twice at the hands of a charlatan. In 1100 AD it was founded as a monastic order in Jerusalem. It was absorbed into the Jesuits in 1617.13
Pierre Plantard is a Frenchman of dubious character. He and a friend formed a society known as the Priory of Sion on May 7, 1956. He was convicted of Fraud and the Priory ceased to exist after his sentencing to a 12 month prison term in connection with it. By 1964 Plantard had resurrected the Priory of Sion and had fabricated documents “proving” that he was descended from a Merovingian king named “Dagobert II”. It was an altogether unsuccessful attempt. From the 1960’s to 1985 Plantard and his co-conspirators continued to plant these fraudulent documents14 into the French National Library.15
Between 1989 and 1993 Plantard was interrogated in an unrelated court case where he ultimately confessed it was all made up. He was released with a severe warning.16
Les Dossiers Secrets therefore are fraudulent from the start. So much for the first “fact”. It falls to the truth.
In the Book one of the main characters “Silas” is a member of Opus Dei. He is frequently called a monk and despite his desire for holiness he murders a number of people in order to protect the church from the release of the information about the Grail.
On the Fact Page Dan Brown writes:
“The Vatican Prelature17 known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as “corporal mortification.” Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million National Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.” 18
Opus Dei does exist and there are some allegations about them (as with any large organization). Even Opus Dei confesses that some members practice Corporal Mortification19 (The intentional wounding of the body for purposes of penance or growth in holiness). However there are no monks in Opus Dei, most members have families.20
The truth claim on page one then is accurate but from page two onward he gets so many facts wrong about everything from building design to the existence of monks in the organization. Even though Opus Dei isn’t presented quite the way they would like to be, I’ll give this one to Mr. Brown. At least they exist.
The biggest problem concerning the facts page is the following statement: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”21
Even this claim is not true. For instance, his description of a painting known as “Madonna of the Rocks” not entirely accurate.22 First he describes it as being canvas when in fact like nearly every other Da Vinci painting it was painted on Poplar panels.23 Second he describes the differences between the two versions of the painting as though one were laced with pagan religious symbolism. There is no pagan symbology in either of the paintings.24
His descriptions of artwork are therefore suspect.
What about his descriptions of architecture?
What about his descriptions of documents?
I’ve already exposed the fraudulent “Les Dossiers Secrets”. Automatically therefore the rest becomes suspect. He also describes the Gnostic gospels as being “The earliest Christian records.”25 When in fact the New Testament writings predate26 them at least by decades; some perhaps even by centuries.
What about his descriptions of “Secret Rituals”. I really haven’t time to delve into them. But how secret can they be if he knows about them?
Here then are just a few examples demonstrating from the start that Dan Brown’s assumed facts upon which the fictional novel are built are little more than the result of either fallacious historical method or intentional deceit.
I point out the fallacies of these “facts” because if his founding premise is false than the rest of the book cascades into failure.
That however may not be enough to convince your friend who comes back from the theater or the library. So tonight I’m going to continue with several statements from the book – and in the end you’ll be equipped to give an answer.
1 Olson, Carl and Sandra Miesel “The Da Vinci Hoax” http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2006/dvh_excerpts1_jan06.asp
2 Emphasis Added. OUTREACH magazine. March/April 2006. The Davinci Code Intrigue by Lisa Ann Cockrel (http://www.outreach.com/media/print/product/pdf/davinci.pdf)
3 RBC Ministries, The Da Vinci Code: Separating Fact from Fiction. (http://rbcdavincicode.com/index.php)
5 Barna, George – Via teleconference call with Mark Mittleberg.
7 Barna, George – Via teleconference call with Mark Mittleberg.
10 Miller, Jeff the Da Vinci Code Forum. http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=2747
11 Miller, Jeff. The Da Vinci Code Forum. http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=2747
12 Brown, Dan. “The Da Vinci Code” Anchor Books a Division of Random House, inc. New York. 2003. p1.
14 Even the authors of “Holy Blood Holy Grail” confess that the documents were planted by Plantard http://www.cesnur.org/2004/davinci_nyt.htm
16 “a third version of the Prieuré de Sion was launched with a revived series of the journal Vaincre – giving a different false pedigree and different Grand Masters List and alleging that the previous version was all a fake produced by Philippe Toscan du Plantier under the influence of LSD – there was no connection with the Templars or with Godfrey de Bouillon – the Prieuré de Sion was founded in 1681 at Rennes-le-Château by the Grandfather of Marie de Negri d’Ables – and there were secret archives discovered in Barcelona in Spain as well. Plantard was still descended from Dagobert II, but indirectly: the ‘real’ direct descendant was Otto Von Habsburg! The revised list of Grand Masters contained the name of Roger Patrice Pelat whose name was linked to a financial scandal that was being investigated by Judge Thierry Jean-Pierre – the Judge interrogated Plantard who under Oath admitted that everything was made-up.” http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id84.html
17 A gathering of high ranking clergy.
18 Brown, Dan. “The Da Vinci Code” Anchor Books a Division of Random House, inc. New York. 2003. p1.
21 Brown, Dan. “The Da Vinci Code” Anchor Books a Division of Random House, inc. New York. 2003. p1.
22 Brown, Dan. “The Da Vinci Code” Anchor Books a Division of Random House, inc. New York. 2003. p143
23 “It should be noted that in The Da Vinci Code this painting is said to be on canvas. This is incorrect, as Da Vinci painted almost exclusively on poplar panels, this painting being no exception to that rule.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_of_the_Rocks
24 “In the popular novel The Da Vinci Code, written by the American novellist Dan Brown, it is claimed that the earlier Louvre version contained hidden symbolism which contradicted orthodox Christian belief, notably the fact that Jesus is shown praying to John rather than the other way round (the novel implies that the baby at the left must be Jesus rather than John, because he is with the Madonna). It is also claimed that the Virgin appears to be holding an invisible head and that Uriel appears to be "slicing the neck" with his finger. Allegedly, for this reason the painting was rejected by the Church, and a second, more orthodox, version was painted.
There is no historical evidence to support any of these contentions. The only significant compositional difference between the two versions (excluding the later addition of attributes) is the fact that Uriel no longer points. However this difference may well be explained by the possibility that the distinction between Jesus and John was thought to be insufficiently clear in the earlier picture because John is with the Madonna, and that the pointing gesture directed too much attention to John.
Indeed far from the painting being "too scandalous" to show in a church, Leonardo and de Predises actually wanted more money from the church than had been originally agreed. The church agreed to pay a substantial bonus but not as much as Leonardo and de Predises wanted. So Leonardo and de Predises sold it to a private collector and then made a second copy (arguably a superior one as it turned out). So popular (not scandalous) did these paintings prove that it is believed that they painted a third version which is now lost.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_of_the_Rocks
26 The Nag Hammadi Manuscripts date roughly to about 350AD (http://www.nag-hammadi.com/gospel.html ) (Robinson, James McConkey, Richard Smith, and Coptic Gnostic Library Project. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 4th rev. ed. /, Page 58. Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1996.) while it is widely assumed that they are decendant copies of original texts which were probably penned between 100-150AD. The New Testament writings however find their dates of writing traced to somewhere between 40AD (James) and 93 AD (Revelation).