The Da Vinci Code is an adventure novel by Dan Brown (Doubleday, 2003) in which a man and a woman seek the Holy Grail by following a trail of clues composed by a secret society called "The Priory of Sion." They are hounded throughout by a corrupt group within the French police and by the Vatican "secret service," including a monk with a license to kill. The Holy Grail in this book is a secret truth kept hidden over the centuries through an elaborate conspiracy -- the hidden truth is that the Jesus Christ of Christianity is a lie. The author essentially interrupts the novel in mid-chase to promote his vision of true religion, presenting his outrageous claims to the reader as based on facts.
Although the novel fails on many levels, there is anecdotal evidence that it has succeeded in persuading many previously-neutral non-believers to be skeptical of the Bible and suspicious of the Church. A 2006 survey, for example, found that seventeen percent of Canadians "think Jesus's death on the cross was faked and that he married and had a family." 1
Fertility cults Edit
In The Da Vinci Code there is no higher form of spirituality than the ancient gnostic fertility cults:
Physical union with the female remained the sole means through which man could become spiritually complete and ultimately achieve gnosis -- knowledge of the divine. Since the days of Isis, sex rites had been considered man's only bridge from Earth to Heaven . . .
The ability of the woman to produce life from her womb made her sacred. A god. Intercourse was the revered union of the two halves of the human spirit -- male and female -- through which the male could find spritual wholeness and communion with God. (Chapter 74)
A featured scene in Chapter 74 describes what Brown calls a "deeply sacrosanct ceremony" where participants, dressed in black and white robes and wearing masks, stand in a circle and chant while watching a masked man and woman copulate on a low altar in the center of the circle.
Religions based on ritual sex are very old. Scripture indicates that sex-worship of this type occurred in Old Testament times (e.g. Genesis 38:21), was apparently commonplace among Israel's neighbouring tribes, and was profoundly unacceptable to God. The people of God were to have no part in such cults (e.g. Deuteronomy 23:17, Numbers 25:1-3, and 1 Samuel 2:22-25) and sex in the sanctuary was "an abomination" (Ezekiel 23 NIV). Christians see, in this, God at work drawing his chosen people away from primitive, flesh-centered, self-fulfilling forms of religion in preparation for sending his Son into that society to redeem the whole world.
Need it be said that a fertility cult of this type would be unthinkable blasphemy to a pious young Jewish man in first century Palestine? This was, after all, a society where young women would be subject to public disgrace just for getting pregnant out of wedlock (Matthew 1:19). Jesus, a Jew, would not have taken part in any of these activities and there is no evidence at all to suggest otherwise.
Jesus according to The Da Vinci Code Edit
Much of the energy of Brown's book is devoted to attacking church history and promoting a false view of Jesus Christ. Brown's strategy in these attacks is clearly revealed in the middle of the book, when "Teabing" introduces "Sophie" to the secret truths:
"To fully understand the Grail," Teabing continued, "we must first understand the Bible. How well do you know the New Testament?"
Sophie shrugged. "Not at all, really. I was raised by a man who worshipped Leonardo da Vinci."
Teabing looked both startled and pleased. "An enlightened soul. Superb! . . ." (Chapter 55)
Biblically literate readers and biblical scholars alike do not take this book seriously. Sadly, it can be safely assumed that most of Brown's readers are not well-versed on the content of the Bible and the history of the Christian church. This only leads to more confusion and conclusions that are built on conspiracy rather than on historical and biblical truth.
The core elements of Brown's christology are explained in Chapters 55 and 56:
- Jesus was human, not divine -- which in reality is the old Arian heresy.
- The Roman emperor Constantine engineered a take-over of Christianity in 325 AD by convening the First Council of Nicaea.
- Until Constantine, Christians viewed Jesus as only mortal.
- Constantine "stole Jesus from His original followers" and "turned Jesus into a deity" to solidify the "new Vatican power base."
- The church subsequently invented the Genesis creation story, where man is created first, as a way to disempower women: "Sadly, Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female's creative power by ignoring biological truth and making man the Creator. . . Genesis was the beginning of the end for the Goddess." (Chapter 56)
- The church has fought continually since Constantine to suppress the "true religion" of the fertility cult and thus to suppress women.
Is The DaVinci Code Heresy? Edit
There is no evidence that Dan Brown speaks from within the Christian Church, nor have any Christian authorities endorsed his book, so is it fair to refer to The DaVinci Code as "heresy"? Normally, the term heresy is reserved for attacks on the true faith from people claiming to be within the church.
Unfortunately, Dan Brown has based his attacks on the church on heretical assertions sometimes referred to as the Liberal Myth of Christian Origins. Versions of these ideas have been taught widely in liberal institutions across North America and Europe by Christian institutions, and thus must be labelled "heresy".
Is the DaVinci Code Historical Fiction? Edit
Professor Anne Macleod affirms the following perhaps-obvious statement about the "historical fiction" literary genre:
- "...we can all agree that historical fiction should be good fiction and good history"
Books in this genre, by convention, embed a fictional plot (perhaps based on some factual event) within as factual a past world as possible. Writers are fastidious about getting the historical facts correct down to the last detail, and readers expect them to be so.
Dan Brown certainly claims that the book is historical fiction. The first page, for example, is devoted to an assertion that the Priory of Sion (a key element of the books "past world") is an historical "fact."
The difficulty in assessing The Da Vinci Code is that the book does not claim to be history but is explicitly fiction. Yet, many questions have been raised as to whether Brown's accounts of church history or in fact true. The problem begins when people start taking what was intended as fiction as historical fact. Yet, the larger problem is when a book portrays "fiction" as historical fact.
There is a disturbing inability in our culture to tell fact from fiction. Perhaps, as Malcolm Muggeridge suggested, this is partially a result of mass media's efforts to "present fantasy in terms of reality and reality in terms of fantasy." Lastly, people are inexcusably ignorant about what the Bible says. Even many educated individuals, who consider themselves to be widely read, have very poor biblical literacy.
Much of the problem however rests with the author, for at least the following reasons:
1. The novel is packaged as a work of historical fiction, including trappings such as,
- settings, and richly detailed descriptions of, classical architectural sites such as The Louvre, Temple Church London, Rosslyn Chapel, and Westminster Abbey
- the central use of puzzles and riddles based on historical events and people
- skillful use of classical and ancient "oddities" to enliven the text
2. The novel however breaks covenant with the reader by not being "subject to normal standards of demonstrable historical evidence and sound reasoning," as historical fiction should be -- in short, it misleads the reader.
3. The novel claims to be true by opening with the following statement:
- "Fact: The Priory of Sion -- a European secret society founded in 1099 -- is a real organization ... [with a membership that includes] ... Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci."
- The reality is that the Priory of Sion was a housing society invented in 1956 by André Bonhomme and Pierre Plantard in their home town of St-Julien-en-Genevoise, France. They later created a mythology for it, including the above membership list, using material written by Noel Corbu, a restauranteur in the Villa Béthanie, in the 1950's.
4. Throughout the novel, the authoritative voice of the Society, much less its factual existence, is never questioned. Note the ethos imparted to the society by its supposed list of distinguished members.
5. Dan Brown, on his web site, promotes the truth of the book with unsubstantiated claims that even the most outrageous ideas are supported by academia, for example, he says that:
- "Many scholars believe [Da Vinci's] work intentionally provides clues to a powerful secret... a secret that remains protected to this day by a clandestine brotherhood of which Da Vinci was a member."
As literature and film Edit
The novel has been criticised for the mediocrity of the prose and the lack of development of the characters, and is thus generally recognized as a piece of "popular" or "pop historical" fiction rather than literature. The Da Vinci Code has much in common with Umberto Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum including the references to ancient secret societies, descriptions of classical architecture and art, and a quest that follows obscure clues. Brown's novel is much less literary than Eco's, however, even when Eco's is read in translation.
From the way the Da Vinci scenes are set up, one can't help but suspect that the author had an eventual movie in mind as he wrote it, and in fact a film version is in release.
- "Canadian Christians choose religion without pews," Vancouver Sun, April 21, 2006, pg A16
- TheTruthAboutDaVinci.com Audio/Video Resources
- The DaVinci Code: Was There a Plan to Suppress "Secret" Gospels? - Part 1, Part 2 (MP3), by Craig Blomberg
- Breaking The DaVinci Code (MP3), by Darrell Bock
- Panel discussion with Andreas Kostenberger, Norm Geisler, Richard Hays, and Bart Ehrman on The Da Vinci Code (MP3)
- The Bible, the Da Vinci Code, and the Christian (MP3), by Albert Mohler
- Discussion on The Da Vinci Code (MP3), by Richard Hays and Bart Ehrman at Duke Divinity School
- Facts and Fictions in The Da Vinci Code (MP3), by Bill Wilder (PDF)
- Da Vinci Code Presentation: Separating Fact from Fiction, Questions and Answers (MP3s), by James White
- The Da Vinci Code - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (Real Audio), by James White
Critical / Informational Edit
- The Truth About Da Vinci Website For the person who has read the novel or is interested in its implications and wants to separate the fact from the fiction. (WTS-sponsored)
- The Da Vinci Code: A Myth of Christian Origins, by Andreas J. Kostenberger (Reformation21)
- Christians counter The Da Vinci Code (The Christian Century Foundation)
- Breaking The Da Vinci Code, by Collin Hansen (Christianity Today)
- Decoding The Da Vinci Code, by N.T. Wright (A talk given at Seattle Pacific University - Summer, 2005)
- The Da Vinci Code, Shaking the Foundations of Christianity? by Tony Pearce
- The Uber-Resource List for The Da Vinci Code
- Skeptic.com on The Da Vinci Code.
- The Da Vinci Code, the Catholic Church and the Opus Dei, Opus Dei
- Redeeming The Da Vinci Code, Probe Ministries