Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Truth About Claims Made in Bestselling Novel “The Da Vinci Code”

Remember this book? Everyone was talking about it when the novel hit the stands in 2003. It has since become so popular that it has made it to the coveted movie status.

Have you read it? The movie is due to be released on DVD today, November, 14, 2006. And the talk about the startling claims made in the book is once again raging.

I have read this book. I started out to read it just so that I could see firsthand what all of the hype was about, but I have to admit that the book was an interesting work of fiction – even a page turner at times. Having said that, however: I firmly believe that “The Da Vinci Code” is in fact nothing more than a well-written work of fiction.

One of the things that has so many people up in arms, and mislead, is Dan Brown’s “Fact “page. This “Fact” page follows immediately after his title page.

But therein lies a simple solution to all of the angst about this novel: Brown’s “Fact” page follows his “Title” page. And so, it follows that this “Fact” page is merely a part of the overall work of fiction and nothing more.

Don’t buy that? Well you’re not alone: there have been stacks of books written to discuss the claims made in the novel “The Da Vinci Code”. There have also been several television documentaries made. Wow! If you ask me, Dan Brown is not only a brilliant writer, but an excellent marketing strategist as well.

Well here’s what I have found in listening to discussions about the “claims” made in this novel:

The first “fact” listed on Dan Brown’s “Fact” page states “The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris's Bibliotheque 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.”

A pretty impressive list of members no? Well the truth is that this document does exist, and it was in fact found in the noted library in Paris, in 1975. But the truth ends there. Examination of the document has since revealed that the document known as the “Les Dossiers Secrets” was a document that was created in the 20th century and most believe that it was created by the very man who “discovered it,” Plantar Chanteau . As luck would have it, Plantar Chateau happens to be listed as a member of this same “secret society.”

It is believed that in the late 1960’s, Plantar Chanteau had visited the hotel that was erected on the land adjacent to the site of France’s Rennes le Chateau -- in Brown’s novel, the Rosslyn Chapel -- where the proof of a the “Holy Grail” is supposed to reside. It was here that Chanteau learned of the story of the “Holy Grail” – a story which many believe was a marketing ploy on the part of the hotel owner who acquired the land on which the chapel sits to generate interest and tourism. Chanteau, a megalomaniac, experts theorize then began to write himself into the story.

There has been no subsequent evidence to support the existence of the secret society of the “Priory of Sion”. And as such, experts do not believe that it existed at the time of Christ; hence the “Priory of Sion” was not created to protect the secret of a Christ and Magdalene bloodline. Further, since the society did not exist they do not believe that Leonardo Da Vinci, nor any of the other esteemed members listed in “The Dossiers Secrets,” was/were members of the “Priory of Sion.”

If the renowned artist Leonardo Da Vinci was not a member of this secret society -- which did not exist until its creation in the 20th century -- then his works of art do not hold secret clues to the existence of a Christ and Magdalene bloodline. And Brown’s third “fact” would also seem to be invalid. It would appear that any “descriptions of artwork, architecture, and documents, and secret rituals in this novel are …” at best convenient coincidence.

Religious experts claim that the individual seated to the left of Christ in the famous Da Vinci painting, “The Last Super” is the young apostle John. Artistic experts agree that the feminine portrayal would be consistent with the Renaissance style at that time for a young male.

The only possible truth on Brown’s “fact” page is the existence of a religious society known as Opus Dei which is not “officially” recognized by the Catholic church. Oh, and there are no monks in Opus Dei unlike Brown's character, Silas, in the novel.

As for other claims made in Brown’s novel:

With respect to art: Brown’s supposed “sacred feminine” symbol of “V” -- that the novel claims is hidden in many of Da Vinci’s paintings -- has been refuted, by expert and lay artists alike, as merely a new, but common, technique used at the time for showing movement via the use of diagonals.

As for the claim’s of cover-up by the Catholic church about a Christ and Magdalene relationship. Proponents get the fuel for their fire from two sources:

The first is the fact the church tried to downplay the role of Mary Magdalene in the Christ movement by perpetuating a case of mistaken identity which has Mary Magdalene confused with a nameless prostitute in the Gospel of Luke. This case of mistaken identity comes from the fact that the passage in which Luke introduces Mary Magdalene is followed by a passage about a nameless prostitute from whom Jesus exorcised demons. The mistaken identity of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was solidified by a homily (speech during a mass after the Gospel reading) given by Pope Clement XIV (1769-1774). This mistake was not corrected by the church until the early 1900’s.

Proponents argue that the church was trying to supress a movement within the church that followed Mary Magdalene and further allude to a romantic relationship, possible marriage and offspring between Magdalene and Christ.

To date there has been no historical evidence found to show evidence of a marriage or of any offspring. You would think that a thing as big a wedding to Jesus would have been known and told to many.

It is more likely that the male-dominated hierarchy of the church was threatened by the power of a woman to influence others in matters of religion and so perpetuated the mistaken identity of Mary Magdalene so as to discredit her and thus remove her as a real threat to the church.

Proponents of the Christ and Magdalene bloodline theory claim that Mary Magdalene fled to France after the death of Jesus, carrying with her The “Holy Grail”. They claim that The “Holy Grail” was the offspring of Christ, in the womb of Mary Magdalene. But there is no mention of The "Holy Grail" anywhere in the Bible and to this date there has been no substantial historical evidence of a “Holy Grail” uncovered.

The second source of ammunition used by the Proponents is a second set of gospels found in Egypt in (?date TBD). These Gnostic [see also http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06592a.htm] gospels have been historically verified to have been written at a date substantially later than that of the original Gospels. For this, among other reasons, the Catholic church has rejected these gospels.

In a passage in one of these Gnostic gospels, Jesus’ disciples are troubled by his dealings with Mary Magdalene and in one line of text there is a reference to a “kiss on the _________” by Jesus. The page is torn here and that one key word is missing. Historians think that it may have been the hand or foot which at that time would have symbolized deference to a woman.

Proponents say that the above line of text is evidence of a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Historical experts say that the evidence is at best inconclusive. Even the authors of the book, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” upon which much of Dan Brown’s novel appears to be based, say that their book presents merely the possibility of the existence of a Christ and Magdelene relationship. They further state that this theory is merely a theory and far from proven fact.

So there you have it in a “nut shell” – a big one : ). Hopefully this will help other Christians to speak clearly and thoughtfully about the fact vs. fiction in Dan Brown’s novel, “The Da Vinci Code.”

If you haven’t read it: read it. It is a well-written, intense work of FICTION. Just keep that in mind as you read. Who knows: I just may tackle “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” next. What else have I got to do?

Oh, I know: I still haven’t seen the movie …


Anonymous said...

Well written!


Anonymous said...

Is it cheating to just skip the book and see the movie?