Church News

Apologetics: Da Vinci Code


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>>Da Vinci Code Errors: A Quick List (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)

>>Deciphering ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Mohler, 060412)

>>Upcoming Movie Renews ‘Da Vinci Code’ Debate (Christian Post, 060426)

**D. James Kennedy Fact Checks The Da Vinci Code May 13, 14 On National Television (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)

**New TV Special To “Seek the Truth” About Da Vinci Code Claims (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)

**Comments by The Experts (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)

**Da Vinci Code Confirms Rather Than Changes People’s Religious Views (Barna Group, 060515)

**Anticipating the Da Vinci ‘Tsunami’ (Christian Post, 060421)

**Apologetics Ministry Defends Biblical Christ Against ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Christian Post, 051019)

**Special Planet Envoy Critique of The Da Vinci Code (Planet Envoy, 031200)

Part 1. Cracking The Anti-Catholic Code

Part 2. “Christ, the Early Church, Constantine, and the Council of Nicaea”

Religious Fiction . . . The Da Vinci Code (National Review Online, 031208)

Breaking the Code (, 050421)

Authors’ court fight threat to Da Vinci Code premiere (Times Online, 060123)

‘Da Vinci Code’ Author Accused of Copyright Breach (Foxnews, 060227)

‘Da Vinci Outreach’ Launched in Wake of Upcoming Film (Christian Post, 060225)

Opus Dei Asks for ‘Da Vinci Code’ Disclaimer (Foxnews, 060416)

Da Vinci Code author wins battle against plagiarism claim (Times Online, 060407)

Da Vinci Code Trend Meets Holy Week (Christian Post, 060408)

The Gospel of unbelief (, 060411)

‘Da Vinci Code’: Blockbuster or blasphemy? Movie based on novel making news around the world (WorldNetDaily, 060418)

‘Da Vinci Code’ Debunking to Hit National Television (Christian Post, 060424)

Italy to Remove ‘Da Vinci Code’ Ad (Christian Post, 060426)

Lawyer Cracks Judge’s ‘Da Vinci’ Case Code (Foxnews, 060428)

Vatican Official Calls for ‘Da Vinci Code’ Boycott (Foxnews, 060428)

The Da Vinci Protocols: Jews should worry about Dan Brown’s success. (National Review Online, 060505)

The Da Vinci Code  — Chasing Down Dan Brown (Father Heffernan News Column, 060505)

‘The Da Vinci Code’: A Positive for Christianity (Foxnews, 060509)

Cardinal: Da Vinci Code is Blasphemy (Christian Post, 060508)

Churches prepare to rebut ‘DaVinci’ (Washington Times, 060507)

Catholic Scholars Brace for ‘Da Vinci’ (Christian Post, 060506)

Watch ‘Da Vinci Code’ debunked: D. James Kennedy’s TV special airs Saturday (WorldNetDaily, 060510)

Podcast rebuts ‘Da Vinci’ claims: Christian author Josh McDowell provides tool for believers (WorldNetDaily, 060512)

Jesus Takes Center Stage in ‘Da Vinci’ Debate (Christian Post, 060516)

Asia Christian Leaders Denounce ‘Da Vinci Code’ (Christian Post, 060517)

Discrediting faith (Washington Times, 060517)

‘Da Vinci Code’ Protests Widespread (WorldNetDaily, 060516)

‘Da Vinci’ readers really believe Christ had kids: 60% of adults who read ‘Code’ think there’s truth in suggestion Jesus was dad (WorldNetDaily, 060516)

An insult to Catholics - and historians (National Post, 060518)

The secrets of Dan Brown’s success (National Post, 060518)

China Church to Boycott ‘Da Vinci’ (Christian Post, 060518)

Seeking Truth at the Movies: Some religious leaders plan to use “The Da Vinci Code” to teach people about faith. (National Review Online, 060428)

Code Breakers: “The Da Vinci Code” and its discontents. (National Review Online, 060423)

Broken Code: On screen, The Da Vinci Code is dullsville. (National Review Online, 060519)

The Da Vinci Crisis: Dan Brown’s book reveals a crisis of truth in society. (National Review Online, 060519)

Hate at the Movies: Something to offend everyone. (National Review Online, 060519)

Before Nicea, the Voice of the Martyrs: ‘Jesus Alone Is Lord!’ (Christian Post, 060518)

A Christian Response to “The DaVinci Code”: What’s the Problem? (Mohler, 060519)

A Christian Response to “The Da Vinci Code”: What’s the Attraction? (Mohler, 060522)

Pastors Crack the Code as ‘Da Vinci’ Makes Film Debut (Christian Post, 060523)

Da Vinci Code Obsession is a Symptom of American Christian Ills (Christian Post, 060519)

Da Vinci Code Obsession is a Symptom of American Christian Ills (Christian Post, 060602)

China Theaters to Pull ‘Da Vinci Code’ (Christian Post, 060608)

The Da Vinci Code Is Dead: Consider the numbers. (National Review Online, 060613)

American Gnostics (Christian Post, 060609)





>>Da Vinci Code Errors: A Quick List (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)

By D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., and Jerry Newcombe.


The Da Vinci Code is a novel, but it claims to be based on facts. It is okay for a novelist to create a fictional story—and even a fictional setting if he wishes. What he can’t do with impunity is to claim that that fictional background is based on fact. However, that is precisely what Dan Brown has done. His “fact” is just as much fiction as his fiction.

The Da Vinci Code is chock full of errors. Some are unimportant; others, if true, would spell the end of Christianity. Here are some of the many errors in The Da Vinci Code. This is by no means an exhaustive list.


Error: The book tells readers that “The New Testament is false testimony.”


Rebuttal: The New Testament was sealed with the apostles’ blood. They put their money where their mouths were. The Greek word for “witness”—as in the idea of witnessing to the truth about Jesus— is “martyro,” from whence we get the word martyr. Why? Because so many witnesses to Jesus, e.g., the apostles, were killed for testifying about what they themselves saw. Brown glibly ignores this history and, instead, exalts the questionable writings of second, third, and fourth century Gnostic Christians, who were sexual libertines for the most part. (Other Gnostics were strict legalists.)


Error: The doctrine that Jesus was divine was created by a pagan emperor in the fourth century, Constantine, for the purposes of manipulation: “It was all about power.”


Rebuttal: After the Resurrection, Christians worshiped Jesus because He was divine. They called Him “Kurios,” the Greek word for “Lord.” In the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Jesus and the apostles had (translated roughly 150 B.C.)—the word used for Yahweh is Kurios. For a Jew to say that a human was Kurios was absolutely forbidden.


Error: No one believed, prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. that Jesus was divine.


Rebuttal: Again, in the Gospels, written in the first century, we see that Jesus was divine. This is why He was delivered up to be crucified. The Jews accused Him of blasphemy, which is why they arrested Jesus and had a “trial” among themselves: Dan Brown’s view that the early Christians believed Jesus was only a mortal rests on historical quicksand. From the very beginning, Christians worshiped Jesus as the Son of God. Cracking Da Vinci’s Code authors Jim Garlow and Peter Jones have compiled a list of several Church Fathers—all of whom wrote before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.—affirming this most basic Christian doctrine that Jesus was divine. Those Fathers include: Ignatius (writing in 105 A.D.), Clement (150), Justin Martyr (160), Irenaeus (180), Tertullian (200), Origen (225), Novatian (235), Cyprian (250), Methodius (290), Lactantius (304), and Arnobius (305). Furthermore, one of the earliest Christian creeds was “Jesus is the Lord” (Kurios) (1 Corinthians 12:3).


Error: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and the Gnostic gospels teach that.


Rebuttal: There is the flimsiest of evidence for that. There is one passage in the pseudo Gospel of Philip, written about 250 A.D., long after Philip the apostle had died, that claims Jesus often kissed Mary Magdalene on her ________ (where he kissed her is obscure in the manuscript). The word could have been mouth, cheek, forehead, or whatever. Even liberal scholar Karen King of Harvard University observes that this is referring to a holy kiss that is asexual in nature. Just like it says in the Bible, greet one another with “a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16). Let’s also remember that this was written more than 200 years after Christ. So even Dan Brown’s sources from antiquity don’t make his case for him.


Error: In The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci allegedly painted Mary Magdalene seated next to Jesus.


Rebuttal: One of Dan Brown’s proofs is that John looks so feminine, but John is often portrayed in such a way in art because he was young. Go to any cathedral and look at the stained glass images of John. Just as you can identify Peter because he is holding keys, and you can tell Andrew because he is holding a Cross like an X (the kind on which He was crucified), so you can tell John by his feminine looks. But suppose it were the case that Leonardo intentionally painted Mary Magdalene next to Jesus instead of John, because Jesus and Mary were allegedly married, and Leonardo was in on the secret, then where is the “beloved disciple” John? He is not in the picture. Where is he? Under the table?


where is john? Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code that Mary Magdalene, not the Apostle John, is pictured to Jesus’ right in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. However, no credible art historian shares that view. And, if true, where is John in the picture?


Error: The Gnostic gospels uniformly teach the “sacred feminine”—the pagan idea that sex with a woman is the route to a relationship with God.


Rebuttal: Unlike the four Gospels, the Gnostic gospels can be actually degrading to women. The Gospel of Thomas declares that a woman cannot be saved unless God first changes her into a man (the very last verse of Thomas, 114).


Error: The Priory of Sion, which looms large in the novel, was created in 1099 by the Knights Templar.


Rebuttal: The Priory of Sion was created out of whole cloth in 1956 by a French anti-Semite con man, Pierre Plantard. In 1975, documents were found in the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris that allegedly proved the Priory is as old as 1099, and that Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton and other luminaries secretly presided over it. These documents were proved to be fakes.


Was There Any Fact-Checking?


There are so many errors among the alleged “accurate depictions” of The Da Vinci Code that historian and first-rate scholar Paul Maier just has to shake his head. He notes, “Detailing all the errors, misinterpretations, deceptions, distortions, and outright falsehoods in The Da Vinci Code makes one wonder whether Brown’s manuscript ever underwent editorial scrutiny or fact-checking.”


Amazingly, we live in the Information Age, yet we live in an age of massive disinformation. The Bible says Satan is the “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). The Bible also says that in the end times, “men will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). Is that not happening in our own day?


I trust that out of all of this, God, who is able to turn all things to our good, will use it to give opportunities for us to share the true Gospel of the true Savior, who gave His life and shed His blood that we might be forgiven and redeemed and saved by His grace through faith.


Adapted from The Da Vinci Myth Versus The Gospel Truth by D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., and Jerry Newcombe.




>>Deciphering ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Mohler, 060412)


Given the renewed interest in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code (just released in paperback editions), this commentary and review of the book is republished by request. It was originally published July 29, 2003.


The summer publishing season seems always to include a thriller that leaps to the top of the best-seller charts and stays there until the fall—when readers get serious and return to school and work. The Da Vinci Code is this year’s winner, sitting at the top of the ratings this week and listed at second place in the New York Times hardcover fiction list. The book was on the top of that list last week, and it has made the list for 18 straight weeks. Not bad for a book with a seemingly unmanageable mix of plot structure, conspiracy theories, and mountains of detail about Catholic orders, renaissance art, theological heresy, and theoretical mathematics. Hooked yet?


I was forewarned about the heresy in the book, and so I started reading with a determination to force my way through an unpleasant read. It wasn’t hard. As a matter of fact, the plot was so engaging, and the content of the book was so rich, that I had a hard time putting it down. Dan Brown may or may not actually believe what he writes, but he writes so well in this genre that the average reader will not even care. That is the problem.


Devotees of suspense novels read for the sheer pleasure of the intellectual engagement—not so much with big ideas, but with the conspiratorial mind. Brown took a big risk in this novel, betting his narrative on a conspiracy involving virtually everyone even remotely connected with Christianity throughout the last 2,000 years. The forces arrayed in this conspiracy include the Knights Templar, the Masons, the Roman Catholic Church, Interpol, and a secret society known as the Priory of Sion, which is claimed to have included as Grand Masters no less than Sandro Boticelli, Isaac Newton, and,of course, Leonardo Da Vinci.


Sorting all this out for the reader are characters ranging from Robert Langdon, a Harvard art historian, to an albino monk/assassin, who is sent by Opus Dei, a Catholic order close to the papacy. The murdered director of the Louvre has a mostly silent part, speaking primarily through secret codes and ciphers left written in his own blood as he died. A cast of other characters is necessary for the narrative to work and the plot to unfold.


But the human characters take a back seat to the grand conspiracy that gives the book its plot, and in that conspiracy is the heresy. The Da Vinci Code’s driving claim is nothing less than that Christianity is based upon a Big Lie (the deity of Christ) used by patriarchal oppressors to deny the true worship of the Divine Feminine. Still hanging in there? If you thought The Last Temptation of Christ was explosive, The Da Vinci Code is thermonuclear. The book claims that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, that a child was born of this marriage, and that Mary and her child fled after the crucifixion to Gaul, where they established the Merovingian line of European royalty.


Art historians may quibble with Dan Brown’s details, and mathematicians may take issue with his summary of the Fibonacci Sequence, but as a theologian, my problem is the author’s toying with such an easily dismissed heresy. Brown has crossed the line between a suspense novel and a book promoting a barely hidden agenda, to attack the Christian church and the Gospel.


In order to deliver on his conspiratorial plot, Brown has to lay the groundwork by having his main characters deny the inspiration and authority of the biblical text and replace Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with the gnostic gospels found just after World War II at Nag Hammadi. The gnostic texts are called the “unaltered gospels,” and the New Testament texts are dismissed as propaganda for the goddess-bashers. One character (hint—watch him carefully) explains that all this is “the greatest cover-up in human history.” Jesus (“the original feminist”) had intended for Mary Magdalene to lead the church after His death, but “Peter had a problem with that.” So, Mary Magdalene hit the apostolic “glass ceiling” and was sent off to Gaul, taking with her, not only her child, but—you guessed it—the Holy Grail.


Heard this all before? The main contours of this plot have been found in many books published in the occultic literature. Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh (1983) made the same claims, but in what claimed to be a non-fiction expose—not a suspense novel. Holy Blood, Holy Grail sold by the thousands. The Da Vinci Code will likely reach millions. Never underestimate the commercial potential of a heretical conspiracy packaged in a seductive novel. Brown will take his millions to the bank.


I said that the book’s [hereafter TDC] heresies are easily dismissed, and they are—at least to anyone with a real interest in the identity of Jesus and the history of the church. Calling the Nag Hammadi texts “unaltered” gospels is like reading the official Soviet histories as objective fact—complete with leading figures airbrushed out of the photos. TDC claims that the New Testament is simply the result of a male-dominated church leadership inventing Christianity in order to control the Roman empire and subsequent world history and then to oppress women and repress goddess-worship.


In TDC the heretics are the heroes and the apostles are unindicted co-conspirators. The Great Satan is Emperor Constantine, who, it is claimed, never even became a Christian, but knew a good marketing plan when he saw it. Constantine supposedly called the Council of Nicaea in 325 in order to invent the idea of Christ’s divinity (and celibacy) and then turn out the heretics, thus burying the real story of Jesus (and Mary Magdalene) forever. “It’s all about power,” one character explains. That’s why Constantine “upgraded Jesus’ status.”


And the Council of Nicaea? There, TDC reveals, the Emperor led the bishops to declare Jesus as the Son of God by a vote. “A relatively close vote at that,” the text elaborates.


The real Council of Nicaea adopted a creed in order to reject the heretical teachings of one Arius, who taught that Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father. Brown weaves fact and fiction with such recklessness that the average reader will assume all these claims to be factual.


The Council of Nicaea did not “invent” the divinity of Jesus. This was already the declaration of the Church, claimed by Jesus himself and proclaimed by the apostles. The council boldly claimed this as the faith of the Church and named Arianism as a heresy and Arians as heretics. A close vote? Only two out of more than 300 bishops failed to sign the creed. Not exactly a cliff-hanger.


The Nag Hammadi texts as the real gospels? Not on your life. The texts are easily identifiable as gnostic literature peripheral to the Church. The early Church did not establish the canon (official set of New Testament writings) at Nicaea, though a general consensus was already evident at that gathering. The New Testament writings were recognized and set apart because of their authorship by one of the apostles and by their clearly orthodox content—in harmony with the other New Testament writings as recognized by the churches spread throughout the Greco-Roman world.


Much more could be considered, but the main issue is this: How plausible is such a conspiracy? The threshold of credibility for this conspiracy requires us to believe that the entire structure of Christian theology is a sinister plot to fool the masses. Further, we must believe that the leaders of this conspiracy knew that Jesus was not the Son of God, but were willing to die for this cause by the millions. As C. S. Lewis once argued, people might be willing to be martyrs for a lie if they are innocently deceived, but very few will die for what they know to be a lie.


Credibility for this conspiracy requires belief in the claim that the truth, known by millions, has been kept secret from the world until now. Specifically, until the release of The Da Vinci Code.


What about the atheists—the rationalist opponents of Christianity? What about the liberal theologians who dismiss the deity of Christ as mythological baggage? They must be greeting The Da Vinci Code with excitement, right? Not hardly. The strange and unsustainable logic of this conspiracy theory has not impressed the skeptics. Shirley MacLaine might take the argument seriously, but not Richard Dawkins.


The book’s thesis requires the reader to believe that virtually every major work of western art includes an embedded code, and that this code is evident all around us if we will just see it. Of course, to pull this off Brown has to see symbols (especially phallic symbols) everywhere. Freud was a rank amateur.


A late night conversation with a close friend reminds me of the attraction of a conspiracy theory—with or without evidence. This brilliant friend, holding a Harvard doctorate, told me that he was absolutely certain that President John F. Kennedy was the victim of a great international conspiracy including world communist leaders, the Mafia, J. Edgar Hoover, and various Hollywood celebrities. After laughing out loud, I realized my friend’s utter seriousness. My rational faculties were in full outrage despite the lateness of the hour, so I simply asked my friend what evidence would be required to prove or to disprove his thesis. He looked me straight in the eye and told me that the evidence was so hidden that the truth would never be known in our lifetimes. So—hold onto your theory without the evidence and be unmoved, regardless of the facts.


Those who want to believe the heresies of The Da Vinci Code will hold to them tenaciously—whatever the evidence. Clearly, the book attacks the Gospel, but the truth is unshaken.


The Da Vinci Code will soon fall from the best-seller lists, be remaindered to the outlet malls, show up in paperback, and may even interest Hollywood. The faith of the Church remains intact.


G. K. Chesterton reminded us that orthodoxy is not only true; it is infinitely more interesting than heresy. It is alive and compelling and life-changing. Heresies come and go by fashion. The truth is unchanged and unchangeable. Caveat Emptor.




>>Upcoming Movie Renews ‘Da Vinci Code’ Debate (Christian Post, 060426)


A line from Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” tells you why it’s easily the most disputed religious novel of all time: “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”


With 46 million copies in print, “Da Vinci” has long been a headache for Christian scholars and historians, who are worried about the influence on the faith from a single source they regard as wrong-headed.


Now the controversy seems headed for a crescendo with the release of the movie version of “Da Vinci” May 17-19 around the world. Believers have released an extraordinary flood of material criticizing the story — books, tracts, lectures and Internet sites among them. The conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei, portrayed as villainous in the story, is among those asking Sony Corp. to issue a disclaimer with the film.


Bart Ehrman, religion chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, likens the phenomenon to the excitement in the 19th century when deluded masses thought Jesus would return in 1844.


The novel’s impact on religious ideas in popular culture, he says, is “quite unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes.”


To give just one example, Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary is following up the criticisms of the novel in “The Gospel Code” with lectures in Singapore, Turkey and 30 U.S. cities. He’s given 55 broadcast interviews.


Assaults on “Da Vinci” don’t just come from evangelicals like Witherington, or from Roman Catholic leaders such as Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who says Brown is waging “an attack on the Catholic Church” through preposterous historical claims.


Among more liberal thinkers, Harold Attridge, dean of Yale’s Divinity School, says Brown has “wildly misinterpreted” early Christianity. Ehrman details Brown’s “numerous mistakes” in “Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code” and asks: “Why didn’t he simply get his facts straight?”


The problem is that “Da Vinci” is billed as more than mere fiction.


Brown’s opening page begins with the word “FACT” and asserts that all descriptions of documents “are accurate.”


“It’s a book about big ideas, you can love them or you can hate them,” Brown said in a speech last week. “But we’re all talking about them, and that’s really the point.”


Brown told National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” during a 2003 publicity tour — he declines interviews now — that his characters and action are fictional but “the ancient history, the secret documents, the rituals, all of this is factual.” Around the same time, on CNN he said that “the background is all true.”


Christian scholars beg to differ. Among the key issues:


Jesus’ divinity


Brown’s version in “Da Vinci”: Christians viewed Jesus as a mere mortal until A.D. 325 when the Emperor Constantine “turned Jesus into a deity” by getting the Council of Nicaea to endorse divine status by “a relatively close vote.”


His critics’ version: Larry Hurtado of Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, whose “Lord Jesus Christ” examines first century belief in Jesus’ divinity, says that “on chronology, issues, developments, and all the matters asserted, Brown strikes out; he doesn’t even get on base.”


He and others cite the worship of Jesus in epistles that Paul wrote in the 50s A.D. One passage teaches that Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” and became a man (Philippians 2:6).


Historians also say the bishops summoned to Nicaea by Constantine never questioned the long-held belief in Jesus’ divinity. Rather, they debated technicalities of how he could be both divine and human and approved a new formulation by a lopsided vote, not a close one. [KH: only two persons objected]


The New Testament


Brown’s version: “More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament” but Constantine chose only four. His new Bible “omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned.” The Dead Sea Scrolls and manuscripts from Nag Hammadi, Egypt, were “the earliest Christian records,” not the four Gospels.


Critics: Historians say Christians reached consensus on the authority of the first century’s four Gospels and letters of Paul during the second century. But some of the 27 New Testament books weren’t universally accepted until after Constantine’s day. Constantine himself had nothing to do with these decisions.


Some rejected writings are called gospels, though they lack the narrative histories that characterize the New Testament’s four. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were earlier and won wide consensus as memories and beliefs from Jesus’ apostles and their successors.


The rejected books often portrayed an ethereal Jesus lacking the human qualities depicted in the New Testament Gospels — the exact opposite of Brown’s scenario. Gnostic gospels purported to contain secret spiritual knowledge from Jesus as the means by which an elite could escape the material world, which they saw as corrupt. They often spurned Judaism’s creator God and the Old Testament.


On the question of mass burning of texts deemed heretical, Ehrman of North Carolina says there’s little evidence to support that claim. Rejected books simply disappeared because people stopped using them, and nobody bothered to make new copies in an age long before the printing press.


The Dead Sea Scrolls? These were Jewish documents, not Christian ones. The Nag Hammadi manuscripts? With one possible exception, these came considerably later than the New Testament Gospels.


Jesus as married


Brown’s version: Jesus must have wed because Jewish decorum would “virtually forbid” an unmarried man. His spouse was Mary Magdalene and their daughter inaugurated a royal bloodline in France.


Critics: First century Jewish historian Josephus said most Jews married but Essene holy men did not. The Magdalene myth only emerged in medieval times.


Brown cites the Nag Hammadi “Gospel of Philip” as evidence of a marriage, but words are missing from a critical passage in the tattered manuscript: “Mary Magdalene (missing) her more than (missing) the disciples (missing) kiss her (missing) on her (missing).”


Did Jesus kiss Mary on the lips, or cheek or forehead? Whatever, Gnostics would have seen the relationship as platonic and spiritual, scholars say.


James M. Robinson of Claremont (Calif.) Graduate School, a leading specialist, thinks the current popularity of Mary Magdalene “says more about the sex life (or lack of same) of those who participate in this fantasy than it does about Mary Magdalene or Jesus.”


The whole “Da Vinci” hubbub, Witherington says, shows “we are a Jesus-haunted culture that’s biblically illiterate” and harbors general “disaffection from traditional answers.”


But he and others also see a chance to inform people about the beliefs of Christianity through the “Da Vinci” controversy.


“If people are intrigued by the historical questions, there are plenty of materials out there,” Yale’s Attridge says.


British Justice Peter Smith, who recently backed Brown against plagiarism charges, perhaps best summed up the situation in his decision:


“Merely because an author describes matters as being factually correct does not mean that they are factually correct. It is a way of blending fact and fiction together to create that well known model ‘faction.’ The lure of apparent genuineness makes the books and the films more receptive to the readers/audiences. The danger of course is that the faction is all that large parts of the audience read, and they accept it as truth.




**D. James Kennedy Fact Checks The Da Vinci Code May 13, 14 On National Television (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)


Fort Lauderdale (April 7, 2006)-Author and Christian broadcaster Dr. D. James Kennedy enlists a band of scholars, theologians, and authors to fact check The Da Vinci Code in the new one-hour television documentary, The Da Vinci Delusion. The program airs May 13, 14 nationwide-just days before The Da Vinci Code movie debuts worldwide.


Shot in Paris, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and elsewhere, The Da Vinci Delusion features 14 experts, Protestant and Catholic, who test Da Vinci Code assertions against evidence from history and the Bible.


The roster of fact checkers includes Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University; Darrell Bock, New Testament scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary; Kerby Anderson, president of Probe Ministries; Janet Parshall, host of Janet Parshall’s America; William Donohue, president of the Catholic League; Erwin Lutzer, author of The Da Vinci Deception; Sandra Miesel, Catholic journalist and medievalist; Gary Habermas, author of The Historical Jesus; and Lee Strobel, coauthor of Exploring the Da Vinci Code.


“Although The Da Vinci Code is a murder mystery novel, it claims to be based on facts, and those so-called facts attack the very heart of Christianity,” said Dr. Kennedy, the author of more than 65 books and one of America’s most-watched television ministers.


It is author Dan Brown’s claim to facticity-and eager readers who have snapped up 40 million copies of his potboiler worldwide-which make a Christian response so acutely needed.


Brown tells readers on the novel’s first page that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Many believe that claim. One-third of Canadians who have read The Da Vinci Code (some 20 percent of the population) believe Brown’s theories and think that descendants of Jesus are alive today, according to a 2005 National Geographic poll.


Even a New York Daily News book reviewer has sipped the Kool-Aid, writing that Brown’s “research is impeccable”-a claim Brown trumpets on his website.


Well, maybe not.


“Everything in The Da Vinci Code is wrong, except Paris is in France; London is in England and Leonardo da Vinci painted pictures. All else is fabrication,” says Sandra Miesel, coauthor of The Da Vinci Hoax.


“Don’t they have editors at Doubleday in New York; don’t they have fact checkers?” exclaims Paul Maier, coauthor of The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction? “Put it this way,” he said, “there is not one ranking scholar in the entire world who supports what Dan Brown has done with history.”


The one-hour documentary takes up key Da Vinci Code claims, including:







The Da Vinci Delusion looks at more mundane errors as well. Dan Brown tells readers that Silas, a self-punishing albino monk/assassin, belongs to Opus Dei, a Catholic prelature. Not possible. Opus Dei has no monks. Its purpose, in fact, is to energize Catholic lay people.


Brown also writes that an organization created to keep alive the alleged hidden truth about the marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene dates to 1099. Actually, that organization, the Priory of Sion, goes back just 50 years, to when French anti-Semitic con man Pierre Plantard invented it out of whole cloth.


“In time, the ‘Da Vinci myth’ will be discarded into the dustbin of history, along with all of the other attempts to discredit Christ, while the Gospel truth will continue to spread,” said Dr. Kennedy, coauthor with Jerry Newcombe of The Da Vinci Myth versus the Gospel Truth. “The tragedy is that in the interim, some people will miss salvation because they reject the Gospel truth and believe the Da Vinci myth, or something like it.”


The Da Vinci Delusion is a production of Coral Ridge Ministries, which produced the 2000 award-winning Who Is This Jesus, a prime-time response to ABC’s Search for Jesus. The Da Vinci Delusion airs May 13, 14 on The Coral Ridge Hour. For local times and stations, please visit The Coral Ridge Hour.


Dr. D. James Kennedy is president of Coral Ridge Ministries, a Christian broadcast organization with radio and television programming that reaches into 200 nations.




**New TV Special To “Seek the Truth” About Da Vinci Code Claims (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)


Paul Maier is angry. “Put it this way,” he told The Coral Ridge Hour, “there is not one ranking scholar in the entire world who supports what Dan Brown has done with history.”


Maier, a Harvard graduate, Fulbright scholar, author of 15 books, and professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, is incensed at the faulty history in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code.


“As a professor of ancient history, I can’t stand known, accepted facts from the past lied about,” he said. “If my students did something like that, I’d flunk them.”


Publishing History


Still, Dan Brown has his fans. Some 40 million copies of his potboiler murder mystery have been sold worldwide, and a movie version starring Tom Hanks debuts to a global audience on May 19. Brown’s website prominently features this glowing endorsement from the New York Daily News: “His research is impeccable.”


That view is very much a minority position among historians. “Everything in The Da Vinci Code is wrong, except Paris is in France; London is in England and Leonardo da Vinci painted pictures. All else is fabrication,” said Sandra Miesel, coauthor of The Da Vinci Hoax, one of about 15 books published to answer Dan Brown’s megabestseller, which has been on The New York Times bestselling list for three years.


“Although The Da Vinci Code is a murder mystery novel, it claims to be based on facts and those so-called facts attack the very heart of Christianity,” said Dr. Kennedy.


Da Vinci Delusion


That is why Coral Ridge Ministries is producing The Da Vinci Delusion, a documentary answer to Dan Brown’s blockbuster, to air May 13, 14, just days before The Da Vinci Code movie hits theaters worldwide. The new special hears from experts such as Maier, Peter Jones, Darrell Bock, Erwin Lutzer, Janet Parshall, Kerby Anderson, Sandra Miesel, Gary Habermas, and Amy Welborn.


“Although The Da Vinci Code is a murder mystery novel, it claims to be based on facts and those so-called facts attack the very heart of Christianity.”

—Dr. D. James Kennedy


Together, these scholars refute The Da Vinci Code’s fraudulent historical claims, such as that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and had a daughter with her. And that it was the “pagan” Roman emperor Constantine who “upgraded Jesus’ status to deity almost four centuries after Jesus’ death.”


Brown also tells readers that the Bible is not the Word of God, but “a product of man.” The Da Vinci Code alleges that there were more than 80 gospels considered for the New Testament but Constantine, for his own political purposes, deleted these other accounts and chose Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.


The details of this alternative history have supposedly been suppressed over the past 2,000 years by the Roman Catholic Church and only a select few know the real story. Among them, Leonardo da Vinci, who encoded this hidden history into his Mona Lisa and Last Supper paintings.


Brown’s Believers


It all sounds far-fetched, but some are taken in. A 2005 National Geographic poll found that one-third of Canadians who have read the book believe his theories and think that descendants of Jesus are alive today.


College students have latched onto Da Vinci Code theories as well. Point of View host Kerby Anderson began to see this when more and more college students started asking him, “Do you think Jesus was married? Are we really sure that the Bible includes all the Gospels?” The Da Vinci Code is “an interesting story, but it’s a false story,” said Anderson, “and it plants seeds of doubt.”


Dr. Kennedy called the novel “an extraordinarily deceitful weaving together of fact and fiction” that takes advantage of the historical and biblical illiteracy of most readers. “With the average American abysmally ignorant of history and, unfortunately, also ignorant of theology, and knowing very little about the Bible, the vast majority of Americans would not have the faintest idea what part of this book is fact and what part of it is fiction. And that makes it particularly dangerous.”




**Comments by The Experts (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)


The Da Vinci Delusion features 16 historians, scholars, and authors who test Da Vinci Code claims against Scripture and history.


Dr. D. James Kennedy, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

It seems that The Da Vinci Code besmirches every historical figure it deals with-including Leonardo Da Vinci, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine, but above all and most importantly, Jesus Christ. The claim of The Da Vinci Code that Jesus neither claimed to be divine nor was believed to be divine by the earliest Christians is totally wrong.


Janet Parshall, Radio Talk Show Host

I find it absolutely amazing that forty million copies of The Da Vinci Code have been sold worldwide. Its mythology. Its fabrication. My question is: Why would people want to go to the fabricated version of who Jesus Christ is and not run with the same enthusiasm toward the revealed truth of Scripture that tells us who the real Jesus Christ is?.


Dr. William Donohue, Catholic League

We have the records of the Council of Nicaea. Constantine called it, yes, not to question the divinity of Christ, but to question whether or not God created His first being as Jesus, whether He was begotten or made. Nobody went to the Council of Nicaea in 325 wondering whether or not Jesus was divine.


Richard Abanes, Author of The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code

Well, the popularity of The Da Vinci Code is incredible....They’re trying to get some of the other manuscripts and documents that are mentioned in the book. And, unfortunately, many people are accepting what’s actually being said in the fiction book as fact. They’re taking it as real history. And the popularity is unbelievable.


Bill Federer, Author

Well, my daughter’s 18 years old, and a bunch of girls at her school read The Da Vinci Code. And she had her faith shaken. And she came home and she started asking questions, “Well, how do we know the Bible’s true? And how do we know Jesus didn’t have a wife?” And I walked her through step by step explaining to her where these lies came from. [KH: note that the book does attack the faith of genuine Christians.]


Kerby Anderson, Radio Talk Show Host

It’s a fast read, it’s fiction, people like fiction, and any book right now dealing with spirituality that isn’t rooted in Biblical ideas tends to make the New York Times Bestseller List.


Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Author of The Da Vinci Deception

So, many people who read The Da Vinci Code come away with the idea that the Church can no longer be trusted, Christianity is based on lies. I think, for example, of a waitress who said to me, “After reading The Da Vinci Code, I will never be able to go to church again, because I know that the Church is based on lies.”


Dr. Paul Maier, Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University

The danger in The Da Vinci Code is that people, who have a very shallow knowledge of history and maybe a shallow understanding of Christianity, will see it, and then, of course, in a flurry of conspiratorial theory ideas say, “Oh, well, that’s the real story isn’t it and why has the Church been holding out on us.” And these people who might have given Christianity a fair hearing, now are turning it off.


Lee Strobel, Author/Journalist

I think anything, whether it’s a motion picture or a book, that points people away from Jesus Christ, having been the one and only Son of God, the only way to get to heaven, the only way to be certain of our salvation, anything that takes us away from that contributes to individuals who may someday find themselves eternally separated from God. This is serious stuff. We’re playing with people’s eternities here.


Dr. Jim Garlow, Co-author of Cracking The Da Vinci Code

He starts the opening page with a statement of, “The following things are fact.” And then he integrates just enough historical fact with the fiction. I call the writing faction. In other words it is so confusing. And when people are asked, could you sort out the fiction from the facts, historical facts? They say “No,” as a matter of fact they cannot.


Sandra Miesel, Co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax

The DaVinci Code has taken most of its information from two unworthy sources, Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, which are not written by reputable historians. Nothing in there would be backed by reputable historians.


Dr. Peter Jones, Co-author of Cracking The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code says that the early Church waged a political campaign to foist upon us a false Jesus. Well, the fact of the matter is that the early Church, as reflected in the New Testament, was written by men who knew Jesus firsthand, who themselves were not engaged in any kind of political campaign, since they suffered greatly from the power of the politics of Rome. And most of them died on crosses. They died for a faith that they believed was true.


Dr. Gary Habermas, Author of The Historical Jesus

You’ve got the four First Century Gospels. They are the only four First Century Gospels. And you say, “Well, that’s because they squashed these other things.” I want evidence. I want somebody to tell me what the books are, what’s the competition, and what got squashed in this process. I’m saying there’s nothing like that.


Amy Welborn, Author of Decoding Da Vinci

In The Da Vinci Code, the reader gets the impression that at the end of the First Century, or maybe even through the Fourth Century, there was a stew of texts, sort of percolating through Christianity and that all were equally valued by all Christians and that what happened at the end of the Fourth Century was that the Emperor Constantine sort of picked four that suit his political purposes. That has no relationship to what really happened.


Dr. Darrell Bock, Author of Breaking The Da Vinci Code

Now, what are the facts? The facts are that Jesus’ divinity was something that the Church believed very early on. We know it had to believe it very early on, because someone like the apostle Paul, who originally was a persecutor of the Church and became an apostle, came to embrace the divinity of Jesus Christ within years of the Crucifixion. We know that. That’s not a matter of speculation. We have his writings telling us that.


Dr. Warren Gage, Knox Theological Seminary

From the very beginning, the four Gospels that we have, each of them is testifying consistently to the fact that Christ is God. He is not exhausted purely in His humanity. He is fully man. But He is also fully God. And that’s the part that Dan Brown does not want to accept.




**Da Vinci Code Confirms Rather Than Changes People’s Religious Views (Barna Group, 060515)


(Ventura, CA) – Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code , has sold more copies than any other fictional work in U.S. history. With the release of the movie adaptation on May 19, interest in this controversial tale has risen substantially.


A new nationwide survey by The Barna Group says that the book has impacted millions of lives – but perhaps not in the way that many Christians have imagined.


Broad Reach


According to the Barna research, The Da Vinci Code  has been read “cover to cover” by roughly 45 million adults in the U.S. – that’s one out of every five adults (20%). That makes it the most widely read book with a spiritual theme, other than the Bible, to have penetrated American homes.


The audience profile of the book is intriguing. Despite critical comments and warnings from the Catholic hierarchy, American Catholics are more likely than Protestants to have read it (24% versus 15%, respectively). Among Protestants, those associated with a mainline church are almost three times more likely than those associated with non-mainline Protestant congregations to have read the book. Upscale individuals – i.e., those with a college degree and whose household income exceeds $60,000 – are nearly four times more likely to have read the book than are “downscale” people (i.e., those without a college degree and whose household income is $30,000 or less).


Perceived Value of the Content


Among the adults who have read the entire book, one out of every four (24%) said the book was either “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” helpful in relation to their “personal spiritual growth or understanding.” That translates to about 11 million adults who consider The Da Vinci Code  to have been a helpful spiritual document.


To place that figure in context, the Barna study revealed that another recently published popular novel about Jesus Christ – Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt , written by Anne Rice – was deemed to be spiritually helpful by 72% of its readers – three times the proportion who lauded Dan Brown’s book.


Changing People’s Beliefs


The study also explored whether or not the book caused people to change some of their religious beliefs. Among the 45 million who have read The Da Vinci Code , only 5% - which represents about two million adults – said that they changed any of the beliefs or religious perspectives because of the book’s content.


“Before reading The Da Vinci Code  people had a full complement of beliefs already in place, some firmly held and others loosely held,” explained George Barna, the author of numerous books about faith and culture. “Upon reading the book, many people encountered information that confirmed what they already believed. Many readers found information that served to connect some of their beliefs in new ways. But few people changed their pre-existing beliefs because of what they read in the novel. And even fewer people approached the book with a truly open mind regarding the controversial matters in question, and emerged with a new theological perspective. The book generates controversy and discussions, but it has not revolutionized the way that Americans think about Jesus, the Church or the Bible.”


“On the other hand,” the researcher continued, “any book that alters one or more theological views among two million people is not to be dismissed lightly. That’s more people than will change any of their beliefs as a result of exposure to the teaching offered at all of the nation’s Christian churches combined during a typical week.”


The people most likely to have altered their religious views in response to the book’s content were Hispanics (17% of those who read the book), women (three times more likely than male readers to do so), and liberals (twice as likely as conservatives). Upscale adults were also much more likely than downscale individuals to shift their thinking based on the novel.


The Movie: A Blockbuster?


Industry observers expect the movie to be a hit. But how big of a hit is it likely to be? And what degree of influence is the movie likely to have?


The Barna study indicates that more than 30 million adults are likely to pay for a ticket to see the film – unless the early buzz regarding the film is negative. The company estimates that the movie is poised to break the $300 million box office barrier, based on the current level and intensity of interest expressed by adults. Reaching that plateau would place the movie among the top 20 movies of all-time based upon domestic box office gross revenue.


The statistics reveal that two out of every three people who are likely to see the movie have already read the book. That means more than 10 million adults who have not yet read the book are likely to journey to a theater to see the film.


Barna noted that if the movie has a similar level of influence on movie-goers as the book has had on adult readers, then about a half-million adults could be expected to change one or more of their religious beliefs based upon the movie’s content. The most significant impact, he noted, could well be on the young people who see the movie, since their belief systems are still in the process of development and are more susceptible to new teachings. Barna also mentioned the potential effect of the DVD on millions more people who do not see the movie in the theater, but rent or buy it for home viewing after the theatrical run is completed. “We know that in a home setting, young people frequently watch movies over and over, memorizing lines and absorbing ideas that they might not have caught during their first viewing.” He also stated that some studies have shown that movies have greater “stickiness” with information than do print materials, possibly making the movie even more influential than the book in terms of long-term impact on people’s spiritual development.


The Barna survey also indicates that the audience segments most likely to attend the movie are people under 35; Catholics; Hispanics; and political liberals. On the spiritual side, people who are not born again Christians are almost twice as likely to see the movie as are people whose beliefs classify them as “born again.”




**Anticipating the Da Vinci ‘Tsunami’ (Christian Post, 060421)


It’s one of the hugest challenges to the church and to the Christian faith in this lifetime. Yet, it’s also one of the greatest opportunities for Christians, according to a best-selling author and evangelical.


The much awaited and feared movie release of The Da Vinci Code is about to cause another major “tsunami” set to flood the world. But this time, it’s a spiritual one and this time around, Christians are ready.


“I honestly believe that we’re going to be ready this time,” said Lee Strobel during the biggest teleconference of its kind on Thursday. “We don’t want to see the faith of our friends shipwrecked. Let’s be prepared.”


Author of Exploring The Da Vinci Code and teaching pastor at Saddleback Valley Community Church, Strobel was joined by a panel of authors and Christian leaders in a call that drew hundreds of church pastors all on the same quest to address the worldwide phenomenon of Dan Brown’s controversial novel.


“Lighten up. It’s fiction,” many would say in response to the explosion of Christian response in the form of discussions, books, curriculums, websites and so forth.


“It’s make-believe,” Lee also acknowledged, “but people are believing it.”


Along with the 40 million-plus copies of the book that has been sold worldwide in the past three years, advertisements are riding on buses and clothing the streets to promote the upcoming movie.


Everyone is talking about Jesus, said Mark Mittelberg, evangelism leader of Willow Creek Association, and Christian leaders are telling believers to be prepared.


“Why is this so important?” posed Strobel. First, it’s a huge worldwide phenomenon that attacks core issues of the Gospel. Second, Christians and seekers are actually believing Brown’s allegations are true. Third, “Brown has put a tremendous evangelistic opportunity right in our laps.”


According to reported statistics, 53% of Americans said the novel has been helpful in personal spiritual growth and understanding. Meanwhile, on the other end, 75% of churches said they’re going to do something about it, such as a sermon series.


While mindful of outreach, Christian leaders are highly concerned about the believers themselves.


“We must respond to this,” said Mittelberg, “to protect our flocks.”


Although concerned, Christian leaders have witnessed an incredible response within their churches.


Ken Baugh, senior pastor of Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif., produced and conducted an eight-week series on The Da Vinci Code with a young adult ministry and saw the most interest, the most response, and a large number of members inviting unreached friends than he had ever seen in 11 years of ministry.


Baugh is only one of many evangelicals who have contributed to a mini-industry of resources debunking the novel and equipping Christians.


One of the interesting things about this phenomenon is that “people love to talk about it. This is something people love to talk about,” said Strobel.


“This is not a distraction from core teaching,” commented Baugh. “This is core teaching.”


With the movie set to open in theaters nationwide on May 19, pastors and Christians are creating a synergistic movement in the foreknowledge of the tsunami to turn what may be intended for evil into something good.




**Apologetics Ministry Defends Biblical Christ Against ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Christian Post, 051019)


Two years after Dan Brown released The Da Vinci Code, most Christians are still unclear about the book’s claims.


That’s why Probe Ministries holds conferences regularly to debunk The Da Vinci Code, according to Sue Bohlin, associate speaker of the Richardson, Texas-based apologetics ministry. So far this year, the ministry has held ten conferences to equip Christians to engage the world and defend their faith, with over 1,500 attendants total. The most recent “Decoding the Da Vinci Code Conference” was held in Dallas, Texas.


According to Pat Zukeran, a Probes Ministries research associate who spoke during the Oct. 14-16 event at The Chapel of the Cross in Dallas, Brown has based all of his claims on two texts – the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi. While both texts do exist, Zukeran pointed out that Brown’s claims of the “secrets” that are contained within the two texts, however, are untrue.


Brown claims that the two ancient texts reveal that Jesus was married to Mary of Magdalene and the Christian Canon was concocted by Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea and that the other gospels were suppressed for centuries. According to The Da Vinci Code, it was the Council of Nicaea that voted Jesus Christ to be the divine Son of God.


After research, Zukeran found that “The Dead Sea Scrolls have no New Testament documents.”


“They are documents of the Old Testament only,” he said. “There are no gospels, no documents claiming to be gospels, and no documents referring to Jesus, though there are documents referring to the coming Messiah.”


Regarding Brown’s claims that the oldest records of Jesus are Nag Hammadi text, Zukeran said the text was not written earlier than the four gospels.


“We have very compelling evidence that [the four gospels] were written in the first century. [The texts of the Nag Hammadi] were written in the second century, and they reflect Gnostic heresy,” he said. “They represent more pantheism than Jesus. We’ve known about them for centuries. The early church fathers wrote about these guys and rejected their work from the very beginning.”


Also speaking at the “Decoding the Da Vinci Code Conference,” was Sue Bohlin, who presented “Goddess Worship and the Sacred Feminine,” and National Director of Probe Ministries Kerby Anderson, who presented “The Secret Marriage of Jesus.” The Da Vinci Code claims that the early church devalued the women and contends Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child with her.


In her presentation, Bohlin demonstrated that neither “Goddess Worship” nor “the Sacred Feminine” is consistent with a biblical worldview.


“This concept of woman as life-bringer was the foundation of ancient religion,” Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code. “Childbirth was mystical and powerful. Sadly, Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female’s creative power by ignoring biological truth and making man the Creator.”


Bohlin, however, contends that women were equal in the Bible.


The claim that the female half of all things is the sacred feminine or divine goddess holds no truth when held to scriptures, said Bohlin.


“The truth is that God made one creation which is not divided into two male/female parts or dualism. The beauty and power of the feminine is a reflection of God’s attributes; we are made in His image.”


“[The Da Vinci Code] is functioning as a false teacher,” Bohlin said later. “People read it and their views are swayed, particularly against the church and against the trustworthiness of the Bible.”


“It is eating away at the confidence that people can have in the Word of God and in God himself.”


While Bohlin believes the book may breed discussions, Zukeran admits that he has been allowed into various venues to refute the claims.


“I’ve been to all kinds of settings that would’ve never allowed me to go before,” said Zukeran. “Law schools, campuses, you name it, I can go there and refute the challenges brought by this book and present a case for the Bible and the divine nature of Christ.”


Published in 2003 by Doubleday Fiction, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code currently has 36 million copies in print and has been translated into 44 languages as of August 2005. It is a sequel to Brown’s 2000 novel Angels and Demons.




**Special Planet Envoy Critique of The Da Vinci Code (Planet Envoy, 031200)


Part 1. Cracking The Anti-Catholic Code


By Carl E. Olson, with Sandra Miesel




The following special Planet Envoy is the first part of a critique and examination of the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code. In this opening edition, we examine the success of The Da Vinci Code, the apparent agenda of its author, Dan Brown, the major flaws of the novel, and the Gnostic background and neo-Gnostic beliefs the book relies upon so heavily. Future editions of this critique will discuss Mary Magdalene, Constantine and the Council of Nicaea, Brown’s Christology, the search for the Grail, the Knights of Templar, the Priory of Sion, witchcraft and the Middle Ages, and Leonardo da Vinci and his artwork.


The Da Vinci Code Phenomenon


In April 2003, Doubleday published The Da Vinci Code, the fourth novel of Dan Brown. A combination of murder mystery, thriller, conspiracy tale, romance novel, religious expose, and historical revisionism, the novel had instant success. Glowing reviews from leading newspapers and magazines, combined with the buzz from Brown’s previous novel, Angels & Demons, helped The Da Vinci Code debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. As of mid-October, 2003, The Da Vinci Code has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over twenty-eight weeks, and has been in the top two or three spots for most of that time. There are now nearly three million copies of the book in print and it is being translated into thirty languages.


Described by New York Times as a “riddle-filled, code-breaking, exhilaratingly brainy thriller,” The Da Vinci Code garnered effusive, even ebullient, praise from numerous reviewers. The Library Journal raved, “This masterpiece should be mandatory reading”; the Chicago Tribune marveled that the book contained “several doctorates’ worth of fascinating history and learned speculation”; Salon magazine described the novel as “an ingenious mixture of paranoid thriller, art history lesson, chase story, religious symbology lecture and anti-clerical screed.” Numerous critics noted how “smart,” “intelligent,” and well-researched the novel appeared to be (“His research is impeccable” stated New York Daily News), a point that surely pleased the author, who insisted in interviews and on his website that his thriller is thoroughly researched and factual in all respects. In addition, the novel features an opening page titled “Fact,” which states: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”


Readers who have enthusiastically embraced the book point to historical, artistic, religious, and theological details within it as central reasons for their fascination with the best-seller. A reader on states that The Da Vinci Code is “one of the best books I have ever read–makes you see the world a little differently after reading it!” Another gushes, “You will be amazed at the revelations that come forth in this book.” Another elaborates:


The Da Vinci Code has to be one of the most remarkable books I’ve read. It is a wonderful–and very effective–mix of history, mystery, action, puzzles and suspense. The pace is so powerful, the book just wouldn’t let go! The story line is almost to brilliant to conceive, the sheer genius and fascinating craftsmanship that Dan Brown uses in his book are breath-taking. The idea behind the story may seem controversial, but once you think about it, it really does become quite real and even natural.”


Another reader provides a more muted and relativistically-minded assessment:


“The historical events and people explored in the book are real. But no one knows the Truth...nor will we ever, probably. I think that some things are meant to be a mystery. With all the world’s diverse religions and each individual’s belief in what is Divine–the Truth would have to destroy the beliefs, hopes and lives of many of the world’s population. So, perhaps, in the divine scheme of things, there are many more Truths than one. Don’t take the book too seriously.”


Despite the skepticism of some readers, The Da Vinci Code proved to be so popular, so quickly, that within weeks of being published, Columbia Pictures bought the film rights to the book (and to Angels & Demons as well). Noted director Ron Howard is reportedly on board and Columbia plans to bring the book to cinematic life sometime in 2005.


Dan Brown’s Agenda and the Purpose of The Da Vinci Code


Over the summer, the Envoy office began to receive a number of e-mails and inquiries about The Da Vinci Code. They all expressed concern that the book contains a number of overt attacks on the Catholic Church, plus dubious assertions about topics including Mary Magdalene, the Council of Nicaea, the New Testament canon, church architecture, and the murder of witches during medieval times. Reading the novel confirmed that the concerns of Catholics and other Christians were warranted; Brown’s thriller is less than thrilling when it comes to providing an accurate and fair portrayal of the Catholic Church, Christian theology, and Church history.


In her glowing New York Times review of the novel, Janet Maslin writes: “As in his Angels and Demons, this author is drawn to the place where empirical evidence and religious faith collide. And he creates a bracing exploration of this realm, one that is by no means sacrilegious, though it sharply challenges Vatican policy.” (“Spinning a Thriller From the Louvre” by Janet Maslin. New York Times. March 17, 2003). Maslin apparently doesn’t know what “sacrilegious” means. The Da Vinci Code is overtly sacrilegious (that is, it profanes sacred beliefs), claiming that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children, Mary Magdalene–not Peter–was the head apostle, the Catholic Church has kept these “facts” hidden through force and terror, and that Jesus was not truly divine, but merely a good man “deified” by the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. In addition, the novel is obsessed with radical feminist notions of the “sacred feminine” and ancient goddess worship, all served up in a syrupy, breathless fashion reminiscent of romance novels.


The major theme of Brown’s novel is the pressing need to recover the “sacred feminine” and a revitalized worship of a goddess or goddesses. Brown states, in responding on his website to the question about his novel being “empowering to women,” that,


“Two thousand years ago, we lived in a world of Gods and Goddesses. Today, we live in a world solely of Gods. Women in most cultures have been stripped of their spiritual power. The novel touches on questions of how and why this shift occurred…and on what lessons we might learn from it regarding our future.”


In an interview with CNN (July 17, 2003), Brown emphasized this point more than once, stating, “In the early days . . . we lived in a world of gods and goddesses. . . . Every Mars had an Athena. The god of war had the goddess of beauty; in the Egyptian tradition, Osiris and Isis. ... And now we live in a world solely of gods. The female counterpart has been erased.” He continues: “It’s interesting to note that the word ‘god’ conjures power and awe, while the word ‘goddess’ sounds imaginary.” Then, revealing his understanding of how his novel might affect “traditional” Christians, he remarks, “There are some people in the church for whom this book is a little bit shocking. But the reaction from the vast majority of clergy and Christian scholars has been positive.” He adds: “Nuns, in particular, are exceptionally excited about the strong feminist message of the book.”


It should be noted that when Brown, in interviews or in his novel, refers to “the Church,” or Christianity, he means the Catholic Church. The Da Vinci Code betrays little awareness that there are non-Catholic Christians such as the Eastern Orthodox and Protestants; there is one brief, negative mention of the Church of England (see page 346). Otherwise, all references are to the Catholic Church, often referred to as “the Vatican,” a term for which Brown seems to have a special affinity. However, he is not a Catholic, nor does he appear to be a former Catholic. Asked, on his site, if he is a Christian, he replies with confident post-modern indifferentism:


“I am, although perhaps not in the most traditional sense of the word. If you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as immutable historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious–that is, that we are all trying to decipher life’s big mysteries, and we’re each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.”


This is echoed in a remark made by The Da Vinci Code’s main character, Harvard “symbologist” Robert Langdon, “Every faith is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith–acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school. Metaphors are a way to help our mind process the unprocessible. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors. … Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical” (p. 341-2).


Ironically, The Da Vinci Code hinges upon Langdon having a profound–and apparently non-metaphorical–faith experience at the novel’s conclusion, an experience bound up in the “sacred feminine” and Mary Magdalene. Also interesting is how Brown continually questions any sort of authority, especially that of the Catholic Church, but has such confidence in his personal research into a large number of complex areas of study–even areas where his lack of knowledge is obvious to the discerning reader. This is ironic in light of Brown’s overt relativism and his suspicious view of history; in true deconstructionist style, he openly questions whether we can even know the truth about the past:


“Since the beginning of recorded time, history has been written by the “winners” (those societies and belief systems that conquered and survived). Despite an obvious bias in this accounting method, we still measure the ‘historical accuracy’ of a given concept by examining how well it concurs with our existing historical record. Many historians now believe (as do I) that in gauging the historical accuracy of a given concept, we should first ask ourselves a far deeper question: How historically accurate is history itself?” (Dan Brown’s personal website)


Brown undoubtedly hopes The Da Vinci Code will be more than just a best-seller; he apparently wants it to radically change perceptions of history, religion, and Western civilization. Asked if the novel might be considered controversial, Brown again asserts his desire to promote the “sacred feminine” and to challenge the commonly accepted understandings of Western culture and Christianity:


“As I mentioned earlier, the secret I reveal is one that has been whispered for centuries. It is not my own. Admittedly, this may be the first time the secret has been unveiled within the format of a popular thriller, but the information is anything but new. My sincere hope is that The Da Vinci Code, in addition to entertaining people, will serve as an open door for readers to begin their own explorations.” (Dan Brown’s personal website)


As noted, this agenda has not been lost on readers, and many of them revel in the subversive agenda that Brown undertakes in his thriller. One mesmerized reader summarizes this fascination quite well:


“With his impeccable research, Mr. Brown introduces us to aspects and interpretations of Western history and Christianity that I, for one, had never known existed . . . or even thought about. I found myself, unwillingly, leaving the novel, and time and time again, going online to research Brown’s research–only to find a new world of historic possibilities opening up for me.” ( review).


As we will see, the “possibilities” opened up to readers are both dubious and dangerous, and are rooted in ideas that are not only contrary to Catholic doctrine, but also contrary to historical evidence, sound scholarship, and common sense.


What’s the Matter With the Code?


The immense success of The Da Vinci Code and its strong language about the Catholic Church has resulted in substantial controversy over many of the “facts” within its pages. Not only is the novel influencing the views of non-Catholic readers, it is raising difficult questions in the minds of many Catholics, some of whom are being asked about Brown’s interpretation of Church history and theology. One Catholic reader wrote to Envoy, saying:


“I own a Catholic bookstore. We are getting bombarded daily by people who are buying into the garbage in this book. You cannot believe how many people have been exposed to this book. . . . We even had an elderly aunt talking about Opus Dei tonight and yelling at us that the book is true or it couldn’t be printed.”


Another reader, a convert from Lutheranism, openly admitted the doubts that The Da Vinci Code has raised in his mind:


“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. Since I am not a Christian scholar I don’t even know where to begin to refute these claims. As the Catholic Church holds much of the evidence that would refute the drivel in The Da Vinci Code, I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction to a scholarly non-Christian book that might help me make better sense of the whole historical chain of events. If Christianity is nothing more than a big accommodation, it becomes relegated to a lifestyle choice and not a religion, which I do not want to believe.”


We’ve heard many similar stories in recent months and expect to hear more, which is the main reason this critique has been written. Just as the Left Behind books have been used to promote a Fundamentalist understanding of Scripture and the end times, The Da Vinci Code has proven to be an effective tool for attacking Catholic doctrine and undermining faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the authenticity of Scripture, and the authority of the Church.


“I queried several in the audience why they were there, and what their reaction was to the book and the evenings’ discussion. One woman told of her teenage son who was reluctant to go through the sacrament of Confirmation, yet after reading the book found a more believable, understandable, even human Jesus. That actually inspired him to continue the path. Another person said that such material added to the mystery, and in doing so served to strengthen her faith. For one it called into question the credibility of the teaching of the Church, yet felt that faith needs to be challenged to be pursued. Others voiced the idea that this book reinforced a disenchantment with the Church.”


This group, and others like it, obviously emphasize opinion and “feelings” over careful and objective study. Such an ambivalent approach to the claims of the novel are summarized well in Rotert’s remark: “Fortunately the evenings participants did not come expecting Yes/No answers.” The same remark could be made about catechesis in many parishes today, again highlighting the need for a more rigorous approach to popular works such as The Da Vinci Code, especially when many people are garnering their views of Church history and beliefs from those sources.


Fiction, especially best-selling pulp fiction such as The Da Vinci Code, has become a major means of “educating” the masses about many, varied topics, but especially those issues that are controversial and can be easily sensationalized. The belief that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, had children, and was not divine in any way has existed for several decades in American pop culture. Yet many, if not most, readers of Brown’s novel seem unaware of this–even though the novel provides the titles of several books written in the last two or three decades proposing such beliefs, most notably Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Dell, 1982) by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.


Put succinctly, here are the major problems with The Da Vinci Code:


1. It attacks the Catholic Church and her beliefs about Jesus Christ, the Bible, and Church authority.

2. It claims to be completely accurate and based in fact, but it is not.

3. It rewrites and misrepresents Church and secular history.

4. It promotes a radical feminist, neo-gnostic agenda.

5. It propagates a relativistic, indifferent attitude towards truth and religion.


In order to critique the novel thoroughly, we will have to go to the heart of Brown’s worldview and his beliefs about Christianity. There we will find an obsession with the Gnostic, feminist notion of the “sacred feminine,” an idea that is not so much pro-woman, as it claims to be, but anti-human and anti-Christian. We will also find that Brown’s understanding of early Church history is based on sources and books that are antagonistic to the Catholic Church and filled with dubious, even disingenuous, statements about the Church, Scripture, and Gnostic writings.


The “Magdalene” and the Sacred Feminine


Most of The Da Vinci Code’s story takes place in a period of about one day, beginning with the murder of the curator of the Louvre. Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist (a word created by Brown to describe an expert in religious and esoteric symbolism), is asked by the French police to help interpret a strange cipher left on the body of the deceased. Langdon is joined in his investigation by an attractive young cryptologist, Sophie Neveu. Soon they are suspects in the case and are fleeing from authorities. In the course of trying to escape and solve the murder, they ally themselves with wealthy historian and Holy Grail fanatic Leigh Teabing, an acquaintance of Langdon’s.


Chased by authorities and an albino “monk” who is a member of Opus Dei, this small band of iconoclasts and Grail enthusiasts travel from Paris to London. Woven throughout the narrative are a series of lectures by Langdon and Teabing on the identity of the Holy Grail, the importance of Leonardo Da Vinci and The Last Supper, and the “truth” about Jesus and the Catholic Church. After some obligatory twists and turns, the novel ends with a flat and not-so-rewarding conclusion, with Langdon having a sort of epiphany at the supposed burial place of Mary Magdalene: “With a sudden upswelling of reverence, Robert Langdon fell to his knees. For a moment he thought he heard a woman’s voice . . . the wisdom of the ages . . . whispering up from the chasms of the earth” (p. 454).


The main character of The Da Vinci Code is Mary Magdalene–the Mary Magdalene of neo-Gnostic, feminist mythology. According to the novel, the “Magdalene” was the apostle of Jesus and is the Holy Grail. As Sandra Miesel points out in Crisis magazine, Brown’s “book is more than just the story of a quest for the Grail–he wholly reinterprets the Grail legend. In doing so, Brown inverts the insight that a woman’s body is symbolically a container and makes a container symbolically a woman’s body. And that container has a name every Christian will recognize, for Brown claims that the Holy Grail was actually Mary Magdalene. She was the vessel that held the blood of Jesus Christ in her womb while bearing his children.” (“Dismantling The Da Vinci Code,” Crisis, September 2003).


In a central section of The Da Vinci Code, Langdon and Teabing educate Sophie about this premise. After explaining that the chalice of the Holy Grail is not a cup, but a symbol of “a woman’s womb” that “communicates femininity, womanhood, and fertility,” Langdon states:


“The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church. The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominantly male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean. It was man, not God, who created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy” (p. 238).


He goes on to claim that “the Church,” almost from the beginning, “had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned nonbelievers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine” (p. 239). And then, a few pages later, Teabing states that “the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record” (p. 245). At that point Teabing produces one of his sources, Elaine Pagels controversial book, The Gnostic Gospels (1979). He then quotes from The Gospel of Philip, which describes Christ kissing Mary Magdalene “on the mouth,” offending and upsetting the disciples.


A bit later Teabing arrives at what is, it seems evident, Brown’s main point: “Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene” (p. 248). Teabing proclaims that this, along with Jesus’ supposed marriage to Mary Magdalene, is “the greatest cover-up in human history” (p. 249). He summarizes all of these sentiments by saying, “The quest for the Holy Grail is literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the lost sacred feminine” (p. 257). As those who have read the novel know, that describes exactly how The Da Vinci Code ends.


None of these claims are original with Brown, as he admits in the novel and on his website (“…but the information is anything but new”). Brown’s depiction of Mary Magdalene as the embodiment of the “sacred feminine” has been a common theme of recent neo-Gnostic, feminist works seeking to rewrite early Church history based upon Gnostic writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary, and a handful of others. In addition to Pagel’s work and Holy Blood, Holy Grail, there are other esoteric histories making similar statements: The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, the latter two both by Margaret Starbird, a former Catholic who has been long associated with Matthew Fox. There are websites devoted to promoting these ideas about Mary Magdalene. All of this activity is part of a rapidly growing interest in Gnosticism and “alternative” forms of Christianity that are making overt appearances in popular media, including novels, television, and movies. An example of the latter was the 1999 anti-Catholic dud, Stigmata, which depicted the Catholic Church as furiously attempting to cover up subversive “truths” located in Gnostics works such as the Gospel of Thomas. A much more successful effort was the hugely popular Matrix, which melded neo-Gnostic ideas with themes from Buddhism and other Eastern religions.


The Rebirth of Gnosticism


The claims made through the fictional narrative of The Da Vinci Code cannot be understood without some knowledge of Brown’s reliance on a neo-Gnostic understanding of Jesus, the early Church, and Christianity.


Gnosticism was the greatest challenge to the fledgling Christian faith of the second and third centuries. Yet, despite its influence, it is a difficult movement to define precisely because of its esoteric, decentralized, and eclectic nature. In general, Gnosticism is dualistic, focused on secret spiritual knowledge (gnosis), antagonistic towards or uninterested in time and history, and distrustful–even hateful–towards the physical realm and the human body. Gnosticism seeks to escape the limits of time and space, to transcend the physical and historical realm, and attempts to obtain salvation through secretive, individualistic means (see James A. Herrick, The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition [Intervarsity, 2003], 179-203).


In his seminal study, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity, Hans Jonas explains that the “radical dualism” of Gnosticism exists on many levels: “God and the world, spirit and matter, soul and body, light and darkness, good and evil, light and death” (The Gnostic Religion [Beacon Hill: Boston, 1958, 1963], p. 31). Ancient Gnostics believed that the true God is not only beyond the world and the material realm, He had nothing to do with the creation of material matter: “The world is the work of lowly powers which though they may mediately be descended from Him do know the true God and obstruct the knowledge of Him in the cosmos over which they rule” (p. 42). Put simply, the material realm is evil and man must escape it. This can only be accomplished through gnosis, or secret knowledge, of the true God.


This gnosis is rooted in the belief that humanity is not meant for this evil, material world. Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, author of Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faith We Never Knew (Oxford, 2003), writes that according to this view, “we are trapped here, imprisoned. And when we learn who we are and how we can escape, we can then return to our heavenly home.” He notes how this concept resonates with modern readers, “many of whom also feel alienated from this world, for whom this world does not make sense, readers who realize, in some very deep and significant way, that they really don’t belong here” (p. 114). It is also the case that the individualistic, relativistic, and syncretistic character of Gnosticism is also appealing to modern men and women who are distrustful of the Church, believe Christianity to be anti-woman, and who have a generally negative view of any structure of authority.


Elaine Pagels explains that some of the early Gnostics claimed “that humanity created God–and so, from its own inner potential, discovered for itself the revelation of truth” (The Gnostic Gospels, 122). Rather than being outside of–and separate from–humanity, God is a creation of mankind. Salvation is not about overcoming sin through and by God’s assistance, but is the overcoming of ignorance through self-knowledge (p. 123-4). Ignorance insures destruction, while self-knowledge provides liberation and escape from suffering. This means that the Jesus was not the God-man who came to save mankind from sin, as orthodox Christians believe, but is a “teacher, revealer, and spiritual master” who is human only. In Gnostic teaching, Jesus is not greater than the student, but he will help the student to transcend him in knowledge and “Christ consciousness.”


Another key concept embraced by many Gnostic groups was that of an androgynous God, a deity who is a perfect balance of feminine and masculine. Pagels writes, “Some [Gnostic groups] insisted that the divine is to be considered masculofeminine–the ‘great male-female power.’ Others claimed that the terms were meant only as metaphors, since, in reality, the divine is neither male nor female. A third group suggested that one can describe the primal Source in either masculine or feminine terms, depending on which aspect one intends to stress.” She adds: “Proponents of these diverse views agreed that the divine is to be understood in terms of a harmonious, dynamic relationship of opposites–a concept that may be akin to the Eastern view of yin and yang, but remains alien to orthodox Judaism and Christianity” (The Gnostic Gospels, 51).


The Gnostic deity is both god and goddess, and the Gnostics despised the Christians for “suppressing” the feminine nature of the godhead. In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon lectures Sophie about this, telling her that “the Priory [of Sion] believes that Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever” (p. 124). This suppression resulted, Brown’s novel tells readers, in a warped and unbalanced humanity, overly masculine and lacking in feminine balance:


“The days of the goddess were over. The pendulum had swung. Mother Earth had become a man’s world, and the gods of destruction and war were taking their toll. The male ego had spent two millennia running unchecked by its female counterpart. The Priory of Sion believed that it was this obliteration of the sacred feminine in modern life that had caused what the Hopi Native Americans called koyanisquatsi–’life out of balance’–an unstable situation marked by testosterone-fueled wars, a plethora of misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth” (pp. 125-6).


Many Gnostics not only believed the true God (beyond the god of this world, the demi-god falsely believed to be God by Jews and Christians) was androgynous, but that humanity was also meant to be androgynous, or “masculo-feminine.” Some Gnostics interpreted Genesis 1:27 as saying God created “male-female,” not “male and female.” This idea of an androgynous, “whole” humanity makes an appearance in The Da Vinci Code. In talking to Sophie about the Mona Lisa, Langdon states, “Whatever Da Vinci was up to . . . his Mona Lisa was neither male nor female. It carries a subtle message of androgyny. It is a fusing of both” (p. 120). This is wishful thinking on the part of Langdon (and Brown), since the majority of art historians agree the portrait has nothing to do with androgyny, but is simply a masterful painting of an Italian lady, (most likely Mona Lisa Gherardini, the wife of merchant Francesco di Bartolommeo di Zanobi del Giocondo). However, the idea that Mona Lisa depicts an androgynous person does fit with the Gnostic beliefs that those who were enlightened by gnosis needed to be in pairs–male and female–forming a perfect whole, or “syzygy.” Thus, Jesus would require a female counterpart who would make him complete; in Gnostic writings that woman, of course, was Jesus’ “consort,” Mary Magdalen.


The interconnection between these ancient Gnostic notions and feminist attacks on Church teaching, especially upon the male-priesthood, should be apparent. If the male and female genders are not unique in vital, but equal, ways–as the Catholic Church teaches–but are the results of an incomplete anthropology, then there is no reason to keep women from the priesthood or episcopal authority. If there is no essential difference or distinction between men and women, then the Church’s refusal to ordain women is simply a matter of misogyny, not of theological, doctrinal truth. This connection is readily apparent in works of religious feminists intent on getting women ordained as Catholic priests (or priestesses).


Finally, one difficulty in defining Gnosticism, whether ancient or modern, is its syncretistic nature. As Jonas states, “the gnostic systems compounded everything–oriental mythologies, astrological doctrines, Iranian theology, elements of Jewish tradition, whether Biblical, rabbinical, or occult, Christian salvation-eschatology, Platonic terms and concepts” (The Gnostic Religion, 25). Today there are numerous esoteric groups and movements that utilize Gnostic concepts and writings: wiccans, New Agers, occultists, radical feminists, neo-pagans, and a host of others. This is certainly the case with The Da Vinci Code, which makes reference to a number of esoteric and occultic groups and movements, but is especially enamored with a radical feminist interpretation of Church history.


The Neo-Gnostic Myth of the Feminist Early Church


The beliefs about the early Church, Gnosticism, and Mary Magdalen that are set forth in Brown’s novel date back to the nineteenth century and the advent of modern feminism. Philip Jenkins points out, in Hidden Gospels: How the Search For Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford, 2001), that “late nineteenth-century activists saw Jesus and his first followers as protofeminists, whose radical ideas were swamped by a patriarchal orthodoxy.” In addition to feminists, this “idea that the Gnostics retained the core truths of a lost Christianity was commonplace among occult and esoteric writers, many of whom shared the contemporary excitement over women’s suffrage and other progressive causes” (p. 125). These writers looked to heretical, Gnostic forms of early Christianity for material to bolster their belief that Jesus was really a radical feminist, the Church was initially founded as an egalitarian and non-dogmatic body, and women were among the first apostles–or were, as in the case of Mary Magdalene, the primary apostles.


One of the first Gnostic texts used effectively by feminists was Pistis Sophia (“The Books of the Savior”), which was published in English in 1896. In it, Mary Magdalene is depicted as the foremost apostle of Jesus, while the male disciples are frustrated by the lack of attention they received from Jesus. But it was the discovery of numerous Gnostic texts in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, that provided even more ammunition for those looking to undermine Church authority and change the structures and theology of the Catholic Church. Elaine Pagels, whose popularizing work in this area has been immense, writes, “The Nag Hammadi sources, discovered at a time of contemporary social crises concerning sexual roles, challenge us to reinterpret history–and to re-evaluate the present situation” (The Gnostic Gospels, p. 69).


As Pagels’ comment indicates, the timing of the Nag Hammadi discovery was fortuitous for those wishing to reinterpret Jesus in their own image and destroy traditional, orthodox understandings of Christianity. “The hidden gospels have been used to provide scriptural warrant for sweeping new interpretations of Jesus,” Jenkins notes, “for interpreting theological statements in a purely symbolic and psychological sense, and for challenging dogmatic or legal rules on the basis of the believer’s subjective moral sense. Generally, the hidden gospels offer wonderful news for liberals, feminists, and radicals within the churches, who challenge what they view as outdated institutions and prejudices” (p. 16).


This perfectly describes the intent of The Da Vinci Code, which uses a fictional vehicle to promote the same agenda that a number of feminist and post-modern scholars have been working on since the 1960s. Those fans of Brown’s novel who think the author has somehow stumbled upon new and never seen information might be surprised to know how commonplace his views are within the realm of Gnostic and feminist studies. Jenkins’ depiction of the literature produced within that world could just as well describe The Da Vinci Code:


“Over the last century, the literature on hidden gospels, genuine and fraudulent, has been pervaded by conspiratorial speculations which suggest that some powerful body (usually the Roman Catholic Church) is cynically plotting either to conceal the true gospel, or to plant bogus documents to deceive the faithful. Such ideas run through the many novels and fictional presentations on this them: in the Hollywood film Stigmata, the Vatican is shown desperately trying to suppress a “Jesus Gospel,” which is unmistakably modeled on the Gospel of Thomas” (p. 18).


It would take an entire book to address thoroughly all of these intertwining topics and answer each of the questions they raise (Jenkins’ book is a good place to start; others are listed at the end of this article). But here, in abbreviated form, are some important points about these issues, all of them central to The Da Vinci Code.


The feminist idea that the early Church was an egalitarian body lead by both female and male bishops and priests is based on flimsy premises and lacks historical evidence. This has even been admitted, in part, by Pagels, who stated in the 1998 PBS program From Jesus to Christ, “I don’t see a picture of a golden age of egalitarianism back there. I see a new, unformed, diverse, and threatened movement which allowed a lot more fluidity for women in certain roles for a while, in some places and not in others” (quoted in Jenkins, p. 132). Feminist scholars speculating about the first few decades of the early Church usually treat the New Testament documents with suspicion, claiming that they are the work of those men who finally gained control over the Church through the suppression of women. Using a “hermeneutics of suspicion,” these scholars must ignore early evidence that the Church was founded by Christ and its leadership on earth given to twelve men (Matt. 10:1ff; 19:28; Lk. 22:25-30; Jn. 20:20-24) led by Peter (Matt. 16:15-19), and must instead insist upon using texts that were written anywhere from fifty to three hundred years after the New Testament documents.


In addition, there is the misleading notion that the Gnostic writings are consistently pro-woman, while the New Testament writings–and thereby the authors of those books–are anti-woman. This idea also arises in The Da Vinci Code. After quoting from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, where Peter complains about Mary’s closeness to Christ, Sir Leigh Teabing states: “I daresay Peter was something of a sexist.” (p. 248). He then remarks that “Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene” (p. 248).


But Brown never bothers to have his characters quote from the final verse of the Gospel of Thomas, the most famous of the Gnostic texts. That verse states: “Simon Peter said to them: ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 114). This passage and others like it do not fit well with the feminist view of the Gnostics, just as the Church’s positive treatment of women throughout history does not compare well with the negative picture often depicted by feminist groups.


One such group is the “Catholic” organization FutureChurch, which states in an online article that “the Montanist and Valentinian Churches, which had both male and female leaders, were eventually suppressed. Scholars say that the Montanist and Valentinian communities were orthodox. They were suppressed not because their teachings were heretical, but because women as well as men engaged in leadership.” In fact, almost all scholars, including many feminists writers, acknowledge that the Montanists and Valentinians were outside the Church and considered heretical for numerous reasons, including attacks on the deity of Christ (Valentinians), the authority of the Church (both groups), an obsession with prophetic utterances (Montanists), and dualist views (Valentinians). Even Elaine Pagels states that “Valentinian gnosticism” was “the most influential and sophisticated form of gnostic teaching, and by far the most threatening to the church” (The Gnostic Gospels, p. 31). Unfortunately, such misguided attempts to use ancient, heretical movements for modern, heretical ends are becoming increasingly common.


The Dating Game


The dating of the New Testament writings and the Gnostic writings is essential to appreciating the serious errors found in The Da Vinci Code and in the works of neo-Gnostic enthusiasts. If Gnostic works such as the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas were written at the same time as the canonical Gospels, the Pauline corpus, and the other New Testament books (which are dated from 50 to 100 AD, even by many “liberal” scholars), then the early Church resembles the picture painted by feminist scholars–one in which various groups existed equally, at least for a while, within a democratic, theologically fluid era. According to this premise, the hierarchical and male-dominated Church came much later, in the second and third centuries, and Jesus was not deified as the God-man until the time of Constantine. This is essentially the scenario depicted in The Da Vinci Code (see p. 230ff).


However, if the Gnostic books weren’t written until several decades, or even centuries, after the New Testament books, a different picture emerges. In it, the Gnostic writings are reactionary, the result of the intense struggle of heretical sects against the established teachings of the Church and the apostles. These struggles erupted in the second century, especially noticeable around 135 to 165 A.D., and continued for quite some time. The nature of this struggle can be seen in the writings of orthodox apologists such as Irenaeus, who wrote his great polemic refuting Gnosticism (especially the Valentinians), Against Heresies, around 180 A.D.


Put another way, Gnosticism began to infiltrate the Church in full force in the mid-second century, many decades removed from the life of Christ, the apostles, and the formation of the Church–a distance in time similar to modern-day scholars looking back at the lives of Abraham Lincoln, or even George Washington. Gnosticism would have been a movement arising outside of Christianity, even though some overlapping of language and concepts may have existed, due in part to a shared culture and the Gnostic interest in the Old Testament. Some Gnostic proponents claim that a full-fledged Gnosticism is evident within the Church in the person of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-13), but this view is speculative at best. Hans Jonas writes that Simon was “not a dissident Christian, and if the Church Fathers cast him in the role of the arch-heretic, they implicitly admitted that Gnosticism was not an inner-Christian phenomenon.” (The Gnostic Religion, p. 103).


An important characteristic of Gnostic writings is how much they vary in character from the canonical writings: they are non-historical, or even anti-historical, in style and content and they contain little narrative or sense of chronology. The Nag Hammadi documents, as highly touted as they are, have offered few, if any, new or illuminating details about the life of Christ or events in the early Church. This is due in part to the documents being written generations after the fact as well as the anti-historical bias of Gnosticism, which scorns the belief that the true God would care about the material, historical realm. In concluding his examination of the veracity of the Gospel of Mary and other Gnostic texts, Jenkins writes, “These uncanonical texts were written at a time when the episcopal hierarchy was already well established, when the early house churches were a distant memory, and when the canonical gospels were already widely known as the principle authorities for the life of Jesus. Mary and its like come from a time when the church had already fixed its gospel canon at four. Despite claims that Mary was excluded or omitted from that canon, presumably because of its subversive feminism, the work was much too late a candidate even to be considered” (p. 141).


Jenkins’ conclusions are supported by the majority of biblical scholars. For example, Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, in his book Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew (Oxford, 2003), dates none of the Gnostic gospels before the “early 2nd century.” Many are dated in the third, fourth, and fifth century (pages xi-xv). The introductions to the Gnostic works contained in The Nag Hammadi Library (Harper, 1979, 1988), edited by James M. Robinson, acknowledge the same dates, even though they argue that the Gnostic writings should be considered just as authoritative as the Four Gospels. Even Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which takes extreme liberties in its “scholarship” (Teabing remarks, in The Da Vinci Code, that “the authors [of Holy Blood, Holy Grail] made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis” [p. 254]–an amusing understatement), states, “Modern scholars have established that some if not most of the texts in the [Nag Hammadi] scrolls date from no later than A.D. 150” (p. 380).


All of this flies in the face of Teabing’s assertion in The Da Vinci Code that “more than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relatively few were chosen for inclusion–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” (p. 231). Far from there being “eighty gospels” considered for the canon at the time of Constantine in the early 300s, there were only five or six still being considered in the mid-second century. By the late second century the early Church recognized the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the four inspired by the Holy Spirit and meant for the canon of the New Testament. As Jenkins shows, “the process of determining the canon was well under way long before Constantine became emperor, and before the church had the slightest prospect of political power. The crucial phase occurred in the mid-second century . . .” (p. 85).


In fact, there was already a growing consensus about the entire New Testament canon by the middle of the second-century, even though it would not be defined on an official (though not universal) level until the late-300s and early-400s in a series of local synods. Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D. and explaining the liturgy of the Christians to his non-Christian readers, speaks of the apostles and “the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them” (“The First Apology,” 66). Tertullian, writing around the same time, defends the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Pauline epistles, the epistle to the Hebrews, and 1 John and The Apocalypse against the Gnostic ideas of Marcion (“Five Books Against Marcion,” 4.2, 4.5). A couple of decades later Irenaeus specifically refers to the four Gospels and their authors and implies that they are granted a unique status within the Church:


Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Against Heresies, 3.1.1)


A bit further on, Irenaeus writes, “It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are” (3.11.8) and again prominently mentions Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, further proof that that the number of gospels recognized as authoritative within the Church was set at four at least 150 years prior to Constantine and the Council of Nicaea.


Recommended Resources:


Sandra Miesel’s critique of The Da Vinci Code appeared in the September 2003 issue of Crisis magazine. Sandra is a medievalist and an authority on esoteric groups and beliefs.


Father Andrew Greeley’s review in National Catholic Reporter of Dan Brown’s novel makes several good points. Although his review contains some dubious statements, Father Greeley points out that the book is anti-Catholic and full of ridiculous errors, stating, “Brown knows little about Leonardo, little about the Catholic church, and little about history.” He is entirely correct.


Some comments that I’ve made on Envoy Encore about the novel, pointing out some its the more overt errors and unsubstantiated claims.


“Does The Da Vinci Code Crack Leonardo?”, a New York Times article by art historian Bruce Boucher, demonstrates that Brown’s novel is full of big holes in the art department:


“Cracking the Da Vinci Code,” is a short commentary by Margaret M. Mitchell, Associate Professor of New Testament at the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Chair of the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature.


The writings of Early Church Fathers are available online on the New Advent site.


A popular, accessible history of the early Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic (Ignatius), written by Kenneth Whitehead.


A more scholarly work, written by a non-Catholic, which examines many of the issues raised in The Da Vinci Code, is The Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford), written by Episcopalian Philip Jenkins. A chapter titled “Daughters of Sophia” discusses the feminist use of Gnostic writings and the concept of the “sacred feminine.”


Searching for the Real Jesus in an Age of Controversy (Harvest House) by Dr. Douglas Groothuis is an excellent introduction to radical, feminist, and New Age attempts to rewrite Church history and undermine the Christian understanding of Jesus Christ. Written for a popular audience, it contains helpful information about Gnosticism and the “Gnostic Jesus.” It is currently out of print, but used copies can be found on Also, several of Dr. Groothuis’s articles on Gnosticism and its modern “rebirth” are available online:


- “Gnosticism and the Gnostic Jesus”


- “The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic?”


- “The New Gnostics and the Wisdom of Irenaeus”


This Envoy article about the Council of Nicaea may also be helpful.


As for Mary Magdalen, this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia has some good information.


Finally, a thorough introduction and critique of modern feminism (including its use of Gnostics beliefs and writings) can be found in Manfred Hauke’s God or Goddess (Ignatius).


[Part Two of this special Planet Envoy critique of The Da Vinci Code will take on the topics of Mary Magdalene, Constantine, the Council of Nicaea, and author Dan Brown’s views of Jesus Christ.]




Part 2. “Christ, the Early Church, Constantine, and the Council of Nicaea”


By Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel




In Part 1 of “Cracking the Anti-Catholic Code” we examined the background of The Da Vinci Code phenomenon, focusing on the Gnostic ideas that author Dan Brown utilizes in his best-selling novel (now at 4.5 million copies sold and still selling strong). This second part of Envoy magazine’s special Planet Envoy critique of the best-selling novel examines Brown’s depictions of early Christianity, especially his claims about Jesus Christ, the Emperor Constantine, the supposed reliance of early Christianity on pagan beliefs and rituals, and the Council of Nicaea. As we will see, Brown not only plays fast and loose with the facts, he consistently makes statements that are inaccurate, baseless, and even completely contrary to historical fact.


Constantine “Divinizes” Jesus?


Some of the most audacious and blatantly incorrect statements in The Da Vinci Code have to do with early Church history and the person of Jesus. In the course of Sophie and Langdon’s lengthy conversation with Teabing at the English historian’s home, a dialogue takes place in which the following claims are made:


1. The divinity of Jesus and his establishment as “the Son of God” were created, proposed, and voted into existence (by a “relatively close vote”) at the Council of Nicaea in 325.

2. Prior to this event, nobody–including Jesus’ followers–believed that he was anything more than “a mortal prophet.”

3. The Emperor Constantine established the divinity of Jesus for political reasons and used the Catholic Church as a means of solidifying his power. (The Da Vinci Code, 233)


Teabing does not personally reject the divinity of Jesus (many people do reject it), or claim that certain modern day scholars deny that Jesus was divine (many scholars do deny it), but states that the early followers of Jesus–the Christians of the first three centuries following Jesus’ time on earth–believed that he was not divine at all, but “a mortal” only. This undermines the credibility of Teabing’s character, for any decent historian, Christian or otherwise, knows that the early Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth was somehow divine, being the “Son of God” and the resurrected Christ. In fact, the central issue at the Council of Nicaea in 325 was not whether Jesus was merely human or something more, but how exactly his divinity–which even the heretic Arius acknowledged–was to be understood: Was he fully divine? Was the Son equal to the Father? Was he a lesser god? What did it mean to say that the Son was “begotten,” as the Gospel of John states in several places (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18)?


The Testimony of the New Testament


There is plenty of evidence that the early Christians, dating back to Jesus’ time on earth, believed that Jesus of Nazareth was divine. In his seminal study, Early Christian Doctrines, noted early Church scholar J.N.D. Kelly writes that “the all but universal Christian conviction in the [centuries prior to the Council of Nicaea] had been that Jesus Christ was divine as well as human. The most primitive confession had been ‘Jesus is Lord’ [Rom 10:9; Phil 2:11], and its import had been elaborated and deepened in the apostolic age.” (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1960; revised edition, 1978], 138). Jesus was indeed a prophet, explains German theologian Karl Adam, but the Gospels depict him uniquely more: “There can be no doubt: the Canonical Gospels see in the person of Jesus Jahve [Yahweh=God] himself. According to them, Jesus thinks, feels, and acts in the clear consciousness that he is not simply one called like the rest of the prophets, but rather the historical manifestations and revelation of God himself” (Karl Adam, The Christ of Faith, [Pantheon Books: New York, 1957), 59).


Explicit and implicit evidence that Jesus and his followers believed he was more than a mere mortal is found throughout the New Testament. The infancy narrative in Matthew’s Gospel quotes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: “ ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matt 1:23). In that same Gospel there is an account of the baptism of Jesus; as Jesus comes up out of the water “the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’ “ (Matt. 3:16-17).


John’s Gospel contains some of the strongest statements about the divinity of Jesus. The densely theological prologue proclaims: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn1:1-3); the Word is Jesus, the incarnate Son: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:14). Later, after upsetting some of the Jewish authorities because of his activities on the Sabbath, Jesus’ life is threatened, “because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18).


The eighth chapter of John’s Gospel contains another firm affirmation of Jesus’ divinity. After having a debate about Abraham with some of the religious leaders, Jesus declares: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (Jn 8:56). Indignant, the leaders respond, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (v. 57). “Truly, truly, I say to you,” Jesus replies, “before Abraham was born, I am” (v. 58). This is met with hostility; the crowd attempts to kill Jesus, recognizing that he has applied to himself the name of God–”Yahweh,” or “I AM”–revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Ex 3:14). After his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples (Jn 20:19-23), but “Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (Jn 19:24). Eight days later Jesus appears to the disciples again; this time Thomas is among them. Upon seeing Jesus and touching his pierced hands and side, “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Jn 20:28). Many other examples from the four Gospels could be given, including over forty passages where Jesus is called the “Son of God” (cf., Mt 11:27; Mk 12:6; 13:32; 14:61-62; Lk 10:22; 22:70; Jn 10:30; 14:9), is ascribed the power to forgive sins (Mk 2:5-12; Lk 24:45-47), claims unity and oneness with the Father (Jn 10:30; 12:45; 14:8-10), and performs many miracles, including raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11). Even if readers believe the disciples were mistaken or that Jesus was a charlatan, there’s little doubt that they believed he was divine and was far more than a mortal prophet.


Similar affirmations of Jesus divinity are found throughout the canonical writings of Paul and the other New Testament authors. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul declares that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). In his letter to the Philippians, he writes that “though [the Son] was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil 2:6). The Son’s willingness to become man will, paradoxically, lead to the universal confession “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). Paul’s first letter to his young son in the Christian faith, Timothy, contains the emphatic declaration that the “Lord Jesus Christ . . . is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen” (1 Tim 6:15-16).


The final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation (or The Apocalypse) presents Jesus as the eternal, conquering, and resurrected King and Savior–another far cry from a “mortal prophet.” When John sees Jesus, he falls “as a dead man” at his feet. “And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17). The title of “the First and the Last” is one of titles used in the Old Testament to describe Yahweh, the one true God: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me” (Isa 44:6; see Isa 41:4; 48:12). This title is applied to Jesus two more times in the Book of Revelation, including 2:8 and 22:12-13. The latter passage, at the conclusion of the book, identifies Jesus as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13). This is the same language used by the Lord God at the opening of the book (Rev 1:8), making an overt and purposeful connection between God and the divinity of Jesus Christ.


The Testimony of Early Christian Writers


There is much testimony from numerous Christian writers between 100 A.D. and the fourth century to the Christian belief in Jesus’ divinity. In addition to proving what Christians really did believe about Jesus in the first three centuries of Christianity, these writings also provide invaluable context to the theological issues and battles that would eventually be addressed, at least in part, by the Council of Nicaea.


Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-c.107) was the bishop of Antioch; it has been speculated that he, just like the apostle Paul, may have been a persecutor of the Christians prior to his conversion (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [Oxford: New York, 1997. Third edition], 817). Captured by the Roman army and en route to Rome to be executed, he wrote a series of seven letters to churches at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, and one to Polycarp (c. 69-c. 155), the bishop of Smyrna. In his letter to the Ephesians, he writes:


“There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Letter to the Ephesians, ch. 7).


Later, in the same letter, he tells his readers that they must “do everything as if he [Jesus] were dwelling in us. Thus we shall be his temples and he will be within us as our God–as he actually is” (Letter to the Ephesians, 15). He then states, “For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water” (par. 18). Further, in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ignatius refers to Jesus as “the Christ God” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 10).


Justin Martyr (c. 100-c.165) was born into a pagan family and became a Christian around the age of thirty. He was a Christian philosopher who taught in Ephesus, then later in Rome, where he had a school. Justin was one of the leading apologists for the Christian faith in the second century; he defended Christian teachings–including the belief that Jesus was divine–against pagan philosophers. He and several of his disciples were arrested, beaten, and then beheaded by the Romans for their refusal to worship pagan gods. In his First Apology, he writes, “Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being His Word and first-begotten, and power; and, becoming man according to His will, He taught us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race . . .” (First Apology of Justin Martyr, par. 23). In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin provides a lengthier defense of his belief that Jesus is God:


“But if you knew, Trypho,” continued I, “who He is that is called at one time the Angel of great counsel, and a Man by Ezekiel, and like the Son of man by Daniel, and a Child by Isaiah, and Christ and God to be worshipped by David, and Christ and a Stone by many, and Wisdom by Solomon, and Joseph and Judah and a Star by Moses, and the East by Zechariah, and the Suffering One and Jacob and Israel by Isaiah again, and a Rod, and Flower, and Corner-Stone, and Son of God, you would not have blasphemer Him who has now come, and been born, and suffered, and ascended to heaven; who shall also come again, and then your twelve tribes shall mourn. For if you had understood what has been written by the prophets, you would not have denied that He was God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 126).


One of the most important of the pre-Nicaean Christian writers was Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200), the bishop of Lyons and an ardent opponent of the Gnostic theologian Valentinus (d. c. 165). His major work was Adversus omnes Haereses, commonly known as “Against Heresies.” In arguing against the Gnostic dualism of the Valentinians, Irenaeus explain and defends the Christian belief that Jesus is God. This includes lengthy statements such as this one, which condemns those who believe that Jesus was a mortal only:


“But again, those who assert that He [Jesus] was simply a mere man, begotten by Joseph, remaining in the bondage of the old disobedience, are in a state of death having been not as yet joined to the Word of God the Father, nor receiving liberty through the Son . . . Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: also, that He was a man without comeliness, and liable to suffering; that He sat upon the foal of an ass; that He received for drink, vinegar and gall; that He was despised among the people, and humbled Himself even to death and that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;–all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him.” (Against Heresies, book 3, ch. 29:1, 2)


Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215) was a Greek theologian and the author of several works, including “Exhortation to the Greeks.” In that work he teaches that “He [Jesus] alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things” (Exhortation to the Greeks 1:7:1 [A.D. 190]); he also states: “Despised as to appearance but in reality adored, [Jesus is] the expiator, the Savior, the soother, the divine Word, he that is quite evidently true God, he that is put on a level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son” (ibid., 10:110:1). Similar remarks were made by the great African Church father, Tertullian (c. 160-c. 225). He wrote that “God alone is without sin. The only man who is without sin is Christ; for Christ is also God” (The Soul 41:3 [A.D. 210]). In another work he discusses the relationship of the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ: “The origins of both his substances display him as man and as God: from the one, born, and from the other, not born” (The Flesh of Christ 5:6—7 [A.D. 210]). The Alexandrian scholar and theologian Origen (c.185-c.254), who authored hundreds of books, stated around 225 that “although [the Son] was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was: God” (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:0:4). Writing at nearly the same time, the theologian Hippolytus (c.170-c.236) stated, “Only [God’s] Word is from himself and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God” (Refutation of All Heresies 10:33 [A.D. 228]).


The Gnostic Jesus


A serious question ignored by The Da Vinci Code is this: “Why should the writings of the Gnostics be considered be more dependable than the canonical writings, especially when they were written some fifty to three hundred years later than the New Testament writings?” It’s easy for writers such as Brown, who are sympathetic to the Gnostics (or at least to some of their ideas), to criticize the canonical Gospels and call many of the stories and sayings contained in them into question. But without the canonical Gospels there would be no historical Jesus at all, no meaningful narrative of his life, and no decent sense of what he did, how he acted, and how he related to others.


As we pointed out in Part 1 of this critique, the “gnostic gospels” aren’t gospels at all in the sense of the four canonical Gospels, which are filled with narrative, concrete details, historical figures, political activity, and details about social and religious life. Contrary to the assertion that “the early Church literally stole Jesus” and shrouded his “human message . . . in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power,” the Church was intent, from the very beginning, of holding on to the humanity and divinity of Christ and of telling the story of his life on earth without washing away the sorrow, pain, joy, and blood that so often accompanied it. “It was the orthodox Christian Church that . . . insisted on keeping the Christian religion rooted in historical realities,” writes Philip Jenkins, “rather than the random mythologies reinvented at the whim of each rising Gnostic sage. The church was struggling to retain the idea of Jesus as a historical human being who lived and died in a specific place and time, not in a timeless never-never land” (Hidden Gospels [Oxford University Press, 2001], 211).


The Jesus of the Gnostic writings is rarely recognizable as a Jewish carpenter, teacher, and prophet dwelling in first century Palestine; instead, he is often described as a phantom-like creature who lectures at length about the “deficiency of aeons,” “the mother,” “the Arrogant One,” and “the archons”–all terms that only the Gnostic elite would comprehend, hence their gnostic (gnosis = secret knowledge) character. One strain of Gnosticism, known as Docetism, held that Jesus only seemed, or appeared, to be a man (Gr., doceo = “I seem”); adherents believed this because of their dislike for the physical body and the material realm, a common trait among Gnostics. The tendency towards a docetist understanding of Jesus–if not a fully formed docetist Christology–existed in the first century and was addressed in some of the writings of Paul (Colossians and the pastoral Epistles) and John (cf. 1 Jn 4:2; 5:6; 2 Jn 7). In the second century, docetism became a formed theology and made appearance in various Gnostic writings, including the Acts of John, written in the late second century:


“Sometimes when I would lay hold on him, I met with a material and solid body, and at other times, again, when I felt him, the substance was immaterial and as if it existed not at all. And if at any time he were bidden by some one of the Pharisees and went to the bidding, we went with him, and there was set before each one of us a loaf by them that had bidden us, and with us he also received one; and his own he would bless and part it among us: and of that little every one was filled, and our own loaves were saved whole, so that they which bade him were amazed. And oftentimes when I walked with him, I desired to see the print of his foot, whether it appeared on the earth; for I saw him as it were lifting himself up from the earth: and I never saw it” (Acts of John, 93.)


If the material realm was evil, as so many Gnostic groups and movements believed, why would a being such as Christ have anything to with it? And why should we be concerned at all with history and the common life of ordinary people? The Gnostic Jesus is not interested in earthly, historical events. “In the second-century Gnosticism described by the Father,” writes Ronald Nash, “Christ was one of the higher aeons, or intermediary beings, who descended to earth for the purpose of redeeming man. Christ came into the world, not in order to suffer and die, but in order to release the divine spark of light imprisoned in matter. The Gnostic Jesus was not a savior; he was a revealer” (The Gospels and the Greeks [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003. 2nd edition], 209).


Gnosticism was exclusive, elitist, and esoteric, open only to a few. Christianity, on the other hand, is inclusive, open to all, and exoteric, open to all those who acknowledge the beliefs of the Faith handed down by Jesus and enter into a life-giving relationship with him. The Jesus of the canonical Gospels is a breathing, flesh-and-blood person; he gets hungry, weeps, eats and drinks with common people, and dies. The Jesus of the Gnostic writings is a phantom, a spirit who sometimes inhabits a body and sometimes doesn’t, and who talks in ways that very few could understand. Once again, The Da Vinci Code has it backwards.


The novel’s assertions about Jesus and his followers fail to make sense of some daunting questions. If the first followers of Jesus never believed he was divine (and thus never rose again from the dead), why did so many of them willingly die as martyrs? Is it reasonable to believe that thousands of people would face death by lions, the sword, and fire for the sake of a “mortal prophet” who himself remained dead? And why would these followers, who are so clearly confused and distraught when Jesus is taken away to be executed, reemerge a few weeks later and begin proclaiming boldly a belief in their fallen leader? If Jesus had remained in the tomb where he was placed after his death, couldn’t the authorities have shown his body and stopped once and for all the audacious teachings of the suddenly confident Christians?


Put simply, if Jesus were merely mortal and was not considered anything more until the fourth century, then it is impossible to make any sense of Christianity and how it came into existence. Historian Paul Johnson writes that “in order to explain Christianity we have to postulate an extraordinary Christ who did extraordinary things. We have to think back from a collective phenomenon to its agent. Men and women began frantically and frenetically to preach Jesus’ gospel because they believed he had come back to them from the dead and given them the authority and the power to do so.” (Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity [New York: Atheneum, 1976], 27).


An implicit assumption behind the remarks of Teabing and Langdon is that Christians–whether of the first, fourth, or twenty-first centuries–are mindless drones who simply believe what they are told by their leaders. Thus, Constantine deified a man who no one ever thought of as divine and none of the Christians were bothered by it. And so the same people who often suffered and died for their beliefs are now willing to accept a radical, wholesale change in doctrine without so much as a peep? This is not only impossible to accept as logical, it is contrary to history and fact.


Constantine’s Childhood and Conversion


Included in the lengthy lecture given to Sophie by Teabing and Langdon are several remarks about the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (d. 337). Most, if not all, of these statements are taken directly from Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Dell Books, 1983. See pages 365-9); in some cases the phrases and order of ideas used are identical.


Many of the claims made about Constantine are either falsehoods or half-truths based on conjecture and material taken out of context. Debate continues today in scholarly circles about Constantine, his exact beliefs, his relationship with the Catholic Church, and his influence upon Christianity. Most historians acknowledge that he was a complex man, a powerful and sometimes cruel emperor (he executed a wife and a son under mysterious circumstances) whose apparent passion for Christianity was not always guided by theological knowledge or godly wisdom. There is also no doubt that the course of Christianity was influenced by Constantine.


Constantine’s passion for religion was based, in part, “on his political intuition that the unity of the empire restored by him could be maintained only with the help of a Church united in belief and government and subordinated to the state” (Hugo Rahner, Church and State in Early Christianity [San Francisco: Ignatius, 1992], 41). But it would be incorrect to portray Constantine as simply a calculating leader who merely used the Church for his political ends. Historian Hugo Rahner writes that “the real religious motives behind Constantine’s efforts to achieve effective control of the Church ran much deeper. These can be reduced to one theme. Even before he became involved with the Church, Constantine was obsessed with a superstitious religious conviction that revealed itself in his strange personal cult of the invincible sun, in the worship, influenced by Stoicism and Platonism, of the supreme Divinity, in a misty feeling that ‘Providence’ had bestowed on him a mission as its herald and miraculous instrument” (Rahner, 41-2).


In 313, Constantine and his fellow-emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, which recognized Christianity as a legal religion. It stated that “Christians and all others should have the freedom to follow the kind of religion they favored; so that the God who dwells in heaven might be propitious to us and to all under our rule. . . . Moreover, concerning the Christians, we before gave orders with respect to the places set apart for their worship. It is now our pleasure that all who have bought such places should restore them to the Christians, without any demand for payment.” (Edict of Milan, March 313. Par. 3, 7). The Edict, Paul Johnson writes, “was one of the decisive events in world history. Yet the story behind it is complicated and in some ways mysterious” (A History of Christianity, 67).


Historians will likely never know for certain what happened at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, where “a most incredible sign appeared to [Constantine] from heaven” (Eusebius, quoted by Johnson, 67). Having seen the Cross of Christ in the sky, Constantine underwent a conversion. But, as Johnson notes, “there is a conflict of evidence about the exact time, place and details of this vision, and there is some doubt about the magnitude of Constantine’s change of ideas. His father had been pro-Christian. He himself appears to have been a sun-worshipper, one of a number of late-pagan cults which had observances in common with the Christians.” (p. 67). Here Johnson refers in part to the fact that the Christians had been celebrating their weekly liturgy on Sunday, the first day of the week, since the time of Paul and the other apostles. Sunday was also the feast day of the Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun) cult, whose worship of the pagan sun god had appeared in the Roman world around the middle of the second century and had been strongly supported by the Emperor Aurelian (270-5 A.D) (Chas S. Clifton, Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics [New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992], 121). It should also be noted that Rome’s official religion was not sun worship. “Rome’s official religion” states Dr. Margaret Mitchell, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, “was the cult of Roma–the goddess–and of her deified emperors, and the Capitoline trio Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.”


In The Da Vinci Code, the historian Teabing states that Constantine “was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest.” He claims the official religion of Constantine’s time was “sun worship–the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun–and Constantine was its head priest.” He adds that in 325, Constantine “decided to unify Rome under a single religion. Christianity.” (p. 232)


This is a mixture of truth and error, most of it again drawn from Holy Blood Holy Grail (see pages 365-8), although that book’s account is more accurate than what is found in Brown’s novel. The existing evidence indicates that Constantine did become a sincere and believing Christian and sought to renounce his former worship of pagan gods. Yet it is also evident that he did struggle with reconciling his attachment to the Sol Invictus cult and his belief in the God of the Christians. Part of this was due to his position as emperor, the fact that the majority of the population was pagan, and likely his own inner decision to be a ruler before being a Christian.


It would be a gross oversimplification to think that Constantine could only benefit from becoming a Christian and publicly supporting the Church. “The Christians were a tiny minority of the population,” states A.H.M. Jones in Constantine and the Conversion of Europe, “and they belonged for the most part to the classes of the population who were politically and socially of the least importance, the middle and lower classes of the towns. The senatorial aristocracy of Rome were pagan almost to a man; the higher grades of the civil service were mainly pagan; and above all the army officers and men, were predominantly pagan. The goodwill of the Christians was hardly worth gaining, and for what it was worth it could be gained by merely granting them toleration” (Jones, 73).


From Paganism to Christianity


Constantine’s move from paganism to Christianity was not immediate or always consistent. But over the course of several years he increased his support of the Church and implemented laws against certain pagan practices and activities. Some scholars argue that the chasm between the monotheism of Christianity and the cult of Sol Invictus was not as wide as it might initially appear. The cult of Sol Invictus was not polytheistic or even pantheistic, but monotheistic; it was “the worship of the divine spirit by whom the whole universe was ruled, the spirit whose symbol is the sun; a symbol in which this spirit in some way specially manifests itself. . . . The whole cult is penetrated with the idea of an overruling divine monarchy. Moreover, the cult was in harmony with a philosophical religion steadily growing, in the high places of the administration, throughout this same [fourth] century, the cult of Summus Deus–the God who is supreme” (Philip Hughes, The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, 325-1870 [New York: Image, 1964], 29-30).


For Constantine–a man without much concern for theological precision–there was probably little, if any, distinction between the pagan and Christian notions of God (even though he surely recognized the differences in worship and morality). “The transition from solar monotheism (the most popular form of contemporary paganism) to Christianity was not difficult,” writes historian Henry Chadwick. “In Old Testament prophecy Christ was entitled ‘the sun of righteousness’[Mal. 4:2]. Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 2000) speaks of Christ driving his chariot across the sky like a Sun-god. . . . Tertullian says that many pagans imagined the Christians worshiped the sun because they met on Sundays and prayed towards the East” (Henry Chadwick, The Early Church [Penguin Books, 1967, 1973], 126).


The Da Vinci Code implies that Constantine was baptized against his wishes. Actually, the Emperor had desired to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, where Jesus had been baptized, but it was not to be. Not long after the Easter of 337 he called together some bishops, removed his purple robe, and put on the white garments of a catechumen, then was baptized by Eusebius, the bishop of Nicomedia (Jones, 195-200). He died a few days later. It was common for Christians at the time to put off baptism until their deathbed. Serious sins committed after baptism would require severe penance, so some considered it safer to wait until the end of life to be baptized. (This practice was mentioned by Augustine in Confessions (Book 1, ch. 10.17 ). This approach to baptism would have fit Constantine’s case since he undoubtedly understood that many of his actions were considered grave sins by the Church: “It was common at this time (and continued so until about A.D. 400) to postpone baptism to the end of one’s life, especially if one’s duty as an official included torture and execution of criminals. Part of the reason for postponement lay in the seriousness with which the responsibilities were taken” (Chadwick, The Early Church, 127).


Constantine did see Christianity as a unifying force–and he was correct in his assessment that Christianity, not paganism, had the moral core and theological vision to change society for the better. He was not a saint, but he didn’t make choices without any concern for moral goodness, as The Da Vinci Code portrays him. William Durant, hardly friendly to the Church, writes, “His Christianity, beginning as policy, appears to have graduated into sincere conviction. He became the most persistent preacher in his realm, persecuted heretics faithfully, and took God into partnership at every step. Wiser than Diocletian, he gave new life to an aging Empire by associating it with a young religion, a vigorous organization, a fresh morality” (Durant, Christ and Caesar: The Story of Civilization, Part III [New York: Simon and Schuster], 664). Nor was Constantine was not a life long pagan or a cynical manipulator. “[Dan] Brown has turned him into a cartoonish villain,” states Dr. Mitchell. “That Constantine the emperor had “political” motives (The Da Vinci Code, p. 234) is hardly news to anyone! The question is how religion and politics (which cannot be separated in the ancient world) were interrelated in him.”


Pagan Roots or Modern Myths?


According to Teabing, the Church allowed Constantine to take pagan symbols and create a “hybrid religion.” But according to Langdon, the Church never considered such a concession, but sought to eliminate by force all vestiges of pagan worship and belief. So which was it? Brown’s confusion is possibly due to the sloppiness of his research, or to a desire to have the best of both worlds: accuse the Church of damning compromise and of equally damning intolerance.


Neither account does justice to the complex and difficult relationship that Christianity had with the many varieties of paganism that existed in the third and fourth centuries. One thing is clear: the early Christians had proven that they were not willing to compromise with paganism, which is why so many of them were persecuted and killed by the Romans at various times in the first three centuries of the Church’s history. Why would Christians who had suffered just a few years earlier under Diocletian for refusing to renounce their unique beliefs about God, Jesus, and salvation, willingly compromise those same beliefs without so much as a whimper?


Brown is following the popular, but long discredited, argument developed in the late nineteenth-century by skeptics attempting to undermine the historical claims of Christianity. As Ronald Nash explains, “During a period of time running roughly from about 1890 to 1940, scholars often alleged that primitive Christianity had been heavily influenced by Platonism, Stoicism, the pagan mystery religions, or other movements in the Hellenistic world.” A number of scholarly books and papers were written rebutting those claims and today, Nash notes, “most Bible scholars regard the question as a dead issue” (Ronald H. Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003. 2nd edition], 1).


Secondly, the depiction of a “hybrid religion” that mixed together Christian and pagan elements is a gross misrepresentation of how Christians took certain symbols and feast days and Christianized them–cleansing them of those elements not compatible with their doctrines and practices, but keeping what could be used for good ends. It misrepresents the actual sources for Christian beliefs such as the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, and the Passion and Resurrection. These beliefs are rooted in historical claims, not mythological stories, and most–if not all–predate those pagan ideas that appear, at least superficially, to have similar features.


The Da Vinci Code drags out several of the standard lines–many taken nearly verbatim from Holy Blood, Holy Grail (see pages 367-8)–about how everything in Christianity was taken from pagan sources. Langdon makes mention of “transmogrification” and insists that “the vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable.” He states:


Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints. Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus. And virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual–the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of ‘God-eating’–were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions.” (p. 232)


Teabing adds, “Nothing in Christianity is original” and claims that the ancient pre-Christian god Mithras was the inspiration for many of the details surrounding Jesus’ person and life: the titles “Son of God” and “the Light of the World,” his birth on December 25, his death, his burial in a rocky tomb, and his resurrection three days later. “By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus,” the historian remarks, “The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans.” (p. 232).


There are a number of problems with these statements. Not only did the Christians not borrow ideology or theology, there is little or no evidence that most pagan mystery religions such as Egyptian cult of Isis and Osiris or the cult of Mithras existed in the forms described by The Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail prior to the mid-first century. This is a significant point, for much of the existing evidence indicates that the third and fourth-century beliefs and practices of certain pagan mystery religions are read back into the first-century beliefs of Christians–without support for such a presumptive act. Ronald Nash, whose book The Gospel and the Greeks refutes these claims in detail, explains that the methods used to arrive at the pagan-Christian connection are sloppy at best and severely biased at worst:


“It is not until we come to the third century A.D. that we find sufficient source material (i.e., information about the mystery religions from the writings of the time) to permit a relatively complete reconstruction of their content. Far too many writers use this late source material (after A.D. 200) to form reconstructions of the third-century mystery experience and then uncritically reason back to what they think must have been the earlier nature of the cults. This practice is exceptionally bad scholarship and should not be allowed to stand without challenge. Information about a cult that comes several hundred years after the close of the New Testament canon must not be read back into what is presumed to be the status of the cult during the first century A.D. The crucial question is not what possible influence the mysteries may have had on segments of Christendom after A.D. 400, but what effect the emerging mysteries may have had on the New Testament in the first century.” (Ronald Nash, “Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?” Christian Research Journal, Winter 1994).


The answer to that latter question is simply, “None.” In fact, there is strong evidence that many of the pagan mystery religions may have taken elements of Christian belief in the second and third centuries to use as their own, especially as the strength and appeal of Christianity continued to grow. “It must not be uncritically assumed,” writes early Church historian Bruce Metzger, “that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction” (Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 11). The fact that many authors won’t even consider that there existed a two-way street indicates that they are less interested in truth than they are in attacking Christianity by any means possible.


A host of scholars, including Nash, E.O. James, Bruce Metzger, Günter Wagner (Pauline Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries), and Hugo Rahner (Greek Myths and Christian Mystery), point out in detail that the pagan mystery religions were quite different from Christianity in significant ways. Those religions were based on an annual vegetation cycle, they stressed esoteric (hidden) knowledge, they emphasized emotional ecstasy over doctrine and dogma, and their central goal was mystical experience. They were also very syncretistic, taking elements from other pagan movements and shedding beliefs with little regard for any established teaching or belief system–completely contrary to the apostolic tradition so intensely guarded by Christians (Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks, 105-20). Perhaps most importantly, there is a sharp contrast between the mythological character of pagan mystery religions and the historical character of the Gospels and the New Testament writings. “In the nature of the case a most profound difference between Christianity and the Mysteries was involved in the historical basis of the former and the mythological character of the latter,” writes Metzger in his classic study Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian. “Unlike the deities of the Mysteries, who were nebulous figures of an imaginary past, the Divine Being whom the Christian worshipped as Lord was known as a real Person on earth only a short time before the earliest documents of the New Testament were written. From the earliest times the Christian creed included the affirmation that Jesus ‘was crucified under Pontius Pilate.’ On the other hand, Plutarch thinks it necessary to warn the priestess Clea against believing that ‘any of these tales [concerning Isis and Osiris] actually happened in the manner in which they are related.’” (Metzger, Historical and Literary Studies, 13).


With this mind, here is a brief examination of some of the pagan religions that The Da Vinci Code claims Constantine and the Church borrowed or stole key beliefs from in the fourth century.


Walking The Mithraic Maze


The pagan religion of Mithraism was one of the most important of the ancient mystery religions. Although there has been much scholarly dispute over the exact origins of the Mithraic religion, it is generally agreed that Mithra was originally a Persian god who was depicted as a bucolic deity who watched over cattle. Mithraism was not introduced to the West and the Mediterranean world until the first century at the earliest, where it “emerged as one of the most striking religious syntheses in antiquity: in the first four centuries of the Christian era it swept across the Roman world, becoming the favoured religion of the Roman legions and several Roman emperors” (Yuri Stoyanov, The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy [Yale University Press, 2000], 75). This second form, contemporaneous with Christianity, was for males only–it has “often been described as a type of Roman Freemasonry” (Stoyanov, 75). In the early third century, this form would result in Mithras being elevated to the status Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun). While scholars distinguish between the earlier Iranian Mithraism and the later Roman Mithraism, those straining to connect Mithras to Jesus usually do not.


This failure (purposeful or not) to distinguish between the two often results in later beliefs being read back into the earlier, pre-Christian form of Mithraism. But the Mithraic beliefs and practices that Christianity is accused of “stealing” did not come into vogue until the end of the first century at the earliest, far too late to shape the Gospels and their depiction of Jesus. Although there are numerous theories about how Mithraism moved from Persia to Rome and how it changed along the way, the physical evidence indicates that “the flowering of [Roman] Mithraism occurred after the close of the New Testament canon, much too late for it to have influenced anything that appears in the New Testament. Moreover, no monuments for the cult can be dated earlier than A.D. 90-100, and even this dating requires us to make some exceedingly generous assumptions.” (Nash, “Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?”). David Ulansey, author of The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (Oxford University Press, 1991), substantiates Nash’s assessment: “The earliest physical remains of the cult date from around the end of the first century A.D., and Mithraism reached its height of popularity in the third century” (“The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras”).


Mithraism was highly syncretistic, absorbing and borrowing an eclectic range of beliefs and religious ideas. By the time it became popular in the Roman Empire it had changed from a public religion for the many to a mystery religion meant for a few elite. “Ultimately,” Stoyanov writes, “the novel and composite form of Mithra-worship that developed and became widely diffused in the Roman world was virtually a new mystery religion, in which the old Irano-Babylonian core seems to have been refashioned and recast into a Graeco-Roman mould tinged with astrological lore and Platonic speculation” (Stoyanov, 77-8).


Many serious differences exist between the myth of Mithras and the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. In some accounts, Mithras is “born” by “being forced out of a rock as if by some hidden magic power. He is shown naked save for the Phrygian cap, holding dagger and torch in his uplifted hands” (Abstracted from Mithras, the Secret God, M.J. Vermaseren [London, 1963]). In the Persian legends, he was born of a virgin mother, Anahita (once worshipped as a fertility goddess), who swam in Lake Hamun in the Persian province of Sistan where Zoroaster/ Zarathustra had left sperm four hundred years earlier. Christians believe Jesus is born of a virgin Jewish girl, by the power of the Holy Spirit.


The central feat of Mithras’ life on earth was the capturing and killing of a stolen bull at the command of the god Apollo, symbolizing the annual spring renewal of life. While Mithras was subduing the bull, other animals joined in the fray. After Mithras finished his appointed task, he and Apollo quarreled, but eventually reconciled and feasted together (Peter Clark, Zoroastrianism, An Introduction to an Ancient Faith, 157-158). The central accomplishments of Jesus’ life were his death and resurrection, which Christians believe were historical events that took place in first century Palestine–not in a nebulous mythic netherworld. Other key differences include the Gnostic-like dualism of the Mithraic belief system and a belief that the human soul has fallen from its heavenly home and must now ascend, after a time of testing here on earth, back to heaven.


Mithraism did not originally have a concept of a god who died and was then resurrected (Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks, 136-7; E.O. James, Comparative Religion [New York: University Paperbacks, 1961], 246-9). Despite the claims made in The Da Vinci Code, there is no ancient account of Mithras dying, being buried “in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days” (The Da Vinci Code, 232). That assertion apparently is taken (either directly or from a second-generation source) from Kersey Graves’ The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors (1875), a work of pseudo-scholarship and anti-Christian polemics that is so shoddy that even atheists and agnostics disavow it. Graves writes that several pagan deities, including “ ‘Mithra the Mediator’ of Persia did, according to their respective histories, rise from the dead after three days’ burial” (chapter 19). However, Graves provides no documentation (his common practice). E.O. James, who was professor of history and philosophy of religion at the University of London, references an ancient work by Pseudo-Dionysus when he notes that “in contrast to the other Graeco-Oriental Mystery divinities, the Persian saviour-god [Mithras] did not himself pass through death to life, though by his sacrificial act [killing a bull] he was a life-giver” (E.O. James, Comparative Religion [New York: University Paperbacks, 1961], 247). James later observes that Mithraism–which was a strong adversary of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries–was overcome by Christianity, not by being absorbed, “but because the Church was able to meet its adversary on the sure ground of historical fact.” Christianity went far beyond “the ancient seasonal drama with its polytheistic background” and offered initiates a “renewal of spiritual life and regeneration of outlook . . . to a degree unknown and unattainable in any rival system. Therefore, Christianity ultimately prevailed because it provided a different gift of life from that bestowed in the pagan cults.” (248-9).


Christmas Gifts, Halos, the Nursing Christ, and Other Details


The story of the Hindu deity Krishna’s birth and the presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh also apparently comes from Graves and The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. In the seventh chapter of that work, Graves writes:


“Other Saviors at birth, we are told, were visited by both angels and shepherds, also ‘wise men,’ at least great men. Chrishna, the eighth avatar of India (1200 B.C.) (so it is related by the ‘inspired penman’ of their pagan theocracy) was visited by angels, shepherds and prophets (avatars). ‘Immediately after his birth he was visited by a chorus of devatas (angels), and surrounded by shepherds, all of whom were impressed with the conviction of his future greatness.’ We are informed further that ‘gold, frankincense and myrrh’ were presented to him as offerings.” (chapter 7)


Graves conveniently provides no sources or citations, which is one of many reasons his book has been long discredited by scholars working in the field of comparative religion. But that doesn’t keep this popular idea from appearing on numerous websites–none providing sources or citations (and rarely mentioning Graves’ book). There’s good reason for this absence of evidence. The Bhagavad-Gita (first century A.D.) doesn’t mention Krishna’s childhood, and the stories of Krishna’s childhood recorded in the Harivamsa Purana (c. 300 A.D.) and the Bhagavata Purana (c. 800-900 A.D.) don’t mention the gifts at all. Even if they did, those works were written well after the birth of Christ, making such a claim absurd.


The halo, or nimbus, used in Christian art was used by a number of pre-Christian cultures, including Greek and Roman, to distinguish figures who were gods or demigods (see Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [Oxford University Press, Third edition, 1997], 732]. Roman emperors, for example, were depicted on coins with radiant heads. This is a good example of Christians gradually appropriating a cultural element and using it in a way totally in keeping with their theology and practice. For Christians to take over this attribute is about as scandalous as later artists depicting Jesus in philosopher’s robes or in the clothing of a later historical age. The use of a halo would have been a natural choice for Christian art since both Moses and Jesus are described in the Bible as having shining faces after significant events. Moses face radiated light after he came down from Mount Sinai and the presence of God (Ex 34:29-35) and at the Transfiguration, Jesus’ “face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt 17:2). The use of halos in Christian iconography is simply a case of Christians recognizing the usefulness of an artistic motif and appropriating it for their specific needs.


Langdon claims, “Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus.” It’s a curious statement since any sensible person recognizes that the image of a nursing mother is hardly unique to one religion or culture. Christian artists undoubtedly copied the poses of figure depicted in pagan art, including mothers (or goddesses) nursing children. One of the earliest renderings of Mary is a late second-century/early third-century fresco found on a wall of the catacombs of Priscilla in Rome (Andre Grabar, La Premier Art Chretien [Gallimard Editions, 1996], p. 99. Figure 95.], mentioned by Pope John Paul II in a general audience on May 23, 1990. The Madonna and Child have been depicted in numerous ways throughout history, often reflecting the culture of the respective painters and sculptors (see Herbert Haag, Caroline Ebertshauser, Joe H. Kirchberger, Dorothee Solle, Peter Heinegg, Mary: Art, Culture, and Religion Through the Ages [Crossroad/Herder & Herder, 1998]).


As Nash and others point out, the real issue is not of similarity, but of dissimilarity. The Egyptian goddess Isis was part of a polytheistic fertility cult. After her husband Osiris was assassinated and dismembered, Isis searches and finds all the parts of his body and then restores him–not to life on earth, but to life in the underworld, as a “dead god” (E.O. James, The Cult of the Mother-Goddess [New York: Barnes & Noble, 1994], 241ff). Originally, Isis was one of several goddesses (e.g., Nut, Neith, etc.) and Horus, her son, was one of the eight gods “of the Ennead” (James, Cult of the Mother-Goddess,, 57). Worship of Isis was established in Greece around the fourth century B.C., where she remained a goddess of fertility, and became a popular deity whose temples were established in numerous cities. In this Hellenistic form, the Isis cult was a pagan mystery religion in which adherents underwent esoteric, occult rites [Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks, 126-8. For more on Isis, see “Isis as Saviour Goddess” by C.J. Bleeker, S.G.F. Brandon, ed., The Savior God: Comparative Studies in the Concept of Salvation [Manchester University Press, 1963], 1-16).


Langdon claims that “the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of ‘God-eating’–were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions.” First, it should again be noted that “mystery religions,” strictly speaking, did not come into existence until the end of the first century at the earliest, making it impossible for the first Christians to take, borrow, or steal much of anything from them. The word “miter,” or “mitre,” is derived from mitra, a Greek word meaning “turban” or “headband.” It is the liturgical head-dress and part of the insignia of the bishop (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1096). It didn’t appear in the West until the middle of the tenth century and was not used by bishops in the East until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In the East it seems to have been derived the crowns worn by Byzantine Emperors; in the West is appears to have been a variation of unofficial hat, the camelaucum, worn by the Pope in processions. In both cases, the mitre has no connections with pagan mystery religions.


Altars are a common element in most religions and there are over three hundred references to altars in the Old Testament. Thus, the first Christians, who were all Jewish, would hardly be new to the concept of an altar, especially when the altar in the Temple was a focal point of the Jewish religion. Not surprisingly, there are several references to altars in the New Testament, including references in the Gospels to the altar in the Temple (Matt 5:23-24; 23:18-20; Lk 1:11) and references in The Apocalypse to the heavenly altar in the throne room of God (Rev. 6:9; 8:3-5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:8; 16:7). There is also this passage in the epistle to the Hebrews: “We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” (Heb 13:10). It is likely a reference to the Eucharistic table of the Christians and a similar use of language was common among the early Church Fathers. For example, Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 110), writing to the church at Philadelphia, states, “Take care, then, to partake of one Eucharist; for, one is the Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His Blood, and one altar, just as there is one bishop assisted by the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow servants. Thus you will conform in all your actions to the will of God” (Letter to the Philadelphians, par. 4). Other references to a Christian altar appear in the writings of Tertullian and Cyprian.


A doxology is simply a hymn or ascription of praise and glory (doxa = “glory”; logos = “word”). Almost all religions have statements about the glory and power of a deity, reflecting the natural human desire to recognize what is sacred and Other. Traditionally, in historic Christianity, there are three types of doxology: the Great Doxology, the Less Doxology, and the Metrical Forms. Langdon is probably referring to the Great Doxology, which begins with these statements of praise:


Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.

We praise You; we bless You; we worship You; we glorify You; we thank You, for Your great glory.

O Lord King, God in Heaven, the Father Almighty. O Lord, Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit.

O Lord God, Lamb of God, the Son of the Father, Who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; You, Who takes away the sins of the world;

Receive our prayers, You, Who sits at the right hand of the Father, and have mercy on us .

For You alone are Holy; You alone are the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God, the Father. Amen.


All of this language is taken directly from passages in the New Testament; all of it reflects the unique beliefs of the Christians. Such language did not, of course, come from pagans, who were mostly polytheistic and did not believe in the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus Christ.


Langdon’s reference to “God-eating” is likely an appeal to Mithraism, for it was the only mystery religion that celebrated anything resembling Holy Communion (Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks, 148-9); many of the mystery religions, such as the Orphic cult, had no sacred meal at all. In his work on comparative religion, E.O. James writes that the Christian’s “sacramental outlook differed from that of the pagan Mysteries in several important respects. So far as we know, initiates in those cults were neither baptized into the name of the saviour-god or goddess, nor were they the recipients of a pneumatic gift as a result of lustration.” Jones goes on to note that the Christian Eucharist was strongly connected to a life of holiness and purity, while “normally in a Mystery cult initiation was an end itself irrespective of any ethical considerations.” (Jones, Comparative Religion, 239. See Metzger, Historical and Literary Studies, 14).


In the myth of Mithras, the god does not even die, but is a savior-god by virtue of killing a bull. Initiates into the Mithraic cult would dramatize this mythical event and the blood of a slain bull would be ceremoniously poured over initiates. At the higher stages of the cult members participated in a sacred meal of bread and water (or wine, but that detail is still a matter of debate); there is no indication that those participating believed they were engaging in “God-eating.” Little is known of that meal, so a fuller comparison with Christian communion is difficult to make.


Regardless, the Jewish character and context of the Passover Meal, the Last Supper, and the Christian Eucharist are the essential elements that shape the Christian sacrament and ritual–not pagan rites. “[O]n almost any view of this matter,” Metzger writes, “the Jewishness of the setting, character, and piety expressed in the rite is overwhelmingly pervasive in all the accounts of the origin of the Supper” (p. 16). The Jewish character is explored by Jean Danielou in his important study, The Bible and the Liturgy (University of Notre Dame Press, 1956), where he writes:


“[T]he Eucharist is the fulfillment of the meal of Jewish worship; It signifies, then, as did these [Jewish communal] meals, participation in the blessings of the Covenant. . . . In fact, the meal in the course of which Christ instituted the Eucharist seems to have been a ritual meal, a chaboura, such as was customarily celebrated by the Jewish communities. . . It was, then, in this framework of a sacred Jewish meal that Christ instituted the meal of the New Covenant, as it as in the framework of the Jewish commemoration of the Pasch that He died on the Cross.” (p. 160; see 142-190).


Sunday and Christmas Day


Teabing states, “Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans.” (The Da Vinci Code, 232). This is false. Equally false is Langdon’s declaration that originally Christians worshipped on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday), but changed to Sunday under Constantine’s influence so that it would “coincide with the pagan’s veneration day of the sun” (p. 232-3).


The implication here is that for nearly three hundred years, until the time of Constantine, the Christians worshipped on Saturday. But the Christians of the New Testament era were already worshipping on Sunday, or the “day of the Lord,” as it is described in Revelation 1:10. This was to honor the day that Jesus rose from the dead; having been crucified on a Friday, his resurrection occurred on the third day (cf. Mk 16:2)–the day after Sabbath, or Sunday (Sabbath was the only day of the week named by Jews; the other day were simply numbered: “first day,” “second day,” etc.). This practice is referred to in Acts 20:7: “And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” The Apostle Paul mentions in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:2) that tithes and offering should be set aside on the first day of the week, another indication that the early Christians viewed the day after the Jewish Sabbath as the most important day of the week.


There are numerous references by the early Church Fathers to Christians worshipping on “the day of the Lord” (or Dies Dominica, as it came to be known in the West). Ignatius of Antioch writes around 110 , “How, then, shall we be able to live apart from Him, seeing that the prophets were His disciples in the Spirit and expected Him as their Master, and that many who were brought up in the old order have come to the newness of hope? They no longer observe the Jewish Sabbaths, but keep holy the Lord’s day, on which, through Him and through His death, our life arose” (Epistle to the Magnesians, ch. 9). The Epistle of Barnabas, which was probably written before the end of the first century, states, “This is why we also observe the eighth day with rejoicing, on which Jesus also rose from the dead, and having shown himself ascended to heaven” (Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 15). There are many references to the “eighth day” in the writings of the Church Fathers, as Danielou details in The Bible and the Liturgy (see chapter 15, “The Lord’s Day,” [242-261] and chapter 16, “The Eighth Day” [262-286]). Danielou also flatly states that “the Lord’s Day is a purely Christian institution; its origin is to be found solely in the fact of the Resurrection of Christ on the day after the Sabbath” (p. 242). Another early, non-canonical reference to the Lord’s Day is found in The Didache: “And on the Lord’s Day, after you have come together, break bread and offer the Eucharist, having first confessed your offences, so that your sacrifice may be pure” (14.1). Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, makes the first known reference by a Christian author to “Sunday”; all prior references had been to the day of the Lord.


Brown apparently thinks that since the observance of Sunday as a day of rest wasn’t sanctioned by civil authorities until the fourth century than it must not been observed prior to that time. But over one hundred years earlier, around 200, Tertullian writes about Sunday as a day of rest: “We, however (just as tradition has taught us), on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude, deferring even our businesses lest we give any place to the devil” (De orat., xxiii; cf. Ad nation., I, xiii; Apolog., xvi). The Council of Elvira, a local Spanish council that convened around 303, decreed that Sunday was to be a special day of worship and rest, stating, “If anyone in the city neglects to come to church for three Sundays, let him be excommunicated for a short time so that he may be corrected” (Canon xxi). Two decades later, in 321., Constantine officially declared Sunday a day of rest in the Roman Empire, “commanding abstention from work, including legal business, for townspeople, though permitting farm labour” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1558). Since Christians considered Jesus to be the “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal 4:2) spoken of in the Old Testament and “the light of the world” (Jn 812; 9:5) in the New Testament, they thought it fitting that the true God would supercede the old Roman Sun-god. St Jerome (c. 345-420) wrote, “The Lord’s day, the day of Resurrection, the day of Christians, is our day. It is called the Lord’s day because on it the Lord rose victorious to the Father. If pagans call it the ‘day of the sun,’ we willingly agree, for today the light of the world is raised, today is revealed the sun of justice with healing in his rays” [St. Jerome, Pasch.: CCL 78, 550. Quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1166].


Did Christians take December 25, the “birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus,” a use it for their celebration of the birth of Jesus? Many Christians have essentially agreed with this statement and have argued that the Christians appropriated this important pagan holy day as a way of showing the superiority of the true God-man, Jesus. Recently, however, some scholars have argued that December 25 was not taken from pagans by Christians, but vice-versa.


In an article in Touchstone magazine titled “Calculating Christmas” (Touchstone, December 2003), William J. Tighe, the Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College, explains, “The idea that the date was taken from the pagans goes back to two scholars from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, wished to show that the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th was one of the many ‘pagan-izations’ of Christianity that the Church of the fourth century embraced, as one of many ‘degenerations’ that transformed pure apostolic Christianity into Catholicism. Dom Jean Hardouin, a Benedictine monk, tried to show that the Catholic Church adopted pagan festivals for Christian purposes without paganizing the gospel.”


Tighe points out that none of the Roman cults had major celebrations on December 25. It was the Emperor Aurelian (270-5 A.D.) who “appears to have promoted the establishment of the festival of the ‘Birth of the Unconquered Sun’ as a device to unify the various pagan cults of the Roman Empire around a commemoration of the annual ‘rebirth’ of the sun. . . . . In creating the new feast, he intended the beginning of the lengthening of the daylight, and the arresting of the lengthening of darkness, on December 25th to be a symbol of the hoped-for ‘rebirth,’ or perpetual rejuvenation, of the Roman Empire, resulting from the maintenance of the worship of the gods whose tutelage (the Romans thought) had brought Rome to greatness and world-rule.”


Once Christianity had separated from Judaism (especially after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.) and emerged as a unique religion, it sought to calculate the exact day of Jesus’ death. There was much confusion due to different calendars; after much debate and difficulty, the Eastern Christians chose April 6 and the Western Christians chose March 25 as the date of Jesus’ crucifixion. At this point the ancient and obscure notion of an “integral age” comes into play; this was the belief that the Old Testament prophets died either on the same date of their birth or conception. Most Christians accepted April 6 or March 25 as the date of Jesus’ conception, thus arriving at January 6 (in the East) and December 25 (in the West) as the date of his birth. Although these dates would not be made “official” until the late fourth century, they were held long before both Aurelian and Constantine. Thus, Tighe states, “the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians. The Christians, in turn, could at a later date re-appropriate the pagan ‘Birth of the Unconquered Sun’ to refer, on the occasion of the birth of Christ, to the rising of the ‘Sun of Salvation’ or the ‘Sun of Justice.’”


There’s no doubt that early Christians, who lived in a pagan culture, were influenced by paganism and sometimes used the same terms and motifs as their pagan neighbors in describing their beliefs. But the success of the Christian faith was impossible for pagans to ignore, and some of them sought to borrow Christian ideas, or at least terminology, in their rituals and practices. Dr. Margaret Mitchell writes:


“It is absolutely true that “The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable” (p.232). But the conclusion drawn from that –”Nothing in Christianity is original”– is not, and, from the point of view of the history of religions, an old, long-disqualified claim. Even new arrangements of existing materials are “original”! (and the Christian movements represent more than just that). Current scholarship recognizes that the relationship between the Christian cult and the world around it, and the ways in which it was culturally embedded in that world – sometimes unreflectively, sometimes reflexively, sometimes in deliberate accommodation, sometimes in deliberate cooptation – are far more complicated than noted here. Conspiracy theories sell books, but they do not explain complex human phenomena which are both local and more wide-spread – and hardly could have been instituted as a wide-spread, Stalinesque program of cultural totalitarianism as Brown has conjured up for Constantine.” (Dr. Mitchell,


What Really Happened at the Council of Nicaea?


Brown makes several misleading statements about the Council of Nicaea, including the assertion (made by the historian Teabing, who apparently never studied ancient or Church history) that it was where Jesus was first declared divine. A full history and background to the Council of Nicaea, which convened in 325, is impossible here; there are a number of popular and scholarly works that provide that information (Philip Hughes, The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, 325-1870 [Image, 1964]; A.H.M. Jones, Constantine and the Conversion of Europe [University of Toronto Press, 1978]). But a brief overview of the basic facts will show how egregious are the claims made in The Da Vinci Code.


The Council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical of the Church, made possible by the patronage of Constantine and his desire to end the disunity and controversy being caused by the Arian heresy. Arius (b. c. 260-80; d. 336) was a priest from Alexandria who was noted for his preaching and ascetic lifestyle. Around 319 or so he began to gain attention for his teaching that Jesus was not fully divine, but was lesser than the Father. Arius held that the Son had not existed for all of eternity past, but was a created being begotten by the Father as an instrument of, first, creation and the, later, salvation. Put another way, Arius believed that Jesus, the Son of God, was not God by nature, but instead was a lesser god.


This belief was condemned by the bishop Alexander at a local synod held in Alexandria around 320, with ninety-eight of a hundred bishops voting against Arius’s views. But the priest’s teachings attracted interest and spread quickly, partially due to Arius’s clever use of catchy songs proclaiming his doctrinal beliefs and also due to the patronage of Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea and one of the greatest scholars of his time. Arius’s beliefs were proving so popular and disruptive that Constantine decided to bring together the bishops and put an end to the controversy; his interest was most likely in unity over theological clarity, but he realized the former would defend in large part upon the latter.


On May 20, 325, a number of bishops, the vast majority of them from the East, convened at Nicaea (modern day Iznik, north of Constantinople); the council lasted until July 25 of the same year. The number of bishops in attendance has traditionally been listed as 318, likely a symbolic number (cf., Gen. 14:14); the actual number was probably around 220 to 250 (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1144). Due to poor health, the Pope did not attend, but sent two deacons to represent him. “The great bulk of the Council came from the Greek-speaking provinces of the Empire,” writes A.H.M. Jones, “The bulk of the gathering were simple pastors, who would naturally resent any innovation on the faith which they had learned and would have little sympathy with the intellectual paradoxes of Arius. Many could boast of the proud title of confessor, having endured imprisonment, torture, and penal servitude for the sake of their faith” ( Jones, 131).


This rugged and tried character of most of the bishops is completely contrary to The Da Vinci Code’s implication that the bishops meekly accepted whatever the Emperor told them. Many of the bishops at Nicaea were veterans of the persecution of Diocletian. Is it reasonable to think that they would quietly allow Constantine to change the faith for which they had already suffered and were willing to die? Constantine, while actively involved in the Council, knew that his place was not to be a theologian or scholar, but to help facilitate as structured and productive gathering as possible. After all, one of the strengths of Roman culture was organization; the Greeks, on the other hand, were more attuned to theological nuance and detail.


In The Da Vinci Code, Teabing states that at the Council of Nicaea Jesus was established as “the Son of God” (p. 233). This is false; it is also taken from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which states, “Most important of all, the Council of Nicaea decided, by vote, that Jesus was a god, not a mortal prophet” (Holy Blood, Holy Grail,, 368. The irony is that Arius believed that Jesus was a god, but not fully God). As already noted, the Gospels alone refer to Jesus as the “Son of God” over forty times and this description is used often by the early Church fathers. Thus, the Council of Nicaea actually ratified, even more clearly and definitively, the consistent belief of the Church. As we have already seen, the belief in Jesus’ divinity and Godhead goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. The Council of Nicaea focused on clarifying the unique relationship between the Father and the Son and condemning those ideas of Arius that would imply, or assert outright, that the Son was lesser than the Father, was a created being, and was a lesser god. The Catechism of the Catholic Church ably summarizes the basic issue: “The first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is ‘begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father’, and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God ‘came to be from things that were not’ and that he was ‘from another substance’ than that of the Father” (CCC 465).


As for the “relatively close vote,” it is a figment of Teabing and Brown’s imaginations. Only two bishops out of some 250 voted in favor of Arius’s position–over 99% of the bishops upheld the belief that the Son was equal with the Father and of the same substance. Even Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which apparently provided much of Brown’s material for his comments on this topic, gets it right, acknowledging in a terse footnote: “218 for, 2 against” (Holy Blood, Holy Grail,, 473. It also adds, “The Son was then pronounced identical with the Father.” Not quite. He was pronounced “one in substance”; he is a separate Person). Once again, Brown’s embellished version of the facts is not only incorrect, it is completely contrary to the truth.


Teabing also states that at the Council there were “many aspects of Christianity” that were “debated and voted” upon. The wording implies that these “aspects” were somehow new and unique; they are listed as “the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus.” [p. 233; see Holy Blood, Holy Grail, 368]. The twenty canons–or laws–of the Council were actually rather mundane and were, “in great part, a repetition of measures enacted eleven years earlier in the Latin council held at Arles, in Gaul” (Philip Hughes, The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, 325-1870 [New York: Image Books, 1964], 36]. Five of the canons addressed the sensitive subject of those Christians who had fallen away from the Church during the recent persecutions, providing guidelines for penance, readmission to Holy Communion, and other directives. Two other canons dealt with the readmission of heretical schismatics: the Novatians and the followers of Pal of Samosata, the former bishop of Anitoch who had been deposed in 268 for criminal actions and teaching heresy. Some ten canons addressed issues having to do with the clergy: “No one is to be ordained who has had himself castrated, nor anyone only recently admitted to the faith. . . . No clerics–bishops, priests, or deacons–are to move from one diocese to another. Clerics are forbidden to take interest for money loans, and for this offence they must be deposed” (Hughes, The Church in Crisis, 38). Other canons involved matters of jurisdiction pertaining to the three most famous sees of the ancient Church: Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.


The issue of Easter and its dating was quite complicated–it was addressed at the Council because of the Emperor’s desire for unity in matters of religious observance. At the time, churches in different regions celebrated Easter on different days; the confusion was partially the result of the lunar calendar of Jews and of the antagonism of some Christians towards the Jews–they refused to celebrate Easter on the same day as the Jewish Passover [for more detailed history, see the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on the topic). The Council sought to enforce a uniform date, but the results were mixed and the controversy would continue on for many centuries. In this instance, and in the instances of the canons, there were no issues of dogma addressed; all were matters of discipline, made necessary by the real life issues and concrete pastoral problems faced by the Church in the midst of confusion, rapidly changing conditions, and cultural shifts.




As we have researched and written these critiques, we are continually amazed by the audacity of Brown’s incorrect and often completely false claims about nearly every historical event and figure he writes about. It is not an exaggeration to say that finding a correct remark about any of these topics is surprising–and quite rare. Although some might wonder why anybody would be concerned by a work of fiction, Brown’s insistence that his novel is based on meticulous research and historical fact, coupled with the overwhelming praise and positive response The Da Vinci Code has received, makes such a rebuttal necessary. This is especially the case since so many people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, are confused by the novel’s representation of Church history and many admit that their faith has been shaken by reading the best-seller.


The next edition of “Cracking the Anti-Catholic Code” will examine The Da Vinci Code’s claims about Mary Magdalen, the Templar Knights, the Priory of Sion, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Comments or questions about this critique can be sent to Envoy magazine editor, Carl Olson.


Websites and links to helpful materials:


Sandra Miesel’s critique of The Da Vinci Code appeared in the September 2003 issue of Crisis magazine. Sandra is a medievalist and an authority on esoteric groups and beliefs. Amy Welborn’s too-the-point, take-no-prisoners review (originally appearing in Our Sunday Visitor) can be viewed on her website. “Cracking the Da Vinci Code” is a critique from the November 2003 issue of the Evangelical Protestant magazine Christianity Today. For a secular review of the novel, see’s “Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci.”


On November 3, 2003, ABC aired a prime time news special, “Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci,” about Brown’s claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children. Carl Olson’s analysis of that program was published in the National Catholic Register. Further (more informal) remarks by Carl about the ABC special can be found on Envoy’s weblog, Envoy Encore.


Dan Brown’s reliance on Holy Blood, Holy Grail is readily apparent, as this critique has shown. A fine review and refutation of that book, written by Brian Onken, can be found on the Christian Research Institute’s website.


Brown’s selected bibliography for The Da Vinci Code is available at his website and is worth checking out. It lists few scholarly works (Peter Partner’s The Knights Templar and their Myth being one exception, although Brown ignores all of Partner’s conclusions and research) and a number of sensational books marked by conspiracy theories (Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic Legacy), shoddy scholarship (The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ),, feminist agendas (Margaret Starbird’s The Woman With The Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail and The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine), and antagonism towards the Catholic Church (Their Kingdom Come: Inside the secret world of Opus Dei and The Pope’s Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church).


Some helpful online articles about the paganism-Christianity connection include “Mighty Mithraic Madness: Did The Mithraic Mysteries Influence Christianity?” by apologist James Patrick Holding, the excellent “Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?” by noted scholar and autho Ronald Nash, and “Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?” by Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi.


Additional material about the Mithras religion can be found at the website of David Ulansey, author of The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (Oxford University Press, 1991) and at the website, “an illustrated reference portal about ancient Persia.”


A comparison of Krishna and Christ can be found here and Holding has an article on the topic, “Did Hinduism Influence the Christian Faith?,” at the website. Holding also compares the Osiris myth to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life in “Comparing Osiris, Horus, and Jesus.” A full listing of Holding’s essays on the “copy cat” theory is located here. For a scholarly and more technical article about the pagan mystery religions and Christianity, see “Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity,” written by noted New Testament scholar Dr. Bruce M. Metzger.


Christian History magazine (a sister magazine of Christianity Today) has some helpful articles on Constantine and the Council of Nicaea located here, including “Finding the Truth: How the earliest church decided Marcion and the Gnostics, among others, were wrong” by Justo González, Jr, and “A Hammer Struck At Heresy” by Robert Payne.




Religious Fiction . . . The Da Vinci Code (National Review Online, 031208)


The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown

(Doubleday, 454 pp., $24.95)




When a novel has stuck around the top of the New York Times bestseller list for half a year, there is something interesting going on. Such a book has set off a pretty loud pealing of the electric chimes at the front door of the culture. In the case of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, what’s so special exactly? That depends on what makes conspiracy theories so fascinating.


Brown starts out with the bizarre murder of a curator at the Louvre by an albino assassin sent, it would seem, by the Catholic religious order Opus Dei. From there we’re off like a bottle rocket, as a Harvard professor of “religious symbology,” Robert Langdon, who happens to be visiting Paris, is called in for a consultation with the police. For the curator, before he succumbed to his wounds, had taken off all his clothes, arranged himself and some of the nearby artwork in a most curious fashion, and daubed a cryptic message in his own blood, mentioning Langdon’s name.


I don’t have to tell you that a book like this needs a love interest for protagonist Langdon, whom Brown supplies in the person of Sophie Neveu, a beautiful police cryptologist. Pretty soon Langdon is himself a suspect in the murder and he and Sophie are on the run from the French law. As we learn, a mysterious group of unknown individuals is trying to keep uncomfortable historical truths a secret, and the albino assassin is mixed up in it.


The conspiracy theory at the heart of Dan Brown’s huge bestseller was not invented by him (it has been kicking around for years), but it’s a juicy one and he’s made the most of it, creating a story with a very effective cliffhanger at the end of almost every one of his 105 chapters. You are pulled along relentlessly — a feat of narrative art that really does deserve to be called art, no matter what Yale literary critic Harold Bloom said recently in mocking the “immensely inadequate” Stephen King (a similarly gifted writer) when the latter won a lifetime literary prize. If you don’t believe writing in this vein merits appreciation, try thinking up a plot like the one in The Da Vinci Code yourself.


Since Brown’s novel is a novel, it can more forthrightly take advantage of the tension inherent in unlocking ancient doors that perhaps should never be opened. He’s witty, succinct, and smart — though the reader will have to be prepared to encounter the phrase “the sacred feminine” more than once, and if that makes you extremely queasy, you had better leave this book alone.


But the best thing about The Da Vinci Code is that the conspiracy is just an awfully neat one. What makes for an outstanding conspiracy? It doesn’t have to be real, as this one is surely not, despite Brown’s inclusion of a preface boldly headlined “FACT.” One requirement is a complex array of lore. Brown has that: He provides many fascinating historical and quasi-historical tidbits — like the symbolic significance of the figure of a rose, the mathematical phenomenon called the Fibonacci sequence, the ancient Hebrew coding sequence called atbash, and much more, with an emphasis on the cryptic meanings of the paintings and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, all artfully woven into the plot.


Above all, a worthwhile conspiracy needs to explain something that previously you didn’t know needed explaining, something also that links to a truth, or at least a pseudo-truth, of deep significance. Again, pseudo-depth will do fine — we’re talking about entertainment, after all. The Da Vinci Code has this.


But this book is certainly not for everyone, for the following reason. In this sort of thriller, there has to be something urgently important at stake should the conspiracy be revealed. What’s at stake in The Da Vinci Code is nothing less than traditional Christianity itself. The Holy Grail, we are told, is not a holy cup but rather holy blood, the lineage of Jesus of Nazareth: The founder of Christianity had a daughter, Sarah, by Mary Magdalene. If true, this theory would overturn some of the central beliefs of Christians.


As a believing Jew, I certainly can’t be accused of special pleading on behalf of Christian dogma. This should give me credibility when I say that this “Holy Blood” theory — of Jesus having descendants — is too nutty to merit serious consideration; any suggestion that such a fact could have been kept secret for two millennia is absurd. Brown does acknowledge that there is some merit — some truth and beauty — in Christianity; but such merit as he sees is very far from the faith of actual Christian believers. Any Christian who is offended by fiction that directly contradicts his faith should certainly avoid this book.


If I were a Christian, though, I think I would find it a little disturbing that some fellow Christians do in fact view this novel as a threat to their faith. Some Catholic magazines have published detailed refutations of The Da Vinci Code; that they believe this is necessary indicates that many Catholics, and many in the general reading public, are taking this book far more seriously than they ought to. This also suggests that the problems in Catholic religious education are every bit as severe as Catholic conservatives have been alleging for some time now. If the professional educators were doing their job, any believing Catholic past elementary-school age would know that Brown’s book is — a total falsehood.


What about the book’s influence in the broader culture? Here, I am calmed by the reflection that there’s something profoundly religious about conspiracies in the first place, even fictitious ones. Think about this next time you are at the beach in chilly weather. Though the sky is cloudy and a cold wind is up, you’ll see people sitting on blankets in the sand just staring out to sea. Why? Be cause when you look at the ocean you get the intuition that just under the surface resides a vast hidden world of exotic, usually unseen creatures. The realization that there’s all that life underneath — in some ways a mirror of our own world on dry land but in others dramatically different — is simply thrill ing. It’s what keeps people’s eyes glued to the ocean even when there is ostensibly nothing going on out there.


This, too, is what makes a conspiracy thrilling, the revelation of concealed complexity all around. Likewise, it’s what attracts many of us to thinking about spiritual matters — the gut-level perception, powerful if unproven, of an existence beyond the one of our mundane daily lives. The Da Vinci Code may be silly; but in its fashion, it’s also thrilling. If its popularity means people are thinking about invisible realities, that’s good news.


Mr. Klinghoffer’s new book is The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism (Doubleday).




Breaking the Code (, 050421)


Ever felt as if a big writing career beckoned? That you just might have the Great American Novel stuck inside you?


Well, take heart. If Dan Brown can do it, your chances are better than you think.


Brown is the wildly successful author of The Da Vinci Code, which just passed the two-year mark on the bestseller lists. That’s an impressive run, to say the least. Other books come and go, but Da Vinci endures. Why?


Is it a particularly gripping read? Not really. It’s hardly the worst book around, but the writing doesn’t justify its big numbers. (More on that in a moment.) No, it’s the explosive claim that Jesus wed Mary Magdalene and fathered a daughter, making Magdalene the actual Holy Grail. It’s the “look who’s sleeping with whom” trick, but decked out, for maximum titillation, with the Son of God at its center.


But wait, as the infomercials say, The Da Vinci Code gives us more: Evil churchmen have been suppressing this truth for centuries because it would threaten their stranglehold on power. Now a nefarious faction within the church is murdering the members of a secret society that’s been guarding the truth about Mary Magdalene — a society that boasts such famous members as Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci, whose paintings, conveniently, carry clues about Mary Magdalene’s real identity.


There’s little point in debunking these preposterous claims. For one thing, a virtual cottage industry of Code “breakers” has emerged, so the job’s largely been done. For another, the book’s defenders can always say that it’s just a story with some creative flights of fancy meant to imbue the novel with some excitement and flash.


But it doesn’t succeed even on these modest terms. It might thrill some readers who haven’t read the better books in this genre. But c’mon, folks: It’s packed with clichés, populated with two-dimensional characters and suffused with ludicrous situations. For heaven’s sake, one puzzle turns out to be backwards writing that can be read with a mirror — a trick familiar to anyone who’s watched “Scooby Doo.”


These traits surface early on, as Robert Langdon, the poor man’s Indiana Jones, is summoned to the Louvre to help investigate the death scene of Jacques Saunière, a guardian of the Grail secret. An assassin named Silas had shot Saunière in the stomach. Silas, of course, can’t just be a villain; Brown insists on making him look the part, so he’s a “hulking albino.”


Now, if you were a criminal mastermind trying to unearth the Grail, would you hire this guy? He’s not exactly going to blend in with the crowd. But Brown seems too unimaginative to come up with anything less ham-handed, no matter how implausible it seems.

Speaking of implausibilities, consider Saunière’s last moments. Silas tries to shoot him in the head as well, but his gun jams. (Of course!) Inexplicably without other means — or guns — Silas leaves Saunière to die.


And what does Saunière do? He knows he has 15 minutes to live (who wouldn’t?), so the 76-year-old drags himself downstairs and along a lengthy corridor, where he takes a pen with ink that can be viewed only under black light and writes “So dark the con of man” on the glass covering the Mona Lisa. He then returns upstairs, closer to where he was shot, and writes this on the floor:



O, Draconian devil!

O, lame saint!

P.S. Find Robert Langdon


This turns out to be a famous mathematical sequence (scrambled) and an anagram that means: “Leonardo da Vinci! The Mona Lisa!” Saunière disrobes, draws a huge circle on the floor with the pen and a pentacle on his abdomen with his own blood and stretches out his arms and legs in an imitation of da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Then, on cue, he dies.


Wow. If you can get past this guffaw-inducing scene without at least smirking, you’re Brown’s kind of reader, I guess. Oh, and a note to Mr. Brown: You can gas on and on about sacred nature religions and harmonic balance, but an orgy’s still an orgy, no matter what you call it. (If you haven’t read the book, consider yourself warned.)


The problem is that Brown puts his second-rate story at the service of his agenda — claiming that the Christian church brutally replaced the beautiful ying/yang pagan religions with a paternalistic, misogynistic faith — rather than putting the story first. (Ayn Rand used the same cart-before-the-horse trick to push objectivism in Atlas Shrugged.) Thus characters are invented and events staged for the plain purpose of allowing them to dribble out Brown’s absurd mish-mash of pseudo Grail history and goddess spirituality.


But why am I complaining? It’s time to write my own cliché-ridden bestseller. How about the umpteenth rehash of A Christmas Carol? It’s about a hack author who’s haunted by the ghosts of Hawthorne, Twain and Hemingway. Think he’ll learn anything?


Paul Gallagher is a editorial services manager at the Heritage Foundation




Authors’ court fight threat to Da Vinci Code premiere (Times Online, 060123)


A HIGH Court action being brought by the authors of a non-fiction bestseller, The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, is threatening the British release of the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s blockbusting novel, The Da Vinci Code.


A judgment from the trial, which is due to open next month, is expected just as the film, which stars Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen, is scheduled for release on May 19.


It could set a precedent in copyright law because there is little clarity over the extent to which an author can dip into someone else’s research.


Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who co-wrote The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail 22 years ago, are suing Random House, Brown’s publishers, for an alleged breach of copyright of their material.


If the judge rules in their favour, the authors will seek an injunction preventing further infringement of their copyright. That would affect both the book and the film.


Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film, stands to lose millions at the box office if it loses in the High Court. The release of the film could be delayed for months and released only once the injunction is lifted. More seriously still, if Leigh and Baigent win the case they could also seek to injunct the book and the film in other jurisdictions.


They argue that Brown’s thriller, which is a story of church conspiracy and murder that has become the bestselling hardback adult novel of all time, bears undeniable similarities to events, facts and claims in their book.


They say that Brown used as his basis the “architecture” of their book — that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child, founding a bloodline that was protected by the Knights Templar.


In The Da Vinci Code, Jesus did not die on the cross but married Mary Magdalene and started a family in France, where descendants of their child survive to this day. David Hooper, a lawyer specialising in copyright law, noted the irony of Baigent and Leigh injuncting the film, considering that Brown’s success has given a new lease of life to their book sales. “Why kill the golden goose? But they will have a claim on the film if they’re right,” he said.




‘Da Vinci Code’ Author Accused of Copyright Breach (Foxnews, 060227)


LONDON — “The Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown was accused in Britain’s High Court on Monday of taking material for his blockbuster conspiracy thriller from a 1982 book about the Holy Grail.


The accusation was made in a breach of copyright lawsuit filed against “The Da Vinci Code” publisher Random House. If the lawsuit succeeds in getting an injunction barring use of the disputed material, the scheduled May 19 release of “The Da Vinci Code” film starring Tom Hanks and Ian McKellan could be threatened.


Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” sued Random House, which also published their book. Random House denies the claim.


Baigent and Leigh claim Brown appropriated their ideas and themes in writing his book, which has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide since its 2003 publication.


Both books hinge on the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a child, and that blood line survives to this day. The earlier book set out the notion that Christ did not die on the cross but lived later in France.


Brown, who was expected to testify next week, told reporters outside court that this idea had no appeal for him.


“Suggesting a married Jesus is one thing, but questioning the Resurrection undermines the very heart of Christian belief,” said Brown, who described himself as a committed Christian.


Jonathan Rayner James, a lawyer for Baigent and Leigh, said the case did not relate to the theft of specific parts of text but to the appropriation of themes and ideas.


“Brown copied from ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ and therefore the publication of the resulting novel is an infringement of my clients’ copyright,” he told the court.


James said his case was not an attempt to “stultify creative endeavor” or claim a monopoly on ideas or historical debate.


But Jonathan Baldwin, representing Random House, said Baigent and Leigh were making “wild allegations.”


He said they were suggesting that “Mr. Brown has appropriated not only the numerous parts of a jigsaw puzzle but the organizational way (Baigent and Leigh) put it together.”


“In brief, the complaint appears to be that ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ discloses the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that they had children which survived and married into a line of French kings, that the lineage continues today, and that there is a secret society based in France which has the objective of restoring this lineage to the thrones not only of France but to the thrones of other European nations as well, and that (‘The Da Vinci Code’) uses some of this idea,” Baldwin said.


He said Brown referred to “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” in his novel, but the earlier book “did not have anything like the importance to Mr. Brown which the claimants contend it had.”


The case is being heard in the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand, a short walk from the Temple Church, which figures in Brown’s book. The church, founded by the Knights Templars, has reported an increase in visitor traffic inspired by “The Da Vinci Code.”


Brown has been sued before. In 2005, a U.S. judge in New York ruled that his book did not infringe on the copyrights of “Daughter of God,” by Lewis Perdue. The judge also ruled out any copyright violations of Perdue’s 1983 novel “The Da Vinci Legacy.”




‘Da Vinci Outreach’ Launched in Wake of Upcoming Film (Christian Post, 060225)


With the upcoming Ron Howard/Tom Hanks motion picture The Da Vinci Code less than three months away from bringing what some have called a literary “assault on the person of Jesus Christ” to the big screen, a coalition of Catholic organizations has formed an online initiative called Da Vinci Outreach to help readers and moviegoers navigate through what they’ve referred to as a “web of bogus history and outright lies.”


The Da Vinci Outreach website offers a number of free resources including study guides and “action plans” designed to educate church members about the Da Vinci Code, as well as a link for purchasing The Da Vinci Deception - a 144 page Q & A book from Ascension Press that is being referred to as a “powerful antidote to the spiritual poison found in The Da Vinci Code.”


“A simple Google search would have revealed to Academy Award-Winning director Ron Howard the myriad of factual errors in The Da Vinci Code. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls are identified in the novel as Jewish documents, not Christian, and Brown cites the Vatican eleven centuries before it even existed,” said Matthew Pinto, president of Ascension Press, which is spearheading this outreach. “These examples merely scratch the surface. What it boils down to is that 30 million readers have been duped by a deceptively good piece of fiction. Da Vinci Outreach has been launched to counter these claims and provide Catholics with the resources they need to effectively defend Christ and the Catholic Church.”


“The Da Vinci Code is a frontal assault on Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church,” continues Pinto. “, a Web site that offers resources, study guides, local speaker information, and other free materials, is the much-needed antidote to the spiritual and intellectual poison that permeates Dan Brown’s novel and that will undoubtedly be depicted in the forthcoming film.”


In related news, Sony Pictures recently launched a site called, which is designed to prepare Christians for the “Da Vinci Dialogue” that will be surrounding the release of the upcoming film. The website contains a number of free resources including weblinks, news, and essays from prominent Christian figures such as Barna Group co-founder George Barna, screenwriter and Biola associate professor Craig Detweiler, and others.




Opus Dei Asks for ‘Da Vinci Code’ Disclaimer (Foxnews, 060416)


ROME — The conservative religious group Opus Dei has asked for a disclaimer on the upcoming film based on the best-selling novel “The Da Vinci Code.”


Opus Dei, portrayed as a murderous, power-hungry sect in the novel by Dan Brown, wrote in an April 6 letter to Sony Corp. that a disclaimer would show respect to Jesus and to the Catholic Church.


“Any such decision by Sony would be a gesture of respect toward the figure of Jesus, to the history of the Church and to the religious beliefs of viewers,” Opus Dei wrote in the letter, which was posted on its Italian Web site.


“The Da Vinci Code” contends that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants, and that Opus Dei and the Catholic Church were at the center of a cover up.


A spokesman for Sony Pictures Entertainment declined to say whether the film would bear a disclaimer.


“We have no plans to reveal any details regarding what is or isn’t in the film until the release,” the spokesman, Jim Kennedy, said in a statement. Kennedy’s statement said the film was “a work of fiction, and at its heart, it’s a thriller, not a religious tract.”


The film starring Tom Hanks is slated for release next month.


Opus Dei, which has close ties to the Vatican, has described “The Da Vinci Code” as offering a deformed image of the Catholic Church.


On Friday, the priest who preaches before the pope in Advent and Lent denounced what he called works that slander the church for profit.


“Christ is still sold, but not any more for 30 coins,” the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said in his Good Friday homily before Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Basilica, referring to Jesus’ betrayal by the Apostle Judas before his crucifixion, “but to publishers and booksellers for billions of coins.”




Da Vinci Code author wins battle against plagiarism claim (Times Online, 060407)


The authors of a 1982 book that raised the theory that Jesus Christ sired a dynasty of kings with Mary Magdalene are facing a £2 million legal bill after a court rejected their copyright claim against Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code.


After one of the most closely followed trials in High Court history, Mr Justice Peter Smith ruled that American author Brown did not infringe the copyright of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh when he wrote his worldwide bestseller.


Baigent and Leigh argued that DVC, as it has been referred to in the case, lifted the “architecture” of their earlier book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (HBHG), which was itself a bestseller but never achieved anything like the success of Brown’s book which has sold more than 40 million copies since its publication in 2003.


But in a 71-page ruling issued today, Justice Smith said that Brown did not copy the central theme for his novel from the earlier book. “The plaintiffs’ case has failed,” he said. “Dan Brown has not infringed copyright. None of this amounts to copying The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.”


He added: “Even if the central themes were copied they are too general or of too low a level of abstraction to be capable of protection by copyright law. Accordingly there is no copyright infringement either by textual copying or non-textual copying of a substantial part of HBHG by means of copying the central themes.”


The judge ordered that Baigent and Leigh should pay 85 per cent of publisher Random House’s costs, estimated at nearly £1.3 million, as well as their own costs of £800,000. He said there should be an interim payment of £350,000 by May 5 and refused the authors permission to appeal his decision.


Brown said in a statement: “Today’s verdict shows that this claim was utterly without merit.” Random House said that the ruling “ensures that novelists remain free to draw in ideas and historical research”.


Gail Rebuck, chairman and chief executive of Random House, said: “Justice - and common sense - have prevailed. It is highly unusual and very sad that these authors chose to sue their publishers, especially after 20 successful years. This case has been extremely distressing for all concerned. The ruling is very important for the future of creative writing in the UK.”


Leigh spoke briefly to a scrum of reporters outside the court. He said that he believed the claim had pitted “the spirit of the law against the letter of the law” and that he and Baigent had been vindicsted on the former. When asked to explain this comment, he replied: “I leave it to you to interpret.”


Brown, meticulous in his 69-page witness statement but occasionally tetchy under cross-examination in court, admits that the book was one of dozens of sources he used, but says that he wrote his synopsis for DVC before ever reading HBHG, which he has still not got round to finishing.


Had Mr Justice Smith found for the HBHG authors in their claim against Random House, which published both books, the ruling could have delayed the scheduled May 19 release of the DVC film, starring Tom Hanks.


More importantly it would have stunned the world of copyright law by challenging the concept that copyright protects the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself.


The case attracted hundreds of Dan Brown fans to the neo-Gothic splendour of the High Court last month. Mr Justice Smith retained an air of bluff good humour during sometimes esoteric hearings that touched on the Roman Emperor Constantine’s deathbed conversion to Christianity, the founding of the medieval Knights Templar and the Merovingian dynasty allegedly descended from Christ.


The judge referred to one curious element of the case: that both works were published by the same publishing house. He said: “It is a testament to cynicism in our times that there have been suggestions that this action is nothing more than a collaborative exercise designed to maximise publicity for both books. It is true that the book sales of both books have soared during the course of the trial (in the case of HBHG it is said to be a tenfold increase).


“I am not in a position to comment on whether this cynical view is correct but I would say that if it was such a collaborative exercise, Mr Baigent and Mr Brown both went through an extensive ordeal in cross examination which they are likely to remember for some time.”


Brown, who is notoriously publicity-shy, also travelled from his home in New Hampshire to give evidence on behalf of Random House, spending three days on the stand.


While acknowledging that he and his researcher wife, Blythe, read HBHG, he said that they had also used 38 other books and hundreds of documents and HBHG was not a crucial source. He said that his decision to call a key character Sir Leigh Teabing - a partial anagram of the plaintiffs’ names - was his nod to their earlier work.


Baigent and Leigh claimed that Brown’s novel contains the same central themes as their book, although under cross-examination Baigent conceded that it had been an exaggeration to say that Brown used “all the same historical conjecture”.


The judge said he did not see Brown’s use of the anagram as being “anything other than a compliment” to the two authors.


The judge went on: “As is usual with books that attract a lot of publicity, they have attracted the wrath of the literary experts of the world. Fortunately it is not part of my judgment to assess the literary worth of the books or even the truth behind them. I suppose in the world of publication 40 million buyers cannot be wrong.”


John Baldwin, QC, for Random House, said that while many of the incidents in The Da Vinci Code had been described before, “no one has put them together, and developed and expressed them, in the way Mr Brown did. That is why he has a bestseller.”


Jim Kennedy, spokesman for Sony Pictures Entertainment, said: “While we were not a party to this lawsuit, we are pleased by this result and as we’ve been saying all along we are proceeding with our plans for the release of the film on May 19.”


The costs from the case far exceed the amount earned from a sudden surge of sales in their 24-year-old book and even from Baigent’s latest bestseller: The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History.




Da Vinci Code Trend Meets Holy Week (Christian Post, 060408)


As Christians are about to enter one of the year’s holiest of weeks, many are faced with overwhelming questions and challenges against the truth of the Gospel message that is most celebrated at this time.


Slapped on the large face of a high rise building in the middle of Times Square is the inevitable advertisement on the highly controversial upcoming movie release of “The Da Vinci Code.” Dan Brown’s bestseller is currently the most talked about text within and outside the Christian sphere three years after the book’s release and weeks before its motion picture premiere.


On top of that, new studies and findings are putting the Gospel message and the Christian faith into question.


Not too long after the release of a multimillion dollar scientific study that claimed that intercessory prayer had no impact on physical recovery, the National Geographic Society made public on Thursday an English translation of the “Gospel of Judas,” which portrays Judas with a completely different persona from the one that most Christians have been familiar with – that of a traitor. Found in the Egyptian desert in 1970, the text presents Judas as a favored disciple of Jesus.


“I think we’re dealing with the unique period of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’” said Dr. Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. “All these events kind of coalesced around the same time (Easter).”


Bock, author of Breaking The Da Vinci Code, broadened the controversies to a spiritual quest.


“There is, in many cases, a generic spiritual quest going on that involves either Christianity or a reaction to it. That’s why it’s important that Christians be prepared to engage or act on this material.”


Christians are mixed on whether to take the “go see it” outreach approach or protest against the movie’s release. Carl Olson, co-author of “The Da Vinci Hoax,” would rather not watch the movie, but has no interest in boycotting it either.


“The best way to approach it is to be more on the offense,” said Olson, encouraging people who may support Brown’s novel to consider reading what “the other side” has to say as well.


Similarly echoing Olson’s stance, Bock said, “It’s best not to be defensive in this material.”


However, “to have any credibility, it’s important to see the film or have read the book,” said Bock, commenting that either of which is fine. “The movie is assuming the backdrop of the book.”


“I think there is some merit of seeing the movie to see what is included,” he added.


Both bestselling authors, Bock and Olson were the first ones to publish books in 2004 debunking The Da Vinci Code. Olson co-authored his book with Sandra Miesel, a medieval historian and journalist.


Within its context, The Da Vinci Hoax draws out comparisons between Brown’s novel and several earlier texts that many have accused Brown of copying.


“We never accuse him of plagiarism. That’s not our intention,” noted Olson. “Our goal is to show that Brown relied upon sources that no historian takes seriously.”


On Friday, Brown was vindicated after being accused by historians Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, of plagiarism.


“We never thought that the ruling was going to affect anything that we stated [in our book],” commented Olson. “The things that came out during the court trial especially Dan Brown’s witness statement just further validated everything we wrote in our book - that he did very little research ... It speaks to what is the truth about how this [novel] was created.”


Despite a growing trend discrediting Christianity, Olson is not afraid of the challenge.


“We as Christians have nothing to fear. In fact, we welcome a thorough examination of history because it validates what we believe as Christians. History is not the enemy. My hope is that it opens the doors to Christians to study churches and church history in a way they haven’t before.”




The Gospel of unbelief (, 060411)


by Cal Thomas


It happens twice a year, at Christmas and Easter.


The newsweeklies sometimes carry cover stories. The newspapers print items calling the reason for these seasons into question.


This Easter is no exception, but the intensity level seems to have increased.


This year’s first attack came from St. Paul Minnesota where local officials decided to ban the Easter Bunny from City Hall. They said it might offend some non-Christians, as if the Easter Bunny has anything to do with Easter’s real significance. Apparently it escaped the notice of the city council that the Easter Bunny might offend Christians, because, like Santa Claus, it is a counterfeit. If they want to be consistent, perhaps the council should change the name of the city from St. Paul to, say, Paul Bunyan.


Newspapers also carried a story about a Florida State University scientist who speculated that Jesus didn’t really walk on water; he walked on ice. The scientist theorized there must have been an unusual cold snap 2,000 years ago that froze the Sea of Galilee. This begs the question how Jesus was able to pull off such a stunt when Peter also walked on water, before his lack of faith sank him.


The New York Times piled on by trumpeting the discovery of a fossil in Arctic Canada as a “missing link,” which it editorialized “puts the lie to creationist beliefs.”


Not exactly.


Next was a story on the “Gospel of Judas,” a work written between 130 and 170 C.E., long after the events it purports to describe. In this document, Jesus is revealed as having urged Judas to betray him. That a number of Judas’ contemporaries said otherwise in Scripture matters not to skeptics.


Adding to the gospel of unbelief is the movie version of the best-selling novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” which, if it is faithful to the book, will mix a few historical facts with a great deal of fiction. The book claims Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered children. The film is scheduled for release next month. Like the book, the movie will have as much to do with fact as Oliver Stone’s film on the Kennedy assassination.


What is responsible for this flood of skepticism, heresy and outright denial of the biblical record? Why is there not a similar cultural onslaught against other faiths? Only the suicidal would treat Islam in this way. The skeptics sound like those disclaimers for certain drugs sold on TV: Side effects may include vomiting, hair loss, bleeding, dizziness and disorientation. The side effects of believing in Jesus may include loss of friends, disrespect by the academic and journalistic communities and damage to one’s career, not to mention a complete change in the life to which one has become comfortably accustomed.


The question inherent in all of these challenges to the original story and original cast is this: How could anything like the resurrection be true? The question is not asked with the intention of getting an answer. It is rhetorical, hostile and unbelieving.


So, how does one know it is true? First, not a single witness of that first Easter morning subsequently denied what he (or she) observed. Human nature tells us that when those who publicly stated Jesus rose from the grave were threatened with death unless they recanted, at least one, and probably more, would have said it never happened, if it didn’t occur. They would have wanted to live. Not one recanted. All of the Apostles died martyrs deaths, except John, who died in exile.


The second reason is also logical. What kind of loving father would direct his lost children through a bad neighborhood, if he wanted them to get home safely? If no human father would be so cruel, why would God, after giving up His Son to die for humanity, create a flawed road map so they would get lost in their search for Him?


Christians who believe the Bible’s account of Easter believe it because they also believe God’s spirit guarded human hands from making errors in recording these events. Skeptics have no such guide. They should be humbled that God is far wiser than the wisest man. (1 Corinthians 1:25-27)


Before accepting what heretics and unbelievers say, consideration should be given to what is contained in the guidebook.




‘Da Vinci Code’: Blockbuster or blasphemy? Movie based on novel making news around the world (WorldNetDaily, 060418)


It stars box-office superstar Tom Hanks.


It’s based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown that has already raked in tens of millions of dollars.


The world premiere is being eagerly anticipated at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May.


And, since it is based on the best-selling thriller, it is being characterized as potentially one of the most blasphemous movies ever made.


It’s “The Da Vinci Code,” opening in U.S. theaters May 19.


Before the final cut is finished and the scoring is done, boycotts are already being organized against what is assumed to be a movie deeply offensive to Christians, sacrilegious, incredulous and historically inaccurate.


What’s all the hubbub about?


Much of the controversy surrounding the book and the film is the proposition that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene. The story line claims she had a child with Jesus – an heir that became France’s royal bloodline. It further suggests Catholic secret societies hid these and many other secrets about Jesus. It supposes Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton were in on the secret. Da Vinci, the book says, tried to covertly alert the world through his painting of “The Last Supper.”


Meanwhile, in London, a lawyer defending the novel upon which the movie is based against charges of plagiarism and copyright violation argued this week that the ideas that were supposedly “stolen” and used in the best-selling book “The Da Vinci Code” were only general ideas and not protected by copyright.


Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of the 1982 nonfiction book “The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail,” are suing their own publisher, Random House, which also published of Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, claiming that parts of their work were the base of the runaway hit, which has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.


The publishers’ lawyer, John Baldwin, says the claim put forth by Baigent and Leigh “relates to and seeks to monopolize ideas at such a high level of generality that they are not protected by copyright.”


Also, the Russian Orthodox Church this week condemned the upcoming movie because it says the novel on which the movie was based is blasphemous.


Mikhail Dudko, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, said that it would be a mistake to regard the international best-seller and its movie version merely as works of art, RIA Novosti reported.


“We, people of faith, are used to paying a lot of attention to words and images, and we know just how powerful they can be,” Dudko said. “The sheer assumption that Christ could have had children out of wedlock is insulting to believers.”


And, back in England, Invicta Capital, the film financier that raised money from investors to finance the screen version of “The Da Vinci Code,” says backers will qualify for UK tax breaks.


“There’s no way that this film won’t qualify, even if there would be an issue with the release of the film,” said Mohammed Yusuf, chairman and chief executive of Invicta. “It’s shot in Britain, it will be complete by April 5 and it is intended for theatrical release.”


How do the book and the movie undercut basic Christian tenets? How does it undercut the Christian faith? Is any of it true?


You don’t have to wait until May 19 to make your judgment. In fact, you don’t need to see the movie at all.


A new documentary, exclusively marketed through WND’s online store, ShopNetDaily, offers an explosive expose made to answer those questions and many more.


It’s called “Breaking the Da Vinci Code,” and it was created for an anticipated television airing later this spring by Grizzly Adams Productions.


It, too, is based on another popular book of the same name.


The documentary answers all the lingering questions and explodes myths perpetuated by the novel and the upcoming movie – expected to be a blockbuster hit. On the two-hour DVD you will see interviews with authors and the world’s leading experts in archeology, theology, art history, philosophy and science.


“This documentary offers Christians a great opportunity to prepare in advance for the release of this Hollywood extravaganza so you can tell your children the truth about the movie and the book upon which it is based,” said Joseph Farah, editor and founder of WND. “It is spectacularly well-done.”




‘Da Vinci Code’ Debunking to Hit National Television (Christian Post, 060424)


There’s a strong and definite interest in things related to Jesus Christ, according to a producer of a new documentary refuting The Da Vinci Code.


“Even if sometimes what’s presented is unorthodox, there is a definite interest in Christ,” said Jerry Newcombe, lead producer of “The Da Vinci Delusion.”


“The Da Vinci Delusion,” a production of Coral Ridge Ministries, features 15 experts – Protestant and Catholic – testing Brown’s assertions against evidence from history and the Bible. The one-hour special will air nationally May 13, 14 on local networks.

“This is not just a Sunday School curriculum,” said Newcombe. “This is going to go out all across the nation.”


Dan Brown’s novel has much of the world talking about Brown’s self-claimed “facts,” with many refuting them. The new television documentary, set to broadcast just days before the movie debut, follows a long line-up of resources that have come out left and right debunking the book.


When asked about the last major worldwide explosion on religion, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was mentioned.


“‘The Passion of the Christ’ was pro-Jesus,” he commented. “‘The Da Vinci Code’ [is] anti-Jesus.”


Newcombe, an evangelical, does not plan to purchase a Hollywood ticket when the movie releases on May 19. He and other evangelicals are currently signing a statement to not support “blasphemy,” seeing that the millions of people not familiar with the Gospel truth could be “spiritually poisoned.”


While he recognized the evangelistic opportunity that the movie may present, as many evangelicals have taken a hold of, Newcombe said, “Every time you buy a movie ticket, you are voting ‘Yes, Hollywood. Make more movies like this.’”


Best-selling author and evangelical Lee Strobel, also featured in the Coral Ridge documentary and out with several resources equipping Christians with answers to Brown’s assertions, says otherwise. The atheist turned apologist calls the upcoming movie a “tremendous evangelistic opportunity.”


Actor Tom Hanks, starring in the controversial film, also says the movie will help swell congregations.


“I think the movie may end up helping churches do their job,” Hanks told Entertainment Weekly. “If they put up a sign saying, ‘This Wednesday we’re discussing the gospel,’ 12 people show up. But if the sign says, ‘This Wednesday we’re discussing The Da Vinci Code,’ 800 people show up.”


After 40 million copies sold worldwide plus another half a million paperback copies in just the first week, Brown is scheduled to follow his controversial The Da Vinci Code with another novel, slated for release in 2007.


The new book, with its tentative title The Solomon Key, is coming out later than originally expected. Brown is taking the “time necessary to ensure that this new book is every bit as entertaining as ‘The Da Vinci Code,’” according to an e-mail he sent to The Book Standard by publisher Doubleday.




Italy to Remove ‘Da Vinci Code’ Ad (Christian Post, 060426)


ROME (AP) - The Interior Ministry said Tuesday it would remove a poster promoting “The Da Vinci Code” movie from the scaffolding of a Rome church undergoing renovation after its clergymen complained, officials said Tuesday.


The enormous poster, featuring a picture of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and the title of the upcoming film, has been plastered for a few weeks on the scaffolded facade of the church of St. Pantaleo, which is located just off a major thoroughfare in Rome’s historic center.


The Rev. Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for Rome’s Vicariate, said the poster was “causing a problem.”


“This movie is not reputed to be particularly appreciated by ecclesiastic circles,” Fibbi said.


Church officials have spoken out repeatedly against the best-selling novel by Dan Brown and the upcoming film, which stars Tom Hanks and is scheduled for release May 19.


The story contends that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants, and that Opus Dei, a conservative religious organization close to the Vatican, and the Catholic Church were at the center of covering it up.


“It advertises something that is against Christ and against the church,” St. Pantaleo’s rector, the Rev. Adolfo Garcia Duran, told The Associated Press.


The Interior Ministry, which owns the church and awarded the contract for the renovation to an external company, said the poster would be removed in the next few days. Officials confirmed the Rome Vicariate had sent a letter requesting the poster be taken down.


Plastering posters on scaffolding is a common advertising technique in Rome.


Opus Dei and other church officials have spoken out against the novel, with an Italian cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone, calling for a boycott of the book last year.


Opus Dei, portrayed as a murderous, power-hungry sect in the novel, has described “The Da Vinci Code” as a work of fantasy that offers a deformed image of the Catholic Church.


In a recent homily, the preacher for the papal household, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, denounced theories that make huge profits in denying Catholic teaching about Jesus.


Cantalamessa, a Franciscan priest, did not cite “The Da Vinci Code” by name, but he obviously appeared to refer to it and to the upcoming movie.


“No one succeeds in stopping this speculative wave, that instead will register a boom with the imminent release of a certain film,” the preacher said.




Lawyer Cracks Judge’s ‘Da Vinci’ Case Code (Foxnews, 060428)

[KH: This proves that the judge is biased, based on his admiration of the book.]


LONDON  — The code has been cracked. London lawyer Dan Tench and The Times newspaper on Friday both claimed to have solved the riddle of a code embedded in a judge’s ruling in “The Da Vinci Code” copyright lawsuit.


It reads: “Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought.”


The message was created by Peter Smith, the High Court judge who presided over the copyright infringement suit brought by authors of the nonfiction book “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” against the publisher of Dan Brown’s mega-selling thriller.


Smith’s entry in the society bible “Who’s Who” lists him as a fan of John “Jackie” Fisher, a 19th-century admiral credited with modernizing the British navy and developing its first modern warship, the Dreadnought.


On April 7, Smith ruled that Brown had not copied from the earlier work for his book, which has sold more than 40 million copies since it was published in 2003.


London’s legal world has been in a whirl since it was revealed earlier this week that Smith had encoded a message within the 71-page judgment. A sequence of italicized letters was sprinkled throughout the text, with the first 10 spelling out “Smithy code” — an apparent clue, and a play on the judge’s name.


The rest of the letters seemed random: jaeiextostgpsacgreamqwfkadpmqzvz.


Tench, who brought the code to the world’s attention last week, said the key lay within the pages of Brown’s thriller.


At one point Brown’s cryptographer hero Robert Langdon explains the Fibonacci sequence — a mathematical progression that involves adding a number to the two numbers before, so that 1 is followed by 1, then 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. That sequence, when repeated and substituted with letters from the alphabet, spells out the cryptic message.


“It’s extremely curious that he would reference an obscure military figure,” Tench said of the message early Friday. “None of us were guessing that.”


Tench said he and two other attorneys in the London media law firm Olswang used the sequence and trial and error to decode the message. He said Smith had confirmed it was correct in an e-mail.


The Times newspaper arrived at the same conclusion. On Friday, it quoted Smith, 53, as saying he had inserted the code “for my own pleasure” and had not expected anyone to notice it.


“The answer has nothing to do with the case,” he said.




Vatican Official Calls for ‘Da Vinci Code’ Boycott (Foxnews, 060428)


ROME — A Vatican official reportedly called for a boycott of the upcoming “The Da Vinci Code” film Friday, saying it contained “slanderous” offenses against Christianity that would have provoked a worldwide revolt had they been directed against Islam or the Holocaust.


Monsignor Angelo Amato — Pope Benedict XVI’s former No. 2 when Benedict was head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith — made the comments in a speech at the Pontifical Holy Cross University, which is run by the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei, the ANSA news agency reported.


“I hope all of you boycott this film,” the Italian agency quoted Amato as saying. He said the film, based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, was full of “offenses, slander, historical and theological errors concerning Jesus, the gospel and the church.”


“Slander, offenses and errors that if they were directed toward the Quran or the Shoah would have justifiably provoked a worldwide revolt,” he said, referring to Islam’s holy book and the Hebrew word for Holocaust.


“Yet because they were directed toward the Catholic Church, they remain ‘unpunished,”‘ he said.


Church officials repeatedly have spoken out against the novel and the upcoming film adaptation, which stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou and is scheduled for release May 19.


“The Da Vinci Code” contends that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants, and that Opus Dei, which is close to the Vatican, and the Catholic Church were at the center of a cover up.


Last year, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone — Amato’s predecessor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — called for a boycott of the book. And earlier this month, the preacher for the papal household, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, denounced theories that make huge profits in denying church teaching about Jesus — an obvious reference to the film.


However, Opus Dei, which is portrayed as a murderous, power-hungry sect in the novel, has specifically refrained from publicly calling for a boycott of the film, aware that bitter criticism of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” helped generate publicity for the movie.


Opus Dei has, however, asked Sony to put a disclaimer on the movie saying it is a work of fantasy. Sony has not responded to that request but has said it views “The Da Vinci Code” as a work of fiction that isn’t meant to harm any organization.


Amato’s comments were the second this week against the film by church officials in Rome.


Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry took down an enormous ad promoting the film that was plastered on the scaffolding of a Rome church after church officials complained that the film was against Christ and the Catholic Church.




The Da Vinci Protocols: Jews should worry about Dan Brown’s success. (National Review Online, 060505)


With less than three weeks before the May 19 release of the Sony Pictures version of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, worries continue to mount among Christians about both the book’s and the movie’s impact. But should non-Christians be concerned, too?


Absolutely. Jews in particular need to be aware of the gift mega-selling Dan Brown has given, in all innocence, to anti-Semites.


As everyone knows by now, Brown uses a gripping suspense story set in the present to inform us that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and that he has descendants living in Europe today. Furthermore, the members of this surviving Jesus family have been protected for centuries by an altruistic secret organization, the Priory of Sion, which is locked in combat with a sinister, violent Catholic group, Opus Dei. That latter seeks to keep the secret of Jesus’ paternity from getting out. Behind Opus Dei stands the Catholic Church. For millennia, the church has perpetrated what the film calls “the biggest cover up in human history.”


Opus Dei, the real-life Catholic lay order, asked Sony to place a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie admitting that the story is fictional—a request the studio has so far refused. Brown himself states at the outset of the novel that his tale is grounded in “fact”: “The Priory of Sion—a European secret society founded in 1099—is a real organization,” and so on.


Scholars have done a solid job of pointing out the fictions that interweave Brown’s “facts.” Notably, the “Priory of Sion” is “real” only in the sense that it really is the modern invention of Pierre Plantard, a peculiar Frenchman with royalist and anti-Semitic views. It dates to the year 1956, not 1099. Plantard’s hoax merely took the name of a medieval monastic order that had ceased to exist by the 14th century and which had nothing to do with legends about Jesus’ fathering children.


You may wonder if Brown’s readers find his tale convincing, not as fiction but as truth. Seemingly they do. A Barna Group poll found that 53 percent of the book’s readers said The Da Vinci Code aided their “personal spiritual growth and understanding.”


But why should a non-Christian care?


Consider that the alleged conspiracy underlying the “biggest cover up in human history” bears a remarkable resemblance to another phony conspiracy, the famous hoax called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Apparently authored by Russian monarchist and anti-Semite Mathieu Golovinski in 1898, the Protocols tells of a secret society of Jewish elders that work to keep gentiles ignorant of a plot to rule the world through “Darwinism, Marxism, and Nietzscheism.”


In both conspiracy theories, an ancient world religion turns out to be a massive fraud perpetrated to gain or maintain power. In Dan Brown’s version, the “Priory of Sion” (“Sion” simply means “Zion” in French) is the good guys. They’ve been waiting for the right moment to reveal the secret about Jesus having children and to introduce the world to the worship of the “Goddess,” a.k.a. Mary Magdalene.


Meanwhile the Catholic Church plots to suppress forever the truth about the “sacred feminine.” Opus Dei is willing to go to any lengths, including murder, to keep the male church hierarchy in power.


Pierre Plantard (1920-2000), the French monarchist and anti-Semite who gave us the “Priory of Sion,” spent much of his life inventing minuscule esoteric organizations intended to “purify” France of the evil influences of modernity—and of Judaism. In 1940 he wrote of the “terrible Masonic and Jewish conspiracy” that threatened France.


The Priory of Sion was one group he started. The point of this occult order was to advance Plantard’s claim to be the surviving heir of the ancient Merovingian line of French kings, whose “holy blood” was guarded by the Priory. The idea that the Merovingians were the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene was added on later.


Besides highlighting the word “Zion” or “Sion,” the two conspiracy theories share an understanding of how to deal with ideas you disagree with. Rather than taking traditional Christian beliefs at face value and arguing with them (as I do in my current book by the way), Dan Brown portrays the religion itself as resting upon a conscious deception. That excuses him from having to make arguments at all.


Anti-Semites do the same thing. Rather than coming out honestly against Darwinism or Marxism or modernity in general, they concoct a story about Judaism as a lie and a conspiracy. The Protocols remains a global phenomenon of staggering popularity, especially in the Arab world.


I emphasize that Dan Brown never intended to foment bigotry. Yet to the cause of conspiracy theorizing, he has done a wonderful favor, training his readers in the habits of paranoia and gullibility. For people committed to finding the truth through investigation and argumentation, that’s depressing.


As for Jews, we haven’t fared well when the culture we live in turns to entertaining fantasies and delusions at the expense of an unfashionable religion. The success of Brown’s book, now transformed into a movie blockbuster, is bad news.


— David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author most recently of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.




The Da Vinci Code  — Chasing Down Dan Brown (Father Heffernan News Column, 060505)


Oprah Winfrey is one of America’s top female day time TV hosts. She’s a judge of good books which she sometimes suggests to her viewers. Oprah got so enthused about James Fry story about his own life; that she praised him to the roof only to find out later that she had been duped. He never did many of the things listed in his “Million Pieces”. Oprah had been duped; her credibility shaken. More than angry; more like rage, Oprah brought him back on her show to apologize to her audience. Media people don’t like to be duped. It’s serious. It cost TV news anchor man, Dan Rather, his job.


One of the first famous media dupers was Orson Wells. Back in the late 1930s he fooled his night time radio audience into believing that the Martians were invading planet earth and were devouring all in their path. So vivid were his heinous descriptions of the people from outer space that many of the radio audience fled to safety. Some frightened fleers killed themselves in car wrecks.


Of course we sophisticates think that we could never be duped. We’re just too educated; too street wise; too space wise; so televisioned; so telescoped and so media informed. No! There couldn’t be another Orson Wells. But there is.


His name is Dan Brown. Just as Orson Wells shook America, so Dan Brown shook the religious tenants of many Americans and many people around the world. Many added fuel to the fire. It was growing by the minute, aided and abetted by a duped media; the very people at whose feet we sit every evening religiously watching the evening news. Mostly, the news segments parrotted Dan Brown - spelling the end of Christianity; the end of the credibility of its moral leader; the end of Christ; the end of his followers called Christians; the end of Christian morality. Welcome to the shacking up of Jesus and Mary Magdalene


But one media group refused to buy it. That was the crew of “CBS TV’s 60 Minutes” They sent a TV crew to France, where the story supposedly took place, to film the findings of host Ed Bradley. What they found, shot down Dan Brown’s book the “Da Vinci Code” exploding it like the German Dirigible of the 1930s.


The Da Vinci Code never shocked or fooled anyone who knows the history of Christianity. But what shocked them was how it could dupe the religious illiterates on this pagan planet.


But with the Codes cover been blown by CBS’s  ‘60 Minutes’, many web sites and newspaper editorials are taking a second look. Nobody likes to be duped. That includes the news media where careers depend on being trust worthy.


But where can one find the truth about The Da Vinci Code? The search site ‘Google’ has over 200 English Web sites dedicated to it. About three quarters of them follow Duper Dan. But now ‘60 Minutes’ has rattled his credibility. (He wouldn’t appear on the show).


This year’s Cannes Film Festival will be showing all the new movies for two weeks this May, starting with the May 14 showing of “The Da Vinci Code”. With its shaky credibility organizers probably wish they never put it on the show list, but with programs printed it’s too late for change. Much of the media of the world will be there, hunting down Dan Brown asking repeatedly “Dan! Why did you lie?” “Why did you lie!”


I and a team of Cannes volunteers will be just across the street from the Festival Pavilion at the Notre Dame Church, which will be decorated with banners, books, videos, DVDs, leaflets, pamphlets of many different languages etc. We will have joyful music in the church, choirs, solos  and instrumental, with prayer and devotions which people can join or listen to, while browsing the display. I’ll play the keyboard on the steps. Famous and non famous singers will be welcomed to perform religious songs for which they will receive a certificate for having performed at the First Religious Music Festival in Cannes 2006.


People are welcome to participate in the religious ceremonies conducted by their good pastor. Perhaps cookies and coffee can be served in a nearby room or on the lawn.





PH. 705 743 2000    FAX 705 742 4723





‘The Da Vinci Code’: A Positive for Christianity (Foxnews, 060509)


by Father Jonathan Morris for FOX Fan Central

[KH: Any Catholic priest who does not follow Vatican’s directive is always a suspect of unorthodox beliefs.]


Someone, somewhere, deeply involved in the institutional promotion of “The Da Vinci Code,” has suggested I lead a boycott against the movie. They proposed to me both dates and method. I declined. I can’t say a whole lot more.


What I will say is, the only boycott I will support is the boycotting of all other boycotts. I know from experience, and inside information, that Sony is interested in creating controversy as a catalyst for box office success.


Their strategy is a good one, founded on solid data of Hollywood-past. How can we forget the swirling controversy over Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ!” Because I worked on the film and witnessed the phenomenon first hand, I know Jewish lobby groups — the Anti Defamation League in particular — were responsible in part for ‘The Passion” becoming the all-time box office winner for R-rated productions. Neither Gibson nor his opponents planned it that way, but the results are indisputable, and in the opinion of at least one Hollywood studio, that same spontaneous drama is worthy of a staged imitation.


You may wonder if my entry into the foray of “Da Vinci” hype plays into the hands of Sony’s controversy promoters. Perhaps. But I’m willing to take the risk in order to shift the debate away from Dan Brown to the Christian community — Protestant and Catholic alike.


Dan Brown is capable of passing fiction for fact because Christians don’t know their faith — what and why they believe. That’s not Mr. Brown’s fault.


Admittedly, the bait they take is a good one. Brown writes his truth claim after the title page: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals are accurate.” Art and archaeology historians have taken it upon themselves to call him to task for the inaccurate and unprofessional nature of such a claim. Following good advice from his agent and publisher, he has refused to recant, preferring marketing savvy to academic integrity.


In this ambiance of pseudo-historic accuracy, Brown uses his fictional characters to call into question fundamental elements of the Christian faith: 1) the divinity of Christ 2) the validity of the four Gospels 3) the beliefs of the early Christian community.


He does this by claiming the Gospels are part of a conspiracy theory by the apostles to create a male-dominated, patriarchal Church that would stamp out the “sacred feminine.” Brown says Jesus’ true intentions were to leave the Church under the charge of Mary Magdalene, with whom he maintained a romantic relationship. In Brown’s pseudo-religious historical novel, the emperor Constantine seconds the Apostles’ selfish quest for power by outlawing competing gospels to avoid revealing the true story of who Jesus was and what he taught. None of this is true. Let me show you why.


If the Apostles’ intention in writing the Gospels was to produce propaganda pieces to wrest power away from women and take it for themselves, you would expect them to show themselves in the best possible light, reinforce the reader’s bias regarding male superiority, and belittle Mary Magdalene, or keep her out of the story altogether. In fact, the Gospels do just the opposite. They depict the Apostles as men slow to understand, unwilling to suffer, and incapable of loyalty. They do all this while presenting women as their noble antithesis.


Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, stand out for their moral courage as they accompany Christ to his crucifixion (the apostles had scattered). The Gospel of John highlights Jesus’ “irreverence” to social structures that looked down on public contact with women. The Gospels refer to women as disciples who share in Jesus’ mission. And just in case there were doubts, the writers point out that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene before any of the apostles.


If we are to believe Dan Brown’s fundamental claim that the authors of the Gospels wrote to conspire against Mary Magdalene and women in general, we also must believe they did a very poor job.


Jesus, who claimed to be the divine Son of God, was pro-woman like nobody else in his day, or ours. And that is the story the Gospels tell. Brown’s attempt at reinvigorating radical feminist sentiment by constructing a false male-female conflict is retro and old. Jesus knew a woman’s worth doesn’t come from being better than men, but from who she is on her own two feet — a daughter of God. Her spiritual sensitivity, intuition, nurturing character, and motherhood are beautifully unique.


If the millions of readers and viewers of “The Da Vinci Code” knew the Christian faith, Dan Brown would be unable to muddle fact and fiction in the irresponsible way he has.


Some Christians like me will stay away from the theaters, deciding our money is better spent elsewhere and not wishing to collaborate in fiction presented as fact about a topic as serious as history and faith. Others will go to the big screens out of curiosity or for simple entertainment. Whether we buy tickets or not, our response will be a peaceful one. Nobody will burn embassies or assassinate nonbelievers, and in our peace we will shine.


For Christianity, I predict the net result will be a positive one, despite all the bad intentions of its author. In the hype, Christians will ask themselves what and why we believe. And for this we must not forget to say, “Thank you, Mr. Brown.” [KH: totally disagreed; Brown will be under severe judgment.]




Cardinal: Da Vinci Code is Blasphemy (Christian Post, 060508)


In the latest Vatican broadside against The Da Vinci Code, a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded.


Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called The Da Vinci Code—A Masterful Deception.


Arinze’s appeal came some 10 days after another Vatican cardinal called for a boycott of the film.


Both cardinals asserted that other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs and that Christians should get tough.


“Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget,” Arinze said in the documentary made by Rome film maker Mario Biasetti for Rome Reports, a Catholic film agency specializing in religious affairs.


“Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others,” Arinze said.


“This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected,” he said, without elaborating on what legal means he had in mind.


A transcript of the documentary, due to be screened in Rome later this month just before the release of the film version of the best-selling book at the Cannes Film Festival, was made available to Reuters.


The book, written by Dan Brown, has sold more than 40 million copies.


The novel is an international murder mystery centered on attempts to uncover a secret about the life of Christ that a clandestine society has tried to protect for centuries.


The central tenet of the book is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children.


“Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us. There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking. They will make it painfully clear to you,” Arinze said.


This appeared to be a reference to protests by Muslims around the world over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.


Last month, another broadside against The Da Vinci Code was launched by Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year.


Amato urged a boycott of the film and Arinze, like his fellow cardinal, also blasted the credibility of the book.


“‘The Da Vinci Code’ presents (Christianity) wrongly ... any film produced on the basis of that book is already in error from the word go, no matter how interesting it might appear,” Arinze said.


Catholic group Opus Dei has told Sony Pictures that putting a disclaimer on the movie stressing it is a work of fiction would be a welcome show of respect toward the Church.


In the novel and film, Opus Dei is characterized as the latest in a series of secretive groups that worked over the centuries to obscure truths about Jesus Christ.


Opus Dei is a controversial conservative Church group whose members are mostly non-clerics and are urged to seek holiness in their everyday professional jobs and lives. It has rejected criticisms that it is secretive and elitist.




Churches prepare to rebut ‘DaVinci’ (Washington Times, 060507)


Area churches are preparing to counter unorthodox claims about Jesus Christ in the movie “The Da Vinci Code,” which opens in theaters later this month.


“‘The Da Vinci Code’ kind of gave a focus that there’s a lot [of misinformation] about Jesus Christ and Christianity out there, and perhaps it’s time to rebut it,” said Monsignor Francis J. Maniscalco, a spokesman for the District-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “If people see [the movie], they should go prepared.”


Dan Brown wrote the best-selling novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” published in 2003. Its film adaptation, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, will premiere in theaters May 19.


The fast-paced, fictional novel reads like a giant Christian conspiracy theory, with a plot built on claims that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that they had a daughter named Sarah and that their bloodline still exists.


The book also states early Christians never claimed Christ was divine and that the Catholic Church has covered up such information. Though the book is a work of fiction, those statements and Mr. Brown’s claim in the prologue that certain details in the book are authentic have alarmed area clergy.


“It poses certain questions to Orthodox Christian believers that the church needs to address,” said John Yates, rector of Falls Church Episcopal, where sermons on “The Da Vinci Code” will be featured May 21 and 28. “My hope would be that it would cause people to want to go back to the New Testament and read about Jesus more carefully than they ever have before.”


The book and upcoming film have triggered a far different response from organized religion than that created by the 2004 release of “The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson’s version of Christ’s crucifixion, which prompted some churches to rent out theaters and hold special screenings of the R-rated film.


This time, churches are educating their members about how to respond to the story, but there is little encouragement to go see the movie.


“I suppose people are free to go, but [understand] you are giving money to those who are attacking the church,” said the Rev. William Stetson, director of the Catholic Information Center in Northwest and a member of Opus Dei, the Catholic institution that Mr. Brown casts as a main villain in the novel.


Web sites hosted by the Catholic bishops group and Campus Crusade are dedicated to addressing aspects of Mr. Brown’s book, including questions regarding Renaissance art, biblical texts and the origins of the Holy Grail.


At the 8,500-member evangelical McLean Bible Church in Fairfax County, pastors Lon Solomon and Todd Phillips will seek to debunk “The Da Vinci Code” in their respective morning and evening services, beginning May 21.


The church also has purchased thousands of “The Da Vinci Code” companion guides from Campus Crusade to give to its congregation.


“The church has to stand up for the facts of the Bible and the truth of Jesus and his divinity,” said Dave Ramos, director of adult ministries at McLean. “We felt a need to set the record straight.”


Other area churches are taking similar approaches. Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg brought in Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, today for a sermon titled “The Bible, the Da Vinci Code and the Christian.”


Charismatic congregation Metro MorningStar is hosting Adam Claasen, visiting lecturer at Georgetown University, starting May 21 for a three-week series on “The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?”


Concerns about the book and film have even arisen in schools. The Rev. Terry Specht, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington, recently told about 70 students in a special chapel session at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax that the book’s descriptions of church history and artwork are grossly inaccurate.


“The danger is so many Christians are so ill-informed in Scriptures and history that they take what is said without any consequences,” said Father Specht, who earned a master’s degree in church history. “I see it as an opportunity. It’s not a bad thing to have these things talked about.” [KH: what about those millions who believe the book within talking about it?]




Catholic Scholars Brace for ‘Da Vinci’ (Christian Post, 060506)


ROME (AP) - Roman Catholic scholars gathered Thursday to explore whether the soon-to-be-released film version of “The Da Vinci Code” will spread hostile sentiment against the church or provide an opportunity to draw people closer to religion.


Scholars including members of Opus Dei — the conservative religious order depicted as a murderous, power-hungry sect in the best-selling Dan Brown novel — were participating at the forum on the potential effects of the movie, set for release May 17-19 around the world.


“The movie will reach more people, so in that sense it will be a bit of a step forward for the book’s ideas,” said the Rev. John Wauck, a professor at Opus Dei’s University of Santa Croce in Rome.


Brown’s novel has Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and having children, and it puts the church and Opus Dei at the center of a conspiracy to cover up the supposed secret. The author has claimed that while his story is fictional, it’s rooted in historical fact — a position that’s drawn a torrent of criticism from religious and historical scholars.


The book also targets Opus Dei for its purported political and economic power as well is its use of “corporal mortification,” the voluntary punishing of one’s body as spiritual discipline.


Several high-ranking prelates are members of Opus Dei, an order which was particularly favored by the late Pope John Paul II.


“As a book, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ doesn’t merit serious attention,” Wauck told The Associated Press in a telephone interview before the conference.


“However, as a phenomenon it demands serious attention, because a book that sells 40 million copies is not just a book, it tells us something about our society and the world we live in,” Wauck said.


The novel’s success is a sign that there is “tremendous religious ignorance” but that readers also have a thirst for history, art, symbolism and a more spiritual life, Wauck said, indicating that the movie might draw some people closer to Catholicism.


“If you find what you see there attractive you will probably enjoy a Catholic Mass,” he said. “I’ve seen people who have come back to their faith after reading ‘The Da Vinci Code.’”


Opening the forum, Wauck contended that the novel hasn’t emptied churches.


“The impact of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ on religious attendance has been virtually nil,” Wauck said. “Dan Brown is not convincing people of the falsity of Christianity,” at least not on the level of the masses.


While a Vatican has called for a boycott of the film, Opus Dei has not. It is among those, however, asking Sony Corp to issue a disclaimer with the film that would clarify that it is a work of fantasy.


Sony Pictures Entertainment has declined to reveal whether the film would bear a disclaimer but has said the work is not a religious one and is not meant to criticize any group.




Watch ‘Da Vinci Code’ debunked: D. James Kennedy’s TV special airs Saturday (WorldNetDaily, 060510)


Paul Maier is angry.


“Put it this way,” he said, “there is not one ranking scholar in the entire world who supports what Dan Brown has done with history.”


Maier, a Harvard graduate, Fulbright scholar, author of 15 books and professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, is incensed at the faulty history in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, “The Da Vinci Code.”


“As a professor of ancient history, I can’t stand known, accepted facts from the past lied about,” he said. “If my students did something like that, I’d flunk them.”


Maier is one of 15 scholars, theologians and authors who join Christian broadcaster D. James Kennedy in “The Da Vinci Delusion,” a nationally televised documentary look at Dan Brown’s wildly popular recasting of ancient Gnostic heresies. The one-hour program airs May 13 and 14 – just days before “The Da Vinci Code” movie debuts worldwide.


Shot in Paris, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and elsewhere, “The Da Vinci Delusion “ also features Darrell Bock, New Testament scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary; Kerby Anderson, president of Probe Ministries; Janet Parshall, host of Janet Parshall’s America; William Donohue, president of the Catholic League; Erwin Lutzer, author of “The Da Vinci Deception”; Sandra Miesel, Catholic journalist and medievalist; Gary Habermas, author of “The Historical Jesus”; and Lee Strobel, coauthor of “Exploring the Da Vinci Code.”


“Although “The Da Vinci Code” is a murder mystery novel, it claims to be based on facts, and those so-called facts attack the very heart of Christianity,” said Kennedy, the author of more than 65 books and one of America’s most-watched television ministers.


It is author Dan Brown’s claim to facticity – and eager readers who have snapped up 40 million copies of his potboiler worldwide – which make a Christian response so acutely needed, opponents believe.


Brown tells readers on the novel’s first page that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Many take him at his word. One-third of Canadians who have read “The Da Vinci Code” (some 20 percent of the population) believe Brown’s theories and think that descendants of Jesus are alive today, according to a 2005 National Geographic poll. A more recent poll, taken in April 2006 by IPSOS found that 13 percent of Americans and 17 percent of Canadians think Jesus was married and had a family.


Scene from “The Da Vinci Code.”


And a New York Daily News book reviewer wrote that Brown’s “research is impeccable” – a claim Brown trumpets on his website.


Others disagree – strenuously.


“Everything in “The Da Vinci Code” is wrong, except Paris is in France; London is in England and Leonardo da Vinci painted pictures. All else is fabrication,” said Miesel, coauthor of “The Da Vinci Hoax.”


“Don’t they have editors at Doubleday in New York; don’t they have fact checkers?” groans Maier. “Fifty years ago, Doubleday or any other New York publisher would never have published this book, at least, without tremendous revision.”


The one-hour documentary takes up key Da Vinci Code claims, including:


* Jesus and Mary Magdalene were man and wife. “We don’t have any evidence anywhere in any kind of document of any sort that Jesus was married” – Darrell Bock


* “The New Testament is false testimony” (p. 345 of “The Da Vinci Code”). “The four Gospels were written during the life and the times of those who were the eyewitnesses of Jesus. Now, more importantly, … they were also written during the life and times of the skeptics, who could refute anything that was said.” – Kerby Anderson


* There were 80 gospel accounts of Christ’s life. “Frankly, there are no written Gospels from the same time frame that are even in the picture.” – Gary Habermas


* The Roman emperor Constantine gave us the New Testament. “Totally false. He had nothing to do with it whatever. … The Canon was pretty well set in concrete about 150 A.D.” – Paul Maier


* The divinity of Jesus is an invention of fourth-century church leaders at the Council of Nicea. “That is bunk. If you look at the documents, and we have men, like Eusebius, who were there, what happened at Nicea is because the early church believed in the deity of Jesus.” – Erwin Lutzer


“The Da Vinci Delusion” looks at more mundane errors as well. Dan Brown tells readers that Silas, a self-punishing albino monk/assassin, belongs to Opus Dei, a Catholic prelature. Not possible. Opus Dei has no monks. Its purpose, in fact, is to energize Catholic lay people.


Brown also writes that an organization created to keep alive the alleged hidden truth about the marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene dates to 1099. Actually, that organization, the Priory of Sion, goes back just 50 years, to when French anti-Semitic con man Pierre Plantard invented it out of whole cloth.


“In time, the ‘Da Vinci myth’ will be discarded into the dustbin of history, along with all of the other attempts to discredit Christ, while the Gospel truth will continue to spread,” said Kennedy, coauthor with Jerry Newcombe of “The Da Vinci Myth versus the Gospel Truth.”


“The tragedy is that in the interim, some people will miss salvation because they reject the Gospel truth and believe the Da Vinci myth, or something like it.”




Podcast rebuts ‘Da Vinci’ claims: Christian author Josh McDowell provides tool for believers (WorldNetDaily, 060512)


Hoping to equip Christians with information about the claims of the upcoming film “The Da Vinci Code,” Christian author Josh McDowell is offering a podcast promising to “separate fact from fiction.”


The movie version of the best-selling book by Dan Brown opens next Friday and could launch “the most controversial period in the history of the modern church,” Campus Crusade’s Holly Meade writes for Assist News Service.


According to the ANS report, McDowell has authored or co-authored over 100 books and spoken to more than 10 million people in 80 countries at over 700 universities and colleges.


The author “believes the Da Vinci Code movie will give Christians a far greater platform for evangelism than ‘Narnia’ and ‘The Passion’ combined,” writes Meade.


States the ANS report:


Josh believes that probably 95 percent of those in the Body of Christ could never give an intelligent answer why they truly believe the Bible is the Word of God, true, or historically accurate or reliable, or why Jesus Christ is the Son of God or how the resurrection happened. So when something like “The Da Vinci Code” book and then movie comes along and Christians don’t know the “whys” of their faith, it undermines them.


Josh often even has pastors tell him, “I’m ashamed to say this, but I read ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ and I really don’t know what to believe.” One woman e-mailed Josh and said, “My son has been brought up in a Christian home. He went to a Christian school and a part of a very good evangelical Bible-centered church.” She said a year and a half ago he read “The Da Vinci Code” book and he’s walked away from his faith, saying, “Mom, I don’t know who to turn to anymore for truth.”


Among the claims of “The Da Vinci Code” are that the New Testament is “false testimony,” Christ’s divinity was invented by Emperor Constantine and that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.


McDowell’s podcast, “The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers,” features 20 five-minute dialogue segments of three young people discussing “The Da Vinci Code” book and movie. Narration is provided by actor Max McLean along with teaching segments from McDowell. It is based on a McDowell book by the same name.


Writes Meade: “The podcast is also a great tool to direct those seekers who may not read the book but often spend time surfing the Web.”


The podcast can be downloaded at the Campus Crusade for Christ website.




Jesus Takes Center Stage in ‘Da Vinci’ Debate (Christian Post, 060516)


NEW YORK – A worldwide audience and a live crowd of 600 people saw a global debate on The Da Vinci Code go out of order during much of the two-hour verbal battle Monday night.


The battle was between an Orthodox Rabbi, a Messianic Jew, and an Evangelical Christian – three of the world’s leading biblical and cultural experts. Printed flyers publicized “The Da Vinci Code Debate” but the hundreds that flocked to the Hilton New York Hotel found a deeper spiritual issue that Dan Brown’s novel had tapped into.


“I knew when we got these three together it would depart from the book,” said Philip Murray, 51, who attends Manhattan Christian Church, “and that’s the part I was hoping really to hear more.”


The global debate, broadcasted live worldwide on the Internet, opened with summarized arguments on The Da Vinci Code which touched on the sacred feminine along with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish elements presented in the novel. It wasn’t long before the debate went askew to broader issues of religion and the conflicting beliefs of the Jewish and Christian people.


Briefly mentioning the main topic of discussion to launch off to a deeper religious issue, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of Judaism for Everyone and London Times Preacher of the Year, drew attention to the popularity of Brown’s novel, arguing that many are disillusioned with religion, its masculine aspects, and the hypocrisy seen in the believers.


For that matter, Dr. Darrell Bock, author of Breaking the Da Vinci Code, agreed saying that Brown tapped into the disenchantment people have with religion.


The dominant topic of argument that took much of the debate awry, however, was Jesus.


“I think that the real issue has to do with who Jesus is,” commented Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, one of the event organizers. “People would talk about the movie, they would talk about whether Jesus was married, whether or not Jesus could have had children, but the real issue was what should we believe about Jesus, what should we believe as Christians, what should we believe about Jewish people.”


“I think that this is a burning issue, probably more burning in people’s hearts than The Da Vinci Code,” Glaser added.


While some in the audience desired to hear more on the subject of The Da Vinci Code, others joined the heated debate asking questions on a broader note of Christian and Jewish beliefs.


“It (the debate) sometimes strayed from The Da Vinci Code, but the long and the short of it is, people are curious. People want to know and have come here to get some advice on how to look at things,” said Scott Buckler, 44.


“The book to me is really a launching pad for discussion about bigger things – Christianity, the Truth of the Bible,” said Murray. “I think primarily people have a skepticism about the Church at large. They feel like there’re some elite power things going on, that people are hiding things, that there’s some secret history that’s been hidden and now finally revealed. And they feel like they’ve found it in The Da Vinci Code.”


A new poll commissioned by the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei and conducted by Opinion Research Business indicated that people are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children and four times as likely to think Opus Dei is a murderous sect after reading the book. Among those who read the novel, 60 percent believed Jesus had children by Mary Magdalene compared to 30 percent of those who had not read it.


As concerns over many people taking Brown’s alleged facts seriously continue to rise, Ron Howard’s film adaptation of the New York Times bestseller makes its global release this Friday. As Reuters reported, it is one of the most eagerly anticipated movies in years, and will open the world’s largest international film festival - the 59th Cannes Film Festival – on Wednesday.


While Jesus is the main talk of the world, Christians say the core message of Christianity is left out, which is Jesus as the way of restoration for one’s relationship with God.


When the debaters were asked what they would say to Dan Brown if he were present, Dr. Michael Brown, author of Answering Jewish Objections and founder and president of ICN Ministries, simply stated, “Don’t misrepresent facts.”


Bock responded, “It does not help people in this world to disrespect people of faith.”




Asia Christian Leaders Denounce ‘Da Vinci Code’ (Christian Post, 060517)


HONG KONG (AP) - Christian leaders across Asia denounced “The Da Vinci Code,” fearful that the movie may spread misinformation about their religion, as groups planned boycotts and attempted to block or shorten screenings ahead of its debut Wednesday.


Christians in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand have protested or expressed concern about the film, premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival. Thai groups have persuaded censors to edit the movie, and India is putting the film’s release on hold after a flurry of complaints.


One of the premises of the movie, adapted by Ron Howard from Dan Brown’s worldwide best seller, is that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and fathered children and that his descendants are still alive.


Christians in Asia are particularly worried about the movie because they believe it could threaten a religion that is already a minority in many countries.


“If Jesus Christ had a child and a wife, then Christianity would be destroyed,” said Thongchai Pradabchananurat, of the Thailand Protestant Churches Coordinating Committee.


A coalition of Christian groups in Thailand, which is more than 90 percent Buddhist and less than 1 percent Christian, demanded that censors cut the last 15 minutes of the movie, which reveal that Jesus’ lineage has survived to this day.


The country’s censorship board preliminarily agreed to snip the last 10 minutes, then reversed its decision on Wednesday. A committee decided there would instead be a disclaimer at the beginning and end of the movie saying its content were fictional, something that distributor Sony Pictures Releasing International had offered to do.


“People can differentiate between what’s fiction and what’s not,” said Rachot Dhiraputra, general manager for the distribution company.


In India, Joseph Dias, head of the Catholic Secular Forum, went on a hunger strike in downtown Bombay to protest the movie’s planned release in that country.


After receiving more than 200 complaints, India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said he was going to see the movie for himself, which may delay its scheduled Friday release by a day or two.


Most of India’s 1 billion population is Hindu but the country is also home to 18 million Roman Catholics.


The archbishop of the Philippines capital of Manila, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, has denounced both the movie and Dan Brown’s novel as an attack on the divinity of Jesus Christ. But he stopped short of calling for a ban in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, one of the rare Asian countries with a Christian majority.


Philippine movie censor Marissa Laguardia said was important to preserve free speech. She said opponents of the film can discourage friends from watching it, but that it “has to be shown.”


“Otherwise we will be the only country that will not show this film. Thirty-six countries have already reviewed this film and they have not banned it. So are we just out of the Stone Age?” Laguardia said.


Authorities in Singapore and South Korea have also rejected calls to ban the film, saying audiences understand it is fictional.


The Christian Council of Korea, an umbrella group of 63 South Korean Protestant denominations, said it respected the ruling but would lead a boycott of the movie, which it said defiles the sanctity of Jesus Christ and distorts facts. South Korea has 13 million Protestants and 4.6 million Roman Catholics.


Malaysian Bishop Lim Cheng Ean said the strength of Christian faith will counter the movie. Nearly 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslim.


“If Christians know their own faith, they will be strong enough. We can leave it to their discretion as to whether they would rather watch the movie or not. That is their free choice,” he said.


Australia’s Anglican Church, however, isn’t taking any chances. Anglican Sydney Media, which promotes the church’s Sydney diocese, has set up a Web site and launched movie theater ads challenging theories in the “The Da Vinci Code.”


One country where debate over the film was notably absent was China, which is ruled by an officially atheistic communist regime. Beijing doesn’t recognize the Vatican, whose officials have been critical of the movie.


The film was cleared by the country’s usually strict censors “without any problems,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.


Chinese media excitedly noted that the country’s gala showing of the “The Da Vinci Code” on Wednesday would beat the official Cannes premier by an hour.


Li Chow, general manager in Beijing for the movie’s China distributor, said the film would have the widest release yet for a foreign movie in China, surpassing “King Kong” last year.


“I think this is the film with the highest profile in China this year,” Li said.


Playing on the opening night at the 59th Cannes festival caps a huge marketing blitz for the film. The movie is not competing for prizes at the glitzy two-week festival in southern France, which runs through May 28.




Discrediting faith (Washington Times, 060517)


The release Friday of the film version of Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code,” and its prophesied status as a “blockbuster,” once more brings to the forefront a story line that is a frontal assault upon the central truths of the Christian message.


In the course of his story, Mr. Brown enables his readers to “discover” that the doctrine of the deity of Christ emerged, four centuries after his death, as a result of the political invention of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who aimed to create a new religious power he could control.


Far from being divine, Jesus, according to “The Da Vinci Code,” was human, which was proved by his marriage and his siring an heir whose line continues to the present. Also “exposed” is the carefully concealed historical fact that the church had its origin in a battle between the sexes: Jesus’ intent, Mr. Brown writes, was for his followers to be led by his daughter after his crucifixion. This desire, however, was thwarted by the ambition and design of Peter, who was determined to impress male dominance upon any future church.


The Bible and the Gospel each come in for considerable reinterpretation in “The Da Vinci Code” and ultimately are seen as further creations of the devious Constantine.


A startling reality to emerge amidst the controversy that surrounds the book is that our society, one of the most sophisticated in history, can be so gullible. The book’s content is a cocktail in which some basic historical facts are blended with considerably more half-truths, and mixed up with substantial amounts of author-acknowledged “make-believe.”


Yet the public not only continues to buy “The Da Vinci Code,” but some repeat as “fact” its content, using the book’s assertions to challenge orthodox Christian belief. The deliberate gullibility of a society that wants to believe and promulgate acknowledged and exposed fabrication raises profound questions about the nature of faith today. Many people, it seems, are looking for a new form of religious faith, and want a spirituality that has removed the dogma of the past. To gain this, they are willing to affirm the manifestly untrue and assert the demonstrably absurd.


Mr. Brown seems to have tapped into this “spirit of the age” and become an apologist for a form of Christianity that embraces and integrates many of the motifs of modernity — such as an absence of absolutes — while reinventing history.


He draws upon and blends ancient symbols of pre-Christian mystical religions and traditions. When his heroes arrive at Rosslyn Chapel, they discover it is filled with a plethora of symbols, including Masonic seals, mystical pentacles, pyramids and plants. The shrine is dedicated to “all faiths ... to all traditions ... and above all, to nature and the goddess.” Thus spirituality is conjoined with nature and the feminine to form the substance of a new Christian religion absent any of its historic dogmas.


By rejecting the historic content of Christianity and replacing it with a mythology, Mr. Brown is not simply weaving another story with which to entertain weary travelers; he is constantly and deliberately assaulting the historic understanding of Jesus Christ, demeaning His person and denying His divinity. His is a serious attempt to discredit Christianity and belittle the institution of the church.


Mr. Brown portrays the church’s leaders as prejudiced, self-serving deceivers, ignoring the fact all the disciples died martyr’s deaths. If his reinterpretation were to be believed, they would have died knowing they sacrificed themselves for a lie. Few are willing to die for the truth; who willingly dies for what he knows to be a lie?


In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul warned exactly this sort of assault upon the Christian faith would take place. He understood that, though all people know deep in their being there is a Creator God to whom they are ultimately responsible, apart from grace and because of their own pride, they refuse to honor Him as God. Instead, they exchange “the truth about God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.”


The ultimate blasphemy, then, is to reject the real God incarnate in Jesus Christ, as historic Christianity affirms. Humanity may devise and worship tame “lesser gods” who may satisfy their longing for spirituality, but they do so at the expense of truth.


“The Da Vinci Code” is far from harmless. Under the guise of fiction, it attempts to rewrite history, refashion Christianity and reinvent the truth. That our society embraces fiction as fact is not only sad but profoundly frightening. There is an inevitable moral consequence when truth is replaced by the lie.


Our culture already bears the indelible battle scars of the decline of accepted values built upon truth. With their passing, moral ambiguity and uncertainty, both personal and public, must increase. The release of “The Da Vinci Code” movie can only intensify that confusion.


Robert Norris is senior pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md.




‘Da Vinci Code’ Protests Widespread (WorldNetDaily, 060516)


Anger over “The Da Vinci Code,” premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, escalated as Christian groups from South Korea, Thailand, Greece and India planned boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings.


The plot of the movie, adapted by Ron Howard from Dan Brown’s worldwide best seller, makes the case that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children with her.


In Thailand, government censors ordered the final 10 minutes of the film be cut following a meeting Tuesday with a coalition of Thai Christian groups protesting the content of the film.


“If they are going to screen this, we asked that they cut out the conclusion of the movie that Jesus still has heirs alive today,” said spokesman Manoch Jangmook, of the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand.


Columbia Pictures appealed the ruling on Wednesday.


In India, the government Tuesday put a temporary hold on the movie’s release because of complaints.


In South Korea, which has 13 million Protestants and 4.6 million Roman Catholics, a court ruled Tuesday that a Christian group’s request for an injunction to block screenings lacked merit.


“As it is clear that the novel and movie are all fiction ... there is no probability that the movie can make viewers mistakenly believe the contents of the movie are facts,” chief judge Song Jin-hyun said in his ruling.


The Christian Council of Korea, an umbrella group of 63 South Korean Protestant denominations, said it respected the ruling but would lead a boycott of the movie, which it said defiles the sanctity of Jesus Christ and distorts facts.


In mostly Hindu India, which is also home to 18 million Roman Catholics, Joseph Dias, head of the Catholic Secular Forum, began a hunger strike in downtown Bombay and said other people were joining him.


“We want the movie to be banned,” he said.


The film had been set for release in India on Friday and had already been cleared by the national censor board. But Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said he put a temporary hold on the movie after receiving more than 200 complaints.


“We are a secular country. On any sensitive issue, we should take action after we examine every aspect,” Dasmunshi told reporters.


In Athens, Greece, some 200 religious protesters, waving crucifixes and Greek flags, demonstrated Tuesday in protest of the film. The protesters _ including Orthodox monks and nuns _ later marched peacefully to parliament.


“All religions merit respect, so why don’t they show respect in this case instead of attacking all that we hold sacred?” said Athanasios Papageorgiou, president of St. John the Theologian group in Peania, east of Athens.


“I’ve read the book. It’s despicable,” he added. “The Muslims for one cartoon burnt anything, so what should we do?”


Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church has blasted the “ridiculous content” of the movie but stopped short of calling for its boycott.


Philippine censors approved an adult rating for the movie but stopped short of rating it “X” because “it does not constitute a clear, express or direct attack on the Catholic church or religion” and does not libel or defame any person.


The movie-review panel’s chairwoman, Marissa Laguardia, told The Associated Press that the movie would be a “test of faith” for many people in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines.


“Those groups, like the conservatives who want it banned, maybe they can tell their friends, discourage their friends from watching it,” she said. “But it has to be shown. Otherwise we will be the only country that will not show this film. Thirty-six countries have already reviewed this film and they have not banned it. So are we just out of the Stone Age?”


The National Council of Churches in Singapore, which also had requested a ban, planned lectures to refute aspects of the film and the book on which it is based. The censorship board gave the movie an NC16 rating, barring viewers under 16, arguing that “only a mature audience will be able to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction.”


Also, while not planning a protest or boycott, members of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation expressed unhappiness with the film’s heavy, a monk-assassin, being an albino, as described in the book.


Michael McGowan, an albino who heads the organization, said “The Da Vinci Code” will be the 68th movie since 1960 to feature an evil albino.


The “Da Vinci” character “is just the latest in a long string,” McGowan said. “The problem is there has been no balance. There are no realistic, sympathetic or heroic characters with albinism that you can find in movies or popular culture.”


He said the group aims to use the movie’s popularity to raise awareness about the realities of albinism. People with albinism have little or no pigmentation in their skin, eyes and hair.




‘Da Vinci’ readers really believe Christ had kids: 60% of adults who read ‘Code’ think there’s truth in suggestion Jesus was dad (WorldNetDaily, 060516)


A survey of British readers of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” shows that reading the book causes people to believe its claims over those of the Bible.


Those having read the book are twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect, Reuters reported.


“An alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed,” Austin Ivereigh, press secretary to Britain’s top Catholic prelate Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, told the news service.


“Our poll shows that for many, many people ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is not just entertainment,” Ivereigh added.


English Roman Catholic monks, theologians, nuns and members of Opus Dei commissioned the survey from leading pollster Opinion Research Business.


The poll of 1,000 adults showed 60 percent believed Jesus had children by Mary Magdalene – a claim presented in the book – compared with just 30 percent of those who had not read the book, reported Reuters.


The group that commissioned the poll demanded that the movie version, set to debut Friday, should carry a “health warning.”


Ivereigh complained that Brown and film studio Sony Pictures “have encouraged people to take it seriously while hiding behind the claim that it is fiction.”


In the U.S., some Christian organizations have urged a boycott of the film, while other believers see it as an opportunity to talk to unbelievers about the claims of the Bible.




An insult to Catholics - and historians (National Post, 060518)


For Dan Brown’s fans, a primer on his many errors


The book, the movie and now the board game. Yes, The Da Vinci Code board game is currently available and will probably provide the gullible with hours of harmless fun. Roll a double six, proceed five squares and then beat oneself with a whip whilst murdering a nun. And all the while author Dan Brown becomes wealthier and Christians do a pretty good job of turning the other cheek.


The Islamic world went into mass revolt over a bunch of largely innocuous cartoons. Roman Catholics, the main victims of Brown’s book, have merely gone to Mass. Brown makes repugnant and completely baseless attacks on Christianity in general, but it is Catholicism with which he seems particularly angry.


Combine anti-Catholicism with a few beautiful heroes, mad monks, facile plots and the now obligatory conspiracy theory and the pages turn as fast as the figures on a certain author’s bank account. A silly novel, however, is merely that. It is when Dan Brown claims to be writing of fact, as he does at some length in the book, that we have a duty to correct him.


He claims that Jesus was regarded even by His followers as merely a great moral teacher or at best a prophet. They never thought of Him as a Messianic figure, he continues, and the earliest written documents substantiate this. It was only at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 that Jesus was said to be divine.


Not quite. Jesus is called “God” seven times in the New Testament and is referred to as divine on dozens of occasions. He was crucified not for being a prophet or an ethicist, or for that matter a champion of social justice, but for claiming to be the Son of God. The early martyrs died because of this belief alone.


There are numerous letters from pagan and thus objective writers from the first and second century, long before Nicaea, describing how Christians believe Jesus to be divine; including one written to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in AD 180. All the Council of Nicaea did was to affirm that Jesus was the Son of God as a self-evident truth.


Brown then says that The Dead Sea Scrolls are the earliest Christian writings in existence and that The Gnostic Gospels frequently mention Mary Magdalene and her marriage to Jesus.


This is a howler. The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish writings and have no direct connection with Christianity at all. As for those much-discussed Gnostic Gospels, they at no time mention Jesus being married to Mary. But then Dan Brown probably doesn’t expect his readers to actually read the Gnostic Gospels.


If they did, they would be extremely disappointed. They are often misogynistic, frequently contradictory and tend to be self-serving and achingly dull. They were rejected by the Church because they were written relatively late and are wholly unreliable. It was not a case of Christianity trying to hide some greater story, but of Christianity adopting only books that were, well, true.


If Brown doesn’t think much of the Church, he doesn’t like Constantine very much at all. Except when he thinks him a virtual god: “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine.” Who knew? Certainly not Constantine. Because the Old Testament existed even before the birth of Jesus, and the New Testament began to take shape at the end of the first century. The compilation was not finalized until the end of the fourth century.


Constantine, however, died in AD 337. In other words, there is no way that he could have compiled the Bible. What he certainly did do was to commission Eusebius, the genius Bishop of Carthage, to make 50 copies of the Bible that already existed so that more people could read it. No serious historian has ever claimed otherwise or written anything to support Brown’s thesis.


Brown’s advocates argue he doesn’t claim to be a historian. True, but he does claim that distinction for others — as in “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians.”


The historians he lists are Margaret Starbird, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, Clive Prince, Lynn Picknett and Michael Baigent. But, like Dan Brown, these people aren’t historians either. Baigent has a basic degree in psychology and is working on an MA in mysticism, and Picknett and Prince are best known for their work on the occult and UFOs.


Brown is often at his most fatuous when he tries to be at his most clever. He writes that YHWH, the Jewish sacred name for God, is based on the word Jehovah. And Jehovah, he says, is a combination of the masculine Jah and the feminine Havah, signifying Eve.


Thus God gave us feminism, Jesus was a pioneer of progressive gender politics and the Church has hidden all of this to preserve male power and exclude women, particularly Mary Magdalene, from their rightful place in society and culture.


Brown’s politics are as confused as his semantics. YHWH doesn’t come from Jehovah, but Jehovah from YHWH. The word was used thousands of years before Jehovah came into existence, as late as the 16th-century.


The Da Vinci Code insists that evil men and women have for 2,000 years been telling a grotesque lie and that they still torture and kill to maintain their power. Those people apparently include me, my wife, our children and our family and friends. Hundreds of millions of others too. What evil swine we must be. Make sure the popcorn has extra butter and hooray for Hollywood and publishing.


- Michael Coren is a writer and broadcaster.




The secrets of Dan Brown’s success (National Post, 060518)


The film of The Da Vinci Code faced its first theatre audience yesterday, in Cannes. It’s too soon to say how the world’s movie-goers will like it, but many millions of readers have found the book compelling. Bad writing helped a lot.


In Dan Brown’s foreword to his novel, he makes factual claims. The flatness of his prose has an informational quality, which in many passages gives readers the impression they are reading a mediocre, but competent, work of journalism based on sound research — an illusion, as Michael Coren writes on these pages today.


The novel’s main source, the 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, had a similar quality. It was written in a dull, sober tone that lent prosaic plausibility to the flamboyant thesis that authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln advanced. To translate it into familiar anglophone terms, it was as if Baigent and his colleagues had raised an expectation that Arthur, the once and future king, was soon to make his comeback. They claimed that the Merovingians, France’s first royal family, who lost power in AD 750, were still around, and were the heirs to both King David and Jesus — but their program turned out to be quite as boring and vacuous as the platforms of most political parties.


The Da Vinci Code is a slimmer volume than Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and adapts its thesis to the thriller genre, with the help of tried-and-true tricks. The more important reason for The Da Vinci Code’s success is its appeal to millions of people who wish that Christianity were something other than it is — and more particularly, wish that the Roman Catholic Church were something it is not. The book is not simply anti-Christian or even anti-Catholic. It speaks to readers with some remaining attachment to their own, or their family’s, faith, but who do not want a religion that makes any supernatural claims, as opposed to some unchallenging New Age symbolism. Mr. Brown offers a unisex, two-person Messiah, by making the false allegation that Christians have downgraded Mary Magdalene, a saint who in fact has always been greatly revered.


The novel also speaks to people who wish for a religion that presents no stumbling blocks to life after the sexual revolution. But a Jesus who had retired with his wife and child to the French Riviera would offer little. He would not have taken on by his death the burden of the sins of each and every child of Adam and Eve. With his unsuccessful claim to a throne, he would just be to first-century Judaea what Bonnie Prince Charlie was to Britain in the 1700s.


Readers who are attracted to the thinking of The Da Vinci Code are not necessarily convinced. No new Christian or Mary-Magdalenian church has sprung into being. But the book appeals to unsophisticated people with some small dose of genuine intellectual curiosity and a bit of spiritual hunger, too.


Though The Da Vinci Code is not purely anti-Christian or anti-Catholic, it amounts to hate literature against a lay Catholic order, Opus Dei. Whatever Mr. Brown’s own feelings may be, the novel draws on an anti-Christianism that is in a state of denial and self-deception. This mentality is comparable to that of anti-Semites who claim sincerely that they are just anti-Zionists. That is why it is convenient to single out one Catholic group. In the past, the Jesuits were often favoured for that role.


Let us hope that the frivolity that many people associate with movies will mean that audiences take the film less seriously than the book — that it will be received as if it were another instalment of Indiana Jones, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indeed, the ill-written but wildly popular thriller has all the hallmarks of a movie treatment that got out of hand.




China Church to Boycott ‘Da Vinci’ (Christian Post, 060518)


BEIJING (AP) - China’s official Catholic church on Thursday called on its followers to boycott the film “The Da Vinci Code” as immoral and an offense to the faithful, the government’s main news agency reported.


The announcement by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which has no ties to the Vatican, adds to criticism of the film by church figures worldwide who are offended by its depiction of religious history.


The Chinese church accused the filmmakers of “violating religious ethics and morals and insulting the feelings of clergy and followers,” the Xinhua News Agency said.


The controversial film opened in China on Wednesday, beating the official Cannes premiere by hours.


“Da Vinci” is being given the widest release yet for a foreign film in China, with some 393 prints sent to theaters, breaking the record of 380 prints set by “King Kong” last year, said Li Chow, general manager in Beijing for distributor Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International and Sony Pictures Entertainment.


Government officials who monitor religious affairs have not spoken out against the film, and Li said it was approved without cuts by China’s censors on March 27.




Seeking Truth at the Movies: Some religious leaders plan to use “The Da Vinci Code” to teach people about faith. (National Review Online, 060428)


“Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false,” says one of the characters in “The Da Vinci Code,” the best-selling novel by Dan Brown. It’s not clear whether this line will appear in the movie, which reaches theaters in three weeks, but some version of it probably will make the final cut. Although nobody expects Christians to riot over “The Da Vinci Code” the way Muslims did over those Mohammad cartoons, some clergymen already have announced their disapproval. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, used his Easter sermon to criticize Mr. Brown’s book for making the true story of Christianity seem “automatically suspect.” In an advertisement in the New York Times, the Catholic League compared “The Da Vinci Code” to the anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”


It turns out, however, that many Christian leaders are choosing a completely different approach to the movie. They certainly aren’t embracing “The Da Vinci Code” and its conspiracy theories about the supposed marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the phony divinity of Christ and so on. Yet many view the film as providing an unconventional occasion—a “teachable moment,” as they say—to spread their faith. “It’s a marvelous opportunity to be positive,” said Josh McDowell of Campus Crusade for Christ in the Orlando Sentinel. “If you look carefully, truth will always stand.”


The movie’s tagline happens to be “seek the truth”—a phrase that feels like an invitation to explore and think rather than a demand to watch and submit. It distantly echoes Acts 17:11, which urges people to read Scripture so that they may determine its validity. Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film, obviously hopes that millions of Christian truth-seekers will feel inspired to buy tickets. There’s no guarantee that they will: In 1988, when Christians protested “The Last Temptation of Christ” for its depictions of Jesus as lustful and confused, Mr. McDowell’s organization tried to buy the film prints so that they could be destroyed.


That controversy actually helped “The Last Temptation” to achieve not just notoriety but also commercial success—what was once seen as an art-house film with small-time appeal suddenly became the must-see movie of the season. Having bet more than a few Sunday collection baskets on “The Da Vinci Code,” Sony isn’t looking for a fluke hit but a blockbuster.


Mr. Brown’s book is no ordinary thriller but rather a cultural phenomenon whose provocative ideas are discussed on news shows and around office water-coolers. Most of its claims, cloaked in the thinnest veneer of authenticity, are utter nonsense. For whatever reason, however, they’ve struck a nerve. They’ve also inspired a small industry of companion books and DVDs that examine the assertions of “The Da Vinci Code” and take up Sony’s challenge to “seek the truth.”


The amazing thing is that church leaders, like those at Campus Crusade, have been among the most aggressive contributors to this enterprise. Instead of acting like the mad-as-hell crusaders of the recent past—a strategy that probably has backfired more often than it has succeeded—they are now assuming the role of debunking missionaries.


This marks a sea change in attitudes from a decade ago, when the American Family Association began its much-ballyhooed boycott of Disney for a variety of affronts, including its ties to Miramax, which was peddling movies such as the impious “Dogma” and the gay-themed “Priest.” (The AFA’s boycott actually ended to virtually no fanfare last September, in the wake of the Disney-Miramax divorce. Disney’s release of “The Chronicles of Narnia” also helped smooth relations with the religious.) The content of “The Da Vinci Code” is arguably more objectionable to Christians than anything that ever carried the Miramax label, but the AFA isn’t telling its flock to stay away from theaters. An article on its Web site even suggests that readers see the movie so that they’ll know how to defend their faith. The AFA is also hawking “The Da Vinci Delusion,” a DVD produced by Coral Ridge Ministries.


Sony is encouraging such efforts. It hired Grace Hill Media, a marketing company that has promoted movies such as “Narnia” to evangelicals, to reach out to believers. One result of this collaboration is a Web site ( that includes a section called “ministry resources” as well as essays by prominent religious leaders, such as Darrell L. Bock, a professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary and the author of “Breaking the Da Vinci Code,” and Monsignor Francis J. Maniscalco, who oversees film ratings for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


It’s Catholics, of course, who come in for the worst treatment in “The Da Vinci Code.” Not only is much of Christianity a fraud, according to the novel, but the Roman Catholic Church has played a murderous role in the world’s greatest cover-up. The members of Opus Dei, a conservative group of ordained and lay Catholics, are portrayed as fanatical thugs who will stop at nothing to prevent people from seeking the truth.


In the mind of Hollywood, there may be no such thing as bad publicity. To Opus Dei, however, the enormous amount of scrutiny that came in the wake of “The Da Vinci Code” was not exactly welcome—the organization would have preferred to go about its spiritual business without having to rebut the zany allegations of a hack.


Yet Opus Dei has chosen to get ready for its close-up and make the best of an unavoidable situation. It has cooperated with reporters, including several who contributed to a recent Time cover story that was notably fair-minded. The organization’s Web site prominently features a section on “The Da Vinci Code,” including an exhortation that those who are interested in the story of Jesus should visit “the non-fiction section of the library.”


If they do, they may soon run across a book called “The Way,” by Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá. Originally released in 1939, the book is being brought out again by Doubleday—the publisher that issued “The Da Vinci Code” three years ago. It’s possible that Opus Dei’s members now include people who never would have learned about the organization in the absence of Dan Brown’s smear job.


When “The Da Vinci Code” began filming last year, reports trickled into the media that some of the novel’s sharpest accusations would be blunted so as not to offend the sensibilities of moviegoers who made Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” one of the most profitable films of all-time. It’s hard to see how the movie can pull back from the novel’s most startling claims and still tap into the zeitgeist. Even so, there is speculation that Opus Dei won’t be identified in the movie—it might be described rather than named.


Perhaps some members of Opus Dei will regard this as a minor victory. Yet others, upon reflection, may wonder if it’s a lost opportunity.


Mr. Miller is author of “A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.”




Code Breakers: “The Da Vinci Code” and its discontents. (National Review Online, 060423)


The best thrillers are unputdownable—a word that many readers surely attach to Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” It’s difficult to ride a subway or walk through an airport these days and not see somebody engrossed in its page-turning tale of murder and conspiracy. In 13 months since publication, the book has sold more than seven million copies.


But partway through reading “The Da Vinci Code,” I did put it down. Then I logged onto the Web and summoned an image of “The Last Supper,” Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting. I wanted to take a long and hard look at it, because Mr. Brown’s plot turns on something Da Vinci supposedly portrays.


The novel’s claim is startling: The person seated to the immediate right of Jesus, it says, is not John the Evangelist but Mary Magdalene, who, by the way, is God’s daughter-in-law—i.e., the wife of Jesus. “Sophie made her way closer to the painting, scanning the thirteen figures,” writes Mr. Brown at a moment of revelation in his story. “The individual had flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt . . . female.”


Now, “The Last Supper” may be grainy and imprecise, but the most that might be said is that John looks vaguely effeminate, like a biblical-era metrosexual. For Mr. Brown, however, the John-is-really-Mary observation is a jumping-off point for far grander claims. One of his characters insists that “almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” Did you know, for instance, that Jesus and Mary had a daughter?


If it sounds like hogwash, well, that’s because it is—the purest fantasy. By now, however, the book has become more than a mere diversion—its amazing popularity has made it a cultural phenomenon that has spawned magazine cover stories, an ABC News special and the inevitable forthcoming movie. More important, there is something in Mr. Brown’s cabalistic earnestness that urges readers to take his flight of imagination seriously. That is the book’s vexing subtext: Maybe this is true. Mary Magdalene may not be the wife of Jesus, but Dan Brown is a kindred spirit of Oliver Stone.


So it comes as no surprise that a half-dozen publishers are now issuing books to crack the code, so to speak. What they share, other than a desire to capitalize on Mr. Brown’s success, is a notion that “The Da Vinci Code” raises more questions than it answers and a conviction that readers of the novel will want to know more.


The best of the bunch is “Breaking the Da Vinci Code” by Darrell L. Bock, a professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary. Grounding his arguments in scholarship and logic, Mr. Bock is concise and persuasive on all the key points: No, Jesus was not married; no, Jesus did not have children; no, the Council of Nicea was not a sham. Mr. Bock shows that Mr. Brown’s central contentions are based on evidence so thin that calling them conjecture would be a compliment.


The fundamental problem with “The Da Vinci Code” is that it subjects the traditional story of Jesus to unforgiving scrutiny, like an inquisitor who simply won’t accept what his tortured victim is screaming at him. Then it proposes an elaborate thesis based on wide-eyed speculation, claiming that a few scraps of ancient writing—e.g., the so-called Gospel of Philip, a Gnostic text written in the third century—assert things that they barely even hint at. If this represents an assault on two millennia of Christian thought, as some have claimed, then the faithful can rest easy. They’ve survived Galileo and Darwin; they’ll outlast Dan Brown.


“The Da Vinci Code” may even perform a useful service to true believers if it compels them to explore the roots of their religion. Whatever else the book has done, it has taught many people—accurately—that Mary Magdalene wasn’t a prostitute. Others are reading biographies of Leonardo Da Vinci and studying “The Last Supper.” This is not a bad thing.


Maybe there is a deeper matter as well, though Mr. Brown almost certainly doesn’t intend it. Readers of “Paradise Lost” usually fall for Satan. That’s not heresy but part of Milton’s higher purpose, which is to show that we’re all vulnerable to the glamour of evil. The whole point is to feel its pull and then reject it.


Likewise, “The Da Vinci Code” is a seductive tale—and a rollicking good one. The challenge is to suspend your disbelief while you’re enjoying it, then to set it down and remember that you can’t put your faith in everything you read.




Broken Code: On screen, The Da Vinci Code is dullsville. (National Review Online, 060519)


“Your ruse is pathetic,” says one of the villains in The Da Vinci Code, the much-anticipated movie based on Dan Brown’s best-selling book. He’s talking to the character played by Tom Hanks, but he might as well be speaking to everybody involved in the production of this dull and plodding film.


Don’t boycott this movie because you’ve heard that its content is objectionable; skip it because it commits the sin of failing to entertain.


For all of the novel’s well-documented problems, I found it to be a serviceable thriller. It certainly held my interest. I especially enjoyed the intellectual exercise of looking at Leonardo’s The Last Supper harder than I’d ever looked at it before (which certainly is not to say I believe a word of what Brown claims about it).


Yet the movie isn’t as good as the book. It’s not even close. It retains all of the bad stuff—bogus history, idiotic theology, antipathy toward Catholicism, general humorlessness—without figuring out how to import the good stuff. In both book and movie, for example, the plot at one point turns on the need to figure out a puzzle involving Fibonacci numbers. Don’t know what these are? In the book, that’s no problem because they’re explained in sufficient but not mind-numbing detail. One of the small pleasures of the novel is the sense that you’re figuring out a series of riddles along with the characters. The movie, however, makes no attempt even to define the Fibonacci numbers. Instead, we see Hanks furrow his brow, hear him mutter something about Fibonacci, and then rush off to the next scene. We’re supposed to think he’s really smart, but we’re left none the wiser.


Have you ever read a thriller that feels like it ought to be a movie? Sometimes that’s a compliment, based on a book’s snappy dialogue and brisk plot. The film version of The Da Vinci Code is the reverse—a movie that feels like it ought to be a book. That’s not a compliment, because it means that all sorts of plot details aren’t adequately explained. I didn’t struggle to follow the movie because I was already familiar with the story. Moviegoers who have not read the book, however, may feel lost amid the rapid-fire references to the Council of Nicea, the Templars, and so on.


Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic order demonized in The Da Vinci Code, already has announced its objections to this entire enterprise. Members certainly will not approve of their portrayal in the movie, especially when a crippled old man beats up their freaky albino assassin, who previously has displayed X-Man-like superpowers. (Even apart from this, he actually isn’t much of an assassin: He murders an elderly nun without a problem, but he inexplicably fails to finish a hit early on that allows the whole lumbering plot to begin.) Yet the group with the biggest beef is probably the French police. As portrayed in the film, this must be the most easily duped and evaded organization in the history of law enforcement. What a bunch of numbskulls! They are Keystone Cops with French accents. When they are fooled, which is often, they sputter “merde!” To make matters worse, none of it is even comical—at least not intentionally. And the single French joke in the film—and oh, dear reader, am I ever a sucker for French jokes!—falls totally flat.


Dan Brown’s book has been thoroughly debunked, often by people who are sincerely concerned that it will mislead lead the gullible. I’ve not completely shared this concern because I’ve been skeptical of the book’s ability to persuade anybody who took organized religion seriously in the first place. I’ve even speculated that the novel might lead people in orthodox directions—I know of one person who joined Opus Dei after reading The Da Vinci Code and investigating the group, which he hadn’t known about beforehand.


Whatever the case, the movie will now undergo its own round of earnest debunking, as many of the fibs and flaws from the book have found their way onto the big screen. Yet the film is ultimately not an effective vehicle for the book’s ideas. It doesn’t even have the courage of its own convictions. The movie is more or less true to the novel except in one significant respect: Robert Langdon, the character played by Hanks, says a few words in favor of Christianity—or at least the power of prayer—in a scene toward the end. This won’t mollify Brown’s critics, nor should it, because it feels so dishonest. Is it meant to pander? Is it meant to raise last-minute doubts about Brown’s core thesis that Jesus was an ordinary guy like you and me—you know, kinda spiritual and sorta inspiring but basically just a dude? Whatever the case, it suggests that the moviemakers have their own misgivings about what the movie tries to say over the course of a yawn-inducing two-and-a-half hours. And if they aren’t sure about what their movie says, then why should anybody else believe it?


Unless you’re a French cop, of course. I hear that they’ll believe anything.


— John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the author, most recently, of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.




The Da Vinci Crisis: Dan Brown’s book reveals a crisis of truth in society. (National Review Online, 060519)


G. K. Chesterton is reported, somewhat inaccurately, to have remarked that those who cease to believe in God don’t necessarily believe in nothing; instead, they are prone to believe in anything. In his recently published, Truth: A Guide, Simon Blackburn quotes this quip in support of his contention that our culture currently suffers from a crisis of truth. A soft, democratic form of relativism has given our contemporaries a “green light to believe what they like with as much conviction and force as they like.” An influential British philosopher with distaste for religion, Blackburn laments the current forms of dogmatism: “Astrology, prophecy, homeopathy, Feng shui, conspiracy theories, flying saucers, voodoo, crystal balls, miracle-working, angel visits, alien abductions, management nostrums and a thousand other cults dominate people’s minds.” Can we add, and perhaps move to the front of the queue, the cult of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code?


Of course, many readers, and soon to be viewers, of the story are simply interested in it as a mildly entertaining yarn; many are drawn in by the controversy itself; but, if media reports are even marginally accurate (and Amy Wellborn has collected quite a bit of anecdotal evidence from responses to her own book about the Code), then many, many individuals are inclined to take large portions of the book as offering a true picture of the history of Christianity and of our greatest works of art and architecture. Although Brown has recently urged that his book is just fiction, the book contains a page entitled “FACT” which lists alleged facts about the antiquity of the Priory of Sion and about Opus Dei, and then makes the bold claim that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Well, “accurate” must mean the descriptions are true to the fictional world constructed by Dan Brown with a little help from his Gnostic brethren.


And there is that little problem of what we might mean by truth. An even better book than Blackburn’s, Truth and Truthfulness, written by another British philosopher, Bernard Williams, describes the current unrest about truth in our culture in this way. He detects “an intense commitment to truthfulness—or, at any rate, a pervasive suspiciousness, a readiness against being fooled, an eagerness to see through appearances to the real structures and motives that lie behind them.” This request for transparency, for hearing the whole story, pervades our political and media culture. Yet, it is not exactly the same as a commitment to truthfulness, since it entails only a demand that others tell the truth. (Indeed, plagiarism scandals that have afflicted such icons of journalism as the Boston Globe and the New York Times indicate that the stipulation of truthfulness is too often a one-way street.) Paired with this demand, Williams observes, “there is an equally pervasive suspicion about truth itself: whether there is such a thing; if there is, whether it can be more than relative or subjective” and “whether we should bother about it.”


The cult of The Da Vinci Code is a marvelous illustration of both these impulses concerning truth. It purports to offer transparency, an unveiling of things kept hidden by powerful institutions. It simultaneously feeds our skepticism about truth, since it deflates the greatest claims to truth in the history of human civilization. This is why conspiracy theories are at once superficially so satisfying and essentially so vacuous. And Brown’s conspiracy theory has a clever hook; it invites us, as readers, to participate in the solution of the great mysteries, as the book is structured, tediously by the end, around a series of codes that need to be deciphered.


There are now travel guides organized around the plot of The Da Vinci Code. But the impact on travelers is less elevating than it is unintentionally comic. A British paper recently reported tales of tourists in the Paris Louvre ignoring the Mona Lisa to stare at the floor and inquire, “Is this where the curator was murdered?”


Inhabitants of the modern world are increasingly ignorant of the wider world—geography, politics, world religions, and great works of art. But we have the nagging sense that something significant must be at work in history, in religion, and in art. Brown’s story fulfills our desire to have things fit together, to have the great events of history, the great religious teachings, and the greatest works of art and architecture woven into an intelligible story.


Brown’s story also feeds our (utterly unearned) modern sense of superiority; we can see further than our predecessors, not because we stand on the shoulders of giants, whom we have spent our lives trying to master, but because we suppose that we can see through them. It is a lot easier to figure out Leonardo by reading a couple chapters of Dan Brown than it is to subject oneself to a rigorous study of Renaissance art.


Thus does Brown’s Code illustrate both of the impulses that Williams detects in our current cultural malaise concerning truth. Against the deconstructionists, Williams urges, “those who say that all historical accounts are ideological…rely on some story which must itself claim historical truth.” That riposte misses the mark a bit with respect to Brown, since Brown is a deconstructionist only with respect to what his book takes to be the dominant public myth of Christianity in the West. Brown’s book contains a counter-narrative about which neither he nor his credulous fans exercise much skepticism at all. It is tempting to see in this a confirmation of Chesterton’s quip, but it is also important to ask just what that counter-narrative is and whether it makes any sense at all.


The murder of the curator in the Louvre sets the plot in motion. The quest to solve the murder brings together Sophie Neveu, a young detective and granddaughter of the curator, with Robert Langdon, identified as a Harvard “symbologist.” Their quest unveils battles between secret societies, in one of which—the Priory of Sion—the curator was the leading member.


For a book that propounds a subversion of patriarchy by the eternal feminine, The Da Vinci Code embodies a blandly traditional gender relationship between the elder, experienced male (Langdon) and the youthful, naïve female (Sophie). One of Langdon’s great paternal moments of pedagogy comes as he listens calmly to Sophie’s distraught confession that she had a “rift” with her grandfather after she inadvertently discovered his participation in a strange sexual ritual. Langdon patiently asks Sophie whether the ceremony took place around the time of the equinox, with androgynous masks. When she responds affirmatively, he explains that she witnessed an ancient ceremony called “Hieros Gamos” or sacred marriage, which celebrates the “reproductive power of the female.” What appears to be a “sex ritual” has in fact nothing to do with eroticism. “It was a spiritual act,” a means of achieving “gnosis—knowledge of the divine.”


The term “gnosis” calls to mind, as Brown’s book does explicitly in many other ways, the ancient religious cult of Gnosticism, which sought a complete transcendence of the body and an ascension to a realm of pure spirit. The most advanced members of the sect were thought to have already transcended the realm of the body. That’s the supposition behind Langdon’s assertion that the sexual ritual was void of eroticism.


But this is where Brown’s use of Gnosticism itself becomes incoherent. The great emphasis in the book’s final chapters is not on transcending the body to achieve pure spirit, but on the “power of the blood coursing through the veins of Sophie Neveu,” whose parents are both from “Merovingian families—direct descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ.” The Priory of Sion guards the secret in order to protect the “surviving royal bloodline.” (It is interesting to note that the Priory of Sion is not ancient, as Brown’s book says it is, but is rather a mid-20th century invention intended to advance unseemly political interests in France.)


There is double trouble here for Brown’s heroes. First, how do we get from the Gnostic repudiation of the body in favor of the spirit to the assertion that what is most significant is pure biology, a bloodline? Second, why should anyone today care about the protection of a royal bloodline? On the one hand, Brown wants to demote Christ, who is no longer to be conceived of as divine, but merely as an influential human; on the other hand, Brown wants to elevate Christ’s human bloodline, his royal genealogy. But unless we harbor nostalgia for hereditary monarchy, why should we be moved by this or deem it worthy of protection? Is there not something deeply troubling about Brown’s enthusiastic embrace of the purity of blood?


Of course, this confirms Chestertonian sentiment about the credulity of the superficially skeptical. It also confirms Pascal’s ominous aphorism, “He who tries to make himself an angel ends up as a beast.”


—Thomas Hibbs, an NRO contributor, is author of Shows About Nothing.




Hate at the Movies: Something to offend everyone. (National Review Online, 060519)


On a balmy May 18 Thursday night, my wife Karen and I attended a preview of The Da Vinci Code.


Confession: I have not read the book. Its first few pages of bad writing and howling history filled me with too much disgust.


Yet, as a thriller the movie moved faster and with more tension than I had expected. People were being bloodied everywhere; cars were screaming madly on narrow streets or on wooded dirt roads, it was hard to tell who various people were; the plot and the madness were so complex that I had a hard time telling who the good guys were (if any); and the splayed, blood-oozing victims were too anonymous to seem like anything but cardboard stuffing. Tom Hanks was woefully miscast, amiable but without much intelligence playing in his eyes even when he was supposed to be being clever—but it did turn out that his sidekick, the pretty French detective, was actually the only living descendant of Jesus Christ, by the “wife” of the Christ, Mary Magdalene.


True, the number of deranged characters for one movie was a bit overabundant, and it did not help that nearly all of them were Catholics of one sort or another—except for the secular hero (Ian McKellen) who was also led away towards the end screaming incoherently.


All this was expected. The one thing that really shocked me was the movie’s underlying intention, stated several times with great clarity: the depth and passion of its anti-Christian, anti-monotheism craziness. To say the movie wishes actually to be the anti-Christ would only sound extravagant; still that is the constant and underlying message. The “heroes” of the film have to save the world from the oppression and injustice brought into it, not only by Christianity, but by all monotheistic religions. Wherever there is monotheism, the secular hero says, there is violence, or oppression, or something like that.


All that matters, Tom Hanks tells the only living descendant of Christ, is what you believe. Not truth, not reality, but whatever you believe. That’s what matters. You make up reality as you go. The professor Hanks plays makes plain that he believes that Jesus is only a man—a man and that’s all. A great moral teacher, perhaps, but only a man.


That, of course, is the one thing that the Jesus himself does not allow us to believe. If Jesus is only a man, he is no great moral teacher. He is on the contrary a fraud, a pretender, a horrible spendthrift with his own life and the lives of his apostles—all twelve of whom met a martyrdom like his, some of them crucified, all of them most brutally killed without the utterance of a single recantation. If He was not the Son of God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he was either a mountebank or a lunatic, and deserves our contempt, not our praise. His every moral teaching would be vitiated by its radical emptiness and fraudulence.


One of the very meanings of being secular today, of course, is to believe that Jesus was exactly all these things—a lunatic or a fraud and, more important than anything else, no more than a man. So The Da Vinci Code will not exactly be stating any new thesis that secular people don’t already accept. What it may succeed in doing, however, is to make dramatically manifest the silliness, madness, and love of illusion in what being secular means, at least to these film makers. It is for this reason, perhaps, that so many secular critics have found this movie repellent. Although it seeks to mock Christians and Jews, it actually makes a purely secular view seem absolutely batty.


In short, there is enough in this film to offend everybody.


Some, of course, may be so crazed themselves that they will truly enjoy the Catholic bashing—all these scheming, hideous, bloodthirsty, maddened cults and their captives, all those mysterious blessings and signs of the cross on the way to murder most vile. Is this what the author and filmmakers actually think moves the more than 1.2 billion Catholics on earth today? Are these artists so blinded by hatred that they cannot see, in the very paintings and glorious churches aspiring toward the sky in whose midst they do their filming, a reaching upwards toward “the Love that moves the Sun and all the stars”?


I think I have never for two-and-a-half hours felt so surrounded by decadence and hostility toward Christ. Yet I must admit that the film was glitzy with the art of the makers of thrillers. One could never be sure when one scene, then another, then another, then another, would be cut short by a murderous lunge, a shot ricocheting around a closed space, a door slamming, a car screeching. From one shock to another, one’s stomach absorbed punch after punch.


Afterwards, I sure felt like a strong double bourbon. And I felt eager to forget as soon as I can the sheer malicious hatred that swirls up from this film.


— Michael Novak is the winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for progress in religion and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Novak’s own website is




Before Nicea, the Voice of the Martyrs: ‘Jesus Alone Is Lord!’ (Christian Post, 060518)


This Friday, May 19, The Da Vinci Code is scheduled to debut in theatres across the nation. The book has sold more than any fictional work in U.S. history and the movie is expected to place among the top 20 feature films of all time.


Although much of The Da Vinci Code is based on factual errors, none of its assertions is more egregious than the claim that Emperor Constantine of Rome financed a staff to manipulate existing biblical texts to make Christ divine. The Da Vinci Code advocates that before the Council of Nicea in 325, “Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet ... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.”


One should understand, however, what prompted the persecution of thousands of Christians in the Roman Empire, long before the Council of Nicea. Major, empire-wide persecution was in full force by the mid-second century, and often the followers of Christ were led to the arenas to face horrific deaths for their faith in one great concept — that Jesus alone was Lord.


Two such persons were Vibia Perpetua, a young wife and mother of noble descent, and Felicitas, a slave girl who was eight months pregnant. Both lived in Carthage at the end of the second century; both were part of the rapid growth of Christianity in North Africa.


Although historically accurate, Linda Holland in her book, Alabaster Doves, explains with some artistic license the dangers Christians like Perpetua and Felicitas readily faced:


“The clip clop of horses’ hooves on the stone street signaled the crowd of approaching Roman legionaries. People dashed from the center of the street, leaving a path for the equestrian procession, as three soldiers bearing the insignia of the proconsul prance their steeds into the center of the market place and reared to a stop. The lead soldier unrolled a scroll, and holding it before him, shouted a decree:


‘Ye men of Carthage, be it known to you that the divine Imperator has commanded that all men everywhere be loyal citizens. There has arisen in the Empire a superstition endangering the peace, prosperity, and happiness of our subjects. Be it known to you that throughout our land ignorant fellows have made a god of a malefactor condemned by Roman law. They are despisers of our laws. They will not sacrifice to the throne and crown. For years, in patience, we have waited that these childish people might return to the obedience due the state, but they refuse, and so we now decree that they be brought to judgment.


‘You are commanded that wherever you may find them to take and hold them, and to bring them to the consul. Let it be done. Farewell.’”


Perpetua, Felicitas, and many other Christians were rounded up under such orders, imprisoned, scourged and eventually condemned to die. While in prison, Felicitas reportedly gave birth just before she and Perpetua were sent to the arena. The great church father, Tertullian, recorded the story of their incredible martyrdom, along with other Christian brethren:


“The day of their victory dawned and they marched from their prison with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear. Perpetua went along with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a wife of Christ, putting down everyone’s stare by her own intense gaze. With them also was Felicitas, glad that she had safely given birth so that now she could fight the beasts, going from one blood bath to another, from the midwife to the gladiator, ready to wash after childbirth in a second baptism. For the young women, however, the devil had prepared a mad heifer. This was an unusual animal, but it was chosen that their sex might be matched with that of the beast. So they were stripped naked, placed in nets and thus brought out into the arena. Even the crowd was horrified when they saw that one was a delicate young girl and the other was a woman fresh from child-birth with the milk still dripping from her breasts. And so they were brought back again and dressed in unbelted tunics.


First the heifer tossed Perpetua and she fell on her back. Then sitting up, she pulled down the tunic that was ripped along the side so that it covered her thighs, thinking more of her modesty than of her pain. Next she asked for a pin to fasten her untidy hair for it was not right that a martyr should die with her hair in disorder, lest she might seem to be mourning in her hour of triumph.


Then she got up. And seeing that Felicitas had been crushed to the ground, she went over to her, gave her hand, and lifted her up .... Then she called for her brother and spoke to him together with the catechumens [persons who had professed Christ, but had yet to be baptized] and said: ‘You must all stand fast in the faith and love one another, and do not be weakened by what we have gone through’. All of them were thrown in their usual spot to have their throat cut. But the mob asked that their bodies be brought out into the open that their eyes might be the guilty witnesses of the sword that pierced their flesh. And so the martyrs got up and went to the spot of their own accord as the people wanted them to, and kissing one another they sealed their martyrdom with the ritual kiss of peace. The others took the sword in silence and without moving .... Perpetua, however, had yet to taste more pain. She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator, and guided it to her throat. It was though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing.”


Think of it. In a religiously pluralistic and liberal-minded society like Rome, Perpetua could have returned to her wealthy family and comfortable surroundings. Felicitas could have been released to raise her newborn baby. If only they were willing to take a pinch of incense and place it on a fire before a graven image of Caesar, they would have been set free. Instead they chose to die of unspeakable tortures rather than deny Christ by reducing Him to just another god in a Roman pantheon. To them He was more than a god — more than just “a mortal prophet ... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.” To them He was none other than the one and only true God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. For that belief and confession, which was considered seditious by Roman authorities, they were willing, if necessary, to suffer the loss of everything.


Moreover, the sacrifice of Perpetua and Felicitas is a smack in the face of that damnable notion perpetuated by The Da Vinci Code which argues the church has smeared and degraded the role of women in the church for centuries. For heaven’s sake, the Catholic Church venerates Perpetua and Felicitas as Saints, along with many other women. Even the largest and most conservative Protestant denomination, Southern Baptists, have named two of their annual missions offerings after two highly esteemed female missionaries, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong.


What has driven thousands upon thousands of men and women to give their lives in sacrifice for Christ since Christianity’s beginning, century after century, has always been one all-consuming conviction: Jesus is the Lord of life and death. (Romans 10:9) He is God in human flesh and whatever one loses or gives in obedience to Him, whether life, liberty or lands, shall ultimately be returned by Him with incredible interest (Matthew 19:29). No other confidence could ever possibly motivate innumerable masses throughout the ages to so terribly, willingly, patiently, confidently and even happily suffer without retaliation at the hands of their oppressors.


Indeed, the voice of the martyrs, sealed with the testimony of their own blood, cry out well before the Council of Nicea — “Jesus is the Lord God Almighty.”




Rev. Mark H. Creech ( is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.




A Christian Response to “The DaVinci Code”: What’s the Problem? (Mohler, 060519)


Since its release in 2003, forty million hardback copies of The Da Vinci Code have sold. Six million paperback copies also are now in circulation, and this weekend, a major Hollywood movie will be released. In both the book and the movie, the central character is one who does not actually appear in either, and that is Jesus Christ. Because of that, many of our friends and neighbors are going to be talking about who Jesus is and why He came. Many of our neighbors are going to be seeing, perhaps for the first time, an explanation about who Jesus is and why He matters, and our great concern is that the entire story presented in this movie is a lie.


The interest in this book and movie should remind us that there is going on right now a spiritual battle, not only between light and darkness, and between the truth and the lie, but also between life and death. Our great concern therefore should not be merely that people might be confused, but that people would be blinded and held captive by a story that appeals to them, and yet a story that is an anti-Gospel, a false gospel, the very thing that the Apostle Paul warned against when he said, “If I or even an angel were to come to you preaching any other gospel, let him be anathema.”


You see, sometimes the church does not remember this, but it is the church’s responsibility to anathematize. That is something we don’t talk about very much, but it is the church’s responsibility clearly to declare as false anything which stands against the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a harmonious age when everyone wants to nod at everything, smile appreciatively at everything, and not pass judgment on anything. In the midst of such an age, however, the church is called to say “no” and to identify the false as false. Otherwise we cannot truly honor the truth.


Authored by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code is a conspiracy story. It is a mystery suspense thriller, and Americans love mystery suspense thrillers. What makes this story different, however, is that the conspiracy theory that lies at the very heart of the book’s plotline has to do with the Gospel. What drives the action of the story is the argument that the church’s traditional teachings about Jesus are all a fraud. Instead of revealing who Jesus really was and what he really did, the book argues, the church buried the truth in an intentional conspiracy, claimed that Jesus was divine, and said that He had come to save sinners from their sin.


Beginning in chapter 55, Brown gets to the very heart of the story when the central character begins to reveal to another character the truth about the conspiracy. Consider what the character Leigh Teabing says: “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, editions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.”


Now if that is true, then we are reading a kind of committee report when we open the Scripture. But it is not true. This is one of those insidious statements that makes sense to sinners, because in effect, that one paragraph has just declared that we do not have to take the Bible as the Word of God. It is just a human document, says the book.


He goes on: “Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, his life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land. More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them.” The problems here, even from a merely historical point of view, are numerous. First of all, Jesus’s life was not recorded by “thousands of followers.” Most of the people who lived during that time were illiterate, and they were not going home and writing down gospels or biographies of Jesus. Moreover, the assertion that some sort of committee considered eighty gospels and chose a few—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them—is nonsense. There simply was no committee that sat down with eighty gospels and said, “We like this one, but we don’t like that one.” Such an assertion has no basis whatsoever in fact.


From here, Brown writes at length about the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Here is the central passage: “ ‘Many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon. The date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and of course the divinity of Jesus.’ ‘I don’t follow, his divinity?’ ‘My dear,’ Teabing declared, ‘until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless, a mortal.’ ‘Not the Son of God?’ ‘Right,’ Teabing said. ‘Jesus’s establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea.’ ‘Hold on! You’re saying that Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?’ ‘A relatively close vote at that,’ Teabing added. . . . Many scholars claim that the early church literally stole Jesus from his original followers, hijacking his human methods, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power. I’ve written several books on the topic.’”


So what was the real story, according to The Da Vinci Code? Dan Brown writes that Jesus Christ was a mortal teacher, that he was in fact crucified, but that before He died he married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and the child went to Gaul, which is now called France, and established the Merovingian royal dynasty. Essentially, Dan Brown wants you to believe, or at least he has written a novel to suggest, that Christianity is based upon a huge lie, that the original historical truth about this mortal prophet was buried by the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. in order to bolster the power of his own regime. And thus, Christians throughout the ages have been engaged in an exercise of mass delusion—until now, of course.


So how do we answer this? First, we must remind ourselves of some basic truths concerning how Christianity came to be. One of the book’s claims is that until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the church believed that Jesus was just a mortal prophet. There could not be a bigger historical lie. Consider John 1:1-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” Nothing could be clearer than this, and it is the very heart of the Gospel. If we misunderstand who Jesus is, we cannot possibly understand anything else about the Gospel itself.


Moreover, Brown’s history of the Council of Nicea is completely misleading. Actually, that Council is one for which Christians ought to be very thankful, for it was there that the church identified heresy as heresy and preserved the Gospel of Christ. In the early fourth century there arose a presbyter in the church of Alexandria by the name of Arius, who began to teach that Jesus Christ was not the pre-existent Son of God, but that there once was a time when the Son was not. On the other side of the controversy was a bishop named Athanasius. Here was a man who understood the truth, and who also understood that his responsibility as a shepherd of the sheep to warn his people about this false teaching. At one point, one of Athanasius’s advisers said to him, “Athanasius, the entire world is against you.” In reply, Athanasius said, “Well, if the entire world is against Athanasius, then Athanasius will be against the entire world.” In Latin, Athanasius’ phrase has been summarized as “contra mundum,” “against the world.” Surely that is one of the greatest statements in the history of Christianity, and Christians should feel invigorated by the courage of Athanasius. If necessary, contra mundum, against the world! If the world is against the Gospel, then the world will have to understand that we must be against the world.


The true story of Nicea, therefore, was not that the leaders of the church came together to declare Jesus divine, but that they came together to guard against heresy and to proclaim the truth as it had been handed to them by the apostles. Brown claims that Jesus’s divinity was established by “a relatively close vote at that.” Actually, the bishops of the church came together, adopted a creed to separate the truth from the error, and of the more than three hundred bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicea, only two refused to sign that creed. By any measure, three hundred to two is not a close vote.


How then should Christians respond when our neighbors ask us, “How do you know that Jesus was never married?” The answer is that we know Jesus was not married because Scripture is very clear that Jesus was not married. Is there a proof-text for that fact? No, but it is written into the very warp and woof of the fabric of the New Testament. Jesus’ purpose was not to come and marry and establish an earthly dynasty, but to come and save sinners. There is no wife at the cross; it is Jesus’ mother, and she is given into the care of one of His disciples. The entire context there is of one who was not married. Also, of course, had Jesus truly been married, it is impossible that this would not have been recorded and told by the enemies of the Gospel, as well as by its friends.


It is not important that Christians either see this movie or read this book. But it is important that we be armed with enough knowledge of the storyline so that when our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family members begin talking about this, we can say, “Well, no, I am not shocked to hear that. The church has heard this kind of thing before. I am not shocked to hear that, because there have been efforts in the very beginning of Christianity to subvert the truth with a lie. Even in the New Testament, Paul himself was warning against false gospels.”


In fact, Scripture tells us there are many who will prefer a lie to the truth, even a lie that is easily dismissible, even a lie that is transparently false, even a lie that is so undocumented that it simply falls of the weight of its own audacity. There are persons who would rather believe a lie packaged in a glittery Hollywood movie than the truth so plainly revealed in the Word of God.


This is an edited version of an address given to the Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland on May 7, 2006.




A Christian Response to “The Da Vinci Code”: What’s the Attraction? (Mohler, 060522)


The movie industry estimates that Ron Howard’s film adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code pulled in over 77 million dollars in its opening weekend. Despite dozens of critical reviews released last week, and despite well-documented and obvious flaws in the story’s logic and history, Americans saw the film in record-breaking numbers.


Now, why would so many persons be drawn to this story? Of course, it is not just The Da Vinci Code, either. Earlier this month, the news media were captivated by the release of The Gospel of Judas, thirteen little pages of reconstructed papyrus found in an abandoned cave that supposedly were about to completely upturn Christianity. There can be no doubt the document is very old. In fact, one of the bishops of the church, Irenaeus, dismissed it as obvious heresy in 189 A.D. What we are experiencing now in the modern age is that the old heresies are coming up all over again. It is a bit like rewinding history, and all the ancient heresies that were tried long ago, opposed by the church, and declared by the church to be false, they are coming back.


People seem to have taken a renewed interest, for example, in the Gnostic gospels. During the early centuries of Christianity many groups tried to hijack Christianity and make it into something else, even as today there are cults and sects who do the same. Because there were so many of these radical groups, archaeologists and other scholars are always coming up with new documents and shreds of evidence—the Nag Hammadi library, for example—and when they are released to the public, the very fact that the church rejected them seems to be proof positive to the postmodern mind that they must be true.


We are living in strange times. Here’s the question: Why would persons prefer a lie to the truth? Over the next few weeks, all the shows on the cable news networks and talk radio will most certainly be talking about this new movie, discussing the storyline and the art and the history. They will be talking about the argument this movie makes about Jesus, and the Christian response to it. But what they will not be talking about is this: Why would persons prefer the false gospel to the true?


This is why: If the true storyline concerning Jesus Christ was that He was merely a mortal prophet who came to establish an earthly dynasty and to help us all celebrate the divine feminine and be a part of His circle of knowledge and enlightenment, then the fact is that we do not have to think about the fact that we are sinners. If that is what the life of Jesus is all about, then it is not about how we must be redeemed from our sin, but rather about how we can simply be enlightened and informed. The truth is, the human heart would much rather be told it is uninformed than that it is sinful.


If the truth about Jesus is that he was merely another human being, then God does not lay claim upon your life. He does not lay claim upon your marriage. He does not lay claim upon your sex life. If this is true, then God does not much care about any of that; he simply wants you to be informed. There is no “take up your cross and follow me.” There is no discipleship. There is no dying to self and living to Christ. There is none of that, and there is no judgment. All of which sits well with the postmodern mind, for there are many people who think the best news they could hear is that they will never have to face judgment. As a matter of fact, the only way to understand the world around us is to acknowledge that the vast majority of our neighbors do not believe they will face judgment.


The reason false gospels are so attractive and so seductive is because it is convenient for us to be told that we are not the problem. We would much rather believe that the problem is a conspiracy—that humanity has been held in darkness because some have conspired to suppress the truth.


Beginning in Matthew 16:13, we encounter one of those great texts that informs us about the identity of the Gospel, the identity of Christ, and the identity of the church: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say ‘John the Baptist’, others say ‘Elijah’, others ‘Jeremiah or one of the prophets’.’ He said to them, ‘but who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father, who is in heaven.’”


That is the central truth claim of Christianity, and in this passage and the verses that follow, we see the constitution of the Christian church based upon this truth—the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Look at Jesus’ question to his disciples: “But who do they say that I am?” That is almost like a pollster’s question, and it will not be surprising if pollsters all over the country are asking a question much like that one over the next few weeks. Brace yourself for the release of the polls and for all of the discussion about this movie. The newsweeklies and newspapers will be going to Americans and saying, “Who do you say Jesus is? Here is what The Da Vinci Code says, and here is what this expert says. What do you say?” Without doubt, the answer will be a mass of confusion, and that is nothing new. When Jesus asked His disciples, “but who do they say that I am?,” what came back was a report of confusion. “Well, some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah, some say one of the prophets”—mass confusion.


But then Jesus turns to His own and says, “But who do you say that I am?” Though Jesus has been revealing Himself to His disciples through His words, His deeds, and His presence, He had never asked them this question until now. Yet Peter says, “I know. You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Promised One, the Consolation of Israel, the one whom God promised, the Prophet that Moses promised in Deuteronomy, the Suffering Servant promised in Isaiah’s prophecy, the one who would come and save His people from their sins. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”


Brothers and sisters, that is why we are here. It is because every one of us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have made the same confession of faith, and we have stood in the line of Peter and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” When we say that, we are confessing together that this is the one who came as the Christ, the one who came as the Messiah, the one who was fully divine, the one who had no sin, the one who was conceived of the virgin Mary, the one who lived a sinless life, and the one who died on the cross as our substitute, paying the penalty for our sins, shedding His blood for the salvation of sinners. “Thou art the Christ,” the one who rescued His people from sin, the one who came not only to lead people out of captivity to Pharaoh and Egypt, but the one who came in the new Exodus to lead sinners out of captivity to sin into salvation. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” not only the one who was crucified for us, but the one whom God raised from the dead—His own Son, even of the same substance as the Father. “He who has seen me” Jesus said, “has seen the Father. I and the Father are one.”


What is our response to this movie and this book? Very simply, it is the response the church is called to every single day in the face of falsehood and evil. Share the Gospel. Confess Christ. Follow Christ joyfully, and show your joy to a fallen world that so desperately needs to know Jesus the Christ. Our friends and neighbors, coworkers and family members are going to be talking about Jesus, because they are going to be talking about a movie. They are going to be talking about a story, and they are going to be allowing themselves to enjoy the idea of a giant conspiracy theory.


In coming weeks, the Lord may well use you as a means of taking the Gospel to one who desperately needs to hear the truth rather than a lie. It may be that the Lord will use you as an agent of clarification in a world of confusion. It just may be that the Lord will put you in such a place that you are going to hear the murmuring of those who are talking about a movie. You are going to hear the excitement of those who thought it was a thrilling story. You are going to hear the critique of those who will talk about plotlines and lighting and all the things that Hollywood cares about. You will hear some people say, “You know, I really wonder—was it true?” You are not there by accident. God will sovereignly place you where you can be a witness to the Gospel and say, “I have a story that will top that one! You want to know an exhilarating, thrilling story? Let me tell you a story that leads from death to life. Let me tell you about who Jesus Christ really is, because I know Him as more than a character in a plot. I know Him as the Lord of my life.”


Let us pray that God’s church will be emboldened “to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.” Let us pray that just as the New Testament commands us, we will do so with gentleness and humility. But brothers and sisters, let us do so with courage and clarity. And let us pray to see a church that says in response to this movie and to all falsehood, “We are not afraid to talk about this. We have met heresies before. Just give us a chance to tell you the truth.”




Pastors Crack the Code as ‘Da Vinci’ Makes Film Debut (Christian Post, 060523)


VIENNA, Va. – Christians packed pews to crack the “Da Vinci Code” over the weekend as the religious thriller drew near-record crowds to box offices worldwide.


According to Sony Pictures, the film was the largest weekend opening of the year and so far became the second largest worldwide release after “Star Wars: Episode III.” It garnered some $224 million worldwide, $77 million of which were spent in the U.S.


Pastors across the nation had already prepared for the debut, some by calling for protests and boycotts, but most by equipping their flock with educational sessions and resources addressing the key historical flaws behind Dan Brown’s story.


The book tells a story of a Harvard professor and a French cryptologist who team up to help solve a murder mystery. The plot reveals a Catholic Church conspiracy to cover up the “true” story of Jesus’ love affair with Mary Magdalene. The author claims that the books in the New Testament were selected and edited by the Roman Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., and that many legitimate gospels were purposely left out because they contradicted the “false” story of the Bible as we know it today.


At Mclean Bible Church near Washington, D.C., senior pastor Lon Solomon began the first of his three-part series entitled “Cracking the Da Vinci Code” on Saturday evening, dedicating the full weekend to defending the integrity of the Bible.


“The real focus of Dan Brown’s attack deals with the formation and the makeup of the New Testament,” Solomon explained. “Brown says the early framers of Christianity were a bunch of devious, corrupt, power-hungry hypocrites and that the Christianity we know today is product of a bunch of male-chauvinist bishops…”


Solomon countered three of the author’s claims regarding who, why, and how the New Testament came to be formed in early church history by focusing largely on the life and faith of Emperor Constantine.


“Was Constantine merely a cheap opportunist? No. Absolutely not,” Solomon said as he shared a story of how the emperor converted to Christianity. “Constantine became a proactive champion of Christianity through the Roman Empire, and he erased all pagan symbols from Zeus, paid for churches to be built, and declared Sunday as a day of worship.


“My point is that Constantine embraced Christianity not because of political expedience, but that he had a true spiritual encounter with the living Christ, and his actions prove it,” Solomon said as he debunked what he called Dan Brown’s lies of “phantasmagorical proportions.”


He further explained that the emperor convened the Council of Nicea in 325 to strengthen the new Christian tradition, not to commission and finance a new Bible as Brown claims.


“We know from history that the Council never even discussed the contents or formation of the New Testament,” Solomon said.


He then addressed Brown’s claim that dozens of legitimate gospel books were omitted from the current-day Bible to hide the secret behind Jesus’ mortality and love affair.


“These scrolls, commonly called the Gnostic gospels … were written by a sect of heretics called ‘Gnostics’ who believed that they had been given ‘secret knowledge’ from Jesus,” Solomon explained. “The reason [the Gnostic gospels] were omitted was because the early church considered them to be heretical and wrong, and this happened long before the Council of Nicea. They didn’t get into the New Testament, because they were fraudulent documents written in the second century.”


Ultimately, Solomon said, Christians should remember that the Bible is truth and that Brown’s novel is fiction.


“The book is all wrong and good scholarship can prove it,” said Solomon. “The Da Vinci Code will pass away, and I want to urge you not to let the lie in Dan Brown’s book shake your trust in the Integrity in the Bible.


The “Cracking the Da Vinci Code” series will continue at the Mclean Bible Church next week by addressing “The True Nature of Jesus Christ,” and will conclude on June 3-4 with a look at the “Esteem given to Women by Christianity.”




Da Vinci Code Obsession is a Symptom of American Christian Ills (Christian Post, 060519)


“Lackluster,” “bloated,” and “lifeless” were just some of the words critics used to describe the ‘Da Vinci Code’ movie that opened this week in theaters and film festivals worldwide. This comes as no surprise. After all, what more could be expected from a theatrical attempt to substantiate implausible claims from a book based on half-truths and lies?


No real Christian believes Dan Brown’s ridiculous allegations that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that her womb is the Holy Grail. The critics’ cold responses merely affirm what we knew all along: there is absolutely nothing to worry about.


However, the popularity of the best-selling book and the likely box office hit confirms another fact that we also know but try to avoid: American Christianity has become lukewarm and stale, and believers are starting to look elsewhere for answers they haven’t found in our churches.


According to the Encyclopedia of World Religions, about 75 percent of Americans claim to be Christian. However, other polls consistently show that only 36 percent of Americans regularly attend Sunday Services and only 33 percent believe the Bible is inerrant.


In a book entitled “Reforming Fundamentalism,” author and professor George M. Marsden referred to a poll of 10,000 seminary students revealing that 85 percent do not believe the Scriptures are the “inspired and inerrant word of God in faith and history.”


Furthermore, a national poll by the Barna research group found that 39 percent of Americans are “notional Christians” – those who do not believe that eternal life comes through grace by Jesus Christ. This means more than half of America’s Christians are Christians by name-only, which explains why so many of us are interested in learning about a conspiracy theory challenging the nature of Jesus Christ.


Reading Dan Brown’s book or watching Ron Howard’s film will not likely convince even these nominal Christian that the descendents of Jesus are walking in our midst.


However, with so many pastors and seminary professors failing to teach correctly about the basic spiritual laws, it will not be long before Christianity in America, like Christendom in Europe, becomes nothing more than a cultural identity inherited through tradition.


The same book by Professor Marsden also quoted a 1987 survey revealing that up to 95 percent of pastors in certain denominations do not believe in the Bible as inerrant and inspired. While a more recent poll by Barna Research resulted in less extreme figures (the highest unbelieving pastors were among Episcopalians at 78 percent and Catholics at 74 percent), it shines some light as to why such a baseless attack against the Christian faith became the best-selling fiction novel in the world’s largest Christian nation. Once the Bible becomes a relative story open to analysis, there will be no end to questioning the veracity of God’s truths.


Therefore, as leaders of our faith, we should take this chance to go beyond merely debunking or decoding the Da Vinci fiction. Instead, we must make an offensive strike, hitting at the heart of our arrogance toward the Word of God and reassessing our own faith in the greatest Truth ever told.


If we fail, we will have to ready ourselves for endless rounds of Da Vinci Code attacks and Gospel of Judas blasphemies that challenge the answers already given to us by God through His Holy Word.




Da Vinci Code Obsession is a Symptom of American Christian Ills (Christian Post, 060602)


“Lackluster,” “bloated,” and “lifeless” were just some of the words critics used to describe the ‘Da Vinci Code’ movie that opened this week in theaters and film festivals worldwide. This comes as no surprise. After all, what more could be expected from a theatrical attempt to substantiate implausible claims from a book based on half-truths and lies?


No real Christian believes Dan Brown’s ridiculous allegations that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that her womb is the Holy Grail. The critics’ cold responses merely affirm what we knew all along: there is absolutely nothing to worry about.


However, the popularity of the best-selling book and the likely box office hit confirms another fact that we also know but try to avoid: American Christianity has become lukewarm and stale, and believers are starting to look elsewhere for answers they haven’t found in our churches.


According to the Encyclopedia of World Religions, about 75 percent of Americans claim to be Christian. However, other polls consistently show that only 36 percent of Americans regularly attend Sunday Services and only 33 percent believe the Bible is inerrant.


In a book entitled “Reforming Fundamentalism,” author and professor George M. Marsden referred to a poll of 10,000 seminary students revealing that 85 percent do not believe the Scriptures are the “inspired and inerrant word of God in faith and history.”


Furthermore, a national poll by the Barna research group found that 39 percent of Americans are “notional Christians” – those who do not believe that eternal life comes through grace by Jesus Christ. This means more than half of America’s Christians are Christians by name-only, which explains why so many of us are interested in learning about a conspiracy theory challenging the nature of Jesus Christ.


Reading Dan Brown’s book or watching Ron Howard’s film will not likely convince even these nominal Christian that the descendents of Jesus are walking in our midst.


However, with so many pastors and seminary professors failing to teach correctly about the basic spiritual laws, it will not be long before Christianity in America, like Christendom in Europe, becomes nothing more than a cultural identity inherited through tradition.


The same book by Professor Marsden also quoted a 1987 survey revealing that up to 95 percent of pastors in certain denominations do not believe in the Bible as inerrant and inspired. While a more recent poll by Barna Research resulted in less extreme figures (the highest unbelieving pastors were among Episcopalians at 78 percent and Catholics at 74 percent), it shines some light as to why such a baseless attack against the Christian faith became the best-selling fiction novel in the world’s largest Christian nation. Once the Bible becomes a relative story open to analysis, there will be no end to questioning the veracity of God’s truths.


Therefore, as leaders of our faith, we should take this chance to go beyond merely debunking or decoding the Da Vinci fiction. Instead, we must make an offensive strike, hitting at the heart of our arrogance toward the Word of God and reassessing our own faith in the greatest Truth ever told.


If we fail, we will have to ready ourselves for endless rounds of Da Vinci Code attacks and Gospel of Judas blasphemies that challenge the answers already given to us by God through His Holy Word.




China Theaters to Pull ‘Da Vinci Code’ (Christian Post, 060608)


HONG KONG (AP) - The Chinese government, in an unprecedented move, has ordered movie theaters to stop showing “The Da Vinci Code,” movie industry officials said Thursday.


Chinese authorities said the withdrawal of the movie from theaters Friday was to make way for locally produced films, one industry executive said, declining to be named because she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media on the matter.


But another Hollywood blockbuster, “Ice Age: The Meltdown” was to be released in China on Friday, said the executive, who added that “The Da Vinci Code” was the first foreign film to be pulled from theaters in China after being approved for release.


“The Da Vinci Code,” which has been opposed by Christian groups because it suggests Jesus fathered children who continued his lineage, has made $13 million since its release on May 19. It was on its way to becoming one of the highest-earning foreign films in China, the executive said.


A man who answered the phone at the press office of China’s Film Bureau in Beijing said he was “unclear” about whether the film was pulled from cinemas. He declined to give his name.


Wu Hehu, a spokesman for Shanghai’s United Cinema Line Corporation, said he received a notice to cease showing the film, but he didn’t know why the order was made.


“This is such a short notice from the film’s distributor. They will stop showing it from tomorrow,” Wu said.


“I don’t know the reason either. We just do what we are told to do,” he said.


“Pearl Harbor,” which made $13 million, has been the No. 2 foreign film in Chinese box office history, the industry executive said.


“Titanic” was first, fetching $45 million.




The Da Vinci Code Is Dead: Consider the numbers. (National Review Online, 060613)


The Da Vinci Code is dead. Four weeks after release, its box-office grosses this past weekend came in at a remarkably anemic $10 million. That’s dead.


The Da Vinci Code opened four weeks ago with an ungodly amount of free publicity and returned a whopping $77 million in its first week of release. It should have broken all records — it had that kind of momentum. But then it dropped like a stone. In four weeks it went from $77 million to $45 million to $18 million and now to $10 million. That’s an 88-percent drop in a month. And this is while still appearing in more than 3,700 theaters. D-e-a-d.


Make no mistake, the movie made its money back, but it needed the foreign markets to do it. Its production budget was $125 million. Add another $50-$75 million for advertising/marketing and prints and so far its $189 million domestic take is under water.


Internationally, the movie has grossed $452 million in 67 countries, which will likely more than cover what must have been a substantial international advertising and marketing budget. (And shamefully, the “Catholic” countries of France, Italy, and Spain snapped up tickets to the tune of $29 million, $34 million, and $28 million respectively..)


It is expected that ancillary sales will bring in substantially more, perhaps another $50 million in DVD rentals and sales. Toss in television and cable and they are looking at nice profit.


So, how can I possibly suggest that The Da Vinci Code is dead and maybe even a failure? First, because it dropped so quickly — four weeks and poof. It can be argued that the first weekend viewers saw it because they liked the book or came in on the hype. Still, at roughly 21 million tickets sold, not even all the book-buyers saw it. What killed it was word of mouth. People hated it.


Second, it is dead because it will not make much of a profit in domestic-box-office receipts. This is particularly delicious because this is what these guys slather over the most. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard are happy when they make money in the foreign and ancillary markets but it chaps their keisters to be saved by them.


What they wanted was a movie that would top the domestic charts for this year and land in the top ten for all-time domestic releases. So far, they have failed. According to, domestically for the year they are third, and the year is only half gone. As for all-time domestic releases they land in 75th place. As for all-time worldwide releases they are 30th.


Likely what has disappointed them even more than needing European, African, South American, and Asian money to save them were the critics. One thing Hanks et al want — maybe even more than they want American greenbacks — is the praise of critics. Instead the critics literally laughed at them.


As for those who worry about Jesus and the Church and even Opus Dei: I don’t mean to be cavalier, but Jesus can take care of himself. And smart Christians are taking this an opportunity for evangelization. As for the Church, she has seen entire civilizations come and go and she is still here. She will see Sony pass. She will see Hollywood pass, too. As for Opus Dei; membership is up.


And after all this, in the world’s largest film market — the United States — The Da Vinci Code still lags far behind The Passion of the Christ. Forgive me if I revel in that a bit.


—Austin Ruse is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.




American Gnostics (Christian Post, 060609)


Chuck Colson


Da Vinci and That Old-Time Religion


Despite “bombing with most critics,” THE DA VINCI CODE is doing well at the box office. In its first weekend in theaters it made $77 million in the United States and $224 million worldwide.


But, for the NEW YORK TIMES, the real story isn’t about the movie; it’s about the audience. And, for once, I agree with the TIMES, for the film exposes what the DA VINCI craze is all about.


As the article puts it, the movie encapsulates “an era in which many Christian believers have assimilated a whole lot of new and unorthodox ideas . . . [into] their faith, while still seeing it as Christianity.”


One such “believer” so-called quoted in the article called himself a “Gnostic Christian.” He said, “I don’t need someone to interpret God for me . . .” For him, church was not for instruction, much less being told how to live his life. Instead, it was for “[communing] with others.”


This attitude is not just the result of reading or seeing THE DA VINCI CODE. Rather, as George Barna told the TIMES, for millions of Americans “THE DA VINCI CODE essentially reinforced what they [already] believed.” Barna calls that belief system “pick and choose theology.” Another way of putting it, of course, is “Gnosticism.”


In one form or another, Gnosticism has been tormenting Christianity since the late first century. The letter to the Colossians and the Epistles of John were written, in part, to combat an early form of these beliefs.


I said “beliefs” because there are various forms of Gnosticism. The one that church fathers like Irenaeus wrote against “portrayed Christ as a heavenly being who came down to earth to awaken them from their spiritual slumber by disclosing their own divine inner nature.” These Gnostics despised their physical natures, which led some of them to embrace wanton promiscuity. After all, if your body is not a temple, you can’t dishonor it.


We can see elements of that kind of Gnosticism in today’s so-called “spirituality,” especially among New Agers. But there is another variety of Gnosticism that’s even more connected to what people told the TIMES.


In his book THE AMERICAN RELIGION, Yale’s Harold Bloom described what he regarded as the Gnostic tendencies of American popular religion. According to Bloom, some parts of American Christianity have stressed “a Gnostic knowing of Jesus through direct acquaintance.” Since this experience of “Jesus” is direct, there is no need for an institution like the Church.


This experience-centered religion, untethered to church or sound instruction, fits in well with our self-centered culture, a world in which everything — including God — exists to glorify the imperial self. And the DA VINCI myth is the ultimate conceit, telling us that we ourselves have the key to life, that we are god — which is, of course, the temptation the serpent offered Eve in the Garden.


The verdict is now in, so you can explain to your neighbors what is behind all of this DA VINCI hype, besides Dan Brown making himself a fortune. It’s a seductive lie, as old as humanity itself.