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Debunking the Da Vinci Hoax: filled with errors, falsehoods, and blatant, anti-Christian bias, The Da Vinci Code has received phenomenal promotion from the major secular media.

Not since the debut of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has a work of fiction had an impact akin to that of Dan Brown's 2003 blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code. The book has spent an astounding 96 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, most of that time in the Number One or Number Two slot. What's more, The Da Vinci Code has sold over 12 million copies worldwide despite not yet having been released in paperback. The book has been translated into 30 languages, and its unrivaled popularity has made author Dan Brown a very rich man, with sales estimated at over $210 million and another $75 million anticipated in paperback sales. Recently, Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard bought the rights to make a film version of the book, starring Oscar winner Tom Hanks in the leading role.

The American media have been stricken with Da Vinci fever. For example, the National Geographic Channel's "Da Vinci Code: The Full Story" was the only program in the channel's five-year history to attract over a million viewers (2.8 million to be precise). ABC broadcast an entire primetime special about the phenomenon. Both Time and Newsweek have devoted cover stories to the book and the controversy surrounding it, while U.S. News & World Report published an 88-page special issue entitled "Secrets of the Da Vinci Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Bestselling Novel."

Just as extraordinary is the enormous industry that has grown up around The Da Vinci Code. USA Today estimates that there are over 90 books in print related to The Da Vinci Code itself, and a search on bookseller's website lists over 30 books on the topic.

In most bookstores, The Da Vinci Code is prominently displayed with other popular works of fiction. But The Da Vinci Code is not just another thrilling example of romance or mystery. It is a carelessly assembled hodgepodge of anti-Christian (particularly anti-Catholic) attacks deceptively ensconced within a framework of mystery, romance, and historical fiction. The three principal claims against Christianity made by Dan Brown's novel are, first, that--despite what Christians believe--Christ is not divine and the early Church did not claim He was divine until the fourth century; second, that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children who were the ancestors of a royal family of early France known as the Merovingians; and finally, that the Catholic Church, knowing Christianity to be built on lies, has created and/or encouraged numerous secret societies dedicated to concealing these damaging "truths" from gullible Christian believers.

Secret Societies

The main theme of The Da Vinci Code is that Christianity is a massive hoax perpetrated and perpetuated by the founders and leaders of Christianity, particularly the Vatican. In the words of Dan Brown's website, "the greatest conspiracy of the past 2000 years is about to unravel."

According to Brown, one of the conspiratorial societies concealing the fraudulent origins of Christianity is the Priory of Sion. This ancient fraternity, Brown claims, is protecting the truth about the enigma of the "Holy Grail" until such time as they deem it appropriate to reveal their hidden knowledge to the world, to the detriment of Christianity. In The Da Vinci Code we read, despite what the world has been led to believe, that the Holy Grail is not the chalice from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, but the code name for Mary Magdalene, the mother of a royal bloodline allegedly descended from Jesus of Nazareth. This notion is not original to Dan Brown; it was set forth in the "nonfiction" book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a self-proclaimed "historical detective story" first published in 1982 by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. The earlier book describes the Priory of Sion and its alleged relationship with anti-Christian heresies and secret societies, from the early Gnostics to the Medieval Cathars and Knights Templar. Like Brown's novel, Holy Blood, Holy Grail argues that the entire mythology associated with the Grail, as well as a veritable cavalcade of heretical organizations throughout the history of Christianity, are dedicated to preserving arcane knowledge debunking the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The Da Vinci Code, following Holy Blood, Holy Grail, names various luminaries of the past, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Victor Hugo, as Grand Masters of the Priory. As Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln have shown, the Priory of Sion was registered with the French government in 1956. However, the group's claims of great antiquity and far-reaching influence in medieval and early modern Europe are less convincing. Most of the "evidence" assembled by Baigent et al. consists of non-documentary material gathered from coded epitaphs, works of art, and medieval buildings, and is presented in Holy Blood, Holy Grail as proof-positive of the ancient pedigree of the Priory of Sion. Dan Brown, however, chooses to retail the rather extravagant claims of Baigent et al. as unassailable historical fact.

The Da Vinci Code repeatedly makes clear its disdain for faith and authority, particularly the Christian faith and the moral and ecclesiastical authority of the Catholic Church. In the words of one of the novel's principal characters, "Every faith in the world is based on fabrication." Dan Brown is no less subtle in expressing his view of the reliability of history: "history," states Leigh Teabing (The Da Vinci Code's house historian, whose name is a transparent anagram on the surnames of Baigent and Leigh, two of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail), "is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books--books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe.... What is history but a fable agreed upon?"

Throughout The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown instructs the reader that the salacious, sordid, and all too human truth about Jesus' character and life has been suppressed by the puppet masters at the Vatican for their own aggrandizement. Since the Catholic Church's inception, Brown implies, Catholic leaders have purposefully hidden the truth, murdered those who dare question its authority, and smeared any who presume to suggest that there may be another more accurate version of the dogma adhered to by early Christians.

Sources of "Truth"

In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown turns to the Dead Sea Scrolls for proof of these earth-shaking revelations. Using the voice of Leigh Teabing, Brown informs the reader that the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the "historical record" included in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In reality, the Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish documents with nothing Christian in them. They were probably compiled circa 100 B.C. by a separatist Jewish sect living in the desert of Judea in a settlement known as Qumran. These documents are most valuable for the early copies of books of the Old Testament found among the scrolls. Some of these versions of the Old Testament books are among the oldest extant copies. The records kept by this Jewish community are also valuable for the detailed description of life around the time of Jesus. At no point, however, is Jesus ever mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls, much less Mary Magdalene or her ostensible marriage to Jesus.

Brown also informs the reader that early Christian writers taught that Mary Magdalene was among the chief apostles and that she was married to Jesus Christ. But not a single ancient source known asserts that Jesus was married--to Mary Magdalene or anyone else. In spite of this, The Da Vinci Code declares that the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is "part of the historical record." Dan Brown offers the non-canonical "gospels" of Mary and Philip as additional proof of ancient Christian belief in the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, citing as evidence a brief and ambiguously translated passage alluding to Jesus' love for Mary Magdalene. However, there is not a single reference in the Gospel of Mary or the Gospel of Philip to any marriage of Jesus, or to a romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene.

Perhaps the most anti-Christian "revelation" in The Da Vinci Code is Brown's claim that Christians did not believe in the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. The Da Vinci Code presents the Council of Nicea as a sort of revolutionary tribunal presided over by a cynical emperor Constantine and a cabal of conniving ecclesiastics who decided to elevate Jesus to godhood and turn Christianity into a new state religion to replace the Roman cult of Sol Invictus, the sun god Mithra. Brown recycles tiresome canards about orthodox Christianity borrowing all of its motifs--the virgin birth, the slain and resurrected Son of God, and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, for example--from pagan religions. According to Brown's version of events, early Christianity was little more than warmed-over, denatured paganism, with certain crucial elements, like the cult of the "sacred feminine," willfully suppressed. What's more, in the words of Leigh Teabing, "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, additions, and revisions."

In point of fact, while the Council of Nicea was largely concerned with the heresy of Arianism, whose adherents rejected the full divinity of Jesus, most Christians believed then, as they had from the very earliest days of the Church, that Jesus of Nazareth was the literal and divine Son of God. Jesus Himself said so on many occasions, as recorded in the four Gospel accounts, and His persecutors, while refusing to believe His testimony, certainly understood what He meant when they accused Him of blasphemy.

Furthermore, the biblical epistles are full of references to Jesus' divine status, as when Paul taught the Philippians, "Let this be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Additionally, writings of early Christians such as Ignatius of Antioch (d. circa 110 A.D.) also described Jesus as God: "There is one physician, both fleshly and spiritual, born and unborn, God come in the flesh, true life in death, from both Mary and God, first subject to suffering and then beyond suffering, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Ignatius, To the Ephesians, 7:2).

To Brown's blithe dismissal of the divine origin of the Bible, we can only point out that billions of Christians and Jews through the ages, having taken stock of its sublimely-worded books of history, prophecy, and moral teachings, would beg to disagree on grounds of religious faith--a basis for credence more valid than Brown's smirking and unoriginal sophisms.

As for the role of paganism, the sincerity of Constantine's conversion has been much debated, but his motives for embracing Christianity, still far from the dominant creed in his day, are far from clear. And critics like Brown who accuse Christianity of the wholesale importation of pagan mythology and ritual willfully ignore evidence to the contrary. Tertullian and other patristic writers, for example, accused adherents of the Roman cult of Mithra of deliberately parodying Christianity, rather than the reverse. That many of the later Roman traditions surrounding this ancient Persian god are not traceable in Persian religion suggests at the very least that the cult of Mithra was as innovative as Brown and others accuse Christianity of being.

Why It Matters

The mass media have been overwhelmingly hospitable to Brown's faith-destroying fiction. The author's own website features blurbs from dozens of print and broadcast outlets praising The Da Vinci Code and encouraging "thinking" Christians to read it. In very stark contrast, the other Christianity-centered popular culture craze in recent months, Mel Gibson's sympathetic, faith-based cinematic retelling of Christ's suffering and crucifixion in the blockbuster film The Passion of the Christ, was ignored at the recent Academy Awards and reviled, repeatedly and stridently, in media the world over for its allegedly intolerant, hate-filled, and historically-questionable content. Where the admissibility of Christianity is concerned, the priorities and biases of the media elites speak loud and clear.

As for the motives of Dan Brown, his own website offers the following rationale: "The dialogue itself is a deeply empowering and positive force for everyone involved. Suddenly, enormous numbers of people are passionately debating important philosophical topics, and regardless of the personal conclusions that each of us draws, the debate can only help to strengthen our understanding of our own faith." This is mere sophistry obscuring the central fact that The Da Vinci Code (as well as Brown's earlier novel with a similar plot, Angels and Demons) is a novel with a scantily disguised cultural and political agenda: to attack the foundations of Christianity and Christian civilization.
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Title Annotation:Culture War
Author:Wolverton, Joe, II
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 21, 2005
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