The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code is a 2003 mystery-detective novel written by Dan Brown. It follows symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in Paris's Louvre Museum and discover a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus having been married to Mary Magdalene. The title of the novel refers to, among other things, the fact that the murder victim is found in the Grand Gallery of the Louvre, naked and posed like Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, with a cryptic message written beside his body and a pentacle drawn on his chest in his own blood.
The novel is part of the exploration of alternative religious history, the central plot point of which is that the Merovingian kings of France were descended from the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, ideas derived from Clive Prince's The Templar Revelation (1997) and books by Margaret Starbird. The book also refers to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) though Dan Brown has stated that it was not used as research material.
The book has provoked a popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and Magdalene's role in the history of Christianity. The book has been extensively denounced by many Christian denominations as an attack on the Roman Catholic Church. It has also been consistently criticized for its historical and scientific inaccuracies. The novel nonetheless became a worldwide bestseller that sold 80 million copies as of 2009 and has been translated into 44 languages. Combining the detective, thriller and conspiracy fiction genres, it is Brown's second novel to include the character Robert Langdon, the first being his 2000 novel Angels & Demons. In November 2004, Random House published a Special Illustrated Edition with 160 illustrations. In 2006, a film adaptation was released by Sony's Columbia Pictures.The novel received fierce criticism in the West, while it was not banned from being sold in the West, but the opposite took place in the Middle East, for which many Arab Muslim countries including Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon have banned the novel, upon the request of the Christian communities living there from the authorities.
Louvre curator and Priory of Sion Grand Master Jacques Saunière is fatally shot one night at the museum by an albino Catholic monk named Silas, who is working on behalf of someone known only as the Teacher, who wishes to discover the location of the "keystone," an item crucial to the search for the Holy Grail. After Saunière's body is discovered in the pose of the Vitruvian Man, the police summon Harvard Professor Robert Langdon, who is in town on business. Police Captain Bezu Fache tells him that he was summoned to help the police decode the cryptic message Saunière left during the final minutes of his life. The note also includes a Fibonacci sequence left out of order, as a code. Langdon explains to Fache that Saunière was a leading authority in the subject of goddess artwork and that the pentacle Saunière drew in his own blood represents an allusion to the goddess and not "devil worship", as Fache believes.
A police cryptographer, Sophie Neveu secretly explains to Langdon she is Saunière's estranged granddaughter, and that Fache thinks Langdon is the murderer, because of the note her grandfather left saying to "find Robert Langdon," which she says Fache had erased prior to Langdon's arrival. Sophie is troubled by memories of her grandfather's involvement in a secret pagan group. However, she understands that her grandfather intended Langdon to decipher the code, which she and Langdon realize leads them to a safe deposit box at the Paris branch of the Depository Bank of Zurich, which Sophie and Langdon go to after escaping the police. In the safe deposit box they find the keystone: a cryptex, a cylindrical, hand-held vault with five concentric, rotating dials labeled with letters that when lined up properly form the correct password, unlocking the device. If the cryptex is forced open, an enclosed vial of vinegar ruptures and dissolves the message, which was written on papyrus. The box containing the cryptex contains clues to its password.
Langdon and Neveu take the keystone to Langdon's friend, Sir Leigh Teabing, an expert on the Holy Grail. There, Teabing explains that the Grail is not a cup, but the tomb containing the bones of Mary Magdalene. The trio then flees the country on Teabing's private plane, on which they conclude that the proper combination of letters spell out Sophie's given name, "SOFIA." Opening the cryptex, they discover a smaller cryptex inside it, along with another riddle that ultimately leads the group to the tomb of Isaac Newton at Westminster Abbey.
During the flight to Britain, Sophie reveals the source of her estrangement from her grandfather, ten years earlier. Arriving home unexpectedly from university, Sophie clandestinely witnesses a spring fertility rite conducted in the secret basement of her grandfather's country estate. From her hiding place, she is shocked to see her grandfather making love to a woman at the center of a ritual attended by men and women who are wearing masks and chanting praise to the goddess. She flees the house and breaks off all contact with Saunière. Langdon explains that what she witnessed was an ancient ceremony known as Hieros gamos or "sacred marriage".
By the time they arrive at Westminster Abbey, Teabing is revealed to be the Teacher for whom Silas is working. Teabing wishes to use the Holy Grail, which he believes is a series of documents establishing that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and bore children, in order to ruin the Vatican. He compels Langdon at gunpoint to solve the second cryptex's password, which Langdon realizes is "APPLE." Langdon secretly opens the cryptex and removes its contents before destroying it in front of Teabing. Teabing is arrested by Fache, who by now knows that Langdon was innocent. Bishop Aringarosa, realizing that Silas has been used to murder innocent people, rushes to help the police find him. When the police find Silas hiding in an Opus Dei Center, he assumes that they are there to kill him, and he rushes out, accidentally shooting Bishop Aringarosa. Bishop Aringarosa survives but is informed that Silas was found dead later from a bullet wound.
The final message inside the second keystone leads Sophie and Langdon to Rosslyn Chapel, whose docent turns out to be Sophie's long-lost brother, whom Sophie had been told died as a child in the car accident that killed her parents. The guardian of Rosslyn Chapel, Marie Chauvel Saint Clair, is Sophie's long-lost grandmother, and the widow of Jacques Saunière. It is revealed that Sophie is a descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. The Priory of Sion hid her identity to protect her from possible threats to her life.
The real meaning of the last message is that the Grail is buried beneath the small pyramid directly below the inverted glass pyramid of the Louvre. It also lies beneath the "Rose Line," an allusion to "Roslyn." Langdon figures out this final piece to the puzzle in the last pages of the book, but he does not appear inclined to tell anyone about this.
Secret of the Holy Grail
Detail of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
In the novel Leigh Teabing explains to Sophie Neveu that the figure at the right hand of Jesus in Leonardo da Vinci's painting of "The Last Supper" is not the apostle John, but actually Mary Magdalene. Leigh Teabing says that the absence of a chalice in Leonardo's painting means Leonardo knew that Mary Magdalene was the actual Holy Grail and the bearer of Jesus' blood. Leigh Teabing goes on to explain that this idea is supported by the shape of the letter "V" that is formed by the bodily positions of Jesus and Mary, as "V" is the symbol for the sacred feminine. The absence of the Apostle John in the painting is explained by knowing that John is also referred to as "the Disciple Jesus loved", code for Mary Magdalene. The book also notes that the color scheme of their garments are inverted: Jesus wears a red tunic with royal blue cloak; Mary Magdalene wears the opposite.
According to the novel, the secrets of the Holy Grail, as kept by the Priory of Sion are as follows:
- The Holy Grail is not a physical chalice, but a woman, namely Mary Magdalene, who carried the bloodline of Christ.
- The Old French expression for the Holy Grail, San gréal, actually is a play on Sang réal, which literally means "royal blood" in Old French.
- The Grail relics consist of the documents that testify to the bloodline, as well as the actual bones of Mary Magdalene.
- The Grail relics of Mary Magdalene were hidden by the Priory of Sion in a secret crypt, perhaps beneath Rosslyn Chapel.
- The Church has suppressed the truth about Mary Magdalene and the Jesus bloodline for 2000 years. This is principally because they fear the power of the sacred feminine in and of itself and because this would challenge the primacy of Saint Peter as an apostle.
- Mary Magdalene was of royal descent (through the Jewish House of Benjamin) and was the wife of Jesus, of the House of David. That she was a prostitute was slander invented by the Church to obscure their true relationship. At the time of the Crucifixion, she was pregnant. After the Crucifixion, she fled to Gaul, where she was sheltered by the Jews of Marseille. She gave birth to a daughter, named Sarah. The bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene became the Merovingian dynasty of France.
- The existence of the bloodline was the secret that was contained in the documents discovered by the Crusaders after they conquered Jerusalem in 1099. The Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar were organized to keep the secret.
The secrets of the Grail are connected, according to the novel, to Leonardo da Vinci's work as follows:
- Leonardo was a member of the Priory of Sion and knew the secret of the Grail. The secret is in fact revealed in The Last Supper, in which no actual chalice is present at the table. The figure seated next to Christ is not a man, but a woman, his wife Mary Magdalene. Most reproductions of the work are from a later alteration that obscured her obvious female characteristics.
- The androgyny of the Mona Lisa reflects the sacred union of male and female implied in the holy union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Such parity between the cosmic forces of masculine and feminine has long been a deep threat to the established power of the Church. The name Mona Lisa is actually an anagram for "Amon L'Isa", referring to the father and mother gods of Ancient Egyptian religion (namely Amun and Isis).
The book generated criticism when it was first published for inaccurate description of core aspects of Christianity, the history of the Church (the author habitually uses the terms "the Roman Catholic Church" and "Vatican" when speaking of the unified Church prior to the East–West Schism), and descriptions of European art, history, and architecture. The book has received mostly negative reviews from Catholic and other Christian communities.
Many critics took issue with the level of research Brown did when writing the story. New York Times writer Laura Miller characterized the novel as "based on a notorious hoax", "rank nonsense", and "bogus", saying the book is heavily based on the fabrications of Pierre Plantard, who is asserted to have created the Priory of Sion in 1956.
Critics accuse Brown of distorting and fabricating history. For example, Marcia Ford wrote:
Regardless of whether you agree with Brown's conclusions, it's clear that his history is largely fanciful, which means he and his publisher have violated a long-held if unspoken agreement with the reader: Fiction that purports to present historical facts should be researched as carefully as a nonfiction book would be.
Richard Abanes wrote:
The most flagrant aspect ... is not that Dan Brown disagrees with Christianity but that he utterly warps it in order to disagree with it ... to the point of completely rewriting a vast number of historical events. And making the matter worse has been Brown's willingness to pass off his distortions as ‘facts' with which innumerable scholars and historians agree.
The book opens with the claim by Dan Brown that "The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization". This assertion is broadly disputed. Some critics claim that the Priory of Sion was a hoax created in 1956 by Pierre Plantard. The author also claims that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents ... and secret rituals in this novel are accurate", but this claim is disputed by numerous academic scholars expert in numerous areas.
Dan Brown himself addresses the idea of some of the more controversial aspects being fact on his web site, stating that the "FACT" page at the beginning of the novel mentions only "documents, rituals, organization, artwork and architecture", but not any of the ancient theories discussed by fictional characters, stating that "Interpreting those ideas is left to the reader". Brown also says, "It is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit." and "the secret behind The Da Vinci Code was too well documented and significant for me to dismiss."
In 2003, while promoting the novel, Brown was asked in interviews what parts of the history in his novel actually happened. He replied "Absolutely all of it." In a 2003 interview with CNN's Martin Savidge he was again asked how much of the historical background was true. He replied, "99% is true ... the background is all true". Asked by Elizabeth Vargas in an ABC News special if the book would have been different if he had written it as non-fiction he replied, "I don't think it would have."
In 2005, UK TV personality Tony Robinson edited and narrated a detailed rebuttal of the main arguments of Dan Brown and those of Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, who authored the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, in the programme The Real Da Vinci Code, shown on British TV Channel 4. The program featured lengthy interviews with many of the main protagonists cited by Brown as "absolute fact" in The Da Vinci Code. Arnaud de Sède, son of Gérard de Sède, stated categorically that his father and Plantard had made up the existence of the Prieuré de Sion, the cornerstone of the Jesus bloodline theory – to quote Arnaud de Sede in the program, "frankly, it was piffle".
However, the presentation of a fourth century papyrus fragment called the Gospel of Jesus' wife at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome on September 18, 2012 by Karen L. King may fuel the idea that early Christians believed that Jesus was married. The papyrus is a copy of a gospel dating back from the 2nd century in which Jesus refers to "my wife".
The earliest appearance of this theory is due to the 13th-century Cistercian monk and chronicler Peter of Vaux de Cernay who claimed it was part of Catharist belief that the earthly Jesus Christ had a relationship with Mary Magdalene, described as his concubine. The program The Real Da Vinci Code also cast doubt on the Rosslyn Chapel association with the Grail and on other related stories, such as the alleged landing of Mary Magdalene in France.
According to The Da Vinci Code, the Roman Emperor Constantine I suppressed Gnosticism because it portrayed Jesus as purely human. The novel's argument is as follows. Constantine wanted Christianity to act as a unifying religion for the Roman Empire. He thought Christianity would appeal to pagans only if it featured a demigod similar to pagan heroes. According to the Gnostic Gospels, Jesus was merely a human prophet, not a demigod. Therefore, to change Jesus' image, Constantine destroyed the Gnostic Gospels and promoted the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which portray Jesus as divine or semidivine.
According to Tim O'Neill, Gnosticism did not portray Jesus as merely human. All Gnostic writings depict Christ as purely divine, his human body being a mere illusion. Some Gnostic sects saw Christ this way because they regarded matter as evil, and therefore believed that a divine spirit would never have taken on a material body.
The book received both positive and negative reviews from critics, and it has been the subject of negative appraisals concerning its portrayal of history. Its writing and historical accuracy were reviewed negatively by The New Yorker, Salon.com, and Maclean's.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times said, "it concisely conveys the kind of extreme enthusiasm with which this riddle-filled, code-breaking, exhilaratingly brainy thriller can be recommended. That word is wow. The author is Dan Brown (a name you will want to remember). In this gleefully erudite suspense novel, Mr. Brown takes the format he has been developing through three earlier novels and fine-tunes it to blockbuster perfection."
David Lazarus of The San Francisco Chronicle said, "This story has so many twists – all satisfying, most unexpected – that it would be a sin to reveal too much of the plot in advance. Let's just say that if this novel doesn't get your pulse racing, you need to check your meds."
While interviewing Umberto Eco in a 2008 issue of The Paris Review, Lila Azam Zanganeh characterized The Da Vinci Code as "a bizarre little offshoot" of Eco's novel, Foucault’s Pendulum. In response, Eco remarked, "Dan Brown is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum! I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinations—the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist."
Salman Rushdie said during a lecture, "Do not start me on 'The Da Vinci Code.' A novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name."
Stephen Fry has referred to Brown's writings as "complete loose stool-water" and "arse gravy of the worst kind." In a live chat on June 14, 2006, he clarified, "I just loathe all those book[s] about the Holy Grail and Masons and Catholic conspiracies and all that botty-dribble. I mean, there's so much more that's interesting and exciting in art and in history. It plays to the worst and laziest in humanity, the desire to think the worst of the past and the desire to feel superior to it in some fatuous way."
Stephen King likened Dan Brown's work to "Jokes for the John," calling such literature the "intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese." The New York Times, while reviewing the movie based on the book, called the book "Dan Brown's best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence". The New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane refers to it as "unmitigated junk" and decries "the crumbling coarseness of the style." Linguist Geoffrey Pullum and others posted several entries critical of Dan Brown's writing, at Language Log, calling Brown one of the "worst prose stylists in the history of literature" and saying Brown's "writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad." Roger Ebert described it as a "potboiler written with little grace and style," although he did say it did "supply an intriguing plot." In his review of the film National Treasure, whose plot also involves ancient conspiracies and treasure hunts, he wrote: "I should read a potboiler like The Da Vinci Code every once in a while, just to remind myself that life is too short to read books like The Da Vinci Code."
Author Lewis Perdue alleged that Brown plagiarized from two of his novels, The Da Vinci Legacy, originally published in 1983, and Daughter of God, originally published in 2000. He sought to block distribution of the book and film. However, Judge George Daniels of the US District Court in New York ruled against Perdue in 2005, saying that "A reasonable average lay observer would not conclude that The Da Vinci Code is substantially similar to Daughter of God" and that "Any slightly similar elements are on the level of generalized or otherwise unprotectable ideas." Perdue appealed, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the original decision, saying Mr. Perdue's arguments were "without merit".
In early 2006, Baigent and Leigh filed suit against Brown's publishers, Random House. They alleged that significant portions of The Da Vinci Code were plagiarized from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, violating their copyright. Brown confirmed during the court case that he named the principal Grail expert of his story Leigh Teabing, an anagram of "Baigent Leigh", after the two plaintiffs. In reply to the suggestion that Henry Lincoln was also referred to in the book, since he has medical problems resulting in a severe limp, like the character of Leigh Teabing, Brown stated he was unaware of Lincoln's illness and the correspondence was a coincidence.
Because Baigent and Leigh had presented their conclusions as historical research, not as fiction, Justice Peter Smith, who presided over the trial, deemed that a novelist must be free to use these ideas in a fictional context, and ruled against Baigent and Leigh. Smith also hid his own secret code in his written judgement, in the form of seemingly random italicized letters in the 71-page document, which apparently spell out a message. Smith indicated he would confirm the code if someone broke it. Baigent and Leigh appealed, unsuccessfully, to the Court of Appeal.
In April 2006 Mikhail Anikin, a Russian scientist and art historian working as a senior researcher at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, stated the intention to bring a lawsuit against Dan Brown, maintaining that he was the one who coined the phrase used as the book's title and one of the ideas regarding the Mona Lisa used in its plot. Anikin interprets the Mona Lisa to be an Christian allegory consisting of two images, one of Jesus Christ that comprises the image's right half, one of the Virgin Mary that forms its left half. According to Anikin, he expressed this idea to a group of experts from the Museum of Houston during a 1988 René Magritte exhibit at the Hermitage, and when one of the Americans requested permission to pass it along to a friend Anikin granted the request on condition that he be credited in any book using his interpretation. Anikin eventually compiled his research into Leonardo Da Vinci or Theology on Canvas, a book published in 2000, but The Da Vinci Code, published three years later, makes no mention of Anikin and instead asserts that the idea in question is a "well-known opinion of a number of scientists."
Inaccuracies in The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code, a popular suspense novel by Dan Brown, generated criticism and controversy after its publication in 2003. Many of the complaints centered on the book's speculations and alleged misrepresentations of core aspects of Christianity and the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Additional criticisms were directed towards the book's inaccurate descriptions of European art, history, architecture, and geography.Charges of copyright infringement were also leveled by the authors of the 1982 pseudohistory book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, though Brown was cleared of these charges in a 2006 trial.
Brown prefaces his novel with a page titled "Fact" asserting that certain elements in the novel are true in reality, and a page at his website repeats these ideas and others. In the early publicity for the novel, Dan Brown made repeated assertions that, while the novel is a work of fiction, the historical information in it is all accurate and well-researched.
These claims in the book and by the author, combined with the presentation of religious opinions that some regard as offensive, have caused a great deal of debate and partisan material to erupt. This confusion has overlapped into real politics. For example, a front-page article in The Independent on May 10, 2006 stated that Ruth Kelly, a senior British Government Minister, was questioned about her affiliations: "Ms Kelly's early days as Education Secretary were dogged with questions about her religion, and her membership of the conservative Opus Dei organization which features in the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code."
Criticisms has been leveled at the book reflecting what have been characterized as antiquated Protestant slanders against Catholicism, such as on the BBC's Sunday program on July 24, 2005.
The novel asserts that Mary Magdalene was of the Tribe of Benjamin, but historians dispute this claim, and there is no mention of this in the Bible or in other ancient sources. According to Sandra Miesel and Carl E. Olson, writing in their 2004 book, The Da Vinci Hoax, the fact that Magdala was located in northern Israel, whereas the tribe of Benjamin resided in the south, weighs against it.
In Chapter 58 it is suggested that the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene created a "potent political union with the potential of making a legitimate claim to the throne." Olson and Meisel not only state that this assertion is without any historical basis, but question why Solomon's kingship would have any purpose or meaning today that would motivate a large-scale conspiracy. The authors also question why if Jesus were merely a "mortal prophet", as the novel suggests, would a royal goddess have any interest in him. Olson and Meisel quote Chicago archbishop Francis Cardinal George, who remarked, "Jesus isn't God but Mary Magdalene is a goddess? I mean, what does that mean? If he's not God, why is he married to a goddess?" Olson and Meisel also argued that having Davidic blood in Jesus' time would not have been unique, since all of his stepfather Josef's relatives, which included twenty generations of kings of Judah, had it as well. The authors also state that the Benjamites were not considered "rightful" heirs to the throne, and that the New Testament does not mention Mary Magdalene's tribal affiliation, and that she was likely not from the tribe of Benjamin, and that her connection with that tribe is traced to Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which does not substantiate the idea.]
Characters in the book also claim that Mary Magdalene was labeled a prostitute by the Church. While Catholic tradition in the past, in contrast to other Christian traditions, defended these imputations, these claims are now rejected by the majority of biblical scholars, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, according to Carol Ann Morrow of AmericanCatholic.org. Also, Gregory I's teaching about Mary Magdalene, though popular throughout much of the Church's history, was never formally integrated into Catholic dogma; nor was he speaking ex cathedra at the time, so his speech is not seen as infallible. Whatever weight is given to this tradition, however, there is no evidence that it was used to defame Mary, who was considered a saint to whose honor churches were built. She is also respected as a witness to Christ's resurrection as written in the Gospels.
Alleged marriage to Jesus
The story claims the "Holy Grail" is not a chalice but a bloodline sprung from the marital union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This idea is not original to Brown; it was previously hypothesized by others, including Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in their non-fiction 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Many textual and historical scholars have characterized this claim as being without evidence.
Women in the Gospels were usually identified with husbands or male relatives, especially if they shared their names with others. For example, there are many mentions of women called "Mary," all designated differently (any possible identification with each other nonwithstanding). There is Mary "the mother of Jesus," Mary Magdalene, Mary "the mother of James and Joses", Mary "[the mother] of James," "the other" Mary, Mary "the wife of Cl[e]opas" and Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary Magdalene stands out from most of the other Marys as she is not directly associated with any man. Mary "Magdalene" means "Mary of Magdala", just as Jesus "the Nazarene" means "Jesus of Nazareth." Some researchers have claimed that, if indeed she was married to Jesus, she would have been designated, following custom, Mary "the wife of Jesus" instead.
According to The Da Vinci Hoax, the use of the term "bride of Christ" for the Church in some of the letters of Paul (Ephesians 5:25–27, 2 Corinthians 11:2–3) and the Book of Revelation suggests that Jesus was not married. The authors of that work also speculate that the recorded words of Jesus that "those people who can remain celibate, for the kingdom of heaven's sake should do so" (Matt. 19:12) were made in response to criticisms of his own celibacy.
In the novel, a line of the Gospel of Philip is quoted where Mary Magdalene is referred to as Jesus' "companion", and a character of The Da Vinci Code says that Aramaic scholars know that this means "wife." James M. Robinson, an authority on the gnostic gospels, has responded to this passage by pointing out that "companion" was not necessarily a sex-related term. In addition, "the Gospel of Philip is in Coptic, translated from Greek, so there is no word in the text for Aramaic scholars to consider. The Gospel of Philip depicts Mary as Jesus's koinonos, a Greek term indicating a 'close friend', 'companion' or, potentially, a lover. In context of Gnostic beliefs, Gnostic writings use Mary to illustrate a disciple's spiritual relationship with Jesus, making any physical relationship irrelevant.
However, the presentation of a fourth century papyrus fragment containing a gospel dating from the 2nd century) called the Gospel of Jesus' wife at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome on September 18, 2012 by Karen L. King may fuel the idea that early Christians believed that Jesus was married, as Jesus refers to "my wife" in the script.
Mary in Leonardo's The Last Supper
Virtually all art historians dispute that Leonardo's famous The Last Supper depicts Mary Magdalene beside Jesus. According to artist and art writer Shelley Esaak of About.com, the "femininity" of the figure can be attributed to Leonardo's artistic training in a workshop of the Florentine School, which had a long tradition of often depicting young males in an effeminate manner. Some speculators, before and after Brown, have entertained the idea that John was depicted in this way to hint that he was Mary Magdalene, but Esaak disputes this idea.
Another explanation concerns the biblical scene Leonardo intended to depict. Scholars have suggested that the text the artist had in mind was John 13:21, where Jesus announces that one of his disciples will betray him. The scene depicted therefore, shows the disciples reactions to Jesus' words and the figure of John can be seen leaning over to confer with Peter, seated further to his right. Furthermore, in the Gospel of John, Jesus does not institute the Eucharist (identifying bread and wine with his own body and blood) at the last supper and may have led the artist to think that the inclusion of a chalice was not necessary as it was not spoken of in his chosen passage of scripture.
Jesus in Church teaching
According to Sir Leigh Teabing in Chapter 55 of the novel, the early Church consolidated its power by suppressing ideas about the sacred feminine and elevating the mortal prophet Jesus into a divine being. According to Religion Facts, the questions discussed by the Council were not whether he was divine, as the New Testament authors already believe that he was, but what his precise relationship to God was. In particular, the Council decided upon the question of whether Jesus was homoousios, "of one substance" with God the Father, or whether instead Jesus was the first created being, inferior to the Father but like him, but still superior to all other beings, or whether he was merely of like substance to the father, or homoiousios.
Portrayal of Gnostic Christianity
The novel claims Constantine wanted Christianity to unify the Roman Empire but thought it would appeal to pagans only if it featured a demigod similar to pagan heroes, so he destroyed the Gnostic Gospels that said Jesus was a human prophet and promoted the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which portray Jesus as divine.
Historically, however, Gnostic Christianity did not portray Jesus as merely human. In fact, the Gnostic Jesus was less human than the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. While orthodox Christianity generally considered Christ both divine and human, many Gnostic sects considered Christ purely divine, his human body being a mere illusion. Many Gnostics saw matter as evil, and believed that a divine spirit would never have taken on a material body. Some varieties of Gnosticism went so far as to hold that the God of the Jews is only a demiurge who has trapped humanity in a fleshly prison; and that Christ is an emanation of the true God, sent to free humanity from that bondage to the flesh.
The sacred feminine
Characters in the book claim Christianity has suppressed the sacred feminine, the representation of the earth or mother Goddess's mystic power that's often linked to symbols of fertility and reproduction, such as Venus and Isis.
Early Christian devotion to female martyrs (such as Perpetua and Felicity) and the apocryphal writings about figures like St. Thecla seem to indicate that women did play a role in the early Church, far more than either Brown or some modern critics of Christianity acknowledge, though historical evidence does not suggest men and women shared all roles of office. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches particularly venerate the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, but the book deems this a desexualised aspect of femininity that suppresses the sacred feminine. Brown echoes scholars such as Joseph Campbell in saying this image of Mary derives from Isis and her child Horus. Meisel and Olson counters that the "Mother and " symbol, as a universal part of the general human experience, can be found in other faiths; so Christianity did not copy this element from Egyptian mythology.
Christian documents and traditions tend to stress the virtues of chaste womanhood in keeping with general Christian encouragement of chastity for both genders. The Gnostics expressed anti-female views, for example, in the Gospel of Thomas's famous ending verse where Jesus says he will make Mary into a male to make her worthy to enter the Kingdom.
While the character Robert Langdon claims in the book that early Israelites worshipped the goddess Shekinah as Yahweh's equal, in fact, the term Shekinah (derived from Hebrew for "dwelling") does not appear in early Judaism at all, but later Talmudic Judaism used it to refer to the God's "dwelling" or presence among his people. The term describes a spiritual radiance. Critics argue that this comes from a distorted understanding of Kabbalah, which speaks of God as having "male" and "female" attributes in the Sephirot.
Medieval Christian history
The character Teabing states in the story that "the Church burned at the stake five million women" as witches. Researcher Mark Hansard states that most modern scholars believe that between 50,000 to 200,000 were killed in this manner, and argues that many of these were men as well as women, as the primary motivation for these persecutions was religious, and was not gender-specific, even if gender was a related aspect of them, as women were thought to be more susceptible to the temptation of witchcraft.
Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel state that contrary to the book's claims, the Gnostic Gospels (e.g. the Gospels of Thomas, Philip, Mary Magdalene, and the Judas) also do not focus more on Jesus' humanity. The other Gospels we are aware of, for the most part, treat Jesus as more otherworldly and lack the humanizing detail of the Biblical accounts. The assertion of "more than eighty gospels" written, with only the familiar four chosen as canonical, greatly exaggerates the number of Gnostic Gospels written.
The assertions that the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947 (not the 1950s as Brown predicates), contain lost or hidden Gospels is also false. The scrolls contain books of the Hebrew Scriptures, apocryphal and pseudepigraphic books, and manuals used by the Jewish community at Qumran. No definite Christian documents—orthodox, Gnostic, or otherwise—have ever been found at this site;
The depiction of Opus Dei as a monastic order which is the Pope's "personal prelature" is inaccurate. In fact, there are no monks in Opus Dei, which has primarily lay membership and whose celibate lay members are called numeraries. But it may be explained by the fact that Silas is referred to as a monk mostly by the protagonists, Langdon and Neveu, who are shown to have little knowledge of Opus Dei. The word numerary is used to refer to Silas, by actual Opus Dei members such as the person at Opus Dei centre in London. Moreover, Opus Dei encourages its lay members to avoid practices that are perceived as fundamentalist to the outside world. The term personal prelature does not refer to a special relationship to the Pope; it means an institution in which the jurisdiction of the prelate is not linked to a territory but over persons, wherever they be.
Silas, the murderous "Opus Dei monk", uses a cilice and flagellates himself. Some members of Opus Dei do practice voluntary mortification of the flesh, as has been a Christian tradition since at least St. Anthony in the 3rd century and has also been practised by Mother Teresa, Padre Pio, and slain archbishop Óscar Romero. Saint Thomas More and Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England both wore hairshirts in the Tudor era.
Critics have accused the book of depicting the order as misogynistic, a claim which the order's defenders say has no basis in reality, because half of the leadership positions in Opus Dei are held by women.
Defenders also say that the novel's allegations of dealings between John Paul II and the order concerning the Vatican Bank also have no basis in reality. Allegedly due to these dealings, Opus Dei's founder was declared a Saint just 20 years after his death. In real life, Josemaría Escrivá was canonized 27 years after his death; admittedly faster than some others—but this is attributed to streamlining of the whole process and John Paul II's decision to make Escriva's sanctity and message known.
In the novel, the head of Opus Dei travels alone and makes momentous decisions on his own. In real life, the head of Opus Dei is usually accompanied by two other priests called custodes or guardians. Decision making in Opus Dei is "collegial": i.e., the head has only one vote.
Leonardo da Vinci
The contention that the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo as an androgynous "whole" humanity that represented both genders is contested by Olson and Meisel's book, in which they state that reputable art historians have explained that it is simply a masterful portrait of a woman. Olson and Meisel also take issue with the idea that Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa as a self-portrait, and that this idea is based on the fact that points of congruency are found between Leonardo's face and the Mona Lisa's. Olson and Meisel respond that points of congruency can be found among many faces, which is how computer morphing of faces is facilitated.
One of the characters in The Da Vinci Code matter-of-factly states that Leonardo da Vinci was a "flamboyant homosexual." While there are clues about Leonardo's personal life that could suggest he was homosexual, these are by no means conclusive, nor is there scholarly agreement on the matter. If Leonardo were homosexual, he must have been rather discreet and certainly not flamboyant. In any event it would have been dangerous to be "flamboyant", as homosexual sodomy was then usually punishable by death.
The title of the book is not consistent with the naming convention of the time Leonardo lived. The traditional modern Western construct of "first name + surname" is an anachronism in consideration of the time of Leonardo da Vinci. In historically accurate form, Leonardo da Vinci is properly referred to as "Leonardo" and not "Da Vinci". The book would be more properly titled The Leonardo Code.
The Knights Templar
The allegation that Pope Clement V burned the ashes of the Templars and threw them into the Tiber River in Rome is false. The last leaders of the Knights Templar were killed in France in 1314 by King Philip IV of France, being burned at the stake on a small island in the Seine. Pope Clement's administration was not in Rome, as he had moved the papal headquarters to Avignon.
The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail
The legend of the Holy Grail alleged that a sacred relic (in many versions, either the cup used at the Last Supper, or the cup said to have been used by Josef of Arimathea to collect blood of Christ – or both) existed, which would bring untold blessings to any pure knight who found it. The story appeared around the time of the Crusades and is featured in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. In Old French, the Holy Grail was written as San Graal. However The Da Vinci Code, taking cues from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, interprets this as "Sang Réal" and translated this as "royal blood". In early Grail romances, graal in fact denotes a large dish for fish, itself a Christian religious symbol, but clearly removed from the traditional cup. The idea of a cup seems to have developed quickly during the late 12th and early 13th centuries, influenced both by apocryphal religious stories, such as that of Joseph of Arimathea, and pagan stories involving magic containers that, for example, produced endless food (itself a useful parallel to the Christian belief of the 'Bread of Life' produced at the Last Supper). The cup therefore presented a convenient fusion, like many of the stories we now associate with the Quest for the Holy Grail and King Arthur, of (albeit apocryphal) Christian teachings, and pagan traditions.
Several claims about the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris are disputed. While there is a brass line running north-south through the church, it is not a part of the Paris Meridian. The line is instead more of a gnomon or sundial/calendar, meant to mark the solstice and equinoxes. Further, there is no evidence that there was ever a temple of Isis on the site. This note has been on display in the church:[
Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent best-selling novel, this [the line in the floor] is not a vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place. It was never called a Rose-Line. It does not coincide with the meridian traced through the middle of the Paris Observatory which serves as a reference for maps where longitudes are measured in degrees East or West of Paris. Please also note that the letters P and S in the small round windows at both ends of the transept can also refer to Peter and Sulpice, the patron saints of the church.
The reference to Paris having been founded by the Merovingians is false; in fact, the city was settled by Gauls by the 3rd century BC. The Romans, who knew it as Lutetia, captured it in 52 BC under Julius Caesar, and left substantial ruins in the city, including an amphitheater and public baths. The Merovingians did not rule in France until the 5th century AD, by which time Paris was at least 800 years old.
Brown characterized the cycle of Venus as "trac[ing] a perfect pentagram across the ecliptic sky every four years". This was corrected to "eight years" in some later editions, such as the British paperback and at last the April 2003 printing of the US hardback.
Steve Olson, author of Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins, writing in an article in Nature, says that the notion that a small number of people living today could be the only descendants from any particular person who lived millennia ago, such as Jesus and Mary, is statistically flawed. According to Olson, "If anyone living today is descended from Jesus, so are most of us on the planet."