The Da Vinci Code Exposed
by Tom Brown
Dan Brown’s best selling fictional book has caused Christians and non-Christians to question the gospel stories and has ignited world-wide religious debate about the true nature of Christianity. The book feeds into the anti-Christian sentiment that is already in the world, and provides fuel for the critics of the Christian message of salvation. It is not enough that 40 million readers have been introduced to Brown’s theories, but the upcoming movie is sure to be a blockbuster, and will expose more people to Brown’s sacrilegious work.
The book is a murder mystery. Robert Langdon who is a professor of Religious Symbology attempts to solve the murder of the well-know curator Jacques Saunière of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Saunière’s body is discovered inside the Museum naked and posed like Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man, with a mystifying message written beside his body and a Pentagram drawn on his stomach in his own blood. As you can imagine from the title of the book, the interpretation is found hidden inside Leonardo’s famous works, including Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Langdon’s eventual discovery is the controversy of the book. Through Langdon’s detective work, author, Dan Brown wants his readers to believe that he is revealing the secrets about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a secret buried in documents that the Vatican has kept from the public.
The secrets supposedly reveal that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and that she was the true successor of the church, but the male chauvinist leadership squelched her role and made Peter the head of the church. The book also alleges that Jesus and Mary had children and that their bloodline survives to this day. More importantly the novel claims the true followers of Christ were the Gnostics, and they exist to this day in secret societies with various names like the Priory of Sion. According to the book, they formed these underground groups in order to keep alive the secret that the Catholic Church is trying to hide from the public.
The secrets supposedly exist in the works of Leonardo DaVinci’s famous paintings. DaVinci, who is supposedly a member of one of the secret groups, paints the Last Supper with the clue that Mary Magdalene was the chief leader. Next to Christ, is supposedly a feminine character, and Brown claims it is Mary Magdalene. Of course, anyone who knows the Bible recognizes that DaVinci’s young, beardless disciple is none other than John, the beloved. According to the Bible, One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means” (John 13:23-24). DaVinci clearly shows the action of John responding to Peter’s motion to get his attention. It is not as Brown suggests, Mary Magdalene. It is easy to draw this false conclusion based on DaVinci’s portrait of John—after all, from a modern standpoint, John looks feminine, however, DaVinci drew the portrait of a very young man, and it is easy to mistake this for a woman. If this is Mary, then we are missing a disciple.
Dan Brown’s book goes off base with these and other wild speculations. The trouble is many people mistake Dan’s creative conjectures as fact. It doesn’t help that in the preface of the book, Brown claims that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” He does not claim that his conclusions are accurate, or that there really is a covert conspiracy of the Catholic Church to keep the truth about Mary and the Gnostic followers from the public. But naïve people will not see the difference between these claims. In numerous interviews Brown keeps defending his theories, yet he should just be honest and say that he made up the story and has no proof that his speculations are accurate or even likely to be true. Although Brown’s claims are limited to certain facets, even scholars have scoffed at these simple claims and have successfully rebuffed them.
For example, Brown claims the Priory of Sion is a secrete organization supposedly dating back centuries, yet all evidence points out that the organization is as young as 1956. It was founded by Pierre Plantard and a couple of other men in France. This is hardly evidence of a secret organization that is supposedly keeping alive the lost secrets of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, yet this group is featured as the chief sect of Brown’s novel.
There was a group known as the Order of Sion, but this group disbanded and all the assets were taken in by the Jesuits in 1617. So whether Dan Brown is claiming a French group or an old medieval order, neither believes nor believed in the conspiracy that is the bases of Brown’s novel. After all, if the Priory of Sion has the secret of the real Jesus, why don’t they proclaim it now? It is because the organization is not about the Gnostics or Mary Magdalene, but simply an organization that says its members are expected "to carry out good deeds, to help the Catholic Church, teach the truth, defend the weak and the oppressed ".1 Notice they promise to help the Catholic Church. This does not sound like an organization secretly at war with the conspiratorial forces of the Catholic Church.
The Gnostic Gospels
The Gnostic followers play an important role in Brown’s conspiracy. The word Gnostic means “secret knowledge.” According to the novel there are 80 Gnostic gospels that were burned or buried by the Catholic Church. These gospels give a different view of Jesus and His teachings. Many have asked me about these supposedly “lost books of the Bible”. First of all, they are not lost books of the Bible. They do not belong to the Bible at all; therefore, they are not lost books of the Bible. These books were known by the fourth century Bishops, and they excluded them from the Canon of Scripture because they did not meet the strict criteria to be included. Actually in truth, there are 52 fragmented texts that were discovered in a cave in Egypt on December of 1945 by an Arab peasant. These Gnostic writings are a collection of poems and myths attributing to Jesus certain sayings and beliefs which are very different than the canonical Bible.
The more famous texts are the Gospel of Thomas bound with the book called the Gospel of Philip. The Gospel of Philip tells how close Jesus was to Mary Magdalene:
“…the companion of the [Savior is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples, and used to kiss her [often] on her [cheek]. The rest of [the disciples were offended] . . . They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you as (I love) her?" (Brackets are added words not found in the texts)
This text makes Mary more important than the other disciples, and it is the most relevant text in all the Gnostic gospels to establish a special relationship of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Notice, however, there is no mention of Mary being married to Jesus. In fact, there is not one ancient text anywhere, Gnostic or otherwise, that suggests that Jesus was married to Mary. None! The only famous text of Jesus being married is Dan’s Brown’s book itself. He made it up.
According to Brown’s novel, the male hierarchy wanted to keep women from leadership, so they got rid of the documents which suggest that Mary Magdalene was the head of the church and that women played an important role in early Christianity. While I agree that women played a more important role in the first century than later, the Gnostic writings do not promote the rights of women, in fact, they devalue them.
In one of the Gnostic writings Peter complains to Jesus that Mary, because she is a woman, is not worthy of eternal life. So according to this text, Jesus exclaims, “I will make her into a male. For every female who makes herself into a man, shall enter heaven’s kingdom.” I can just hear the women’s right movement cringe on such a statement, but these Gnostic writers are supposedly gender blind according to Dan Brown.
I think the opposite is true: the authentic gospels portray a gender progressive Christ. In the real gospels, Jesus is teaching the gospel to the woman at the well, to the disgust of the disciples. But they learned a lesson that all may hear the gospel and preach it as Jesus commanded the woman at the well to do so. In the canonical gospels, after the resurrection, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, and tells her to proclaim the resurrection. To the disgrace of the Apostles, they doubt her words. I do not see a sexist Jesus in the gospels, but one who was far ahead of His time when it came to women’s rights. The apostles struggled with Jesus progressive attitude toward women, but this struggle in the gospels only show how foolish the apostles were compared to Jesus wisdom. However, the Gnostic gospels do not portray this Jesus. They speak of a prejudice Jesus.
What is more discouraging in Brown’s book is that the ancient heroes are really the Gnostics, not the church fathers. He champions the writings of the Gnostics over the writings of the Apostles.
The Apostles were not unfamiliar with the teachings of the Gnostics. They denounce their teachings in several New Testament passages. Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith (1 Tim 6:20-21). The Greek word for knowledge is gnosis. Notice Paul warns against those who “falsely call” themselves knowledgeable ones. This is a clear reference to the Gnostics of the first century. He even says that those who profess this false knowledge have wandered from the faith.
Who were these Gnostics? Apparently they began by embracing the truth of the gospel preached in accordance with the apostolic message. However, certain false teachers began to introduce ideas that were not in accordance with the gospel. They taught a form of docetism, which is the view that matter was evil and spirit was good, so they concluded that Jesus could not have had a body. They believe He was spirit, with something that resembled or appeared to look like a body. Thus they denied the incarnation.
Paul responds to this so called “secret knowledge” by playing word games with them in 1 Timothy 3:16: Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body…He sarcastically calls this truth, “the mystery of godliness.” The Gnostic were always claiming to have mysteries and secrets revealed to them, so Paul in essence is saying, You want to know the greatest mystery of all? Here it is—God appeared in a body. Thus with one stroke of the pen, Paul scoffs at the false notion of the Gnostics who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh.
It was not simply Saint Paul that came against the Gnostics, but Saint John as well; with strong words, John warns: Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist (2 John 7). It’s clear the Gnostics were great in number, and threaten the true gospel of Christ. John did not take them lightly. To help his readers, John provides a litmus test for the true preachers of the gospel.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:1-3).
According to the Gnostic work, Acts of John, it shows them to be the Gnostics that John calls the antichrists: “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 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.”
Contrast those heretical writings with the canonical writings of the real Saint John, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (1 John 1:1). Do you see the importance of the physical senses—he heard, he saw him, he touched him. In other words, Jesus was no phantom. He was real, flesh and blood, yet the Gnostic writings portray the opposite. Who are we to believe? Do we believe the Apostles who were personally selected by Christ or some imposters who never were eye witnesses of the resurrection, who became Christians through the Apostles, but later, rejected their teachings in favor of their esoteric visions and revelations? I choose to believe in the apostles and the Jesus who chose them.
Dan Brown throws the gauntlet down and, through his entertaining thriller, challenges his readers to reject or at least question orthodox Christianity in favor of the Gnostic view of Christianity. According to the record of the Bible, Dan Brown is just another “antichrist” who is trying his level best to bring discredit to the gospel of Christ Jesus.
The Gnostic Jesus did not preach repentance or salvation from sin. Their Jesus was one who taught against authority, who rejected any form of orthodoxy, who taught that salvation was found not in the vicarious death of Christ but through enlightenment of the secret teachings of Christ. Salvation was realization of who you are! No need to repent, just discover your true essence. It was sort of do-it-yourself religion, which is quite popular today. This of course makes Dan Brown’s alternative so appealing to many people. People do not want to repent, they don’t want to submit, and they would prefer to find their own way to God. They are ripe for Gnostic philosophy.
Council of Nicaea
Another conspiracy that the book propagates is the idea that the doctrine of the trinity was made-up by the Emperor Constantine. One of the characters is a British Royal Historian named Teabing. As a historian, he should know the reason for the Council of Nicaea, yet he thinks the Council was overruled by Constantine who supposedly added the doctrine of the trinity.
However, every historian knows the real reason behind the Council. The central issue at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 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 council finally defined more clearly the doctrine of the trinity, which Christians held from the very beginning but heretics undermined. It is poor scholarship like this that brings the whole book into question. Not only are Brown’s suppositions ludicrous but simple historical errors like this is comical. Since most people today have very little biblical and historical education, these glaring omissions are bypassed by the average person.
Myth of the Holy Grail
Another of Brown’s errors involves the myth of the Holy Grail. According to the Da Vinci Code, the real Holy Grail is not a cup but the remains of Mary Magdalene plus the set of very old documents revealing the true teachings of Christ along with Jesus’ genealogical line. Brown says in his book that the Holy Grail is “the most enduring legend of all time.”2 However, the legend only found its way in the twelfth century.
How in the world could a legend about Mary Magdalene that is more than eleven centuries removed from her life be reliable? Yet, Dan Brown believes this legend is true, yet he thinks the New Testament that was written in the same century that Christ lived is not to be accepted. Do you see the ridiculousness of Brown’s claims?
Not only is the legend several centuries distant from the New Testament record, it does not even involve Mary Magdalene. The legend of the Holy Grail involves Joseph of Arimathea who allegedly caught some of the blood of Christ in a cup. The cup was purportedly taken to Great Britain where he founded the line of guardians to keep the cup safe. Eventually the cup was lost, thus the quest for the Holy Grail makes up a great deal of folk lore.
It’s never a joy to have to speak harshly toward any person or their work, but Dan Brown’s lies cannot go without being corrected. Do not feel sorry for Dan Brown, he has made his millions on putting down the Christian church. It is time for the Christian church to call him on his lies. I have attempted to do this in the article, because I am concerned for Christians like the one who wrote after reading The Da Vinci Code:
“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.”
To this reader, and others like her, I say, “Cheer up!” The book is fiction, total fiction! The gospel has been attacked by more clever men than Dan, and it has stood the test of assaults. It will continue to change the lives of people who have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
1 Article VII of the articles of the Priory of Sion.
2 Page 249, The Da Vince Code by Dan Brown.
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