You would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. So many people have already offered thorough critiques of the book, there is no need to repeat them on this blog. In fact, the book has found no traction in the scholarly world. (One of the most searing critiques was offered by biblical scholar Richard Hays at a roundtable discussion. If you haven't seen it, you've got to check out the link just highlighted.)
Although Brown makes grand claims about being a clever researcher, it is clear that most of his sensational theories have been taken right out of the pages of a book written in 1983, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. However, this well documented criticism of the Code now comes with the added force of a legal charge: plagiarism. This week Brown appeared in court in London where he is having to face some very serious legal charges.
One source that has done a good job covering the controversy over Dan Brown's book is Insight Scoop, the blog from the editor of Ignatius Press, the publishing house that has printed most of Pope Benedict's books. Carl Olson, the author of the blog, has done a great job listing some of the similarities. Here's an excerpt:
Check out the whole article.
Perhaps the strongest evidence of borrowing is found in The Da Vinci Code's remarks about Constantine, Christianity in the fourth century, and the relationship of pagan beliefs to Christian doctrine. Here are some examples:
The Da Vinci Code: Constantine "was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest" (p 232)
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: "The image of Constantine as a fervent convert to Christianity is clearly wrong. He himself was not even baptized until 337–when he lay on his deathbed and was apparently
too weakened or too apathetic to protest." (p 366)
The Da Vinci Code: "In Constantine's day, Rome's official religion was sun worship–the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun–and Constantine was its head priest."
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: "The state religion of Rome under Constantine was, in fact, pagan sun worship; and Constantine, all his life, acted as its chief priest."
The Da Vinci Code: "Christian and pagans began warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it threatened to rend Rome in two. Constantine decided that something had to be done. In 325 A.D., he decided to unify Rome under a single religion. Christianity."
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: "While Constantine was not, therefore, the good Christian that later tradition depicts, he consolidated, in the name of unity and uniformity, the status of Christian orthodoxy. In A.D. 325, for example, he convened the Council of Nicea." (p 368).
The Da Vinci Code: "Historians still marvel at the brilliance with which Constantine converted the sun-worshipping pagans to Christianity. By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties." (p 232)
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: "In the interest of unity, Constantine deliberately chose to blur the distinctions between Christianity, Mithraism, and Sol Invictus–deliberately chose not to see any contradictions among them." (p. 367) It then discusses Christmas and December 25th and (supposedly)shared beliefs between Christianity and Mithraism.
The Da Vinci Code: "Originally ... Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun." (p. 232-3)
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: "Christianity had hitherto held the Jewish Sabbath–Saturday–as sacred. Now, in accordance with Constantine's edict, it transferred its sacred day to Sunday." (p. 367)
The Da Vinci Code: At the Council of Nicaea, Teabing states, "many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon–the date of Easter, the role of bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus." (p. 233). The vote is described as "relatively close" by Teabing (p. 233).
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: "At this council the dating of Easter was established. Rules were framed that defined the authority of bishops, thereby paving the way for a concentration of power in ecclesiastical hands. Most important of all, the Council of Nicea decided, by vote, that Jesus was a god, not a mortal prophet." (p. 368). An endnote states of the vote: "218 for, 2 against," which is far closer to the truth than Teabing's claim.
The Da Vinci Code: "To rewrite the history books [states Teabing, the historian], Constantine knew he would need bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history. ...Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which 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." (p. 234)
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: "Thus, a year after the Council of Nicea, [Constantine] sanctioned the confiscation and destruction of all works that challenged orthodox teachings–works by pagan authors that referred to Jesus, as well as works by 'heretical' Christians. ... Then, in A.D. 331, he commissioned and financed new copies of the Bible. This constituted one of the single most decisive factors in the entire history of Christianity and provided Christian orthodoxy–the 'adherents of the message'–with an unparalleled opportunity" (368). Then, on the next page, the authors state that "the New Testament itself is only a selection of early Christian documents dating from the fourth century. There are a great many other works that predate the New Testament in its present form" (p 369). The authors argue that those other documents depict Jesus as being human only, even "all too human" (p. 270).