Friday, May 19, 2006

10 Clear Errors In The Davinci Code

There has been a great deal of discussion about The Davinci Code and its historical errors. I have been urging people to rally around John Paul the Great Catholic University as a response (also see here). But let's say someone asked you, "How do you know the claims of The Davinci Code are false?" Here's a top ten list of errors for easy reference that you might want to print off, put in your bulletin or give to others who are interested. However you use this list, please credit my site.

Should you believe the claims made by Dan Brown in the book (now turned into a movie) The Davinci Code? At the start of the book the reader discovers a "fact page," which asserts, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” In fact, the book and it’s wild claims about Christianity are based on total falsehoods. Here are just a few examples:

1. More than 80 Lost Gospels. Brown claims, “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” (p. 231).

In fact, that is a total lie. Yes, there were other books written later on in the second century which were called “gospels”The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, and The Gospel of Judas are three of the most famous. But there were nowhere near 80 of them! Brown appears to have completely invented that number.[1] Furthermore, none of them were ever considered for inclusion in the New Testament. In fact these gospels were written much later and drew much of their material from the biblical Gospels.

2. Constantine and the Bible. The Davinci Code claims: “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine” (p. 231).

This is utterly false. Constantine died in A. D. 337. Yet, Christians still continued to disagree about which books were Scripture long after he died. This is clearly evident when one reads the lists of the biblical books written by Cyril of Jerusalem (~A. D. 350) and Gregory of Nazianzus (~A. D. 389) which exclude the Book of Revelation. In fact, it seems clear that the question wasn’t fully decided until the list assembled by the Councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) and Carthage (A. D. 397) was finally sent off to be ratified in A. D. 419. Interestingly, the list was not sent off to the Emperor: “Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church.”

3. Lost Gospels found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. On page 234 Brown writes, "some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms.…”

What was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls is no secret—you can order an English translation of the scrolls from any on-line bookseller. Nowhere in any of the Dead Sea Scrolls is anything ever said about Jesus. Furthermore, while apocryphal gospels such as The Gospel of Thomas were found at Nag Hammadi, they depict a much more esoteric Jesus than the biblical gospels—they do not present Jesus’ ministry “in very human terms.”

4. Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ wife. On page 234 we learn that the Gospel of Phillip describes Mary Magdalene as the “companion” to Jesus—we are told that the Aramaic word used here implies a “spousal” relationship. Brown reveals his ignorance here. The Gospel of Philip was written in Coptic, not Aramaic. Moreover, “companion” means just that—there’s no reason to believe it implies a marital relationship.

The book continues with the following passage from the Gospel of Philip: “Christ loved [Mary Magdalene] more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth.” What Brown never tells us is that this is a questionable reading of the passage. The original document contains holes in key places—it tells us that Jesus “used to kiss her often on” and then there is a blank. Whether the next word is “mouth” is not clear—it might simply be “cheek.”

Regardless, it is clear that the book of Philip uses the image of the “kiss” as a metaphor for spiritual communion. To read this passage as evidence of a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene misunderstands what the passage is saying.[2]

5. Leonardo’s Painting of the Last Supper. Of course, one of the major claims is that Leonardo’s picture of the Last Supper contains an image of Mary Magdalene—she is supposedly the figure sitting at Jesus’ right. That this figure is depicted as looking “feminine” supposedly supports this view. In fact, this is not Mary Magdalene but the youngest disciple, John, who was called the “beloved disciple.” The Gospel of John tells us that he sat next to Jesus at the Last Supper (cf. John 19:23). Count the number of people there with Jesus in the picture and you will find that there are exactly 12—they are clearly the twelve apostles.

The “feminine” depiction of John is usually attributed to the attempt to portray his youth. Leonardo’s portrait of the young John the Baptist also depicts him rather as rather “feminine.” Moreover, many medieval painters prior to Leonardo depicted John the Apostle this way. If the figure is not John one would have to conclude that Leonardo left one of the prominent apostles out of the Last Supper scene—and that’s outrageous.

6. The Mona Lisa. The book claims that Leonardo hid his belief in the “sacred feminine”—a belief suppressed by the Church—in his painting of the Mona Lisa. That painting’s name is supposedly a combination of the names of two Egyptian gods: Amon and the goddess Isis. We read that Isis’ “ancient pictogram was once called L’ISA. The title Mona Lisa, then, is really ‘an anagram of the divine union of male and female’ (p. 121).

Really? What Brown doesn’t tell us is that the painting was never named by Da Vinci. Da Vinci died in 1519. It wasn’t until 1550 that the painting was first named. In 1550 Giorgio Vasari lists the work in his Lives of the Artists as “Monna Lisa.” It was later shortened in English to “Mona Lisa.” It simply means Madame Lisa, and refers to the person who most scholars believe it depicts: Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Brown’s explanation is completely unfounded and is nothing more than a product of his imagination.

7. The Bloodline of Jesus. The book purports that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were not only married, but that they also had children. Brown writes, “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians” (p. 253). Who are these “historians” who have chronicled all of this? He lists four books, written by Margaret Starbird, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince.

Yet, none of these authors are strictly speaking “historians”—none of them have earned advanced degrees in history. Starbird, for example, has her M.A. in literature. The work Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln co-authored, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, has been thoroughly discredited by scholars—Baigent has even admitted to forging his sources. The last two authors, Picknett and Prince, believe that the ancient pyramids of Egypt were built by aliens from outer space (The Stargate Conspiracy: The Truth About Extraterrestrials and the Mysteries of Egypt [2001])

8. The Priory of Sion. On the “fact page” we read: “The Priory of Sion—a European secret society formed in 1099—is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous numbers of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci” (p. 1).

The Priory of Sion hardly goes back 1099—it was established in 1952 by Pierre Plantard, who was eventually revealed as a hoax and sentenced to prison for Fraud. He admitted so in 1993 in a French Court before Judge Thierry Jean-Pierre. The so-called secret documents that were “discovered” were faked by Plantard and Philippe de Chérisey, who has also admitted his role in the scandal. Full documentation is found at http://www.priory-of-sion.com/. An episode of 60 Minutes which aired on CBS in April of 2006 also exposed the Priory of Sion as nothing but "good old fashioned fraud."

9. Opus Dei. Throughout the book Brown demonstrates his shoddy knowledge of Opus Dei. The murderer in the book is an Opus Dei monk named Silas. Yet, in the real world, there are no monks in Opus Dei. Anyone who knows Opus Dei knows that the organization seeks to help Catholics who live in the world live their faith. Opus Dei is made up of lay people: doctors, teachers, etc. You will never find a monk in Opus Dei. Moreover, while it is true that a very small number of Opus Dei members practice forms of corporeal mortification, the depiction of Silas whipping himself to a bloody pulp is an outrageous misrepresentation.

10. Jesus as a “mortal prophet.” Brown claims that originally, Christians did not think Jesus was God—that belief was invented at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. He writes, “until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet” (p. 233).

Hardly. The New Testament contains many references to the divinity of Jesus. One of the most clear statements is found in the Gospel of John, written in the first century—long before Nicea. In John 21:28, Thomas addresses the resurrected Lord as “My Lord and My God” (John 22:28). At the beginning of his Gospel, Jesus is described as “the Word”. His divinity and pre-existence is especially clear: “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.”

For more information I recommend you listen to Matthew Arnold's wonderful audio set, The Davinci Code Exposed.

Other resources include:

--Darrel Bock, Breaking the Da Vinci Code. Nashville: Nelson, 2004.
--Carl Olson, et al. The Davinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in the Davinci Code. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.
--Amy Wellborn, De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2004.

Although it is not specifically about Dan Brown's Book, I also recommend Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey's fine book on the Holy Grail, The Grail Code. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2006.

[1] “Add up everything that was ever called a gospel in the first half-millennium of Christianity (most of which are small compilations of esoteric sayings ascribed to Jesus and not narratives of any portion of his life) and you come up with about two dozen documents.” Craig L. Blomberg, Ph.D., Review of The Da Vinci Code in Denver Journal, An Online Review of Current Biblical and Theological Studies.
[2] Darrel Bock, Breaking the Code (Nashville: Nelson, 2004), 23.

7 comments:

Michael F. Bird said...

Michael,
I must say, even as a Protestant, that I found the incessant Catholic bashing of the book distasteful and loathsome. I get the feeling that in North America the only minority that one is permitted to demean are Catholics.

Ric said...

I have found two great resources that corrects the myths of The Da Vinci Code:

http://www.gotquestions.org/DaVinci-code-questions.html

and

http://www.thetruthaboutdavinci.com/

In God's Grace,
Ric

Aaron G said...

The most recent Christian Century has a similar feature in which they "Decode the Da Vinci Code."

Rodney Harshbarger said...

I do believe that the very foundation of organized religion (Christianity) is crumbling!
I don't believe in any organized religion!

mojoala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mojoala said...

You said:

Count the number of people there with Jesus in the picture and you will find that there are exactly 12—they are clearly the twelve apostles.

I ask:

Could it be possible that the scene painted is immediately after the departure of Judas?

An Anonymous Fool said...

mojoala said, "Could it be possible that the scene painted is immediately after the departure of Judas?"

No.

Guess who is in front (green and blue) kinda looking taken aback. He is clutching a small bag and has (in the picture) knocked over a salt cellar.