The da Vinci code controversy

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
I've noticed that there are quite a number of books out now about the book The da Vinci Code. Some of them are going further along the same lines as the original book, but most of them seem to attack the book.



On one level, this is obviously a fictional story, so it's a bit weird to attack its "facts." But the book is written like historical fiction, and does purport to contain an accurate historical background.



*** SPOILERS ***



The story is that the Holy Grail isn't really a cup that Jesus drank from, but rather records of the truth about Jesus, which is that he was married to Mary Magdalene and had children. Some of the characters in the book are descendants of Jesus. That truth has been covered up by the Church, and in particular the Church tried to wipe out any feminine influence on Christianity. da Vinci, among others, was in on the secret, and put clues to it in his art. The story is about a struggle between different groups to find out where the grail is and what it is. (That's my memory of the basic story; correct me if I'm wrong because it's been a year or so since I read it.)



It's an interesting topic, and the fact that a very popular book would get people interested in historical perspectives on religion is great. It's just unfortunate it had to be such a questionable theory to get it out there. At least he didn't say Jesus was gay or wasn't crucified to death.



I'm curious what people think about the historical basis of the book.



Here are a few critiques of the "facts" in the da Vinci code, mostly from religious web sites.



Deciphering 'The da Vinci Code'



Jesus wasn't married



Cracking the Da Vinci Code



Dsimantling the da Vinci Code
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    thttht Posts: 3,048member
    Wasn't it in the Gospel of Mary Magdelane (or some other Gnostic gospel) that states that Jesus was married to her? Whether it is true or not, who knows, but there is some textual basis for the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdelane in the gnostic gospels, so the da Vinci Code as historical fiction really isn't that far out of left field.
  • Reply 2 of 28
    thttht Posts: 3,048member
    Gospel of Mary Magdalene:



    The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene
  • Reply 3 of 28
    curiousuburbcuriousuburb Posts: 3,325member
    So the fundamentalist interpreters of a work of historical fiction are complaining about another work of historical fiction?



    Holy Irony, Batman!
  • Reply 4 of 28
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by THT

    Wasn't it in the Gospel of Mary Magdelane (or some other Gnostic gospel) that states that Jesus was married to her? Whether it is true or not, who knows, but there is some textual basis for the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdelane in the gnostic gospels, so the da Vinci Code as historical fiction really isn't that far out of left field.



    Yeah from what I've read it would be unusual if Jesus hadn't been married. Mary Magdalene seems like as good a candidate as any.
  • Reply 5 of 28
    sammi josammi jo Posts: 4,634member
    I read "Da Vinci" last month, a super and engaging story. Many of the characters' names have a connection to the excellent non fiction work "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" which was released in the 1980s with much controversy, by Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. For example, Sauniere, the fictional head curator of the Louvre in Da Vinci took his name after Berenger Sauniere, (the priest at the remote Rennes le Chateau parish in Central France, who discovered secretly stashed coded documents within the altar of his run down church while doing renovations. When these documents were eventually examined by the Vatican, it resulted in Sauniere being paid a phenonenal amount of money to keep his mouth shut). Another example is Teabing, the main villain of the book, whose name is an anagram of "Grail" co-author Baigent....and others.



    Two central premises in the "Grail":

    *Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and the wedding at Cana (where Jesus supposedly and miraculously converted water into wine), was his own wedding. It was customary for young males in early Jewish society to be married and raise children. Or more accurately, almost taboo for them not to be.

    *Jesus was crucified, (as history has well documented), but he survived his injuries and recovered, was nursed back to health and he traveled to Europe in subsequent years.



    It isn't hard to see why the churches (of all denominations) were so furious about HBHG: the book also provides some mundane and down-to-earth explanations for "miraculous" events attributed to Jesus' divinity.



    For which point of view should we reserve our skepticism: the traditional interpretations popularized by the churches, or newer nonconventional, or non-Christian explanations?
  • Reply 6 of 28
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by sammi jo

    "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail"



    Have you read that? I have, and was very unimpressed. It's partially the style that was a turn-off, but also I haven't seen many of their conclusions repeated by any of the serious historical Jesus scholars. The thing is, there's a ton of interesting, well-done, serious, controversial scholarship on the historical Jesus, that it was just disappointing that Dan Brown would use that book as his primary source instead.
  • Reply 7 of 28
    sammi josammi jo Posts: 4,634member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by BRussell

    Have you read that? I have, and was very unimpressed. It's partially the style that was a turn-off, but also I haven't seen many of their conclusions repeated by any of the serious historical Jesus scholars. The thing is, there's a ton of interesting, well-done, serious, controversial scholarship on the historical Jesus, that it was just disappointing that Dan Brown would use that book as his primary source instead.



    Yes, I read it a few years back. While the style is a tad disjointed, which makes awkward, slightly stilted reading in places (presumably partly because it is a 3-author collaboration), much of the material within is fascinating. And they deserve some credit because "Holy Grail" was the first widely-read book that dealt with the Rennes-le-Chateau affair, and its extraordinary and highly controversial implications.
  • Reply 8 of 28
    shetlineshetline Posts: 4,695member
    I really enjoyed both The da Vince Code and Angels and Demons... but damn, I hope his knowledge of the history of art and architecture and the Church are better than his astronomy!
  • Reply 9 of 28
    buonrottobuonrotto Posts: 6,368member
    ...or his knowledge of physics. I have a friend who is reading one of Dan Brown's books, and he finds the science (this is coming from a non-scientist) hilariously bad, and the exposition really dumbed down on top of that. Apparently, the guy is talking about some conspiracy involving the particle accelerator in Texas that wasn't finished, and something else about the government having anti-matter, and the guy is looking at anti-matter through a microscope or something woefully silly like that? Well, something like that.
  • Reply 10 of 28
    FICTION !



    It's FICTION !!



    That means it's not factual !!!



    I liked the book ... very engaging story, but it's FICTION, so who cares what parts might be based on truth.



    The beauty of writing fiction, is that the author can alter physics (or chemistry, or history, etc) to make his story work.



  • Reply 11 of 28
    I read "The da Vinci Code" a few months ago. Thought it was way overrated. As for stories about Jesus saying he wasn't crucified, that would be the Gospel of Barnabas and the Qu'ran.
  • Reply 12 of 28
    mlnjrmlnjr Posts: 230member
    Who is this da Vinci person everyone keeps mentioning? His name was Leonardo, and he lived in Vinci.



    Dan Brown actually refers to the artist by both names in the book, as if he can't decide. Sloppy editing aside, I enjoyed the novel. It's even gotten my mother, who was raised a devout Catholic, questioning what she's been taught to believe.



    Angels and Demons was pretty good too, but I'm looking forward to his next on on the Masons.
  • Reply 13 of 28
    curiousuburbcuriousuburb Posts: 3,325member
    With connections from Megalithic sites and pre-Christian gnostics as well as references to Rosslyn and other locations (with photos of the engravings and sun-slit calibration marks of Venus's Transits) Uriel's Machine might be worth picking up.



    I read it before Da Vinci code and then lent it to a female friend about to spend a year hiking in Ireland, but the fact that it added factual detail and substantiated some of the architectural and astronomical oddities of some of these sites made each book more fascinating.

    Made me want to visit the sites myself, but primarily on the dates in question to watch thousand year old calibration marks track the light reflected on polished quartz by distant planets with surreal precision.



    IIRC, the same guys who wrote Uriel's Machine have also written on the Templars and Masons, so I wouldn't be surprised if the authors aren't familiar with each others work.
  • Reply 14 of 28
    shetlineshetline Posts: 4,695member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by KingOfSomewhereHot

    FICTION !



    It's FICTION !!



    That means it's not factual !!!



    I liked the book ... very engaging story, but it's FICTION, so who cares what parts might be based on truth.



    The beauty of writing fiction, is that the author can alter physics (or chemistry, or history, etc) to make his story work.







    There are good ways to play with facts, and sloppy ways to play with facts.



    If you're writing a fictional novel set during the American Revolution, for example, it's just plain dumb to have Washington send Jefferson a message by telegraph. Okay -- if the theme of your story were a "what if?" about some sort of early jump start in technology, this might fit, but if for no other reason than blissful ignorance of history an author out of the blue has someone sending telegraph messages in 1779, "it's fiction" makes for a poor excuse.



    At the end of The da Vinci Code, Brown describes a scene in which the Sun is setting (at least he knows the Sun sets in the west) but then, symbolic of his theme of the "sacred feminine", he describes Venus a rising in the east at the same time.



    This is really bad astronomy. There's no good story-telling reason to botch this. Venus can only be seen rising in the east if it's rising shortly before sunrise. It can't rise in the east at sunset. Anyone with just a modicum of stargazing knowledge should know this.



    Think about it: If you look one direction and see the Sun, and then look in nearly the opposite direction and see Venus, this implies that you -- and the Earth you're standing on -- are in between the Sun and Venus.



    Since the orbit of Venus is always closer to the Sun than the orbit of the Earth, however, there's no way for the Earth to get in between the Sun and Venus, and thus no way for the Sun and Venus to be on opposing horizons in the sky.



    I've come to realize that the general public is abysmally ignorant of things I used to foolishly believe were common knowledge, even rough magnitude-of-order things like knowing that the visible planets are much closer than the stars, and that stars are much closer than other galaxies. I run into a lot of people who can't even keep the words "astronomy" and "astrology" straight. So I doubt 99% of Brown's readers would notice the slightest thing wrong with this impossible ending scene with Venus and the Sun that Brown describes.



    But if Brown is going to make such a big deal out of the planet Venus, and describe a scene like that in detail, he should know what he's talking about. What he did was simply sloppy, with no valid fictional excuse for it.



    He could just as well have written something like "As the Sun was setting, high above in the fading western twilight, Venus appeared, growing in brightness as the stars came out." -- getting to have his symbolism, and being accurate too.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    powerdocpowerdoc Posts: 8,123member
    The Da vinci code is a fictionnal book, where the author put some "explosive" stuff in order to offer a different lecture of the life of Jesus : a more modern and more tabloidish one.



    The result is a best seller. Kudos for the author, and good and entertaining book to read.



    Now, thinking that this book is an historic and modern theological analysis of the life of Jesus is an another thing, and worth debate, the book claiming to be based upon historical facts. It's normal that real theologians contradict the authors : a novel, even a best seller is not a theologic book.
  • Reply 16 of 28
    mlnjrmlnjr Posts: 230member
    What does everyone think of the idea of a school putting the book on its required summer reading list for rising high school seniors? My younger sister has to read it this summer, and I'm amazed. I think putting a suspense novel, techno-thriller or whatever you want to call it?even if it's a best-seller?on a student's required reading list is akin to putting a Harry Potter book on there, or something by Michael Crichton.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    If you are interested in a fiction book with a different take on the life of Jesus, but without the shoddy stuff, I suggest The Qumran Mystery by Éliette Abécassis (original French title: Qumran, translated into German under the title Die Jesus-Verschwörung). From the same author, a rather intriguing non-fiction book: an essay about evil.
  • Reply 18 of 28
    Quote:

    Originally posted by segovius

    Yes, good advice. Failing that one could try Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum' which (while not in the same league as Immanuel's suggestion) is quite possibly the direct model for DVC. The similarities are suspicious.



    Foucault?s Pendulum is up there along with Nineteen Eighty-Four on my short list (it seems I mentioned this in another thread).

    It describes quite well the actual evolution of the various myths and crackpots theses involved, and the story line itself is both original and entretaining.

    It does require a certain reading dispiline though, some rudimentary knowledge of the cultural context wouldn?t hurt either (the same is true with other of Eco's books).
  • Reply 19 of 28
    For those currently reading the book



    Images/ Help
  • Reply 20 of 28
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Immanuel Goldstein

    Foucault?s Pendulum is up there along with Nineteen Eighty-Four on my short list (it seems I mentioned this in another thread).

    It describes quite well the actual evolution of the various myths and crackpots theses involved, and the story line itself is both original and entretaining.

    It does require a certain reading dispiline though, some rudimentary knowledge of the cultural context wouldn?t hurt either (the same is true with other of Eco's books).




    I've read The Name of the Rose, and that was a bit tougher than Dan Brown but not impossible. I've heard others recommend Foucault's Pendulum - I'll have to give it a go.



    For non-fiction, Crossan and Frederiksen are scholars who have written some good non-academic books on the historical Jesus.



    Here's a criticism of the "Jesus is a king" line in the Dan Brown/Holy Blood Holy Grail books that I haven't seen in the Christian-based criticisms. The idea that Jesus was descended from David (and therefore from Abraham) and was from Bethlehem, as some prophecies prophesied, seems highly questionable. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were from Nazareth, not Bethlehem. So there's an inconsistency that led to all these bizarre stories about how Herod tried to have Jesus killed, Moses-like, and that's why Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem (from Matthew, Chapter 2), or that Caesar had a census (Luke 2:1) that made people come back to their home towns which is why Joseph and Mary happened to come back to Bethlehem from Nazareth right when Jesus was born. Oddly enough, Luke (around 7:40) describes a debate among some people over the issue of where Jesus came from and whether he therefore could be the Messiah. The other strange thing is that Joseph, not Mary, was supposedly descended from David, but Joseph was not Jesus' father. Right?



    It seems pretty clear to me that Jesus was not from Bethlehem, but the Gospel-writers wanted his birth to fit into what they viewed as the prophecies, and so they played a little fast and loose with some of the facts. They needed to get Mary out of Nazareth and into Bethlehem, and so they came up with two different stories (Herod killing all the babies or Caesar having a census), both implausible.
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