'Da Vinci Code' - fact, fantasy and fallacy

May 27, 2006|by Ruth Brown

Few novels or movies have gotten as much attention or generated as much controversy as "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown and the motion picture of the same name. "The Da Vinci Code" is a murder mystery, set mainly in Paris, in which the characters follow a bizarre trail of codes and riddles to solve the murder of a Louvre Museum curator. In the course of unraveling these clues, some of which are found in the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, these characters uncover secrets that will supposedly challenge what Christians have believed for centuries about the Christian religion, the Bible and the relationship between Jesus Christ and his follower, Mary Magdalene.

There is now a great deal of debate over the claims this story is built upon. One claim is that Jesus Christ was believed to be only a human prophet until the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome in A.D. 325. According to historians, this is not true.


Another claim is that when the New Testament books were officially chosen, there were several dozen gospels other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that were not only rejected but destroyed. This also is not true.

"The Da Vinci Code" states that when Leonardo da Vinci painted "The Last Supper," he left out the disciple John and instead painted a female figure next to Jesus, supposedly Mary Magdalene. While this figure does look female, it is more likely because John was a young man who probably had no beard. Da Vinci is not the only artist to portray John with feminine-looking features.

The claim that seems to upset certain Christians the most is that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, had a child, and that after the crucifixion and resurrection Mary Magdalene and her daughter escaped to France, where a "royal bloodline" still exists. In other words, there are descendants of Jesus Christ now living in France and perhaps elsewhere.

Some churches are organizing groups to either protest the movie or at least try to set the record straight with people who may read the book or see the movie and accept all the story's ideas as true. NBC will soon air a Catholic documentary entitled "Jesus Decoded." A letter to the editor was printed in this newspaper condemning "The Da Vinci Code," and it is likely that others will, too.

Anyone who has not read "The Da Vinci Code" is in a very weak position to criticize it. I read it about two years ago and enjoyed it. I am reading the book again and looking forward to seeing the movie, starring Tom Hanks, one of my favorite actors. The ideas in this book were mostly new to me, but rather than criticize the book as being anti-Christian, I did some research to find out if the book's ideas were worth any serious consideration. Many books have appeared in bookstores harshly criticizing "The Da Vinci Code." There are, however, two books that give the plain truth and allow us to make up our own minds. These are "Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code" by Bart D. Ehrman and "Secrets of the Code" by Dan Burstein.

In this "information age" we live in, it is no longer acceptable for Christians to be ignorant of how our Bible was canonized, why certain books were selected and others rejected, who really wrote the books of the Bible, and what place women held in the ministry of Jesus Christ and in his personal life.

As to the question of whether or not Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have been married and had a child, I am unconvinced. Most experts seriously doubt this because of a lack of historical evidence to support it. Any marriage is therefore unlikely but not impossible.

Whatever the real nature of their relationship, we know it was a special one. My hope is that all Christians will understand that if Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married, it certainly would not have been a disgrace.

Jesus as a married man would have been no less divine and no less holy and sinless. "The Da Vinci Code" and the many books responding to it have left us with no more excuses to be ignorant of the origins of our own Scriptures and deeply held beliefs. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Ruth Brown is a Washington, D.C., writer who lived for years in Washington County.

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