(I wrote this in 2005)
Introduction – The Da Vinci Code Phenomenon
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has been one of the biggest selling novels of 2003-5. At the time I am writing this there are plans to make it into a movie starring Tom Hanks. The book continues the adventures of Robert Langdon, hero of Dan Brown’s previous book, Angels and Demons, and Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University. This time Langdon is accused of murdering Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Lourve Museum in Paris, and goes on the run with Sauniere’s granddaughter Sophie Neveu. In the process of being chased around Paris and London, Sophie meets Leigh Teabing, a British Royal Historian, and learns that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had descendants who married into the Merovingian kings of Dark Age France. She also learns that her grandfather was the Grand Master of a secret society the Priory of Sion, whose purpose was to preserve the secret of Jesus’ marriage, the location of Mary Magdalene’s tomb and the identity of their descendants and that the Holy Grail symbolizes Mary Magdalene and her descendants.
The Da Vinci Code is not the first work of fiction about a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Earlier examples included Niklos Kazantzali’s novel The Last Temptation of Christ and the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. However, The Da Vinci Code is different in that Dan Brown believes what he has written about Jesus and Mary Magdalene is true. In an interview with the ABC’s Good Morning America program on November 3, 2003, the interviewer asked Brown, “This is a novel. If you were writing it as a non-fiction book… how would it have been different?” Brown replied,
“I don’t think it would have. I began the research for The Da Vinci Code as a sceptic. I entirely expected, as I researched the book, to disprove this theory. And after numerous trips to Europe, about two years of research, I really became a believer. And it’s important to remember that this is a novel about a theory that has been out there for a long time.” (1)
It appears that Brown did not intend to simply write a thriller to entertain his readers, but rather a piece of propaganda for spreading his unusual ideas. Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel write in The Da Vinci Hoax,
“Brown apparently hopes The Da Vinci Code will be more than just a best seller; he wants to radically change perceptions of history, religion and Western civilization. Asked if the novel might be considered controversial, Brown again asserts his desire to promote the “sacred feminine” and to challenge commonly accepted understandings of Western culture and Christianity: “As I mentioned earlier, the secret I reveal is one that has been whispered for centuries. It is not my own. Admittedly, this may be the first time the secret has been unveiled within the format of a popular thriller, but the information is anything but new. The Da Vinci Code, in addition to entertaining people, will serve as an open door to begin their own explorations.” (2)
Judging by the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, Brown has apparently succeeded in this. Others have even bigger hopes for The Da Vinci Code. In an article “The Da Vinci Code Hype: An Arcadian Zeitgeist”, Tracy Twyman has written,
“Despite whatever shortcomings there may be, The Da Vinci Code and the hype surrounding it have done in months what the “Grail community” has been trying to do for the last twenty years: it has captured the attention of the public at large, and in the process has set in motion what will eventually result in a complete rethinking of the Western world’s predominant religious, philosophical and historical beliefs. The Priory has always said that they would reveal their secrets “when the time is right”. Perhaps, as is indicated in the novel, that time has come. Perhaps the Priory of Sion is partially responsible in some way for the success of this book. ………..
Once the public is satisfactorily “softened up”, it will be time for the unveiling of the treasures – the true Grail…. I have no doubt that whatever it is, it will be of immense importance, and will change the hearts and minds of people the world over. At that time, the institution of a global government and church, shepherded by the descendants of Christ and the Grail blood, will no doubt occur.……..
[T]he amount of rapid change in public consciousness that has occurred since The Da Vinci Code came out has been staggering. For my part, I feel like I am living in a somewhat different world than that which existed prior to the publication of that book. The possibility of a paradigm shift within our own lifetimes seems much more likely now than it did before. And for that, Mr. Brown, I am grateful.” (3)
As we shall see, anyone, who is looking forward to the Priory of Sion and the descendants of Jesus ruling the world, is going to be waiting a long time.
In April 2005 Time magazine named Dan Brown as one of the 100 most influential people of the year (4). Much of the book’s appeal can be attributed to the claim that it is based on fact. Its preface claims, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and sacred rituals in this novel are accurate.” (5) Many of its readers have got the impression that The Da Vinci Code is well-researched and full of interesting and little known facts which Brown has built his story around. It appears they are taking the book’s claims about Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail seriously. The truth is that, instead of being factual and accurate, The Da Vinci Code is appallingly inaccurate and full of errors, as the following examples show.
Da Vinci’s Real Name
For a start, even the title of the book is technically a mistake. In The Da Vinci Code, Brown refers to Leonardo da Vinci as “Da Vinci” as though it were his last name;
“Nobody understood better than Da Vinci the divine structure of the human body.” (6)
“Even so, many art historians suspected Da Vinci’s reverence for the Mona Lisa had nothing to do with its artistic mastery.” (7)
Leonardo came from the town of Vinci in northern Italy. “Leonardo da Vinci” means “Leonardo of Vinci” or “from Vinci”. Art historians usually just call him Leonardo. Brown does not seem to know this which makes one wonder how much he really knows about Leonardo and his art.
Brown writes that the glass pyramid at the Louvre Museum “at President Mitterrand’s explicit demand had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass – a bizarre request that had been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan.” (8)
The Louvre pyramid has 673 panes of glass. (9)
Brown further writes that the security cameras in the Louvre are not real (10). They are (11), so if you are planning on robbing the Louvre, do not rely on The Da Vinci Code.
Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Louvre, is seventy six years old (12), but the compulsory retirement age in France is sixty five (13).
The founding of Paris
Sophie Neveu says, “The Merovingians founded Paris.” (14)
The Merovingians were kings of what is now France from 476 to 750. Paris was originally the village of a Celtic tribe called the Parisii. In 52 BC the Romans established a town there called Lutetia which was renamed Paris around 300.
Brown writes that there are 22 cards in a tarot card deck (15) and “Originally, Tarot had been devised as a secret means to pass along ideologies banned by the Church. Now, Tarot’s mystical qualities were passed on by modern fortune-tellers.” (16)
There are 78 Tarot cards in a deck, not 22. They were originally used to play a game similar to Bridge. “Tarot” comes from “tarroco”, Italian for “trump”. Tarot cards were not given any mystical or occult meaning until the eighteenth century (17).
The banning of The Last Temptation of Christ
Brown also writes that “the French government, under pressure from priests, had agreed to ban an American film called The Last Temptation of Christ which was about Jesus having sex with a lady called Mary Magdalene.” (18
The Last Temptation of Christ was released in 1988. It was banned in Chile and (for some reason) Israel, but not France (19)
The origin of the word YHWH
One of Brown’s bizarre claims is when he writes,
“The Jewish Tetragrammaton YHWH – the sacred name of God – in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name foe Eve, Havah. “ (20)
YHWH is not derived from Jehovah, rather Jehovah is derived from YHWH. The original Hebrew name for God was represented by YHWH. Around 1500 A.D. Jews inserted the vowels from the Hebrew word adonai (Lord). YaHoWaH was Latinized into Jehovah. It had nothing to do with any union of the masculine Jah and the feminine Havah. Jah is not even Hebrew. Brown presumably meant Yah. (21)
Brown makes some unhistorical claims about the witch hunting period,
“The Catholic Inquisition published the book that arguably could be called the most blood- soaked publication in human history. Malleus Maleficarum – or The Witches’ Hammer indoctrinated the world to ‘the dangers of freethinking women’ and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture and destroy them. Those deemed ‘witches’ by the Church included all female scholars, priestesses, gypsies, mystics, nature lovers, herb gatherers and any women ‘suspiciously attuned to the natural world’. Midwives were also killed for their heretical practice of using medical knowledge to ease the pain of childbirth – a suffering, the Church claimed, that was God’s rightful punishment for Eve’s partaking of the Apple of Knowledge, thus giving birth to the idea of Original Sin. During three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women.” (22)
The witch hunting period lasted about 400 years from 1400 to 1800, not 300 years, as Brown says. There is no historical evidence to support Brown’s claim of five million women burned at the stake. Instead of five million, no more than 100,000 people were executed for witchcraft over 400 years. There were most likely between 40 to 50,000 victims. 20-25% of them were men and not all of them were burned (23).
The Malleus Maleficarum was not originally approved by the Catholic Church. The majority of the sentences for witchcraft were handed down by secular, not Church, courts (24). The quote “the dangers of freethinking women” does not appear in the Malleus Maleficarum as Brown implies. He appears to have made it up (25).
All female scholars, midwives and herb gatherers were not “deemed witches” and were not in danger of being burned. I have no idea what Brown means by “priestesses” during this period.
And the Bible does not say Eve ate an apple.
Brown makes some basic mistakes of chronology and addition. He writes that the Priory of Sion’s “history spanned more than a millennium”, but a few lines later he writes that it “was founded in Jerusalem in 1099”. (26) He also writes that in 325 A.D. “Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death” (27). 292 years is hardly “almost four centuries”.
In an article “Dismantling The Da Vinci Code”, Sandra Miessel has commented,
“So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth.” (28)
Likewise, Paul Meier has written in The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?,
“Detailing all of the errors, misrepresentations, deceptions, distortions and outright falsehoods in The Da Vinci Code makes one wonder whether Brown’s manuscript ever underwent editorial scrutiny or fact checking” (29)
It would be an exaggeration to say one would have a better chance of finding the Holy Grail than finding an accurate statement in The Da Vinci Code, but not much of one
Several books have already been written about the errors in The Da Vinci Code. Novel writers often make mistakes or embellish the facts to make a better story. Normally, no one bothers to write books exposing them. However, Dan Brown sets himself up for such thorough critiques by claiming that all the details and controversial ideas in his book are true and accurate.
Brown made a similar claim about the accuracy of his first Robert Langdon novel Angels and Demons (30). It is also full of errors (31).
This article will not focus on every mistake in The Da Vinci Code. Rather, it will address five main issues which the novel raises;
Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married?
Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church;
The origins of the New Testament and the divinity of Jesus;
The Priory of Sion and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail;
The art of Leonardo da Vinci.
- Hank Hanegraaff and Paul L. Meier, The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?, Tyndale House, Illinois, 2004, p 71
- Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel, The Da Vinci Hoax, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2004, p 28-29
- Tracy Twyman, “The Da Vinci Code Hype: An Arcadian Zeitgeist”, http://www.dragonkeypress.com/articles/article_2004_10_25_4042.html
- Time, 18 April, 2005, p 104
- Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Corgi Books, London, 2003 p 15
- Ibid., p 133
- Ibid., p 165
- Ibid., p 40
- Sharan Newman, The Real History Behind The Da Vinci
Code, Penguin, Victoria, 2004, p 225
(10)The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 45-46
(11)Dan Burstein (editor), Secrets of the Code, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 2004, p 259
(12)The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 17
(13) Gordon Rutter, “Da Vinci decoded”, Fortean Times, February 2005, p 34
(14)The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 345
(15) Ibid., p 129
(16) Ibid., p 130
(17) The Real History Behind The Da Vinci Code, op cit., 275-277
(18) The Da Vinci Code, op cit. p 332
(19) Secrets of the Code, op cit., p 277
(20) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 411
(21) Richard Abanes, The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code, Harvest House, Oregon, 2004, p 19
(22) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 173
(23) Simon Cox, Cracking The Da Vinci Code, Harper Collins, Sydney, 2004, p 66
(24) Ibid., p 65
(25) The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 35
(26) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 217
(27) Ibid., p 314, 316
(28)Sandra Miesel, “Dismantling The Da Vinci Code”, http://www.crisismagazine.com/september2003/feature1.htm
(29) The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?, op cit., p 28
(30) Dan Brown, Angels and Demons, Corgi Books, London, 2001, p 11
(31) Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer (editors), Secrets of Angels and Demons, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 2005, p 214-274, 336-356
(1) Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married?
The most controversial part of The Da Vinci Code is its claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. The character Leigh Teabing says that “the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record” (1) and “I shan’t bore you with the countless references to Jesus and Magdalene’s union. That has been explored ad nauseum by modern historians.” (2) and “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians.” (3)
Although there was “a row of several dozen books” in Teabing’s library about their supposed marriage, Brown only mentions four titles – The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, The Templar Revelation by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and The Goddess in the Gospels by Margaret Starbird. (4)
These books are real, but Brown misleads his readers by suggesting that these writers, who say Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, are historians. None of them are historians. None of them have postgraduate qualifications in history, nor teach in university history departments. Their books are not published by academic publishers. They could more accurately be described as esoteric writers. Their books can be found in the New Age section of a bookshop, not the history section. Lynn Picknett’s other books include The Mammoth Book of UFOs, The Encyclopaedia of the Paranormal, The Loch Ness Monster, The Secret History of Lucifer and The Stargate Conspiracy, subtitled Revealing the truth behind extraterrestrial contact, military intelligence and the mysteries of ancient Egypt.
In spite of the impression readers of The Da Vinci Code would get, I doubt if there is a historian in a university anywhere in the world who takes The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail seriously or thinks the Priory of Sion exists. The characters of Robert Langdon and Leigh Teabing, who are academics and believe such things, are not credible characters. They are about as realistic as a novel about an astronomer who believes in astrology. Leigh Teabing would be a lot more believable if, instead of being a “British Royal Historian”, he were an aging hippie with a crystal around his neck and books about UFOs on his shelves. Also, there is no such thing as a “British Royal Historian”, nor is there a professor of symbology at Harvard or any other university.
Furthermore, the authors of these books, which Brown cites, have said they either cannot prove or do not actually believe Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have written,
“Of course we couldn’t ‘prove’ our conclusions. As we repeatedly stressed in the book itself, we were simply posing a hypothesis. Had we been able to prove it, it wouldn’t have been a hypothesis, but a fact; and there would have been no controversy.” (5)
Likewise, in the 2004 documentary, The Real Da Vinci Code, Tony (Baldric) Robinson asked Michael Baigent, one of the co-authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, if there was any evidence Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child. Baigent replied, “There’s none whatsoever.” (6)
Margaret Starbird has written,
“Of course, I cannot prove that the tenets of the Grail heresy are true – that Jesus was married or that Mary Magdalene was the mother of his child.” (7)
In the documentary Cracking The Da Vinci Code, Lynn Picknett, co-author of The Templar Revelation, says she does not even believe Jesus and Mary Magdalene were actually married. They only practiced the sacred marriage sex ritual. (8)
In spite of Dan Brown’s claims that “the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record” (9), the only evidence, which he presents through the character of Teabing, is a passage from the Gnostic Gospel of Philip,
“And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth. The rest of the disciples were deeply offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’ “ (10)
Teabing describes this passage as “always a good place to start”, implying that there is more evidence. In fact, it is the only piece of historical evidence which even slightly supports the marriage case and it turns out to be unconvincing. Teabing and Sophie are reading this passage from a book called The Gnostic Gospels which contains “photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls”. Teabing calls them, “The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they don’t match up with the gospels in the Bible.” (11) Neither the Dead Sea Scrolls nor the Nag Hammadi writings were the “earliest Christian records.” The Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have been written by the Essenes, a Jewish sect, and have nothing to do with the early Christians. They also have nothing to do with Gnosticism and would not appear in a book called The Gnostic Gospels. The Nag Hammadi writings are Gnostic writings found in Egypt. They are not scrolls, but codices (books).Gnosticism, a pseudo-Christian heresy, emerged in the Second Century after the New Testament books had already been written, so the Gnostic writings cold not have been the “earliest Christian records”. (12)
This passage in the Gospel of Philip does not say Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. None of the surviving Gnostic writings say Jesus and Mary were married or had sex. However, Teabing says, “As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion in those days, literally meant spouse.” (13)
Actually, any Aramaic scholar will tell you that the Gospel of Philip was not written in Aramaic, but was a Coptic (Egyptian) translation of an earlier Greek text. The word for “companion” in the original Greek text would have been koinonos. It is used in the New Testament;
“And so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners (koinonoi) with Simon” (Luke 5:10)
“If anyone inquiries about Titus, he is my partner (koinonos) and fellow worker concerning you.” (2 Corinthians 8:23)
“If then you count me as a partner (koinonos), receive him as you would me.” (Philemon 17)
Unless Teabing wants to argue that Paul was married to Titus and Philemon, it is clear from these passages that the word koinonos did not always mean “wife”. The usual Greek word for “wife” was gune. If the author of the Gospel of Philip meant that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, he would have most likely used gune.
Admittedly, Jesus and Mary Magdalene kissing does sound suspicious, however this passage is damaged and incomplete. What the passage actually says is,
“And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. The […] her more than […] the disciples […] kiss her on her […] often than the rest of the […] They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” (14)
We cannot definitely tell where Jesus is supposed to have kissed Mary. It could have been on the hand or cheek. Brown has apparently misquoted the passage and left out the part where it says Jesus also kissed the other disciples, but not as much as Mary, which suggests it was not sexual.
Furthermore, Brown and the authors, which he cites, do not appear to understand the nature and purpose of the Gnostic writings. They seem to think the Gnostic gospels are describing actual historic events like the New Testament gospels were intended to do. None of the so-called Gnostic gospels are gospels in the same sense as the New Testament ones. They are not historical narratives of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter Jones writes in The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back,
“In the Gospel of Thomas, as generally in the other Gnostic gospels, there is no interest in history. The so-called “living Jesus” is simply there, an ethereal figure in no place or time in particular, revealing 114 sayings (logia). All this comes down to saying that there is no interest in the specific person of the flesh-and-bones historical man, Jesus Christ. Even the expression of Paul, “that I might know him”, is a sentiment largely unknown in Gnostic literature. Christ is merely a symbol of full consciousness and self-knowledge.” (15)
The Gnostic gospels contain little, if any, narrative and consist largely of Gnostic teachings which are not the sort of thing which people of Jewish background like Jesus would have believed and said. Gnostics believed that the God of the Jews, who they called the Demiurge, was a false god. This material world, which he had created, was an evil mistake which had trapped humanity. They needed to escape from it through achieving gnosis (knowledge), which sounds like what would now be called enlightenment. According to the Gnostics, Jesus Christ was not the incarnation of the Creator God of the Old Testament as the New Testament states (John 1:1-3,14). Rather, he was a spiritual being, whose mission was not to die to save us from our sins (some Gnostics did not Jesus died at all), but to teach people and help them achieve gnosis. Then, they could also become a Christ (16).
It appears that the Gnostic writers were not describing historical events, but the results of their Gnostic experiences. Elaine Pagels has written in The Gnostic Gospels,
“Gnostic authors, in the same way, attributed their secret teachings to various disciples. Like those who wrote the New Testament gospels, they may have received some of their material from early traditions. But in other cases, the accusation that the gnostics invented what they wrote contains some truth: certain gnostics openly acknowledged that they derived their gnosis from their own experience.
How, for example, could a Christian living in the second century write the Secret Book of
John? We could imagine the author in the situation he attributes to John at the opening of the book: troubled by doubts, he begins to ponder the meaning of Jesus’ mission and destiny. In the process of such internal questioning, answers may occur spontaneously to the mind; changing patterns of images may appear. The person who understands this process not in terms of modern psychology, as the activity of the imagination or unconscious, but in religious terms, could experience these as forms of spiritual communication with Christ. Seeing his own communion with Christ as a continuation of what the disciples enjoyed, the author, when he casts the ‘dialogue’ into literary form, could well give to them the role of the questioners. Few among his contemporaries – except the orthodox, whom he considers ‘literal-minded’ – would accuse him of forgery; rather, the titles of these works indicate that they were written ‘in the spirit’ of John, Mary Magdalene, Philip or Peter.” (17)
I doubt if any academic believes the Gospel of Philip was written by the apostle Philip and that he was describing things he had actually seen. Furthermore, it appears that the Gnostic authors did not intend for their writings to be taken literally. They were meant to convey Gnostic teaching by being interpreted metaphorically. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy have written,
“After all, no one has read the newly discovered Gnostic gospels and taken their fantastic stories as literally true; they are readily seen as myths.” (18)
Whoever wrote the passage in the Gospel of Philip where Jesus kissed Mary Magdalene did not mean that Jesus really did kiss her. He meant it to be interpreted metaphorically. Esther de Boer has written in Mary Magdalene, Beyond the Myth,
“We must not understand this ‘kissing’ in a sexual sense, but in a spiritual sense. The grace which those who kiss exchange makes them born again. This is already described earlier in the Gospel:
If the children of Adam are numerous, although they die, how much more the children of the perfect man who do not die but are continually born anew … They receive nourishment from the promise, to enter into the place above. The promise comes from the mouth, for the Word has come from there and has been nourished from the mouth and become perfect. The perfect conceive through a kiss and give birth. Because of this we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which we have among us (Gospel of Philip 58.2 – 59.6).
Mary Magdalene is made faithful through the grace which is in Christ. Receiving this grace makes her born again.” (19)
In an article “Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor”, Susan Haskins has written,
“Erotic love has often been the vehicle to express mystical experiences, perhaps most notably in that great spiritual epithalamium, the Canticle of Canticles, or Song of Songs, which describes in the most sensual and voluptuous imagery what the rabbis were to read as an allegory of Yahweh’s love for Israel, and early Christian commentators to interpret as Christ’s love for the Church, for the Christian soul – sometimes in the person of Mary Magdalen – and for the Virgin Mary. In the Gospel of Philip, the spiritual union between Christ and Mary Magdalen is couched in terms of human sexuality; it is also a metaphor for the reunion of Christ and the Church which takes place in the bridal chamber, the place of fullness or pleroma.” (20)
Alternatively, Elaine Pagels has suggested that by exalting Mary Magdalene over the male disciples, this passage in the Gospel of Philip was written to justify the role of women in leadership in the Gnostic movement (21).
Brown’s argument from silence
In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon argues that because the Bible does not say that Jesus was not married, this means that he was married;
” ‘Because Jesus was a Jew,’ Langdon said taking over while Teabing searched for his book, ‘and the social decorum at that time virtually forbade a Jewish man to be unmarried. According to Jewish custom, celibacy was condemned, and the obligation for a Jewish father was to find a suitable wife for his son. If Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible’s gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood.’ “ (22)
This is an example of the logical fallacy of the argument from silence. It is the equivalent of saying that because Dan Brown has not said he is not a Martian, then he is a Martian. If the New Testament had said that Jesus was not married, Teabing would no doubt say that this passage was a forgery inserted by Constantine to suppress the truth, as he says about the New Testament passages about Jesus’ divinity.
Furthermore, the claim that celibacy was forbidden in Judaism is not true. In the Old Testament God told the prophet Jeremiah not to marry (Jeremiah 16: 1-2). During Jesus’ time Jewish sects like the Essenes and the Egyptian Therapeutae practiced celibacy. Some Gnostic groups were also celibate since they believed procreation would result in more souls being trapped in this evil material world. It may have been unusual for Jesus to be celibate, like it is for someone today, but it was not unheard of or forbidden.
When Jesus said, “And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Matthew 19:12), he is presumably justifying his decision to remain celibate because he did not want to be distracted from his mission on earth. From the beginning of his ministry Jesus was aware that he was going to die (John 2:19-21, 3:15-17). The New Testament condemns any man who will not provide for his family (1 Timothy 5:8). It would have been irresponsible and negligent of Jesus to marry and have children, knowing that he was going to die and would not be around to support them.
Since Mary Magdalene is identified by where she came from, Magdala in Galilee, this suggests that she was not married to Jesus or anyone else. Ben Witherington writes,
“In a culture where there were no last names, a geographical designation was one of the ways to distinguish people with the same first name, and it appears the geographical designation was regularly used of those who never married, especially women who could not use the patronymic (“son of…”;as in Simon bar-Jonah, which means “Simon, the son of John”). In the Greek New Testament, for example, in Luke 8: 1-3 Joanna is identified by the phrase “of Chuza”, which surely means “wife of Chuza”, but in the same list Mary is said to be “of Magdala” Had Mary of Magdala been married to Jesus, she would have been identified in the same way as Joanna, not with the geographical designation.” (23)
A child of Jesus and his divinity
Teabing claims that if Jesus did have children, this meant he could not be divine;
“A child of Jesus would undermine the crucial notion of Christ’s divinity and therefore the Christian Church,” (24)
“The early Church feared that if the lineage were permitted to grow, the secret of Jesus and Magdalene would eventually surface and challenge the fundamental Catholic doctrine – that of a divine Messiah who did not consort with women or engage in sexual union.” (25)
All sex is not sin. In theory, Jesus could have married and had children and still be the divine and sinless Son of God. He had other priorities. The Christian objection to Jesus being married is not that it would somehow mean he could not still be the Son of God, but rather that there is simply no evidence to suggest that he was.
Arguments from the sacred feminine
However, the belief that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a sexual relationship is based not only on supposed historical evidence. They apparently want to believe it because it can be used to support their feminist beliefs about the sacred feminine and sacred marriage. History and theology are rewritten so that they fit these beliefs.
Two of Dan Brown’s main sources, Margaret Starbird and Lynn Picknett, both make the mistake of equating Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ sister, and think they were the same person (26). They clearly were not. Mary Magdalene came from Magdala in Galilee, while the other Mary lived at Bethany near Jerusalem. Building on this misidentification, they claim that when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus before his arrest and crucifixion, this was part of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage ritual in which the priestess and the king had ritual sex.
James George Frazer’s book The Golden Bough says that some ancient cultures did have sacred marriage ceremonies which celebrated the marriage of the local god and goddess, but the humans representing the gods in the ceremony did not usually have sex. Sometimes, the god was represented by an idol, not a person. Frazer does not say that anointing was part of these rituals (27). The sacred marriage could not have been practiced in the monotheistic Jewish culture of the First Century where there was no goddess and there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest this is what the anointing meant here.
The original sacred marriage was a fertility rite to ensure the crops would grow, and was not the same as the sacred marriage described in The Da Vinci Code,
“Historically, intercourse was the act through which male and female experienced God. The ancients believed the male was spiritually incomplete until he had carnal knowledge of the sacred feminine. Physical union with the female remained the sole means through which man could become spiritually complete and ultimately achieve gnosis – knowledge of the divine. Since the days of Isis, sex rites had been considered man’s only bridge from earth to heaven.” (28)
“Intercourse was the revered union of the two halves of the human spirit – male and female – through which the male could find spiritual wholeness and communion with God.” (29)
In The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown is putting a new form of religious exclusivism as he describes this sex rite as the only way a man can experience God. All other religious practices apparently do not count. I assume this means impotent people miss out on experiencing God. In spite of The Da Vinci Code‘s feminist themes, Brown also says here that the sacred marriage is the way the man, not the man and the woman, can experience God. Rather than experience God herself, it sounds like the woman is only there to help the man experience God, something like the way the music or stained glass windows in a church are intended to encourage the spiritual experience. Maybe I’m just cynical, but the whole thing sounds like a ploy for men to get more sex.
Margaret Starbird goes further and seems to want to reinvent God and Christianity so that they fit her feminist beliefs. She writes that “the sacred union of Jesus and his Bride one formed the cornerstone of Christianity. It was this cornerstone – the blueprint of the Sacred Marriage – that the later builders rejected, causing a disastrous flaw in Christian doctrine that has warped Christian civilization for nearly two millennia. In reclaiming the lost Bride – the Goddess in the Gospels – we will restore a precious piece of our own psyches – the sacred feminine too long denied.” (30) Starbird also writes about the lost wife of God, that God is wounded because His wife is lost (31), as though the omnipotent creator of the universe could lose His wife because the Church does not want to believe in her.
Starbird’s book The Goddess in the Gospels contains some bizarre cases of her looking for signs to confirm her beliefs. She interprets the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980 and the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle as symbols of what is going to happen to the Catholic Church because of its neglect of the sacred feminine (32). While in hospital after having a nervous breakdown brought on by her research, she saw a crutch resting against a potted palm plant and a lambskin jacket on a hook in the psychiatrist’s office. The crutch is interpreted as the wounded bridegroom Jesus without his bride, the palm symbolizes Israel and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the lambskin coat symbolizes the lamb of sacrifice (33). This looking for signs and symbolism to confirm her beliefs in everyday items does not strike me as particularly logical or rational. I wonder what Starbird would think if she realized that Monica Bellucci, who played Mary Magdalene in The Passion of the Christ, also played the wife of the Merovingian in The Matrix Reloaded.
(Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene in The Passion of the Christ, 2004)
(Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian and Monica Bellucci as his wife in The Matrix Revolutions 2003)
Dan Brown expresses similar sentiments in The Da Vinci Code,
“The days of the goddess were over. The pendulum had swung. Mother Earth had become a man’s world, and the gods of destruction of war were taking their toll. The male ego had spent two millennium running unchecked by its female counterpoint. The Priory of Sion believed that it was the obliteration of the sacred feminine in modern life that has caused what the Hopi Native American Indians called koyanisquatsi – ‘life out of balance’ – an unstable situation marked by testosterone-fuelled wars, a plethora of misogynistic societies and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth.” (34)
One would think that Brown believes the ancient world was living in harmony and there were no wars or sexism until the patriarchal Christians came along.
It is true that the Church’s attitude to women over the last 2000 years has not been perfect, however Terrence Sweeney, who wrote the foreword to Starbird’s The Woman with the Alabaster Jar says that the Catholic Church’s warped attitude to sex comes from copying Gnosticism and Manichaeanism (35). Brown is sympathetic to Gnosticism and cites (incorrectly) Gnostic writings to support his claims that Jesus was only mortal and married to Mary Magdalene, yet Gnosticism’s beliefs about sex and women appear to be partly responsible for the Catholic Church’s abuses which Brown and Starbird condemn.
Brown and Starbird apparently believe that the solution, resulting in wholeness, balance and equality, is to believe that Jesus was married and there is a God and Goddess, who are married, which sounds like Mormonism. (Lynn Picknett, co-author of The Templar Revelation used to be a Mormon (36). I wonder if that had any influence on her beliefs about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.) This assumption is flawed because the ancient Greeks and Romans believed in gods and goddesses, who had sex, but this did not result in equal rights for women and a balanced, benevolent society. The Greek and Roman myths about their gods were full of lust, rape, murder and revenge. They were more like characters in a television soap opera than holy beings who were worthy to be worshipped. Simply believing in gods, who have sex, does not produce a healthy society with equal rights for women, unless this belief is accompanied by moral beliefs which teach or imply such values as peace, love and human rights. Christianity did not believe that Jesus or God the Father had sex, but its values did result in greater rights for women, something which Brown and Starbird ignore. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe write in What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? ,
“Prior to Christian influence, a woman’s life was also very cheap. In ancient cultures, the wife was the property of her husband. In India, China, Rome and Greece, people felt and declared that women were not able or competent to be independent (although in Rome, particularly in the third century, some women of the upper class were asserting their independence). Aristotle said that a woman was somewhere between a free man and a slave. When we understand how valueless a slave was in ancient times, we get a glimpse of how bad a woman’s fate was back then. Plato taught that if a man led a cowardly life, he would be reincarnated as a woman. If she lived a cowardly life, she would be reincarnated as a bird.
In ancient Rome we find that a woman’s lot was not much better – for those who survived infancy. Little girls were abandoned in far greater numbers than boys. In Pagans and Christians, Robin Lane Fox points out that the killing of infant girls was so widespread it affected marriage customs.” (37)
Likewise, Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett wrote in Christianity on Trial,
“How much more inspiringly, in particular, the early Christian message must have been to women. To put it plainly, women enjoyed higher status and more autonomy among Christians than among pagans, and could expect better treatment from their husbands. Pagan Roman women were “three times as likely as Christians to have married before age 13” according to the sociologist Rodney Stark. Christian women also exercised far more choice in whom they wed, and were less likely to be forced into an abortion (a frequent cause of death for women at the time). The church expected men to remain faithful to their wives, a principle that cut sharply against the Roman norm. If widowed, Christian women enjoyed more freedom to choose for themselves whether to remarry, secure in the knowledge that the congregation would look after them if they elected to remain alone. “It is … an established fact, taken from simple evidence, that everywhere progress in free choice of a spouse accompanied progress in the spread of Christianity,” declares Regine Pernoud.
Women’s status in the church itself was unusually favourable for the times. Wayne Meeks notes that “Both in terms of their position in the larger society and in terms of their participation in the Christian communities … a number of women broke through the expectations of female roles.” Paul is often rebuked these days for his offhand acceptance of the fact of slavery and for his allegedly repressive views on the status of women. But in fact what distinguished Paul from his non-Christian contemporaries was not the patriarchal views he sometimes expressed, especially in the admonition “Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord,” but rather his repeated emphasis on the obligations of husbands to wives. Thomas Cahill writes that in Paul we find “the only clarion affirmation of sexual equality in the whole of the Bible – and the first one to be made in any of the literatures of our planet.”” (38)
There is a bride of Christ in the Bible. It is not Mary Magdalene, but a metaphor for the Church (Ephesians 5:22-25, Revelation 19:7-8, 21:2, 9). True spiritual and emotional wholeness and harmony between the sexes comes through the real “sacred marriage”, that is, the union of the believer with God through faith in Christ in the present, rather than through believing that 2000 years ago Jesus and Mary Magdalene had sex and believing the ultimately futile Ally McBeal romantic notion that two incomplete people can become two whole people through a relationship with each other.
(1) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 329
(2) Ibid., p 333
(3) Ibid., p 339
(4) Ibid., p 339-340
(5) Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Arrow Books, 1996, p 8
(6) The Real Da Vinci Code, ABC DVD, 2004
(7) Margaret Starbird, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, Bear and Co., Vermont, 1993, p xxi
(8) Cracking the Da Vinci Code, Ardustry Home Entertainment, 2004
(9)The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 330
(10) Ibid., p 331
(11) Ibid, p 331
(12) Philip Jenkins, Hidden Gospels, Oxford University Press, 2001, p 12
(13) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 33
(14) Bentley Layton (translator), The Gnostic Scriptures, Doubleday, New York, 1995, p 339
(15) Peter Jones, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, New Jersey, 1992, p 26-27
(16) Darrell L. Bock, Breaking The Da Vinci Code, Thomas Nelson, Tennessee, 2004, p 76-80, Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Penguin, London, 1990, p 105, 108, The Da Vinci Hoax, op cit., p 50
(17) The Gnostic Gospels, op cit., p 47
(18) Secrets of the Code, op cit., p 134
(19) Ibid., p 43
(20) Ibid., p 31
(21) The Gnostics Gospels, op cit., p 84
(22) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 330
(23) Ben Witherington III, The Gospel Code, IVP, Illinois, 2004, p 17
(24) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 340
(25) Ibid., p 344-345
(26) Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, The Templar Revelation, Corgi Books London, 1998, p 307, 342, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, op cit., p 27, 49
(27) James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, Oxford University Press, 1998, p 108-110
(28) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 410
(29) Ibid., p 411
(30) Margaret Starbird, The Goddess in the Gospels, Bear and Co., Vermont, 1998, p xv-xvi
(31) Ibid., p 91, 144, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, op cit., p 86, 89, 165
(32) The Goddess in the Gospels, op cit, p 61-62, 68-72
(33) Ibid., p 95
(34) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 174
(35) The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, op cit., p xiv
(36) Lynn Picknett, Mary Magdalene, Robinson, London, 2003, p ix
(37) D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1994, p 14-15
(38) Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial, Encounter Books, San Francisco, 2002, p 4-5
Continued in Part Two