"Da Vinci Code's" Devilish
Interview With Father Manfred Hauke
LUGANO, Switzerland, JUNE 7, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Dan Brown's best seller
"The Da Vinci Code" says the Church demonized the symbol of Venus and
killed millions of women accused of witchcraft.
Not so, says Father Manfred Hauke, a professor of dogmatic theology and
president of the German Mariological Society, who responds to those
accusations in this interview.
Q: Is it true that the Church has demonized the pentacle, a
five-pointed star inscribed in a circle, symbol of Venus?
Father Hauke: This is a typical example of the novel's lack of
historical credibility. Suffice it to consult the appropriate
dictionaries to verify that even the basic data in no way agrees with
what he upholds on the pentacle.
It does not seem that the origin of the sign is known with exactitude,
though historical evidence has existed in Egypt since 2000 B.C. An
astronomic connection with the planet Venus does not seem evident.
The Pythagoreans used the pentacle as a salvific sign, which they
related to health itself. Beginning with this tradition, since the 16th
century the pentacle became a symbol of doctors and was related by
Cornelii a Lapide to the five wounds of Christ.
In the Byzantine army, vanguard combatants carried small shields with
the "pentalpha," a tricolored pentacle, as a sign of salvation. If the
ancient Church of the first centuries had made the pentacle a demonic
symbol, such use would not have been possible.
Moreover, the pentacle appears no less than as a magic and apotropaic
[designed to avert evil] sign in ancient Gnosis and in the Jewish
Kabala of the Middle Ages. Its relationship with modern occultism goes
back to this context.
Therefore, the idea upheld by Brown that the Church altered, with
calculated malice, the symbol of the goddess Venus into the sign of the
devil has no foundation.
Q: More serious, however, seems the accusation against the Church of
the witch hunt.
Father Hauke: Indeed, this is the only point that has some historical
basis. Recalling the "Malleus Maleficarum," the character Langdon
maintains: In 300 years of witch hunts, the Church burnt at the stake
the astonishing figure of 5 million women. The guilt of the witch hunt
is therefore entirely attributed to the Church -- the Catholic Church
-- which thus sought to destroy "freethinking women."
There is a smidgen of truth in these affirmations, but peppered with
enormous and incorrect fundamental exaggerations. To approach the
phenomenon in an appropriate manner, one must begin from the dark
reality of magic that tries to obtain superhuman effects through
recourse to occult powers, linked with the intervention of demons.
This practice, sadly, again rather widespread at present, is the object
of an explicit and severe condemnation already in the Old Testament,
where capital punishment is provided for witchcraft….
This punishment, moreover, is one of those established by the Code of
Hammurabi, toward 2000 B.C. in ancient Babylon. Whoever follows recent
research on the phenomenon and knows the experiences of exorcists,
cannot deny that witchcraft exists today with all its pernicious
effects, which can be effectively combated by the spiritual means of
Of course, one must be careful not to confuse real interventions of the
evil one with people's superstition and credulity, who see the devil's
tail where in fact it doesn't exist.
The deplored "witch hunt" was not caused simply by belief in
witchcraft, but by a collective hysteria unleashed at the beginning of
the modern era, and by absolutely unacceptable methods used to detect
men and women witches.
Torture in fact led to "confessions" of invented offenses, suggested by
the accusers themselves. The direct responsibility for sending alleged
evil ones to be burned at the stake is that of the state authority. The
collective hysteria, which culminated in the years 1550-1650, spread
above all through the Germanic and Slavic countries and much less so in
the Mediterranean ambit.
Recent research has made it possible to revise the figures relative to
the persons executed as witches. According to Danish scholar Gustav
Henningsen, in the course of four centuries, when active persecution of
witchcraft was practiced, some 50,000 people were killed -- and not 5
million as Brown maintains -- of whom close to 20% were men.
The figure in general was lower in Catholic countries, which were not
undermined by the Protestant Reformation.
In Spain, Italy and Portugal of the mid-16th century to the end of the
18th century, there were 12,000 prosecutions against alleged female and
male witches; only 36 people in these thousands of trials, were
subjected to capital punishment.
In Rome, fewer than 100 people died for the offense of witchcraft. The
first case of which we have knowledge was in 1426 and the last in 1572.
The vast majority of the trials of the Roman Inquisition concluded for
lack of evidence.
During the prosecutions against female witches, tremendous errors were
committed, but this does not justify, on the historical plane, the
spread of a black legend, as Brown has done, which sees "the Church" as
the only one responsible.
Q: In what sense does Dan Brown follow the feminist currents?
Father Hauke: In radical feminism, we find different currents, often
opposed. There is a view that minimizes the difference between man and
woman, propounding an androgynous ideal: It is equalitarian feminism.
The other tendency exasperates the distinction between the sexes,
declaring the woman superior. In the religious ambit, this gynocentric
feminism is manifested in the veneration of a "goddess."
Also in this case, Brown presents a strange and untenable mixture
between two currents. On one hand, he praises the androgynous model
and, on the other, defends a preponderance of the "goddess," placing a
matriarchy at the origin of human history.
Both feminisms are not in accord with a healthy anthropology:
Equalitarian feminism does not respect the difference between man and
woman, even though claiming their equal dignity, while gynocentric
feminism denies precisely the equal value of the sexes, while still
exalting their difference. The aspect that is deficient in both views
is the concomitance between equal dignity and complementarity, typical
of Christian anthropology.
Q: But don't you think that in the Church there have also been unjust
discriminations of women?
Father Hauke: The relationship between man and woman is based on
creation, which is a good thing, but it is continually threatened by
the consequences of sin. For this reason, also in the Church there has
been, and at times still are, unjust discrimination in respect to women.
John Paul II spoke of this in his "Letter to Women": "Unfortunately, we
are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent.
In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the
progress of women. Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and
their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to
the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has
prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a
spiritual impoverishment of humanity. …"
Q: Do you not have the impression that the biblical image of God
continues to be represented preferably with "masculine" symbols?
Father Hauke: I would say yes, though one also finds "feminine"
features when, for example, God's action is compared to the tenderness
of a mother. See Isaiah 49:15 -- "Can a mother forget her infant, be
without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I
will never forget you."
The "masculine" accent given to the image of God is based, for
Christianity, on the revelation of Jesus who speaks of our "Father in
heaven" -- and not of "our Mother on earth."
The Son of God was incarnated in the masculine sex, a fact destined to
endure also in the transfigured corporeal nature. The Holy Spirit
instead bears in himself some features that, from the symbolic point of
view, could be approximated to feminine aspects, though these aspects
cannot be exaggerated in a "feminine" representation, remote from the
Archbishop Amato Comments on
"Da Vinci Code" and "Gospel of Judas"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official says that
attempts are made to slander and discredit the Church because it is the
only institution that explicitly defends questions that are fundamental
Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, reflected Wednesday on Vatican Radio on publications such
as "The Da Vinci Code" and the "Gospel of Judas."
"It is a fact that today one can speak badly of the Pope without
impunity, as is being done in Germany with some cartoons," the prelate
said. "One can also falsify at will the history of Christianity without
the least respect -- I won't say, for religious -- but for elementary
In this connection, the content of the cited works, "lacking in real
foundation, ? seems a calumny against the Church, aimed at discrediting
it," the Vatican official said.
He suggested that the attacks have arisen because "the Church is today
the only institution that clearly and explicitly protects human life
from the beginning until death, that protects the family, that says a
clear word on topics of sexual and bioethical ethics, that proposes the
values of the Ten Commandments."
Of "The Da Vinci Code," Archbishop Amato said that "the whole book is a
wicked distortion of the truth."
"For example, to deny Jesus' divinity and affirm that it was invented
by the Council of Nicaea in the year A.D. 325 means to falsify
history," he observed.
"Immediately after the death and resurrection of Christ," the
archbishop explained, "around the A.D. 40s, the Church sang the famous
hymn contained in the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians: 'Christ,
though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.'"
To defend the truths of the faith, the Church "continues its work of
defense of the doctrine through the magisterium of the Pope and the
bishops," and through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
which "continues to protect the Christian people also through the
correction of mistaken theological theories," said Archbishop Amato, 67.
In his opinion, "the Churches and Christian communities should speak
out strongly, should cry out the truth from the rooftops, as the Gospel
says, to stop the lies that, unfortunately, use all the weapons of
media persuasion to achieve this mass consensus."
A "Da Vinci" Nudge to Believers
Meeting at Angelicum Reflects on Fiction-Reality Tie
ROME, MAY 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A symposium held at a pontifical
university called the movie "The Da Vinci Code" a "sign of the times"
which challenges all believers to demonstrate their faith.
The symposium at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum,
was held Wednesday, the day in which the film was presented in at the
Cannes Film Festival, in France.
The "sign of the times" conclusion was voiced by Dominican Father Bruno
Esposito, vice rector of the university, at the meeting on "The Da
Vinci Code: Reflection on the Fiction-Reality Relationship."
In the debate held at the school, Father Esposito, who is also a
professor of canon law, said that "man is not against God but against a
mistaken idea of God," and that is why it is necessary to address a
phenomenon such as "The Da Vinci Code."
Such an engagement, he said, is "not in a spirit of defense or
confrontation but as an examination of conscience by believers, who
must be committed to a new evangelization."
Benedetto Ippolito, a professor of the history of medieval philosophy
at the "Roma Tre" university, explained the success of Dan Brown's
novel in a cultural context dominated by "conspiracies and mysteries."
It is "a scene in which God is absent, in which God is not necessarily
denied but lived in another dimension," said the scholar.
Ippolito, who is also a professor at the University of the Holy Cross,
explained that today there is a tendency to "consider Christian truth
as a theory or even an invention."
This vision implies paying a high price, he said. "The loss of the
sense of truth implies the loss of the sense of freedom."
On addressing the meeting, Joan-Andreu Rocha Scarpetta, a professor at
the Regina Apostolorum university, said that "Dan Brown's work is a
cultural thermometer that leads to reflection on contemporary
In particular, Rocha acknowledged that the novel might cause confusion
in people who do not have "the tools of discernment necessary to
understand what is behind it."
Rocha, who directs Regina Apostolorum's master's program on "Church,
Ecumenism and Religions," noted that the books of the New Age current
are so successful because they emphasize "believing" without
"belonging" and "they present reality as false and truth as esoteric
and critical of institutions."
Bernardo Estrada, a biblicist from the University of the Holy Cross,
defined the Gnosticism of a certain apocryphal gospel of the second
century -- which Brown makes ample use of in his novel -- as "the
greatest threat Christianity had" because this philosophical-religious
current professed the rejection of Christ's death on the cross and
Estrada assailed the novel's gross distortion of the relationship
between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
"It was a relationship in spiritual harmony," he said. "More than that,
Jesus made an exceptional gift to Magdalene, the only one charged with
announcing the risen Jesus, even before Peter."
Father Esposito, the vice rector, concluded by appealing to believers
to "give signs ? against the relativism and voids that humanity
"The challenge," he said, "is directed to us, ourselves, not to those
who sell these books and films."
"Da Vinci Code" as an
Opportunity for the Church
Interview With Philippe Oswald of Famille Chrétienne
ROME, MAY 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- This week's release of the film "The
Da Vinci Code" could turn out to be positive, says the head of a French
"An opportunity has been given to us to show the true face of the
Church," affirmed Philippe Oswald, editor in chief of Famille
In this interview, Oswald shared his views about the Dan Brown novel
and about the conclusions of a survey on the book's impact on the
Church in France.
Q: On the occasion of the release of the film "The Da Vinci Code," you
are publishing a survey carried out with IPSOS Institute. What are the
important points of this survey?
Oswald: Out of every 10 people, without distinctions of categories,
questioned in France by IPSOS on Christ and the Church, three thought
that Jesus certainly or probably never existed; one judged that he was
an impostor; only two affirmed his divine nature. Seven said he changed
nothing in their lives; eight thought the Church was an invention of
It is futile to underline how this result confirms the growing
distancing of the French from the faith and simple Christian culture.
In this sample, of 1,000 individuals surveyed, 21% had read and 47% had
heard talk about the novel "The Da Vinci Code." Adding both, 68% of
people surveyed, more than two-thirds, knew more or less what it is
about, obviously a considerable ratio!
However, the survey has confirmed some disquieting differences among
those who had read or had heard talk about the novel, and those who had
no idea of its content.
For example, close to half -- 48% -- of readers of the book do not see
in Jesus anything other than a man, as opposed to less than a third --
29% -- of those who have not read it.
The readers of the book were induced to think that Jesus did not
resurrect; among them, the ratio of those who deny the resurrection is
10.7% higher in relation to those who did not know the novel.
They also no longer think that the Church has a positive role -- 14%
more than those who do not know the book.
More than one-fourth -- 26.4% -- of those who have not read the book
think that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife or mistress; this figure is
already impressive. But of those who have read the book, close to half
-- 48.3% -- came to this conclusion! Does this not call the Church to
an examination of conscience?
Q: How do you explain the passion for this film and the police intrigue
invented by Dan Brown?
Oswald: Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, explained the strange success of a novel
obstinately anti-Christian such as "The Da Vinci Code" by noting "the
extreme cultural poverty of a good part of Christians who often do not
know how to give reasons for their hope."
"The Da Vinci Code" is certainly a "thriller" full of twists. But its
success is still strange, if one considers the number of
implausibilities it accumulates, not only in regard to the Church but
to history in general, including art history -- what it says about
Leonardo da Vinci, supposedly affiliated to a "Priory of Sion," founded
in fact by an illuminati in 1956, should make it lose all credibility.
Having said this, the enthusiasm is also explained by the masses'
fondness for conspiracy theories and the growing challenge to
religions, which also affects Christianity, and which is particularly
addictive among the old prejudices against the Catholic Church,
allegedly "totalitarian" because it is hierarchical. What is more, the
Church has the audacity to warn persistently about moral behavior.
The magisterium's positions on unconditional respect for life, from
conception until death, and heterosexual and indissoluble marriage,
attract a priori challenge or rejection.
However, the Church is "saved" for a majority of people surveyed,
whether or not they read the book, because of its humanitarian
commitment. At least, this is how we interpret the 63% of positive and
very positive answers from the totality of people questioned, but with
the 14-point gap as already indicated by the readers of "The Da Vinci
Code," compared to those who have not heard talk about the book.
Q: As editor in chief of a Catholic family weekly, why do you feel it
is important to report on controversial aspects of Dan Brown's history?
Oswald: Within a few days, on May 17, the manipulation of "The Da Vinci
Code" novel will reach new levels with the première in Cannes of
the film inspired by it.
Dan Brown's ruminations on the alleged "secrets" of the Church, Jesus'
person, his relations with Mary Magdalene, the "invention" of
Christianity by Emperor Constantine, or the dark intentions attributed
to Opus Dei, will have a redoubled impact on spectators who, in the
majority, have but a vague idea of the Catholic religion. It would be
But we can also say that an opportunity has been given to us to show
the true face of the Church. Not only does it have nothing to hide, but
comes out into the open to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ, true God
and true man.
Moreover, our survey also reveals that if 30% of people who read the
book think that it is essentially "rather true," 30% judge it
"completely false." Without prejudging the effect the film will have,
does this not "draw" open avenues for a strategy of communication, or
better, of evangelization?
We have conceived our reply to "The Da Vinci Code" in the spirit of
judo -- that sport of nonviolent combat, which consists in turning the
adversary's force against him. It consists of a series of four numbers
[of Famille Chrétienne] -- May 13, 20, 27 and June 4 -- with
surveys, interviews, feature articles, etc.
They can be received without charge by requesting them at the site
John L. Allen JR (May
Today marks exactly one week from the release of "The Da Vinci Code"
movie, and for those keeping score, we now have six current or former
Vatican officials who have come out swinging against the "Da Vinci"
In March 2005, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa compared Dan Brown's
novel The Da Vinci Code to rotten food, and branded it "a sack full of
lies." Bertone called on Catholic bookstores not to sell it.
More recently, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Italian Capuchin
Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa, offered an unstinting challenge to "The Da
Vinci Code" (while referring to it only as "a certain film") in his
homily at St. Peter's Basilica on Good Friday.
"Christ is being sold again, no longer to the leaders of the Sanhedrin
for 30 denarii, but to editors and booksellers for billions of
denarii," Cantalamessa said, in the presence of the pope. "No one will
succeed in halting this speculative wave."
The current secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, added his voice to the chorus two weeks
ago during a conference on Catholic communications held at the Opus
Dei-run Santa Croce University. Here is what Amato said, arguing that
the anemic Christian response to The Da Vinci Code is an example of
what he called the "extreme cultural poverty" of today's Christians:
Otherwise it's impossible to explain the strange
success of an obstinately anti-Christian novel such as The Da Vinci
Code, which is full of calumnies, offenses, and historical and
theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels, and to the church.
Similar calumnies, offenses and errors addressed to the Koran or the
Shoah would have justifiably provoked global protest; directed,
however, at the church and at Christians, they have impunity. I think
that in these cases Christians should be more determined to reject lies
and gratuitous defamations. I recall that in 1988, when I was at that
time in Washington, D.C., the film "The Last Temptation of Christ" by
Martin Scorsese was shown. That film, extremely annoying and
improbable, was not only contested in lively fashion because it was
historically false, but was also boycotted at the box office, receiving
a merited economic boycott.
Amato added, "I hope that you all will boycott the film."
Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Nigerian who serves as the Vatican's top
official for liturgy, upped the ante even further recently by
suggesting the possibility of lawsuits.
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"There are some other religions which, if you insult their founder,
will not just be talking," Arinze observed in an interview with the
Rome Reports television agency. He spoke as part of a documentary the
agency prepared on The Da Vinci Code, titled "A Masterful Deception."
Arinze recommended practical responses to the novel, possibly including
legal action against the author.
In the same documentary, Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of
the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and himself an Opus Dei
member, called The Da Vinci Code a fantasy, "ridiculous" and totally
ignorant of how the church really works. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins,
prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said it was
disturbing that "no respect is being shown for the hundreds of millions
of people who believe in Christ, the church and the Gospels."
The film opens worldwide May 19. In what must be a galling twist for
these Vatican officials, Rome has been plastered with posters promoting
the film for the last several weeks.
Scholars setting record
straight on Mary Magdalene
Modern biblical scholars are trying to set straight centuries of
erroneous Christian tradition regarding Mary Magdalene, and Dan Brown's
The Da Vinci Code is the least of their concerns.
According to Catholic News Service, in 591 AD Pope St Gregory the Great
preached a sermon in which he identified as one person the New
Testament figures of Mary Magdalene, the sinful woman who anointed
Jesus' feet and washed them with her tears, and the Mary who was the
sister of Lazarus and Martha of Bethany.
Although he was only reflecting a tradition that had gained some ground
in the West (and was resisted by many of the church's early
theologians), the sermon became a reference point for later
scholarship, teaching and preaching in the West, Fr Raymond F Collins,
a New Testament scholar at the Catholic University of America, said in
The Greek Fathers - the great theologians of the early church in the
East, who wrote in Greek - consistently maintained that Mary Magdalene,
the unnamed repentant sinner and Mary of Bethany were three distinct
women. That remains the tradition in the Orthodox churches.
The identification of Mary Magdalene as a repentant sinful woman was
solidified in the Latin Church for centuries by the use of that story,
reported in the seventh chapter of Luke, as the Gospel reading for Mary
Magdalene's feast on 22 July. In fact, in the Roman Calendar before the
Second Vatican Council, the day was called the feast of "Mary
Sr Elizabeth A Johnson, a theologian at Fordham University and a Sister
of St Joseph, said the version of Mary Magdalene as "the prostitute to
whom Jesus forgave much and who loved him ... took on a profound
Christian ideal of a sinner who repents and therefore is a model for
Christians in that way."
"But what got lost in the process," she said, "was her actual role as a
leader of witnessing to the Resurrection in the early church."
She said that the repentant prostitute version of the Magdalene is
"robbing us of [appreciation of] women's leadership at a crucial moment
in the early church. In other words, in a way it's easier ... to deal
with her as a repentant sinner than as she emerges in the Gospels in
her own right."
Fr Collins said: "Luke describes Mary Magdalene as a woman from whom
Jesus cast out seven demons, and that characterisation of Mary
Magdalene is repeated in the longer canonical ending of Mark's Gospel."
But he noted that in Jesus' time it was not uncommon to attribute
physical or mental afflictions to demonic possession and this did not
imply that the possessed person was sinful. "Whatever affected Mary
Magdalene was considered to be the effect of demonic possession so she
would not have been considered a public sinner the way the medieval
legends have made her out to be," he said.
He said she is called the Magdalene because she comes from Magdala - a
fishing village up in northern Galilee.
He said one also learns from Luke "that she supported Jesus from her
resources," suggesting that she was a woman of some means, and that she
was one of several women from Galilee who were disciples of Jesus and
Luke's Gospel is the only one that mentions Mary Magdalene by name in
the narration of Jesus' public ministry. But all four Gospel writers
place her as a witness to Jesus' death on the cross, a witness to his
burial and the chief witness to his resurrection, making her one of the
most significant female figures in the Gospels apart from Jesus' own
Sr Elizabeth said that when one looks at the Magdalene's biblical role
as the one the risen Christ appears to and commissions to announce the
good news to the others it has "many implications for how we tell the
story of the origins of the church."
"There is the typical story of where Jesus chose the Twelve and put
Peter in charge and the women, you know, were accessories," she said.
"When you put Mary Magdalene into the picture, you can't tell the story
that way so simply anymore."
Da Vinci's Secret
Interview With Giuseppe Fornari
ROME, MARCH 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Few would think to question Leonardo
da Vinci's genius, yet his life and works have often been the object of
Some books have presented him as an unbeliever and homosexual, who was
threatened by the Church. Others, such as Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci
Code," present him as a master of esotericism.
To help put things in their right place, philosopher Giuseppe Fornari
has just published a book entitled, "La bellezza e il nulla.
L'antropologia cristiana di Leonardo da Vinci" (Beauty and Nothingness:
The Christian Anthropology of Leonardo da Vinci), published by Marietti.
In the work, Fornari argues that "far from being a heretic and
blasphemer, a compiler of riddles (as pop esotericism would like)
Leonardo was rather a tormented Christian, irregular by necessity but
profound and impassioned." He shared more in this interview with ZENIT.
Q: Several authors have spread the idea that Leonardo da Vinci was a
"naturalist" who was distant or even opposed to Catholic thought and
culture. In your book, you argue just the opposite. Can you explain why?
Fornari: The principal error, committed for example by Sigmund Freud,
lies in attributing to Leonardo a naturalist vision similar to that of
the 19th and 20th centuries. There could be no greater distortion of
Leonardo was already a modern because he saw nature as an immense whole
of forces and phenomena that man must try to know, and over which he
has the right to intervene, wherever possible.
The great difference in regard to the vision that prevails today, is
that for him these forces are of a profoundly spiritual character,
understanding spirit as an energy and end which is not material, which
is within nature itself, and which refers to a transcendent origin.
And such a vision not only is not in contradiction with the Catholic
vision, but rather corroborates it in the most penetrating way.
Undoubtedly it was a vision that was too advanced for the age, as
documented for us by the misunderstandings of [biographer] Giorgio
Vasari, concerned that Leonardo's scientific researchers might have led
him to religiously skeptical and heretical positions.
It is, therefore, an old prejudice, which is based essentially on a
Q: In your opinion, which are the pictorial works in which Leonardo
expresses his affinity with Christian culture and theology?
Fornari: Without a doubt, in all his works with a religious theme, one
sees a growing maturation which finds the fullness of its maturity in
the "Adoration of the Magi."
A constant in such paintings is meditation on the reality and
centrality of the sacrifice, accepted by Christ for the salvation of
humanity, a meditation that came to him from Tradition and from the
suggestions of theologians with whom he was in contact every now and
then, but which Leonardo deepened increasingly in the light of
difficult personal experiences, marked by his condition of illegitimate
All this led him to give an interpretation of moving truth and
profundity to the great themes of the Incarnation, the Fatherhood of
God and the motherhood of Mary.
I will give you just one example that impressed me especially during
the preparation of the book: the "Benois Madonna" kept in the Hermitage
on St. Petersburg.
In this work, still youthful, we see a Mary who is virtually a girl,
who gazes with a smile full of ingenuous joy, and with a secret
melancholy, barely insinuated, at the Child she holds in her arms,
absorbed in the contemplation of a flower, symbol of his future
It is a scene that is charged with moving connotations if we think of
the little Leonardo, who was separated when he was still small, from
his very young natural mother, Catalina, obliged to marry, in a
marriage of reparation, and to leave little "Lionardo" in the father's
How can one not refer to the wisely filtrated re-elaboration of a
traumatic experience, which Leonardo undoubtedly knew from his mother
herself, in addition to his own emotional scars? In this sort of
"flashback" one can measure Leonardo's closeness with the most profound
content of the Christian message, through the cognitive re-elaboration
of his own experience.
Q: You say that for Leonardo artistic beauty is the means by which man
is united with God. Can you illustrate this concept?
Fornari: It is an articulated and complex argument because, to
reconstruct it, we must unite explicit observations of Leonardo with
what can be deduced from other testimonies, above all from his own
Leonardo begins with a vision that goes back at least partially to
Florentine Platonism, according to which, beauty belongs to an ideal
sphere, superior to the corruption of the material world, but this
reflection is full of implications that are in no way consoling.
The same prodigious facility with which he knew how to give visible
form to this "divine beauty" must have put him on guard. His enormous
talent in fact also gave him the power to use it for other ends, such
as vanity, ambition and sensuality.
The beauty of art therefore is ambiguous and depends on the way in
which we respond with our freedom to its ambiguity: if we opt for its
authentically spiritual orientation, or if we remain with a more
equivocal vision. I believe this meditation on the ambivalence of
beauty, and on its claim on our liberty, became an ever more important
topic in this artist's career.
The only way out is the image of Christ himself. By accepting to be
equal to us and to die for us, he shows us the only solution: the
acceptance of suffering and sacrifice for love of others.
In this way, through him, we can rise again, and the beauty of the
world, which seemed to be and was destroyed, resurrects through love.
The image of Christ makes a reality the image and likeness of God, by
whom we were created, and the beauty of Christ is revealed as the
beauty of the resurrected body, of creation led to redemption.
With God himself, who makes himself our image, we ourselves become his
image. I believe that this is the secret of the greatest Christian art,
the secret of Leonardo's art.
The Da Vinci
Did Dan Brown Really Borrow From Holy Blood, Holy Grail?
Carl E. Olson | February 27, 2006
Novelist Dan Brown is being sued in England for alleged
breach of copyright law by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, two of
the three authors of the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Dell, 1983). The
Chicago Tribune reports that Dan Brown's lawyer has said the following
about his client's alleged use of Holy Blood, Holy Grail in The Da
But Jonathan Baldwin, representing Random House, said Baigent and Leigh
were making "wild allegations." He said they were suggesting that "Mr.
Brown has appropriated not only the numerous parts of a jigsaw puzzle
but the organizational way (Baigent and Leigh) put it together."
"In brief, the complaint appears to be that 'The Holy Blood and the
Holy Grail' discloses the idea that Jesus was married to Mary
Magdalene, that they had children which survived and married into a
line of French kings, that the lineage continues today, and that there
is a secret society based in France which has the objective of
restoring this lineage to the thrones not only of France but to the
thrones of other European nations as well, and that ('The Da Vinci
Code') uses some of this idea," Baldwin said.
He said Brown referred to "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" in his
novel, but the earlier book "did not have anything like the importance
to Mr. Brown which the claimants contend it had."
So, Baldwin admits to Brown referring to some of the major premises of
Holy Blood, Holy Grail (New York, 1982, 1983) but suggests that Brown's
novel does not draw deeply from the book by Michael Baigent, Richard
Liegh, and Henry Lincoln, nor really follow its structure or
organization. True or not true? Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that
the attorney for the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail isn't, of
course, buying that argument:
Counsel for the two writers today disputed claims by Mr Brown, one of
the highest paid authors in history, that their work was "incidental"
to the creation of The Da Vinci Code, which has sold more than 40m
copies worldwide. Jonathan James, QC, told Mr Justice Peter Smith in
the chancery division of the high court today that this was an
"extraordinary claim that would surprise anyone who has read The Da
Vinci Code after reading The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail".
The QC said Mr Baigent and Mr Leigh's theory had "spawned many other
books" that explored aspects of their historical conjecture in a
variety of ways. But he added that only The Da Vinci Code had "lifted
the central theme of the book"- the theory that Jesus and Mary
Magdalene married, had a child, and the bloodline continues to this
day, with the Catholic Church trying to suppress the discovery. Mr
James said "many people all over the world" had commented that the
novel had lifted this focal theme.
Indeed many readers have noticed the "lifting" of "this focal theme"
(and others), including myself and Sandra Miesel in our book The Da
Vinci Hoax, where we note several times how Brown relies upon the 1983
book. Here in more detail is a look at some of the words, phrases, and
ideas that The Da Vinci Code appears to borrow from Holy Blood, Holy
The Alleged Marriage of Jesus
and Mary Magdalene
At the heart of Holy Blood, Holy Grail's elaborate
pseudo-historical meanderings and conspiracy theories is the belief
that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. As nearly everyone knows,
the central premise of The Da Vinci Code is that Jesus and Mary
Magdalene were married:
"As I said earlier, the message of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of
the historical record." He [Teabing] began pawing through his book
collection. "Moreover, Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more
sense than our standard biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor." (p 245)
Then: "Because Jesus was a Jew," Langdon said, taking over while
Teabing searched for his book, "and the social decorum during that time
virtually forbid 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." (p 245)
Compare those remarks to this passage from Holy Blood, Holy
Grail: According to Judaic custom at the time it was not only
usual, but almost mandatory, that a man be married. Except among
certain Essenes in certain communities, celibacy was vigorously
condemned. During the late first century one Jewish writer even
compared deliberate celibacy with murder, and he does not seem to have
been alone in this attitude. And it was as obligatory for a Jewish
father to find a wife for his son as it was to ensure that his son be
circumcised. (pp 330-331).
The similarities are obvious, especially the re-use of certain
words/phrases: "Judaic/Jewish custom","celibacy was condemned," "a
Jewish father ... to find a wife for his son."
On page 246 of The Da Vinci Code, Sophie reads from the gnostic text,
The Gospel of Philip (c. 250), citing a passage about the gnostic Jesus
and his love for his "companion, "Mary Magdalene, a love demonstrated
by many kisses on the mouth. Teabing says, "As any Aramaic scholar will
tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse"
(p. 246). In Holy Blood, Holy Grail, before providing the same quote,
the authors state: "According to one scholar he word 'companion' is to
be translated as 'spouse'" (p 382).
Mary Magdalene as the Holy
The Da Vinci Code claims that Mary Magdalene, not a chalice or cup, is
the true Holy Grail. Teabing states, "The Holy Grail is not a thing. It
is, in fact ... a person" (p 236). And Langdon explains that "the Grail
is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail
represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now
been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church." (p 238).
A few moments later, gazing at a reproduction of The Last Supper,
Sophie is told by Teabing that the person seated to the right of Christ
in that painting is Mary Magdalene (p 243). And then Teabing states:
"The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her
dangerous secret––her role as the Holy Grail" (p 244). And: "Not only
was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene
was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline
of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine
from which the sacred fruit sprang forth!"
The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail write:
Perhaps the Magdalen––that elusive woman in the Gospels––was in fact
Jesus' wife. Perhaps their union produced offspring. ... Perhaps there
was, in short, a hereditary bloodline descended directly from Jesus.
Perhaps this bloodline, this supreme sang rééal, then
perpetuated itself, intact and incognito, for some four hundred
years––which is not, after all, a very long time for an important
lineage. (p 313)
At the same time the Holy Grail would have been, quite literally, the
receptacle or vessel that is received and contained Jesus' blood. In
other words it would have been the womb of the Magdalen––and by
extension, the Magdalen herself. ... The Holy Grail, then, would have
symbolized both Jesus' bloodline and the Magdalen, from whose womb that
bloodline issued. (p 400)
Regarding Mary Magdalene's background, The Da Vinci Code says she is of
the Tribe/House of Benjamin and "of royal descent" (p 248). Then
Teabing states: "By marrying into the powerful House of Benjamin, Jesus
fused two royal bloodlines, creating a potent political union with the
potential of making a legitimate claim to the throne and restoring the
line of kings as it was under Solomon" (p 249)
Meanwhile, Holy Blood, Holy Grail states that Jesus, "of the line of
David and thus also a member of the tribe of Judah," needed to marry a
"Benjamite woman" in order to have a legitimate claim to the throne.
"Such a marriage would have constituted an important dynastic alliance
and one filled with political consequence. ... Jesus would have been a
priest-king of the line of David who possessed a legitimate claim to
the throne. He would have consolidated his position by a symbolically
important dynastic marriage." (p 347).
Constantine and the Council
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
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." (p 232)
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
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"
Many Streams, Same Water
On page 253 of The Da Vinci Code there is a list of four titles found
on the bookshelves of historian Leigh Teabing. "The best-known tome,"
Teabing tells Sophie, is a "tattered hardcover" book, Holy Blood, Holy
Grail. He adds: "This caused quite a stir back in the nineteen
eighties. To my taste, the authors make some dubious leaps of faith in
their analysis, but their fundamental premise is sound, and to their
credit, they finally brought the idea of Christ's bloodline into the
mainstream" (p 254). What Teabing thinks "dubious" remains unclear
since he refers to or repeats most of the major claims of the book. And
Brown also seems agreeable to those claims, as he explained in this
December 17, 2004, National Geographic article:
"I began as a skeptic," Brown says in the special, which premiered this
past Sunday. "As I started researching The Da Vinci Code, I really
thought I would disprove a lot of this theory about Mary Magdalene and
holy blood and all of that. I became a believer."
It's worth noting that the other three sources listed on the same page
of the novel as Holy Blood, Holy Grail, all draw heavily from that same
work. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, authors of The Templar Revelation
(Touchstone, 1998), write that Holy Blood, Holy Grail was "originally a
particular inspiration to both of us" and that "we owe a debt of
gratitude to all these writers for the light they have shed on our
shared areas of investigation, but we believe that all of them have
failed to find the essential key to the heart of these mysteries" (p
16). At least part of that "heart" is the belief Jesus was a high
priest in an Egyptian mystery religion oriented around the worship of
Isis and Osiris, and was "not so much the Son of God as a devoted Son
of the Goddess" (p 297). Although Brown passed over that notion, he did
apparently take up many of Picknett and Princes' strange ideas about
the artwork of Leonardo da Vinci, drawing heavily from the first
chapter of their book, "The Secret Code of Leonardo da Vinci" (pp
19-35) in making his claims about The Last Supper and Virgin of the
Rocks, most notably the idea that the person to the right of Christ in
the first painting is Mary Magdalene (in The Messianic Legacy ,
the sequel to Holy Blood, Holy Grail, it is claimed that Jesus' "twin
brother", Jude Thomas, sits as his right hand in that painting [pp
The other two books, Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred
Feminine (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 1998), and The Woman with
the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail (Rochester, VT:
Bear & Company,1993), are by Margaret Starbird, a former Catholic
catechist who has been described by Episcopalian bishop John Shelby
Spong as "a seeker after truth, not a defender of doctrine. She
recognizes that orthodoxy is orthodox because it won and not
necessarily because it is true" (from back cover of The Woman with the
Alabaster Jar). Starbird admits that she turned her back on orthodox
Catholic teachings after reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail in the 1980s:
"The more deeply involved I became with the material, the more obvious
it became that there was real substance in the theories set for in
reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail. And gradually I found myself won over
to the central tenets of the Grail heresy, the very theory I had
originally set out to discredit" (The Woman with the Alabaster Jar,
xx-xxi). (How ironic that Brown's admission of falling under the spell
of the holy blood theory so closely echoes that of Margaret Starbird.
Could that admission be borrowed as well?)
Whether or not Brown has infringed upon copyright laws is up to the
English court of law. But it is clear that he has gone to the Holy
Blood, Holy Grail well many times, both directly and indirectly
incorporating large amounts of information from that book into his
novel. Such, apparently, accounts for his vaunted research and
scholarship. And so the Coded Craziness continues, bouncing from
best-seller charts to courts of law to the silver screen.
•• Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code | Excerpts from The Da
Vinci Hoax |
Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel
•• The "It's Just Fiction!" Doctrine: Reading Too Little Into The Da
Vinci Code |
Carl E. Olson
Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.
He is the co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da
Vinci Code and author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? He has
written for numerous Cathlic periodicals and is a regular contributor
to National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor newspapers.
He resides in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between
Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. Visit his personal web
site at www.carl-olson.com .
The Code and Gnosticism: A
Response to Steve Kellmeyer
by Carl Olson April 17, 2006
When Sandra Miesel and I wrote The Da Vinci Hoax, we expected to be
criticized by fans of The Da Vinci Code (TDVC). And we expected that
some of that criticism would be uncharitable and illogical. We haven't,
so to speak, been disappointed. But when a fellow Catholic and critic
of TDVC recently wrote a column titled "Does Ignatius Press promote
Gnosticism?" and made a number of dubious and incorrect statements
about The Da Vinci Hoax, I was both surprised and disappointed.
The article was written by Steve Kellmeyer, a graduate of Franciscan
University and author of several books, including Fact and Fiction in
The Da Vinci Code, a 96-page work published in 2004 by Kellmeyer's
Bridesgroom Press. I have never met Kellmeyer or spoken to him (nor
have I read Fact and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code), but have read
several of his articles in recent years.
"The whole Gnostic line is just a throw-away argument"
Kellmeyer's article seems to have been inspired, in part, by my April
5th post on the Insight Scoop blog, which addressed the media furor
over the so-called "Gospel of Judas," a gnostic text written sometime
in the late second century A.D. At the end of my post, I provided a
quote about gnosticism from The Da Vinci Hoax. Kellmeyer left a
comment, stating, in part (all quotes by Kellmeyer are in blue text):
You know, everyone is on about how the Da Vinci Code is Gnostic. The
whole argument is crap. ...
Just because you guys keep saying it is Gnostic doesn't make it so. DVC
isn't Gnostic. It takes the Gnostic gospels as much out of context as
it does the real Gospels. The whole Gnostic line is just a throw-away
argument Brown uses to open a discussion on the idea that Jesus was
really just a man. He mentions the Gnostic thing for about three pages,
then never returns to it.
In fact, the whole DVC plot-line is built around a paganized version of
the Theology of the Body. You know - sex is holy, marriage is holy,
women should be treated like goddesses (i.e., in the image and likeness
of God). That's Catholic doctrine.
That comment then led to an exchange of remarks between Kellmeyer and
Mark Brumley, CEO of Ignatius Press and associate publisher of
IgnatiusInsight.com. In that exchange, Kellmeyer made the following
Not everything Marx said related to economics, nor does everything the
Gnostic gospels say relate to Gnosticism. A careful DVC reader who is
knowledgeable about Gnosticism will recognize that Brown uses the
Gnostic Gospels twice (once from the Gospel of Philip to "prove" that
Jesus was married - no Gnostic would do that) and then he never uses
But Catholic apologists were so bent on finding a heresy in DVC that
they immediately fixated on the word "Gnostic" in the book, even though
that was essentially the only heresy Brown DIDN'T espouse (pardon the
pun). The whole thing is laughable. The Gospel of Judas is in the news
precisely because Catholic apologists have been advertising a heresy
that didn't exist. ...
I don't believe the novel even uses the word "Gnostic." It certainly
doesn't use a single Gnostic idea. It quotes from ancient documents
that have Gnostic elements, but it doesn't use the Gnostic elements and
it doesn't use the quotes to support Gnostic ideas. The only reason it
quotes from those documents is that they are ANCIENT and they aren't
Christian. That lends a veneer of respectibility to the entirely modern
argument that is brought forward - the modern infatuation with goddess
And don't hand me that bit about Catholics having no influence on the
media. There have been a lot of Catholic apologists on a lot of MSM
outlets and all of them having been pushing this Gnostic line. If you
all are so inconsequential, then why did you print all those books and
DVDs? Who did you sell them to? Give me a break.
Over at The Da Vinci Hoax blog, Kellmeyer's comments -- made in
response to this April 11 post -- were even more caustic:
Will Ignatius be producing a DVD that exposes the erros in their own Da
Vinci Hoax? Such as the erroneous idea that the DVC is Gnostic, an idea
promulgated by Ignatius Press (among others), an idea which made the
current uproar over the Gospel of Judas possible? I'm just looking
forward to an admission of error here, that's all.
And, after Brumley responds -- "If Steve Kellmeyer is looking for an
admission of error, he is certainly free to offer one" -- Kellmeyer
Alright. "On behalf of Mark Brumley and Ignatius Press, we apologize
for having mislead people into thinking the Da Vinci Code was a Gnostic
heresy, when it has nothing to do with Gnosticism at all. Dan Brown's
execrable research, which we were attempting to debunk, was in this
case matched by our own failure to read and think about what he
actually wrote. As a result, we spend a fair amount of time in both our
book and our DVD tilting at straw men. Again, Ignatius Press deeply
apologizes for the errors in its material." Just send that out in a
press release, Mark. Thanks.
Gnosticism and the Code
I quote these comments at length because as surprised as I am at
Kellmeyer's insistence that Sandra Miesel and I misrepresent what TDVC
says about gnosticism and that, in fact, we have created a "straw man,"
I am even more surprised at the uncharitable and mocking tone of
Kellmeyer's comments. Granted, they are made on a blog, and are
therefore far more informal than remarks found in articles or essays.
Yet, apparently upset that Brumley had finally blocked him from making
further comments on the two Ignatius Press-operated blogs (because
Kellmeyer failed to change the sarcastic and angry tone of his
comments), Kellmeyer decided to take his criticisms to a broader
audience, publishing "Does Ignatius Press promote Gnosticism?" on the
"Renew America" website on the afternoon of April 12th, less than two
days after his first comment on the Insight Scoop blog.
And so, since I know that some readers are puzzled about Kellmeyer's
article and since many of Kellmeyer's accusations call for correction
and/or response -- especially since a couple of those accusations are
quite severe -- I am going to address the comments made in that article
and make some related observations related.
"Gnosticism: The Religion of the Code" | That's Chapter 1 of Carl Olson
and Sandra Miesel's book, The Da Vinci Hoax. While the book has been a
moderately competent debunk of Dan Brown's novel, there has always been
one aspect of it that has been in error, and it is admirably laid out
in the title to chapter 1.
The Da Vinci Hoax has been moderately competent enough to earn strong
praise from Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago ("the
definitive debunking"), Dr. Philip Jenkins (author of Hidden Gospels),
Dr. James Hitchcock, Dr. Darrell Bock (New Testament scholar and author
of Breaking the Da Vinci Code), The Washington Times, and many others.
And FaithfulReader.com, in a review of several "debunking books"
(including Kellmeyer's book) says of our book: "More than the other
titles, this book looks at the cultural and religious factors that have
combined to contribute to the success of DVC" and "[its authors]
provide a wealth of richly detailed historical and theological
information in their extensive volume."
Gnosticism has absolutely nothing to do with the Da Vinci Code.
And yet Kellmeyer, in one of his comments on the Insight Scoop blog,
states: "A careful DVC reader who is knowledgeable about Gnosticism
will recognize that Brown uses the Gnostic Gospels twice (once from the
Gospel of Philip to "prove" that Jesus was married - no Gnostic would
do that) and then he never uses them again." So "absolutely" must not
be completely absolute.
More importantly, within the novel itself are the following references
to gnosticism and gnostic texts:
•• On page 231 of TDVC, the character Leigh Teabing claims that "more
than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament...," a clear
reference to gnostic texts, even though Brown's numbers are well off
•• On page 234, Teabing refers to "the gospels that Constantine
attempted to eradicate," first mentioning the Dead Sea scrolls, then
"the Coptic Scrolls [found] in 1945 at Nag Hammadi." The Nag Hammadi
documents, which were discovered in Egypt in 1945, include numerous
gnostic texts. They also fueled a resurgent interest in gnosticism that
has been quite influential over the past several decades (more on that
•• Later (p 245), Teabing opens "a huge book" identified asThe Gnostic
Gospels, referring to either the 1979 book by Elaine Pagels -- a key
work in bringing some of the Nag Hammadi texts to a popular readership
-- or to The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation (Anchor Bible
Reference Bible), in which case Brown has the title wrong.
•• Teabing explains to Sophie that the these documents are "the
earliest Christian records," but that "they do not match up with the
gospels in the Bible." This is a key theme in the novel: the gnostics
were the first and real Christians, and the gnostic texts offer the
earliest and most accurate account of the life of Jesus. And it is
obvious that this claim has resonated strongly among TDVC readers
(including many talking heads in the mainstream media), despite the
equally obvious fact that Brown knows little about actual ancient
gnosticism or gnostic teachings.
•• Teabing quotes a passage from the gnostic text, "The Gospel of
Philip," seeking to prove to Sophie from the text that Jesus and Mary
Magdalene were married. He also references "several other passages" to
the same end. In writing this section of the novel, Brown most likely
relied upon the work of radical feminist and former Catholic Margaret
Starbird, author of The Goddess in the Gospels andThe Woman With the
Alabaster Jar. Both books are prominently mentioned in TDVC (p. 253).
Both books, especially The Goddess in the Gospels, draw upon gnostic
texts and gnostic/neo-gnostic themes, especially the elevation of
androgyny, subversion of orthodox authority, and the pursuit of elite
and hidden knowledge. Starbird, in The Goddess in the Gospels, uses the
quote from "The Gospel of Philip" to support her beliefs that Jesus and
Mary Magdalene were sacred lovers, that the Magdalene was persecuted by
the orthodox Church, that God can be known through direct experience
without need of a Church or structure, and that the Church hates the
sacred feminine (pp 119-122). All of these neo-gnostic/neo-pagan
notions are picked up and used by Brown.
•• On page 247 of TDVC, Teabing quotes from the gnostic text, "The
Gospel of Mary Magdalene." Later, on page 248, he refers to the gnostic
"gospels" as "unaltered gospels," again feeding the myth that
gnosticism presents a more historically accurate picture of
first-century Christianity (a myth also used by those promoting the
"Gospel of Judas").
•• On page 308, Langdon explains to Sophie that gnosis —— "knowledge of
the divine" —— is achieved through "sacred marriage", or "physical
union." This is a neo-gnostic reworking of the ancient gnostic notion
of syzygy -- the spiritual wholeness achieved when spiritual beings
exist in male and female pairs (more on this below).
There's no doubt that Brown is rather clueless about ancient
gnosticism, which most scholars agree appeared in the early to
mid-second century A.D. Those who have read our chapter on gnosticism
(pp 45-72, The Da Vinci Hoax) know that we take Brown to task for his
skewed and selective use of gnosticism. But, we also explain in detail
that his sloppy and syncretistic use of gnosticism -- especially as it
is blended with radical feminism, goddess worship, and other New Age
notions -- is characteristic of what Dr. Carl A. Raschke, author of The
Interruption of Eternity: Modern Gnosticism and the Origins of the New
Religious Consciousness (Nelson-Hall, 1980) a study of gnosticism in
recent centuries, calls "modern gnosticism." As Raschke and many others
have shown, this modern form of gnosticism (like ancient gnosticism)
thrives on revolting against "organized" or "conventional" religion and
often promotes deviant forms of morality, especially sexual mortality.
In the first chapter of our book, we write:
"These comments [by Pagels] touch on gnostic themes found within The Da
Vinci Code: suspicion of tradition, distrust of authority, dislike for
dogma and objective statements of faith, and the pitting of the
individual against the institution. There is also the promise of secret
knowledge, which is one of the reasons for the novel's success. Readers
believe that they are being let in on a secret that has been hidden for
centuries -- a bloody and damning cover-up by an ancient and powerful
institution. This has always been the promise of gnosticism: freedom
from authority, insight into reality, and enlightenment that goes
beyond normality." (The Da Vinci Hoax, pp 46-47)
TDVC's promise of secret knowledge involves not only the "truth" about
oppressive institutions (the Catholic Church), but the means to direct
spiritual experience, such as that described on the final page of the
novel (p 454), when Robert Langdon falls on his knees "with a sudden
upswelling of reverence" as he encounters the goddess Mary Magdalene
("the wisdom of the ages," another neo-gnostic conceit). Or via sexual
intercourse, which Langdon says clears the mind and allows man to "see
God." The radical dualism between "the spiritual" and institution is a
central theme of TDVC, which constantly depicts Langdon -- the
sophisticated, intellectual Harvard "symbologist" -- as having
intuitive, special knowledge (a form of gnosis), while the Catholic
Church (or Opus Dei, or "the Vatican") controls Catholics via fear,
superstition, and suppressive doctrines and practices. This is simply a
reworking of the ancient gnostic belief that a few, elite individuals
will know the truth, while the rest of humanity is doomed to live
Radical Feminism and Neo-Gnosticism
Our chapter on gnosticism has several pages devoted to modern radical
feminism and its use (or, misuse) of gnosticism to promote beliefs that
undermine orthodox Christianity by selectively appealing to ancient
gnosticism. When we describe gnosticism as "the religion of the code",
we do not argue that Brown is a true-blue, second-century gnostic, but
that he (like many radical feminists and New Age types), uses certain
gnostic elements to promote his particular anti-Catholic ideology and
Nor do we deny that he points readers toward embracing the "sacred
feminine" and rediscovering goddess worship. On the contrary, we point
out several times how radical feminism has been at the forefront of
using (oftentimes selectively) ancient gnostic texts to promote, among
other things, goddess worship, pro-androgynous beliefs, and
anti-Christian attitudes. Dr. Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor
of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University,
writes: "Feminist scholars and theologians have been the most ambitious
in using the newly found gospels [referring in particular to the Nag
Hammadi documents] to reconstruct the early churches in their own
image" (Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way [Oxford
University Press, 2001], 124). As Jenkins demonstrates in a chapter
titled "Daughters of Sophia", use of gnostic texts by feminist
activists began in the nineteenth century and was especially popular in
the 1890s and early 1900s. In a lecture, "How Gnostic Jesus Became the
Christ of Scholars," given in August, 2000, Jenkins provides a detailed
history of the marriage between feminism and gnosticism, and states:
"Particularly between about 1880 and 1920, a cascade of new discoveries
transformed attitudes to early Christianity, both the mainstream and
the heretical fringes. The most exciting find involved portions of the
Gospel of Thomas located in Egypt, and then known simply as the Sayings
of Jesus. Though the work did not have quite the revolutionary impact
that it has on modern scholars, quotations from Thomas were appearing
in works of popular piety long before the Nag Hammadi finds. And just
as modern writers claim Thomas as a fifth gospel, so many experts a
hundred years ago awarded a similar laurel to the recently found Gospel
of Peter. Many of the insights and observations which have been based
on the recently found Gnostic texts were also well-known before 1900.
Even the special role of women disciples, which has attracted so much
comment in recent years, was already being discussed in that epoch. The
notion was quoted in feminist and New Age writings of the early
twentieth century - and though this tends to be forgotten in modern
writings, both feminists and New Age adherents wrote extensively on
early Christianity in this period. Radical perspectives on religion
were not an innovation of the 1960s. The new speculations reached a
mass audience through magazines, newspapers and novels: they were
thoroughly familiar to any reasonably well-informed layperson."
Jenkins later states: "If we look back a century or so, we find that
not only were early heresies still known and studied, but they achieved
a popular audience in large measure through their appeal to occult and
esoteric movements, who saw the early Gnostics as their spiritual
ancestors." He then shows howthe Theosophical movement, various occult
movements, and many Westerners attracted to forms of Asian mysticism
have drawn heavily from ancient gnosticism in creating syncretistic
forms of spiritualities. He notes that
"...it was the early esoteric writers who first comprehended the
implications of the new documents for women's role in early
Christianity. Indeed, the materials were present for a feminist
revision of early Christian history. Just how thoroughgoing such an
endeavor could be was indicated by Frances Swiney's important book The
Esoteric Teachings of the Gnostics (1909), which is virtually forgotten
today. Though she writes from an occult or theosophical perspective,
Swiney has much in common with modern scholars like Elaine Pagels or
Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, who attempt to restore the lost voices of
the women of early Christianity."
Philip G. Davis, professor of religious studies at the University of
Prince Edward Island, has also studied this connection extensively,
especially in his book Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist
Spirituality (Spence, 1998). He writes: "People who were dabbling in
esoteric traditions like Gnosticism, or attempting to rediscover the
spirituality of the ancient Egyptians, Norse, or Celts, frequently came
face to face with female images of the divine. These goddesses or
female symbols from the past seemed to offer stimulating insights into
modern life. Gnosis, one of the most 'academic' of New Age journals,
devoted its entire Fall 1989 issue to the Goddess" (Goddess Unmasked, p
One example (out of many possible examples) of the recent feminist use
of ancient gnosticism can be found in Riani Eisler's The Chalice and
the Blade: Our History, Our Future (Harper & Row, 1988), which, in
the words of one reviewer, "has inspired a generation of women and men
to envision a truly egalitarian society by exploring the legacy of the
peaceful, goddess-worshipping cultures from our prehistoric past." Many
of Eisler's claims will be familiar to readers of TDVC, especially when
it comes to ancient gnostic texts: "To gain a better understanding of
the real nature of early Christianity, we have to go outside the
official scriptures contained in the New Testament to other ancient
Christian documents, some of which have only recently been found" (pp
124-25). She then discusses the Nag Hammadi documents, the work of
Elaine Pagels, and argues that the first gnostics were persecuted by
"orthodox" Christians because they believed in "the idea of the divine
as female" (p 127). She then argues -- without support or citation --
that ancient gnosticism was derived "from the earlier religious
tradition when the Goddess was worshipped and priestesses were her
earthly representatives" (p 128).
Another key connection between radical feminism, gnosticism, and
goddess worship is, we write in The Da Vinci Hoax, "a deity who is a
perfect balance of feminine and masculine." Here is a lengthy quote
from our discussion of this topic:
Some gnostic groups believed that the divine should be considered
"masculofeminine -- the 'great male-female power.' Others claimed that
the terms were meant only as metaphors, since, in reality, the divine
is neither male nor female. A third group suggested that one can
describe the primal Source in either masculine or feminine terms,
depending on which aspect one intends to stress." Pagels adds:
"Proponents of these diverse views agreed that the divine is to be
understood in terms of a harmonious, dynamic relationship of opposites
-- a concept that may be akin to the Eastern view of yin and yang, but
remains alien to orthodox Judaism and Christianity" (Gnostic Gospels,
The gnostic deity is both god and goddess, and the Gnostics despised
the Christians for "suppressing" the feminine nature of the godhead. In
The Da Vinci Code, Langdon lectures Sophie about this, telling her that
the Priory of Sion believes that the Emperor Constantine and his
successors "successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism
to patriarchal Christianity" by employing "a campaign of propaganda
that demonized the sacred feminine", destroying goddess worship and
insuring that modern religion would be male-oriented (TDVC, p 124).
This suppression resulted, Brown's novel tells readers, in a warped and
unbalanced humanity, overly masculine and lacking in feminine balance:
"The days of the goddess were over. The pendulum had swung. Mother
Earth had become a man's world, and the gods of destruction and war
were taking their toll." Readers are informed that the "male ego" has
run amuck, without being balanced or controlled at all by its feminine
counterpart. This has led to the "obliteration of the sacred feminine
in modern life", resulting in imbalanced lives, "testosterone-fueled
wars", woman-hating societies, and "a growing disrespect for Mother
Earth" (TDVC, pp 125-6).
Many gnostics not only believed the true God is androgynous, but that
humanity was also meant to be androgynous, or "masculo-feminine". Some
gnostics interpreted Genesis 1:27 as saying God created "male-female",
not "male and female". Certain gnostic texts describe the Divinity as a
"bisexual Power" and state that humanity is a "male-female being".
There are references to God as Father and Mother -- a "dyad" of both
masculine and feminine. This focus on an androgynous ideal is often
referred to in contemporary, neo-gnostic works as "wholeness", a
favorite term among many feminists as well. Margaret Starbird, whose
books The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and The Goddess in the Gospels
are referred to in The Da Vinci Code, repeatedly refers to "the
partnership paradigm", which she describes as "the imaging of the
Divine as both Bride and Bridegroom". This is necessary, she explains,
so that the "collective psyche" of humanity will be healed, made whole,
and restored. The essential purpose of this? "We must value our own
feelings and emotions, our own intuitions, our own experience, our own
selves. We must honor our own journeys." Wholeness, it seems, is merely
self-absorption and narcissism.
The idea of an androgynous, "whole" humanity makes an appearance in The
Da Vinci Code. In talking to Sophie about the Mona Lisa, Langdon claims
that the Mona Lisa is "neither male nor female", but an androgynous
portrait that is "a fusing of both" (TDVC, p 120). This is wishful
thinking on the part of Langdon (and Brown), since reputable art
historians agree the portrait has nothing to do with androgyny, but is
simply a masterful painting of an Italian lady, (most likely Mona Lisa
Gherardini, the wife of merchant Francesco del Giocondo). However, the
idea that Mona Lisa depicts an androgynous person does fit with the
gnostic beliefs that those who were enlightened by gnosis needed to be
in pairs -- male and female -- forming a perfect whole, or "syzygy".
Thus, Jesus would require a female counterpart who would make him
complete; in gnostic writings that woman, of course, was Jesus'
"consort", Mary Magdalene. (The Da Vinci Hoax, pp 50-54, some footnotes
Muddying the waters, of course, is the fact that Brown proposes the
androgynous ideal and maintains a traditional romance story involving
Langdon and Sophie. Yet, although he fails to spell it out in any
detail, Brown's description of Jesus as the sexual partner of Mary
Magdalene draws from this gnostic idea (again, relying heavily on the
work of Margaret Starbird, whose books obsess over this topic). Since,
Jenkins explains, "the Gnostic world-view demanded that spiritual
beings exist in male and female pairs, forming a common whole, a
syzygy; how could Jesus exist without his counterpart, with whom he
merged in spiritual -- and perhaps sexual -- union?" (Hidden Gospels, p
Brown, again, brings together two contrary perspectives: a neo-gnostic,
spiritual union between the feminist Jesus and the goddess Mary
Magdalene (via Starbird), and the marriage and bloodline of the mere
mortal Jesus who inspires followers but does little else (via Holy
Blood, Holy Grail). Confused, absurd, and muddled -- yes. But this,
again, is par for the course for an author who seems willing to use
whatever is at hand (or whatever was handed to him by his wife) to move
his story -- and its anti-Catholic agenda -- along.
Is the Jesus of the Code Really Gnostic?
So, does Brown skew the truth about early gnosticism to fit his needs?
Absolutely. Is Brown's depiction of ancient gnosticism often
inaccurate? Undoubtedly. Has Brown's novel brought an incredible amount
of attention to gnoticism and gnostic texts? Most certainly. It has
also fed off a curiosity about gnosticism and "lost gospels" and
"hidden Scriptures" that already existed. The fact is, both ancient and
modern forms of gnosticism don't worry too much about logic and
coherence, but are interested in knowing secrets, subverting power,
mocking orthodoxy, and freeing themselves from the mundane world of
daily living. Which is why Teabing mockingly describes Christianity as
"the greatest story ever sold" (p 267) and why Langdon, who epitomizes
the modern gnostic ideal, assures Sophie that "those who truly
understand their faith understand the stories are metaphorical" (p
In defending the Ignatius book against this charge, Mark Brumley, CEO
of Ignatius, has this to say, "DVH makes a sophisticated argument re:
Gnosticism and the DVC. Brown draws on some elements of Gnosticism,
frames some of his arguments based on how Gnosticism is used by others
today, and ignores other aspects of Gnosticism that contradict his
Quite right, just as I have summarized.
Now, as I have pointed out elsewhere, The Da Vinci Code's contact with
Gnosticism is essentially non-existent. It quotes from two documents
that contain Gnostic elements: the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of
Mary Magdalene. In neither case does Brown use the Gnostic elements in
those documents, nor does he use the quotes that he does draw from the
documents to support any Gnostic idea whatsoever.
This is not accurate, as my comments above show.
In fact, every idea that he brings forward concerning Jesus is
antithetical to Gnosticism.
This, I think, gets at the heart of where Kellmeyer disagrees with
Sandra and me. We do agree that the Jesus described by Brown in his
novel really isn't the Jesus found in many of the ancient gnostic
writings. But Kellmeyer seems to think that gnosticism is defined
solely on its depiction of Jesus and that gnosticism is an
all-or-nothing belief system. Both assumptions are incorrect. One of
the remarkable things about TDVC, I think, is that it purports to be
about Jesus -- but really says almost nothing about him (essentially
what I've described above). This latter point, however, should not be
overlooked too quickly, Part of the "code" that readers are given
access to in the novel is the assertion that Jesus is of little
consequence today, but was in his day simply a nice guy who "inspired
millions to better lives" (p 234) and who was later used by Constantine
to establish Catholicism and solidify the "Vatican power base." Or, in
the words of Teabing, the "most profound moment in Christian history"
was when Constantine created "a new Bible, which omitted those gospels
that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that
made Him godlike" (p 234). The statement is incredibly ridiculous, but
that shouldn't overshadow the fact that this is how many people
understand the gnostic "gospels" (nice, human, real Jesus) versus the
canonical Gospels (fake, unreal, god-only Jesus).
Noted Scripture scholar N.T. Wright, in a 2005 talk, "Decoding The Da
Vinci Code: The Challenge of Historic Christianity to Post-Modern
Fantasy," discussed the popularity and appeal of neo-gnosticism:
One of the basic fault lines in the contemporary Western world is the
line between neo-Gnosticism on the one hand and the challenge of Jesus
on the other. Please note that, despite strenuous attempts to make this
line coincide with the current sharp left-right polarization of
American culture and politics, it simply doesn't. Nor, for that matter,
does it coincide with the polarizations of British or European culture
either. So what is this real, deep polarization which runs through our
Neo-Gnosticism is the philosophy that invites you to search deep inside
yourself and discover some exciting things by which you must then live.
It is the philosophy which declares that the only real moral imperative
is that you should then be true to what you find when you engage in
that deep inward search. But this is not a religion of redemption. It
is not at all a Jewish vision of the covenant God who sets free the
helpless slaves. It appeals, on the contrary, to the pride that says
"I'm really quite an exciting person, deep down, whatever I may look
like outwardly" -- the theme of half the cheap movies and novels in
today's world. It appeals to the stimulus of that ever-deeper
navel-gazing ("finding out who I really am") which is the subject of a
million self-help books, and the home-made validation of a thousand
ethical confusions. It corresponds, in other words, to what a great
many people in our world want to believe and want to do, rather than to
the hard and bracing challenge of the very Jewish gospel of Jesus. It
appears to legitimate precisely that sort of religion which a large
swathe of America and a fair chunk of Europe yearns for: a
free-for-all, do-it-yourself spirituality, with a strong though
ineffective agenda of social protest against the powers that be, and an
I'm-OK-you're-OK attitude on all matters religious and ethical. At
least, with one exception: You can have any sort of spirituality you
like (Zen, labyrinths, Tai Chi) as long as it isn't orthodox
That, I think, perfectly describes the neo-gnostic
"spirituality"advocated by TDVC.
The "Gospel" of "Judas"
Recently, Carl Olson wrote a column for Ignatius Insight complaining
about the uproar over the Gnostic Gospel of Judas. Since his column
accepts comments from readers, I pointed out that the uproar was in
part fueled by his erroneous book and DVD -- he and Ignatius have been
promulgating information on a heresy that the Da Vinci Code never even
refers to. Two years of Ignatius' hype concerning this straw-man
argument undoubtedly played no small role in the rising interest in
Then, in another article, "The Gospel of Judas" (April 14, 2006), he
Now, why is such a silly document getting so much press coverage?
Because a bunch of Christians - especially a bunch of orthodox
Catholics - made sure it would. For the last two years, the people who
took on the role of official debunkers to Dan Brown's novel, The Da
Vinci Code, have been insisting that Brown's work is a Gnostic heresy.
It is nothing of the sort.
First, I'm not sure how Kellmeyer can pass judgment on the content of
our DVD (hosted by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.) since it just came out. In
fact, I haven't even seen the final product as of this writing.
Secondly, the statement about our book fueling the controversy around
"The Gospel of Judas" is silly and misinformed. For example, a search
of Google News produces some 754 news articles about "The Gospel of
Judas." A search for "The Gospel of Judas" and "Da Vinci Hoax" produces
one article: Kellmeyer's. Meanwhile, a search for "The Gospel of Judas"
and "Da Vinci Code" produces 163 articles, including this April 11
piece, which contains this quote: "'I think the massive media interest
in the 'Gospel of Judas' is related to the whole 'Dan Brown
phenomenon'," said Graham Stanton, Lady Margaret's Professor of
Divinity at the University of Cambridge, referring to the US author of
the international bestseller, 'The Da Vinci Code'." That same
connection has been made by many observers, most of whom are likely
oblivious to our book.
The interest in "The Gospel of Judas" is due to a number of factors: 1)
a very deliberate and successful marketing campaign by National
Geographic, 2) the media's general enthusiasm for "secret gospels" and
anything that undermines traditional, orthodox Christianity, and 3) a
substantial interest in alternative, customized, flexible, amoral, and
The Popularity of Gnosticism
The point I want to focus on here is that gnosticism/neo-gnosticism has
been of great interest to many academics/scholars, the media, and the
general populace for quite some time -- long before Dan Brown and I
began writing books. This fact is addressed in a recent document, which
At the same time there is increasing nostalgia and curiosity for the
wisdom and ritual of long ago, which is one of the reasons for the
remarkable growth in the popularity of esotericism and gnosticism. Many
people are particularly attracted to what is known ââ€ ““
correctly or otherwise ââ€ ““ as "Celtic" spirituality, or
to the religions of ancient peoples. Books and courses on spirituality
and ancient or Eastern religions are a booming business, and they are
frequently labelled "New Age" for commercial purposes. But the links
with those religions are not always clear. In fact, they are often
An adequate Christian discernment of New Age thought and practice
cannot fail to recognize that, like second and third century
gnosticism, it represents something of a compendium of positions that
the Church has identified as heterodox. John Paul II warns with regard
to the "return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the
so-called New Age: We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead
toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practising
gnosticism ââ€ ““ that attitude of the spirit that, in the
name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and
replacing it with purely human words. Gnosticism never completely
abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed
side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a
philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of
a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict
with all that is essentially Christian". An example of this can be seen
in the enneagram, the nine-type tool for character analysis, which when
used as a means of spiritual growth introduces an ambiguity in the
doctrine and the life of the Christian faith.
That quote comes from "Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life --
A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age'," produced by the Pontifical
Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious
Dialogue on February 3, 2003 -- ÂÂ a month before TDVC was
published. That document mentions gnosticism and neo-gnosticism
numerous times. Therefore, should we assert that it undoubtedly played
no small role in the rising interest in gnosticism?
After all, even the word "Gnostic" never appears in the Da Vinci Code.
Certainly none of its ideas are present in the Code.
As we've seen, the word "Gnostic" does appears in TDVC (p 245), as does
"gnosis" (p 308). (Besides, if it doesn't appear in the novel, how can
Kellmeyer state, in a comment on our blog: "But Catholic apologists
were so bent on finding a heresy in DVC that they immediately fixated
on the word "Gnostic" in the book"?) As I've shown, many gnostic and
neo-gnostic ideas are found in the novel. Yes, gnosticism is remarkably
complex, which may account for some of the confusion about how it is
used and misused by Brown.
Gnosticism is a remarkably complex and relatively obscure heresy that
almost no one knew existed prior to the erection of the strawman
This remark is simply off the mark. So "obscure" is gnosticism that the
Catechism of the Catholic Church references it as the first heresy
confronting the early Church (par 465) and the New American Bible
describes it, in a footnote to 1 Timothy 6:20-21 as "the great rival
and enemy of the church for two centuries and more." One of the first
great works of Christian apologetics, Adversus Haereses (or "Against
Heresies"), written by St. Irenaeus in the late second century, was a
refutation of gnosticism. Manichaenism, a very popular form of
gnosticism founded in the Middle East in the third century, had an
adherent named Augustine for many years. And now, due to the popularity
of TDVC, a number of novels and books are being produced that feature
the Cathars, a gnostic movement that thrived in western Europe during
the tenth century.
Since the publication of TDVC, sales for books such as The Gnostic
Gospels and Beyond Belief (about the gnostic "Gospel of Thomas"), both
by Elaine Pagels, have increased. The latter book, published in May
2003, was a New York Times best-seller and was given all sorts of media
attention (none of which, I should point out, mention me or The Da
Vinci Hoax, possibly because our book wasn't published until June
2004). The jacket for Beyond Belief states that "the impulse to seek
God overflows the narrow banks of a single tradition." Pagels, of
course, is hardly on the fringe, but has a Ph.D. from Harvard, is a
professor at Princeton, and has won numerous awards for her books
espousing a feminist, neo-gnostic spirituality.
And what about Dan Burstein's Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized
Guide to the Mysteries Behind The DaVinci [sic] Code, published in
April 2004, and featuring essays by various authors, including some
whose work was relied upon by Dan Brown? It has sold three million
copiessince it was published! Included are numerous essays about
gnosticism and the "Gnostic gospels" (one section is titled "The Lost
Gospels"). Many other examples could be given, including the November
2003 ABC primetime special, "Jesus, Mary, and Da Vinci," which
prominently featured Pagels, Karen King (The Gospel of Mary of
Magdala), and Margaret Starbird. In a revealing interview with
Beliefnet.com, the host, Elizabeth Vargas (a Catholic), stated: "After
I got the assignment, I began reading [many books]. There have been
books around for decades talking about Mary Magdalene and theorizing
about her importance--scholarly looks at aspects of Bible history, like
Elaine Pagels' Gnostic Gospels. I didn't know that there were Gnostic
gospels." Again, I must point out how little involvement I had with the
special, with the exception of a review of it that I wrote for National
A search for "gnostic" on amazon.com turns up over 250 titles. Numerous
books have been written in the past forty years about gnosticism and
the gnostic texts; some of them have sold very well. Evangelical author
James A. Herrick, in his book The Making of the New Spirituality (IVP,
2003), provides a detailed history of modern gnosticism ("The Rebirth
of Gnosticism," pp 177-203) from the Enlightenment era to 19th-century
America to Carl Jung, Jean Houston, and various works of popular
science fiction. And there have been several books in recent years
detailing the decades-long relationship between radical feminism and
neo-gnosticism, including God or Goddess?(Ignatius, 1995) by Manfred
Hauke, The Feminist Question (Eerdmans, 1994) by Francis Martin,
Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism (Ignatius, 1991) by
Donna Steichen, and The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the
Worship of God (Ignatius, 1992), edited by Helen Hull Hitchcock. You
can also read pages 89-98 of our book for an examination of how the
gnostic Mary Magdalene, as appropriated (or created) by Brown and
various radical feminists, is mixed with neo-gnosticism and
Given how bad Dan Brown is at research, it isn't clear he even realized
he was quoting from Gnostic documents. There's certainly no evidence he
taught anything approaching Gnostic philosophy.
Although I understand the temptation to make light of Brown's research,
the novelist knew he was using gnostic texts, even if he didn't fully
know what they meant. He refers to the "Gnostic Gospels" on his website
and in his witness statement, given in London during the recent trial
involving his publisher, he mentions the "Gnostic Gospels" several
times, including this reference: "In chapter 58 of The Da Vinci Code I
cite a passage from the Gospel of Philip and another from the Gospel of
Mary, which both allude to Mary Magdalene's relationship with Jesus and
her important role in his Church. The Gospels of Philip and Mary both
come from the Gnostic Gospels and I recall seeing them in many sources"
So, when I heard about Carl's column, in which he laments the existence
of an uproar he and Ignatius helped to create, I asked Carl and Mark to
give me one example of Gnostic philosophy, theology or even general
thought in the Da Vinci Code. They couldn't.
This essay is my first response to Kellmeyer's assorted comments, so
I'm not sure why he says I couldn't give him a response -- especially
since he allowed all of 24 hours to do so (that is, before he claimed I
wasn't able to provide an answer).
I pointed out that Brown quoted from ancient documents that contained
Gnostic elements, but Brown never, in fact, used any of the Gnostic
elements. Indeed, as I realized later, if we were to use this new
Ignatius Press standard for what constitutes adherence to a particular
philosophy, we would be forced to insist that Ignatius Press supports
Dan Brown's philosophy and theology, since their book quotes from The
Da Vinci Code. If Brown quoting from Gnostic documents makes him
Gnostic, then Ignatius Press quoting from the Da Vinci Code makes them
adherents to Dan Brown's philosophy. QED.
The Ignatius Press' position is quite clear: "DVH makes a sophisticated
argument re: Gnosticism and the DVC. Brown draws on some elements of
Gnosticism, frames some of his arguments based on how Gnosticism is
used by others today, and ignores other aspects of Gnosticism that
contradict his overall thesis."
The argument is apparently quite sophisticated -- so sophisticated,
that it is not something Mark Brumley, CEO of Ignatius Press, or Carl
Olson and Sandra Miesel, the authors of The Da Vinci Hoax, are willing
to actually enunciate to the rest of us.
Perhaps I should apologize that my life doesn't revolve around
answering mocking questions at the drop of the hat?
Carl and Sandra give a basically accurate description of what
Gnosticism teaches and then say, "Gnosticism was exclusive, elitist,
and esoteric, open only to a few." But Brown's argument is precisely
that pagan goddess worship -- which is NOT Gnosticism -- was NOT
elitist, esoteric or open only to a few.
That's only part of the story. Yes, Brown's narrative states that pagan
goddess worship was once the norm (and all was perfect because of it).
But he also says:
•• Judeo-Christianity destroyed goddess worship: "Genesis was the
beginning of the end for the goddess" (p 238). The goddess was
"banished" (p 239) and the old pagan religions were destroyed by
Christianity. Or, as Brown wrote in his witness statement: "My reading
convinced me that there was a great case to be put forward that woman
had been unfairly treated in the eyes of society for hundreds of years
if not longer, and that religion had played a big part in this" (par
•• Women have "been banished from the temples of the world" and have
been demonized by conservative religious groups (p 125). The goddess
has been "obliterated" from "modern religion forever" (p 124).
•• Enlightenment comes from a perfect balance of male and female
elements -- ÂÂ an androgynous ideal captured by Leonardo da
Vinci in "Mona Lisa" (p 120). Balance, harmony, peace and respect for
"Mother Earth" will be restored only when women are restored to their
proper place (p 126)
•• Jesus was 'the original feminist" (p 248) who "intended for the
future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene."
•• Peter and the other apostles ruined that plan (p 248). Mary
Magdalene's reputation was attacked (pp 249, 254, 261) and her "name
was forbidden by the Church" (p 254).
•• "History is always written by the winners" (p 256), so the "truth"
about Jesus and Mary Magdalene has been largely hidden for centuries.
The Church has used violent and dark means to keep people in the dark
(cf., p 407). But some, such as Teabing and Langdon, know the truth.
•• The Holy Grail involves discovering/recovering the "sacred
feminine", as well as knowing "secret history" and "lost documents" and
finding a "glorious, unattainable treasure" in a "world of chaos" (p
So, in the end, the hero (Langdon), who helps Sophie (Sophia!) find her
family and her true heritage (descendent of Jesus) is finally initiated
in full into the mystery of the "sacred feminine," marking some sort of
ascension into a state of higher spiritual awareness/knowledge -- a
thoroughly neo-gnostic idea.
In fact, the whole DVC plot-line is built around a paganized version of
the Theology of the Body.
Dare I point out that TDVC never uses the phrase "theology of the
body"? Or that ritualized and "sacred" sex hardly adds up to a form of
the theology of the body? Regardless, I address this particular
argument at length in the May 2006 issue of Saint Austin Review, which
includes an article by Kellmeyer that fleshes out (no pun intended)
this argument, and my response to it. As I wrote in my response:
It's very revealing that when fans talk about the Code, they don't
usually discuss the characters, the plot, or even the sex. No, they
focus on the claim that Jesus is not who the Church tells us he is,
that this is further proof of how horrible the Church is, and this in
turn validates how smart and open minded they are for embracing these
"facts." They talk about how they are "spiritual," not religious and
congratulate themselves on finding a "truth" that works for them. In a
recent issue [October 2004] of the Village Voice, a leading voice among
alternative, radical perspective, Curtis White summarized it this way:
"The Da Vinci Code is important as an expression of a desire for a
spirituality that cannot be had within the confines of the
institutionalized church. More simply yet, it is the popular expression
of a desire for a kind of meaningfulness to life that is missing for
most of us. And certainly, it is the scandalous expression of a
willingness to be disobedient to achieve the heretical end of a
salvation outside the confines of the church."
It would be difficult to find a better description of neo-gnosticism.
And this comes from a fan of the novel who is analyzing the success of
I guess they are fighting fire with fire. Too bad the rest of us are
too stupid to understand. Just remember: the Ignatius Press use of
Gnostic strawmen and/or Gnostic arguments had nothing to do with the
uproar over the Gospel of Judas. Not a thing. Just ask them.
Just because you say it is so, doesn't make it so. Provide some proof
that our book and our comments about gnosticism have had a direct
affect on the media furor surrounding "The Gospel of Judas." Frankly,
I'd be flattered (and stunned) if you found any.
Finally, from Kellmeyer's April 14th column about the "Gospel of Judas":
But the constant drumbeat from Christian apologists who don't know
history or Gnostic theology has incorrectly painted the Da Vinci Code
as a Gnostic heresy, thereby raising interest in a train of thought
that had been shown up for a farce over 1800 years ago. Because the
Christians kept incoherently insisting Brown's book was Gnostic when it
was nothing of the sort, the Gnostic Gospel of Judas is now news.
And now Christian apologists are complaining about the MSM's attention
to the newest unveiling of a Gnostic Gospel. No wonder the world laughs
at Christians. If these people had only bothered to learn a bit about
Gnosticism first, or - better yet - had bought copies of Fact and
Fiction in the Da Vinci Code...
In light of those strong assertions, I should point out what some
readers already know: that nearly all of the other "debunking" books
written by Evangelical Protestants and Catholics include substantial
sections about ancient gnosticism and modern gnosticism. These works
•• Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Darrell L. Bock, Ph.D (Thomas Nelson,
2004). Bock is a research professor of NT studies at Dallas Theological
Seminary. He is a well-regarded and well-published scholar specializing
in NT studies, the historical Jesus and Gospels studies.
•• The Gospel Code: Novel Claims About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Da
Vinci by Ben Witherington III (IVP, 2004). Witherington is professor of
NT at Asbury Theological Seminary and the author of numerous books on
the NT and the historical Jesus.
•• The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code by Richard Abanes (Harvest House,
2004). Abanes is a noted Evangelical authority on cults and religions
and the author of a dozen books on related topics.
•• Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code by Bart D. Ehrman (Oxford,
2004). Ehrman is chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the
University of North Carolina.
•• De-Coding Da Vinci by Amy Welborn (OSV, 2004).
•• The Da Vinci Deception by Mark Shea and Edward Sri (Ascension Press,
Readers may also be interested in these online articles about TDVC
•• "How Gnostic Jesus Became the Christ of Scholars" by Philip Jenkins.
•• "Decoding The Da Vinci Code: The Challenge of Historic Christianity
to Post-Modern Fantasy" by N.T. Wright
•• "The New Gnosticism and the 'Scandal of Particularity'" by
•• "As One Who Serves" by N.T. Wright, in which he discusses the
"Gospel of Judas"
•• "Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life -- A Christian
Reflection on the 'New Age'" by the Pontifical Council for Culture and
the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
It's possible, of course, that the authors of these books and articles
addressing TDVC "don't know history or Gnostic theology." Or it could
be that Kellmeyer is mistaken in his criticisms and that it is he who
has failed to read and think about what Dan Brown, fans of TDVC, and
many in the mainstream media have written and said about gnosticism,
the gnostic "gospels," and related topics. Although I have no problem
arguing over those issues, I do hope our discussion can avoid the sort
of polemics and rudeness that not only distract from the topics
addressed, but may also cause scandal among readers. All of us who have
criticized TDVC agree that it is an assault on orthodox Christianity,
especially Catholicism, and I hope and pray we can continue to fight
together to defend Truth and to make a defense to those asking us to
give an account for the hope within us (1 Pet 3:15).
The Da Vinci Code and Amy
Welborn (March 2006)
At times it seems that Rome is the epicenter of the universe. Heads of
state, movie stars, long-lost friends all seem to find their way here
at one point or another. Add to that the special touch of Divine
Providence, and every now and then you get to meet someone you've been
longing to meet.
I'd heard a great deal about Amy Welborn, former writer for Our Sunday
Visitor, now freelance author, lecturer and remarkable mother of five.
Many people had directed me to her blog, "The Open Book," and I was
curious to meet her.
Welborn came to Rome last week with her husband Michael Duvriel and
three of her five children. While primarily a family trip, the
English-speaking Catholic community in Rome seized the opportunity to
have the author talk about her latest works debunking "The Da Vinci
Code." A couple of mutual friends later, I was able to meet Welborn for
a talk about her life, work and first trip to Rome.
Much became clear to me when Welborn told me that she had been a
teacher for nine years and had a master's in Church history. Indeed her
books, her studious rebuttals of "The Da Vinci Code" and her blog all
speak of a mission to form and inform Catholics.
Welborn's first forays into literature were a children's book on saints
and a series of apologetics books for young people. She says that
through her writing, she "was able to continue teaching in a broader
way." Her knack, she says, "is taking complicated concepts and making
them more understandable especially for young people."
The author explained that she felt inspired to help kids "get past the
idea that the Gospels are something far away from them that they can't
relate to and see that they are a Truth with the answers to their lives
From adolescents to adults wasn't a big leap. Welborn's recent book,
"Decoding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code,"
was written to assist numerous readers of the "Da Vinci Code" who find
themselves confused between fact and fiction in the novel.
Welborn's first encounter with the Dan Brown book was a quick
(negative) review for Our Sunday Visitor, but she realized that
"however silly the story and poorly written the book was, it was very
Reactions to her review revealed that the novel had unearthed a deep
crisis in catechesis. Recalling a letter from a mother saying that her
daughter had "lost her faith" as a result of reading the book, Welborn
asked, "What faith, if it can be undone by something off a fiction
Reflecting on the problem, Welborn found that "over the past 30 or 40
years, people have come out of catechesis thinking the Gospels are
unreliable. People think that the Gospels are more about the Church
that produced them than Jesus himself."
Welborn pointed out that some of the staunchest defenders of the book
have been people who preface their remarks with, "I'm a devout Catholic
but ……" before going on to say "that we can't know anything for sure
anyway …… the Gospels came so late." Welborn feels that this results in
people who "pick whatever story meets one's needs at the moment."
To answer the many questions surrounding the book, Welborn decided to
address the issue at the core. A remarkably simple task as she states,
"All you need are sources and logic to unravel the book."
Her newest book, "Decoding Mary Magdalene: Fact, Fiction and Lies" was
inspired by her husband who noted that there were no Catholic books
setting the record straight on Mary Magdalene.
Welborn said that the real puzzle which emerged while writing this book
was "what happened to the devotion to Mary Magdalene?" She found that
"after 1,400 years …… devotion to Mary Magdalene was rooted in the
three figures in one: sister of Lazarus, the adulteress and the
penitent woman." Welborn then explained that, "after Vatican II, they
cleared up the confusion but at the same time the bottom fell out of
Welborn notes that Mary Magdalene, besides her role as the faithful
disciple who is the first witness to the Resurrection, is also a model
of penitence. In this respect, she claims that Dan Brown's errors are
the most grievous because "'The Da Vinci Code' gives the impression
that her repentance is bad."
Continuing, Welborn explains that "the book suggests that the purpose
of focusing on her repentance was to focus on her sinfulness, to the
effect of demonizing her, which is not true at all."
Welborn clarifies that the reality is exactly the opposite: "Mary
Magdalene shows the hope of forgiveness and the reality of forgiveness
and how our lives are changed."
As I write this on March 8, International Women's Day, Welborn's words
have particular resonance, "Mary Magdalene is not a figure of the
lowliness and the horrible state of women, she symbolizes the joy of a
Christian life and the joy of forgiveness."
Meeting The Real Mary Magdalene
An Interview with Amy Welborn | May 12, 2006
Amy Welborn is a prolific author and widely read blogger. She holds an
MA in Church History from Vanderbilt University and has taught theology
in Catholic high schools, and served as a parish Director of Religious
Her writings have appeared in many periodicals, including First Things,
Commonweal,Writer's Digest, Liguorian, Catholic Digest and Catholic
Parent. Her books include the Prove It series, The Loyola Kids' Book of
Saints, The Loyola Kids' Book of Heroes, and Here. Now. Two of her most
recent books are De-Coding Da Vinci and De-Coding Mary Magdalene, both
published by Our Sunday Visitor.
IgnatiusInsight.com recently spoke to Welborn about her books
addressing the claims of The Da Vinci Code, especially the many
assertions made about Mary Magdalene.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Are you surprised by the longevity of the Coded
Craziness and, specifically, the various claims made about Mary
Amy Welborn: I am a little surprised, although the recent frenzy is
clearly all about the movie. If there were no film (impossible, of
course), this business would have died out a year ago - when it did,
indeed, quiet down a bit.
However, the longevity of the claims about Mary Magdalene is the least
suprising of all because they predate The Da Vinci Code. Brown picked
up a thread in that regard, that was already present in the culture –
groups like FutureChurch and Call to Action have been sponsoring
celebrations on July 22, Mary Magdalene's feast day, for years now,
celebrations that have at their core a call for the ordination of women.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What was your initial impression of The Da Vinci
Code when you first read it? Has that changed in any substantial way
over the past three years?
Welborn: My initial impression, expressed in a review of the novel I
wrote for Our Sunday Visitor, was that it was idiotic and laughably
badly written. No, that's not changed, although I do see it as more
dangerous now than I did at first.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Fans of the novel keep saying, "Hey, it's just
fiction?" How do you respond?
Welborn: I say – they're right. It is fiction. 99.7% fiction. Leonardo
existed. Paris exists, and the Louvre is there. That's all true. The
rest is fiction.
Seriously (although I do say that), I respond that Brown discussed his
book early on as the fruit of "research" and declared he hoped readers
would learn something. The book's style lends itself to ignorant
readers thinking that they're reading legitimate scholarly opinion –
there's a bibliography, the scholar characters refer to real books and
speak authoritatively. To someone who doesn't know better, it might
Further, there's something deeper. Even many of those who don't take
things like the Priory of Sion or Leonardo's codes seriously, and even
those who throw the "It's only a novel" statement in our faces, do in
fact take certain aspects of the novel seriously: they do believe that
the history of early Christianity is a murky mess, that there's nothing
sure we can know about Jesus, and that Mary Magdalene has spent the
last 2000 years being demonized by Christianity.
My emails and internet discussion boards clearly show that at some
level, a great many readers believe that The Da Vinci Code presents
truth about what Christianity is and is not.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Why and how has Mary Magdalene become the poster
person for radical feminism and various anti-Catholic conspiracy
Welborn: The rediscovery of gnostic writings that mention a "Mary" has
fueled this, as well as a more general scholarly endeavor of
re-examining female historical figures in religious history. The
gnostic writings have really been key, as some scholars have used – and
misused – them to posit an alternative strand of early Christianity
("Magdalene Christianity" it is often called) in which Mary Magdalene,
who was clearly important in the Gospels, was a leader of an
egalitarian element of early Christianity. There are all kinds of
permutations of this, most recently in the quite bizarre Bruce Chilton
book Mary Magdalene, in which the Episcopal priest-writer suggests that
Mary was trained by Jesus in some sort of intense spiritual kind of
"seeing" and her experience of what we call the "resurrection" was the
ultimate fruit of that formation.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What do we know about Mary Magdalene and what are
our sources for our knowledge of her?
Welborn: Our primary sources for knowledge of Mary Magdalene are in the
Gospels. From them, in Luke 8, we learn that Mary of Magdala (a small
town on the Sea of Galilee) had been exorcised of seven demons by
Jesus, and left everything behind in gratitude to follow him, along
with some other women, and provide for the disciples' needs. This could
be doing domestic work for them, providing funds to support the
ministry, or both.
We then see Mary, in every gospel, at the Cross, then as the first to
discover the Empty Tomb.
There is an enormous amount of legendary material about Mary Magdalene
in both West and East. It's fascinating and rich. One of the primary
strains in the West has her traveling to Provence (an idea picked up by
the radical feminist author of The Woman With the Alabaster Jar,
Margaret Starbird, and then turned for her own ends) and, along with
Martha and Lazarus, evangelizing the area; there is even some medieval
art that depicts Mary preaching and baptizing. She was a favorite
subject for medieval mystery plays and, of course, art.
But what we know for sure about her is contained in the Gospels.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Why is there such a strong interest in Mary
Welborn: She's an interesting figure, and for many, she represents
possibilities – the possibility that in early Christianity, women had
official roles of power, that Jesus was married, and so on. It is
unfortunate that these days, interest in Mary Magdalene is much higher
among non-Christians and marginal Christians than among mainstream
Catholics, especially considering the massive popularity of devotion to
her throughout much of our history.
IgnatiusInsight.com: The Da Vinci Code centers upon an alleged marriage
between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Is there any evidence for such a
Welborn: No. There's no evidence in Scripture, and the Gospels are
forthright about Jesus' familial connections. The Gospel writers name
names and discuss Jesus' ambiguous relationship to his family members
and his fellow townspeople. They name the apostles and other
associates. They name Mary of Magdala, for heaven's sake. Who is, note,
called Mary of Magdala, which she would not be if she were married to
Jesus. There would have been no scandal in first-century Judaism of
Jesus being married to anyone. There was nothing to hide.
In addition, there is no mention of any such marriage in early
Christian traditions - the traditions, for example, that give us the
name of Mary's parents (Joachim and Anna). No, this Jesus-Mary
Magdalene marriage is a twentieth-century creation.
Interestingly enough, in the massive legendary material surrounding the
figure of Mary Magdalene, a marriage is mentioned – one of the legends
says that the Wedding at Cana was actually the marriage of Mary
Magdalene and John the Apostle. John was so impressed with Jesus'
miracle there that he abandoned everything and followed Jesus. This
ticked Mary Magdalene off to such an extent that she went off and led a
profligate life until she, too, saw the truth, and became a follower of
IgnatiusInsight.com: What is the biggest misconception you've found
that people have about Mary Magdalene?
Welborn: The biggest misconception, by far, is that the Catholic Church
has demonized Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. This has taken hold among
the general public and won't let go.
The truth is this: in the first centuries of Christianity, some Church
Fathers wondered, here and there, if the named Mary Magdalene might be
the same person as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, as well as
the repentant woman who comes to Jesus at the end of Luke 7, just
before Mary Magdalene is first mentioned by name in Luke 8.
In 591, Pope Gregory I preached a homily in which he explicitly
associated all of these women, and identified Mary Magdalene as the
sinful woman of Luke 7. From that point on, this was an important part
of her identity for medieval Christians.
Note, however, that neither Gregory nor any subsequent preacher or
writer "demonized" or maligned Mary Magdalene. It was quite the
opposite. She was held up as a model and figure of hope. Her story was
told and expanded over and over again, with the focus not being
sinfulness, but rather redemption. Throughout the Middle Ages, other
aspects entered into the story, as well – her evangelizing in Provence,
her supposed decades of contemplative life, and so on. She inspired
numerous saints, she was present in art mostly as a faithful disciple
at the foot of the cross, either mourning or supporting Mary, the
Mother of Jesus, but she was never demonized. She's a saint! Her feast
day is July 22!
IgnatiusInsight.com: If you had five minutes with Dan Brown, what might
you say or do?
Welborn: Ask him for some money.
Hey, why not? Maybe not for me, but perhaps for some of the thousands
of institutions around the world – orphanages, schools, hospitals, old
age homes, hospices - that are filled with people who've given their
lives to sacrificially serving others in the direst of circumstances,
inspired, called and nourished by the One whom Dan Brown continues to
exploit, sitting up there in New Hampshire on his wads of cash. He
should be ashamed. Perhaps, one day, he will be.
Multimedia Response to "Da
Episcopate Rolling Out a Web Site and TV Documentary
WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops'
Catholic Communication Campaign will offer key resources to provide
accurate information on the life of Jesus prior to the release of the
movie "The Da Vinci Code."
Those resources will include a Web site and documentary scheduled to
air on NBC-TV stations. Also being produced is a 16-page booklet on
"The Authentic Jesus."
On Thursday the Catholic Communication Campaign will launch a Web site,
www.jesusdecoded.com, to provide accurate information on Jesus,
Catholic teaching, and various topics explored in the Dan Brown novel.
The Web site will explain Catholic beliefs and include articles from
theologians, media commentators, art experts and others that provide
background and also rebut the speculation and inaccuracies about Christ
and the origins of Christianity. Contributing to the Web site is the
Prelature of Opus Dei.
Also available in March will be the booklet "The Authentic Jesus,"
which will address questions raised by "The Da Vinci Code" and other
popular portrayals of Jesus.
The booklet, produced by the USCCB Committee on Communications,
presents authentic Catholic teaching about Jesus and his divinity, the
New Testament, Gnosticism, women and the Church, and other important
topics in a question-and-answer format.
"The Authentic Jesus" will be available for individual and bulk sale
from USCCB Publishing. Also for sale from USCCB Publishing will be a
bulletin insert based on the same material.
"Jesus Decoded," a Catholic Communication Campaign documentary that
brings authentic Catholic teaching about Jesus Christ into focus, will
be available to NBC-TV stations for broadcast starting the third
weekend of May.
This first-time airing of the hourlong documentary will highlight clear
and accurate information about the person of Jesus, his disciples, and
the formation of the books in the canon, or list of books, of the New
Shot on location in Israel, Turkey, and Italy, "Jesus Decoded" offers a
solid Catholic response to "Da Vinci Code believers," concentrating
especially on the first three centuries of the development of the
The program includes interviews with scholars versed in art, history
and Scripture that help separate Catholic truth from popular fiction.
The documentary will be available for purchase on DVD from USCCB
Further information about the documentary is available at
In Search of the Real Mary
Discussion Held at Marianum Faculty
ROME, MARCH 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A group of women theologians and a
woman journalist met to try to sketch a true portrait of a saint
parodied in one of the best-selling novels of all time.
A round-table discussion "Mary Magdalene beyond 'The Da Vinci Code'"
took place last Friday as part of the cycle of talks of the Chair
"Woman and Christianity" at the pontifical faculty Marianum, directed
by the Servants of Mary.
Marinella Perroni, a New Testament professor at Athenaeum of St. Anselm
and president of the Coordination of Italian Women Theologians, opened
the discussion admitting that she had not read Dan Brown's novel
because "it does not warrant my attention."
She warned, in particular, against the temptation "to take Mary
Magdalene involuntarily out of the Gospel."
"Out of respect for what is written in the texts and for what the
Gospels tell us she must never be taken out of the Gospel," stressed
Maria Luisa Rigato, a New Testament professor at the Gregorian
University, said she had read "very carefully this interesting
'thriller' of Dan Brown" -- before she proceeded to dismantle the
Rigato explained that "according to the canonical Gospels, it is clear
that Jesus was celibate and capable of friendships with women and men."
"According to the canonical Gospels Mary Magdalene was not Jesus' wife
or lover," she said. "Mary Magdalene is not the same as Mary of
Bethany, or Mary the sister of Martha."
A positive announcement
Jesus was an innovator in respect to the Torah and "the Gospel is a
positive announcement for women," she continued.
Rigato went on to speak of the Mary Magdalene that appears in the
synoptic Gospels and in John's Gospel, saying that in her judgment Mary
was not from Magdala in the topographic sense because "Magdala is not a
known geographic place."
The theologian believes that this name was coined by Christ's disciples
after Pentecost, as it makes reference literally to "migdal," which
means tower, and to "gadal" -- "to be large." In other words, it was
their wish to express that Magdalene is the one who has been magnified,
Miriam Diez i Bosch, a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center on
Social Communications of the Gregorian University, said that "Mary
Magdalene is an intriguing and enamored woman who leaves no one
indifferent and obviously even less the media world that surrounds us."
Diez i Bosch, who is also a journalist who writes for ZENIT, explained
the way in which Mary Magdalene is seen today in the media and
highlighted "the communicative mechanisms that have made this woman a
media figure, but distorted."
"'Magdalenemania' or 'Mary Magdalen according to Brown' are only small
fruits of a worldwide operation that challenges believers, in the face
of which the Church cannot close her eyes," said the journalist.
In this connection, she presented some responses that appeared in the
international media, and suggested teaching how to distinguish better
between reality and fiction, and to improve catechesis.
Diez i Bosch recommended that theologians "explain clearly the figure
of Mary Magdalene, going beyond the tragic image of the repentant
prostitute and reflecting further on her role as 'apostola apostolorum'
[apostle of the apostles] through an endeavor of interdisciplinary
transmission that will enable results of the theological research to
reach the greater public."
The journalist also called for an endeavor to restore Mary Magdalene to
her true role of witness of the Resurrection, stating that "the media
-- and Dan Brown -- have a counterfeit icon of Magdalene."
Dissecting "The Da Vinci
Interview With Apologist Mark Shea
SEATTLE, Washington, FEB. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Millions have read
"The Da Vinci Code" and many are expected to see the movie version when
it is released May 19.
That is why Mark Shea and Ted Sri -- an apologist and theology
professor, respectively -- have co-authored "The Da Vinci Deception"
(<>Ascension), a guide that reveals the fact and fiction behind
"The Da Vinci Code."
Shea shared with ZENIT the main inaccuracies in the "Code" book, and
why they threaten the faith of Christians.
Q: What compelled the writing of this book?
Shea: The short answer is that tens of millions of people have read
"The Da Vinci Code" and many have had their faith in Christ and the
Catholic Church shaken. This blasphemous book has become a major
cultural phenomenon, largely by attacking the very person and mission
of Jesus Christ. It must be addressed.
The longer answer is that "The Da Vinci Code" has become the source for
what I call "pseudo-knowledge" about the Christian faith.
Pseudo-knowledge is that stuff "everybody knows," such as the "fact"
that Humphrey Bogart said "Play it again, Sam" -- except he didn't.
Pseudo-knowledge doesn't matter much when the issue is the script of
It matters greatly when it adversely affects the most sacred beliefs of
a billion people, and when it levels the charge that the Catholic
Church is essentially a vast "Murder Incorporated" network founded on
maintaining the lie of Jesus' divinity and resurrection.
When that happens, very nasty genies get let out of bottles, as when
the lies recorded by 19th-century czarist secret police forgers in the
"Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" became the basis for what
"everybody knew" about the Jews in the terrible anti-Semitic
persecutions of the 20th century.
"The Da Vinci Code" has sold close to 30 million copies. In May, it
will appear as a major film and will acquire even more unquestioned
authority among millions of historically and theologically illiterate
viewers -- unless Christians state the facts and help viewers recognize
just how badly they've been had.
The Da Vinci Outreach initiative, led by Catholic Exchange and
Ascension Press, will equip Catholics and all people of good will with
resources to help them respond to this movie.
Those who say, "It's just a story," simply do not understand that this
deception is part of the book's power. People often receive through
fiction what they would be on guard against in reasoned debate.
And this is particularly true as Dan Brown, the author of "The Da Vinci
Code," has actually stated he would not change any of his basic
assertions if he were writing nonfiction. Brown means for us to
understand that his claims about the origins are Christianity are true.
Q: What are the main inaccuracies found in the "The Da Vinci Code"?
Shea: Let me count the ways. Blunders include factual errors and
outright lies, large and small, about practically every subject Brown
addresses in art, history and theology. He purports that bogus
documents that even his questionable sources repudiate are factual.
He claims Leonardo Da Vinci doesn't give Jesus a chalice in his
painting "The Last Supper" in order to hint that Mary Magdalene is the
true chalice who held the "blood of Jesus" -- i.e., his child --
despite the fact there are 13 cups in the painting.
He chatters about the meaning of an Aramaic word in the Gnostic gospel
of Philip, oblivious to the fact it's written in Coptic.
He calls Mary Magdalene the victim of a Catholic smear campaign without
pausing to wonder why she's a Catholic saint.
He blames "the Vatican" for various plots and conspiracies that are
alleged to have taken place centuries before there was any Vatican to
And, of course, in the biggest lie of them all, he declares that nobody
before the year A.D. 325 thought of Jesus as anything other than a
"mortal prophet" until Constantine muscled the Council of Nicaea into
declaring him God "by a relatively close vote."
Of course, he does not stop to ask why, if Jesus was just a "mortal
prophet," he bothered founding a Church at all -- nor what the Church
was about for the first 300 years if nobody was worshipping Jesus as
Q: How do these inaccuracies challenge the Church, her teachings and
the person of Jesus Christ?
Shea: Brown is attempting to establish a neo-pagan feminist creation
myth. The basic myth is: Jesus was actually a feminist, agog for
neo-paganism. The Church supposedly covered up all this with lies about
his divinity. Brown's point here is: Let's get back to goddess worship
as Jesus intended.
This laughably baseless claim is, of course, utterly contrary to the
facts about Jesus. But many in our overly credulous and historically
illiterate culture believe it. So Catholics must undertake to catechize
not just themselves but their families, friends and neighbors, or they
can expect this dangerous myth to continue spreading.
Q: Why is there a concern about Catholics -- and everyone else, for
that matter -- viewing "The Da Vinci Code" movie without a discerning
eye and solid background information?
Shea: Because it's written with the express intention of destroying
faith in Jesus Christ and replacing it with neo-pagan goddess worship.
The problem is the average reader does not know "The Da Vinci Code"
actually makes you more stupid about art, history, theology and
"The Da Vinci Deception" and Da Vinci Outreach are there to educate
readers on the quite deliberate falsehoods -- as well as ignorant
blunders -- that fill the story. We are also including a resource aimed
at educating high school students and helping them to tune their "bunk
detectors" to Brown's wavelength.
Q: The recent backlash by Muslims against cartoons on Mohammed seems to
signal rising tensions between religion and society. What do you think
of the timing of this movie?
Shea: Undoubtedly, the promoters of the movie will attempt to
characterize Catholic complaints about "The Da Vinci Code's"
assassination of the facts as identical to radical Islamist threats to
The problem with this claim, of course, is that the Church does not
condone burning down buildings or threatening people with death, even
when they lie about Christ. We simply and politely request that the
creators of "The Da Vinci Code" to not palm off scurrilous lies as fact.
Western manufacturers of culture are always braver about smearing the
Church than in confronting radical Islam because, as they know
perfectly well, the Vatican does not issue "fatwas" or death threats.
Q: How do you hope this book informs those who plan on going to the
film "The Da Vinci Code"?
Shea: "The Da Vinci Deception" breaks down in simple terms the basic
pattern of lies Brown deploys in "The Da Vinci Code" so that the reader
can clearly see the clockwork going on behind this novel.
The book is broken into 100 questions -- as was our previous book, "A
Guide to the Passion" -- that walk the reader through the skillful
weave of Brown's very artful falsehoods and show you why it's such a
scam. Once you understand Brown's game, you start to realize that it is
Brown -- not the Catholic faith -- that is taking people for a ride.
We are confident enough in our book that we would, in fact, urge people
to go to the film after having read it -- the better to help deluded
family members, friends and neighbors see through the scam.
Q: Why are people taking Dan Brown's novels so seriously? In Rome there
are even guided tours retracing the places covered in his book "Angels
Shea: "The Da Vinci Code" is yet another manifestation of what I call
"the latest Real Jesus"; every generation tends to discover the latest
A hundred years ago, Albert Schweitzer discovered that the Real Jesus
was a Social Gospel Protestant. In the booming 1920s, people found that
Jesus was actually a poster boy for salesmanship. In the 1930s, the
Nazis discovered a Real Jesus who was Aryan, not Jewish, while the
Communists discovered a Jesus who was actually the first Marxist.
In the 1960s, the Real Jesus was found to be a flower child in
"Godspell" and a devotee of hallucinogenic mushrooms -- which explains
all the visions and miracles nicely. In the 1970s, the Real Jesus was
found to be a "superstar" as per the diktats of rock culture.
In the 1980s, he appeared on the scene to promise health and wealth and
to heal your inner child -- that's when he wasn't suffering existential
crises, grappling with his libido and riddled by self-doubt, rather
like a self-absorbed baby boomer, in "The Last Temptation of Christ."
In the 1990s, he was suddenly discovered to be an enthusiastic
homosexual in the blasphemous play "Corpus Christi."
Today, we live in a culture obsessed with the sex lives of the rich and
famous, credulous about vast conspiracy theories, brimming with
half-baked notions about paganism and feminism, and hostile to
traditional notions of both reason and authority.
By some unfathomable coincidence, Dan Brown has discovered a Real Jesus
who perfectly reflects this broad cultural mood. And when people
believe things based on such a mood, particularly evil things, this is
dangerous to their faith.
"The Da Vinci Deception" is designed precisely to help people stop
taking "The Da Vinci Code" so seriously. Happily, Dan Brown and company
have made things easy for us in that department.
His book is so laughably bad, its claims so easily and demonstrably
false, the whole thing so silly, that debunking takes on a rather
gleeful quality -- which is, I think, only fitting. The best cure for
"The Da Vinci Code" is, in the end, hearty gales of well-informed
FOCUS ON THE DA VINCI CODE
A Da Vinci Code FAQ By Richard Umbers
Tuesday, 16 May 2006
While Dan Brown's thriller lacks style and credibility, it still poses
unsettling questions about the history of Christianity. We asked
philosopher and theologian Dr Richard Umbers to answer some of the
questions rising from the Da Vinci Code.
Da Vinci Code author Dan BrownWhat do you think about The Da Vinci Code?
It’s a great read (and a plodding movie) but most of the facts are
Like Constantine inventing Christ’s divinity. The first Christians
believed that Jesus rose from the dead. This was taken as proof that He
was God and not just a man. In the Bible Paul and John say he was
divine - remember Thomas placing his hands in the holes in Jesus’ hands
and saying “my Lord and my God”? Early Christian writers like Ignatius
of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons also wrote that Jesus is God.
Don’t you think that resurrection story is a bit hard to swallow in
It was difficult to accept in the early world too. People would laugh
at Paul for preaching about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. But then
as now it is the bedrock of Christian belief. The Apostles gave their
lives for that message. I’m not aware of anyone who says they have seen
Elvis at the Laundromat give up their life for that belief.
Didn’t Jesus get married?
In a sense he did. Catholics have always believed that the bride of
Christ is His Church. On the Cross He gave up His life for the Church.
We celebrate that at Mass every Sunday -– a day that commemorates the
day Jesus rose from the dead, the Lord’s day, the first day of the
week. Justin Martyr (100–165) tells us that it was the day Christians
went to Mass, and he wrote more than 100 years before Constantine was
born. If you look at the symbolism of the Mass you can see this more
clearly. The altar represents Jesus Christ. The first thing the priest
does when he comes in is to kiss the altar!
Wasn’t Mary Magdalene the head of the Church?
Jesus is always the head of the Church. For that reason, Jesus’ mother,
the better known Mary, is known as the Mother of the Church. It was to
Peter, not Mary Magdalene, that Jesus said you are Peter and on this
rock I will build my Church. That said, the Church has always venerated
Mary Magdalene as a saint and taken note of the fact that she was the
first person to see Jesus risen from the dead.
But that is from the Bible Constantine edited. There are other Gospel
stories that tell a different story. ImageConstantine commissioned 50
copies of the Bible but he didn’t edit it. The four Gospels were well
known at the turn of the first century. The Gnostic gospels were
written 50 years later, over 100 years after the time of Christ and
attributed statements to characters mentioned in the original Gospels.
To believe that those characters said what they are supposed to have
said is like attributing a speech to Queen Victoria in which she talks
about her CDs of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The Jesus Papers says that Jesus made a deal with Pontius Pilate, took
drugs and survived the cross. The author of The Jesus Papers, Michael
Baigent, tried suing Dan Brown for plagiarism. He lost his case and
ended up with a ?1 million bill to pay. The success of the film may
boost sales of his books enough to pay his debts.
The judge of the case of Baigent & Leigh v Random House, Justice
Peter Smith, had this to say about Baigent: “Mr Baigent was a poor
witness. Those are not my words: they are the words of his own Counsel
in his written closing submissions (para 111). Those words do not in my
view do justice to the inadequacy of Mr Baigent’s performance... he was
a thoroughly unreliable witness... he is either extremely dishonest or
a complete fool... I can place no reliance on any part of his evidence”
(para 231, 232).
Maybe the Church has something to hide -- that’s why it is so worried
about these books and the movie. Most people’s knowledge of William
Wallace comes from Braveheart (there is even a statue of Mel Gibson in
Stirling, Scotland with sword raised shouting “Freedom”). Most people’s
knowledge of Christianity and the Church comes from The Da Vinci Code,
which in some homes occupies the place once taken by the Family Bible.
The Church has every reason to be concerned about the DVC’s bigotry.
Justice Smith notes: “Of course merely because an author of fiction
describes matters of being factually correct does not mean that they
are factually correct. It is a way of blending fact and fiction
together to create that well known model ‘faction’. The lure of
apparent genuineness makes the books and the films more receptive to
the readers/audiences. The danger of course is that the faction is all
that large parts of the audience read and they accept it as truth”
Surely the Church had something to hide if it was hunting down heretics
who were passing on secret truths? What about the Inquisition?
The Inquisition didn’t begin until the Middle Ages. Its original task
was to suppress the Cathars, a destructive suicide cult. It was a war
on terror -- not a cover up. So-called “heretics” over the last 2,000
years have believed any number of things; there was never one key
teaching which was being passed on.
In 2006 we all realise that everyone should be free to follow the
religion of their choice but this is quite a modern idea. And it is not
a universal one, either, given the religious discrimination that is
practiced today in countries like China or Saudi Arabia.
Dan Brown says that despite the Vatican suppressing goddess worship,
heretics have hidden symbols of it everywhere. ImageSpotting errors in
The Da Vinci Code is as hard as getting wet in the sea. Let me give one
example. The “pentagram” motions of the planet Venus have nothing to do
with the length of the Olympiad. The ancient Olympic games were
celebrated in honour of Zeus Olympias, not Aphrodite (Venus), and
occurred every four years. The five linked rings of the modern Olympic
Games are not a secret tribute to the goddess. Each set of games was
supposed to add a ring to the design but the organisers stopped at five.
Furthermore, the Templars did not represent cathedrals as the anatomy
of women’s bodies. They had nothing to do with the cathedrals of their
time, which were commissioned by bishops throughout Europe. Not all of
the Templars’ churches were round and roundness itself was not a sign
of protest in honour of the goddesses. It was in honour of the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. If you look at Gothic churches and
their predecessors, the notion that the contain female symbolism
evaporates. What part of a woman’s anatomy does a transept represent?
Or the kink in Chartres’s main aisle? Both Gothic and Romanesque
churches inherited the long, rectangular nave from basilicas of the
late Roman times, which were ultimately derived from public buildings.
How about Opus Dei -- monks obedient to the Pope’s personal command?
For starters Opus Dei doesn’t have any monks. There are a handful of
priests but most of the members are married men and women. The faithful
of Opus Dei are not perfect -- some have made big mistakes -- but the
idea of mums and dads roaming the streets in search of the Priory of
Sion is just fanciful. The Priory of Sion itself doesn’t even exist. It
was a hoax set up in the 1950s by a group of pranksters. The BBC
exposed the fraud back in the late 1990s.
What is Opus Dei anyway?
Opus Dei is an organization of the Catholic Church. It helps people
bring their Catholic faith into every part of their life. It means
being a Christian 24/7, especially in the work place. What the gym does
for your body, prayer and sacrifice do for your soul.
I thought it was a mysterious sect.
Nothing mysterious about it; it was on the front cover of TIME recently
and you can visit its webpage at www.opusdei.org. Taking the Catholic
faith seriously doesn’t make you a fanatic.
Do they really whip themselves?
Saints like Mary MacKillop (of Australia) or Mother Teresa have done so
as a way of sharing in Christ’s own pain. Celibate members of Opus Dei
continue that tradition of the Church. It may not be easy for many
people to understand, but traditionally it has been regarded as a kind
of suffering for love. At any rate, it’s nowhere near as dramatic as
what Silas gets up to. Losing sleep to a crying baby is a far worse
mortification and every mum (and dad) does that.
Has the Church asked you not to read the book? I’m a grown up; I make
my own decisions.
Why shouldn’t other people read the book or see the movie?
ImageThe Anangu people of Central Australia ask tourists not climb
Uluru, out of respect for the spiritual significance that it has for
them. But you are still free to climb it or not. They inform you and
then make your own choice. As good hosts they are saddened to see
someone get hurt. Catholics believe that the Catholic Church is their
mother. They are saddened when people read or see a pile of dirt about
their mother -– even if it is only fiction. They are especially
saddened when that leads to people forming a false impression of the
The Catholic Church is a sign of contradiction. Practicing Catholics
are a sign of contradiction. They unsettle people. There is a lot of
money to be made out of exploiting that tension. Dan Brown, the author
of The Da Vinci Code takes every swipe he can, exaggerating some
defects and simply making up others. Some people go to jail for writing
that kind of religious bigotry. Brown has made $500 million and the
money is still pouring in.
Why doesn’t the Church just ignore The Da Vinci Code?
People who would never otherwise read a book have read The Da Vinci
Code. How often have people told you: “you must read this”? It doubles
as a tourist guidebook (people actually look for blood stains in St
Sulpice in Paris). Even intellectuals have succumbed -– much to their
chagrin. (The London Times described it as “written in peanut butter
prose, with plastic characters and a plot so clunky it rattles”. ).
What’s the secret formula for a successful novel?
A shadowy organisation, an expert, a treasure, a moral grey area -– is
the Vatican for us or against us? And all within 24 hours. Above all,
Brown writes what people want to hear -– even if it is blatantly
* Men do all the talking about the sacred feminine.
* There is a prudish romance set to the backdrop of
sacred sex rites.
There have always been fanciful works about the power of the Vatican,
most famously Dostoevsky’s Jesuit Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov
who would condemn Christ himself. Brown, however, has struck a chord
with today’s religion-lite. It’s for people who feel that they like
symbols and meaningfulness, but nothing too heavy, nothing that would
interfere with a comfortable materialist life style. This is a literary
version of muzak pumped into funeral parlours.
What are Dan Brown’s sources for his claims?
Lets hear it from Judge Patrick Smith: “Mr Brown is a fiction writer.
As a device to writing fiction he is perfectly entitled to dress up
factual scenarios to give an illusion that supports his fiction. He is
not... going into deep and detailed research for these factual matters.
Indeed as he said in his evidence that would be counterproductive; he
wishes to create ‘grey’ areas not black and white. He simply needs
therefore a mystery and a series of unanswered questions. He can do
that without deep research and that he has done” (para 348).
Brown shows no familiarity with the Gospels. He does not know the
Catholic Church in general nor Opus Dei in particular. His terminology
and tone betray ignorance of the subject matter. His official website
flaunts a review from the New York Daily News -- “his research is
impeccable” -- but the New York Daily News is better known for
celebrity gossip than historiography. In fact, Brown’s is not
impeccable research. It was largely his wife’s research on the
internet. She left print-outs on his desk as he started typing away at
4 in the morning. She used three sources:
* Gnostic writings that are not historical works and
are of almost no historical value as regards Jesus and the early
Church. They are readily available on the internet.
* Feminist works like The Goddess in the Gospels in
which Margaret Starbird argues from silences, fleeting references and
her own imagination.
* Hoax material perpetuated by the pseudo-histories
related in The Templar Revelation or Holy Blood, Holy Grail which in
turn are grounded on the self-confessed hoax of the Priory of Sion.
If your faith is so weak that The Da Vinci Code shakes it, maybe you
never had any.
Faith is not a straightforward matter and religious illiteracy is a
global problem deftly exploited by The Da Vinci Code. While we should
appreciate this spur to learning more about faith and revelation, it
must still be said that everyone has a right to a good name. If someone
took your name and address out of the phone book and wrote a novel of
lurid lies about you and included your real name and address - how
would you feel? What if Sony Pictures was implicated with September 11
or the gunman who shot Pope John Paul II? Would their lawyers be
impressed by the defence that the book was only a novel in the fiction
section and that those who know you shouldn't be swayed by mere
Dr Richard Umbers, originally from New Zealand, is a priest of the Opus
Dei Prelature in Sydney.