The Da Vinci Code, the movie version of Dan Brown's best selling book is coming to theatres in May 2005. Lots has been written about the flawed history behind this book, and for those seeking information on whether the book may be true are urged to review the following pages gleaned from the Christianity Today website which gives a good summary of may of the objections to this less-than-historically-accurate novel:
Christian History & Biography Issue 85: Debating Jesus' Divinity -- The Council of Nicaea and its bitter aftermath.
Editor's Bookshelf: Da Vinci Dissenters -- Four books try to break, crack, or decode the deception.
Speaking in Code -- A roundup of the many anti-Da Vinci Code books from Christian publishers.
Why the 'Lost Gospels' Lost Out -- Recent gadfly theories about church council conspiracies that manipulated the New Testament into existence are badreally badhistory.
The Da Vinci Code, Corrected -- Why the "lost gospels" were really lost
Breaking The Da Vinci Code -- So the divine Jesus and infallible Word emerged out of a fourth-century power-play? Get real.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with writing a novel that deals with history and making adjustments to the history to make the novel more exciting or interesting. I certainly enjoy many alterantive history stories that I encounter in my Science Fiction reading. However, for some reason, it seems as if this novel seems to suck a lot of people into believing that it is accurate history. I was at a party a few months ago where a Christian woman found out that I was an amateur apologist, and she asked me "are the facts behind this novel true?" If Christian people are being sucked into believing that this stuff may be true, I can only imagine how easily non-believers would fall into its trap.
Let me start by saying this: The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction -- that means it is a creation of the author's imagination. While he bases the novel on a background of the "Jesus Bloodline" mythology that has arisen over time, the novel itself is fiction. If you want to read a book on history, get a book on history.
Secondly, as pointed out the CT articles linked above, the "Jesus Bloodline" mythology is simply that: mythology. There is very little historical evidence to support it (it appears that there were secretive societies and some people in the Middle Ages who claimed that Mary Magdalene gave birth to a secret baby of Jesus'), but the evidence that supports the "Jesus Bloodline" mythology is not particularly strong, and is treated by most legtimate scholars the same way that other conspiracy theories are treated.
While the falsity of the "Jesus Bloodline" myths are pretty well debunked, the more intetesting question is why the claims seem to be so readily adopted by the general public. The inaugural issue of the Countercult Apologetics Journal has a fascinating article about the Da Vinci Code entitled "The Da Vinci Code as New Age Apologetic: The Jesus Bloodline Mythology and New Age Cosmology" (pdf file) which delves into a much more interesting question: if this is so obviously flawed history why is the book being embraced by so many people as if it were true? Written by Michael S. Heiser, Ph.D., and presented at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society San Antonio, November 18, 2004, the paper makes the following suggestion:
My basic contention in this paper is that many people absorb the Jesus bloodline mythology not because they hate Christianity, but because verification of this myth will lend credence to the postmodern spirituality they desire that is part and parcel of the New Age worldview. In other words, if a Jesus bloodline were proven real, it would affirm the validity of the New Age paradigm for them. Confirmation would satisfy their hunger for spirituality while dismissing the organized Church for the historically aberrant nuisance that it is. One can follow the Gnostic Christ with all his mystery and not be locked into a rational, mechanistic, dogmatic theology.
This is a fascinating suggestion, and he supports his thesis with 17 pages of captivating reading which examines real history (compared with the history relied upon by Dan Brown), the New Age teachings, and some of the "Jesus Bloodlines" claims. Dr. Heister gives a different insight into some of the subjects discussed in the book and upcoming movie.
As part of this examination, Dr. Heiser makes a very intriguing claim with which I find myself in agreement -- New Age religion is based not so much on the Eastern Mysticism that it espouses, but on heretical doctrines of Western European religion. He says,
Put simply, there isn’t a single element of New
Age spirituality that cannot be found in ancient Mediterranean religions, Jewish mysticism, the early Christian fathers, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, and Western Esoteric occult history. The great cosmic ages of Pisces and Aquarius are always cast in New Age literature in the flow of Western history. The real threat of the New Age worldview is not the Hindu yogi, tree huggers wearing crystals, or Shirley MacLaine; it is the body of esoteric tradition that can claim Judaism and Christianity as two among many western siblings.
I highly recommend that anyone interested in the popularity of the Da Vinci Code take the time to review this paper thoroughly.