So I am reading through Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and, despite all the warnings I have received, I am amazed at the amount of historically erroneous information that is passed off as true background. But wait, you might say, it is just a novel. No one will take it seriously. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The erroneous information is woven throughout the background of the story. Bright and informed "characters in the know" pass it off as true history known by all real academics and historians but kept from the naively faithful -- either by suppression or the naive faithful's willful ignorance. Dan Brown himself has reinforced this by claiming that his background information is true, only the modern day story is fiction. The New York Daily News' review of the book pronounced that its research was "impeccable." Finally, I know people are taking its version of history seriously because readers, Christians even, have asked me about how I deal with the history in The Da Vinci Code.
I am working through the book with a highlighter so as to be able to return to the juicier historical foolishness being foisted on an underinformed audience. Many of the bigger claims of the book -- such as the Council of Nicea's pronouncement on Jesus' divinity and the notion that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene -- are well refuted by online material. Check out the Christian CADRE's The Da Vinci Code page for the links. I also plan on going through more of them as I have time. But the historical foolishness goes beyond the biggies and pervades almost every element of the book. Some are so innane it is hard to believe they are being taken as possibly true. It is to one such example that I turn my attention now.
One of The Da Vinci Code's premises is that Christianity is all messed up because Jesus meant for it to include goddess worship and the Roman Catholic Church has committed all sorts of evils to suppress the "sacred feminine." (Nevermind that the RCC has done a lot -- to the consternation of other branches of Christianity -- to promote the sacredness of the Virgin Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God). As a result, the world is dominated by masculine religions that foster war and death and oppression. (Nevermind that the pagan, goddess worshipping Romans, Greeks, and Egytpians were warlike, oppressive, societies that inflicted great evils hundreds and thousands of years prior to Christianity's rise to prominence). One way the Christian Church did this was, according to The Da Vinci Code, to come up with its own creation account that scandalized women.
Sadly, Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female's creative power by ignoring biological truth and making man the Creator. Genesis tells us that Eve was created from Adam's rib. Woman became an offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess.
Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, page 259.
Well, Genesis may well have been the beginning of the end for goddess worship, but it certainly was no invention of "Christian philosophy." Genesis was written hundreds of years before there were any Christians and was already the central book of another . . . um, rather prominent religion known as Judaism. Yes, the first Chritians did accept the existing sacred scriptures of the Jews, but they did not invent them. In fact, it was from just such scriptures that Jesus taught his disciples.
This may seem like a small matter, but it is typical of Brown's approach to religious history. He seems to think the Roman Catholic Church as organized today sprung into existence with the first Christians (once the sexist disciples had sacked Mary Magdalene as Jesus' intended heir) as the exclusive expression of Christianity. Little is said about Protestantism. But more troubling from a historical standpoint is that Brown ignores the Orthodox Church with its deep, ancient roots in the Eastern Churches, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. These churches have claims to antiquity that rival and in some instances and areas may surpass that of the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, as the above quote shows, little is said about Judaism, except some silly claims about a form of goddess worshipping Judaism that had nothing to do with the Judaism of Jesus and his day.
It is depressing to read such drivel, but more depressing to see people taking it seriously. The hype will no doubt mount with the coming movie. Frankly, this bothers me more as a lay-historian than it does as a Christian. The response of Christian churches and organizations is actually encouraging, as many of them are educating themselves and others about the real history behind the Christian faith and the errors of the The Da Vinci Code. In any event, I will be sharing more of my response to this book, as I like to share my pain.