The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Book Report by Terry Heames

My 20 year old daughter read it in a night and said I wish I knew more about the Bible. It took me a few evenings and I thought it was a great "Who Done It" and that the author was just sloppy. The book has been on top of the fiction bestseller list for a year or more. However, the controversy surrounding the novel is amazing. There must be at least a half a dozen small books (less than 100 pages) on why the DaVinci Code is nonsense.

The first page of the DaVinci Code tells you that this novel is going to be different. The first page is titled "FACT" and notes that the "Priory of Scion-a European Secret Society was founded in 1099. In 1975 a dossier was found that claimed membership for Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo DaVinci. It then introduces Opus Dei, and terms them a deeply devout Catholic sect that is the subject of current controversy, accused of brainwashing and "corporeal mortification". However it is the final sentence that has garnered the most attention. "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate". Thus the author is insinuating that the novel takes place in a historically accurate world, rather like a virtual reality.

I assume that most of you have read it (a show of hands please). This is for those who haven't or those who may have forgotten the basic plot. The book is a murder mystery wrapped around a different meaning of the "Holy Grail". In the beginning the curator of the Louvre is shot in the museum but is able to activate the protection devices separating him from his assassin. Before he dies he strips naked and using the blood from the bullet wound leaves a mysterious clue for his niece and an associate from America who is suspected of killing him. After 200 pages of narrow escapes from the authorities and various mysterious figures and trying to determine what the "The Priory of Scion" had to do with the murder the author introduces the reader to an alternative view of Christianity. At the Council of Nicea (325 AD) many aspects of Christianity were voted upon including (1) Christ's divinity, won out by 1 single vote, (2) what would be included (and excluded from) the new Testament (Matthew Mark Luke and John were in Thomas, Philip, and Mary out). Shortly after this, the intrepid amateur detectives are informed that "The Priory of Scion" protects the great secret, "that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, and had a child (Sarah). Mary was pregnant at the crucifixion and subsequently moved to France and the child's descendants became part of one of the French dynasties". However, those scoundrels from the Roman Catholic Church were more interested in maintaining male supremacy and so are intent on burying the secret and use Opus Dei to do their dirty work. The Priory of Scion found the proof of the child (the Sangreal document) and is thinking of revealing it to the world. Now you have the antagonists. The reason for the book's title, was that if one looks at DaVinci's Last Supper, you know the painting with Christ in the middle of the long table with half the disciples on each side, that the disciple to Christ's right is not a youthful apostle John but Mary Magdalene. And of course, DaVinci was a former Grand Master of this "Priory of Scion".

The Christian response appears to fall into two categories: (1) analyze each historical distortion and show why it is wrong or (2) just discuss one, or a few, basic premises. The June issue of Christianity Today just examines the Bible issue with an article entitled "Why the Lost Gospels Lost Out". While one of my favorite radio talk show hosts, Hank Hannegraf, answers about 40 or 50 inaccuracies. Darrel Bock, A Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary has written a short book using the second method. His contention is, that aside from the poor scholarship the real issues are: (1) Who was Mary Magdalene and was she the apostle to the apostles? (2) Was Jesus married and would being single make him less Jewish (this is one of the primary reasons given in the DaVinci Code for why he must have been married)? (3) Do the lost gospels help us understand Jesus and how was the New Testament assembled? Professor Bock's proposition is that if they were not married, what's the point of a secret society and many of the other interesting interpretations of history. His second proposition is that there is more than meets the eye here. He believes that the book is a way for the "New School" theologians to push society toward a rewrite of Christian history, one that will promote their ideas.

Larry told me you were a slow listening class so today I will only cover Mary Magdalene and was Jesus married. In two weeks I will cover the "Lost Gospels" and the liberal theologians.

Mary Magdalene:

According to the DaVinci Code (pages 249 & 250), Mary Magdalene was a powerful woman, a member of the house of Benjamin. By joining with Christ, a royal bloodline would have been generated between the House of David and the House of Benjamin that would have rivaled Solomon. When the Grail legend talks of the chalice that held the blood of Christ it is really talking about the womb of Mary Magdalene and the royal blood line. Hence the importance of the search for the Sangreal documents that provide the proof of the royal bloodline. In the DaVinci Code the word "Sangreal" is said to derive from San Greal (Holy Grail) but if one separates the word as "Sang Real" it would mean Royal Blood. The problem is that Sang Real only dates to Medieval times and the concept of the blood line dates from about 50 years ago. Hence, some important clues can easily be shown to be at best misleading and more than likely false.

However, who was Mary Magdalene?

Mary is one of seven people with that name mentioned in the New Testament, most are distinguished by additional descriptions:
(1)   Mary, the mother of Jesus,
(2)   Mary of Bethany, (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus)
(3)   Mary the mother of James who was not the Lord's brother (Matt 27:56) and was at the crucifixion,
(4)   Mary, the wife of Cleopas (John 19:25) and was also at the crucifixion,
(5)   Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12),
(6)   an unidentified Mary (Rom 16:6) when Paul was sending personal greetings to those he knew in Rome, and
(7)   Mary Magdalene, distinguished by her home town, Magdala (Luke 8:2). Note that there is no hesitation about mentioning familial relationships, typically a male which reflects the patriarchal culture of the first century. Mary of Magdala is noted in 4 ways in the Bible:
(1)   She was the beneficiary of an exorcism and was part of an entourage that traveled with Jesus (Luke 8:1-3),
(2)   She was present at the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus and with the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) and with the mother of James and Joseph (Mark 15:40-41). Again she is not singled out but with a group of women that followed Jesus from Galilee.
(3)   Some texts place her at the cross when the body was taken down and placed to rest (Matt 27:61) along with the other Mary, Salome, and other women.
(4)   all the other references depict her as a witness to Jesus' resurrection when she returned with the "other" women to anoint the body. In John 20:11-18 is the most dramatic account, there she was clinging to him after the resurrection and He told her to let go. This is understandable when one considers that she thought he was dead and had said her goodbyes to the man who had turned her life around. In this part she was told to tell the apostles what she had seen, so she became an "apostle" in the literal sense of "commissioned messenger" as opposed to one of the twelve. Hence there are 12 passages that refer to her, none of them indicating a relationship to Him. Although the other women at the cross were related to Him or to other men, she was not. She was a witness, that was it.

Extra-biblical Texts:

In texts outside the Bible there are also references to Mary. Hippolytus, a third century church father in discussing the "Song of Solomon (Songs)", says "lest the female apostles doubt the angels, Christ Himself came to them so that women would be apostles of Christ. Christ showed himself to the (male) apostles and said to them. "It is I who appeared to these women and I who wanted to send them to you as apostles". (this last quote of Christ may be an interpretation of Luke 16.14). Apparently if one reads the entire passage it indicates that Hippolytus was trying to say that the whole church was the bride of Christ. There are some other Christian texts but they just parallel the words in the New Testament.

Gnostic texts:

Another class of texts comes from the Gnostic Christian sources who emphasize the teaching of mysteries and direct revelation, that will be elaborated on later. The most famous passage concerning Mary Magdalene and her relationship to Christ comes from the Gnostic Gospel of Philip (63:32-64:10). This gospel was written in the later half of the third century, a full two hundred years after the time of Jesus. The text describes Mary as a companion of Jesus and is considered by most scholars as the basis for the supposed marriage between Christ and Mary. The text is broken, that is, the manuscript is damaged and unreadable in certain parts. What is legible reads: "And the companion of the {...} Mary Magdalene { .} her more than {..} the disciples {...} kiss her {...} on her {...}". Specialists surmise what goes into the blanks by the number of missing letters that could fit into the space and then translate the result. In cases where there are multiple options one is unsure of what the text may say. After some work the consensus for this verse reads "And the companion of the {...} Mary Magdalene {...} loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her {...}". Most scholars think that Christ is the one doing the kissing in this text. Now, both the words forehead and cheek fit for the location of the kiss. However, other more free thinking scholars, prefer a kiss on the mouth and they render it as: "And the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. And the rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval". These scholars say this rendering is correct because of the parallel in Philip 58:34 - 59:4. This part of the Philip text is in better condition and reads as: "For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we all kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in one another". This kiss on the mouth concept is developed in Harvard Professor and "New School Theologian", Karen King's book "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala". She prefers the kissing on mouth option in Philip 63 and also refers to Philip 58 for the proof, however when discussing Philip 58 she discusses it as a kiss of fellowship between believers. According to Professor Bock, she does not reconcile the two contradictory points of view. Others point out that even if it is a correct rendering it doesn't mention marriage and that the other apostles would not disapprove of Christ kissing His own wife.

The other key term in the Philip 63:64 verses is the word companion. In the DaVinci Code it says (pg 246) "Any Aramaic scholar will tell you that in those days companion meant spouse". The problem is that Aramaic scholars will tell you companion means friend and that the Gospel of Philip was written in Greek and translated to Coptic (the earliest known version is in Coptic not Greek or Aramaic). Apparently there was no word for companion in the Coptic language hence a Greek word was borrowed that translates normally as companion, but can also mean sister in a spiritual sense. This later meaning is more in line with the Gnostics belief in spiritual imagery. Professor King finishes her discussion by asking a series of questions about the Philip 63 text:
   Is Mary Magdalene identified with wisdom here?
   Is that why the savior loved her more than the other disciples?
   Does kissing mean that Mary and the Savior had a sexual relationship, or was it a spiritual one?
According to Professor Bock, King prefers a rendering that has Mary as Wisdom and the spiritual sister to the Savior.

Hence, (1) from the Gnostic gospel of Philip we have a chance that Mary and Christ were close companions, and (2) from Luke 8:1-3 we know that Mary was part of the entourage that traveled with Christ and that she was not associated with anyone, therefore some, as in the DaVinci Code, say they were married.

There are other Gnostic texts, but Professor Bock has found none that indicate that Jesus was married, or that Mary Magdalene was his wife. These extra-biblical texts never even make an argument for them being married, instead it is a more current concept. The most notable is from the 1982 book called "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln. This book is also the source for many of the fallacious arguments used by the novel's theologian in the DaVinci Code (Leigh Teabing, an anagram of the first two authors)

Well was Mary Magdalene a prostitute? The idea is popular and it comes from a sermon given by Pope Gregory the Great in AD 591. In all likelihood it comes from a confusion between passages in the gospels of Luke and John. In this case, virtually all biblical scholars are in agreement, it was just a case of mistaken identity, there is no evidence that she was a prostitute.

So what do we know of Mary of Magdala. She was a faithful disciple, a witness to the cross, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. She was not a prostitute. There is no evidence either in the Bible or outside of it that she was married, let alone to Jesus.

Was Jesus Married to anyone?

In the DaVinci Code there are two reasons given for believing that Jesus was married (1) the previously discussed Gnostic text (Philip 63) where Jesus kissed Mary on the mouth and (2) that it was un-Jewish to be unmarried.

Professor Bock states that the vast majority of conservative and liberal Jesus scholars believe Jesus was single, indeed "New School Theologian" John Dominic Crossan was asked whether Jesus was married and he begins his reply with:

"There is an ancient and venerable principle of biblical interpretation which states that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a camel in disguise. So lets apply that to whether Jesus was married. There is no evidence that Jesus was married (looks like a duck), multiple indications that he was not (walks like a duck), and no early texts suggesting wife or children (quacks like a duck) so he must be an incognito bridegroom (camel in disguise)."

Some of you may have seen Professor Crossan on one of the TV documentaries on the area, he is the one with the Irish brogue and quick remark (as above). As Professor Crossan notes, there is no evidence that Jesus was married, on the other hand we have none that states he wasn't. There are places in the Bible where it would have been easy to add it and we will get to those shortly.

However one of the arguments used by the DaVinci Code theologian was that if Jesus had been married it would have had devastating effects on his claim of divinity and hence the conspiracy by the church to keep it quiet. Would it have been devastating? Jesus did much to underscore his humanity. He ate, thirsted, slept, lived, and died-all traits of a normal human existence. His uniqueness was his relationship with God, his access to divine power, and his resurrection from the dead. One of our basic beliefs is that Christ was fully human, if he had been married and had children it would have reflected on his humanity, not his divinity. There would have been no reason to cover it up.

As Craig Blomberg noted in the Denver Journal (2004). "I would also add that with the very early veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Roman Catholicism, largely out of a desire to have a quasi divine female figure to go along with God the father, had Jesus ever been married such a woman would have scarcely disappeared without a trace. She would have been celebrated and venerated instead, especially by the Catholicism that the DaVinci Code would have you believe hushed it up."

However, as a good Jew does Jesus need to be married?

The argument goes "Because Jesus was a teacher and functioned like a rabbi, he would have followed Jewish custom and married". The problem with the argument is Jesus was not a rabbi. Although the apostles called him one he held no official position and indeed the Jews often asked him by what authority He did things (Mark 6). Clearly the Jewish leaders did not think of Him as a rabbi.

In Matthew 19 the Pharisees asked Jesus, why did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce? And Jesus replied that it was do to the hardness of their hearts and then he goes on to say: "But it was not this way at the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for marital unfaithfulness and marries another commits adultery". The disciples said to him "If this is the situation between a husband and wife it is better not to marry". And Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way, others because they were made that way by men, and others who have renounced marriage because of the kingdom. The one who can accept this should accept it".

The question is, why would Jesus issue such a statement, acknowledge it is a demanding calling, and then not follow it?

Well was it common for Jewish men to be celibate? The Jewish historian Josephus in Chapter 18 of his book "Antiquities" describes the Essenes (the apparent authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls) , "There are about 4000 men that live in this way, and neither marry wives, nor are desirous to keep servants; as thinking the latter tempts men to be unjust, and the former give handle to domestic quarrels; but as they live by themselves they minister one to another." Hence, at least some Jews did not view marriage as an obligation, but chose celibacy as a sign of piety.

Professor Bock thinks that Corinthians 9:4-6 may be the key verses. There Paul writes:

"Do we not have the right to financial support? Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wife, like the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work?"

Paul is noting that the apostles, the Lord's brothers, even Peter had every right to be married. It would have been simple, and made his argument even stronger to add that Christ was married. But he didn't.

Back to Mary, one more time. Remember at the cross, there were several believing women in attendance and if there was a wife and family they would have been present. Yet, there is no description in the Bible about a family, there is only the Lord's concern for His mother, whom he gave into John's care.

I think we have shown the fallacy of a few of the DaVinci "codes". There is no evidence to support that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene indeed there is no evidence to support that Jesus was married at all. There is evidence to support the concept that being celibate was OK, in fact admired by many.

However, the novel does not stop there it goes on to say things about church history, the Bible, and those Gnostic Gospels we looked at. In two weeks, I will be back to discuss the newly discovered gospels and their theology as well as how the New Testament was put together.

Postscript:

The Priory of Scion -- according to the DaVinci code it was founded in 1099 in Jerusalem. In reality it was first founded by a group of monks of the Order of Lady of Mount Zion. Being a monastery it was referred to as the Priory of Zion. It ceased to exist in 1617 when it was absorbed into the Jesuits (a Roman Catholic order devoted to education-I graduated from one of their High Schools and Universities). The organization was reinvented in the 1930's by a Frenchman, Pierre Plantard, as a group that was both anti-Masonic, anti-Jewish, and Pro-Nazi, it was into spirituality and mythology. He eventually decided to bring back the French Monarchy by attempting to forge documents proving there was a Royal Bloodline of historic significance. This particular aspect was apparently the subject of a BBC documentary in 1966 and was shown to be flawed. In the early 1990's Plantard was associated with a man embroiled in a securities scandal that committed suicide. In the ensuing investigation his house was searched and turned up a hoard of "Priory" documents including one that showed he was of the royal bloodline and was the "true king of France". The judge thought it all harmless and he was acquitted on charges of being an accomplice and given a severe warning about playing games.