the Da Vinci Code

This page-turner lavishes on the reader, not only murders and car chases, but also bad theology. This best-selling novel alleges that Jesus Christ was promoted to the status of God at the fourth century Council of Nicaea:

  • “'I don't follow. His divinity?'
  • “'My dear,' Teabing declared, until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.'
  • “'Not the Son of God?'
  • “'Right,' Teabing said.'Jesus' establishment as "the Son of God" was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.'
  • “'Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?'”
  • (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 55).

(With a more sophisticated author, quoting characters' views as the author's own would be hazardous. But this author's scholars all agree with one another and, presumably, with their creator.)

That the Messiah is the "Son of God" is clear enough from Psalms, not known to have been written by the Council of Nicaea: "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession." (Psalm 2:7-8).

It is the Bible, again, which establishes Jesus' divinity, not the Council of Nicaea. Look at the John the Baptist: who is he? One who goes before, a precursor, an advance-man. It would be honorable enough to prepare the way for a king, or a prophet. But for Whom does John clear the way, according to the Bible?: "But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John...And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.'" (Luke 1:13-17) The Lord Himself!: "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways..." (Luke 1:76). Specifically, it was before the sandalled feet of Jesus Christ that John smoothed the way: "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’. . . He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:28-30).

Or another case: Jesus is the "householder:" "When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us.' He will answer you,' I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.'" (Luke 13:25-27). But what 'house' is this, of which Jesus is master, not porter, not servant? The salvation community. But the salvation community is God's household, not that of another: "I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies." (Jeremiah 12:7).

Or again: Who comes in fire to judge the world? Jehovah: "For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many." (Isaiah 66:15-16). Jesus: "...since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power..." (2 Thessalonians 1:8). 'Coming with fire to judge the world' is not such a vague, non-specific attribute as might apply to many.

Another. Who tried the people in the wilderness? The LORD: "You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah." (Psalm 81:7). Jesus Christ: "But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents..." (1 Corinthians 10:4-9).


Jesus is God

Who is Jesus?

The Son is God.

Your Throne, O God The Work of Your Hands Let Angels Worship
True God Express Image Visible and Invisible
For Himself Son of God Kiss the Son
A Son is born Honor the Son Only-begotten God
Pantocrator Believe on the Son Only Savior
The Dead were Judged Everlasting to Everlasting

Jesus is Jehovah God.

Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Jesus is Jehovah.

A Voice Crying Temple Visitor Stone of Stumbling
The Rock of Israel The First and the Last Lord of all
The LORD our Righteousness Holy, holy, holy Captivity Captive
House of David Answered prayers With all His saints
Israel's Savior Giver of Life Every Knee Shall Bow
Pastoral Supply I send you prophets Who forgives sin
I am He He is Lord Call upon the Name
Doxology God with Us Lawgiver
Great Shepherd You Only Lawful worship
Builder I AM THAT I AM Moses' Veil
Wine Press Lord Willing Secret Things
Boasting Excluded King of Israel Fount of Living Waters
Searches the Heart Till Death Do us Part Angel of the LORD
Take Refuge Has Reigned On His Forehead
Me Whom they have Pierced Stretched Out My Hands Head
Keeper of Israel The Amen

Jesus is God.

Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ is God.

The Eyes of the Blind Thought it not Robbery Eternally Blessed God
Fullness of the Godhead Great God and Savior Faith in Him
Redeemed King of Kings Spirit of Christ
Destroyed by Serpents Lord of Glory Renewed in the Image
New Jerusalem's Lamp Now is Christ risen Upholding all Things
Light to the Gentiles My Companion Miracles
Prosecutors' Indictment Sun of Righteousness Thirty Pieces
Testator's Death Author of Life The Blood of God
My Lord and My God One Mystery of godliness
God was in Christ The Word was God Shared Glory
Omniscience Omnipotence Omnipresence
Change Not Yesterday, Today and Forever Whose Hand?
Not of Man Receive my Spirit Believe in God
Only Holy Sole Proprietor Priests
Walk on the Water

The Incarnation

God or Man?

Not only does the Bible describe Jesus Christ as God, but Christian writers of the early centuries also so testify. Pagan observers of Christianity likewise report this as the belief of the early church:

Readers curious to see what the Nicene Creed says, may judge for themselves whether the language is Biblical or newly invented:

Biblical Proof:

Only One GodThe Father is GodThe Son is GodThe Holy Spirit is God


To counter the obvious problem that the Bible in our hands teaches the deity of Jesus Christ, this author alleges that our Bible is a late fabrication. For the truth, he first recommends the Dead Sea Scrolls, which make no mention of Jesus of Nazareth: "'Fortunately for historians,' Teabing said, 'some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert.'" (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 55). According to the author, "Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible..." (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 55). Left unexplained is how a second century author such as Justin, or a third century author such as Tertullian, managed to quote Constantine's fourth century creation.

Author Dan Brown also claims "it's a matter of historical record" that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. As proof he offers the Coptic Gospel of Philip which describes Mary, not as 'spouse,' but as the "companion" of Jesus. The author explains, "As any Aramaic scholar will tell you," 'companion' means 'spouse.' Perhaps a Coptic scholar might have been consulted, as no such work is extant in Aramaic. Unfortunately the Greek original has been lost.

The New Testament also describes Mary Magdalene as a companion of Jesus. A 'companion' is, literally, one who shares your bread (com + panis), and she did: "Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance." (Luke 8:1-3).

The Gospel of Philip reflects the typical gnostic viewpoint, ascribing creation to a lesser power and not the Most High God: "The world came about through a mistake. For he who created it wanted to create it imperishable and immortal. He fell short of attaining his desire." (Gospel of Philip, Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 154). The Jesus who speaks in our Bibles does not subscribe to this viewpoint: "For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be." (Mark 13:19). Perhaps our author will explain that Constantine forged these words. Given the failure of the earliest records of our Lord's teaching to endorse the view that this world was created, not by God, but by a fallen demiurge, it seems unlikely that works which do so teach originated within His circle.

Incidentally, this gnostic author by no means claims to be an eye-witness to Jesus' earthly ministry. He situates himself in a time after the apostles: "The apostles who were before us had these names for him: 'Jesus, the Nazorean, Messiah,' that is, 'Jesus, the Nazorean, the Christ.'" (The Gospel of Philip, p. 147, The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson); "For the father anointed the son, and the son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us." (The Gospel of Philip, p. 153, The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson). People like Dan Brown continually recast this literature as first hand accounts: "Understanding, his life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land...More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion..." (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Chapter 55). Whatever this gnostic author's faults, imposture is not one of them; he does not claim what Dan Brown claims for him.

This gnostic gospel reports the disciples questioning Jesus, "Why do you love her [Mary Magdalene] more than us?" The stated answer is not, 'Because I'm married to her,' but "When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness." (Gospel of Philip, Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 148). If the gnostic author had wished to communicate that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, the question "Why do you love her more than us?" is an odd one indeed. In addition to this gospel, the author also quotes the gnostic Gospel of Mary, which, like the Gospel of Philip, does not say that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. These two gnostic gospels are the "substantial" documentation the author promises, but does not deliver.

The Gospel of Mary portrays a time subsequent to the resurrection when Mary Magdalene is seeking visions of the risen Savior and reporting these conversations as sayings of the Lord, on a plane with His historic sayings. Peter and Andrew express skepticism about the value of this material. In response Mary turns on the water-works. The author, who quotes this work as substantiation of his views, has evidently forgotten that he situates Mary fleeing to France in this time frame, "[f]or the safety of Christ's unborn child," not hanging around in Jerusalem debating the apostles. (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Chapter 60). His own source rebuts him! The gnostic gospels give Mary the honor of a teaching position, of which this author deprives her by situating here where she could not have exercised it.

Forget France (never mind what this will do to poor Monsieur Plantard's claim to the throne),-- the entertainment industry has changed the locale of Mary Magdalene's tomb! Not only that but Jesus,-- or Hanun, or whoever,-- is buried alongside her! They say that error begets error, and to prove the point, the Discovery Channel has built upon Dan Brown's foundation:

Knowledge, Falsely So Called

If the author wishes to go forward with his "Jesus was a Jew" idea, he might reflect that Jews...not Manasseh the king, not Jason the false high priest...but the faithful remnant, were monotheists. This his favored gnostic authors were not:

“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’” (Isaiah 45:9-10).


Pagan Sun God

  • “'Originally,' Langdon said, 'Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun.' He paused, grinning. 'To this day, most churchgoers attend services on Sunday morning with no idea that they are there on account of the pagan sun god's weekly tribute—Sunday.'”
  • (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 55).

To this day, most churchgoers explain to the Seventh Day Adventists that Christians meet for worship on Sunday, as they have ever done, in commemoration of Christ's resurrection on the first day of the week:

Seventh Day Adventists


In real life, it was the novel and controversial teaching of the presbyter Arius that drew the bishops to Nicaea. This fourth century author's teaching on the nature of Christ is followed in the present day by the Jehovah's Witnesses. They do not consider Jesus Christ to be a mere mortal man, nor do they consider Him to be the true God. They say He is a god. Arithmeticians will note that one true God plus a god equals more than one god...a god-count Arius' detractors were quick to pounce upon.


19th century Restoration Movement co-founder, Barton Stone, was an Arian who defends the viewpoint in this essay:

Barton Stone

As is also the case with gnosticism, author Brown seems not to believe nor wish to promote the Arian viewpoint: that Jesus is an exalted heavenly being existing before the world, but not eternal. The Arians, alongside the gnostics, are dragged in from left field in order to discredit the orthodox viewpoint, and then are expected to exit stage right. But these conflicting viewpoints discredit orthodoxy no more and no less than they discredit the author's own view, which he holds with no less certainty for all the failure of others to share it.

The viewpoint author Brown promotes: that Jesus was a mere man, though not on the Nicene agenda, was not unknown in the early church. The Ebionites among others held this view. What was the Ebionite interpretation of the prologue to John's gospel? There was none, of course: this group only accepted the Gospel of Matthew.

The Goddess

To author Brown, it was Christianity, not the Olympians, who dethroned the 'Goddess,' a poetic construct much loved in some quarters. The real-life pagan religion displaced by Christianity was a bit rougher around the edges. At the height of the pantheon roamed Jupiter, a serial rapist. The satellites which orbit the planet Jupiter include rape victims along with this luminary's many adulterous liaisons. (To Christian minds, Jupiter ought to have one moon, and it ought to be named Juno.) How school-teachers explain Ganymede to junior space explorers I don't know. If they run, I count the encounter as non-consensual:

Io Raped, then changed into cow.
Europa Not consensual; abducted by bull.
Ganymede Why not call this moon, 'Adam Walsh.'
Callisto Raped, then changed into bear.
Metis He swallowed her.
Amalthea A motherly goat.
Thebe Married to his son Zethus.
Leda Not consensual; he impersonated a swan.
Lysithea Not known.
Elara Buried alive.
Pasiphae Consensual; Mother of Minotaur.
Sinope Courted unsuccessfully; she got away.

Why feminists should delight in a pantheon presided over by a serial rapist is left unexplained.

Among several reasons why Baptists do not practice the self-cutting of which this author accuses Opus Dei is that these practices are condemned by the Mosaic law: "You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:28). These were practices of the pagan peoples round about: “And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, 'Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.' So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them.” (1 Kings 18:27-28). Self-torture was by no means unknown to goddess devotees: "He [Commodus] practiced the rites of Isis, even to the extent of shaving his head and carrying the figure of Anubis...The Isis worshippers, indeed, he forced to beat their breasts with pine-cones, to the point of death." (Commodus Antoninus, by Aelius Lampridius, 'Augustan History,' p. 169, Lives of the Later Caesars).

This is not our author's paganism, but it was what the pagans did. The uniform pagan devotion he describes is unknown to history; paganism was, in reality, as multiform as Proteus. Perhaps this author's special torment will be to be caught up into the pagan empyrean and there compelled to keep company with the Vestal Virgins.

How Many Gods?

“Thus says the LORD: 'Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the LORD." (Isaiah 66:1-2).

Our author explains, "...the Holy of Holies, where the male and female deities—Yahweh and Shekinah—were thought to dwell." (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 105). Male and female deities? How many deities would that be?:

How Many Gods?

 How many Gods?

As noted previously, Jesus is the Desire of Nations. Those who do not like what He has to say nevertheless just can't leave Him alone. Our newly minted Jesus poses no threat to the sexual mores of academia. The real One does.

Students of pagan mythology are familiar with pantheons as active as rabbit hutches. Nothing like this is found in the Bible. Dan Brown's lusty female "Shekinah" is not unknown to Hebrew thought, but it is the medieval Kabbalah, not the Old Testament, where the inquirer must seek her:

In mating Shekhinah with Tsaddik, were the Kabbalists rediscovering an old truth, or innovating?:

"In this world of Sefiroth, each of which can be viewed as a hypostasis of a particular facet of God, the Shekhinah receives its new meaning as the tenth and final Sefirah. The crucial factor in its new status is unquestionably its feminine character, which. . .is not found in any pre-Kabbalistic source, but which now absorbs everything capable of such an interpretation in biblical and rabbinic literature." (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' p. 160).

One should not conclude, from the popularity of the Kabbalah in modern Judaism, that this way of thinking represents an authentic revelation of Biblical theology. To the contrary, the Kabbalah denies every fundamental Bible truth about God's nature.

Return to Answering the Jesus Seminar...

The Last Supper, Leonard Da Vinci

Magnifying Glass

Leonardo Da Vinci

This author believes that the figure to Jesus' right in Leonardo's painting of the Last Supper at the Dominican refectory is, not the apostle John as commonly thought, but Mary Magdalene. Though this figure bears none of Mary Magdalene's conventional attributes in Christian iconography, such as her box of ointment, the author offers the figure's soft, feminine appearance as evidence.

Fresco painting of that time incorporated pigment into wet plaster. The result was permanent, but required working fast. Leonardo did not like to work fast so he employed a different method. Unfortunately the results were disastrous; not long after the painting's completion paint began flaking off the wall. But all is not lost; art students used to copy masterworks so as to learn by doing, and a copy confirms the figure's soft appearance:

Copy, Da Vinci's Last Supper

With this artist, however, such an appearance is not conclusive proof of gender. During his lifetime he was accused of homosexuality: "In the spring of 1476 Leonardo was living in Verrocchio's house. On 8 April a note was dropped in the tamburo, a box outside the Palazzo Vecchio into which Florentines could place accusations, whether signed or anonymous. This unsigned note accused Leonardo and three other young men of engaging in homosexual acts with a seventeen-year-old artist's model, Jacopo Saltarelli." (Leonardo, Maria Costantino, p. 22) He was acquitted owing to lack of evidence. Of course, it is one thing to make accusations, another to prove them. Yet many observers have long credited the accusation, on the evidence of his painting. Beautiful, soft young men appear often in his work and are deemed to indicate a sexual preference. It would scarcely be fair at this late date to decide they are actually women after all! See his John the Baptist:

Leonardo Da Vinci, John the Baptist

The assumption that the apostle John was very young at the time of the Last Supper comes from those early church writers who date the Book of Revelation very late in the first century. "We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 30:3). Domitian ruled 81 A.D. to 96 A.D. If the apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation "towards the end of Domitian's reign," as Irenaeus claims, he must have been a very young man at the time of the Last Supper, giving Leonardo the opportunity to paint what seems to have been a favored subject.

Michelangelo was another artist of the High Renaissance whose devotion to the beauties of the male form went beyond professional requirements. Savonarola had his work cut out for him in preaching against the immorality of this society; but him they burnt at the stake.

Vasari, in the first edition of his Lives, reports Leonardo held heretical views: "Leonardo was of so heretical a cast, that he conformed to no religion whatsoever..." (Vasari, quoted p. 22, Leonardo, Maria Costantino). One cannot easily confirm, however, that Leonardo shared our author's fascination with Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was a legitimate subject of Christian art; had this subject interested Leonardo, he could have found the opportunity. One painting of her, pre-repentance, exists which has been suggested as Leonardo's work, though more commonly and plausibly ascribed to a student. Though the figure's neck is turned, the head is nevertheless centered between the shoulders, which one sees often enough, but not in Leonardo's work:

Mary Magdalene, Detail, School of Leonardo Da Vinci

In the Milan Last Supper, the artist seeks to capture the dramatic moment when Jesus announces His betrayal. I've taken the liberty of reassembling two parts of Leonardo's sketch, showing the apostles agitated and questioning, as in the New Testament, “And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, 'Lord, is it I?'” (Matthew 26:22). This agitation has been heightened in the painting, almost to the point of melodrama. The painting does not portray the moment when the Lord institutes communion. A painting is not a movie, showing an entire event in sequence; the artist must choose his moment. Had the artist intended to communicate information about the 'Holy Grail,' that would have been the obvious moment to choose.

Author Dan Brown's claim that Leonardo belonged to a secret society called the 'Priory of Sion' would be more convincing if any documentation existed supporting the existence of such an organization, prior to the work of twentieth century forger Pierre Plantard. To the people who believe this sort of thing, that one's easy:—there is no documentation. . .because it's a secret!


Sketch, Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci

For more beautiful artwork
by Leonardo DaVinci,
visit the Art Renewal Center.


  • “Sophie turned. 'The prostitute?'
  • “Teabing drew a short breath, as if the word had injured him personally. 'Magdalene was no such thing. That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early Church.'”
  • (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 58).

It's odd indeed that an author who finds pagan fertility rites the last word in spirituality sputters so at this identification. That Mary of Bethany was a prostitute is not a "smear," but an inference drawn because of the ointment:

“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, 'This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.'” (Luke 7:36-39).
"Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil." (John 12:1-3).

On its face there is nothing impossible in two women doing this same thing on two different occasions; Luke does not give a locale for his story but presumably once in Galilee and once in Judaea, the first occasion earlier in the ministry, the second just before the passion. Yet John does not speak as if it were a common, repeated act, rather he seems to think there is one woman who performed this action, on both occasions:

"Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick." (John 11:1-2).

If this were of common occurrence, why not say 'Mary was one of those who anointed the Lord'? His language suggests the anointing is sufficient to mark out to his readers who he is talking about. There may be differences in various New Testament accounts, but discrepancies only if one asserts it is impossible to anoint both head and feet. The woman who poured ointment on the Lord's feet, and head, who may indeed be the same Mary who was Lazarus' sister, was a flagrant, public "sinner." Her line of work is not stated. This woman may well be Mary of Bethany, a woman who loved the Lord, and studied His teaching:

"And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word." (Luke 10:39).

Certainly there are many sins, and indeed we are all sinners: ". . .for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. . ." (Romans 3:23). People criticize the 'Religious Right' for focusing on sexual sins to the exclusion of all other sins, but in fact people have always homed in on these sins. It is unlikely that a woman who was branded a "sinner" was notorious for avarice, say, or calumny. And yet she cannot have been a known axe murderer or bank robber, or she would not have been on the loose. The idea that she was a courtesan fits the known facts.

Now, to the next issue: is Mary of Bethany the same woman as Mary Magdalene, i.e. Mary of Magdala (in Galilee)?

If it is not this woman whom the gnostic gospels portray as teaching others what she had learned at Jesus' feet, then who? What other woman "sat at Jesus' feet"? It appears that the gnostic authors identified Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany; whence else comes Mary Magdalene's license to teach? Though our author thinks highly of the gnostic authors, he dislikes their identification.

The case that Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala must be two different women runs as follows: Luke brings up Mary Magdalene in Chapter 8 of his gospel without any apparent awareness he has just told a long story about the same party. Moreover, Bethany and Magdala are both place names. They are not the same place. Therefore Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala cannot be the same woman. But people move. We talk about Jesus of Nazareth, but Jesus of Bethlehem gives his natal place. Why not Jesus of Jerusalem? That is where He was put to death, and the present-day bishop of Rome styles himself 'Peter' for no better reason than because Peter was put to death in that place. Commentators who lived in that day and were familiar with how these tags work did not hesitate to identify Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalene. Modern commentators are more reticent.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, people identified by a place-name in the period often did not reside at that place: "The many parallels to a place of origin as an identifying second name, from ossuaries and other Second Temple period sources, all seem to refer to a place from which the individual or the family came before living elsewhere." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, p. 106). Say there are five 'Phil's' living in Podunk. Calling each 'Phil from Podunk' gets you nowhere in terms of differentiating them. You want to specify exactly which 'Phil' you mean, but they are all 'from Podunk.' But if one was originally 'from away,' calling him 'Phil from East Overshoe,' is accurate, easily remembered, and does serve to distinguish him from the others. So if she's Mary 'Magdalene,' that does not stick her in Magdala for life.

Some early commentators were biased toward identifying persons who turn up in the New Testament, if there is any basis for so doing, such as the same name or similarities in the description of an incident. Some modern commentators are biased against. In the nature of things, these identifications cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, we are talking about a public ministry that spanned but three years. Though Jesus drew crowds of thousands, His inner circle was smaller. One hundred and twenty persons assembled in the upper room (Acts 1:15). In a core group numbering one hundred and twenty, what are the odds that each 'Mary' you come upon is new and not familiar? Is there actually an infinite pool of 'Mary's'? Looking to plausibility rather than to an unattainable standard of proof, the strategy of identification is defensible.

One should be careful to avoid the anachronism of assuming the frequency of name distribution in antiquity was the same as now. Certainly the student of Carthaginian history who, hearing about 'Hannibal,' 'Hamilcar,' and 'Hanno,' says, 'Oh yeah, I know that guy,' will meet with shipwreck, because this society recycled names. Some modern readers do take this strategy, of collapsing all same-named persons into one, meeting at times with ridiculous results. This popular modern author, for instance, is too canny to be fooled by the gospel presentation that Jesus had a brother named James, and there is also an apostle so-named, who is not the same person: "Simultaneously, his double and namesake, the confusing 'James the brother of John,' as we saw, is conveniently eliminated from the narrative." (Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, p. 413). The evidence of the ossuaries, however, is that 'Jacob' actually was a common name.

The once popular 'identify-if-possible approach is no longer widely accepted by church folk, and with some reason. Archaeological inscriptions show that 'Mary' was indeed such a popular name in first century Judaea that, if you called out 'Miriam!' on the street, fully one quarter of the female populace would have turned their heads. Had the early church authors been fully aware of how common the name was, they might have seen the futility in identifying Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany. But their motives were not impure. There is an advance in economy in identifying two figures who at first glance seem distinct; it is not an evil thing to do. And it is at least conceivable that this actually is one and the same individual.

When the Lord arose, on Sunday, the first day of the week, He appeared to Mary Magdalene: "Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons." (Mark 16:9). That this is the same woman who poured ointment on the Lord's feet cannot be proven to forensic standards. But to suppose she is not does require one to believe that Mary the sister of Lazarus, who loved the Lord, deserted Him in His time of need, because if she is not "Mary Magdalene," she is nowhere to be found at cross or tomb. Where was she? What kind of friend, knowing that her friend is suffering a tortured death not far from her home, sits at home unmoved? To think that it was so is sad. Certainly, you find out who your friends are when you're in trouble! "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." (John 11:5). Those committed to dividing Mary of Bethany from Mary Magdalene imply it was unrequited. The ancients could not bring themselves to believe that. Why would she have stayed away? Was it because Lazarus was on Jerusalem's Most Wanted List?: "But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus." (John 12:10-11). His sister may have felt laying low was the only way to avoid leading the authorities to her brother. Then she loved her brother better than she loved Jesus. Still one really cannot prove the point one way or the other. We are in the realm of probabilities, not certainties.

The traditional understanding is remarkable. A reformed prostitute was the first person to see the risen Lord. Why is our author so uncharitable that he assumes no woman who has ever been a prostitute can thereafter amount to anything or be worth anything? The early church authors were not so judgmental. The identification of Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalene finds defenders today: "Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany never appear on the stage together. . .Why invent another Mary when Mary of Bethany is so perfectly portrayed? The one who loved much, the one whose action was to be remembered wherever the gospel was preached throughout the whole world, was also surely the one who first saw the Lord." (John Wenham, Easter Enigma, p. 29).

In either case, the accusation of ill-will against those who identify the two Mary's is unfounded. Those commentators who follow the strategy of identification do so consistently, not just in this one case. They identified Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdala because they tended to identify personages of the same name if it was possible to do so, not because they were smear artists. It is odd that Dan Brown is so zealous to defend the woman's honor, because others who have promoted the same gnostic template he is using have thought the whole point was that the woman was a prostitute:

Consumer Satisfaction

We are accustomed to artists 'doing their own thing.' But during the Renaissance, patrons had not yet surrendered their bargaining power. This picture was bought and paid for by the Dominicans. They would have expected to see twelve men gathered around Jesus at the Last Supper, because there were twelve men, to fill twelve thrones: “So Jesus said to them, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'" (Matthew 19:28). So if the figure to Jesus' right is not John, then where is he? Why did the purchasers not demand he be painted in?

Was Jesus Married?

The most controversial of author Dan Brown's claims are that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. The author offers as supporting documentation two gnostic gospels which do not report that Jesus was married, nor that He had a child. Do the apostolic gospels leave room for these speculations?

There is of course no Bible evidence in favor. In the negative,

"Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?" (1 Corinthians 9:5).

If not only the Lord's brothers, but the Lord Himself, were married, then wouldn't that bolster Paul's case? Why would he fail to mention it?

As to extra-Biblical evidence there is, again, none in favor. Against, is the tradition that oversight of the Jerusalem church was passed down 'in the family:'

"AFTER the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Savior. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.

"HE also relates that Vespasian after the conquest of Jerusalem gave orders that all that belonged to the lineage of David should be sought out, in order that none of the royal race might be left among the Jews; and in consequence of this a most terrible persecution again hung over the Jews." (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapters 11-12).

James, the Lord's brother, first held this office. Then it passes to a cousin; if the Lord had lineal descendants, why not to them? Oh, I forgot, they fled to France...

There were also, it would seem, descendants of Jude, the Lord's brother:

"BUT when this same Domitian had commanded that the descendants of David should be slain, an ancient tradition says that some of the heretics brought accusation against the descendants of Jude (said to have been a brother of the Savior according to the flesh), on the ground that they were of the lineage of David and were related to Christ himself. Hegesippus relates these facts in the following words.

“OF the family of the Lord there were still living the grandchildren of Jude, who is said to have been the Lord’s brother according to the flesh. Information was given that they belonged to the family of David, and they were brought to the Emperor Domitian by the Evocatus. For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it. And he asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed that they were. Then he asked them how much property they had, or how much money they owned. And both of them answered that they had only nine thousand denarii, half of which belonged to each of them; and this property did not consist of silver, but of a piece of land which contained only thirty-nine acres, and from which they raised their taxes and supported themselves by their own labor.” Then they showed their hands, exhibiting the hardness of their bodies and the callousness produced upon their hands by continuous toil as evidence of their own labor. And when they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they, answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works. Upon hearing this, Domitian did not pass judgment against them, but, despising them as of no account, he let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the Church. But when they were released they ruled the churches because they were witnesses and were also relatives of the Lord. And peace being established, they lived until the time of Trajan. These things are related by Hegesippus." (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapters 19-20).

These are the closest surviving relatives known to history: the grandchildren of a half-brother.

But Christians, unlike some gnostics, are not anti-marriage. The Lord's people are busy preparing for Jesus' wedding date: "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." (Revelation 19:7). Mary Magdalene will be there, but Sony's not selling tickets to this event. Their tickets purchase seats looking out on less joyous scenes.

Kiss of Peace

The brethren of the early church greeted one another with a kiss:

"Greet one another with a holy kiss." (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26).
"Greet one another with a kiss of love." (1 Peter 5:14).

That the Lord and His disciples practiced this 'kiss of peace' appears as Judas greets his master in the customary way to identify Him to the guard (Mark 14:44). The institution of this custom is not described, though Psalm 2:12 explains it in part: "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way..." (Psalm 2:12).

The practice is mentioned in passing by orthodox writers:

"Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss." (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 65)

It would seem to have undergone a remarkable development with the gnostics:

"For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in one another." (Gospel of Philip, p. 145, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by James M. Robinson.)

The intended meaning is unclear. The "we" who "kiss one another" are the author's church.

In contemporary America a kiss between two adults is perceived as a sexualized gesture. President Clinton reportedly perfected a kind of bear hug which, while seeming a gesture of affection, held foreign politicians at bay and prevented them from kissing him. Our author employs the American perception in making his case that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. 'Philip' says, "And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [...]." (Gospel of Philip, p. 148, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by James M. Robinson.)

The author of 'Philip' does not claim to be the apostle of that name; he situates himself outside this group when he says, "Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and [the] apostolic men." (Gospel of Philip, p. 143, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by James M. Robinson.) (The way the gnostics tell it, Eve was raped by the powers or rulers, a gang which includes the God of the Old Testament. 'Philip' here describes Mary as a second, undefiled Eve.) As has been seen, the claim this author does not make is made for him by author Dan Brown, who sweeps this whole category of literature into the realm of eye-witness accounts. It is difficult to date this literature, but one red line is 70 A.D., when the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed. 'Philip' says, "There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem." (Gospel of Philip, p. 143, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by James M. Robinson.) That he says "were," not "are," dates the text later than 70 A.D. The translator suggests the third century. The author repeats a folk-tale ascribed to Philip the apostle that Joseph planted the tree of the cross, which evidently gives this sermon its title.

Imagine a supermarket tabloid were to report a secret marriage between a starlet and a singing sensation. Suppose the tabloid claimed to have documentary evidence substantiating their stunning scoop. Suppose the proof turned out to actual photograph of the singing sensation kissing the starlet on the [blank]! Readers would have the right to feel cheated; what about a friendly kiss, much less a holy kiss? If the first photograph of the event should, upon inspection, turn out to be date-stamped centuries afterwards, disappointment would increase.

The early church wanted to read accounts written by the apostles or those in their immediate circle, who gave us our four gospels. The gnostics weave an alternative transmission line, running through others, like Mary Magdalene, whom, 'Philip' says, the Savior kissed, bringing about her conception as one of the 'perfect.' Presumably they were obliged to weave an alternative line because the orthodox one was unavailable.

The Sacred Feminine

Author Dan Brown reportedly wrote this work to celebrate the "sacred feminine." What do women do that makes them sacred? Why, have babies, of course: "Sex begot new life -- the ultimate miracle -- and miracles could be performed only by a god. The ability of the woman to produce life from her womb made her sacred. A god." (Chapter 74, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown). One such sacred baby factory, he asserts, is Mary Magdalene, who successfully bore a child even though her husband, Jesus, was a mere mortal man. Our author's own religious convictions revolve around his preferred sacrament: "Historically, intercourse was the act through which male and female experienced God...'For the early Church,' Langdon explained in a soft voice, 'mankind's use of sex to commune directly with God posed a serious threat to the Catholic power base. It left the Church out of the loop, undermining their self-proclaimed status as the sole conduit to God.'" (Chapter 74, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown).

One God is too few for this author, as monotheism leaves no room in the heavenlies for his religion: "Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple housed not only God but also His powerful female equal, Shekinah." (Chapter 74, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown).

This set of ideas begins to run in a self-cancelling loop. Promoting Mary Magdalene to the status of wife of Jesus and mother of His child celebrates the "sacred feminine:"...because a mortal woman was married to a mortal man? If the husband is not divine, which is what our author claims, then why was the wife, any more than any other woman? For that matter, if a mortal woman were loved by God incarnate, how would that be a triumph for the "sacred feminine" either? Neverthelss, Mary Magdalene is a "Goddess," despite the mere humanity of her alleged consort: "The Priory of Sion, to this day, still worships Mary Magdalene as the Goddess, the Holy Grail, the Rose, and the Divine Mother." (Chapter 60, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown). This fictitious 'secret society' was astute enough to pick up on the author's direction that Jehovah has a consort and provide a divine consort for a divine Christ...who is, however, a mere mortal. Let us hope the Goddess did not impose upon her mortal consort as did Jupiter, that great respecter of the rights of women.

Evidently monotheism is unsuited for a society which makes sex the end all and be all of life. What defines our author's life is an activity he shares with our furry and flop-eared friends, but not with God. This must be corrected, and the pantheon restored to its proper pagan configuration, so that our author and his friends can find their lives duly respected.

Silly Season

Major publishing houses used to employ fact-checkers; it appears they no longer do so. Some of the misinformation in this book is downright silly. The Greek word 'heretic' occurs in the New Testament: "A man that is an heretick [αιρετικος] after the first and second admonition reject...." (Titus 3:10), referring to the way tendentious doctrine 'divides' the church. Latin apologist Tertullian wrote polemics against 'heresies' in the third century, as Irenaeus and Hippolytus had earlier compiled digests of 'heresies' in Greek. Yet author Brown helpfully informs us that we owe the word guessed it, Constantine: "Anyone who chose the forbidden gospels over Constantine's version was deemed a heretic. The word heretic derives from that moment in history." (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 55).

In a similarly astute vein, author Brown, having himself previously described Jesus as the "Messiah," intones that "Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state." (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 55). No doubt, given that 'Christ' is the Greek translation of the Hebrew 'Messiah:' "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah [mashiyach] the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;..." (Daniel 9:25). The Septuagint translates 'Messiah,' the Anointed One, into Greek literally, as 'Christos:' And thou shalt know and understand, that from the going forth of the command for the answer and for the building of Jerusalem until Christ [Χριστου LXX] the prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks;..." (Daniel 9:25 Brenton Septuagint). What information does this author imagine he is communicating with his "Christ as Messiah," i.e., 'Christ as Christ'?

Likewise, we are advised that the vote at Nicaea, which according to this author 'established' Jesus "as 'the Son of God,'" was close: "A relatively close vote at that..." (Chapter 55, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown). But the dissenting vote at the Nicene Council, which did not establish Jesus "as 'the Son of God,'" a title already belonging to the Messiah in the Old Testament, amounted to all of two, as even an Arian witness testified: "Philostorgius also confesses that all the bishops consented to the exposition of the faith made at Nicaea, with the exception of Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais, and Theon, bishop of Marmarica." (Book I, Chapter 9, The Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, epitomized by Photius).

More: "'A bit strange, don't you think, considering that both the Bible and our standard Grail legend celebrate this moment as the definitive arrival of the Holy Grail.'" (Chapter 55, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown). The Bible celebrates the "arrival of the Holy Grail"? "Even Da Vinci's enormous output of breathtaking Christian art only furthered the artist's reputation for spiritual hypocrisy. Accepting hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions, Da Vinci painted Christian themes..." (Chapter 8, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown). "Enormous output"? The many errors of fact in 'The Da Vinci Code' are in the main inconsequential. The one that matters is the author's denial of Christ's deity. That Jesus claimed to be God is, to coin a phrase, a matter of historical record. Denying this much is no more defensible than the author's other blunders, though unfortunately more popular. Jesus was accused of blasphemy by those who heard Him because, "'...You, being a Man, make Yourself God.'" (John 10:33). When a student of twentieth century history learns that Wallace D. Fard identified himself to the Detroit Police as the Supreme Being on earth, who would praise as 'objective' the investigator who flatly denies that such a thing is possible?

Secular Bible scholarship has been pursued, not as objective study, but as a religious quest, and Jesus' reported claim to be God is denied a priori because this claim offends some folks' religious sensibilities. Unitarians laud Jesus as a great moral teacher; by their lights, He should not have claimed to be God, and therefore He did not. The scholarly pursuit of the historical Jesus aims to embrace uniformitarianism, but fails. The principle of uniformitarianism expects things to happen in the past as in the present, in Constantinople as in Cincinnati. To be sure uniformitarianism meets a dead end when reality is 'lumpy:' the viewer is disappointed who concludes that, because Contestant 1 and Contestant 2 on the old game show 'What's My Line' are manifestly not brain surgeons, therefore neither is Contestant 3.

Nevertheless secular Bible students would benefit by applying uniformitarianism in earnest, instead of continuing to serve as the secular arm of the Unitarian Church. Father Divine was happy to hear his followers laud him as God, and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equitorial Guinea has been adored on that nation's state-sponsored radio as "the country's God." (BBC, July 26, 2003.) Since all available evidence reports Jesus claiming to be God, the objective historian notes down this fact.

The historical Constantine, far from being a trinitarian fanatic, waffled on this point; in the end he was baptized by an Arian bishop: "When Constantine finally asked for baptism, on his deathbed, he received that sacrament from Eusebius of Nicomedia." (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, p. 191). He is not, as represented, the prime mover on these issues. Rather, the majority of the bishops, in the end, stayed faithful to scripture, thankfully. Arians believe that Jesus is a god, not God; they do not believe He is a mere man, as someone has misinformed Dan Brown. Their views are upheld in the modern era by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Typical Jewish Male

Author Dan Brown explains that "Jesus was a Jew," and that "the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried." (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Chapter 58). Having shortly before advised the reader to consult the Dead Sea Scrolls for a gospel record unerased by Constantine, it is odd that he neglected to follow his own advice. Had he done so he would have noticed an entire army of unmarried Jewish males. These men looked to imminent holy war, for which the rules are, "When you are encamped against your enemies you shall guard against any impropriety. If one of you becomes unclean. . .then he shall go outside the camp; he must not come within the camp. When evening comes, he shall wash himself with water, and when the sun has set, he may come back into the camp." (Deuteronomy 23:9-10 NRSV). Engaging in sex while on campaign violated the holiness code. The army was to maintain ceremonial cleanliness, which leaves no room in the ranks for practitioners of our author's religion of Hieros Gamos: "If a man lies with a woman. . .both of them shall bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening." (Leviticus 15:18 NRSV).

The first century Jewish historian Josephus knew of thousands of these unmarried Jewish males:

"It also deserves our admiration, how much they exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness; and indeed to such a degree, that as it hath never appeared among any other men, neither Greeks nor barbarians, no, not for a little time, so hath it endured a long while among them. This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not suffer any thing to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who hath nothing at all. There are about four thousand 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 gives the handle to domestic quarrels; but as they live by themselves, they minister one to another." (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book XVIII, Chapter 1.5)

The modern Rabbis, however, share author Brown's disapproval of celibacy. Which side did Jesus come down on? He certainly disagrees with the stringent Essene views on the Sabbath; what about marriage? Let's let Him speak for Himself, as Dan Brown rarely does:

"For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (Matthew 19:12).

But this is no doubt one of the many corruptions in Constantine's Bible, as is proven by our author's dislike for the concept. Indeed, under our author's religion, this is blasphemy, as is also Moses' holiness code. People in monotheistic traditions are unfamiliar with the author's concept of a 'sacred marriage,' though it is a recognized sacrament of Wicca:

"The idea behind the 'Great Rite' is that a woman who, through ritual, has 'incarnated' or become the Goddess, and a man who, through ritual, has 'incarnated' or become the God — in other words, two people who have drawn down into themselves these archetypal forces, or, if you will, have allowed these forces within them to surface — can have a spiritual and psychical union that is truly divine. It is the modern form of the sacred marriage, or 'hierogamy,' that appears in many ancient religions." (Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler, p. 134).

Like, wow. The difficulty of fitting any such concept into a monothesitic theology is self-evident. This is not a revival of any aspect of monotheism, ancient or modern, but rather a preference for a different theological paradigm.

The Birthday of a King

“By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus.” (Chapter 55, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown).

Is that so?

Universal Birthday Clement of Alexandria
Epiphanius of Salamis Speculation vs. Revelation
Bible Evidence The Case Against Christmas
The War On Christmas O Christmas Tree
Why December 25th? Census
Gee Whiz Columbus Day
Easter and the Equinox

The Secret that Everybody Knows

The dramatic tension in author Brown's pot-boiler simmers over an explosive 'secret' whose unveiling will blow the lid off Christianity as we know it: that the union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene produced...the Merovingian dynasty. But when it comes time to prove his case, author Brown pulls out an argumentum ad verecundiam (a fallacious appeal to authority): it's true because experts agree it's true: "I shan't bore you with the countless references to Jesus and Magdalene's union." (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 58). According to author Brown, this "part of the historical record" is so well known to scholars as scarcely to require substantiation. It's a good thing thing, too, because the evidence he can be bothered to advance is a bit thin: two gnostic gospels which do not say that Jesus was married, and the enterprises of a twentieth century French forger who thought that people should give him money because he was a lineal descendent of Jesus. (Have I mentioned, I am Anastasia?)

But if everyone already knows this information, how is it a secret? Why would the Roman Catholic Church commit murder to conceal a fact...which everybody already knows?

In their lawsuit against author Brown, the authors who first concocted this idea admitted it was so eccentric that, they claimed, it could actually be copy-righted. What everyone knows cannot be copy-righted. (As these litigious benefactors of mankind discovered, copyright does not protect ideas, however unique, but only their expression.) Yet the actual eccentricity of the concept is no argument against it, any more than its fictitious universal acceptance would be argument in its favor.

This is not to deny that the argumentum ad verecundiam is a powerful argument. This argument is so powerful it proves that the sun revolves around the earth, as experts agreed against Copernicus' novel and controversial thesis; it proves that lobotomy is sound medical procedure, as experts agreed in the era of the ice-pick's ascendency; it proves that surgeons need not wash their hands, as experts once agreed. Indeed, this argument is so powerful that perhaps its use should be regulated by treaty, as are other fearsomely lethal weapons like poison gas. No field of inquiry can advance if we stipulate that unfamiliar, novel ideas with which experts in the field do not already agree are invariably false. Given that daily life could not go on without judicious use of the argumentum ad verecundiam,-- why do you floss your teeth? Because experts agree you should,-- its rejection by philosophers seems harsh, but in fact this fallacious argument has no place in discussion of ultimate issues. Rather, those who promote a claim should advance substantive evidence in its favor, where it can be examined in the light of day rather than concealed beneath the veil of someone's supposed expertise.

The Da Vinci Code is part of a booming niche of the publishing industry: the explosive exposé of Christianity. But while author Brown and other members of his fraternity, like the Jesus Seminar, agree that the Jesus of history was not the Jesus of the Gospel, they agree on nothing more. Was Jesus a wandering Jewish healer?-- no, because He was a Gentile cynic philosopher. Few features of their portrayals are shared. By the procedure of exaggerating certain features of the gospel account and suppressing others, they dial up the Jesus of their heart's desire.

This book's success demonstrates the never ceasing hunger for this product, a market demand which fuels the endlessly proliferating Jesuses of the nations' desire. Jesus obviously troubles these people, and they respond by 'editing' Him, cutting out what is troublesome and demanding. Rather than scholarly inquiry, this field falls under the heading of a religious quest, whose aim is not the Christian's hope for a seat in heavenly places, but somewhere south of there.


Author Dan Brown

Author Brown has surfaced recently, not to defend the bogus "facts" his book imposes upon the credulous reader, but rather to lament that everyone is just so mean to him:

"...he never imagined the tenor of his critics would be so harsh or the controversy so sharp." (Maine Sunday Telegram, April 30, 2006, page E3).

No doubt this author will now be championed by the media as an apostle of tolerance. How does author Brown himself characterize those who do not share his view of the person and work of Jesus Christ? As liars. Not even as common-place liars, but as liars who are willing to murder to ensure that the truth never comes to light. Those who aspire to tolerance should do as this author says, not as he does.

Author Brown condemns his critics for their "moral certainty:" "Brown's only quibble with his critics is the level of moral certainty with which some of them operate...'I was not born with the luxury of absolute certainty or absolute truth...This world is a big place, and now, more than ever, there is enormous danger in believing we are infallible, that our version of the truth is absolute, and that everyone who does not think like we do is wrong, and therefore an enemy.'" (Maine Sunday Telegram, April 30, 2006, page E3). His characters do enjoy this luxury:

  • “'What I mean,' Teabing countered, 'is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.'”
  • (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Chapter 55).

Not content with having amassed a fortune from blasphemy, our author aspires to a career as an anti-religious guru:

"'We no longer turn to God for answers as to why the skies drop hail or why plagues spread. Science has answered those questions,' Brown said." (On His Home Turf, Public Discussion: Dan Brown, Maine Sunday Telegram, April 30, 2006, p. E3).

Dan Brown
Lawrence Krauss
Ex Nihilo
Deep Europan Sea
Pray and Do Nothing

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