"My hope (is) that the story will serve as a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history."
- Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code
Besides the popular book and movie, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code might soon break another record: more titles refuting the "code" than have been written to "expose" Bill and Hillary Clinton.
I personally have watched two videos, attended two panel discussions, and read all, parts, or synopses of nearly a half-dozen books about The Da Vinci Code. Oh, and I've also read the book. I'd see the movie, too, but as you can probably tell, I'm kind of Da Vincied out.
But lest all this effort go to waste, I'd like to tell you my impression of the book, Dan Brown's "revelations" vs. those in the Bible, and why I think this event du jour is both a concern and a gift to the Christian Church.
First, it is a well-written thriller. I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know how the story turned out. Otherwise I would have put the book down when the teacher-character Leigh Teabing made his first pronouncement against Christianity.
Reaction seems to be following one of these two paths with equal fervor: 1) "It's just a novel, and fictional characters can say anything they want whether it's true or not;" or 2) "Dan Brown has no right to defame a religion that so many people hold dear." While the first group may or may not be Christians, the second tends to be more serious about their faith, and more offended when it is maligned.
Dr. Paul Maier, Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, offers this explanation from group two.
"Even in fiction the background - historical data - is usually accurate whether the foreground - the story - is or not. For example, what if someone wrote a novel set during the Second World War and said the Allies lost and the Nazis won? It wouldn't happen." Maier, who wonders if there are any fact-checkers at Brown's publisher, also believes no one would have published this book 50 years ago.
Briefly, here are some of those unchecked facts.
• Most of Dr. Teabing's - or Brown's - "facts" come from the 2nd and 3rd-century Gnostic Gospels, not the first four books of the New Testament. Not only could the later books not have been written by the first-century (eyewitness) authors who bear their names, but their content is so suspect that not one early historian, secular or religious, considered them authentic.
For example, although the Code claims the New Testament and the Church oppressed women, just the opposite is true. Consider: "For every woman who shall make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Gospel of Thomas, 114). Read any one of the New Testament Gospels and you'll see how much Jesus elevated the status of women in his day.
• Likewise, the basis for the marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene comes from a thin bit of "evidence" in the "Gospel of Philip," where the disciples wonder why Jesus "kisses Mary on the ____," body part not recorded but assumed by the Gnostics to have been "the mouth."
Thus, their logic continues, "Jesus and Mary must have been married." And in the logic of the Code, this marriage had to have taken place to fulfill the story that Mary Magdalene, or her womb and the child she bore with Jesus, was the real Holy Grail, the "blood line" of the church.
Dallas Theological Seminary Professor Darrell Bock answers the marriage question this way: "Mary Magdalene was a devout follower of Jesus, (but) she serves us far better as his disciple than as his alleged wife." James Kennedy adds, "Jesus was never married to anyone. His bride, as revealed in the last book of the Bible, is the church (Revelation 19:7). The message of the Biblical Gospels is that he loves us all best."
The Bible and Dan Brown agree about one thing: This book can serve as a springboard for people of all faiths - Christians especially - to discover what it is they really believe. (II Timothy 1:12, 2:15)
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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