Decoding and Debunking the DaVinci Code
by Michael Tummillo
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I haven't seen the DaVinci Code. Nor have I read the book. That's just me. I'm also certain I was the last person in America to wear sunglasses on top of my head. But over the last three days, several friends and readers have asked if I would be writing on the subject. One man pleaded with me, "That movie's going to do a lot of damage to people who have a weak foundation."
I thoroughly enjoy Tom Hanks as an actor. I have ever since his "Bosom Buddies" days. I've loved Opie "Opus Dei" Taylor and Ritchie Cunningham long before they became Director Ron Howard. Where DaVinci is concerned, I'm an artist myself who, coincidentally, was the guest speaker at four local high school art classes just today. But early this morning, as I listened to Paul Harvey, I heard that a Van Gogh painting just sold for $40 Million and, frankly, at the mention of that old Master's name, I knew I'd better start doing some research. If such an article helped just one individual, it would be worth it.
HERE'S WHAT I FOUND OUT
Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code is riding a whole new wave of publicity. It's already sold 40 million copies in forty languages in just three years. With the recent plagiarism trial in Great Britain (surely you've heard) and the upcoming release of the movie, it's making headlines all over again.
So, what's the big deal? Why are so many Christians dissing DaVinci? The concern - one that I instinctively share - is over the multitudes who have a tendency to confuse fact and fiction where movies are concerned. Case in point, for years I used to think that dead people became angels, just as they did in a cartoon I had seen. Apparently, Dan Brown actually encourages any delusions people might have with a note in the book stating that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." That comment is debatable as you will see. CBN.com shares the concern that the average person "with little background in theology, history, or art is likely to come away from the book believing that the Christian Church, out of a hatred for all things feminine, has deliberately been hiding the truth about Jesus' identity and His relationship with Mary Magdalene." That's the root of the concern, like it or not.
Though Brown claims to be a Christian, he writes in his book that the secret it supposedly reveals is "so powerful that . . . it threatened to devastate the very foundation of Christianity." Dr. Ken Boa, author of Unraveling the Da Vinci Code and his soon-to-be released book, The Gospel According to the Da Vinci Code, charges that Brown's agenda in this book is no less than "the deconstruction of Christianity."
I've read that Gnosticism is actually the religion Brown is pushing in the book. Though he presents Gnosticism as a religion that glorifies the body, and Christianity as one that considers the body to be evil, fact is, it's Gnosticism that considers all matter, including the human body, to be evil. That's why, while Christianity emphasizes the incarnation of Jesus, Gnosticism doesn't even teach it.
CBN asks, "Why else would Brown fudge so many of his supposedly "accurate" facts - facts that can be easily checked? From the correct spelling of the titles of paintings; to the colors, techniques, and materials used in those paintings; even to the name of the artist around whom the book revolves, Brown commits error after error. And his errors don't stop with art. He gets all kinds of details wrong about both Church history and secular history." Nevertheless, Brown's act has apparently fooled at least some of his readers as the New York Daily News book reviewer trumpeted, “His research is impeccable.” On the other hand, Crisis Magazine reports: "So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth." On the web, not only can one easily find books and articles that point out Brown's pathetic skills as a researcher, but there are blogs and chatrooms where the rank and file from America and abroad - Christian and non-Christian - are showing themselves savvy enough to detect one error after another in both book and movie.
Following are a few notes on various aspects of the book and movie that may assist you in defending your faith - explaining some erroneous details about each - or encouraging others, even yourself, where Scriptural truth is concerned. I've read that books debunking the DaVinci Code are outselling the book itself! Just search the Web; it's loaded with DaVinci Code Crackers.
ELEVEN POINTS TO PONDER
1) Whereas the DaVinci Code says Jesus is a great man or prophet in the earliest historical sources but was later proclaimed divine at the Council of Nicaea, Jesus is called “God” (theos) 7 times in the New Testament. He is called “Lord” (kyrios) in the divine sense numerous times. No serious historian argues that these texts postdate the Council of Nicaea.
2) Whereas the DaVinci Code says The Dead Sea Scrolls along with the Nag Hammadi documents are the earliest Christian records, history says The Dead Sea Scrolls are purely Jewish documents; there is nothing Christian about them. There is also no evidence any of the Nag Hammadi documents existed before the late second century A.D., with the possible exception of the Gospel of Thomas.
3) Whereas The DaVinci Code says “One particularly troubling theme kept recurring in the [Gnostic] gospels. Mary Magdalene...More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ" (p. 244), history says that The Gnostic Gospels, a collection of anonymous writings that blended pseudo-Christian ideas with esoteric spirituality, say nothing about Mary and Jesus being married. *
4) Whereas the DaVinci Code says “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine” (p. 231), history says The Bible was not collated by Constantine, who died in 337 A.D. The Old Testament existed prior to even Jesus’s day. And the New Testament, although it started coming together by the end of the first century (about 90-100 A.D.), was not formalized until about 393-397 A.D. (after Constantine’s death). *
5) Whereas the DaVinci Code says “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians” (p. 253), history says that, following this comment about “historians,” Dan Brown lists four books written by various authors: Margaret Starbird, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. But none of them are historians. Starbird has an M.A. in comparative literature and German. Baigent holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and is pursuing an M.A. in mysticism. Leigh is a novelist and short story writer. Lincoln gained notoriety as a BBC television personality and scriptwriter. And Picknett, along with Prince, is involved in occultism, the paranormal, and UFO studies.*
6) Whereas the DaVinci Code says that Leonardo Da Vinci made the following comments about the New Testament: 1) “Many have made a trade of delusions and false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitude”; and 2) “Blinding ignorance does misled us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes” (p. 231), history says that these remarks have nothing to do with Leonardo’s views on Scripture. His first comment, in context, is about alchemists who claimed that they could change lead into gold. His second comment, in context, refers to the foolishness of what he called men’s “own opinions,” “lascivious joys,” and “[v]ain splenour.” Brown completely misrepresented Leonardo’s writings to make it seem as if the great artist detested the Bible.*
7) Whereas the DaVinci Code says “The Jewish Tetragrammaton YHWH - the sacred name for God - in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah (p. 309), history says that YHWH was not derived from “JEHOVAH.” The term actually predates “JEHOVAH” by thousands of years (as any first-year Scripture student could tell you). Brown, in fact, has it backwards, i.e., “JEHOVAH” was derived from YHWH. It is merely the sixteenth century Latinized form of YHWH with “a,” “o” and “a” (the vowels from adonai, “my Lord”) inserted between each consonant (Latinizing the word changed the “Y” and “W” to “J” and “V.”). As for the word Havah, there is nothing “pre-Hebraic” about it. This is simply “Eve” in Hebrew and it appears in the Old Testament.*
8) Whereas the DaVinci Code says that Constantine “commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned” (p. 234), history says there was no “new” Bible commissioned by Constantine. The emperor simply requested that Eusebius (the Bishop of Carthage) make fifty copies of the already existing and widely accepted Scriptures. Also, no evidence suggests that Constantine, or anyone else, “embellished” Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Third, there were no gospels burned by Constantine. Although some texts written by Arius were burned, none of them were gospels. Fourth, there were no gospels “earlier” than Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Finally, as previously noted, the gospels in our Bible clearly depict Christ’s “human traits,” which is consistent with the Christian teaching that Jesus was 100% deity while being 100% human.*
9) Whereas the DaVinci Code says that sexual union between man and woman through which each became spiritually whole had been recast as a shameful act by the Church to 'reeducate' the pagan and feminine-worshipping religions, Scripture says that the marriage bed is treasured and honored as pure (Heb. 13:4). Sexual activities and pleasure are normal, expected, and encouraged within a marriage. Sexual union is a divine moment for a husband and a wife and a representation of the image of God that defines us. God established boundaries around sex to protect it and maximize its joy.*
10) Whereas the DaVinci Code says “[A]ny gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible” (p. 244), the gospels in our New Testament present many “earthly aspects” of Christ’s life such as his physical frailties (hunger, fatigue, death); emotions (anguish, outrage, love); and relational interactions (with his mother, friends, and followers).*
11) Whereas the DaVinci Code says Leonardo’s worship of the goddess and the feminine can be seen in his Mona Lisa painting and that name of the famous portrait comes from two Egyptian deities (the god Amon and the goddess Isis, whose “ancient pictogram was once called L’ISA, and the title Mona Lisa, and that this name then, is really “an anagram of the divine union of male and female (p. 121), history says the artist did not even name this particular painting. None of his works, in fact, were titled by him. The Mona Lisa was catalogued by author Giorgio Vasari in his book Lives of the Artists (1550). It was he who first called it the Monna Lisa, which in English was shortened to Mona Lisa. It simply means Madame Lisa, and refers to the likely subject: Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.*
* Excerpted from "The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code" by Richard Abanes,as gathered by CBN.com
DAN BROWN IN BLACK & WHITE
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks [and the pen writes.] What comes out of a man is the result of what's within the man. When a person has been hurt, they hurt people. It's what we do if the things that hurt us, confused us, have never been dealt with. We are receptacles of good and evil and our flesh WILL react. It just will.
Just as James Frey conned Oprah Winfrey with his book "A Million Little Pieces," could it be that Dan Brown has a deeply-rooted need to seek healing - or revenge - through his books, movie and his own past history? Could the source of his pain be his religious experiences? It's often the case.
There are reasons to believe that Brown himself never actually studied at the University of Seville, Spain. His actual witness Statement in the current plagiarism trial states, "In 1985, while I was still a student at Amherst College, I spent the school year abroad in Seville, Spain, where I enrolled in a two semester art history course at University of Seville." The University of Seville has communicated that there are not any students named Daniel or Dan Brown in its archives.
Dan has always described his wife Blythe as a painter and art historian. But after curious researchers failed to unearth an alma mater where she had qualified in either of these fields, Brown referred to her as an 'art history buff' instead. Painting is mainly her hobby. US author David Shugarts writes, "I think she paints and sculpts and Dan always put out an image of her engrossed in marble dust and the smell of oils in their house, but I do not know a single soul who has seen her art." My how like spirits DO attract.
Catholics ought to hate this flick as Brown misses no opportunity to criticize "The Church" - always the Catholic Church, routinely referred to as “the Vatican,” even when popes weren’t in residence there. He systematically portrays it throughout history as deceitful, power-crazed, crafty, and murderous: “The Church may no longer employ crusades to slaughter, but their influence is no less persuasive. No less insidious.”
Though this book and movie may cause some fence-sitters to topple and others to be pushed even further from the truth, we can't go blaming Dan Brown for everything. No, we MUST accept some of the blame for ourselves. In this case, Biblical Illiteracy is the culprit. Shame on those whose faith is shaken as the result of a movie plagued with errors and deception (by the way, the words "A Novel" have been removed from the original book's cover and are replaced with an ad regarding the soon-to-be-released movie). Good Heavens! When someone whips out a cross and drives a fang-bearing Bella Lugosi into a coffin and drives a stake through his chest, did Christians rise up in arms for the abuse of such a sacred Christian symbol? Not that I can recall. It's just a book and it's just a movie, both laden with errors, apparently, and no one's holding a gun to anyone's head to force anyone to watch or read either.
The movie, like the book, will probably leave many with a distorted view of the early Christian movement and a bad taste in their collective mouths regarding the Body of Christ today. Still, it might encourage others to study Christian history in general.
May I suggest starting with the Biblical reports of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?
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Thank you for writing this article and for pointing out the errors in the DaVinci Code. I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, but I did read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail which expresses some of the ideas portrayed in Dan Brown's book. I was incensed on reading this book which I saw only as a money-maker and man's greed that allowed him to defame the name of Christ.