Old professor provides the key to cracking The Da Vinci Code

Take it from an old prof, grading top students is boring. You glance over their exams and write “A” and “nice job.” Except for the grade, it’s much the same with the flunking ones. But toward the bottom of the pack, somewhere between C- and D+, is where the fun begins. Their bluebooks are a wonderful mishmash of fact and foolishness. You can tell where they listened to the lecture, and when they fell asleep. And so it is with “The Da Vinci Code,” the movie version of which opened last week.

Dan Brown billed his blockbuster book as a novel based on the historical record.

Actually, it’s all the more entertaining for blending truths, half-truths, whoppers and howlers.

Here, then, is a reader’s/moviegoer’s key to cracking “The Da Vinci Code” — textbook reality versus the history of Christianity according to Brown (which the movie follows — faithfully, so to speak).

Jesus and Mary Magdalene were an item.

In fact, there is no evidence in the New Testament for a romantic relationship between them. For that matter, there are hardly any details about Mary’s life at all.

Yes but in an ancient Aramaic book, the Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is called Jesus’ “companion.”

The Da Vinci Code

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. […] In the end, Dan Brown has penned a poorly written, atrociously researched mess.
Source: Dismantling The Da Vinci Code By Sandra Miesel, Crisis, Sep. 1, 2003

Wrong again. It was written in Coptic and the term translates not as “main squeeze” but “buddy.”

Pregnant by Jesus, Mary Magdalene fled to Gaul where her (and his) descendants became the Merovingian kings of France.

They would have had a long wait. At the time of the Crucifixion, Gaul’s inhabitants were Celts. The Franks were a Germanic tribe, wandering through the forests of Central Europe. They didn’t get to Gaul until four centuries later.

According to “The Da Vinci Code,” the offspring of that marriage alliance between Jesus’ descendants and a French royal house has been secretly begetting offspring yea until the present day. Actually, the line of the Merovingians came to an ignominious end when King Childeric III was deposed and hustled off to a monastery in 752. Even before that, the Merovingians had become powerless puppets of their royal advisers.

“He had nothing that he could call his own beyond this vain title of King,” noted Einhard, a near-contemporary historian of Childeric and his predecessors.

Just before his death, Jesus gave Mary Magdalene special instructions, intending her, not the apostle Peter, to shape his movement, but the Emperor Constantine wanted the church run by an old-boys’ network.

The supposed conversation is given only in the Gospel of Mary, an ancient but non-canonical work, as those not included in the New Testament are called. But it reports the conversation as taking place after Jesus was dead. Also, the church didn’t need Constantine to put the nix on female leadership. There were lots of early theologians whose views would make rappers Snoop Dogg, Nelly or 50 Cent seem like downright feminists. Tertullian, who lived a century before Constantine, advised every woman to walk “about as Eve mourning and repentant, in order that by every garb of penitence she might the more fully expiate that which she derives from Eve — the ignominy, I mean, of the first sin.”

Christians thought the faith’s founder was only human, albeit a great prophet, until the Roman Emperor Constantine decreed that Jesus was divine.

Part credit. As the first Christian emperor, Constantine presided over a church council that debated Jesus’ nature in 325. The winning side wrote the Nicene Creed that is still recited in Sunday schools. But long before the council was gaveled to order, most Christians believed in Jesus’ divinity. Two centuries earlier, Pliny the Younger, a Roman provincial governor, sent a memo to his imperial boss reporting locals who “sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god.”

To pull off his sleight of hand, Constantine ordered other versions of Jesus’ story to be suppressed.

Lots of alternate gospels were written in ancient times, including the Gospel of Judas recently published with great fanfare by National Geographic. But the process of winnowing down the official list to the four Gospels of the New Testament began long before Constantine, and the defining of the biblical canon continued long after him.

Those other gospels were written by the Gnostics, a sect that taught Jesus was human, which is why their books had to be suppressed.

Actually, the non-canonical gospels depict a Jesus more divine than human. The “Gnostics” weren’t an organized group, with T-shirts proclaiming: “Gnostic and Proud of It.” Gnostic is a term applied by scholars to a broad range of ancient cults, some not even Christian.

Having got rid of gospels that didn’t support his theological spin, Constantine ordered a new, cleaned-up version of the Bible.

Constantine did place an order for Bibles, explaining in a letter to his religious-affairs adviser Eusebius of Caesaria, that they were for the churches of the new capital he was building at Constantinople. But there is no evidence Constantine decreed what should or should not be included in those Bibles, asking only that they be “written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form.” If he had written the specs Brown attributes to him, Constantine should have asked for his money back. Take a look at the New Testament. It paints a rich picture of Jesus’ humanity.

In the book, we’re told we’d know Jesus’ side of the story, if we could just find the long-hidden “Q document,” his diary.

Next time try doing the assigned reading: The “Q” isn’t a historical document, but a theoretical reconstruction by modern scholars of how what seems to be a common source underlying the Gospels of Mark and Mathew might have read. The name comes from “quelle,” the German word for “source.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Chicago Tribune, USA
May 25, 2006
Ron Grossman

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday May 26, 2006.
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