The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?
The Da Vinci Code has become one of
the most controversial best-sellers ever seen, with over 45 million copies
sold in more than 44 different languages. Exact rankings vary, but it is now
reckoned to be amongst the ten greatest selling books of all time!
A recent survey in the UK suggested that one in five of the adult population
had read it - a staggering 5 million people!
But the book is not only notable for the
number of copies it has sold and the box office film bonanza which has followed,
but also for the controversy it has stirred up about Jesus Christ.
What the book claims
The Da Vinci Code makes a number of assertions:-
- “The Bible is a product of man…not
of God... History has never had a definitive version of the [Bible]”
- “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false...”
- “The rock on which Jesus built his
church was not Peter but Mary Magdalene...”
- “Jesus Christ has a surviving bloodline
[the Sang Real] and
was a mortal prophet...”
- That an ancient, secret organization
called the Priory of Sion has protected this secret and the descendants
of Jesus and Mary Magdalene over the centuries
- That this organization is connected
to the Knights Templar
- That the Catholic Church has repeatedly
tried to destroy the “evidence” of these “truths,” and that the Emperor
Constantine tried to destroy the earliest Gospels in the 4th century
- That the Priory of Sion seeks to
re-establish the royal line of Jesus on the thrones of France, other
European countries & Israel
These assertions are stated as though they
were established facts of history - indeed at the front of the book some of
them are listed as facts, whilst the author Dan Brown has gone on record as
stating that the book is firmly based on historical truth.
A challenge to faith
“In summary, the book suggests Christianity
as we know it is a gigantic fraud,” wrote one writer. The survey referred to above found
59% of those who had read the book believed that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene
and had a child, whilst only about 30% of those who had not read the book
held the same view. One churchgoer who had read the book commented anxiously-
“It shows that the Bible can’t possibly
be accurate and that the text was changed.”
But does the Da Vinci
Code stand up as soundly based on historical evidence?
It’s important to notice at the outset that
Dan Brown is not a historian and has relied heavily on others’ sources for
the so-called “historical facts” in the book.
Even in this his research has been heavily
criticised by Mr Justice Smith, the English judge, who became something of
an expert on the Da Vinci Code, when he presided over the case brought by
the American authors of the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail against
“The reality of his [Dan Brown’s] research is that it is superficial…Mr
Brown knew very little about how the historical background was researched.”
Mr Justice Smith, April 2006
The poverty of the historical research is
evidenced by these examples of mistakes in the book:-
Versailles is described as located North West of Paris, when
it is South West.
The Merovingian French Kings
(5th-8th centuries) are described as the founders of Paris, when it
was in existence in Roman times.
The book claims 5 million
women were burned as witches in the Middle Ages (the actual figure
was less than 50000).
The book says that the Knights
Templar were involved in the designs of Gothic Cathedrals (in
fact, none are known to have been involved).
There are a number of other examples in the
The Priory of Sion and the Dossiers Secrets
The book’s claim that a secret monastic order
called the Priory of Sion existed from the Middle Ages to protect the royal
bloodline of Jesus is totally unjustified by any historical evidence.
There is no evidence of such an organization
in any reliable historical records and the Dossiers Secrets – a collection
of documents alleged to have come from the Priory, are admitted forgeries
put together by a fantasist called Pierre Plantard in the 1950s.
Plantard set up the Priory of
Sion with three friends who formed a right wing group with monarchist
He claimed to be part of the
ancient Merovingian Royal Family
He had a previous criminal conviction
as a conman
He and his friends deposited
a number of documents (Dossiers Secrets) in the Bibliotheque
When Plantard was implicated in an insider trading investigation of
Roger Patrice Pelat, a friend of Mitterand’s. His house was searched
& many forgeries found. Plantard admitted under oath the documents
One of his fellow conspirators,
Jean Luc Chaunell, later admitted that the organization and the “evidence”
of the Dossiers Secrets were part of a huge hoax.
But what about the Knights Templar?
The book claims that the
Knights Templar were the military wing of the so-called Priory of Sion and
that they discovered and then safeguarded the secret of the bloodline of Jesus.
There is absolutely no historical evidence
to justify this claim.
The Knights Templar became established around
1099, after the capture of Jerusalem from the Moslems, as the protectors of
the pilgrims and of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. They quickly became rich and
powerful as a result of donations of land and wealth from Christians in Europe.
As a result the Order became arrogant and began to make its own treaties with
people like the Assassins and butchering other Arabs travelling under a flag
of truce. When the Crusader kingdom fell, they returned to Europe, but were
attacked by King Edward II of England and King Philip the Fair of France,
who coveted their wealth and feared their power.
The current Grand Master of the Temple Church
in London says of the Da Vinci Code, “Historically it’s rubbish!”
The paintings of Leonardo da Vinci
There are also important errors in the references
to two of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings. The book claims that Leonardo was
a Grand Master of the so-called Priory of Sion and that he therefore
used at least two of his paintings to send coded messages related to the idea
that Jesus married Mary Magdalene.
In The Last Supper seen above, Jesus
is shown as just having told his disciples that one of them will betray him.
The picture shows their consternation at this news. The book claims that the
figure to the left of Jesus as we look at the painting is not the apostle
John, but Mary Magdalene, and that this is evidence that they were married.
It claims that the beardless, slightly effeminate nature of the figure is
proof of this.
This view is not held by
most art historians, who point out that Leonardo painted a number of male
figures, including a portrait of John the Baptist in a similar way. An early
sketch for the painting labels the figure as John. In any case, a painting
by an artist who lived 1400 years after Christ can hardly be described as
conclusive proof of the marriage of Jesus. Art historians say that the picture
shows the Apostle Peter leaning over to ask John who the betrayer might be,
exactly as the Gospel tells us.
The claim made for the second painting is
even more far-fetched.
The book suggests that the painting of Mona
Lisa is also intended to be an anagram of Amon and Isis,
Egyptian gods, but the Italian version of Mona Lisa would have been
Madonna Lisa, which would not give the same result.
In any case, if there was no Priory of Sion,
Leonardo da Vinci was not its Grand Master and had no cause to put such a
coded message into the picture.
The Holy Grail
The legend of the Holy Grail alleged that
a sacred relic, - either the cup used at the Last Supper or the
cup said to have been used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect some of the blood
of Jesus, - existed. If found by a pure knight it would bring him untold blessings.
The story emerged around the time of the Crusades, disappeared and then reappeared
in Thomas Mallory’s Morte d’ Arthur in the 15th century.
Graal was an Old French word for a common dish or bowl used
San Graal in Old French therefore meant Holy Bowl or Grail. There
is no historical evidence to support the view in the book that the French
really meant to say Sang Real, or Blood Royal and that this
is a reference to the bloodline of Jesus Christ by Mary Magdalene. The
Grail was simply the cup of wine shared by the disciples at the Last Supper
or the bowl in which Jesus’ blood was collected according to the mediaeval
legends. These legends were made up at the time of the Crusades to encourage
Christians to go and fight. They have no more validity than stories about
the True Cross or the Holy House of Loreto.
The historical evidence for the claims
made by the Da Vinci Code is non-existent.
The Da Vinci Code
and the Gospels
In the book, and in the books from which
Dan Brown drew his ideas, it is suggested that the Bible we have cannot be
trusted as it was altered over the centuries and that the account of the life
and death of Jesus we have in the Gospels was not the original version.
In fact the Dead Sea Scrolls provide
copies of books of the Old Testament which date back 300 years before Jesus
was born. These show remarkable consistency with later copies of Old Testament
books. But what about the New Testament?
The early apostles insist on the truth of their record
“For we did not follow cunningly devised
fables,” says the Apostle Peter
in his second letter,”….but were eyewitnesses of his
majesty…” whilst Paul says, ”If we or an angel from heaven preach another
gospel than the one we preached to you, let him be accursed… For the Gospel
which was preached by me is not man’s gospel...but it came through revelation
of Jesus Christ.”
Elsewhere they make it clear that their recollections
of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ were inspired by God:-
“All scripture is written by inspiration
of God …”
The Apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Tim 3:16)
“ Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke
The Apostle Peter
(2 Peter 1:21)
These apostles make it quite plain that their
record of the life of Jesus Christ in the Gospels was a result of:-
Their eye-wtness records of
The direct witness of Jesus
The inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, which gave them the power to recall the words and actions of Jesus
as He had promised.
The Four Gospels of the
New Testament also date from the period soon after Jesus’ death
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
were recognized very early as the authoritative account of Jesus’ life, death
Clement of Rome (95 AD) cites Matthew,
Mark & Luke
Papias (130 AD) and Justin Martyr
( 140 AD) cite all four Gospels
Likewise Polycarp and Irenaeus
(170 AD) and many other writers
There is no doubt that the Gospels which
we have in the New Testament are the writings of the apostles who knew Jesus
and/or had spoken to many of those who had met with Jesus during the three
and a half years he was teaching the people.
What’s more, the 5000 early copies of parts
of the Gospels which we have show that the record of the life of Jesus is
remarkably consistent in the accuracy of the text. There is no suggestion
that there was any doubt at the outset of Christianity about what Jesus had
said and done.
The Gospel writers were
careful to record all the evidence about Jesus exactly
One notable example is the Gospel of Luke
- here is Luke’s introduction to his account of the life of Jesus:-
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile
a narrative of the things which have been accomplished amongst us, just
as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses…
it seemed good to me also, having followed all things accurately...
to write an orderly account.. that you may know the truth”
What about the “80 other
gospels” the Da Vinci Code claims existed?
There were actually only about 12 other “gospels”
which exist in fragmented scraps of papyrus. They all date from at least 100
years after the life of Jesus, (most from the 2nd-4th centuries,) so are
less reliable evidence of the life of Jesus than the Four Gospels of the New
Testament. Some quote from the Four Gospels, which shows that the Four Gospels
were written before the others.
These other writings were mostly found in
a collection of scraps of papyrus found in a cave at Nag Hammadi in Egypt
in 1945. They represent the writings of a group of people known as Gnostics
who had left the Christian church and developed a set of ideas quite contradictory
to the Gospels. These ideas were first appearing in the times of the Apostles,
who strongly condemned them since they set out to change the Gospel of Jesus
Christ into something quite different, based largely on Greek ideas.
did the Gnostics believe?
Ideas and knowledge are good;
the physical world & the body are bad
Salvation is by access to the
hidden mysteries of Knowledge the Gnosis
“I am the intellectual
spirit filled with radiant light “
(Jesus according to the
Apocalypse of Peter)
Jesus did not die on the Cross
“It was another who drank the gall and vinegar ...”
(Second Treatise of the Great Sett 26)
Jesus was not the Son of God
but a mystical teacher of hidden secrets to an exclusive inner group
Their writings also suggest that
they had little regard for women
Some of them did not believe
that Jesus had ever existed as a human being; their so-called gospels
of Jesus’ life give far less detail about Jesus the Man than the Four
The suggestion that these Gnostic Gospels,
written between 100 and 300 years after the life of Jesus, are a more
accurate account of His life and teaching is fanciful.
Was Mary Magdalene the
wife of Jesus?
The suggestion that Mary Magdalene was married
to Jesus plays a significant part in the Da Vinci Code, but is there
any evidence to justify it?
We need to start with the evidence in the
Four Gospels, since we have already seen that these were the earliest and
most reliable accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. So what
do they tell us about Mary Magdalene?
She is described as a woman who suffered
from demonic possession and who was cured by Jesus ( Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2)
She and a number of other women accompanied
Jesus during his preaching ministry (Luke8:2)
She witnessed the crucifixion (Matt
27:56, Mark 15:40; John 19:25)
She was present when Jesus was buried
( Matt 27:61;Mark 15:47)
She was a witness to the empty tomb
(Matt 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:10)
She was the first to see Jesus after
his resurrection (Mark16:9 John 20:1-18)
It is also possible that she was the woman
who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment before his death (John12:3),
but the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary the sister of Martha and
Lazarus is not at all clear.
What is clear is that there is no hint
here that she was married to Jesus!
Even the Gnostic Gospels do not openly
claim that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus.
The most commonly quoted passage is from
the so-called Gospel of Philip-
“And the companion of the Lord Jesus
[was] Mary Magdalene…loved her more than all the disciples and used
to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples
said to him: “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Gospel of Philip 275 AD
This passage is usually quoted as shown above,
but the words underlined do not appear in the original text. In any case,
this was written nearly 250 years after the time of Jesus!
Even more noticeable is the complete omission
of any claim that Jesus and Mary were married in the Gnostic so-called
Gospel of Mary which claims to be her story!
Nor is there any evidence that, with her
daughter Sarah, she travelled to France and died there. French tales about
this do not appear until about the 9th or 10th centuries.
Earlier Eastern Christian traditions which suggest she died in Ephesus are
far more likely to be correct than stories written 1000 years after the time
There are good reasons for believing that
Jesus was not married
- Celibacy was not uncommon amongst Jewish
As Jesus said: “ there are eunuchs ..who have made
themselves eunuchs [ i.e. have not married] for the sake of the kingdom of
heaven...” (Matt 19:12)
- The apostle Paul doesn’t mention that
Jesus was married in a passage where it would have been obvious to make
reference to it (1 Cor 9:4-6)
Paul is talking about other disciples such
as Peter travelling about with a wife. If Jesus had been married, Paul would
surely have mentioned it.
- Jesus’ life was devoted wholly to
the service of His Father and to our salvation.
The Letter of Paul to the church at Ephesus
says: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians
5:25), giving an example to all husbands as to how they should love their
wives. In symbol, Jesus is shown as married to the church.
“Was Jesus married? All the available
evidence points to the answer
no. She was an important disciple..
But there is no historical evidence for a more intimate relationship.”
The Da Vinci Code: Of Magdalene, the
Gnostics,the Goddess and the Grail
Where the Da Vinci Code goes wrong
- It questions the truthfulness of the Gospel records and of the Bible as a whole
- It questions the unique nature of Jesus as the Son of God
- It questions the resurrection of Jesus
- It introduces a view of God wholly alien to the Old and New Testaments and to the teaching of Jesus.
- It offers no hope, no enlightenment, no salvation for the God’s world. At best Plantard, Baigent, Leigh &
Lincoln and Dan Brown offer only a new age of Merovingian rule on the thrones of Europe and Israel.
What the true Gospel offers
- Jesus the Saviour – from sin and death
through repentance & baptism (John 3:16;Mark 16:15-16;Acts 10:34-43 & many
- Jesus the Son of God – who freely gave
his life on the cross for us (John 10:14-18; Romans 5:6-8)
- Jesus the Living Lord –resurrected
and alive for evermore (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Revelation 1:4-5)
- Jesus the coming King:- (Acts 1:6-11; Acts17:30-31; Revelation 1:7)
“The times of ignorance God overlooked,
but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which
he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed,
and of this He has given assurance to all men, by raising him from the dead.”
The Apostle Paul to the men of Athens, one
of the centres of the Gnostics.
But most of all, the
opportunity to be part of the family of Jesus, not by any human descent but
“He came to his own home and his own
people received him not. But to all who received him who believed on his
name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood
nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John
This is the true Gospel, found in the
Bible and open to everyone who will read it!
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org