POSTSCRIPT / May 16, 2006 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Falsehoods peppering Da Vinci Code exposed

BROWN LIES: I have spotted many assertions of Dan Brown in his book The Da Vinci Code that do not jibe with what I know to be true.

But like many other bothered Catholics, I feel inadequate to challenge all his lies. I therefore throw at him James A. Beverley, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara and professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.

Exposing the falsehoods on which the book and the movie rest, we create, according to Beverley, “an unprecedented opportunity for believers to witness about the reliability of the Bible and its central redemptive message — that the Son of God became flesh, died on the cross and rose again.”

Lack of space limits us to just a few of the points that Beverly raises in an article in Charisma magazine, but better a few details than none at all. See (

Why all the fuss over a work of fiction? Beverley says the answer lies on Page 1, where Brown asserts that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Yet, critics have noted its mistakes in mathematics, French geography and even the layout of the Louvre. Brown’s claims about Jesus, the Bible, secret societies and ritual sex are “based on shallow research, sloppy investigation and careless thought.”

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POINT-BY-POINT: Here are some of the lies that peppered Brown’s book, followed by Beverley’s remarks:

  1. The Bible was invented by Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century.

The Da Vinci Code reports that “Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible,” one that left out the Gnostic texts and included the four traditional Gospels. The fact is: Constantine had nothing to do with the making of the Christian canon. He is not even mentioned in the standard Cambridge History of the Bible. The traditional Gospels were recognized by virtually all Christians 150 years before Constantine.

  1. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic Gospels are the “earliest Christian records.”

Not so. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 and date from 250 B.C. to A.D. 100. However, these documents have virtually nothing to do with Christianity but with various Jewish groups, rituals and ideas before and during the time of Christ. The Gnostic Gospels offer a twisted and heretical version of the Christian faith, but they did not come into existence until about a century or more after the death of Christ.

  1. The Gnostic Gospels present a positive view of the feminine.

The Gnostic texts are said to picture a human, sexualized Jesus who embraced the sacred feminine. Actually, the Jesus presented in the Gnostic material is often simply weird, and the underlying ideology tends to be radically anti-feminine. Consider this bizarre passage from the Gospel of Thomas: “Simon Peter said to them, ‘Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.’ Jesus said, ‘Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.’”

  1. Early Christians did not believe Jesus was God’s Son.

This claim is rooted in either willful ignorance or blindness to the obvious. After 2,000 years, people continue to debate whether Jesus is the Son of God. But what has never been subject to doubt is that early Christians confessed that Jesus is God’s Son, as the Scriptures indicate: “Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matt. 16:16); “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4).

  1. The Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) invented the divinity of Jesus.

Contrary to Brown’s claim, that church council met to clarify the divinity of Jesus, not to create it. There are thousands of references to His divinity in Christian literature and archaeology before the Council at Nicea. They include the hundreds of claims in the New Testament and the witness of church leaders through the second and third centuries.

  1. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

The novel claims there are “countless references” to their union in ancient history and that the topic “has been explored ad nauseam by modern historians.” First, there is nothing in the New Testament or other first-century material about such a marriage. Second, there is no explicit mention of the alleged marriage in the Gnostic material of the second and third centuries. All we have in the Gnostic material is one reference to Mary as the “companion” of Jesus. That word, however, does not usually mean “spouse” or “wife.”

  1. Jesus and Mary had a child named Sarah.

The novel claims Mary was pregnant at the time of the death of Jesus, that her uncle Joseph of Arimathea helped her move to France where she gave birth to a girl she named Sarah. Mary and Sarah found refuge in the Jewish community in France. We are told that “countless scholars of that era chronicled Mary Magdalene’s days in France.” This is historical junk first made popular by the 1982 potboiler Holy Blood, Holy Grail. There are no ancient documents supporting these claims, and no scholars of that era chronicled these alleged events.

  1. A secret society named the Priory of Sion started in 1099 and has protected the bones of Mary Magdalene and documents about the bloodline of Jesus Christ.

This is one of the most significant blunders of The Da Vinci Code. The Priory of Sion was actually started in France on May 7, 1956, by a con artist named Pierre Plantard (1920-2000). The Priory was first a civic organization. In the 1960s Plantard created the mythology of a secret society led by figures such as Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci.

  1. Ancient documents about the Priory were discovered in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris in 1975.

The Da Vinci Code refers to the alleged parchments as Les Dossiers Secrets. They are not ancient but forgeries done by Philippe de Chérisey (1925-1985), a co-conspirator with Plantard. They were not discovered by the French library in 1975 but were placed there by Plantard in 1967. Both de Chérisey and Plantard admitted the hoax before their deaths. In fact, Plantard was forced to admit his fraud before Judge Thierry Jean-Pierre in a French court case in September 1993.

  1. There are historical lists of the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion.

When Plantard invented the Priory of Sion, he copied most of his list of Grand Masters from lists of alleged leaders of other groups, such as the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, a secret society founded in America in 1915. Plantard also changed his list of Grand Masters as he adopted different conspiracy theories about his Priory of Sion.

  1. The Holy Grail is not the cup used at the Last Supper but the bones of Mary Magdalene.

The novel states that “the quest for the Holy Grail is literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene … a journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the lost sacred feminine.” The Holy Grail legends started about A.D. 1180 and continued through the 19th century. They never involved claims about the bones of Mary Magdalene. No Priory of Sion member has given in to the temptation to reveal the supposed location of the bones of Mary.

  1. The Knights Templar guarded the bones of Mary Magdalene and four huge chests of ancient documents about the bloodline of Jesus Christ and the French kings who descended from Him.

The Knights Templar is a religious military order founded in the early 12th century. Hugues de Payens, a French Knight, led eight comrades in the campaign to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land. It has never been argued in the historical material about the Templars that they protected either Mary Magdalene or documents about French kings. These claims are the inventions of Pierre Plantard, who declared at one point that he was the descendant of Jesus and the proper heir to the French throne.

  1. Leonardo da Vinci was once the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion.

The Priory started 437 years after the death of the great artist. Not one Leonardo da Vinci specialist in the entire world has supported the view that he once headed a pagan sex cult. James Beck of Columbia University calls this “total nonsense.”

  1. Leonardo da Vinci placed Mary Magdalene next to Jesus in his painting The Last Supper.

In Da Vinci’s time everyone believed that this person was John. Renaissance art specialists have always noted that John was painted in a rather effeminate manner. The painting was not meant to reveal the identity of a woman but the tension among the apostles after Jesus says to them, “‘One of you will betray Me’” (Matt. 26:21).

  1. Early Jewish as well as Christian tradition involved sex ritualism in worship.

There is no hint in the Old Testament or in Jewish history that sex rites were part of temple worship. Jewish males did not engage in sex with priestesses in the temple. The word “priestess” is not even used in the Old Testament. In the novel, Jesus and Mary Magdalene are pictured as the ideal participants in a sex ritual. This claim has no basis in history, either in terms of early Christian tradition or even in reference to Gnostic documents.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 16, 2006)

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