THE “DA VINCI CODE” DECEPTION
There is something about mystery and intrigue that captivates the human mind. Also, from childhood there is a tendency to create imaginary monsters and to fear and hate the unknown. Gullible people with a touch of paranoia can easily fall prey to tall tales of sinister plots. Down through history this has resulted in the fabrication of conspiracy theories like the following: an ongoing plot by the Jews to seize control of world power, the supposed proliferation of witches in medieval times, identification of the Pope as the Antichrist, communist infiltration of the U. S. government, the organization of a secret coalition of wealthy aristocrats bent on enslaving the rest of mankind, the attempt by the National Council of Churches to deliberately destroy faith in Christianity, the ominous development of a one-world dictatorship by the United Nations, the selling of drugs by white people to the black community in order to foster black self-destruction, the theory that Proctor & Gamble is run by Satanists, the fluoridation of public drinking water as a plot to poison the populace, and the crackpot claim that aliens have manipulated the human race throughout history.
In 1982, still another conspiracy theory was unveiled. A book was published which stated that a son had been born to Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene and smuggled into Gaul by his mother after the Crucifixion. This was the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, Dell Publishing Co., 1983, paperback, 1985). It laid out the theory that the bloodline of Jesus had continued in the south of France and that it had been intermixed with the Merovingian dynasty of kings. This dynasty had ruled in France and western Germany from the fifth to the eighth century. The last king of that line, Childeric III, was deposed in 751 A.D., but a secret society, the Priory of Sion, had protected the descendants, and so, the royal bloodline still runs in the veins of the offspring of the prominent families of the Habsburgs and the Stuart kings of England. The theory states that many famous people down through history (including Leonardo Da Vinci) have been in on a plot to restore the Merovingians to their old royal glory.
At the time it was printed, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, became an international best seller. Then twenty years later, in 2003, another book on the same subject, drawing on the doomsday millennial scare at the turn of the century, was published, The Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown, Doubleday, 2003).
This book takes to task those who produce “convoluted inquiries into assorted conspiracy theories,” and yet that is just what The Da Vinci Code is all about. The author disparages others who have written on his subject as having made “some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis,” and then he proceeds to concoct more questionable material. In another place the author justifies his efforts with the glib assertion that “everyone loves a conspiracy.”
The trouble with conspiracy theories is that they are all based on suppositions that nobody can prove to be either true or false. They involve secret societies, undercover plots, and clandestine activities that may be based on fact or may be entire fabrications. Look at the admissions in both of these books. Holy Blood, Holy Grail confesses that there is “little evidence to suggest that Jesus’ family ever existed. And there was still less to establish a link between that family and the Merovingian dynasty” (p. 383). Also, “Such fragments were provocative, but they provided only tenuous support for our hypothesis - that a bloodline descended from Jesus existed in the south of France...” (p. 389). In another place, “We could not - and still cannot - prove the accuracy of our conclusion. It remains, to some extent at least, a hypothesis. But it is a plausible hypothesis that makes coherent sense” (p. 398). Likewise in the pages of The Da Vinci Code, we read: “This caused quite a stir back in the nineteen eighties. To my taste, the authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis, but their fundamental premise is sound...” (p. 254). Obviously this last quotation is a reference to Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
The two books are not consistent. For example, Holy Blood, Holy Grail claims that Mary Magdalene produced a son (“the birth of a son of the Son of Man,” p. 383), but The Da Vinci Code says it was a daughter named Sarah (p. 255). Holy Blood, Holy Grail brashly attests that many portraits of the Madonna and Child are really depictions of Mary Magdalene and the son of Jesus (p. 400).
One basic premise of The Da Vinci Code is that all Jewish males had to be married in order to have any credibility in their communities (p. 245). This is false. From the Bible accounts, it is apparent that most of the old Hebrew prophets were not married, and this also applies to the last in their line, John the Baptist. In the time of Jesus, there was a celibate brotherhood called the Essenes, who made it a rule to accept a married man with his wife, but who forbade marriage to any single man who joined their ranks. The reason they did not marry was the one given by the Apostle Paul, that the end times were near, and that one should not be encumbered with a spouse when the world was being shaken by wars and cataclysms and the cosmos was being dissolved.
Another premise of Paul, that in God’s eyes people were neither male nor female, was undoubtedly the same as the belief of Jesus. He had female disciples, and, except for the common proprieties, He treated them much like the men. To imagine that Jesus kept a harem of women, as the Mormons conjecture, is without any sound basis. If true, it would put Him on the same level as the womanizers who founded Islam and Mormonism. On the contrary, both the teachings and the lifestyle of the Master were on a much higher plane than those of other religious figures, and to besmirch His character is an odious affront.
Also, it should be remembered that Jesus was not bound by conventions of His day, such as the idea that all men should be married. He voiced His approval of self-made eunuchs (voluntary celibacy), when marriage might be an impediment to finding the Kingdom of God. At least one early follower of Christ, the scholarly Origen, took this advice literally and castrated himself. The teachings of Jesus often seemed harsh when He saw the need for radical reform - as when He advised rich people to give away all their possessions. Just so, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against lust and said that if a wandering eye led to lustful thoughts, it was better to pluck it out. For the same reason, an errant “right hand” (a euphemistic reference to the male member) should be cut off, lest it stand in the way of Kingdom living. These statements from the Master show that He approved of celibacy as an endtime ethic and, doubtless, practiced it Himself.
Another factor that should be considered was the Gnostic aversion to sexuality. When Alexander led his troops to the Indus River, this opened the West to the philosophy of Hinduism. And when the teachings of the gurus were merged with the religions of Israel, the result was a mongrelization much like that of the modern New Age movement. In Judaism, the mystic cult of Cabbalism was born, and in Christianity the new development was called Gnosticism. The extreme dualism of this new faith made things of the flesh evil and things of the spirit good. Sex became known as “carnal rubbing” and was righteously renounced by those who sought to achieve enlightenment (gnwsiV). This teaching had a profound influence on the Essenes, and since John the Baptist operated in their wilderness neighborhood, he was likely a member of their brotherhood. So, the ideal of celibacy was easily passed on to the new Christian movement.
Now, it is true that there also existed a group of Gnostics that were licentious. These were the Nicolaitans, who were condemned by the writer of the Book of Revelation. This cult advocated sexual orgies as a means of showing that no matter what their bodies did, their spirits remained pure. Such a radical idea was never accepted by the majority of believers, however, and so such practices as making a religious rite of a “holy sex act” (‘ieroV gamoV), as detailed in The Da Vinci Code (pp. 308, 310), were never a part of the mainstream Faith.
Another glaring error in the book is 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). The very opposite of this is true. The gospels that put forth the divinity of Jesus without allowing Him any human characteristics were those that were suppressed. Otherwise, the heresy of Docetism, so called, would be widely accepted in the Church today.
The time of the early Church was an age when great men were easily exalted to divine status. Alexander the Great was honored as the god Ammon-Zeus after his deification by the Egyptian priests at the Oracle of Siwa. He was said to have been sired by Zeus in the form of the pet snake that his mother Olympia kept in her bed. The Greek rulers after Alexander took titles of divinity like that of Antiochus Theos Epiphanes (“God Manifest”), and thereafter, every Roman emperor upon his death was immediately deified and had temples set up in his honor all over the Empire. Wonder workers like Hermes Trismegisthus and Simon Magus were likewise accorded divine worship in that day of easy divinization. So, it is little wonder that the Gnostic branch of Christianity ascribed pure Godhead to Jesus and denied any trace of His humanity. Finding it inconceivable that the incarnate God could be put to death, they made up the story that someone else died on the Cross in the place of Jesus. They said that Jesus only “seemed” to suffer, to be hungry, to need to rest, etc. The Greek word for “seem” (dokew) gave the name to the heresy of Docetism. It was the writings of this faction that were finally excluded from the Bible canon, not the other way around.
Because of the widespread doomsday speculation related to the end of the last millennium, the book claims that the world has entered upon the Age of Aquarius (p. 268). This is false. Astrologers calculate that the ages are divided into Great Year Cycles of 2160 solar years. This means that the present Age of Pisces (said to be the age of Jesus and His fish symbol) started in the year 0001 and will end in the year 2159. Thus the Age of Aquarius is due to begin in the year 2160 - still a few years away. As the song says, “This the dawning of the Age of Aquarius...”
Most conspiracy theories require the existence of some kind of secret society. In The Da Vinci Code there are two nefarious organizations, the church-hating Priory of Sion and the Roman Catholic Opus Dei. Neither of these catch the true spirit of Christianity, which is an exoteric (open) faith that enjoins the shouting of the message of Christ from the rooftops. Other clandestine groups mentioned in the book like the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians are also out of step with the Faith because of their esoteric, inner sanctum secrecy and their self-centered, exclusive membership.
A common mistake is made by the book in its claim that the Forbidden Fruit taken by Eve in the Garden was an apple (p. 425). This is just another false supposition of the kind that imagines a blonde female in Eden receiving an apple from a python - all of which are foreign to the Mesopotamian region, where the Garden Paradise was supposed to be. The better image is a brunette talking to a rearing cobra. And the rabbis prefer the Tree to be a native fig, because those were the leaves that the first pair took to hide their nakedness.
As to the claim that Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper shows Mary Magdalene, not John, next to Jesus, there have to be twelve male disciples in the picture, so one of them cannot be a woman. The names of the disciples are listed several times in the Gospels, and they are always the names of twelve men. There are two beardless disciples in the picture, both with feminine features because of their youth. These are John and Philip. This is an error of the artist. There were no clean-shaven Jewish men, since the beard represented a person’s manhood. Every man would swear by his beard, and he could be dishonored by having it shaved off or mutilated. The hairless face was a Greco-Roman ideal, not a Jewish one.
Now, the main purpose of both of these books is to prove that Jesus was just a man. And not all of this is wrong. It is, in fact, imperative that the human side of Jesus be accepted, alongside His divinity, else the redemption He provided is just a sham. Too often this is forgotten, as when people sing the Christmas carol, “the little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes,” and believe it. No. The newborn infant both cried as a baby and soiled His “swaddling clothes” like any normal child. Paul said of Him that He had “emptied himself” (‘eauton ’ekenwse) of His divinity in coming to earth. As Luke’s Gospel put it, He had to grow “in widsom, in stature, and in social graces and religious awareness.” He had to go to school to get an education, had to be taught how to use carpenter tools, had to learn to wash before eating and praying, and had to work at controlling His temper and His appetites. He experienced all of the human temptations, and He was not omniscient. Thus, He had to ask questions sometimes, and He had to work through problems by trial and error like any normal human being. He asked questions of His elders and showed them respect. He had to ask what the people were saying about who He was. And from the Cross He asked, “My God, why?” Accepting His part in decadent human society (e.g., His payment of taxes to support an inferior government with its state-sanctioned polytheism, slavery, and oppression), He even told one who called Him “good,” that this should only be said of God in Heaven.
Those who have not come to these conclusions are worshiping a Docetic Gnostic Christ, and this is heresy.
To go as far as The Da Vinci Code book, however, and make Jesus intent on siring a child in order to found a dynasty in His own bloodline, and to disparage the Resurrection as a plot to fool humanity, is to cross the line into blasphemy and gross sacrilege. The disciple Thomas was not part of a plot when he fell at the feet of the risen Christ and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Nor was Peter living a lie when he came to be crucified for his faith.
Some sophisticated people may think that it shows their superior intellect when they belittle sacred things and try to sow doubts in the minds of the faithful. There is no telling the injury that this book will do to those who lack a firm assurance in their beliefs, or how much ammunition will be afforded to scoffers. One thing is sure. The term “Antichrist” can apply to either a person, or an institution, or a cult, or a book.
Richard L. Atkins
P. S. A final word of advice: Read the book, but don’t be taken in by it.
Age of Aquarius: 268
Apple of Eve and Newton: 425
Compass Rose: 106, 434, 452
Conspiracty Theories: 158, 245, 381
Da Vinci: 113, 231, 244, 326
Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man:” 95
Divine Proportion: 93, 94, 96
End Times: 267, 268
Fibonacci Numbers: 61
Fleur de Lis: 114
Goddess Worship: 113, 238
Gospel of Mary Magdalene: 247
Gospel of Philip: 246
Heretic and Villain: 234
Hieros Gamos: 308, 310
Holy Blood, Holy Grail: 253
Holy Grail, Sangreal: 160, 161, 249, 250, 257
Humanity of Jesus told in Lost Gospels: 234
Isis: 121, 232
“Last Temptation of Christ” movie: 246
Louvre Pyramids: 18, 453
Magen David: 446
Maleus Maleficarum: 125
Marriage necessary in Jewish Males: 245
Mary Magdalene: 244, 246, 249, 254, 255, 257, 434
Merovingian Family: 257, 260
Myth: 341, 342
Old Gods Demonized: 37, 232
Olympiads of Eight Years: 38
Opus Dei: 28, 29, 41
Order in the Universe: 95
Pagan Remnants in Christianity: 232, 233
Paintings damaged by Light exposure: 25
Priory of Sion: 113, 157, 326, 381, 390
Secret Societies: 88, 158, 197, 203, 256, 318, 326, 389, 390, 436
Sex Symbols: 121, 237, 238, 255, 436, 445, 446
Speculation by the Author: 254
St. Sulpice Cathedral: 88
Sub Rosa: 201
Tarot: 92, 391
Temple Church in London: 343
Venus path a Pentacle: 38
YHWH-Shekinah: 309, 446
June 12, 2004
Book Reviews Editor
The Orando Sentinel
133 N. Orange Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801-1349
I have not seen a review of The Da Vinci Code in the Sentinel, and it is being widely read. I believe a word of caution as to its contents should be made available to those who do not have some familiarity with its themes and sources. I have read widely in the area of occultism, secret societies, and conspiracy theories.
Please consider providing the enclosed review.
Richard L. Atkins
1981 Blue Ridge Road
Winter Park, FL 32789