The Da Vinci Code: Separating Truth from Fiction

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Separating Truth from Fiction
By Sean McDowell
A few weeks ago I received a frantic call from a mother afraid her daughter would lose her faith after reading The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.  "How do I answer her questions?" she asked.  And, "What part of the novel is fiction, and what part is truth?"  The novel is appropriately placed in the "fiction" section of bookstores, but because of Brown's clever blending of fact and fantasy, countless people have been convinced that its outrageous claims are actually rooted in history. And with the movie release on May 19th, questions will likely increase.
One reason some people have been confused is that the opening page of the book says, "FACT…All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." When asked on The Today Show how much of the book is based on reality, author Dan Brown replied, "Absolutely all of it…is historical fact" (<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />October 10, 2005). 
While The Da Vinci Code may be great fiction, it is certainly not historical fact. Consider just a few of the historical blunders:
THE DA VINCI CODE: "During 300 years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astonishing five million women" (p. 125).
TRUTH: Historians all agree that the actual number of people burned at the stake was 30,000-50,000.  If Brown's math were correct, then a total of 46 women would have been burned at the stake each day for the entire 300 year period.  This would be 40% of the female population in Europe during this time! Clearly, his claim is fiction.
THE DA VINCI CODE: "Some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950's hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert" (p. 234).
TRUTH: Constantine had nothing to do with the completion of the biblical canon or the destruction of secret gospels.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947, not the 1950's.  They included books of the Old Testament and writings of the Essenes, a strict Jewish community.  Not a single New Testament book or gospel was found in the entire collection of scrolls.
THE DA VINCI CODE: The Priory of Sion is allegedly the oldest secret society, founded in 1099. This small band of conspirators knew the truth about Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene, but because of opposition from the church, kept the explosive secret hidden. They waited for the perfect moment to reveal the secret to the world (pp. 157-58).
TRUTH: The real Priory of Sion was founded by Pierre Plantard and registered with the French government in 1956! The documents that supposedly prove the existence of the Priory were fabricated by Pierre Plantard and his associates, who have since admitted to the cover-up.
THE DA VINCI CODE: The figure on the right of Jesus in the "Last Supper" painting by Leonardo Da Vinci is Mary Magdalene (p. 243).
TRUTH: Da Vinci himself labeled the figure on Jesus' right side as "Johannes," referring to John, the beloved disciple.  If Mary was added to the painting then there should be fourteen figures, whereas there are still only thirteen (Jesus and the twelve disciples).
THE DA VINCI CODE: "The marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record" (p. 245). Two primary arguments are put forth to support this claim: First, it was unlawful for a Jewish man to be unmarried.  Second, according to the "gospel" of Philip, Jesus kissed Mary on the mouth, which indicated his special relationship to her.
TRUTH: There were in fact many Jewish rabbis who were not married.  We know of two specifically during the time of Jesus-John the Baptist and the apostle Paul.  Paul said, "Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles, and the brothers of the Lord and Peter" (1 Corinthians 9:5).  If Jesus had been married, certainly Paul would have cited Him as the ultimate example! The "gospel" of Philip, as we will see below, was written far too late to be considered a reliable historical document.
THE DA VINCI CODE: "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them" (p. 231).
TRUTH: There were never eighty gospels being considered for inclusion in the Bible.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all based on eyewitness accounts, are internally coherent, and have been corroborated by archaeology and non-Christians sources. The four biblical gospels were all completed within the first century (by 85 A.D.).  In comparison, the so-called "gospels" of Mary, Thomas, and Philip were written by imposters no earlier than A.D. 150.
THE DA VINCI CODE: "Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.  A Mortal" (p. 233). In other words, Jesus was not considered divine until the 4th century when Constantine turned him into a deity at the council of Nicea.
TRUTH: The question being debated at the council of Nicea was not whether Jesus was divine, but how he could be both God and man.  Jesus was considered God since the inception of the church.  Paul said Jesus was, "in very nature God" (Phil 2:6), John writes that Jesus made "Himself equal with God" (John 5:18), and the early church father Ignatius refers to, "our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God."  All of these quotes are at least 200 years before the council of Nicea.
THE DA VINCI CODE: "Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication.  That is the definition of faith-acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove" (p. 341).
TRUTH: While this may be true for some faiths, it is outrageous to claim this is true for all faiths.  Christianity, in particular, is not based on wishful thinking, but rather on historical fact. Christianity is rooted in objective history, including events like the exodus from Egypt, the reign of King David, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  In fact, Paul said that if the resurrection of Jesus did not really happen then we are to be pitied and our faith is worthless! (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).
But if it did happen, then there is forgiveness and hope for those who follow Jesus: "He who sees me sees the one who sent me…Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me (John 12:45; 14:1).  
For further research see:

  • The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers, by Josh McDowell.  
  • The Da Vinci Deception, by Erwin Lutzer                                                                    


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