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Deciphering the Da Vinci Code

What if
The Da Vinci Code makes me uncertain about what I really believe?

A review of Ron Howard's film of the book


Between Two Worlds Theological Blog Spot
How to Respond to the Da Vinci Code Movie

Rosslyn Chapel Website

Scottish Christian
A Web resource and news log with up-to-date
stories on the Da Vinci Code

A comprehensive, graphically intriguing section
debunking claims in the Da Vinci Code, point by point



Dancing with Da Vinci

by Anne Robertson


It all began in 2003, when Dan Brown’s thriller The Da Vinci Code brought to the masses some ideas that have been around for well over a thousand years—that Jesus may have been married and even fathered a child, that there are other gospels that tell a different story than the four we have in the Bible, and that politics in the church is as ancient as the Church itself.

There is plenty of information out there either supporting or debunking the claims of the book. Many people with more scholarly credentials than I have can tell you about the Council of Nicea, the Dossiers Secretes, the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar, and the legends surrounding Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail.

Other things don’t take experts to determine. We can read the Gospel accounts ourselves and see that there is no evidence to support the common assumption that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, and can see that she was both a woman of means and had about as close a relationship to Jesus as anybody. We can scour the text ourselves and note that there is not any comment about Jesus’ marital status one way or the other.

We can also find a picture of Da Vinci’s Last Supper and look at the figure to Jesus’ right. That doesn’t look like any man that I know, especially someone who earned the nickname “Son of Thunder” in the Bible. If that’s not a woman in the painting, I’ll eat my laptop. Please note, however, that proving the figure to be a woman does not prove anything about Jesus or Mary. Leonardo was not actually at the Last Supper. He painted his interpretation of the scene; he was not painting from memory!

The main thing I want to convey about this book and its claims, especially to Christian readers, is “Fear not.” There is no reason to be afraid either to read the book or to engage the questions. If your God can be obliterated by a novel, then it’s probably an idol anyway and needs to come down.

To me, Dan Brown has done a huge service to the Christian faith in bringing these questions to popular culture. Suddenly people are seriously engaged in theological questions…questions about the divinity of Jesus, the inspiration of Scripture, and the development of orthodoxy. Nobody outside of seminary is usually interested in that stuff.

Jesus promised that those who seek will find, and The Da Vinci Code took a whole pile of otherwise spiritually disengaged people and made them seekers after truth. The claims in the novel may be true or they may be false, but I think the important question for faith is whether we can muster the confidence to ask, “So what?”

In a class I taught on the book, I asked those in attendance about how they would be affected by a relationship between Jesus and Mary, a question many felt a bit frightened to address. “What would change about your faith,” I asked, “if it turned out that Jesus and Mary were married and had a child? Would it matter?” Many were both surprised and relieved to find out that either it would have no impact at all, or that it would have a positive impact on their faith.

Some said they would feel more connected to Jesus if he had a family like they did. Some felt that maybe the church would have had fewer problems acknowledging women’s roles and sexuality if that had been taught. Still others found it didn’t make any difference to what they believed. Since the Church has always taught that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine, nobody felt that Jesus’ divinity would be jeopardized by his being a husband and father. Asking the “So what?” question helped some to be less afraid and more willing to really engage their own faith.

Similar fears were evident surrounding the challenge that political wrangling and even suppression might have had a significant role in determining which books were included in the Bible or what doctrines were declared “orthodox.” Again, we need to ask, “So what?” That notion is not a threat to my faith. In fact, it only deepens my awe at the way the Holy Spirit is still able to use the Bible as a living text that can speak to my life and the way that God can still be made known through the Church.

To me, it seems obvious that politics played a huge and often destructive role in Church history and doctrine. When Constantine brought the power and wealth of the Empire together with the Church in 312 AD, I think the door to corruption was opened wide. God made no promises to keep politics out of the Church. It is even there in the New Testament amongst Jesus’ own disciples as James and John argue about which of them would be greatest in the Kingdom of God.

For myself, I think it’s probably true that God-inspired books did not make it into the Bible and that certain ideas were stamped out and their proponents declared to be heretics for purely political reasons. But that doesn’t shake my faith, because my faith is not in the Bible but in the God to whom it points. My faith isn’t a certain set of facts or doctrines; it is a relationship with the God I believe was revealed in Jesus, and the set of books we have reveals his essence just fine.

I think the most important thing the Da Vinci Code controversy can teach us is that real faith can survive our questions. We might accept the new thought or not, but real seeking after truth is what Christian discipleship has always been about. If certain questions can’t be asked or if certain answers are not allowed from the beginning, we can’t honestly seek the truth. And if we can’t seek the truth, how will we ever find Him?

Copyright ©2006 Anne Robertson

Da Vinci Code Book Cover
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