Decoding The DaVinci Code
By Sallee Wade
A number of people I know that read Dan BrownÕs book said they couldnÕt put it down. I tried, but couldnÕt get into it. Then all the hype about The DaVinci Code turning traditional Christianity on its ear made me curious to see the film. Anyway, I like Tom Hanks. So, joined by two friends whoÕd read the book, I trudged off to see the film. After 30 minutes, I wished IÕd stayed home and put the second coat of paint on my purple picnic table! I nearly fell asleep twice. I couldÕve rented an old James Bond movie or watched CSI on TV, except I donÕt much care for those either. How on earth, I asked myself, could this film be causing such a flap? My friends loved it! So did two others I talked to the next day. Something in me must be missing.
I am intrigued however, by the possibility that Jesus may indeed, have had a special, even preferred relationship with Mary Magdalene, which the official church kept repressed for its own reasons. That theory is not new. In the mid 90Õs, after watching Bill Moyers host a fascinating Public Television series on the gospels discovered in 1945 at Nag Hamadi, I poured through and pondered several copies of those published translations, including Th e Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas, which received much interest by respected scholars. IÕve further learned since that in JesusÕ day and time, it would have been unusual for a young rabbi not to be married. So to the issue of Jesus being married, I say, so what? Does that change in any way the power of His message to mankind? Does it change what He came to do, and actually did, that forever changed the world?
This film seems more a reflection of what our fast action, romance-addicted, collective imagination wants to believe, than what it might have been, had the film seriously explored the real issues. WeÕve become a nation of fast food and fast-action folk, increasingly educated by commercial media and the entertainment industry. The idea of Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and having children makes them each more like ourselves. We could then embark upon a search for their descendants living in our time, one of which might be us! Why not? In the movie, that Ôlast living descendentÕ turns out to be the drop-dead-gorgeous Ôcryptologist,Õ dressed like a high-level secretary, who races from crises to crisis on three-inch heels, and doesnÕt believe in God! She and the ÔprofessorÕ (Tom Hanks) are mirrors of the sophisticated, fast-track idols that capture us weekly on crime TV!
Many of us, including me, actually know little about the history of early Christianity. ItÕs been said that people who know nothing will believe anything, especially if it fulfills a desire or need. And that may be precisely where the popularity of The DaVinci Code lies.
Could it be that many folk in our time, ÒreligiousÓ or not, have a longing, deep in their psyche, to know this Jesus in some more human way than church history or their previous church experience has provided them? Might we also long to know ÔMary,Õ not only as the Holy Virgin Mother — or — a ÔprostituteÕ (as sheÕs been erroneously labeled), but in the Magdalene, as a flesh and blood woman of our own hidden history, fully capable and worthy of a sacred, perhaps even preferred apostolic relationship to the Son of God? Now that, if it were true, could be powerful. That could change the way we view the feminine role in the historical evolution of Christianity.
Having been graced (or cursed) with a liberal arts background, I question everything, including God sometimes. A pastor friend of mine recently shared several articles found on the internet, all by thoughtful biblical scholars, responding to The DaVinci Code. From these, it appears Dan Brown doesnÕt have a number of his historical Ôfads' straight, despite his claims in the novel. IÕll share a few here that reveal why people who know better may be upset with BrownÕs tale. In addition to the part about Jesus having married Mary Magdalene and having a child, BrownÕs novel claims:
— Prior to time of the Roman emperor Constantine in the 4th Century, Jesus was considered merely a prophet and mortal. Constantine himself conspired to deify Jesus at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. for his own political reasons.
Written history reveals that JesusÕ deity was historically established over 200 years before Constantine convened the Council of Nicea. From the first days of the Christian church, Jesus was regarded as more than mortal. Most followers worshipped him as Lord — the Creator of the universe. About 30 years after His death and resurrection, Paul wrote to the Philippians that Jesus was indeed God in human form (Philippians 2: 6 - 7). Also the familiar passage that opens Gospel of John, describing Jesus as the Word that became flesh, was first found in a manuscript carbon-dated 175-225 AD
— At the Council of Nicea, the vote to deify Jesus won by only a very narrow margin.
Of the 318 bishops from throughout the Christian world, only two dissented. Arius believed that the Father alone was God, and Jesus was His supreme creation. The Council finally concluded that Jesus and the Father were of the same Divine essence.
— Constantine himself personally selected the books of the New Testament, and along with the bishops, altered them to re-invent Jesus.
The New Testament was already widely in use 200 years before Constantine, and encompassed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of believers, all of whom were familiar with the New Testament accounts.
On May 26, NBC TVÕs Dateline, devoted the entire program to sorting through The DaVinci Code claims. In addition to lots more discrepancies, it was revealed that the ÔSangreal DocumentsÕ (reputed to contain the secret, handwritten family tree tracing the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to present day) donÕt exist. These were the fraudulent fantasy of Pierre Plantard, in Holy Blood Holy Grail, published in 1983 with a similar plot regarding Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
So Dan Brown created a lively novel. Now its a blockbuster movie. Lots of folks may be swallowing it whole, along with their popcorn. But others are asking questions, attending discussions and reading the growing list of books written to de-bunk it. Meanwhile, some of us like me are learning more about our own history!
If The DaVinci Code brings people closer to God, and the powerful Story in which we all live, that could be a good thing. Jesus said, ÒYou shall know the truth, and the truth will make you freeÓ (John 8:32). He also said ÒSee that you not be misled, for many will come in My name... (Luke 21: 8)
So read the book. Go see the movie. See whatÕs true for you. As for spiritual fast-food, itÕs sorta like popcorn. It might sound good, smell good and taste good, especially if youÕre hungry. But it wonÕt provide much real nutrition. DonÕt let it spoil your supper.