Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Discovery Program Debunks Da Vinci Code

On Sunday evening (May 14), Discovery aired several programs regarding the da Vinci code. "The Real Da Vinci Code: Episodes 1 and 2" was one of these, and it did a very professional job of describing the "points" made in Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code, and then tracking down the true history behind the claims, detective style.

One claim in Brown's fictional tale is that Jesus was married to Mary of Magdala and that He sired offspring through her whose bloodline continues to this day. Obviously, this is no where substantiated in the New Testament, but what about in the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi? Experts on these texts were interviewed. The text that comes closest to describing a physical relationship between Jesus and Mary is the "Gospel of Philip", written in the second half of the third century (far later than any texts the Church could accept as inspired). Apparently, even this text is highly problematic. It reads, "And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to ] kiss her [often] on her [...]." Brackets indicate broken parts of text. Filled brackets indicate logical, scholarly guesses of what probably belonged there based on the size of the gap and context. Empty brackets are a bit more up for grabs. The historians most familiar with this text said that this passage in no way indicates that Jesus and Mary were married. It does not even connote a sexual or romantic relationship between the two as we have no idea where He supposedly kissed her (head, forehead, cheek, nose, mouth, hand). Some scholars pointed out that even if it were on the mouth, that was not an uncommon way to greet one another in that time period and would not indicate a sexual union.

Also countered was the holy grail/holy blood connection. A historian discussed the origins of this point. Eerily, san greal (meaning holy grail) is very close to sang real (holy blood). It turns out that historians know exactly when this change first took place. A couple hundred years ago or so, a lazy copyist wrote "sang real" instead of the original "san greal". Therefore, there are no texts which accurately demonstrate that the missing "holy grail" is really the bloodline of Jesus and Mary.

Another point which was investigated was the claim that a priest in France suddenly became rich because he happened upon a great secret which has been hidden from the masses all this time. Once again, nope. This story was actually fabricated within the last generation or so by a self-serving soul.

Bottom line, there is no historical reason to believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were either married or lovers.

Regardless, the faith of billions would not be shattered even if Jesus did have descendants. This simply has no bearing on the work He came to do. However, since people everywhere are now questioning this historical point as though there has been some conspiratorial cover-up, it seemed worth mentioning. Also, since this marriage and subsequent pro-creation of a holy blood line was one of the major "discoveries" in Brown's mystery and has since been debunked, the rest of his claims of historicity are in question (and have been discredited elsewhere, as I understand it).

Other points were examined, too, in "The Real Da Vinci Code: Episodes 1 and 2". For example, experts on Leonardo da Vinci have refuted the claims that he was part of a secret society and that he placed messages in his artwork. Keep checking the Discovery site to see if these programs will be re-shown (no re-showings are listed for this week, unfortunately). They are worth watching.

Rumor has it that Brown's book is a good read. Maybe I'll get around to it one day, but I have already exhausted this year's quota of fiction intake reading Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, previously reviewed on this site. What I do know is that historical fiction should be thoroughly researched and grounded in as much fact as possible to maintain its integrity, and as a lover and perpetual student of history, I insist upon it. Apparently, as seen in the Discovery channel investigation, Brown's work does not pass this test. What a shame, as I hear he is an excellent storyteller. And what's even more a shame is that the general public doesn't seem to know his work is not properly anchored and are spouting fiction as though it were fact.

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