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Trade Paperback
96 pages
Apr 2004
Harvest House Publishers

The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code : A Challenging Response to the Bestselling Novel

by Richard Abanes

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt  |  Interview



Thrilled by a Thriller

Conspiracy Theories, Mass Confusion, and Rewriting History

Gnosticism, Ancient Gospels, and the Bible

Mary Magdalene, the Church, and Goddess Worship

The Grail, the Priory of Sion, and the Knights Templar

Leonardo, the Mona Lisa, and The Last Supper

Facing the Facts


Chapter 1

Conspiracy Theories, Mass Confusion,
and Rewriting History

So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth.

Sandra Miesel, Crisis magazine

It is difficult to know where to begin dissecting The Da Vinci Code. Although cleverly written, its overall value is diminished by an unusually high number of factual inaccuracies. For example, Dan Brown asserts that the pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris is “constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass.” But according to the official Web site of the Louvre Museum, the pyramid is “covered in 673 diamond-shaped panes of glass.” The Code also says that the Greeks based their Olympic games on an eight-year cycle as a tribute to the planet Venus, which in those days represented a goddess. In reality, however, the Olympics were held in honor of the Greek god Zeus. And they ran in a four-year, not an eight-year, cycle.

Such mistakes illustrate the book’s main weakness—its lack of accuracy, which is especially noticeable in connection to the conspiracy theory it seeks to validate (see introduction). This raises a fascinating point about Brown himself that few people have explored: He seems to be somewhat of a conspiracy buff. All of his previous novels, for instance, have dealt with conspiracies. His next novel, too, will be based on a conspiracy theory—its subject will be Freemasonry, which has long engendered fear and paranoia.

Yet Brown maintains he is not a conspiracy theorist. He claims to be more a “skeptic” than anything else, and he rejects tales of extraterrestrials, crop circles, and “other ‘mysteries’ that permeate pop culture.” Of course, when it comes to conspiracies within Christianity, particularly those related to Roman
Catholicism, Brown has been quite willing to accept even the wildest of charges. And he has used his novel to spread them.

Hardly anyone, though, is raising questions about the author’s scholarship. Even fewer are verifying his supposed facts. And almost no one has challenged his interpretation of numerous historical events he refers to. A possible explanation for such credulity may lie in the way Brown has presented his story. He relentlessly indicates that authoritative sources support his various claims, naming, for example, “religious historians”; “well-documented history”; “art historians”; “all academics”; “well-documented evidence”; “scores of historians”; and “historical evidence.”

These appeals are suspiciously vague, yet they give the Code an air of scholarship and legitimacy. They make it seem as if its assertions are based on exhaustive research that has been corroborated beyond doubt by professionals. Yet this is a false and misleading impression, as the remainder of this chapter will clearly demonstrate.

♦  ♦  ♦

Ancient Symbols


Pagan symbolism. It is “hidden” in the Chartres Cathedral in Paris ( DVC page 7).


There is nothing “hidden” about the pagan symbols at Chartres—which include a labyrinth, a gargoyle, and the great Rose Window. The Church openly used these symbols to attract pagans. They were given new Christian meanings so that pagans would, first, feel more at home, and second, better understand what Christianity was trying to say. The labyrinth, for example, was placed inside the cathedral because one had existed outside the cathedral. Church leaders, after removing the external labyrinth, hoped that pagans might come inside to the new labyrinth, where they could then hear the Christian message.


The pentacle. This symbol, a five-pointed star within a circle, represents “the female half of all things—a concept religious historians call the ‘sacred feminine’ or the divine goddess.…In its most specific interpretation, the pentacle symbolizes Venus—the goddess of female sexual love and beauty” ( DVC page 36).


The pentagram (which is called a pentacle when drawn inside a circle) has no “specific interpretation.” Writer and lecturer Kerr Cuhulain, who is a recognized spokesman for Wicca, explains that “there seems to have been no single tradition concerning their [pentagrams’] meaning and use, and in many contexts they seem simply to have been decorative.” Popular Wiccan Doreen Valiente also has noted the pentagram’s uses, adding, “The origin of the magical five-pointed star is lost in the mists of time.”

The only historical certainty is that in ancient astrology (during the period from about 3000 to 2500 B.C.) the pentagram represented Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Venus all together—not just Venus. The pentagram’s relationship to “female sexual love” is tenuous at best. To be sure, Venus was the goddess of sex, fertility, and love—but this has little to do with the pentagram or pentacle as a whole.

There is little more information about its other early uses until Pythagoras (about 570 to 495 B.C.), the Greek mathematician. He and his followers used the pentagram as their sign, equating it with the Greek word for “health.” By 475 B.C., it was being used by the philosopher Empedocles (about 490 to 430 B.C.) for spirit, earth, air, fire, and water: “[T]he star as a whole symbolizes spirit bringing the elements into order and balance.”

Today, the pentacle is used mostly by neopagans to indicate the priority of spirituality over materialism. And to them it usually symbolizes Earth, not Venus. Satanists also use the symbol, but they draw it upside down to show, among other things, rebellion (see pages 32–33).


Venus, the Olympics, and the pentagram. The planet Venus traces “a perfect pentacle across the ecliptic sky every eight years” ( DVC page 36). Moreover, “the five-pointed star had almost become the official Olympic seal but was modified at the last moment—its five points exchanged for five intersecting rings” ( DVC page 37).


The pentacle did not almost become the “official Olympic seal“—only to lose out to the now-famous rings. The Greeks did not even use the interlocking circles associated with today’s games. This design was created in 1913 by the founder of the International Olympic Committee, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He wanted it to represent the first five Olympic games. The sign’s use, however, was delayed until 1920, after which “the ring logo came to symbolize the ‘five continents’—a European concept in which North and South America are one.”

As for the course of Venus, it does not trace a “perfect” pentacle (or pentagram), but rather an approximate pentagram that varies in shape. There is not even “an observation point on Earth that would present a regular pentagram. Moving further north elongates the figure, while on the equator the figure is an irregular pentagon.” And this shape is not made by Venus traversing a straight line to each point, as Brown implies.

In order to get a rough pentagram out of Venus’s course, one must fix the planet’s location every 584 days over a period of eight years, then connect the dots. Using these parameters, one would still have to start plotting the positions on very specific days (for example, January 13, 2003). A daily observation—the kind most people would make—would simply show Venus zigzagging back and forth, making a scribble pattern…much like the one that appears on a polygraph test when someone is lying.

Venus, the Olympics, and the pentagram. The planet Venus traces “a perfect pentacle across the ecliptic sky every eight years” ( DVC page 36). Moreover, “the five-pointed star had almost become the official Olympic seal but was modified at the last moment—its five points exchanged for five intersecting rings” ( DVC page 37).


Tarot cards. These occult objects were “devised as a secret means to pass along ideologies banned by the Church“ ( DVC page 92).


Tarot cards were “originally used for the purpose of divination.” It is possible they were invented by Gypsies from the east, who introduced them to Europe in the late 1300s. Another scenario links tarot origins to Muslims, who—unlike Europeans—had playing cards as early as the 1200s. The cards then found their way into Europe, where Gypsies began using and popularizing them. Other scholars trace the tarot to Italy of the early 1400s.

The preceding theories are but a few of the ones that exist about the tarot. Definitive knowledge about how it came about has been lost. All we know is that the card deck appeared in Europe in the late 1300s. As Wiccan Doreen Valiente notes, “No one really knows the origin of the Tarot.” Most researchers, however, would probably deny that it was “devised” as a means of spreading “banned” ideologies.

Distortion of the Sacred Past


Koyaanisqatsi. The Hopi Indians believe that humanity is suffering from koyaanisqatsi (“life out of balance“): an instability “marked by testosterone-fueled wars, a plethora of misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth” ( DVC pages 125-126).


According to the late Thomas Banyacya (died in 1999), who began serving in 1948 as spokesman for Hopi leaders, koyaanisqatsi means “life without spirituality, life without sacredness.” It has nothing to do with an “obliteration of the sacred feminine” ( DVC page 125) or male atrocities and misogynistic attitudes.

Koyaanisqatsi relates to a Hopi legend about our loss of spiritual-mindedness. The story is set in the ancient past, at a time when spirituality was replaced by selfishness, materialism, and a lack of appreciation for the sacred and simple. This caused people to grow immoral and destructive. “People had no respect for anything. Life had become koyaanisqatsi —a world out of balance.” Those affected by koyaanisqatsi decided to make a fresh start by leaving their homeland (at that time, the Third World, which was inside the earth). So they journeyed through a hole in the sky, which led to where we now live (the Fourth World).


Suppression of paganism. Christians and pagans were “warring” so fiercely that the conflict “threatened to rend Rome in two. Constantine decided something had to be done. In 325 A.D., he decided to unify Rome under a single religion. Christianity” ( DVC page 232).


If the Code is implying that Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in 325, then it is mistaken. Constantine simply granted freedom of worship to Christians (313, the Edict of Milan—see pages 22-25). It was not until 381, during Theodosius’ reign (379–395), that Christianity was made the state religion.

As for pagans and Christians “warring” prior to 325, this is partially true. But many pagans and Christians also co-existed quite peacefully. Some pagans—including some Roman officials—actually protected their Christian neighbors from persecutions, especially during the reigns of Decius (249–251), Diocletian (about 284–305), and Galerius (305–311).

And pagan-Christian conflict was hardly the primary threat to the empire. Enemy hordes, for example, were invading the land (the Goths, Vandals, and Huns, among others). Moreover, Roman morality and ethics were eroding. Other factors that led to Rome’s downfall included dependence on foreign troops, territorial overexpansion, and political corruption.


Sunday. “Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans. Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan’s veneration day of the sun” ( DVC pages 232–233).


Christians semiofficially adopted Sunday worship during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (98–117), who outlawed Saturday—that is, Sabbath—meetings for Christians. However, observance of Sunday as “the Lord’s day” is recorded even earlier—in the Bible (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Sunday was easily accepted by Christians because it coincided with the Lord’s resurrection (Matthew 28:1), his post-resurrection appearances ( John 20:26), and the descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1).

Moreover, references to Sunday as “the Lord’s day” appear long before Constantine, in the writings of Justin Martyr (about 100 to 165) and Melito of Sardis (late 100s). The significance of this is underscored by the terminology these writers used: Sabbath vs. Lord’s Day. In other words, although Christians met on “the Lord’s day,” they still considered Saturday to be the Sabbath. This distinction was noted by the church father Ignatius (died about 110), who explained that the Jewish “Sabbath” was an aspect of the Mosaic Law that had been, for lack of a better term, suspended. No references are made to any hybrid “Christian Sabbath” until the 1100s.

Clearly, if a “Christian Sabbath” did not even exist until the twelfth century, then Constantine could not have “shifted” it to Sunday. He did, however, proclaim in 321 that there should be rest “on the venerable day of the sun.” But this merely prohibited “the public disturbance and profanation” of Sunday in order that Christians could worship in peace. In his research, Brown may have misinterpreted this order as a command to shift the Sabbath to Sunday.

Male-Female Deity


Ritual copulation. “[E]arly Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex. In the Temple, no less. Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple housed not only God but also His powerful female equal, Shekinah” ( DVC page 309).


There are no historical records showing any era in Israel when ritualistic sex was sanctioned in the temple. Brown might be referring to those sporadic periods in pre-Roman Israel when altars to pagan deities were erected at various locations, contrary to Mosaic Law. But their presence hardly constitutes “Jewish tradition.” In facts, these pagan altars were repeatedly torn down by various kings and prophets of Israel (see, for example, Judges 6:25-26,28,30).

Or perhaps the Code is referring to those periods in Israel’s history (for example, around 900 B.C. and also about the mid-600s B.C.) when the temple was defiled by religious prostitution (see 2 Kings 23:7). However, this abhorrent exploitation of sex was “ritualistic” only within the context of ancient Canaanite fertility religions—not Judaism. In fact, Moses had previously warned Israel to avoid precisely this kind of pagan debauchery ( Deuteronomy 23:17-18). True “Jewish tradition,” therefore, was actually being followed by the righteous rulers of Israel (for example, Asa, Josiah)—those who sought to eradicate ritual sex in the temple, not advocate it (see 1 Kings 15:12; 2 Kings 23:7).

As for Shekinah, this is not the name of a goddess, but a combination of Hebrew words that, when linked together, mean “dwelling.” The word is not contained in the Bible, although a similar name (Shecaniah) is found in 1 Chronicles 3:21. It means “Yahweh dwelling,” and it refers to God’s presence in the temple. This does not mean that the temple “housed” God. Solomon himself declared that even heaven could not contain God (1 Kings 8:27). Rather, the temple was a place to which people could go to meet God. He had promised to always be there for them.


God’s original name. “The Jewish Tetragrammaton YHWH— the sacred name of God—in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah” ( DVC page 309).


Perhaps the only thing truly known about the origin of the tetragrammaton is that the ancient Israelites used it in reference to God. We do not even know its original spelling, nor do we know how it should be pronounced. It might have been spelled “Yahweh,” but this is uncertain because ancient written Hebrew had no indication of vowels.

The origin of the word Jehovah can be traced to the late Middle Ages (around the year 1500), when Jewish scribes began inserting the vowels from the Hebrew word adonai (“my Lord“) into the name YHWH. The insertion resulted in the hybrid term YaHoWaH. Scribes wanted this new word to remind readers that God’s name was too holy to pronounce, so they should substitute adonah for it when reading biblical passages aloud. Then, when the term YaHoWaH was Latinized, the “Y” and “W” were changed to “J” and “V“—resulting in Jehovah.

What about Havah (also spelled Chavvah)? This is simply the name “Eve” as found in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. It comes from a root word that means “life.” Havah has nothing to do with some “androgynous physical union” with “Jah,” which is not, as the Code says, “masculine.” In fact, the term “Jah“ is not even a Hebrew word, as noted above. Hebrew, however, does include Yah, a contracted form of YHWH. And throughout the Hebrew scriptures, “Yah” is indeed coupled with a masculine verb. In Psalm 106:1, for example, halal Yah means “Praise the Lord” or “Praise Yah.” Perhaps Brown confused “Yah” with “Jah.”

♦  ♦  ♦

The Da Vinci Code clearly contains many historical errors covering a wide variety of issues: church architecture, religious symbolism, the Roman Empire, ancient Israel, and different spiritual belief systems. This is a crucial point because Brown’s credibility as a reliable expounder of history is what undergirds many of his assertions about other significant topics, such as the Bible, early church doctrine, and the beliefs embraced by ancient religious groups.

In other words, if Brown cannot be relied upon to accurately recount the most basic of historical facts, then how can he be trusted to correctly explain more complex subjects? Chapter 2 will take a closer look at some of these decidedly intricate topics. At every turn, The Da Vinci Code’s “facts” are contradicted by information readily available to any investigator.

Excerpted from The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code By Richard Abanes. Copyright © 2004 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.