Bethany House Publishers
Age of Pisces, The -- Greek, fish; since from ancient times the fish has been used as a Christian symbol, some see the arrival of the Aquarian Age as signaling the passing of Christianity. The Da Vinci Code describes the current Piscean Age as one of passivity--accordingly, Dan Brown says, people have been easily controlled by the Roman Catholic Church for the past two thousand years (DVC, 267). See also Age of Aquarius; astrology; zodiac.
Christianity as "borrowed" -- One significant Da Vinci
Code statement pertains to Dan Brown's perception of the relationship
between Christianity and paganism: "By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals
into the growing Christian tradition, [Constantine] created a kind of hybrid
religion that was acceptable to both parties.... The vestiges of pagan religion
in Christian symbology are undeniable.... Virtually all the elements of the
Catholic ritual ... were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions....
Nothing in Christianity is original" (DVC, 232). These statements are
both true and false.
The false: Christianity is, at its core, antithetical to every other world religion, all of which can be depicted as humankind striving to reach God or to experience some form of inner peace. Christianity is the account of God reaching down to humanity, granting people the opportunity to experience purpose and peace through his offer of salvation. Christianity is summarized as God, in light of humanity's inability to reach Him, taking the initiative, bridging the gap; a person is redeemed not by what he or she can do but by what God has already done. In contrast to Brown's claim that "nothing in Christianity is original," Christianity is a unique and original spiritual reality.
The true: the Christian faith does have symbols and words that have come from pagan, pre-Christian sources. However, this is not because early Christianity was so impoverished as to be unable to create its own symbols; rather, its early growth was so rapid that it tended to "retool" already-existing cultural concepts and give them new meaning. For example:
Brown seems to see the Christian "taking" of the Christmas date (December 25)
for the celebration of Jesus' birth as a sort of sinister or covert replacement
of a pagan holiday. We don't know the actual date of Christ's birth; the point
is, Christianity has adapted well to preceding cultural constructs, often by
adopting and redefining them.
The compelling, magnetic nature of Jesus' message has proven to be so prevailing that the movement has grown from 120 in a small room (Acts 1:15) to over two billion, with about one-third of the earth's population identifying with the name of Jesus Christ. The issue is less about the church "borrowing" pagan concepts and more about authentic Christianity's magnificent capacity to adapt and adopt without losing the core of its Christocentric message. See also Constantine the Great; Council of Nicaea; Sabbath; Sol Invictus.
hidden documents -- According to The Da Vinci Code, the Priory of Sion created the Knights Templar to recover "a stash of hidden documents buried beneath the ruins of Herod's temple" (DVC, 158); these documents supposedly provided proof that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married. Although some Knights evidently explored the area beneath the Temple Mount in the early 1100s, they were likely seeking relics and treasures, not documents. (In 1867, British engineers excavating a series of tunnels beneath the Mount found a Templar cross, a spur, a broken lance, and part of a sword.) No reliable evidence suggests that the Templars found any documents--much less documents about Jesus Christ hidden beneath the ruins of a Jewish holy place. See Godefroi de Bouillon; Holy of Holies; Knights Templar; Priory of Sion; purist documents; Temple, Herod's.
Holy Grail, The -- Many today consider the Holy Grail to be
the cup used by Jesus and his disciples during the Last Supper; some also
believe Joseph of Arimathea held the cup to catch the blood from Jesus' side as
In 1170, Frenchman Chretien de Troyes wrote a poem called Perceval, seemingly based on Celtic myths, in which the grail is simply a jeweled dish. As the story was retold and rewritten, a distinctive theme emerged. Before the twelfth century, there were no legends about the grail; by the thirteenth century the tale had become intertwined with Arthurian legends, the characters from Chretien's story developed into supposed historical figures from the Gospels, and the grail had become the Holy Grail.
The Da Vinci Code's Leigh Teabing says that the French word for "Holy Grail," Sangreal, is actually an incorrect rendering of the words Sang Real, which would mean "Royal Blood." This idea is based on a suggestion made in Holy Blood, Holy Grail that at one point the word may have been miscopied and divided in the wrong place; the writers admit this is an unlikely possibility.
The pieces begin to fall into place for The Da Vinci Code characters once they begin to consider ancient pagan symbols for females (chalice) and males (blade). However, there is no historical evidence to connect the ancient chalice and the Holy Grail, since the grail's concept can only be traced back as far as the twelfth century (DVC, 162, 238, 250). See also Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
Mary Magdalene -- According to the New Testament, Mary
Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus from whom he cast "seven demons"; she followed
him throughout his ministry, witnessed the crucifixion, and, with two other
female disciples, discovered the empty tomb. Mary was probably from Magdala, a
village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The Da Vinci Code alleges that the New Testament excludes an important fact: "The marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record" (245). In fact, there is not one scrap of evidence in any first-century record that implies a sexual or marital relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Additionally, even if Jesus had married--again, a proposition for which there is no reliable evidence--it wouldn't be disastrous for Christian faith (as Dan Brown implies), for the Scriptures neither affirm nor deny that Jesus was married. In addition to being completely divine, Jesus was completely human (John 1:18; 1 John 4:2); if he'd had children, they would also have been completely human.
The Da Vinci Code notes that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute: "That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early church. The church needed to defame Mary Magdalene to cover up her dangerous secret [i.e., Mary's role as the spouse of Jesus]" (244).
This is partly correct: she was probably not a prostitute. Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary (Luke 8:2), but there is no evidence to suggest she was sexually immoral. At the same time, there is also no evidence to suggest that anyone instituted a "smear campaign" to discredit her. A tradition arose in the third and fourth centuries that she was the sinful woman mentioned in Luke 7:36-50 and, perhaps, the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11; in 591, Pope Gregory I included this teaching in a sermon. Although such identifications were probably mistaken, they are far from a slander crusade launched to hide a dangerous secret. See also Benjamin, tribe of; Gospel of Philip; Gospel of Mary; marriage, Jewish.
Opus Dei -- Catholic organization founded by Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer in 1928; currently 80,000 members worldwide (laypersons and priests). Escriva's book The Way made controversial statements about the value and necessity of pain; such aspects of belief, along with the organization's great wealth, has made it a target for attacks by those who mistrust the Christian faith in general and the Roman Catholic Church in particular. Dan Brown inaccurately depicts Opus Dei as a monastic order (DVC, 28); it does not have monks, and its membership is lay-oriented. See Escrivá de Balaguer, Josemaria.
pentagram -- A pentacle enclosed in a circle. Early in The Da Vinci Code, Jacques Saunière's slain, nude body is disturbingly outstretched on the Louvre floor with a bloody pentacle drawn on his stomach. This image gives Robert Langdon the chance to complain about how the church has either stolen or defaced the sacred symbols and rituals of peaceful pagan religions (37). Conversely, it was not the church that attributed negative symbolic connotations to the pentagram, but twentieth-century Satanists. The pentagram has been a symbol used by Wiccans and nature-worshiping cults even before the writings of Eliphas Levi and Anton LaVey. See also pentacle; Star of David.
Priory of Sion, The -- Dan Brown begins The Da Vinci Code
with a page labeled "Fact," on which he describes the Priory of Sion as "a
European society founded in 1099, a real organization" (1). The Priory is
Brown's central focus of conspiracy, power, wealth, and historical significance;
he based much of his "research" on the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, in
which supposedly long-undiscovered documents (Les Dossiers Secrets)
reveal the history of this society and contain an actual list of the Priory's
Grand Masters--including such men as Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, and
Victor Hugo (113).
In truth, the Priory was a club created in 1953 by Pierre Plantard, who later testified under oath that he had fabricated the entire farce. The actual society exists only in the novel and in the mind of Pierre Plantard. See also Dossiers Secrets, Les; Holy Blood, Holy Grail; Plantard, Pierre.