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144 pages
Jun 2004
Tyndale House

The Da Vinci Deception: Credible Answers to the Questions Millions are Asking about Jesus, The Bible, and the Da Vinci Code

by Erwin Lutzer

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt  |  Interview



The Da Vinci Code AT A GLANCE

Welcome to the mysterious world of conspiracy, secret codes, and historical documents hidden for as many centuries as the church has existed! If you’ve not read The Da Vinci Code, I’ll introduce you to the story and to some novel ideas you might not have heard before, such as:

    • Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene!

    • They had children who intermarried with the French royal line!

    • And all this has been known for centuries, but the truth has been kept from the public for fear of destroying the power of the church! In fact, there is a highly secret organization that guards documents that, if made public, would destroy Christianity as we know it!

“Rumors of this conspiracy have been whispered for centuries,” says best-selling author Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. In fact, these rumors have appeared “in countless languages, including the languages of art, music, and literature.” And, we are told, some of the most dramatic evidence appears in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci.

The Da Vinci Code has been on the best-seller lists for months, and with an upcoming movie based on the book, the story is sure to receive even wider circulation. If you’ve not read the novel, you probably know someone who has. Many are thinking that the book just might have some plausibility. Perhaps the historical evidence is shaky, but, as one reviewer asked, “Why can’t we believe that it might have happened?”

Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at the book’s premise. In brief, here’s the story: The Da Vinci Code opens with the curator of the Louvre lying dead in a pool of his own blood. Meanwhile, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor and expert in esoteric symbolism, is in Paris on business.

The French police track Langdon down at his hotel and ask him to interpret a strange cipher left on the body of the murder victim. Langdon is joined in his investigation by a young cryptologist named Sophie Neveu. When Sophie privately warns Robert that he is the prime suspect in the murder, they flee. But the murder victim has intentionally left clues for them to follow. As they decipher his coded instructions, Robert and Sophie quickly realize that the crime is linked to the legendary search for the Holy Grail.

Quite providentially, the pair is able to link up with a Holy Grail fanatic, Sir Leigh Teabing, whose extensive knowledge and research fuel their efforts to find the Grail. Teabing enthusiastically instructs the pair on matters that surround the events of the New Testament, including an alternate understanding of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the true nature of the Holy Grail. He cites the Gnostic Gospels, ancient documents that supposedly give a more reliable account of Christ’s life and teachings than the New Testament documents we know today.

Still sought by the authorities, Robert, Sophie, and now Sir Leigh flee to London and later Scotland, hoping to find more evidence about the murder and its connection to the Holy Grail. The reader is kept in suspense as these smart and determined characters pierce the hidden world of mystery and conspiracy in an attempt to overcome centuries of deceit and secrecy. Staying one step ahead of the police, they are able to use hidden codes and manuscripts that the church has tried to hide from the public.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book—and lying at the heart of it—is the notion that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had a daughter. Legend has it that after Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary and her daughter, Sarah, went to Gaul, where they established the Merovingian line of French royalty. This dynasty, we are told, continues even today in the mysterious organization known as the Priory of Sion, a secret organization whose military wing was the Knights Templar. Members of this organization supposedly include Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Victor Hugo.

To this day, says Teabing, the relics of Mary and the records excavated by the Templars are guarded, shrouded in secrecy and mystery.

There is more: The Da Vinci Code reinterprets the Holy Grail as none other than the remains of Jesus’ wife, Mary Magdalene, who held the blood of Jesus Christ in her womb while bearing his child.

The book claims that Jesus intended Mary Magdalene to lead the church, but “Peter had a problem with that,” thus she was declared a prostitute and cut out of the role of leadership.

Apparently, the church wanted a celibate male savior who would perpetuate male rule. So, after her husband was crucified, Mary disappeared with her child, resurfacing in Gaul. If this theory were true, descendents of Jesus could still be alive today.

Robert and Sir Leigh tell Sophie that the real story about Mary has been preserved in carefully hidden codes and symbols in order to avert the wrath of the Catholic Church. In these hidden codes, the Priory of Sion has been able to preserve its own version of Jesus and Mary’s life together without telling the whole truth.

Leonardo da Vinci knew all this, we are told, and used his well-known painting The Last Supper to conceal many levels of meaning. In the painting John is sitting to the right of Jesus. But John’s features are feminine; it turns out that the person to the right of Jesus is not John after all, but rather Mary Magdalene. And, tellingly, Leonardo did not paint a cup or chalice on the table—another hint that the real Grail is Mary, sitting to the right of Jesus!

While Robert, Sophie, and Sir Leigh continue their investigation, the powerful Catholic organization Opus Dei is ready to use whatever means necessary—including assassination—to keep a lid on the secret. Flush with church money, Opus Dei is determined to force the top officials of the Priory to reveal the map to the Grail’s location. If the secrets of the Priory were revealed, the church would be exposed as a fraud built on centuries of deceit.

Dan Brown’s agenda is not so thinly veiled: This book is a direct attack against Jesus Christ, the church, and those of us who are his followers and call him Savior and Lord. Christianity, according to Dan Brown’s novel, was invented to suppress women and to turn people away from the “divine feminine.” Understandably, the book appeals to feminists, who see a return to goddess worship as a necessity to combat male supremacy.

The upshot of this theory is that Christianity is based on a big lie, or rather, several big lies. For one thing, Jesus was not God, but his followers attributed deity to him in order to consolidate male rule and to suppress those who worshipped the divine feminine. Indeed, according to Dan Brown, at the Council of Nicaea Constantine invented the idea of the deity of Christ so that he could eliminate all opposition, declaring those who disagreed to be heretics. Further, Constantine also chose Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the only Gospels because they fit his agenda of male power. Eighty other viable Gospels were rejected because they taught that Jesus wanted Mary Magdalene to be the real leader of the church. “It was all about power,” we’re told.

Incredibly, we learn that in the Old Testament, Israel worshipped both the male God Jehovah and his feminine counterpart, the Shekinah. Centuries later, the official church—the sex-hating, woman-hating church—suppressed this goddess worship and eliminated the divine feminine.

This concept of the divine feminine, which the church tried to suppress, is actually the pagan notion that in sex rituals the male and female experience God. “Physical union with the female remained the sole means through which man could become spiritually complete and ultimately achieve gnosis—knowledge of the divine.”1 But this use of sex to commune directly with God posed a threat to the Catholic Church because it undermined its power. “For obvious reasons, they worked hard to demonize sex and recast it as a disgusting and sinful act. Other major religions did the same.”2

“Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false,” laments Teabing. The New Testament is simply the result of a male-dominated leadership that invented Christianity in order to control the Roman Empire and to oppress women. The real Jesus was the original feminist, but his wishes were ignored to foster the male agenda.

If The DaVinci Code were billed as just a novel, it would be an interesting read for conspiracy buffs who like a fast-paced thriller. What makes the book troublesome is that it purports to be based on facts. In the flyleaf, we read that the Priory of Sion exists, as does Opus Dei, a deeply devout Catholic sect that is controversial due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and “corporal mortification.” Finally, we are told, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”

On his Web site, Dan Brown makes other statements about the historical reliability of the work. Some reviewers have praised the book for its “impeccable research.” One woman, when told that the novel was bunk, replied, “If it were not true it could not have been published!” One man said now that he has read the book, he will never be able to enter a church again.

Readers should know that the basic plot of this book has existed for centuries and can be found in esoteric and New Age literature such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent (1983), which is referenced in the novel. The difference is that Brown takes these legends and wraps them in a quasi-historical story that is being read by millions. Many who read the book are wondering if all, or at least some, of its claims might be true.

When ABC did a documentary on The Da Vinci Code, it gave credence to the novel, and, for the most part, ignored serious scholarship in favor of sensationalist rumor and ill-founded speculation. Although the program ended with the statement, “We don’t have any proof,” it’s clear that the book was given some degree of respectability, with the implication that proof or not, Dan Brown just might be onto something.

Recently I read The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ, written by Lynn Pickett and Clive Prince, which includes similar themes to The Da Vinci Code supposedly based on historical research. This book attempts to give validity to the idea that Mary Magdalene was the woman Jesus appointed to begin the church. It also contends that the New Testament is a sanitized account of cultic themes, including sex rituals.

How plausible is it that a conspiracy has kept the real story of Mary and Jesus under wraps? If it is true, the entire structure of Christian theology is a plot to deceive the masses. If it is true, the apostles were all party to this plot and were willing to give their lives for what they knew to be a lie. And if it is true, our faith—the faith of those of us who trust in Christ— is groundless.

Uncovering the Deception

Since The Da Vinci Code claims to be quasi-historical, it is important for us to ask: Is this book plausible? Many are wondering where Brown crosses the line between truth and fiction, between fact and fantasy. Is it just possible that someday, somewhere, we will discover that his version of history has credibility?

I’ve written this book in an attempt to answer these and other questions. We’ll look at topics such as the Council of Nicaea, the Gnostic Gospels, the canon of the New Testament, and the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. Was Jesus simply an inspiring leader who founded a religious movement? Did the Gnostics represent an early form of Christianity that was hijacked by the male-dominated apostles of the New Testament?

In the process of answering these questions, I trust that your faith will be both challenged and strengthened. It is not my intention to list all of the historical errors in The Da Vinci Code—that would be a lengthy list indeed.

These false statements included: “Jesus was a historical figure of staggering influence . . . (he) inspired millions” when he was here on earth and “during three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women.”3 These and other misstatements aren’t really central to the basic attack the book makes against the Christian faith. I plan to focus instead on the scurrilous remarks made against Jesus and the Bible.

Following are several of the key questions we’ll attempt to answer:

    • Did Constantine invent the deity of Christ? And did the Council of Nicaea, which he convened, determine which books should be in the New Testament?

    • Are the Gnostic Gospels reliable guides to New Testament history?

    • Who determined what books would constitute the New Testament, and on what basis were the books included? When were these decisions made?

    • Is it plausible that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus?

    • Was Opus Dei charged with destroying the Priory of Sion in order to suppress secrets about the real Jesus?

    • Is it true that Gnosticism (to be defined later) is a viable “alternative Christianity” that might represent the true Christian faith?

    • If we agree on God, do we also have to agree about Jesus?

Come with me on a journey that will lead us into the intriguing story of the origins of Christianity and those historical events that defined the Christian church. Whether or not you have read The Da Vinci Code, I think you’ll benefit from a Christian response to the attacks being made against the Jesus of history.