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Truth about the Da Vinci Code

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  • Roger Anderton
    An interesting article below - in the West we are founded upon a Christian tradition going back thousands of years, and that could have been a falsehood. There
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2005
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      An interesting article below - in the West we are founded upon a Christian tradition going back thousands of years, and that could have been a falsehood. There were heretics who were killed for not believing the official Church dogma; maybe those heretics believed the truth about Christianity. As one goes up the hierarchy of power, those in charge care less and less about what those below them believe, and instead try to maintain the status quo because that is what their authority rests on, so may be falsehood was maintained to keep power. If we have had two thousand years of maintaining falsehood as religious belief; then maybe as regards UFOs the authorities are doing the same.

      The article below is fairly good except at the end it wants to have a go at "debunking" the Da Vinci Code idea, by trying to make out that if Christ had children then this would not have undermined the existing Christian belief of Christ's divinity. BUT - that overlooks that - over the thousand years there has been much squabbling over religious belief, and at our present time it might not undermine most Christian sects' beliefs to say that Christ had children, but in past times it would have been heresy and had the person saying it killed. So maybe the "truth" comes out when society is ready to accept it, and at which time - society decides the "truth" is trivia and cannot understand why in past ages the "truth" was covered up.

      The Truth about the Da Vinci Code by Daily Mail

      January 1, 2005

      [Article refers to picture of Da Vinci's The Last Supper of Christ.]

      AROUND the besieged city, tens of thousands of knights were pitching tents, watering their horses, lighting campfires. Monks were chanting prayers; priests were giving blessings. Soon, in the name of God, they would butcher everyone inside the walls.

      The year was 1209 and the mighty forces of the Pope had come to stamp out a heresy that had taken hold in southwest France. Inside the city of Beziers, fierce devotees of Catharism - a mystical offshoot of conventional Christianity - were determined to resist.

      The Cathars' faith was a complex one which defied the dictates of Rome by denying the divinity of Jesus Christ and rejecting his Resurrection, the very core of Catholic belief.

      They also venerated Mary Magdalene - a woman branded a prostitute by the Papacy - as a key figure in the history of the Church. Some even said she and Jesus had been man and wife.

      Pope Innocent III had sent his crusaders to crush such dangerous notions. Their assault began when a mob of foot soldiers rushed a small gate, while others brought up long ladders to scale the walls.

      Suddenly, the whole army was pouring in, slashing and stabbing. When one soldier asked how to pick out heretics from true believers, the abbot in charge of the attack told him: 'Kill them all. God will recognise his own.'

      In the church of St Mary Magdalene, 1,000 women and children were put to the sword as they prayed. Blood ran in the streets. Babies were hurled from towers.

      The death toll that one morning was close to 20,000, a staggering feat of single-minded butchery in the days before gunpowder made mass murder easy. The leader of the crusade proudly wrote to the Pope that 'the workings of divine vengeance have been wondrous'.

      The campaign against the Cathars lasted a further 30 years, until the last of them had retreated to a mountain-top castle. Cut off and with no hope of escape, the diehards surrendered in 1244 and were marched barefoot to a huge bonfire where they were burned alive.

      As far as the Catholic church was concerned, the most serious threat to its power and orthodoxy for close on 1,000 years was consumed by those flames, the ashes of its adherents scattered to the four winds.

      How extraordinary, then, that 750 years later, elements of that same 'heresy' should be back in force, attracting new believers and again threatening to undermine orthodox Christianity and its teachings.

      This time, it is the Church that feels under siege - its defences chipped away by the runaway success of American writer Dan Brown's bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code, and the astonishing claims on which it is based.

      A popular thriller might seem an unlikely source of theological ferment, but Brown's book is a modern phenomenon. Its publishers claim to have 17 million copies in print worldwide - enough, piled on top of each other, to make a mountain 75 times higher than Everest, or to stretch end-to-end from London to the Vatican and back.

      In the past month, up to 80,000 copies were sold in British bookshops every week, and no doubt many of them were unwrapped as presents on Christmas Day. This is hugely ironic, because the core of the novel - as its author freely admits - is an attack on the very beliefs that Christmas represents.

      Christians believe that, in that stable in Bethlehem, the 'Word was made flesh' - that God became Man in the form of Jesus to take on the sins of the world. That is what the whole story of Nativity and the child in the manger means.

      Not so, said the Cathars 700 years ago. Not so, says the argument of The Da Vinci Code. According to the book, Jesus was just a man, gifted and great, but totally human - his divinity a fiction fostered by the Church to bolster its own authority.

      What's more, this all-too-human Christ not only married the supposedly 'fallen' Mary Magdalene but also sired a daughter by her, establishing a royal bloodline that endures to this day, with the couple's descendants still among us.

      This secret has supposedly been concealed for generations by the Catholic Church in a cynical, misogynistic conspiracy that has distorted the meaning of Christianity and suppressed women's role in it, creating a harsh male-dominated religion that lacks the balancing force of the 'sacred feminine'.

      Indeed, the book's central message - in the words of one of Dan Brown's characters - is that 'almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false'.

      -308Were the Da Vinci Code presented as mere fiction, these claims would be easy to ignore. Even its fans accept that this is not a great work of literature: its 105 chapters and 593 pages are fast-moving and inventive, but filled with wooden characters and wince-inducing dialogue.

      But the significance of the book is that its author insists its historical foundations are cast-iron fact. Brown draws on a range of academic sources - some of them respectable, others hugely controversial - to justify his various claims, and says he wrote the novel in the hope it would be a 'catalyst' for the reappraisal of history.

      Recognising the challenge Brown poses, Christian writers have responded with a barrage of criticism, accusing him of 'error, deception and falsehood' and of a 'pernicious' attempt to 'dethrone the 2,000-year-old Christian story'. Bookshops are now full of rival volumes seeking to pick apart his arguments.

      So what is the truth about this heretical blockbuster? Is it bunkum - or an unlikely insight into the greatest cover-up of all time? And what, exactly, is the code that gives the book its title?

      LIKE all good thrillers, Brown's novel opens with a murder - the shooting in Paris of Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Louvre art gallery and a member of the Priory of Sion, a mysterious brotherhood that has supposedly handed down the explosive secret of Christ's marriage from one generation to another.

      Before he dies, Sauniere tries to pass on his knowledge by leaving a series of clues that must be decoded by his granddaughter, Sophie Neveu, and Robert Langdon, a Harvard academic. The book follows their attempts to solve the clues before evil agents of the Vatican can silence them.

      In particular, their mission involves deciphering hidden messages in the works of the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci, himself allegedly a former grand master of the Priory of Sion. It is at this point that fact and fantasy start to merge in a truly tantalising manner.

      On the first page of his book, Brown tells his readers that the Priory is 'a real organisation' founded in 1099 and that secret documents found in Paris's Biblio-theque Nationale reveal that .its members have included not only Leonardo but other artistic and scientific geniuses such as Sir Isaac Newton, novelist Victor Hugo and the painter Botticelli.

      Brown also insists that Leonardo's paintings contain real clues with real messages about Christ and Mary Magdalene - most notably in his masterpiece, The Last Supper.

      Painted on the wall of a monastery refectory in Milan between 1495 and 1497, this celebrated work shows Christ with his 12 disciples shortly before the betrayal by Judas that led to his crucifixion.

      The picture has faded over the years, and parts of it are hard to make out. But following in the footsteps of a number of revisionist historians - such as Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, in their book The Templar Revelation - Brown argues ' that coded messages can still be discerned, centring on the identity of the disciple sitting on Jesus's right.

      Traditionally, this figure is identified as St John. But is that correct?

      Look, says Brown, at the beardless disciple's 'flowing red hair', 'delicate folded hands' and gentle, effeminate features. Look, he says, at 'the hint of a bosom' emerging from those flowing robes.

      This, insists Brown, is clearly no man. It is a woman: Mary Magdalene, Christ's secret wife.

      Brown sees a supporting clue in the strange positioning of the two figures - leaning away from each other, leaving a striking V-shaped gap at the centre of the painting..

      This, he says, is the archetypal symbol of the womb and female sexuality, placed there by Leonardo to emphasise the 'sacred feminine' that lies at the heart of true Christianity.

      In turn, this 'indisputable' V-shape forms part of another hidden message: a huge 'M' created by the outlines of Jesus and Mary's bodies. Brown suggests this stands for either 'Mary Magdalene' or the word 'matrimonio' - matrimony.

      Other clues supposedly pepper the picture. The red and blue garments worn by Jesus and Mary mirror each other and are claimed by some scholars to be 'royal' colours denoting spiritual love, fidelity and truth - befitting a married couple.

      Meanwhile, next to the 'Mary' figure, another disciple - St Peter - appears to be slicing his hand across her neck in a threatening way. This allegedly symbolises the male Peter's rivalry with Mary for the right to control Christ's church after his death.

      Brown also poses a teasing question. Why is there no sign in the picture of the Holy Grail - the wine cup that tradition suggests was central to The Last Supper and later used to carry Christ's blood?

      According to the Da Vinci Code, this is because Leonardo wants us to realise that the Holy Grail is not literally a chalice at all - but a cryptic reference to the truth about Mary Magdalene and the fact that, as the mother of Christ's child, she carried his blood in her womb and passed it on down the generations.

      Again, this is an idea borrowed from revisionist academics who have suggested that 'San Greal' - the old French phrase for Holy Grail - should instead be read as 'Sang Real', meaning the royal bloodline of Jesus and Mary.

      This steady accumulation of detail helps Brown to build a beguiling theory, but should we believe it? Virtually all respectable art historians are brutally dismissive.

      While accepting that painters such as Leonardo routinely used symbols to add buried layers of meaning to their work, they point out that it was quite normal for painters of his era to depict St John as a girlishly beautiful young man.

      They insist the arrangement of Leonardo's figures is simply intended to show the disciples' astonishment when Christ announces that one of them will betray him. And as for the absence of a large wine cup, that's because the painting depicts a point in the meal when such items would have been cleared away.

      But Brown's case for a secret bond between Christ and Mary does not rest on Leonardo's painting alone. He also draws heavily on rival versions of the Christian gospels that were suppressed by the early Church and only recently re-discovered.

      In the traditional Bible story, Mary Magdalene is mentioned just 12 times and is part of the general entourage accompanying Christ on his travels. Significantly, however, she is present at his crucifixion - when the male disciples have run away - and also witnesses his burial and resurrection.

      Indeed, according to John's Gospel, it is to her first and alone that Jesus appears after his death, giving her the task of telling the sceptical male disciples he has risen.

      Could this be just part of a bigger story that the conventional sources don't tell us? Yes, says Brown - and he claims the suppressed versions of the gospels fill in the gaps.

      Until the middle of the last century, knowledge of these 'Gnostic' gospels was largely limited to scathing references by early orthodox Christian writers eager to discredit them.

      They were excluded from the New ' Testament by order of Constantine the Great, the 4th-century Roman emperor who adopted Christianity and accepted Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the sole legitimate versions of Christ's story.

      For hundreds of years, the suppressed texts were lost. Then 1945, a young Arab peasant dug up red earthenware jar near the town Nag Hammadi in Egypt and found that it contained 13 papyrus books.

      His mother used some of them as fuel for her stove but the rest were saved, and eventually found their way into the hands of experts who recognised them as copies of trie ancient 'alternative' gospels.

      Key among them is the Gospel of Philip, written in the third century. This describes Mary Magdalene as the 'companion' of Jesus, states that he loved her more than all the other disciples and even describes how 'he used to kiss her often on the mouth'.

      This is said to have offended the other disciples, who asked Jesus: 'Why do you love her more than all of us?'

      Another Gnostic scripture, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, presents her as having been so close to Jesus that St Peter - his principal male disciple, supposedly seen threatening Mary in The Last Supper - became bitterly jealous.

      When he heard that Jesus had discussed matters of faith privately with her, Peter asked: 'Did the Saviour really speak with a woman without our knowledge? Are we to turn about and listen to her? Did he really prefer her to us?'

      The issue that Mary and Jesus had apparently been discussing - and the cause of Peter's wrath - was his desire for her to take over the running of his ministry. In other words, it was she, not Peter, whom Christ had chosen as the 'rock' on which the Church was to be founded.

      As the Da Vinci Code puts it: 'Jesus was the original feminist. He intended the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene.'

      If Dan Brown's account is to be believed, the intense rivalry between Peter and Mary led to a power struggle after Christ's death which Peter and his male sympathisers won hands down.

      This victory for patriarchal intolerance was supposedly confirmed by the decision under Emperor Constantine to suppress the gospels supporting Mary's cause.

      Two centuries later, in 591 AD, Mary's position was further eroded when Pope Gregory I suddenly declared in a sermon that she had been a prostitute.

      The Pope claimed Mary was one and the same person as an unnamed 'sinful' woman referred to in the Gospel of St Luke, who washed Jesus's feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and then anointed them with ointments.

      These ointments, Gregory said, must previously have been used by Mary 'to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts'.

      Such was the Pope's authority that for 1,378 years this wild allegation was accepted as historical fact. Finally, in 1968, the Vatican quietly declared Gregory had been mistaken and confused two separate people.

      There are those who would claim that this had been no simple error, and that Gregory's pronouncement was just another ruse by the misogynist Church to downgrade Mary and conceal her true story.

      Certainly, by the time of the Vatican's retraction, the name of Mary was besmirched beyond recall, and most ordinary people still think of her as a repentant prostitute.

      But faith in the Magdalene never died in some quarters. Legend had it that after losing her power struggle with Peter, she crossed the Mediterranean in a leaky boat without a sail or a rudder and miraculously landed in a fishing village in the south of France around 40AD.

      From there she struck into the hills and lived as a hermit for up to 50 years, sustaining herself on the fragrance of the local lemon trees and the bread and wine she took at holy communion. Her bones are said to lie in the church of St Maximin-ia-Ste-Baume near Marseilles.

      Churches in the area were dedicated to her and orders of warrior-monks such as the Knights Templar built castles there. It was no coincidence that this was also the home of the heretical Cathar rebellion - and its brutal suppression, as we have seen, by troops under the Pope's banner.

      Nor is this the end of the story. According to the Dan Brown view of history, it was in France that Mary gave birth to her daughter, Sarah, conceived before Christ's crucifixion. In the fifth century, her descendants supposedly inter-married with French royalty to form the now vanished Merovingian dynasty of kings.

      That dynasty's surviving descendants are thus allegedly linked directly by blood to Jesus Christ, and - were they to be identified - would offer physical proof that he was an entirely human figure who shared his life with a woman.

      It was supposedly to protect the individuals concerned, and the

      documents and relics proving their lineage, that the mysterious Priory of Sion was founded.

      As Brown claims, the Priory is certainly a real organisation - but its history and provenance could hardly be murkier. Its existence first came to general attention in 1982, through the bestselling book The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln - a work that is another key source for Brown's theories.

      The authors spoke extensively to the Priory's self-proclaimed spokesman, a Frenchman named Pierre Plantard, who himself claimed to be descended from the

      Merovinginan kings. He insisted that the Priory was founded in Jerusalem in the llth century by Godefroy de Bouillon, a French nobleman and one of the leaders of the First Crusade.

      Godefroy supposedly bore the Jesus bloodline but feared this 'powerful secret' might be lost after his death and set up the Priory to pass on the truth to succeeding generations.

      In the Holy Land, members of the Priory are then said to have found records buried under the ruins of Jerusalem's Temple of Solomon, which corroborated Godefroy's secret and set out the 'family tree' of the Jesus bloodline.

      The Priory is said to have been guarding this material ever since, waiting for the right moment to reveal it. It supposedly set up the Knights Templar as its military arm to help in the recovery and protection of the treasures.

      The two organisations are said to have gone their separate ways after a schism in 1188, but the Priory has purportedly continued to the present day under the leadership of its distinguished grandmasters. These are alleged, more recently, to have included the composer Claude Debussy and the film director Jean Cocteau.

      Few would deny that this is splendid tale. Any proof of it, however, is sadly lacking. Indeed, the Priory's documented existence dates only to 1956 when Pierre Plantard registered it with the French authorities - bizarrely, as an organisation to promote low-cost housing.

      Plantard was later exposed as a forger and fantasist, with a court conviction for corrupting minors, and died in 2000. But every attempt to destroy his credibility has been resisted by those who insist on believing in the Priory's significance and the essential truth of his claims.

      As Dan Brown shrewdly calculated, something about the Priory story has an unshakable grip on the public imagination - whatever the facts.

      SUCH, then, are the ideas behind the Da Vinci Code. It is a hot stew of politics, conspiracy, male chauvinism and girl power - everything that appeals to the modern mind.

      But to many Christians it is also deeply offensive. While mainstream theologians accept that Mary Magdalene has been unfairly treated by history, the vast majority are resolutely unconvinced by the claims made on her behalf by Dan Brown.

      They argue that the Gnostic gospels promoting her importance were excluded from the Christian canon for the very good reason that they are almost certainly much later in date - and therefore less trustworthy - than the accepted texts, which are more likely to be based on eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life.

      Moreover, most of the alternative scriptures are just scrappy collections of sayings or misty works of theology, rather than sustained attempts to tell Jesus' story. They simply can't bear the weight Brown puts on them.

      Similarly, there is nothing in any of the gospels - either orthodox or Gnostic - to prove Jesus was married Blithely interpreting 'companion' as 'wife'just won't do.

      Nor is it enough to argue, as Brown and the alternative scholars have done, that the orthodox gospels refer to Jesus as 'rabbi' - a spiritual leader or teacher - and that rabbis in those days were almost always expected to be married men.

      Christian writers also strongly resist the idea that theirs is a religion that suppresses female spirituality, pointing to the central role of the Virgin Mary as an exemplar of dignity, gentleness and courage.

      Above all, many Christian thinkers argue that the whole issue of whether Christ was married is irrelevant. What we are fundamentally talking about here is whether Jesus had sex or not - and harping on about that says more about our sex-obsessed age than it does about what really happened two millennia ago.

      The crucial point about Christian teaching is that Christ's humanity and divinity are not mutually exclusive, as the Da Vinci Code seems to assume. In the words of one American theological expert, Professor Darrell Bock: 'A basic belief of Christian faith is that Jesus was 100 per cent human, and he did many things that underscored this.

      'He ate, thirsted, slept, tired, lived, and died. If he had been married and fathered children, this would not undercut his divinity but would have been further reflections of his complete humanity. Had Jesus been married, he could still have been and done all he did. There was no need to cover it up.'

      In the eyes of Christians like Bock, the danger is that the ordinary, untutored reader may fall for the pseudo-scholarship in The Da Vinci Code and assume its case proven - with the implication that the Church is founded on lies, and that the 'true faith' died with so-called heretics like the Cathars.

      Brown has said that, having been brought up a Christian, he began writing his book expecting to disprove the theories he was placing at its heart. But after two years of research, 'I became a believer. I decided this theory makes more sense than what I learned as I child'.

      In fact, to his Christian critics, the runaway success of The Da Vinci Code would seem to prove something quite different - that, as the old saying goes, when people stop believing in God, the problem isn't that they believe in nothing. It is that they will believe in anything.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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