Net Abbey

Online Catholic information and inspiration for everyone!



Dan Brown's DA VINCI CODE, a hoax as a historical novel

Net Abbey home page               Jesus decoded website
Quick questions and answers about the Da Vinci code

1. Is any of what author Dan Brown stated in his book, THE DAVINCI CODE true?

Answer: "Paris is in France, London is in England and Leonardo (DaVinci) painted pictures!  The rest is false."  (Sandra Miesel, medieval historian)

2. Was Jesus married?

Answer: if Jesus was not a virgin, why didn't the Sanhedran bring that up against Him at His trial?  There is no documentation anywhere saying that Jesus was married.

3. Is Dan Brown (author of the DaVinci code) a Christian?

Answer: this answer seems to change from time to time. He used to say on his website that he was a Christian but of a "different variety".  However, in many interviews, he talks about how he believes in "The goddess" and how we should return to the "Peaceful times pre Christianity when the goddess ruled".

4. Were the pre Christian pagan times peaceful?

Answer: not if you don't like human sacrifice, just one of many distasteful practices stopped by the Revelation of the One True God, Yahweh

5. Does Dan Brown really believe what he claimed in his novel is true?

When National Geographics did a research to find if ANY of the DaVinci Code was (as Brown claims on the first page of his book) based on fact, they found proof for NONE of it.  Shocked, they interviewed Brown and asked what he thought of their findings.  He answered "Oh, there is no proof for any of the claims but it seems logical"  (this show can be seen on the National Geographics channel).

6. But this is just a novel - how can it be harmful?

Answer: The novel "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" by Hermann Goedsche (Biarritz, 1868) which claimed that a secret Jewish cabal is plotting to take over the world not only influenced many people (and is STILL influencing them) but was a book favored by Adolf Hitler and considered a factor in the slaughter of millions of Jews.  "Novels touch people's hearts - approaching their emotions" stated Fr Mitch Pacwa, SJ.   The ideas from the Protocols are still circulating widely and being passed as truth even though it was quickly disproven as an obvious hoax.  Hopefully with the better communications of the Internet, people will NOT be sucked into the lies perpetrated by the DaVinci Code like they have been by "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion".

7. But the Apostle John looks like a woman in the DaVinci painting of "The Last Supper"... couldn't that be Mary Magdalene?

Answer: Nope.  Not when DaVinci himself spoke of "stereotypes", a popular way of showing rank at the time.  Students or protégés like John were shown as effeminate figures with no beard and long hair.

8. Are the Gnostic gospels which Brown claims as a source, Pro woman?

Answer: not when they state that a woman cannot go to Heaven unless she is changed into a man!

Update 2005: Recently the National Geographic channel broadcast a show in which a National Geographic team toured the world in search of any documentation of Dan Brown's claims. They found no evidence! The Priory of Scion appears ONLY in one set of papers in France which had surfaced recently and is unrelated to any of the Dan Brown claims. The Sinclairs of Scotland a family which prides itself on preserving the "Holy Grail" art etc, denied that they believed they were offspring of Jesus and Mary M. As for why the Knights Templar were executed, historians feel it was jealousy on the part of a greedy king, King Phillip. He was jealous of the large amounts of money they had amassed. The Gnostic gospels which Brown claimed to support the man-woman relationship between Magdalene and Jesus also turned out to not be evidence. The one fragment remaining has only the words "Jesus kissed Mary M. on the". Brown and others assumed it was "on the mouth" but historians point out it was more likely "on the cheeks". And in several of the Gnostic gospels appear passages which would not uphold Brown's theory that the church suppressed these because they upheld women - because they are actually very male chauvinist. (see below article). When confronted with the lack of evidence for his claims, Dan Brown admitted he had not seen any evidence for his claims either but that it "just made logical sense" the way he told the story (a statement which again, all the other historians interviewed did not agree with). Brown also stated his book was doing good because people were discussing the church. National Geographic is known for careful research and also did not have a bias toward the Catholic church. This was shown in the end of the program where they stated "well, anyway, we know the Catholic church has oppressed women" etc etc.

Following is a more detailed article on the errors and contradictions of THE DA VINCI CODE:

When Dan Brown wrote his novel, Da Vinci Code, he presented it as a historical novel which generally means that he meant it to be true history but fictionalized. In fact, he makes the claim in the front of the book and also on his web site that "every fact is true" in the book.  However, in researching further, we find that not only did Brown's "facts" totally conflict with the most documented record of Jesus, the Gospels (which were all either written BY apostles i.e. those who knew Jesus personally or by students of apostles). But also Brown seems to have had a problem with getting historical facts very confused.

 As for his religious claims, he appears to have taken the ideas from the Gnostic gospels which were written some 250 years after Christ's resurrection. The Gnostics were early group of schismatics who preached a gospel of a material universe and that the God who created us is an evil Being and Jesus was to free us from the Universe.  Ironically Brown's claim was that these gospels held up the sanctity of women but in fact there are some passages in these gospels which are very demeaning of women.

For example, in the Gospel of Thomas, (one of Brown's sources), Jesus is asked this question: "Since women are imperfect, how can they go to Heaven?"  Jesus answers "I will turn them into male so they can be perfected."

Brown's ideas about Mary Magdalene being married to Jesus are not original. These ideas were detailed first in a novel called "HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL", a best seller in the 1980's.

Looking at the problems with Brown's historical facts, we find many are either very confused or just downright incorrect.  Following are a few interesting points:

1. Apparently Da Vinci is not known in the art world as Da Vinci but as Leonardo. For example, books written about this artist are entitled "LEONARDO".  Da Vinci may have been where he was from.

2. Leonardo did not name the Mona Lisa (as Brown claimed he named it symbolically). It was first referred to by that name several decades after his death by his biographer.

3. The Commission for the "Last Supper" painting states it was supposed to illustrate the moment in the Gospel of John when Jesus announced that someone would betray Him. There is no accounting of the institution of the Eucharist in the Gospel of John. (Explains why the "Holy Grail" or chalice was not present in that painting).

4. "The Last Supper" was painted on the wall of a refectory (dining room) of a monastery and is not, in the true sense of the word, (as Brown claimed) a "fresco".

Note: Leonardo used an experimental technique to complete this painting and unfortunately the painting did not adher well to the wall and began degrading a few years after it was done. Attempts to restore it, worsened the damage.  Thus, what we have seen as renditions of the painting may not be an accurate portrayal of Leonardo's original.

5. The figure next to Jesus in "the Last Supper" is more likely John ("the disciple Jesus loved") according to Leonardo's own writings. In his "Treatise on Painting", Leonardo explains that each individual should be painted in a certain style according to his station in life and age. A protégé or favorite follower (as John was considered to be) should always, according to this treatise, be portrayed as very youthful, long haired and clean shaven, "the idea being he has not yet matured enough to find his own way" (students were also thusly portrayed). Apparently this typing of individuals to signify their station in life (considered very important information in those days) and their age, was common in that art period. Brown seems to not be familiar enough with art history to know this and that's how he made the error that the figure next to Jesus had to be Mary Magdalene.

6. Brown describes Leonardo as a "flamboyant homosexual". Although there is a record of Leonardo being arrested with three other men for sodomy in 1476, those charges were dismissed. Apparently those who have studied his writings and historical writings about him have stated that other than this one incident (and keep in mind it was stylish for many men to indulge in male sex at times, not just those in alternate lifestyles), there is no mention of sexuality at all, either one way or the other.

7. Brown claims that Leonardo left a lot of religious art. But actually according to historians, he was more famous for his scientific drawings and theories.

8. Brown claims that 5 million women were burned at the stake as witches in the 300 years when witch hunting took place and that these burnings took place "in the Middle Ages". In an article in "The Atlantic" a secular magazine, the author who did extensive research stated that historians generally agree that number burned at the stake was no more than 40,000, and included some by the Catholic church and some by the Protestants. However, most of the "witch burnings" were done by the governments as punishments for political crimes. About 20 percent of those accused of being witches were MEN.  Additionally these witch burnings did NOT take place in the Middle Ages but rather occurred between 1400 and 1700 AD.

9. The original Priory of Zion was apparently a small order of priests which lived in the Holy Land.  Founded around 1000 AD, they were kicked out of the Holy Land by the Moslims in the beginning of the 13th century. They then retreated to France and lived there as a community until 1615 when they joined the Jesuits, thus ending their history as an independent religious order.  There was another priory of Zion founded in 1950 by Pierre Plantard for the purpose of obtaining Real Estate.  He and 3 other men obtained a charter for their "Priory of Zion".  Apparently with the fame given to the name by the DaVinci Code, Plantard has given some recent interviews suggesting his organization was more than it originally was intended to be. 

One of the most interesting things in DA VINCI CODE is that while it's obviously written for women, criticizing the Catholic church for being too patriarchal and suppressing the "sacred feminine", it ignores the fact that the Catholic church elevates the feminine by their admiration of Jesus' mother, Mary.  Mary is far more than a wife in the background as Mary Magdalene is portrayed in THE DA VINCI CODE.  Mary is the Queen of angels, the Queen of Heaven in Catholic teachings.

Additionally, while supposedly advocating the "Sacred Feminine", the way Brown constructs his story is interesting.  Sophie Neveu, an intelligent educated woman, for most of the book, sits meekly listening while the wise men in the book lecture her.  So the very story line from Brown is upholding the patriarchal idea that men know more than women.

Brown is not careful about details in his book. In one part Sophie, a slim woman, takes a painting off the wall and holds it in front of her, warning that she is going to put her knees through it, if the police officer doesn't take his gun off her. The painting is 6 foot high and 4 foot wide. A normal sized woman could not do this with a framed painting that large.

Another detail Brown misses - The action in the book spans over a couple of days in which Langden and Teabing and Sophie never get any sleep yet they show no side effects from sleep deprivation.

In considering Brown's careless treatment of details, his less than exciting construction of the plot line (a goodly part of the book is lecture about Brown's gnostic theories) and his total disregard of historical facts, the DA VINCI CODE can not truthfully be called (as one reviewer stated) "pure genius".  It is more likely pure drivel with an anti Catholic flavor.

References: Welborn, Amy: De Coding the Da Vinci Code (OSV, 2003)

Miesel, Sandra et al: The DaVinci Hoax (Ignatius press, 2005)
Also: interview with Sandra Miesel, Catholic Historian on EWTN

Critical Reviews of The Da Vinci Code

More info about the hoax novel, THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION