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Decoding the Code

By Bill Muehlenberg - posted Friday, 19 May 2006

Fans of Dan Brown’s bestseller will be pleased to know that The Da Vinci Code film is fairly faithful to the book. It’s a pity though that neither the book nor the film are faithful to history or to the truth.

But I already hear the protests: “What are you getting all shook up about? It’s only fiction!”

But there are at least three reasons why one might be concerned:

  1. With over 40 million copies of the book sold into 44 different languages, it is having a huge impact. And the film will expose even more people to its spurious claims.
  2. Although a novel, Dan Brown clearly states in it - and on his website - that it is accurate, based on fact and solid research.
  3. The subject matter of the book is vitally important. Indeed, it concerns someone who is arguably the most important person in human history: Jesus Christ.

Those who are not easily taken in by conspiracy theories and Christianity-bashing know that this book (and film) is riddled with many errors. There are mistakes about art, architecture, history, and theology, to name but a few. Even non-Christians are dismayed at Brown’s sloppiness and his looseness with the facts.

But the world’s two billion Christians have even more reason to complain, as the book seeks to undermine the very basis of their faith. Indeed, Dan Brown argues, through his character Teabing, that “almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false”. Is that so?

The truth is, there is not a scrap of evidence for the many outrageous claims made by Brown. We have no reliable evidence anywhere that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children. Many leading prophets and teachers were single, including John the Baptist.

As to the claim that the Emperor Constantine invented the deity of Christ in the fourth century, well that really is fiction. Both Jesus and the earliest of his disciples understood that Jesus was more than a mere man. Indeed, Christ and his followers got into big trouble for making just such claims.

When the Council of Nicea was convened in 325AD, there was no debate about which books belonged in the Bible, or whether Jesus was God. They did discuss how the deity of Christ was to be understood, and they did condemn the heresy of Arianism.


But there was no close vote on the deity issue. Of the over 300 Bishops assembled to discuss Christ’s deity, in the end only two did not vote for the new creed. Hardly a close vote.

And no, the person sitting on the right hand of Jesus is not Mary, as Brown claims, but the apostle, John. Even Leonardo Da Vinci is clear about this.

And no, the early church did not suppress the truth about the divine goddess and instead push for a male-dominated religion. Nor are the supporting texts to which Brown appeals of any help. The so-called Gnostic gospels in fact had a very low view of women. Female leadership was out of the question, and even the much vaunted Gospel of Thomas says that females need to become males in order to enter God’s kingdom (to find salvation).

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About the Author

Bill Muehlenberg is Secretary of the Family Council of Victoria, and lectures in ethics and philosophy at various Melbourne theological colleges.

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