The Da Vinci Code: Cashing In on Defaming Christ

A tell-tale moment in The Da Vinci Code points like a cryptogram to the secret meaning behind the secret meaning of the novel.

The hero Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor about to publish a non-fiction book claiming Mary Magdalene is the “real” Holy Grail, and the heroine, Sophie Neveu, who is “really” a direct descendent of Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene, are fleeing Paris because bulldog police captain, Bezu Fache, mistakenly believes Langdon murdered Louvre curator Jacques Sauniere.

Sauniere, it turns out, was Grand Master of a secret society that for centuries has preserved documents that prove Christ was solely a mortal man, that Christianity is a fraud, and that the true religion requires mankind to turn its back on war, embrace environmentalism and worship the “divine feminine” by engaging in a fornication ritual in which attendees dress up in black and white robes and meet in dark, damp places.

Verily, this was a book written with the tastes of Hollywood in mind. (Wait: That is not the secret meaning behind the secret meaning of the book. It’s just an obvious clue.)

So, anyway, as they are being pursued by the menacing police captain—who wears his Catholicism on his tie in the form of a jewel-studded crucifix—Sophie frets about the undeserved notoriety she and Robert are about to get. Robert, meanwhile, thinking of his publisher Jonas Faukman, chooses to see the bright side of the bad publicity.

“Robert, has it occurred to you that every television in France is probably getting ready to broadcast our pictures?” asks Sophie.

Terrific, Langdon thought. My French TV debut will be on ‘Paris’s Most Wanted.’ At least Jonas Faukman would be pleased. Every time Langdon made the news, his book sales jumped.”

Yes, here is where Illuminati of the publishing cult will say, “Ah ha!”

Smart publishers know one of the best ways to sell a book is to spark a controversy that attracts free publicity—although you don’t need to murder a Louvre curator to do it. A better way is to have your author pick a fight with a well-known and powerful person.

No one has done this better than author Dan Brown and the publishers of The Da Vinci Code. They picked a fight with the Son of God.

Purely from a marketing perspective, Brown’s attack on Jesus was an act of genius. His novel has sold more than 40 million copies. Even if the movie version—which premiered in Cannes last week to bad reviews—does not become a box office blockbuster, it will spur further book sales.

Don’t get me wrong. It can be a public service to execute a marketing strategy aimed at selling a book through controversy. Picking fights with well-known and powerful people can be a moral duty. The courage to speak truth to power is indispensable for anyone seeking to advance our culture through written words.

But the key word here is “truth.”

Speaking lies to spark a controversy may sell books, but it also breaks a law written even before Mary Magdalene was born: “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Many Americans understood this in 2003 when CBS made a TV miniseries that defamed Ronald Reagan by putting words in Reagan’s mouth he never would have said. Grassroots outrage forced CBS to pull the miniseries from broadcast television and put it on a subscription cable channel.

The Da Vinci Code does not lie about the historical record of a politician. It lies about the historical record of He whom Christians know as Lord and Savior, who is both true God and true man.

The front page of Brown’s book says: “Fact: … All descriptions of … documents … in this novel are accurate.”

But then Brown has a character, British Royal Historian Leigh Teabing, assert without contradiction that the 4th Century Roman Emperor Constantine falsified the New Testament to fool people into believing that a solely human Jesus was divine. Constantine, according to Teabing, ordered that more accurate gospels, which denied the divinity of Christ, should be “outlawed, gathered up and burned.”

“Fortunately for historians,” Teabing says in the novel, “some of the gospels Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms. … The scrolls highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda—to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base.”

Since The Da Vinci Code was published, many scholarly authorities, both religious and secular, have come forward to debunk this claim.

Bart D. Ehrman, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, wrote a devastating rebuttal of Brown in Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code (published by Oxford). “The historical reality is that the emperor Constantine had nothing to do with the formation of the canon of the scripture: He did not choose which books to include or exclude, and he did not order the destruction of the Gospels that were left out of the canon (there were no imperial book burnings),” writes Ehrman.

What about the Dead Sea and Nag Hammadi documents? “The Dead Seas Scrolls do not contain any Gospels, or in fact any documents that speak of Christ or Christianity at all; they are Jewish,” writes Ehrman. “Neither [the Nag Hammadi documents] nor the Dead Sea Scrolls ever speak of the Grail story. Nor do they speak of Jesus’ ministry ‘in very human terms.’ if anything, Jesus is portrayed as more divine in the Nag Hammadi sources than he is in the Gospels of the New Testament.”

What about the claim that Jesus married Magdalene? “List every ancient source we have for the historical Jesus,” writes Ehrman, “and in none of them is there mention of Jesus being married.”

“It was all about power,” Brown’s fictional historian Teabing says, explaining his conspiracy theory that Constantine concocted the divinity of Christ. In fact, it is The Da Vinci Code that falsifies the history of Christ. But that falsification isn’t about power. It’s about money.

Judas got 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. How much will those with a stake in The Da Vinci Code get?