Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Da Vinci Code

I just watched the last part of the movie The Da Vinci Code on TV. I watched it in the theater back when it first came out to see what all the fuss was about. It was OK as a movie: not terrible, not great. As history, though, it's kind of silly. I really can't believe that people take this book so seriously. Christians often get criticized for having "faith" in ancient texts, which may or may not be true or accurate. But a novel from some guy in New Hampshire happens to contain all these previously unknown secrets of history? Is this plausible?

There is no evidence that Jesus had an intimate relationship (nevermind children) with Mary Magdalene. I heard an interview with a scholar on NPR back when the movie was first out, and he discussed the texts which people suggest describes Jesus and Mary kissing, an indication of a physical relationship. The problem is that the texts are incomplete: many or most of the words are actually not there. The scholar quoted the sections in question. It was something like: ...and they were on their way..........from.......over to...........Galilee......Jesus.......lunch.....walking near the.....and between the........kissed.....returned from...etc etc. I'm obviously being facetious here, but it was something like that. The speculative leap from text like that to Jesus and Mary were lovers and had children is so large that, again, I find it hard to believe that people take this stuff seriously. The scholar said that there is no textual evidence for this stuff; people routinely kissed as a greeting back then, and Jesus and Mary were not the only ones mentioned in the text.

The assertion that Mary was in Da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper is also problematic. The painting is of Jesus and his disciples. There were twelve of them. If Mary is in there, John, a disciple, is not. I'm no art historian, but don't you think someone would have noticed if a disciple was missing before now? John, the disciple that is claimed to actually be Mary, is portrayed as feminine, and this is supposed to be evidence that it is a female. The problem: the character is wearing male clothing and it was not uncommon at the time (or in other works of Leonardo) for a subservient male to be portrayed as feminine. John's femininity is suppose to imply his lower status (compared to Jesus)and love for Jesus. The evidence for Mary being in the painting is therefore thin. Besides, are we really supposed to believe that Dan Brown (or the book he got this idea from, Holy Blood, Holy Grail) uncovered this secret that scholars have missed for the last 500 years?

Among other things, the movie stated that Newton was persecuted by the church. This is completely false. Newton was the leading man of one of the most conservative universities. He was a firm believer in God and believed his scientific work was uncovering the secrets God had used to create the universe. He also wrote extensively on theological matters (more than he did on science, actually).

The movie also laughably stated something along the lines of...did you ever wonder why the most talked about object in Christianity, the holy grail, is missing from Da Vinci's painting? The "holy grail" is never mentioned in the Bible, and I have never heard any Christian talk about it. It was probably an invention of some church in the Middle Ages who wanted a relic to draw pilgrims.

Anyway, if nothing else, The Da Vinci Code is an interesting example of peoples' propensity to believe nonsense as long as it somehow challenges orthodox views within Christianity.


Brad Wright said...

Good points Jeff.

I once heard a sermon about the Da Vinchi Code. The pastor set the stage, talking about how popular the book is and how it's viewed as a challenge to Christianity. He then paused to give his rebuttal of it. I was expecting a lengthy, point-by-point discussion, but he just said, "it's a novel" and shrugged.

Unknown said...

Haha...I like that approach better than the Christians who were boycotting and protesting the movie. I just wish everyone else would realize it's just a novel...I would hear teachers at school (even history!) talking about how it was so interesting.