As a narrative fiction, the DaVinci Code is brilliant and Dan Brown deserves credit for a thrilling story. The idea that Jesus got married and had kids is exciting, and I’m happy that common perspectives on Christian history are shifting. However, a very large point has been missed, and I’m afraid the book and the movie will push public opinion even further from the realm of truth.
When certain gospels became available around 20 years ago, describing a ‘special’ relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, scholars went “wahoo!”. What a thrilling discovery! Jesus was married, he may have even had kids! Reading these passages as historical documents, rather than spiritual mythology, scholars began to assume a whole lot of new things about Jesus. With further research, however, it becomes clear that Mary Magdalene and Jesus shared a metaphorical relationship as spiritual icons, rather than a physical relationship of human bodies.
The scene in the DaVinci code that fills in the historical background takes place at Teabing’s mansion, when Robert and the historian explain the meaning of the holy grail to Sophia. In two paragraphs, Brown describes how the bible is false and nothing in Christianity is new. This is emphatically true: everything in Christianity, including the death and resurrection of Jesus, was borrowed from pagans.
But then Brown goes on to say that Jesus was a great man who inspired a lot of people. Alas, scholars have been trying unsuccessfully for decades to discover the person at the center of the gospels. Most of them believe that Jesus was a real person, and his followers later adapted pagan customs. However, if we remove all of the things from Christianity that it borrowed from the pagans (virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection, miracles like walking on water and raising the dead, son of god, savior, died for our sins, etc…) there is very little left. We can assume that Jesus must have done something to inspire followers, but we have no evidence of what that something was. Even the “Golden Rule” of Christianity was a common phrase of philosophers and has its roots centuries before in Buddhism.
Dan Brown excuses himself from the wrath of all of the Christian who might read his book in the following paragraph. Jesus is assumed to be great and powerful based only on the fact that there are still ‘Christians’:
“And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?”
“Why would they?” Teabing countered. “The vast majority of educated Christians know the history of their faith. Jesus was indeed a great and powerful man. Constantine’s underhanded political maneuvers don’t diminish the majesty of Christ’s life. Nobody is saying Christ was a fraud, or denying that he walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives. All we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Christ’s substantial influence and importance. And in doing so, he shaped the face of Christianity as we know it today.”
This is, admittedly, the orthodox view of Christian history. Jesus started a movement, and Constantine changed it beyond all recognition. What is not fully realized, however, is that central motifs of Christianity, including the idea of a suffering savior, the redemption from sin by sacrifice, the birth of a virgin and the resurrection – are all pagan elements that could not have started with a historical founder, if there was one.
The next part of this scene is, however, a flat out lie. The DaVinci code quotes directly from the Gnostic gospels, but it takes them out of context, emphasizing Jesus’ physical reality. Brown says that the earliest gospels, the Dead Sea scrolls and the Coptic scrolls at Naq Hammadi, spoke of Jesus in human terms, his human ministry, and that the Vatican tried to supress these scrolls because they talk about Jesus as human during the periods when his divinity was more important. Ridiculous!
In fact, these Gnostic gospels do the opposite, they talk of Jesus as a supercelestial being, who resides in all people, but never had a physical incarnation. It is because of these gospels that the historical Jesus is in so much danger. If there were really any early texts talking about Jesus as a real man, they would be just what the Church needs right now. They would be championed and approved – instead of scorned and avoided as they actually are. Unfortunately, all they have are frauds like the tomb of James, the brother of Jesus, and the Turin Shroud, which many experts believe to be a practical joke of Leonardo DaVinci himself.
The DaVinci code needs this lie because the entire plot is based around the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had kids, and that secret societies have been protecting the heirs of the divine couple ever since. There are of course, many historians who have written on this subject, and their research is the basis for Brown’s novel. But keep in mind that a) “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and similar books were written over 20 years ago, when the Gnostic gospels were just starting to be discovered and translated and b) although there certainly are secret societies that have been guarding some ancient wisdom, nobody knows what it really is. In my mind these books make the mistake of reading the Gnostic gospels through the Christian paradigm which says Jesus was a historical figure.
Yes, the Gnostic gospels talk at length about the sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but they say just as clearly, that Jesus and Mary are energies present since the beginning of the world, that sustain the universe through their interaction. Simply put: Jesus and Mary have a metaphysical relationship, which had a very real spiritual significance for the early church. We are, all of us, Mary Magdalene, the great goddess fallen into the world, caught in an illusion of pride and sin. Salvation is the process where in we can raise our consciousness to unite it with the Logos, or the Christ, and become whole. I know, it sounds like metaphysical rubbish, but Gnostics describe the process very clearly!
Read about it yourself at http://www.gnosis.org/library.html
Maybe we can never know for sure whether or not Jesus existed, but for me, it is a mute point. Think of it this way: if Jesus existed, then God has truly formed a personal covenant which only included a fraction of the human race, and the rest will suffer in hell. Believing Jesus existed goes hand in hand with the belief that God is Bad. If Jesus didn’t exist as a historical person, then many religions may have equal access to spiritual fulfillment, which is compatible with the belief in a good God.
So it comes down to, which God would you rather believe in?