The Da Vinci Lie with Dr Frank Mobbs
The novel, The Da Vinci Code, abounds in haymakers, that is, not merely false claims but grotesquely false claims. Dan Brown does not hit for 6: he hits for 600.
Two characters in the novel seem to offer the reader history. They are Robert Langdon and Sir Leigh Teabing. Langdon is described as a professor at Harvard University and Teabing as the Royal Historian. Thus they are given the status of learned men.
They lecture the French cryptographer, Sophie Neveu, who listens attentively to their pronouncements. We are supposed to be getting a valuable lesson in history.
Here are some of the haymakers. I put them in italic print and then comment briefly.
1. Teabing: the marriage of Mary Magdalene and Jesus is part of the historical record (ch. 58).
There is no record anywhere of such a marriage.
2. The Gnostic writings found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945 and the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947 are the earliest Christian records (ch. 58).
Scholars estimate that one of the letters of St Paul was written before 60 AD, about 30 years after the death of Christ. It contains information on him.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written between about 200 BC to 50 AD. They make no reference to Christ or to Christians. They are completely Jewish in language and content. So they are not Christian records
The Nag Hammadi documents are part of the writings of the Gnostics. Most were written centuries later than the New Testament writings. Nearly all of them were written later than the New Testament which was completed about 110 AD.
The Nag Hammadi documents in an English translation of 500 pages contain about two pages which refer to a ‘saviour’, presumably Christ. One document which is (mis)quoted in the Da Vinci Code, the Gospel of Philip. is dated at the end of the third century. So those Nag Hammadi documents which mention Christ are later, much later, than the New Testament writings which one finds in the Bible.
3. In the years following the death of Christ, ‘countless’ scholars wrote accounts of Mary Magdalene’s stay in France (ch. 60).
What a pity not one has survived.
4. Jesus wrote a diary - which is not odd because in those days most people wrote a diary (ch. 60)
Until 200 years ago, most people in any country could not read or write.
In fact, an expert has concluded that only 5%-10% of the ancient world was literate (References in Holly E. Hearon, The Mary Magdalene Tradition: Witness and Counter-Witness in Early Christian Communities, [Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN], p. 9). A recent Jewish scholar estimates that less than 3% of the population of the kingdom or province of Judah (where Jesus taught and was crucified) could read or write, or do both (Hearon, p. 9).
There is no evidence that Jesus wrote anything, let alone a diary.
5. There are 80 gospels, not only the four contained in the New Testament.
What counts as a gospel? I suppose it is something like a life or biography of Jesus. If so, there there is no ancient document which matches the Gospels in the New Testament. Some documents have the title “gospel” and these total about 20.
Suppose we allow these to be gospels. That still leaves a gap between 20 and 80.
6. At the Council of Nicea (325 AD), the bishops voted in favour of the doctrine of Jesus’ divinity by a narrow majority (ch. 55).
The voting was about 280 in favour and two against. A narrow majority?
7. Mary Magdalene was so demonised by the Church that mention of her name was forbidden (ch. 60).
Her name appears in all four Gospels. These Gospels were read out every year for the next 2000 years to those attending Christian worship, such as the Eucharist (Mass).
Thousands of churches and shrines carry her name. The Church controlled the the universities of Oxford and Cambridge when each incorporated a college named after her (Magdalen College, Oxford; Magdalene College, Cambridge).
8. Nothing in Christianity is original (ch. 55).
Jesus Christ is original. Try finding a character who matches him at any time prior to him.
Christians celebrating the Eucharist (Mass) believe they are offering the sacrifice which Jesus made of himself when he was crucified. No one before Jesus offered the sacrifice of Jesus.
Christians baptise using the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” No one before Christianity did that.
9. The Roman Emperor, Constantine, turned Jesus into a divinity for the first time at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD (ch. 55).
The Gospel of John was written about the year 100 AD. The apostle, Thomas, addresses Jesus with these words, “My Lord and my God.” That Gospel begins with a statement of the relation of Jesus to God, saying “the Word was God” and identifying the Word as the one who was made flesh, i.e., became a man (Jesus).
There are other similar statements in the records of Jesus as contained in in the 27 writings which constitute the New Testament.
The writers of the New Testament were deeply puzzled by Jesus, so they struggled to convey their impressions of him. He was someone sent by God but was very different from the prophets whom they revered. He was “Son of God”, God’s Anointed One = “the Christ”, definitely someone who fell within the sphere of God.
Dr Frank Mobbs specialized in philosophy, theology and religious studies as well as having done significant work on early Church history. He is author of “The Incredible Da Vinci Code”