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Creation 28(3):12–17, June 2006

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The Da Vinci Code: Fiction masquerading as fact


The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The world’s best-selling novel in the last three years has been The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. (About 40 million copies have been sold in 44 languages, and it is now a major movie.1 See Russell Grigg’ review of the movie.)

To the casual reader the story is just a rollicking ‘whodunnit’, wherein the murdered curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris leaves a set of cryptic clues from the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, including the ‘Mona Lisa’. These clues are not to the identity of the killer, but to the location of the Holy Grail.

The Last Supper

The title of Brown’s novel refers to a painting called The Last Supper, made by Leonardo in 1495–97 (click on image to see larget version). It shows Jesus and His twelve disciples at the moment Christ announced, ‘One of you shall betray me’ (Matthew 26:21).

Art historians say that the figure on Jesus’ right is the youthful, beardless Apostle John, as he was normally depicted in artwork of the period. Brown’s bizarre interpretation is that this is Mary Magdalene. Why? Because in the painting, this figure and that of Jesus form the letter ‘V’, which Brown says was an ancient symbol for the feminine gender; and the figures of Peter and Judas (to John’s right) form part of the letter ‘M’ for Mary; and the figure is said by Brown to have ‘the hint of a bosom’ (pp. 327–330).

The answer to this sophistry is three-fold:

  1. Even if Brown was correct in this assessment, it would only indicate Leonardo’s artistic licence, and not be historical fact.
  2. Historian Dr Ronald Huggins writes: ‘Even if an overly fertile imagination might find such a “hint” in the folds of John’s cloak, nevertheless on the other side, where given the absence of the obscuring cloak we should be able to detect even clearer evidence of a bosom, we see instead that John’s chest is conspicuously bosomless. Are we then to suppose that Magdalene had only one breast?’1
  3. If this figure is Mary Magdalene, then where is John? He was certainly present (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17, 20; Luke 22:8ff.—none of which mention Mary), and there are only twelve disciple figures at the table.


  1. Huggins, R., ‘Cracks in the Da Vinci Code’, bib.irr.org/cracks-in-da-vinci-code, 23 December 2004

In this yarn, the Holy Grail is not the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, but a woman—Mary Magdalene—who, Brown alleges, was married to Jesus and bore him a daughter in France, where Mary supposedly fled to after Jesus’ crucifixion (p. 342). (Her womb thus carried Jesus’ bloodline.) Evidence for all this is said to comprise ‘tens of thousands of pages of information … in four enormous trunks’ (p. 343). Brown says, ‘The quest for the Holy Grail is literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the lost sacred feminine’ (p. 344).

Total fiction

Brown says on page 8: ‘In this work of fiction, the characters, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or they are used entirely fictitiously.’ Nevertheless, he then uses his novel to attack the deity of Christ, to undermine the authority of the Bible, and to reinterpret Christianity, e.g. that Jesus intended Mary Magdalene to be the leader of the church after His death.

Brown artfully tries to give these claims credence by having them spoken by two scholarly characters, ‘professor of symbology’ Robert Langdon and the ‘former British Royal Historian’ Sir Leigh Teabing. However, these ‘scholars’ are totally fictitious. He also boldly states on page 15: ‘All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate’, but this affirmation, too, is part of the fiction!

‘Pseudo-historical claptrap cubed’2

Professor Michael Wilkins3 says that historically and biblically Brown’s book is ‘appallingly inaccurate’.4 For example:

  • Brown wrongly says that the ancient Olympics were held ‘as a tribute to the magic of Venus’ (p. 61). In fact, they were held to honour Zeus, the ‘king’ of the Greek gods, and in any case, Venus was a Roman goddess not a Greek one.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947 (not ‘the 1950s’, p. 317), do not contain any ‘gospels’ (p. 331), as they pre-date the New Testament.
  • The Priory of Sion (Brown’s alleged protector of the ‘secret’ about Jesus) was not founded in Jerusalem in 1099 by King Godefroi de Bouillon (p. 217). It was ‘invented’ and registered (to comply with French law) on 7 May 1956 by two Frenchmen, convicted con-man Pièrre Plantard and André Bonhomme.5 Thus most of Brown’s plot involving Leonardo is based on a proven fraud.
  • Brown describes the Holy of Holies as a subterranean vault under Solo­mon’s Temple in Jerusalem (p. 566). This is false. It was a small room within the Temple, where the High Priest offered sacrifices (1 Kings 7:50).
  • Brown says that the Shekinah was a female deity, equal to Jehovah, residing in this Temple (pp. 411, 584). This is false. Shekinah is a Hebrew word that refers to the visible manifestation of God’s glory.
  • Brown says that the word ‘Jehovah’ is a combination of ‘the masculine Jah with the feminine pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah’, which gives the Jewish YHWH (p. 411). This is false. Jehovah is the anglicized form of the Hebrew YHWH, God’s personal name which He revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:14–15).6

The plethora of fallacies and falsehoods continues unabated, but this short sample illustrates the point.7 Westminster Abbey commendably re­fused permission for filming the Ab­bey scenes on site because of the ‘wayward religious and historic suggestions’ and ‘factual errors’ in the book. Sadly, Lincoln Cathedral officials allowed the scenes to be shot there, for a reported ‘donation’ of £100,000.8

Brown’s attack on Christianity

On pp. 312–315, Brown has Teab­ing say, ‘The Bible is a product of man … . Not of God … and it has evolved through countless translations, additions and revisions. … More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament … . The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great … . By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity … whose power was unchallengeable.’


The New Testament canon

The N.T. canon is the list of books which the church acknowledges to be inspired Scripture. To be accepted a book had to:
  1. Have been written by an apostle or close associate, e.g. Mark and Luke.
  2. Tell the truth about God.
  3. Show by its content that it was inspired by God.
  4. Have been accepted by the people of God.

The recognition of N.T. documents began within the first century. Paul (1 Timothy 5:18) cites Luke 10:7 as Scripture. Peter referred to Paul’s writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15–17). The four biblical gospels ‘were firmly established as the defining texts of the Christian church by the end of the second century, if not earlier’.1 The first church councils to formally recognize the canonical books were held at Hippo in 393 and at Carthage in 397, well after the death of Constantine (above) in 337.

It is important to note that the canon was decided by God and then accepted as such by man. New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce says: ‘The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired … .’2

Because they failed this fundamental criterion, the apocryphal gospels of Mary, Peter and Philip,3 to which Brown refers, were not accepted by the church, i.e. they disqualified themselves.4,5 There was therefore no reason to copy them. Brown’s ideas are not new. They have been circulating in occult and New Age circles for years, and go back to the ancient heresy of gnosticism.6

References and notes

  1. Bock, D.L., Breaking the Da Vinci Code, Nelson Books, Tennessee, p. 153, 2004.
  2. Bruce, F.F., The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable? Inter-Varsity Press, Leister, England, p. 27, 1960.
  3. ‘Scholars date the Gospel of Philip to the third century, about 200 years after Jesus lived. Therefore, it cannot be a product of the disciple named Philip in Acts, unless he lived to be at least 310!’ A comprehensive critique with links to other critiques is given by Holding, J., Not InDavincible: A review and critique of The DaVinci Code, at www.tektonics.org/davincicrude.php, 3 October 2005.
  4. Sample: ‘There are two trees growing in paradise. The one bears animals, the other bears men. Adam ate from the tree which bore animals. He became an animal and he brought forth animals. For this reason the children of Adam worship animals.’ The Nag Hammadi Library. The Gospel of Philip. Translated by Wesley W. Isenberg. www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html, 23 August 2005.
  5. ‘The most striking theme common to all fifty-two texts dug up at Nag Hammadi is the rejection of the Genesis creation account.’ Garlow, J.L. and Jones, P., Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado, p. 166, 2004.
  6. Gnostics (from Greek gnosis = knowledge) taught that they had secret occult knowledge, e.g. flesh and matter were evil, and so Jesus could not have been God. The major spiritual problem was ignorance, not sin, so salvation was through advanced knowledge, not forgiveness by grace through faith. They flourished in the 2nd century AD. The structured development of Christian doctrine (e.g. the Creeds) was to a large extent the church’s reaction against gnosticism.

Reputable biblical scholars and historians disagree. In fact:

  • The Bible has not evolved. Modern English versions are based on meticulous translations of the ancient Heb­rew and Greek manuscripts.
  • Nothing like eighty other ‘gospels’ have been discovered.9
  • Emperor Constantine (ad 274–337) did not choose the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, nor did he compile the canon of Bible books in 325. In the second century, Irenaeus (ca. 130202), a disciple of Polycarp, in turn a disciple of John, affirmed that these four Gospels are the ‘four pillars’,10 which ‘in their entirety reflected the core testimony about Jesus’.11
  • Constantine did not turn Jesus into a deity by officially endorsing him as the Son of God in 325. Already in the first and second centuries, Christians in Rome were burned at the stake or fed to the lions for refusing to deny their belief in the deity of Christ as the Bible had affirmed.12

Was Jesus married?

  • There is not a shred of historical evidence that Jesus married Mary Magdalene. No Bible texts mention it. Paul, in claiming the right to have a wife (1 Corinthians 9:5), says that the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers and Cephas [Peter] had wives, but he does not mention Jesus.
  • On the cross, Jesus told John to care for His mother (John 19:25), but showed no special concern for the allegedly about-to-be-widowed Mary Magdalene.
  • The ‘gospels’ of Philip and of Mary, invoked by Brown, do not say that Mary was Jesus’ wife. Brown’s main ‘evidence’ is a quote from the Gospel of Philip: ‘And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene.’ About this Brown says, ‘As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse.’ (p. 331). Wrong! The Gospel of Philip was not written in Aramaic, but in Greek, with a translation into Coptic (which is Egyptian, not Aramaic).13 The Greek word in question is κοινωνός (koinōnos), meaning ‘fellow partaker’; it was not used for spouse in the New Testament.14
  • In fact, Jesus’ bride is the Church.15

Errors—so what?

Other pulp-fiction books have made huge historical blunders, so why worry about Brown’s ludicrous distortions? For several reasons.

  1. The Da Vinci Code is not just fiction. It is a neo-pagan rewrite of history. Under the guise of a novel, Brown openly attacks the deity of Christ. Some credulous readers have swallowed Brown’s perversion and have adopted the worldview of his two fictional characters as their own, and are now querying what they have always professed about Jesus.16
  2. ‘[I]ts real goal is to erode … the belief that the original message of the Gospel, enshrined in the Bible, is the unique, inspired word from God Himself, without which we are lost.’17
  3. Brown glorifies the ‘Goddess’ (i.e. sexual debauchery), e.g. as exemplified by Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility (pp. 167–168). Brown calls his Priory of Sion (whose mission is supposedly to preserve the ‘truth’ of Christianity) ‘the pagan goddess worship cult’ (p. 158). His book is a propaganda piece for the promotion of sexual promiscuity, e.g. ‘intercourse was the act through which male and female experienced God’ (p. 410).
  4. Imagine a novel that proclaimed that the Holocaust is a myth or that Martin Luther King, Jr. raped white girls, and that these claims were put in the mouth of an erudite professor or reputable historian. Such a book would be rightly condemned for being anti-Semitic or racist, and would not be given a free pass simply because it was fiction. Yet the secular media demands that Christians give Brown’s Christophobia this same acceptance.

How can we know what is truth and what is not?

Answer: Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26). He enables believers to discern what is truth and what is not (John 16:13). He does this for us through the Word of God, the Bible, of which He is the divine Author (2 Peter 1:21, cf. Hebrews 3:7 ff; 10:15 ff; 2 Timothy 3:16), and which is also called ‘the truth’ (John 17:17).

Therefore, for Bible-believing Christians, if a statement about Christianity, or sin, or morality, or the Gospels, or the deity and person of Christ, or the Resurrection, or Creation, or the Flood, or future judgment, or whatever, agrees with the Word of God, it is true. If the statement disagrees with the Word of God, it is false.

A New York Times article stated: ‘Much of The Da Vinci Code scaffolding of conspiracies was constructed in an earlier best seller, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, published in the 1980s. [In fact, the book’s authors sued unsuccessfully for plagiarism – Ed.] It relies on a file of documents found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France that has since been exposed as one man’s hoax.’18,19

At the end of his novel, Brown has a momentous opportunity to produce his evidence—the alleged tens of thousands of pages of information in four enormous trunks—when Langdon kneels to worship the bones of Mary Magdalene (pp. 592–593). In fact, Brown does not produce a single page. The alleged ‘tomb’ remains unopened. The evidence to substantiate even one of Brown’s multiple heresies does not exist.

It seems that man will believe any number of historical falsehoods, if by so doing he can escape the consequences of believing the truth about Jesus Christ. The Da Vinci Code is therefore very much like microbes-to-man evolution. If either should be true, then the Bible would not be true; man would not need a Saviour from sin, and the concept of future Judgment would have no basis.

Brown has willfully exchanged real history for demonstrable hoaxes, which is good for his income but perilous for the eternal destiny of many of his readers.

References and notes

  1. Originally published in hardback by Doubleday, New York, 2003. The edition used here is the Corgi Books paperback, Transworld Publishers, London, 2004; page numbers quoted are therefore different from those in the hardback. Return to text
  2. A phrase used by historian Dr Ronald Higgins in his ‘Cracks in the Da Vinci Code’, www.irr.org/da-vinci-code.html, 23 December 2004. Return to text
  3. New Testament professor and dean of faculty at Biola’s seminary, Talbot School of Theology. Return to text
  4. Wilkins, M., What should every Christian know about The Da Vinci Code?, www.biola.edu/admin/connections/articles/04spring/da_vinci.cfm, 19 October 2005. Return to text
  5. Bock, D.L, Breaking the Da Vinci Code, Nelson Books, Tennessee, pp. 185–186, 2004. Return to text
  6. YHWH is related to the Hebrew hayah, the verb to be, compare “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). And Havah (or Chavah) is not pre-Hebraic but the Hebraic name that is anglicized to Eve, and comes from chay, the Hebrew word for life/living (Genesis 3:20). Return to text
  7. A comprehensive critique with links to other critiques is given by Holding, J., Not InDavincible: A review and critique of The Da Vinci Code, at www.tektonics.org/davincicrude.p, 3 October 2005. Return to text
  8. Tapper, J. and Runnette, B., Religious groups wary of ‘Da Vinci Code’ movie, abcnews.go.com/Nightline/WNT/story?id=1051906&page=1, 21 September 2005. Return to text
  9. J.P. Holding says, ‘Although there may have been as many as 50 pseudepigraphical gospels, most are known only by name from a few isolated statements by early church writers.’ See ref. 7. Return to text
  10. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8. And Irenaeus may have been quoting from an even earlier tradition, Skeat, T.C., Irenaeus and the Four-Gospel Canon, Novum Testamentum 34:194–199, 1992. Return to text
  11. Ref. 5, p. 114. Return to text
  12. Grigg, R., Who really is the God of Genesis? Creation 27(3):37–39, 2005. Return to text
  13. Schenke, H-M., New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, pp. 182–83, cited in Gospel of Philip, www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospelphilip.html, 20 October 2005. Return to text
  14. E.g. Matthew 23:30; Luke 5:10; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 8:23; Hebrews 2:14, 10:33; 1 Peter 4:13, 5:1; etc. Return to text
  15. 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:22–32; Revelation 19:7. Return to text
  16. For example, one young man wrote to us, ‘I have since [reading Brown’s book] denounced my faith in the Christian following and am currently atheist.’ See our detailed answer at creation.com/vinci, 9 November 2005. Return to text
  17. Garlow, J.L. and Jones, P., Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado, p. 151, 2004. Return to text
  18. Goodstein, L., Clergy are rushing to decode ‘Da Vinci’, New York Times News Service, deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,595059042,00.html, 10 October 2005. Return to text
  19. One of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, asked on a TV program what evidence he had that Jesus and Mary produced a child, replied, ‘There’s none whatsoever.’ See priory-of-sion.com/posd/baigent.html, 31 October 2005. Return to text
Posted on homepage: 18 May 2006