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The Da Vinci Code. Fact or Fiction

Engaging Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has hit #1 on every bestsellers list in America. It is being translated into more than 35 languages. With more than 4 million copies in print, Brown was able to sell the movie rights to Columbia pictures for $6 million. Ron Howard was signed to direct and Brian Grazer to produce the film.

The Da Vinci Code is a spiritual thriller tucked inside a conspiratorial mega-romance novel (pagans love women, Christians hate them). It has captured the imagination of millions and also promotes the deconstruction of the church. Toward this end Brown and his P.R. team promote the book’s theories as history, not fiction. The first written word of Chapter 1 is “Fact”.

After the book surged to the top of the charts, Brown was featured on an ABC News Special. There he disclosed his own belief in the theories that the book espoused. These include:

The book claims that Jesus was a rich opportunist with aims at reclaiming the throne of David. Jesus fell in love with Mary Magdalene because of her wealth and because she carries the royal blood of Benjamin.

“Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false,” laments one of Brown’s characters.

According to Brown, in one of the 50-odd texts of the Gnostic Gospels one line states that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ favorite and He often kissed her on the mouth. In fact, the parchment is so damaged it is impossible to read what kind of kiss Jesus gave Mary. The texts also identify Mary Magdalene as the companion of Jesus. Brown believes the term means she was Jesus' wife.

The book goes on to claim that Mary Magdalene and the offspring she bears with Jesus are the Holy Grail, not Jesus’ cup at the Last Supper. Mary Magdalene and her “royal bloodline” end up in Provence, France. The Grail-keepers (Templar Knights, Cathars, and other secret societies) protect her relics, proof of this powerful secret that, if widely known, will destroy the church. This bloodline has been kept pure through the Merovingian dynasty in Dark Ages France until today in several prominent French families represented by the Priory of Sion. Unfortunately for Brown, no evidence substantiates The Priory before World War II. But then, that makes it all the more mysterious.

“The Grail,” Langdon said, “is symbolic of the lost goddess. When Christianity came along, the old pagan religions did not die easily. Legends of chivalric quests for the Holy Grail were in fact stories of forbidden quests to find the lost sacred feminine. Knights who claimed to be “searching for the chalice” were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned non-believers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine.” (The Da Vinci Code, pp. 238-239)

In The Da Vinci CodeConstantine and other early church leaders unite the Roman Empire into a woman- and pagan-hating monolith (Christendom). At the Council of Nicea in AD 325 they invent the divinity of Christ (Constantine couldn’t fully relinquish his Son God paganism) and the universality of the Catholic Church to unite the Roman Empire under one religious militia. Until that time, the book claims, Christians believed Jesus was only human. This assertion is dispelled by vast historical evidence, not to mention the martyrdom of thousands of Christians.

To find out how Brown develops this plot, you will have to buy The Da Vinci Code. Don’t worry, complex characters, a believable plot line, and accurate research won’t impede your read. You might find his numerous lectures on why his conspiracy theory is fact somewhat tiresome.

The buzz over The Da Vinci Code has fueled renewed interest in subjects usually reserved to academic journals and theology books. The emphasis in many churches is on experiencing faith through worship. The success of The Da Vinci Code challenges this as incomplete. Believers need to know their faith, not just feel it. Church history was once an essential part of a liberal arts education within the context of teaching Western Civilization. Today schools no longer teach Western Civilization and the church has long abandoned its responsibility to teach its history to its people  (believers).

Many critics and academics have written articles to “break”, “crack”, “decipher”, “dismantle” and “dismiss” the code. Philip Jenkins, Professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University and the author of a new book The New Anti-Catholicism writes that, “In the end, The Da Vinci Code simply appeals to a culture that's increasingly skeptical of claims to religious truth.”Brown asserts that “Every faith in the world is based on fabrication.” Fabrication is one word that comes to mind to characterize The Da Vinci Code.

Uncover the Truth

What about the "Priory of Sion" and Other Gospel Accounts?

Origin of the Priory of Sion

The author, Dan Brown, claims before he begins his novel that the following is fact: “The  Priory of Sion-a European secret society founded in 1099-is a real organization. In 1975 Paris's Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Further research into the origin of the Priory of Sion:

The Priory of Sion was created in 1956 by an eccentric, Pierre Plantard.

Plantard and associate, Philippe de Chérisey, fabricated a series of documents, including Les Dossiers Secrets, and planted them in various French libraries.

The false documents created a false history for the Priory, including a false inception date of 1099 and a false list of members, including Sir IsaacNewton.

Chérisey publicly admitted the documents were forgeries in 1971.

Plantard subsequently admitted they were forgeries as well.

In 1989 Plantard fabricated a new history of the Priory of Sion, now founded in 1681, and supplied a new list of Grand Masters.

Plantard ended up in court in 1993, where he admitted his hoax.

Origin of the Bible:

Dan Brown claims that all descriptions of documents are accurate. The Da Vinci Code claims that:

a) More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament. (231)

b) The Bible was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine who omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike.

Further Research into the Origin of the Bible:

Of all the writings that were ever called a gospel in the first 500 years of Christianity, most are small compilations of esoteric sayings ascribed to Jesus written two hundred or more years after his life and not narratives of any portion of his life.  If all remaining "gospels" were to be counted, we would have about two dozen documents. About half of these are known only from quotations from early church fathers or small scraps of fragments. There is little that is unorthodox in them.1 

 Constantine did not assemble the New Testament. The canonization of the New Testament was a process that began during the first century (e.g., Paul's writings were already recognized as Scripture almost immediately … see II Peter 3:15, 16). 

Virtually the entire New Testament could be reproduced from citations contained in the works of early church fathers (32,000 citations prior to the Council of Nicea, AD 325).

Origin of the Doctrine of the Deity of Christ:

According to Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code:

a) "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the council of Nicea." (A.D.233)

b) "Because Constantine upgraded Jesus' status almost four centuries after Jesus' death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling his life as a mortal man."

Further Research into the Origin of the Doctrine of Christ's Deity:

The deity of the Christ, was not only prophesied hundreds of years before Christ ever came (e.g., Isaiah 9:6), but it was affirmed in the four biblical Gospels, which are the earliest gospels. The doctrine of Christ's deity was accepted throughout Christendom up to and including the Council of Nicea.1. Craig Blomberg, (NewTestament scholar), Denver Journal, Vol. 7, 2004.

The deity of Christ was already accepted by all the bishops at the Council of Nicea and was not up for discussion. What was discussed was the relationship between the deity of Christ and His mortality (Was He fully God and fully man, or just fully God?).

Contrary to the Da Vinci Code's claim, not a single document exists chronicling Christ's life as a mere mortal man.

The Dead SeaScrolls and the Nag Hammadi papari:

According to the Da Vinci Code the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi papari speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms.  They supposedly expose glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications in the 'modern' Bible. (234)

Further Research into the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi papari:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish documents that say nothing about Christ or Christianity.

The Nag Hammadi documents were written over 150 years after the four gospels and the time of Christ. They in no way imply that Christ was not divine or that there are any historical discrepancies in the New Testament.

The Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene

The Da Vinci Code proposes the gospel of Philip and and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene as evidence that Jesus married Mary.  In particular, the Da Vinic Code cites a  'quote' from the Gospel of Philip:

“And the companion of the saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth.  The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?’”

Further research on the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene:

The Gospel of Philip is a late third century Gnostic collection, over 200 years removed from the time of Christ and, therefore, of little historical value.

The Gospel of Mary quotes come from an early third century document of no historical value. Even if these 'gospels' said what Brown suggests they say, since they were written over 200 years after the time of Christ, they have little, if any, historical credibility.

Neither provides any evidence that Jesus married Mary Magdalene..

The actual text from the Gospel of Philip is fragmentary and damaged, so only some words can be made out as follows: “And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene [...] her more than [...] the disciples [...] kiss her [...] on her [...]”

In Da Vinci Code, Teabing states that any Aramaic scholar will tell us that 'companion' means'spouse'. In reality, the document was written in Coptic, not Aramaic and the word for companion was borrowed from Greek and most likely means 'spiritual sister'; 'wife' would have been 'gyne'.

Another section in the Gospel of Philip not cited by Brown expands on the early Christian practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss, "For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in one another."

Mary Magdalene's and Sarah's records:

The Da Vinci Code maintains that 'Magdalene's and Sarah's lives were scrutinously chronicled by their Jewish protectors.'

Further Research into Mary Magdalene and Sarah's later histories:

No such chronicles exist and there is no evidence that any ever did exist.

Reliability of New Testament Documents

The Bible is an extraordinary document: It was written over a period of 1500 years, in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), by 40 different authors from very different walks of life including kings, peasants, fishermen, a herdsman, a doctor, scholars, etc. Yet in spite of such diverse conditions and the discussion of such controversial issues as the nature of God, the nature of man, the problem of evil, and others, there is a marvellous unity and continuity of though throughout.

In the 20th Century, many Biblical affirmations have been supported by psychological, archaeological, and historical research. In spite of this, the Bible has been ignored and maligned by believer and unbeliever, often leading to misconceptions.

One of the more common misconceptions of the Bible is that over the centuries it has been changed either on pupose or by accident such that we no longer know what the originals said. It is this misconception that we will discuss, and in particular as it relates to the New Testament.

When Was It Written?

To begin, the New Testament is composed of 27 individual works called “books”. Five of these books are historical narratives (the four gospels and Acts). One is apocalyptic (Revelation), a symbolic vision of the end of the world. The other twenty-one are didactic in the form of letters written to individuals or the churches.

It is helpful to note when these books were written. F. F. Bruce, one of the foremost scholars of Biblical criticism, dates the four gospels as follows: Matthew, 70-80 AD; Mark, the early 60s; Luke, the late 60s; and John, 90-100 AD. The 13 books written by the apostle Paul date from 48-64 AD. (1)

Some wonder, since Jesus was crucified around 30 AD, why did the early Christians wait 30 to 60 years to write the accounts of his life? A simple explanation is that Jesus spoke very clearly of his return to his disciples. The disciples interpreted this to mean shortly after his resurrection and ascension.

They were thinking only in terms of a few years and certainly not in terms of many decades or centuries. If Jesus were to return in a few years there would be no need to make a written record. But when Jesus’ disciples started to be executed and die, several of the remaining disciples and their close associates undertook the task of writing the story of Jesus’ life, before all of the eyewitnesses were gone.

Ancient Manuscripts

With this background, we turn again to the question of change. What do the ancient manuscripts reveal about the transmission of the New Testament through the centuries?

In museums in Europe, the Mid-East, and North America, there exists just over 250 partial or complete papyri and manuscripts of the Greek New Testament dating from 130 AD through 700 AD. The oldest virtually complete document is the Chester Beatty Papyri dated at 250 AD. Apart from these there are an additional 5000+ Greek manuscripts dating from 700 to the 1500s. (2)

Compare this wealth of documentation for the New Testament to that of other works of classical antiquity below (3):


# of Manuscripts

Date Written

Date of Earliest Copy or Portion

Time Span (years)

Caesar's Gaelic Wars


58 - 50 BC

900 AD


History of Herodotus


480 - 425 BC

900 AD


Roman History of Livy


59 BC - 17 AD

after 300 AD


New Testament


48 - 100 AD

125 & 250 AD

35 & 160

History of Tacitus


100 AD

800 AD


History of Thacydides


460 - 400 BC

900 AD


Manuscripts Compared

One might say that it is nice to have a lot of manuscripts, but how different are they from one another? Is there any evidence of change over time?

When all 5,250+ manuscripts are compared, a total of about 100,000 variants are found. At first glance 100,000 seems like a large number, but this includes misspellings, changes in word order of a sentence, the omission or inclusion of the Greek definite article with proper names, and other minor variants. When all the minor variants are eliminated that do not affect the sense of meaning of a passage, we are left with only 235 variants of any significance. Of these there are only 5 which bring into question the genuineness of a part of the text. Here is a list of the 5 passages in question: Mark 16:9-20, Luke 22:20, 22:43-44, 23:34, and John 7:53-8:11. (4)

What does this abundant documentation mean? Through the work of textual criticism, the art and science of reconstructing the original from the multiplicity of manuscripts, it can be safely concluded that the composite Greek text from which the major English and French translations are made is essentially that which was written in the first century.

The Biblical scholar, Sir Francis Kenyon, wrote: “The interval between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant (still existing) evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.” (5)

It is important to note that modern English translations are not made through a comparison of previous translations but through a careful study of this composite Greek text know to scholars as the “Nestle Greek Text”.

The Evidence of Philology and Geography

Besides the manuscript evidence which shows that the New Testament is a first century document, there are two other fields of study which bring us to the same conclusion.

All living languages undergo constant changes in vocabulary and popular expressions. At the time the Greek New Testament was written koiné Greek was a living language undergoing slow transformation. A study of the vocabulary, phrases, and grammar of the New Testament in comparison with other Greek writings of earlier, the same and later time periods shows that the New Testament must have been written in the first century and before 200 A.D., by which time the Greek language had changed substantially.

The last line of evidence is geographical in nature. The writers of the four gospels show a personal acquaintance with Hebrew culture and with the geography of Israel and Jerusalem of the first century. For example John fixes the location of certain places in the city of Jerusalem with such accuracy that he must have been familiar with the city before its destruction in 70 A.D. by the Roman legions. A writer in the 2nd century would not have had access to such knowledge which we have only been able to verify this century through archaeological excavations.


What can we conclude from all of this? We must remember that the New Testament is not simply a moral, religious, and philosophical document but that it is also a history. Those who said 50 years ago that the New Testament was written after the 1st century have been proven to be wrong. Those who say today that the New Testament has been significantly altered or changed through the centuries have no legitimate proof of this claim. In fact, all the documentation and research thus far shows that it has indeed not been changed.

When you pick up a copy of an English translation of the New Testament, you can be confident that it is based on a Greek text that has been attested as genuinely first century in origin and that it was written either by eyewitnesses to the events or their direct associates.

Further Reading: Ben Witherington (2002) The Gospel Code, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove,Illinois. Witherington is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and author of numerous books on the New Testament.

Compiled by Jtheatre Moderator.

Source: New Scholars' Society


He replied my mother and brothers' are those who hear God's word and put it into practice. Luke 8: 21 (NIV)

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