Decoding Da Vinci: The Challenge of Historic Christianity to Conspiracy and Fantasy

Wright, N.T.
Grove (2006)
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Everyone by now must know the outlines of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code which asserts that it is historical fact that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene who bore his children and that the line has survived, in secret, to this day. Although there has been a Rosicrucian strand in Christianity since the early Middle Ages the theory was given new life by Baigent and Leigh's Holy Blood and Holy Grail (1982) [i] whose publishers are suing brown for plagiarism! Wright contrasts Brown's primary sources, the Nag Hammadi, the Apocryphal Gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls, with the Gospels. He shows that the Nag Hammadi, and the Gospels later rejected from the Biblical Canon, were written much later and that they are gnostic documents; further, they show no interest in the death of Jesus which is the central preoccupation of the Evangelists and Paul. Contrary to Brown's reading, he also says that the Gospels challenge earthly power whereas the other sources do not. Finally, there is no evidence of Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Wright's main concern, however, is to show that Brown's book is a response to shallow, self-regarding, do-it-yourself religion which attempts self affirmation through in inner search which is then lived out in a bogus spirituality whereas the Good News breaks into the world in the person of Jesus as the crucial historical event which was anticipated in the act of God's creation.

It is a short book and worth reading if Brown has caused you even a flicker of doubt: his Biblical scholarship is nicely complemented by some observations on art; inaccuracies in Brown's architectural descriptions; and even the observation that Brown's major expositor, Teabing, is an anagram of Baigent!

Then again, would we have reacted so generously to an Islamic scholar doing the same kind of job on Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses which was, as Brown's book is, only a novel?

[i] Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln (1982). The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. London: Cape.