The DaVinci Inquest part 1
Faith, Fact and Fiction
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 14, 2006

 

Main Passage: 2 Corinthians 13:3-8 (NLT)

 

VIDEO – Trailer for The DaVinci Code

That’s the trailer for the movie, The DaVinci Code which as you probably know comes to the theatre this Friday. And you saw the words right at the end of the trailer that gave us the directive, “Seek the truth.” And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to seek the truth… the real truth. We’re going to look at some of the controversial claims that Dan Brown wrote into The DaVinci Code, we’re going to explore them, and we’re going to see if they’re true or not.

Now, when it comes to truth, there are a couple different kinds of truth. First, there’s subjective truth. This kind of truth is the kind that’s based on personal opinion. I might say you should cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. You might say I should cheer for the Montreal Canadiens. Which statement is true? Apparently, neither one… they’re both out of the playoffs.

Or how about this… look at the screen. What colour is the screen, and what colour are the stripes? Some of you would say the screen is blue with red stripes. Others would say it’s reversed… the screen is red and the stripes are blue. Some of you would be smart and say the screen’s white… and the projector’s projecting stripes that are red and blue. And maybe you’d even say you’re colour blind and can’t tell what colours they are. All of those statements may be true… depending on your perspective.

That’s subjective truth… truth which is based on one’s own point of view.

But there is also such a thing as objective truth. That’s truth that is true whether you believe it’s true or not. I often run into this at the bank when I think I have more money than I actually do. If I were to go to the teller and ask to withdraw $10,000, she’d tell me I can’t do that because I don’t have that much in the account. Can you imagine, though, if I told her, “Well, that may be true for you. But for me… my truth is the money is there.” That’s just not going to work, because there is truth that is true whether I believe it’s true or not.

Of course, our society today emphasizes subjective truth. For example, the message of our society is that there are many ways to God… what may be right for you may not be right for me. We like to be inclusive and affirm everyone’s belief. But consider what Jesus said…

John 14:6 (NLT)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

So we’re left with only two options… either what He said is true and He really is the only way to God the Father and there are no other pathways regardless of what you might believe, or what He said is a lie and you should reject Him and His teachings. What He said is an issue of objective truth… either it’s true for all, or it’s not true at all.

This morning we’re beginning a series of messages which will examine The DaVinci Code. And many of the claims found within those pages deal with objective truth. Some of you have read the book; perhaps you’re in the process of reading it right now. (So put it down and listen.) Some of you are interested in seeing the movie, and some of you have no interest whatsoever. But let me encourage you all to at least become familiar with the claims contained in this book. Here are some of them…

• Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children.
• The Holy Grail is not the cup of Christ, but rather the bloodline of Christ.
• Mary Magdalene was intended to be the chief disciple, but the men took over.
• Leonardo Da Vinci was a Grand Master of a secret society (the Priory of Sion) which protected the truth about Mary, and he hid clues in his artwork.
• Jesus was not considered to be divine until Constantine declared him so in A.D. 325
• There were over 80 Gospels which the early church hid because of their political agenda.
• The Bible has changed over time to be quite different from what was originally written.
• There is a Goddess named Shekhinah who is the female equal to God and was worshipped by the Jews.
• Christianity is just a blending of ancient pagan religions.
• The Christian Church has been involved in a cover-up for nearly 1700 years.
• …and more!

Now, understand, my allegiance is not to a specific denomination or even to a specific faith. My allegiance is to Truth, and my faith needs to be subject to truth. Not the other way around. So if these claims are true, then I want to know it. I don’t want to devote my life to a lie any more than you do. As Karen just read for us…

2 Corinthians 13:8 (NLT)
Our responsibility is never to oppose the truth, but to stand for the truth at all times.

One of the characters in the book made the statement:

“Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”
~ Teabing, in The DaVinci Code

And if that’s the case, then I want to know it. Because there are plenty of other things I could be doing with my life. So we’re going to seek the Truth. And as we prepare to dive in, let’s lay some ground rules for this series…

 

Ground Rules for this Series:

1. “Just because” is not a valid argument

I will not tell you that any of the claims that Dan Brown makes are wrong “just because” I say so.

 

2. You are free to draw your own conclusions

I am admittedly biased. We are all biased because we’re all coming at this from a different angle. But I will try to be fair, support my positions, and allow you the freedom to make up your own mind. Just like Dan Brown has the freedom to make up his own mind.

 

3. We will not assume everything Dan Brown claims is wrong

Because it’s not. One Catholic scholar, when asked if there was anything true in the book, said, “Yes, there is. Paris is in France, London is in England, and Leonardo da Vinci painted pictures.” But while that’s a funny comment, it’s a little extreme. Dan Brown’s not totally wrong in everything he wrote. In fact, there’s one thing in particular that he’s partially right about… the Church does have a bad history of oppressing women, though not in the ways or for the reasons Dan Brown proposes. And so we’re going to talk about that in a few weeks.

 

4. We will not launch a personal attack on Dan Brown

That’s not what this series is about. This is not about who he is; it’s about the claims he has proposed in his book. Are they true or are they false?

 

5. Don’t turn off your brain

Think through some of the implications of the claims of the book. Weigh whether the answers are satisfactory or not. Become engaged in this process.

 

Now, you might be asking, “What’s the big deal? Isn’t it just a novel?” Well, it is a novel. But according to Dan Brown himself, it is based on fact. And surveys have shown that many people believe that. One third (32%) of Canadians who have read the book believe that there are descendants of Jesus walking among us. 53% of people who have read the book say that it has been helpful in their spiritual growth and understanding. People are taking these claims at face value.

So yes, it is a novel. But it’s a novel that claims to be based on historic fact. Dan Brown makes that clear on the first page of the book… the page before chapter one… where it says…

FACT:
…All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.

Now just to change gears, let’s play a game of “Name the Trailer.” I’ve already shown you the trailer for The DaVinci Code, but let me show you another movie trailer, and you tell me the movie it’s for…

VIDEO – Trailer for The Blair Witch Project

Sure, many of you got that immediately and recognized it as The Blair Witch Project. Do you remember those first words of the screen?
“In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.”

Wow, those words right at the beginning seems to be telling us that the events we’re about to see are real! But no one takes The Blair Witch Project that way. Everyone knows that it’s just a work of fiction, and that those words are simply an invitation to suspend your disbelief for a couple hours so you can immerse yourself in the fictional world of The Blair Witch Project.

So what’s different about The DaVinci Code? Well, part of what’s different is that there’s a little bit of truth mixed in with a lot of fiction, and it’s difficult to tell where the truth ends and the fiction begins. And another difference is that Dan Brown actually believes the claims of the book. He has said…

“The DaVinci Code describes history as I have come to understand it.”
~ Dan Brown

And so, by telling us that the content is fact, he’s inviting us to investigate for ourselves to confirm them. And to his credit, he has welcomed the debate. On his own website, he says…

“While it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit, each individual reader must explore these characters' viewpoints and come to his or her own interpretations.”
~ Dan Brown

So that’s what we’re going to do. Over these six weeks we’re going to get into some of the claims that are presented. We’re going to look into church history, and ancient history, and rituals of the past, and where our Bible came from, and who decided which books would be included and which would be disposed of, and who Constantine was and what role he played, and who Mary Magdalene was, what her relationship to Jesus was, and whether the Holy Grail could be the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper or if it might be Mary Magdalene or perhaps something else. We’ll also address the Sacred Feminine which Dan Brown writes about and we’ll talk about the role of women in the church… from the time of Jesus and the formation of the church, through the Middle Ages, and right down to today.

And let me say right up front, the Church is not perfect. And as long as it’s made up of imperfect people, it never will be. So the Church has made mistakes… some little and some big… and the Church does have embarrassing episodes in its history. And we’re not going to try to gloss over those.

So we’ve got a lot of stuff to talk about during this series. And I’d encourage you to be here for each and every week, if at all possible. The trailer said, “Seek the Truth.” So let’s do that together. And let’s begin with that quote on the first page.

[FACT:
…All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.]

Now, I am not an expert in the areas of art or architecture or historical documents or secret rituals. And neither is Dan Brown. And I don’t pretend to be. So for the past several weeks I’ve been researching these claims and collecting as much information as I could find, and reading books and articles, and listening to interviews and recordings, and watching videos and documentaries, and talking with people about all of this… In other words, I’ve done my homework. And I’d encourage you to do yours, too. I believe the truth about Jesus Christ can withstand the scrutiny. It’s done so for 2000 years. The Gospel has withstood a lot more than a best-selling novel.

You see, the faith I have is a reasonable faith. It’s a logical faith. It’s a faith based in Truth. Often times when a Christian doesn’t have an answer for something, they claim it’s a matter of faith… or a leap of faith… that there is no reason for it and no facts to back it up. “You just have to have faith.” And I absolutely hate that response. Because while faith in God may go beyond facts, it does not go against them. There are legitimate questions that people raise, and there are also legitimate answers. It’s not a blind faith, and it’s more of a step than a leap.

So it’s okay to ask the questions, as long as you’re going to seek the answers… and seek them from reliable sources. Is Dan Brown’s book a reliable source? Well, let’s just look at that opening claim.

 

Are the claims about artwork accurate?

In a book names, The DaVinci Code, you’d expect there to be some detail about… who? Leonardo Da Vinci. Well, here’s one his most famous paintings.

[SHOW MONA LISA]

What did Leonardo call it? (Response – The Mona Lisa.) Well, according to The DaVinci Code, Leonardo gave it that name because of his belief that there is a male god and a female goddess. And so Leonardo looked back to the Ancient Egyptian belief in the male god of fertility Amon, and the female goddess Isis, also spelled L’Isa. And so he moved a couple letters around to come up with Mona Lisa, and painted what Dan Brown claims is an androgynous person… neither male nor female… in order to show the balance. So let’s talk about this. Amon was actually the god of the air, not of fertility, L’Isa was never an alternate spelling for Isis, and Amon’s partner in Egyptian mythology was Mut, not Isis. Isis actually had a different consort named Osiris. (Apparently they had an Irish god.)

So those are some minor facts which Dan Brown gets wrong after taking two pages to explain them. And the biggest thing he missed is that Leonardo didn’t give it the name! It’s never been known as the Mona Lisa in either Italy where it was created or in France where it currently resides. About 30 years after Leonardo’s death, Giorgio Vasari was writing a biography about him and referred to the painting as the Mona Lisa – or the Lady Lisa – and explained that it was a portrait of the Lady Lisa Gherardina del Giocondo. So it became known as La Giocondo in Italy and Le Joconde in France. And yet The DaVinci Code claims that Leonardo, as the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, was conveying a message… through a name which he never gave it!

Another painting that’s important in the book was the Madonna of the Rocks. According to Dan Brown, art historians belief John the Baptist is offering a blessing to Jesus. But most art historians actually have it the other way around. So Dan gets the who’s-who mixed up. And when he described the dimensions of that painting, he said it was five feet tall. But I went onto the Louvre’s official website (go to cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=crt_frm_rs&langue=fr&initCritere=true and search “La Vierge aux rochers”), and it claims that the painting is 199 cm tall, or a little over 6 ½ feet. Now, I understand artistic license, and this may seem petty. But when you make a claim that all your statements about art are accurate, they’d better be accurate.

Here’s another view of it… In the book, Sophie (one of the main characters) picks the painting up and uses it as a shield. Does it look like she’d be able to pick it up?

And let’s talk about the artist himself. Dan Brown claims that Leonardo was often called “da Vinci.” But “da Vinci” was not his last name… it was the city he was from. “da Vinci” means “from Vinci.” So calling him “Da Vinci” would be like calling me “from Fredericton.” And while we’ve come to know Leonardo that way today, scholars claim that he was never called “da Vinci”; he was always Leonardo.

Now, I know some of you want to talk about The Last Supper… we’re going to save that until we talk about Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail. And there are more claims about art and art history that Dan Brown makes which we simply don’t have time to get into this morning. But for someone who on his website claims to have studied art history at the University of Seville and who refers to his wife as an art history buff, you would expect him to get his facts right.

So The DaVinci Code strikes out when it comes to artwork. How about the second claim, architecture?

 

Are the claims about architecture accurate?

Here’s an exterior picture of the Louvre. The Pyramid there at front is the entrance that was built in 1989. According to The DaVinci Code, the French President ordered that it be built using 666 panes of glass. But in reality, it contains 673 panes of glass. At least, according to the architect. Again, it’d be a non-issue, except that there’s that claim that all statements about architecture are true.

Dan Brown also writes about the skill of building archways and how there’s one stone in particular… the keystone… which once it’s in place, it hold the rest in place. And he explains that this skill was one of the “best-kept secrets of the early Masonic brotherhood.” But architects had been using that skill for years before the brotherhood was even formed.

He also claims that the Paris meridian went straight through the centre of the church of Saint Sulpice, when in reality, the meridian is about 100 m away. And he also describes the pews and kneeling rails and choir balcony in the church. Except that like many old European churches, it has none of those. So not so good on the architecture. How about the documents?

 

Are the claims about documents accurate?

Much of the book and its claims revolve around a secret organization known as the Priory of Sion. According to The DaVinci Code… in fact right on that first page under the word “Fact”… the very first words are…

Fact: “The Piory of Sion—a European secret society founded in 1099—is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliothèque 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.”

Wow, that sounds pretty definite. Sounds like he has actual proof in the form of reliable documentation. What were Les Dossiers Secrets, or the Secret Documents? Well, put plainly, they were a forgery by a guy by the name of Pierre Plantard.

In 1956, Plantard formed a group called the Priory of Sion, and its purpose was to endorse affordable housing. Well, that group disbanded the following year, but after that, Plantard began to create documents that he would later hide in the Bibliothèque Nationale as evidence that a secret society called the Priory of Sion guarded the identity of a royal bloodline, beginning with Mary Magdalene and Jesus and continuing through a line of French (Merovingian) kings all the way down to Plantard himself. He even created a list of Priory Grand Masters, such as Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci.

But he made a mistake; he referenced a living person. So he was pulled into court, and in 1993 under oath he admitted that the whole thing was a hoax and that the documents were forgeries. And when the judge ordered that his house be searched, they found several other documents he was working on. But yet, a decade later Dan Brown released his book with the claim that those documents are accurate.

Some of the other documents he relies on are the Gnostic Gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls. We’re going to talk about the Gnostic Gospels in a couple weeks, and you’ll see then why these are not reliable documents. But let’s talk about the Dead Sea Scrolls right now, because Dan Brown claims the Dead Sea Scrolls tell “the true Grail story, “speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms”, represent “the earliest Christian records”, and “do not match up with the Gospels in the Bible.”

Well, that’s interesting, considering that the Dead Sea Scrolls are pre-Christian documents, and in no place do they name Jesus or Mary or the Holy Grail. They’re Jewish writings, not Christian writings. Yet he claims that everything he says about documents is accurate. But not so much. So let’s move on to secret rituals…

 

Are the claims about secret rituals accurate?

Now, I wasn’t quite sure where to go with this one. How you ever tried to discuss secret rituals? They’re secrets! I mean, I could tell you that there’s a spaceship parked outside on the lawn. You could go outside and take a look, come back in and say, “I didn’t see anything.” And I could say, “Of course not, they’re hidden… they’re cloaked… like the Romulans in the original Star Trek. You can’t see them because they’re secret.” It’s really hard to argue something that’s secret.

But let’s give it a shot. Okay, one of the claims that The DaVinci Code makes is that the Jews and early Christians took part in a sexual ritual called “Hieros Gamos”, or “Sacred Union”. According to the book, a “man could achieve a climatic instant when his mind went totally blank and he could see God.” In other words, you could find God through sex, and Dan Brown asserts that this was a common practice among the Jews and Christians, even in the Jewish Temple.

Well, let’s see. Looking at the Old Testament, there are several passages which plainly condemn temple prostitutes which were common in other religions. Some of those passages are referenced in your notes…
(Passages regarding temple prostitution: Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7; 2 Chronicles 34:33)

If you read through those, you’ll discover that God never condoned any such practice, and instead required that any objects associated with such practices were destroyed.

So that’s the Old Testament as it relates to the Jews. How about the early Church? Well, there actually were rumours that Christians were engaging in ritualistic sex during the Lord’s Supper. One of the tales that was circulating and was actually written down about Christians was that…

“After much feasting… they involve themselves… in unions of abominable lust.”
~ rumours recorded by Minucius Felix

So that was the rumour that was going around, and it caused the Roman authorities to become suspicious of the Christians. Thing is, one of the Roman governors, Pliny the younger (of Bithynia), actually investigated. And here’s what he discovered…

“On a fixed day, they… gather before daylight and sing a hymn to Christ as God. They bind themselves together with one another as with an oath… After this, they disperse and come together again to partake of ordinary food.”
~ as reported by Pliny the younger, Governor of Bithynia
 

Above quote from resources by James Garlow. Full quote from alternate source - "They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition." http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/pliny1.html"
 

Nothing suspicious was discovered. And there’s no evidence at all that such practices were ever endorsed and practiced by the early church.


So what I want you to realize this morning is that there is a difference between fact and fiction, and that how you perceive that difference can have a drastic effect on your faith. If you believe the claims of The DaVinci Code and take them as fact, then you should reject the Church and Christianity. But if you can recognize that those major claims are fictional and have nothing to substantiate them, then you need to know that. You need to investigate and seek the truth.

Now, I think Dan Brown made his mistakes by relying on the wrong things. Again, not a personal attack… I make mistakes… you make mistakes… This isn’t about whether Dan Brown is a good guy or a bad guy. But I believe he has made some major blunders, there four in particular…

 

Where Dan Brown Goes Wrong…
(by Dr. James Beverley and Bruxy Cavey)

A. He has the wrong Jesus

His Jesus is not the Jesus that’s portrayed in the Bible. In the Bible, Jesus is the Son of God, he’s born of a virgin, he performs miracles, he’s not obsessed with sex rituals… but according to The DaVinci Code, almost everything we believe about Jesus is wrong. Instead, he was just a man who participated in sex rituals. We’re actually going to get into this more next week.

 

B. He follows the wrong Gospels

Now, virtually all Christians today follow the same Gospels… Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But Dan Brown claims we follow the wrong ones. He says that in AD 325, the Roman Emperor Constantine and the church leaders hid a set of gospels known as the Gnostic gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Well, he’s partially right in that there were certain gospels that were rejected. And in two weeks, we’ll talk about what they were and what the problem was. For now, let’s just say that those Gnostic gospels say some things that are very different from what Dan Brown claims they say, and when we look at them, it will be obvious to you why they were rejected.

 

C. He trusts the wrong experts

You know where Dan Brown got his ideas? From that book… Holy Blood, Holy Grail… a 1982 book that was based on the hoax by Pierre Plantard. Dan Brown read that book and he bought into it. So his experts aren’t reliable.

 

D. He believes the wrong secrets

He believes that the Priory of Sion was begun in 1099 to protect the secrets of the bloodline of Jesus. But as we’ve already discovered, that was a hoax conjured up by Pierre Plantard in 1956.

And he believes in the secret gospels. And we’ll discover in a couple weeks why those aren’t reliable.

And he believes that Leonardo hid all kinds of secret messages in his art. But Leonardo described himself as a disciple of observation, indicating that he preferred things that were real and tangible, not secrets or rumours.


So in the book, Dan Brown seems to have a difficult time distinguishing fact from fiction. And because the things that he claims are fact cut right to the heart of Christianity, they deserve to be addressed. Those questions need to be answered. And if you have doubts about your own faith, this is a great opportunity for you to really examine it…

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)
Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine.

So go ahead and do that as we walk through this series together. Let’s pray…


Father, we pray that you’ll give us the discernment we need to tell fact from fiction. We want to place our faith and our hope it what is true and reliable, not in lies and fanciful theories. So as we go through this series, we pray that the truth will be known. In your name we pray, amen.

 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2006 SunriseOnline.ca