The Da Vinci Code and Other DeceptionsBy Mary Ann Collins
“The Da Vinci Code” is the biggest book phenomenon since “Harry Potter.” Since its publication in March 2003, “The Da Vinci Code” sold 6 million copies in its first year and it has been translated into more than 40 languages. As of May 2004, 7.35 million copies were in print, the book had been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 58 weeks (often in the number one position), and it was selling between 80,000 and 90,000 copies per week. ABC did a TV special based on the book. [Note 1]
The story is set against a backdrop of religious and “historical” statements that are claimed to be “facts.” These are a mixture of anti-Christian teachings, radical feminist theology, and goddess worship. For example, the book says that the early Christians did not believe in the divinity of Christ; the Resurrection never happened; our Bible is the result of a political power play by the Roman Emperor Constantine; and early Christians worshiped the “divine feminine.” These statements are made by a likeable expert, a Harvard professor who (in the context of the novel) seems to be credible and authoritative.
Readers can become so engrossed in the fast-moving, suspenseful story that they swallow these so-called “facts” without even realizing it. Storytelling can be a powerful tool for changing the way that people think. This is especially true with movies, and Hollywood is making “The Da Vinci Code” into a movie. [Note 2]
Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “No thinking person would take that kind of thing seriously.” That is exactly what one Evangelical leader thought--until he started talking with people who had read the book. He discovered that the book hardens the unbelief of people who aren’t Christians, and it turns honest seekers away from Christianity. The book even caused some Christians to become confused and disillusioned. [Note 3]
The Bible warns us to be “sober” (not carried away with emotions) and “vigilant.” There is an enemy of our souls who is looking for opportunities to undermine our faith and “devour” us. (1 Peter 5:8)
Jesus warned us not to be deceived. So did the Apostle Paul. The Bible says,
There are some Biblical principles that will help protect us from deception. The third chapter of Genesis gives us three keys to deception. If we spot any of these things, then we need to be on guard.
HATH GOD SAID
“Hath God said?” In other words, did God really say it? Did He really mean it? Can we trust what He said?
The beachhead for the assault is to plant doubts about the credibility and reliability of what God told us. In practical terms, this means trying to undermine our confidence in the Bible.
CLAIMING TO BE AN “EXPERT”
In other words, “I’m the expert. Listen to me. I know better than God does. I know better than you do.”
This stage tries to replace our trust in God with trust in an “expert.” It is also an attempt to try to undermine our motives for obeying God.
Do you remember Jim Jones? He started out pastoring a church and wound up becoming a cult leader. He led his followers down to Guyana (South America) where they lived as an isolated community (Jonestown). [Note 4]
There was a point where Jim Jones’ teachings began to clearly contradict Scripture. Some of his followers questioned him about it, and he told them to listen to him instead of the Bible. As a result, some people left the group. But most of his followers remained. In 1978, his followers (over 900 men, women and children) died of poison in a mass suicide/murder.
This is a vivid illustration of the importance of listening to God instead of listening to “experts.” When the “experts” go contrary to Scripture, then we need to follow the Bible.
SAYING OR IMPLYING THAT GOD WANTS TO
PREVENT US FROM HAVING GOOD THINGS
In other words, God is holding out on you. He is keeping something good from you. If you do things my way, then you can have that good thing.
This stage tries to give us motives to disobey God. In addition, it promises independence. It says that we can be like God and do things our way instead of His way. It tries to give us reasons to think and feel that it is OK to ignore what God told us and do whatever we want to do.
“Ye shall be as gods” is the heart of the false promises of New Age teachings. The most overt example of this was Shirley MacLaine saying, “I am God!”
SOME WIDELY BELIEVED DECEPTIONS
There are people who claim that important things were removed from the Bible. This is an example of the stage of deception that tries to get us to believe that God is holding out on us.
I first heard this in the form of a claim that Scripture passages supporting reincarnation had been removed from the Bible. But that’s physically impossible. There were thousands of papyrus and parchment scrolls that were spread all over the known world. There is no way that they could all be found. And there is no way that they could be altered. You can take a page out of a bound book, but you can’t rip a segment out of a scroll and have the scroll remain intact.
“The Da Vinci Code” plays on this theme. It claims that, in the fourth century, Emperor Constantine had some Gnostic “gospels” kept out of the Bible. But Constantine had nothing to do with the contents of the New Testament. The canon of the New Testament was already in place before Constantine came into power.
By the time of Origen (185-254 A.D.), there was general agreement about most of the New Testament. Nobody questioned which Gospels should be included. There was general agreement about most of the epistles. However, there was disagreement as to whether the following six epistles should be part of the New Testament canon: Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude. [Note 5] This was more than 50 years before Constantine became Emperor of Rome. (He ruled from 306 to 337 A.D.)
If you read quotations from Gnostic “gospels,” it quickly becomes obvious why they were never included in the Bible. I’ve read some quotations from “The Gospel of Thomas” and other Gnostic “gospels.” They are confusing. Some of the language seems vaguely Biblical, but the ideas don’t make sense. There is an emphasis on secrecy. (In contrast, Jesus taught openly.)
Here are two examples of Gnostic teachings. According to the “Gospel of Thomas,” Jesus made the following statements. [Note 6]
(No, that was not a typing mistake or something. The “Gospel of Thomas” actually does say those things. And it claims that Jesus taught them. Maybe that stuff makes sense to somebody who is in an “altered state of consciousness.”)
If you want to understand gnosticism and its influence on modern American churches, read “Pagans in the Pews” by Peter Jones (Regal Books, 2001). His book has quotations from various Gnostic “gospels” and other Gnostic writings.
SOME ANTI-BIBLICAL “EXPERTS”
One example of an anti-Biblical “expert” is Sigmund Freud, the father of psychiatry. The Bible has clear standards of sexual morality. Then along came Freud. He told us that Biblical morality results in repression and mental illness. Every Christian had to decide whether to listen to the “expert” (Freud) or to trust what God told us in the Bible.
“Experts” can deceive us. Do you remember the “Kinsey Report”? Many Americans believed the “expert” instead of believing the Bible. Dr. Kinsey’s research is the foundation for much of our modern sex education. It also contributed to the sexual revolution of the sixties. Kinsey has been charged with doing fraudulent research, and with being responsible for the sexual abuse of hundreds of children. (You can read about these things online.) [Note 7]
Another “expert” is Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. He wrote a book called “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” He tried to destroy people’s faith in the most foundational Christian doctrines, such as the Resurrection of Jesus, and the Atonement (Jesus died to save us from our sins). Basically, his idea seems to be that, in order to be relevant to the modern world, Christianity has to stop being Christian. Spong says that we live in a world that has made the “traditional theistic view of God inoperative.” (This information is online.) [Note 8]
Bishop Spong is not alone. There are seminary professors who teach the same kinds of things. Michael S. Rose wrote about this problem in some Catholic seminaries, in his book “Goodbye, Good Men.” I have read about similar things in some Protestant seminaries.
THE DA VINCI CODE
According to “The Da Vinci Code,” Jesus was just an ordinary man who was not divine, did not die for our sins, and was not resurrected. Instead, he married Mary Magdalene and had at least one child.
The “Jesus” portrayed in “The Da Vinci Code” is not the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible. Jesus warned us that there would be “false Christs.” (Matthew 24:24) This is one of them. Although it is only a mental picture in a fictional book, it has turned real people away from the real Jesus Christ.
“The Da Vinci Code” has fortified the unbelief of people who are not Christians. It has turned sincere seekers away from Christianity. And it has “confused and disillusioned even many Christians.” [Note 9]
According to “The Da Vinci Code,” there is an ancient secret society called the Priory of Sion that preserved information about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and their descendents. However, the Priory of Sion that is portrayed in the book is a hoax. As we will see, it never existed. It was a combination of faked history and forged documents.
The following information comes from “The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code” by Richard Abanes, and “Cracking Da Vinci’s Code” by James L. Garlow and Peter Jones. [Note 10] You can read about Pierre Plantard and his phony Priory of Sion online. [Note 11]
There have been three Priories of Sion. The first one (from about 1100 to 1617) was legitimate. It was a group of Catholic monks who honored the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Zion. (In French, “Zion” is spelled “Sion.”) That was traditional Catholic devotion to the Virgin Mary, by real monks, in a real priory. (A priory is a kind of monastary.)
Then, in the 20th century, there were two Priories of Sion that were both created by Pierre Plantard, a Frenchman who lived from 1920 to 2000. Plantard was convicted of fraud and embezzlement in 1953. His first Priory of Sion began in 1956. It was a social club with a journal. It only lasted a year.
Plantard’s second Priory of Sion is the important one, in terms of conspiracy theory and “The Da Vinci Code.” It was an elaborate hoax. He began fabricating it in the early 1960s. He faked its existence and he tried to make it appear to be ancient. (As we will see, Plantard later testified that it was a fraud.)
Plantard was an occultist. He admired Hitler. He was influenced by a pro-Nazi man named Evola who believed that mankind should be ruled by a “government of the spiritual elite.”
Plantard’s fraudulent Priory of Sion is supposedly an ancient secret society that preserved records of the bloodline of the supposed descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. (Plantard claimed to be one of those descendants.)
In order to make this secret society look legitimate, Plantard forged documents and planted them in credible places, such as French museums. He even forged certificates of authentication to go with the documents. (That could be done by faking the signatures of experts who were dead and therefore could not be questioned.)
A French businessman named Noel Corbu bought an estate that was previously owned by a wealthy priest named Berenger Sauniere. (The priest had become wealthy by selling Masses. He advertised in magazines and journals, and got money from Catholics all over France. When his bishop found out about it, Sauniere was “suspended from priestly duties.”)
Corbu claimed that, somewhere on this estate, there was a hidden stash of documents about the supposed descendants (bloodline) of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Noel Corbu knew Pierre Plantard. They wrote letters to one another. (Their letters have been preserved.) And there are photographs of the two men together. This appears to be another attempt to make the Priory of Sion seem real. It may have also had financial motives. Corbu had a hotel and a restaurant on the property. Intriguing rumors can draw curious people, who then need a place to stay (the hotel) and a place to eat (the restaurant). People came from far away to search for hidden documents and other hidden treasures, but nobody ever found anything.
In 1993, Roger-Patrice Pelat was murdered. He was said to be the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. Because of Pelat’s supposed connection with the Priory of Sion, French authorities questioned Pierre Plantard about the murder. Plantard said that the Priory of Sion didn’t exist. He testified that he had “made it all up.” French authorities searched Plantard’s home and they found many “Priory Documents,” some of which said that Plantard was the “true King of France.”
Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln believed the stories about the Priory of Sion. They were deceived by Plantard’s forged documents. They wrote the book “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.” It influenced other authors, and more books were written about the Priory of Sion. The most popular one is “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. It claims that Leonardo Da Vinci was a Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, and some of his paintings have symbols relating to Jesus’ alleged relationship with Mary Magdalene.
The cover of “The Da Vinci Code” says (in small print) that it is a novel. However, the book itself claims that its assertions are “facts” that are accepted by historians and scholars. When Dan Brown was interviewed by ABC television, he said that the information in the book is accurate. In an interview with Borders, Dan Brown said that all of the history portrayed in “The Da Vinci Code” is accurate. Countless Internet sites have quotes from the book and treat the historical and religious statements as being accurate. [Note 12]
Most reviewers say that the book is a well-written, fast-paced action story. Some reviewers say that the characters are two-dimensional. That may be related to the fast action of the story. Character development takes time. It slows things down and gets readers thinking, as opposed to emotionally reacting to suspense and intrigue.
One of the characters is an “expert” (a professor). He tries to explain away the most foundational Christian beliefs and undermine the reader’s confidence in the Bible. He claims that Christianity originally was gnosticism and goddess worship, and that it was totally unlike everything we were taught in church and Sunday school.
(Gnosticism is so confusing that I won’t try to explain it. It involves secret knowledge, hidden mysteries, initiations, and bizarre teachings. If you want to understand it, then read “Pagans in the Pews” by Peter Jones. It was published by Regal Books in 2001.)
To a mature adult, the claims of a non-existant man in a fiction book may not seem significant. But I had an experience that makes me take it very seriously.
One day I was eating at a restaurant in the middle of the afternoon, when there were few customers and the waiter had time to talk with me. He was a nice young man, a college student who was raised in a Christian home. He said some strange things. I responded with Christian truth. Then he replied, “But the Alchemist said...”
My waiter had read a novel with a character called “the Alchemist” who was portrayed as being a wise man. He encountered people with problems, and spoke words of “wisdom” that helped them.
I told the waiter that the Alchemist’s statements were New Age teachings. Even though the waiter had been raised in a Christian home, and went to church in his youth, that had no impact on him. When he said something reflecting New Age teaching, and I countered with a Christian perspective, he would reply, “But the Alchemist said...”
I finally told him that “alchemist” is an old-fashioned word for a sorceror. Even that had no impact on him.
The “wise” sayings of a make-believe character in a novel had more impact on this young man’s thinking than all his previous years of Biblical instruction in a Christian home and a Christian church. As a result of my experience with that waiter, I take “The Da Vinci Code” very seriously.
A mature Christian, who is well grounded in his or her faith, is likely to underestimate the impact that this kind of book can have on impressionable young people. Especially since we live in a televised society where young people usually don’t read much.
If you believe what Dan Brown tells you in “The Da Vinci Code,” then you will abandon your belief in the God of the Bible, and replace it with goddess worship. You will deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. You will deny that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. You won’t believe that Jesus died to save you from your sins. And you will think that your new beliefs are superior to true Christianity.
Making the book into a movie puts our young people in double jeopardy. Movies can have a strong emotional impact. If people get caught up in the action and suspense of the movie, then they can swallow some of the religious deception without realizing it, because they are distracted by the action of the movie. Young people are especially vulnerable to this. They have not yet learned the discernment of strong, mature Christians.
Please pray for our young people.
1. “Thriller Instinct,” in “The Boston Globe,” May 8, 2004
In November 2003, ABC did a special about the book.
2. Information about the upcoming movie
3. Chuck Colson, “The Da Vinci Conspiracy: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction,” in the “Christian Examiner,” April 2004. (I realize that many Christians disagree with Chuck Colson about various issues. However, his practical approach of talking with people who read the book is helpful. And what he learned from those people is valuable information. It demonstrates the real-life impact of the book.)
4. Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre. My information about the people who left when Jim Jones told them to listen to him rather than the Bible comes from things I read and heard about the event at the time that it happened.
5. An article about “The Da Vinci Code” that has information about the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), the Early Church’s belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the formation of the canon of the New Testament.
Other articles about “The Da Vinci Code” that have good information about the formation of the canon of the New Testament.
A webpage with links to a number of articles about the authority of Scripture.
6. The first quotation is from Saying 105 of “The Gospel of Thomas.” The second quotation is from Saying 114 of “The Gospel of Thomas.” Both are quoted in Peter Jones, “Pagans in the Pews: How the New Spirituality Is Invading Your Home, Church and Community” (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 2001), pages 182-183.
7. Dr. Alfred Kinsey has been charged with doing fraudulent research. In addition, his study on child sexuality involved pedophiles who molested hundreds of children.
The impact of Dr. Kinsey and his followers on American morality, society, and legislation
The link for this article is so long that I had to divide it into two sections.
A website with information about the sexual revolution and its effect on our society. It has articles, white papers, and information about books.
British television produced a TV documentary called “Secret History: Kinsey’s Paedophiles.” It included an interview with a woman who (when she was a child) was sexually abused as part of Kinsey’s research.
A British medical journal (“The Lancet”) published an article saying that Kinsey’s research was based on the sexual abuse of children
Some of Kinsey’s data about child sexuality came from a Nazi officer in Poland during World War II. Polish children were threatened with the gas chamber if they refused to have sex with him. German authorities found correspondence between Kinsey and the Nazi officer.
8. Reviews of Bishop Spong’s book, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”
Positive reviews of the book by people who agree with Spong
Spong’s 12 theses
Bishop Spong, “In Search of God: Is Atheism the Only Alternative to Theism?”
Bishop Spong, “Can One Be a Christian Without Being a Theist?”
An interview with Bishop Spong
A television interview with Bishop Spong. The first link gives general information. The second is a full transcript of the interview.
9. Chuck Colson, “The Da Vinci Conspiracy: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction,” in “Christian Examiner on the Web,” April 2004. (I realize that many Christians disagree with Chuck Colson about various issues. However, his practical approach of talking with people who read the book is helpful. And what he learned from those people is valuable information. It demonstrates the real-life impact of the book.)
10. Richard Abanes, “The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code” (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), pages 48-57. The author is a nationally recognized authority on cults and religions. I recommend getting this book. It has good information, especially about the Priory of Sion hoax. And it is inexpensive (only $7).
James L. Garlow and Peter Jones, “Cracking Da Vinci’s Code” (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Victor; Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), pages 112-113. Both authors have Ph.Ds in theology. Garlow studied historical theology. Jones studied gnosticism and its influence on modern Christianity.
Articles about “The Da Vinci Code”
A study of the book, in three parts. (There is a picture near the top of each part of the article. Go below the picture to continue reading.)
Three articles from “Christianity Today”
11. A collection of articles from different countries, all saying that the Priory of Sion was a hoax
An article from the “New York Times.” Information about the Priory of Sion hoax is given in the last two paragraphs.
In 1993, Pierre Plantard admitted, under oath, that the Priory of Sion was a hoax.
An article about Pierre Plantard
Pierre Plantard’s criminal convictions
Plantard’s claim to be a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene (a Merovingian)
An article from a Swiss newspaper (translated into English)
An article about the Priory of Sion
12. Richard Abanes, “The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code,” page 78.
Dan Brown’s inverview with Borders. He says that all of the history and ancient documents in “The Da Vinci Code” are accurate.