Why Discuss a Work of Fiction?

The upcoming launch of The Da Vinci Code movie based on Dan Brown’s best-selling book has gotten the Christian community buzzing. Web sites are popping up everywhere. New books are being written. Sermons are being prepared. Everywhere, Christians are getting ready to do intellectual battle against the claims made in the film about the origins of their faith.

All of this attention has caused some to ask if we’ve overreacted. One person put it this way:

What part of “Fiction” do you not understand? Fiction means not true. Has Dan Brown actually made a public statement that he believes the doctrines described in The Da Vinci Code to be true. He hasn’t. Why are you giving him so much free press? … It is amazing that Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code is getting such a reaction, even from scholars like you.

Fiction is imaginary and that is what is supposed to be the book as well as the movie based on the book. True to its complete sense, fiction can always take charge of moving away from a person to the different level of thoughts. Similarly, the trading software reviews give us the feeling of reality in the trading scene and this area of business.

This is a legitimate question, although the writer is wrong in stating Dan Brow hasn’t given public statements that he believes these theories. He actually has. That being said, The Da Vinci Code is listed as a work of fiction – something that’s not true. Given that it’s a fictional account, why is everyone spending so much time and effort debunking its assertions?

Well, the short answer is being fictional doesn’t matter. It will still have influence on the way people think about issues. We have numerous examples of this, from the sales jump of Resees Pieces after E.T. came out to the effects of works such as The Green Mile and Cider House Rules on the death penalty and abortion. Because of this, advertisers pay large sums of money to have their products featured in a new release and used by the protagonists.

How Our Entertainment Colors Us

Conrad Ostwalt, Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, wrote a great article on how popular movies are a powerful influence on the students in his class. In the Dec 1998 issue of the Journal of Religion and Film, Ostwalt stated three reasons he used recent movies to elicit teaching opportunities in his class. He writes:

First, film is a powerful tool because it motivates students to participate in class. While students in my classes still read texts, they also watch films communally outside class. This shared act begins to break down barriers and build trust between class members before we ever attempt a discussion of the film. As a result, students are more willing to risk themselves before their peers. This increased participation in class spills over to other areas as well, including greater participation in discussions of lectures and assigned readings.
Second, film as a tool empowers students. For whatever reasons, students respond to films enthusiastically. They are stimulated by the auditory and visual experience of movie watching in ways that reading fails to achieve. Often, watching a film will actually inspire students to read criticism, novels, or texts that are related to the film. For all these reasons and more, students are comfortable with the film medium, they are not intimidated by it, and when students interact with material in this manner, they are empowered, confident, and bold. With film as part of their curriculum, students seem more willing to take imaginative risks and to think critically.
Third, popular films can be effective tools for learning because using popular films in a class results in students claiming ownership in course content. Students recognize the films, and they identify them as part of student culture. As a result, the course content has immediate relevance to students, and they feel they have a stake in its examination. This makes students partners in the course, and they feel a greater responsibility for the success of the class and their own learning. When students claim such responsibility and ownership, class interaction is exciting and dynamic, and students become self-directed learners, taking their critical skills beyond the classroom. 1

The Bigger the Issue, the More Important the Belief

Another point about why we should talk about The Da Vinci Code is simply because the topics it talks about are some of the most important in history. The simple rule is one I learned from J.P. Moreland – the more important the issue, the more important it is to have a correct belief about that issue. Your belief in whether a sports team is going to win the series isn’t nearly as important as a neurosurgeon’s belief about how to operate on the brain.

The beliefs focused on in The Da Vinci Code, are among the most important. The belief of who Jesus was and what he did in history is the basis of a worldview for a third of the people on this planet. It’s your worldview that forms the core of your moral framework, your compassion and how you understand the events you experience. Calling the basis of this into question has huge implications for all of society. Furthermore, if Christianity’s beliefs about Jesus are true, then these beliefs have eternal consequences as well.

The Big Deal

The big deal with a movie like The Da Vinci Code is that it puts crucial claims of Christianity in its crosshairs and tries to soot them down. Nowhere in the book or movie is there offered a competing analysis of the facts. Moreover, as our society moves to a postmodern culture, people tend to value the emotional experience more than truth claims. If they feel sympathetic to someone like Michael Caine’s character in Cider House Rules, it really doesn’t matter that his actions are against the law.

So, we should prepare ourselves. We need to inform ourselves of the facts, so that we may discuss them intelligently when the question arises. We should know how to answer critics and those who may be swayed by the movie’s storytelling power. Even before the movie was released, the Canadian newspaper, The National Post recently reported that 17% of Canadians and 13% of Americans believed the premises of the book.2 It shows all the more reason why Christians must be able to “make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence”.

The Da Vinci Code Trivia Quiz

Think you’re a historian on par with Teabing? Test your knowledge on the art and historical references in The Da Vinci Code to see how well you fare.

Leonardo da Vinci’s real name was:

Leonardo Bonhomme
Just simply Leonardo
Leonardo da Vincenzo

Leonardo’s famous drawing of Vitruvian Man was meant to be:

A study on the proportions of human anatomy
The husband of Mona Lisa
Symbolic of the pentagram; the five points of life

In The Da Vinci Code, the book’s historian, Leigh Teabing, states that the Hebrew male deity Jehovah had a female counterpart Shekinah. What is the modern English translation of the word Shekinah?

“The one who dwells”
a feminine form of the Hebrew noun for god
“I am who I am”

Sophie’s character picks up one of Leonardo’s paintings “the Virgin of the Rocks” described as a five foot tall painting commissioned by the nuns of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. As she pulls the canvas away from the wall it flexes dangerously. Why is this impossible?

The painting is not five feet tall
The painting is not at the Louvre, but in London
The Louvre’s security would make touching the painting impossible

Mary Magdalene, of whom much of the mystery of The Da Vinci Code lies, was actually:

A former prostitute who became a follower of Jesus
A former demoniac who became a follower of Jesus
Both a prostitute and demoniac who followed Jesus

The Council of Nicaea was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine in which year?

322 A.D.
325 A.D.
352 A.D.

The earliest Christian documents that we have copies of are:

The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Nag Hammadi Library
The books of the New Testament

Legends of the Holy Grail stretch back as far as:

In 1096 when the Knights Templar first formed
Various Christian sects during the first three centuries after Christ
In French fiction written in the late twelfth century.

The Holy Grail, as revealed in the book is:

A collection of secret documents related to Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene

Remains of Mary Magdalene

A secret society formed to strengthen the beliefs of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene

 

The Priory of Sion is considered as:

An organization formed to protect the descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene

A secret society formed in support of the Holy Grail

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In the movie, the character Silas is an albino assassin working for the Catholic organization Opus Dei. An albino would be a poor choice for an assassin because:

Being an albino would make him too noticeable in crowds
Albinos don’t really exist
Albinism causes poor eyesight

The character Robert Langdon is described as a symbologist from Harvard. Brown based this character on:

Interviews with symbologists
His own study of symbology at Harvard
Nothing – it is completely fictional

The Priory Hoax

The Priory of Sion, according to The Da Vinci Code, is one of the oldest secret societies still in existence. It is the Priory that has been charged with guarding the secret of the true Holy Grail, starting in 1099 when the Knights Templar discovered long-lost documents beneath the ruins of Solomon’s Temple. Leonardo da Vinci was Grand Master of this society, says Robert Langdon, from 1510 to 1519. The only problem is this: It is all a hoax.The book credits all the happenings described to be based on the true events, so does the author in public appearances. However, the actual truth behind the authenticity of the Priory is out of the basket, as clear as the daylight. The spearhead behind the hoax, Pierre Plantard, has already been reported to have agreed about the hoax. Still, some expect that there will be truth in this hoax, just like the reviews of Bitcoin Loophole trading software claiming it to be a hoax turned out to be false.

Brown relies on a 1982 publication, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, for his information on the Priory of Sion. The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail relied on documents provided them by Pierre Plantard, an anti-Semitic Frenchman who spent time in jail for fraud in 1953. Plantard and three other men started a small social club in 1954 called the Priory of Sion, taking the name from a nearby mountain. Their club’s “cause” was the call for more low-cost housing in France. The club dissolved in 1957, but Plantard held on to the name.

Throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, Plantard created a series of documents “providing” the existence of a bloodline descending from Mary Magdelence, through the kings of France, down to the present day to include (surprise!) Pierre Plantard. He began using the name Plantard de Saint-Clair, saying the Saint-Clairs were direct descendants of the line of Jesus and Mary.

In 1993, Plantard’s name came up in light of a political scandal involving a close friend of then French president Francois Mitterand. Plantard had, in one of his documented lists of the Priory of Sion, listed Roger-Patrice Pelat as a Grand Master. When called before the court to testify, Plantard, under oath, admitted he had made up the whole Priory scheme. The court ordered a search of Plantard’s house, which revealed further documents that proclaimed Plantard to be the true king of France. The judge gave Plantard a stern warning and dismissed him as a harmless crank.

If that judge had known the far-reaching impact of Plantard’s fraud, he might have taken stronger action to censure the materials that Plantard had generated. While there are numerous books and articles revealing Plantard’s hoax for what it is, they do not prove as exciting as a conspiracy thriller. Thus, millions of readers are being reintroduced to Plantard’s fantasies through the writings of Dan Brown in the fictional The Da Vinci Code.

The Council Of Nicaea

The Council of Nicaea figures prominently in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Brown’s character, Teabing, brings up the subject of the Nicaean Council while teaching Sophie about Jesus:

“Jesus’ establishment as the ‘Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”

“Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?” “A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing added (233).
Councils held to determine important doctrinal matters were not uncommon to the early Christians. We read in Acts 15 how the church leaders came together to decide how Gentiles were to be treated. Councils were important in order to maintain an orthodox faith and prevent the spread of false teaching.

Council of Nicaea Refuted False Teachings
One such false teaching was being spread by Arius in A.D. 318. Arius taught that Jesus was a created being, just like other humans, and not the “begotten Son of God.” He was opposed by Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, who declared Arius a heretic in a local council in A.D. 321. So Arius moved to Palestine and continued his teaching there. If he had kept his ideas to his own followers, there would not have been cause to call a council. But Arius began sending letters to area churches promoting the idea of Jesus as a created being. The debate grew over the next few years, finally gaining the attention of the emperor, Constantine.

Constantine, who had consolidated his hold on the Roman Empire, sought unity in all regions. If Jesus is considered as a real human, he felt that followers of Christianity would have different thoughts on his principles. With such a disparity even in the teachings of Jesus, it was difficult to unite all regions and Constantine was aware of this risk. His efforts did go here well as expected, even though with obstacles. He knew that a division within the Christian church would be one more destabilizing force in the empire, so he moved to restore peace. Constantine called together more than 300 bishops from around the empire, primarily from the east. (This would have favored Arius’s cause, as that is where his influence was the greatest.) Bishops traveled thousands of miles to attend the conference held in Constantinople. Many came bearing wounds and scars from the torture they had endured for their faith.

The Arians submitted their statement of doctrine that flatly denied the divinity of Christ. It was soundly rejected. The bishops, led by Athanasius, considered what was taught by the original church in the writings of the New Testament. These men wrote up an alternative creed, which became the Nicene Creed. In it Jesus was affirmed to be divine, the historic position of the church for the previous three hundred years.

There are many confirmations of this fact. Here is what several of these leaders wrote, all long before the council of Nicaea. (years approximate):
Ignatius: “God Himself was manifested in human form” (A.D. 105).
Clement: “It is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God” (A.D. 150).
Justin Martyr: “The Father of the universe has a Son. And He…is even God” (A.D. 160).
Irenaeus: “He is God, for the name Emmanuel indicates this” (A.D. 180).
Tertullian: “…Christ our God” (A.D. 200).
Origen: “No one should be offended that the Savior is also God…” (A.D. 225).
Novation: “…He is not only man, but God also…” (A.D. 235).
Cyprian: “Jesus Christ, our Lord and God” (A.D. 250).
Methodius: “…He truly was and is…with God, and being God…” (A.D.290).
Lactantius: “We believe Him to be God” (A.D. 304).
Arnobius: “Christ performed all those miracles…the…duty of Divinity” (A.D. 305).
This shows the leaders of the church have always considered Jesus divine.

The Council of Nicaea – Not a close vote
The newly written Niceaean creed was adopted by a landslide vote. Only two voted against. That can hardly be called close. The church had suffered for three centuries under the tyranny of the Roman Empire. The Council of Nicaea came only fourteen years after the final persecution of Christians at the hand of the Emperor Galerius. The bishops of the church would never have compromised what had cast their fellow Christians so much. They would have rather suffered another three centuries of oppression and persecution than deny their Lord.

Is the Bible true?

Is the Bible true? The Da Vinci Code‘s “historian” Teabing declares emphatically that it is not. In the book he states, “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history. . . . Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned” (p. 234, emphasis his). Remember what we have already noted—that Constantine had nothing to do with a “new Bible.”

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Teabing’s assertions grow even more damaging to orthodox Christianity: “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book” (p. 231, emphasis his). Later he adds with a chuckle that scholars cannot confirm the authenticity of the Bible (p. 256). What are the facts behind his assertions?

Note what the Bible claims about itself. Jesus said, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn 10.35). The author of Hebrews adds, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12). And Paul concludes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

But we might expect the Bible to claim to be the trustworthy word of God. Is there objective historical evidence for or against this assertion?

Is the Bible True – There’s good evidence

Consider first the manuscript evidence (known as the “bibliographic” test by scholars). No original manuscripts exist for any ancient book. Writing materials were too fragile to stand the passage of centuries. This is the case for Aristotle, Plato, Julius Caesar, the writings of Buddha and the Koran just as much as it is for the Old and New Testaments.

However, we possess today some 5,000 ancient Greek copies of the New Testament, and 10,000 copies in other ancient languages. Latin and Coptic copies go back to the second century; fragments of papyrus documents go back to AD 130. Quotations in the writings of early church fathers date to A.D. 100. Complete versions of the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters and Hebrews date to the early part of the third century; Revelation to the latter half. Complete volumes of the New Testament date to the 4th century. Note that each predates Constantine.

Now compare these manuscripts with other ancient documents. Of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, we have today only nine or ten good manuscripts, none copied earlier than 900 years after Caesar. For the Histories of Tacitus, we have only 4 of his 14 original books, none copied earlier than the 10th century A.D. For Aristotle’s works, we possess only five manuscripts of any one volume, none copied earlier than A.D. 1100 (14 centuries after the original).

Manuscript evidence for the New Testament is remarkable, far surpassing that which exists for any other ancient book. And those who work with these ancient copies (called “textual critics”) are convinced that they have been able to recover a Greek New Testament which is virtually identical to the original. Quoting F.F. Bruce again, “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice.”1

This evidence does not prove that the Bible is the word of God. But it does demonstrate conclusively that the Bible you have is the same which was first written by its authors. When Teabing asserts, “History has never had a definitive version of the book” and claims that scholars cannot confirm the authenticity of the Bible, he’s simply wrong.

Is the Bible True – There’s good archaeology

Let’s look next at the evidence of archaeology. Such findings continue to confirm the geographical and historical veracity of the biblical texts. For instance, the pool of Bethesda (Jn 5:2ff) was once dismissed as historical fiction. Now archaeologists locate it in the northeast quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. I’ve seen it.

Researchers have identified the remains of Caiaphas, the high priest of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. They have discovered the skeleton of Yohanan, a crucifixion victim from AD 70, and note that these remains confirm the details of Jesus’ crucifixion as it is described in the gospels. Archaeological evidence strongly supports the trustworthiness of the biblical narratives.

Is the Bible True – Consider prophecy

Last, consider the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. At least 48 major Messianic prophecies can be identified in the Old Testament. Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled each one. Endeavoring to determine the odds of such a phenomenon, mathematician Peter Stoner isolated eight of these 48 prophecies. He then calculated the odds that any one person might have fulfilled them all.

Stoner determined those odds to be one in 10 to the 17th power (one followed by 17 zeroes). Visualize the number this way: take this number in silver dollars and lay them across the state of Texas. They will cover the entire state, two feet deep. Now mark one of those silver dollars. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he likes, but he must pick up one silver dollar. What are the chances he will pick the one you marked? the same The same odds that the prophets would have had of writing those eight prophecies and having them all fulfilled in one person.2

Is the Bible true? Billions of people across 20 centuries can attest to the fact that the teachings of the Bible have been proven true and authoritative in their personal lives. But even such overwhelming subjective evidence to the side, there is still outstanding evidential reason to believe that the Bible is the trustworthy word of God.

Emperor Constantine

The Da Vinci Code Claims that Emperor Constantine created the New Testament canon – the list of books to be counted as Christian Scripture alongside the Old Testament – and rejected thousands of alternative texts by the Gnostics. Brown writes: ‘The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great’ (p. 313).

Emperor Constantine was born after Lists of New Testament books existed
The claim that Constantine created the canon is not true. Emperor Constantine did ask bishop Eusebius of Caesarea to have fifty copies of the New Testament reproduced for the new imperial capital at Constantinople. But the work of collating the New Testament books had been done over the preceding centuries. The evidence for this is abundant. The most famous documentary example is a piece of writing known as the Muratorian fragment. This fragment dates from the end of the second century and is named after the Italian scholar who first published it in 1740. It is a list of books recognized by the church: four Gospels (though the first two are missing due to damage to the fragment), the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen epistles of Paul; three epistles of John; Jude; the Apocalypses of John and Peter. Significantly, the Muratorian canon rejects Gnostic works by Valentinus and others. This is important for showing that Brown is wrong, because it proves that as early as the end of the second century the church was already denying the truth of Gnosticism, and the canon of Scripture was being formed.

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Emperor Constantine – Did he remove books from the Bible?
The Da Vinci Code Claims that the four Gospels were selected by Constantine from eighty others. Brown writes: ‘Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned’ (p. 317). Or again: ‘More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion’ (p. 313).

This is wrong. Many early Christian texts written well before Constantine’s time say that there are and can be only four authoritative Gospels. Irenaeus, who died in around AD200, over a century before Constantine’s reign, writes this in his great work Against the Heresies:

It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the church is scattered throughout all the world […] it is fitting that she should have four pillars […]. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, […] who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. (III. xi. 8; Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:428)

This may seem like a strange argument to us – four winds so four Gospels – but the point is clear. There is no evidence that there were ever anywhere near eighty Gospels, and the selection was made many years before Emperor Constantine was even born.

Da Vinci Code or Divine Christ: Who Do You Trust?

Luke 3:21-22 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

In the late 1950s there was a popular game show called, “Who Do You Trust?” With apologies for the grammatical error, there may not be a more important question to ask. It is a question that needs to be asked when discussions of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code take place. More on that in a minute.

When Jesus Christ began his public ministry, he was declared by his heavenly Father to be his “beloved Son.” This announcement did not escape the notice of the powers of darkness. Almost immediately, after the Father announced his good pleasure in his Son, Jesus “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2).
How did the devil begin his temptation? He wanted Jesus to give him proof that He was the Son of God. He tempted him with three different offers. Two of the three are a demand for proof.

Luke 4:3 “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread;”

Luke 4:9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…”(The other temptation is a request by the devil that Jesus fall down and worship him.

Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code is not the first one to challenge the divinity of Christ. The devil himself receives that honor. Neither will Brown’s challenge of Christ’s divinity be the last one; others are bound to come. So how should we think about this challenge?

One way to think about it is to ask: “How did Jesus respond to the devil’s requests?” Surely if Jesus is God he could have easily turned stones into bread. He could have thrown himself down from the pinnacle of the temple without harm. But he didn’t.

Instead, Jesus turned the devil’s attention, not to himself, but to God, and to what he had said. In response to the challenge to turn stones into bread, Jesus said, “It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone`” ( Luke 4:4). Why did Jesus respond this way? The devil wasn’t asking about how we are to live, or about whether one can live by bread alone. The devil was wanting Jesus to do something that no mere mortal could do. Did Jesus just dodge the challenge he was given? No, he didn’t.

Jesus responds this way because he knows that the devil’s challenge will not be answered if Jesus performs some powerful act; the devil’s problem is not that he has failed to see God act in miraculous ways. The devil’s problem is that he will not believe what God has said.
As a matter of fact, there was a similar temptation given many years before this one. It was a temptation given, not in the midst of a wilderness, but in a plush and plenteous garden.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, `You shall not eat of any tree in the garden`?” (

The devil comes to Eve, not to tell her to disobey, at least not at first. He comes to Eve so that he might get her to question the word of God. And he tempts her by asking a question, a question that is close to the truth, but which is, as a matter of fact, a denial of it. God had not said that Adam and Eve could not eat from any tree; He had said that there was one particular tree from which they were not to eat. The devil knew that. His question was not out of curiosity. His question was designed to get Eve, and Adam after her, to disobey. And he succeeded.

Jesus knows that the devil’s design is to get him to stop trusting what God has said. So, instead of arguing with the devil about his own powers, Jesus replies to the devil in such a way that shows that he is trusting what God has said. Even though he has been in the wilderness for 40 days, and even though he is hungry, he knows, because God has said, that his life is not defined by what he eats alone. It is defined by the “spiritual” food of God’s word. God had already said, “This is My beloved Son.” No more proof was needed.

Dan Brown would like for us to believe that Jesus is not divine, that he is not the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. He wants us to see Jesus as “a mortal prophet,” and “a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 233).

Despite the fact that Brown’s facts are wrong (for example, Jesus was not declared divine by way of a vote as Brown says on p. 233), the question we must ask ourselves is, “Whom do you trust?” Do you trust Dan Brown to guide you into all truth, or at least to destroy what has been foundational to Western civilization? Or do you trust “ every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)? This does not mean that there are no evidences or supportive documents on both sides of the discussion, there are. These can be easily perused by any interested party. But evidences and documents are always discussed in the context of that fundamental question, “Whom do you trust?” Answering that question goes a long way toward determining how you will look at evidences and supporting documents.

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Do you want to put your faith in Dan Brown? Or would you rather put your faith in one in whom millions, for over two thousand years, have trusted, not only for their “spiritual food” in this life, but in the life to come as well.
If Dan Brown is right, then there is no hope for anyone. If Dan Brown is right, it is not simply a Western religion that dies, all of humanity – past, present and future – dies; and death is the bitter end.

In the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia entitled, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr. Tumnus, the faun, is explaining to Lucy what Narnia is like as it lies under the spell of the White Witch. So, says Lucy,

“The White Witch? Who is she?”

Tumnus responds,

“Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”

The Chronicles of Narnia were written for children, and their message is accommodated to them. What a perfect way to express to a child what hopelessness might be – always winter – cold, lifeless, a situation where no water flows for drinking, no plants for eating. Always winter, and never Christmas. To a child this would mean that, in the midst of the cold, there was no holiday, no rest, nothing to which to look forward, no surprises, no anticipation.

It does mean that, of course, but it means much more. It means that there is no hope. It means that no baby was born in a manger in Bethlehem. It means that there were no tidings of great joy brought by angels. It means that the angels never sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14)! It means that the message of the entirety of history, since Adam gave in to the devil’s temptation, the message that God would save a people for himself, that message is not true. It means that no people are saved, that God has not come down to us, and that sin and evil will have their way. It means the White Witch wins. It means it is now, as it was in the beginning, and ever shall be, winter, and nothing but winter.

If you choose to believe Dan Brown, you have chosen not to believe every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. That is a choice with consequences that are terrible now, and will be even worse in eternity.
If, however, you choose to believe what the Father has said – that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – then there are tidings of great joy for you. If you believe what God has said about His Son, then Christmas is a reality for you, not just on December 25th, but every day of this life, and into the next.
Revelation 11:15 “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Conspiracy Theories: Conspiracy theories paradoxically confirm both our powerlessness and our importance.

Most people like a good mystery, whether it’s a book or a movie. Indeed, if you pass your local cinema or browse the shelves at your local bookstore, you will see just how popular, how marketable mystery stories are. Yet in amongst the various whodunnits and crime novels dealing with run-of-the-mill murders and crimes, you will also find a good number of books in the fiction and non-fiction sections which deal with crimes and mysteries on a bigger scale, ones which describe vast and elaborate conspiracies. Television too provides plenty of evidence for that the public enjoy a good conspiracy. In the nineties, The X-Files were all the rage; now it is a series like 24. The details vary but the basic formula remains the same: reality is not quite what it appears to be; and there are knowing forces out there who really run things behind the scenes.

Many real-life conspiracy theories surround the deaths of famous people. For example, there are a large number of books written about the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Officially, he was shot by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald; but Oswald was himself shot and killed before he faced trial, and this has led many to claim that he was not acting alone but was merely the fall guy for any number of secret organizations, from the Mafia to the KGB to Cuban dissidents. The same kind of literature also surrounds the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Officially, she was killed in a car crash as she was driven at high speed through an underground tunnel by a chauffeur who had drunk too much; but many claim that she was assassinated by agents of British intelligence acting for the Royal family. Similar conspiracy theories surround the death of many other famous people, from James Dean to Marilyn Monroe to Pope John Paul I. Just watch Godfather III to see a movie version of the death of that pope, with Mafia, Freemasons, and even members of the Catholic clergy being implicated. It seems that we just find it hard to believe that special people – whether leaders or celebrities – can die in mundane or banal ways.

In each of these examples, the official version makes perfect sense of the evidence surrounding each of the deaths; and yet the public seem to have an insatiable appetite for alternative theories as to why these tragedies happened. These theories are always more far-fetched than the official version, and so the question that comes to mind is `Why do people believe such crazy theories when the official version seems to be quite credible?’

There is probably no single answer to this, but here are some thoughts. First, let’s be honest: many of us enjoy a good mystery. There is a certain excitement and thrill to reading or watching a good detective story or suspense thriller; and conspiracy theories are often part and parcel of these things. There is, therefore, the thrill-and-entertainment factor which makes them attractive.

Following on from this, a second is that life, for many of us, is rather routine and humdrum. We have steady jobs, nice houses, plenty of food and good things; and, while this is good, it also makes our day to day lives somewhat boring. At some point, most of us have asked the questions: Isn’t there more to life than this? Is this all there is? And, again, mysteries and conspiracy theories help to fill that gap, offering us at a harmless level entertaining diversions or, perhaps on occasion more seriously views of life and reality that appeal precisely because they seem to make the world a more interesting place.

Third, and perhaps most significant of all, two things have happened in Western society in the last fifty or so years which have made our culture particularly susceptible to the appeal of conspiracy theories. On the one hand, we all increasingly feel powerless in the face of all that is happening around us. Politicians are elected by us; but it seems to make little difference who is in power. Multinational companies, the oil industry, the international banking system, to name but three of the most influential sectors in the modern world: all of these things have served to transform the world in which we live; and we are more and more acutely aware of how little influence even our governments, let alone we as individuals, have over the events which happen on a world-scale and yet which profoundly affect our own little lives. We are left feeling powerless in the face of such forces.

On the other hand, those in power have been exposed again and again as using their power for their own ends. Politicians exposed for fraud; company executives plundering pension funds; unions infiltrated by corruption and special interests. Time and time again, the old saying that power corrupts has been shown to be true; and this has made many of us utterly cynical about those in positions of authority. From Watergate to Enron, public trust in leading citizens has been betrayed again and again; and it makes us suspicious of the motives and behaviour of anyone who has a position of power or influence.

Put these two things together – our feelings of powerlessness, and our suspicion of those with power – and you have a culture which is very receptive to the ideas put forward in many conspiracy theories. Such theories allow us to make some sort of sense of absurdities. We think Diana was too beautiful and special to die an ordinary death in an accident caused by alcohol and stupidity; given this, elaborate theories of an assassination by MI5 on the order of the Duke of Edinburgh seems not so much far-fetched as an opportunity to make even her death special. As we all struggle with rising oil prices, it is somehow easier to believe it is all part of some conscious conspiracy by a secret group of wicked individuals than to acknowledge that it is the result of impersonal, irresistible economic forces which we can neither control nor resist. And, if we are being really honest, there is a perverse way in which we feel more important when we think that somebody is taking the time and effort to deceive us in such elaborate ways. Conspiracy theories paradoxically confirm both our powerlessness and our importance.

This leads, of course, to the final question, one which relates especially to the sort of conspiracy theory put forward in The Da Vinci Code: why has the Church been a particular target for such theories over the years?One could find more truth about it when you search for more facts.  While you are going through the blog, you could also take a look at cryptocurrency online trading with the help of bitcoin code. You could continue reading about all the benefits of bitcoin code in these websites. Now talking about the reasons the church has been targeted. There are, I think, a number of reasons. First, the Church’s beliefs and her actions have frequently been at odds with each other; only a liar or an idiot would claim that the Church has not been responsible for some terrible crimes. In this, the Church is typical of those who have been shown to use power for corrupt ends. Second, while the Church has, at times, wielded awesome power, she has also frequently appeared to be very secretive about her activities. In particular, both the Catholic Church’s arcane religious orders and its record until recent days of suppressing dissent and censoring reading material . This aura of power and secrecy, wrapped up in the outward trappings of medievalism and suppressing individual thought and conscience, make her a soft target for conspiracy theorists.

Strange to tell, the church’s own holy book, the Bible, begins with what is quite possibly the original conspiracy theorist: the serpent. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent tells Eve that God told her not to eat of the fruit of the tree in order to stop her becoming like God (look the story up in Genesis 3). In other words, God, the all-powerful one, was accused of using his power to oppress an individual. This was the original conspiracy theory; and it has been the task of the church since not to elaborate this theory but to expose it for the lie that it is.

Christian Analysis of Da Vinci Code

Introduction

There is little doubt that the Da Vinci Code has hit a cultural nerve. It has been on the best seller list in the USA for two years. The same is true of many other countries around the world. Sales estimates run at forty-three million, while reader estimates reach as high as one hundred million. A major movie produced by Ron Howard with Tom Hanks in a lead role is on the world’s radar screen. The novel’s combination of mystery, history, conspiracy and the use of romantic locations and figures have made it a popular piece of fiction. Its plot has intrigued its readers and raised many questions about the history of early Christianity. Polls by George Barna show that 43 to 53 percent of its readers have felt spiritually benefited from reading the book. By any count, that means many people are being influenced by its claims, even though its genre is fiction.

What has made it so controversial is the author’s claim that the backdrop to the novel is rooted in historical fact. Dan Brown made such claims on American morning television in November 2003, a point documented in his book by a note on page. 1. His web site originally claimed that he was a believer in the theories the book. He said he came to these views after much detailed research (He has since backed off this claim to a degree, simply saying he wanted to get these ideas out in the public square). This left the impression that the book is a kind of “tweener” genre, a cross between fiction and non-fiction, that is, fiction with a solid non-fiction skeleton.

Now everyone knows that one should not get one’s history from a piece of fiction. But what is one to do when the author claims his skeleton is real, has been carefully researched and many millions of people apparently take him at his word because their knowledge of church history is limited? Many people end up with legitimate and sincere questions about claims the book makes. This is especially the case when most people’s knowledge of church history can be summarizes as follows: there was Jesus the apostles and the book of the New Testament in the first century. Then came Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. Then there was Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II. What about those first three hundred and fifty years of Christianity? Since the novel makes authoritative characters make many pronouncements about this history and people have no way to assess it, they naturally have sincere questions. So what is one to do?

The best thing to do is to examine those claims. Such claims include that (1) Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, that (2) the four gospels were chosen from among several (namely 80!) that existed in the fourth century because the four gospels presented a divine Jesus versus a human Jesus in the excluded works, and that (3) the divinity of Jesus became orthodoxy by a close vote at the council of Nicea in AD 325.

The key to the novel’s plot is that many in the church knew that Jesus was married and to protect his late emerging divinity they conspired not to let that become known, even to the point of murder. Now as fiction, this makes an intriguing story, but what about as a historical skeleton that lays claim to being almost quasi-non-fiction? There are three major problems in the book we shall look at before making an observation about the nature of our times that such a book can garner such numbers and such a response.

Three Major Problems Plus

Problem 1: Was Jesus Married? Basic to the story line is the claim that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and that many in the church knew (as did people like Leonardo Da Vinci later on in history). The evidence for this claim comes from two extra biblical gospels, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene 17:10–18:21 and The Gospel of Philip63:33-36. Both contain remarks that Jesus had a special relationship to Mary or that he loved her more than any of the twelve disciples. One text uses the term “companion” to describe her. In addition, there is an appeal in the Phillip text where Jesus is said to kiss Mary on the lips. So the inference is that if he kissed her in public he must have been her husband.

Now the facts are these. First, almost all scholars question whether these extra biblical gospels contain anything of value in terms of the historical Jesus. However, even if they did, the texts noted do not actually affirm that Jesus was married. In fact, the famous kiss on the lips text actually has a blank in the original manuscript right at the point where it describes where Mary was kissed. So it could be the lips or the cheek, which would simply refer to a kiss of fellowship. The term companion is debated as to its force. Most interpret the term as pointing to a spiritual relationship Jesus had with Mary because of the mystic character of the gospel in which it appears. So it does not allude to actual marriage at all, but to a fellowship that Jesus and Mary shared as believers.

More than this, we have volumes of texts about Jesus from the first five centuries. I have a series in my library of 38 volumes from this period. They are small print, single space, double columned texts of several hundred pages each. They include traditional orthodox texts and those that were rejected as heretical. In all of these materials not a single text describes Jesus as married and most assume he was not, as that was a basis for some arguing that priests should be single.

In 1 Corinthians 9, the argument appears that spouse of those married should be supported. Had Jesus been married Paul could have clinched his argument by noting this fact. All of this leads to the conclusion that Jesus was single.

Now some reply that 1 Corinthians 7 mentions believers being single and yet does not mention Jesus. However, here Paul only advises being single. Had he mentioned Jesus’ example that might have said more than Paul intended, by giving an impression this is what to do. So this is the likely reason Jesus being single was not mentioned.

John Crossan and I were both asked to write articles for beliefnet.com about whether Jesus was married when the novel came out. He is a liberal; I am a conservative. We both agreed that Jesus was single. I tell my classes that when a liberal and a conservative believe something is true about the historical Jesus, then it probably is true. In sum, there is no evidence Jesus was ever married. If this is so, then entire backdrop to the novel collapses.
But one final point needs to be made. The novel claims that that a married Jesus would need to be covered up by the church because it would expose the fact that Jesus was not divine. However, it is not a given that had Jesus been married, this would have resulted in a question about his divinity, because the church has always confessed the full humanity of Jesus and the status of marriage would fit in nicely with such a claim. Thus, even the premise of the theological problem the novel sees for a married Jesus is false.

Problem 2 The Emergence of the Gospels. The novel also claims that the four gospels were chosen late from about eighty gospels to be a part of the Bible because the four gospels had a divine Jesus as opposed to other gospels that had a human Jesus. Once again we are at a place where liberal and conservative scholars agree. The study of what is called the canon (or the recognition of the books that comprise the New Testament) is a complex area when it comes to the compilation of the entire New Testament. Athanasius in AD 367 is the first figure we have who lists the 27 books of the New Testament as we have them today. It may be that Dan Brown rested his view on this fact, although he never mentions it. However, what this late date does not take into account is that the books under discussion in the third and fourth centuries were some epistles and Revelation, books like 2 Peter, Jude, 2 and 3 John, not any of the four gospels.

Scholars of the canon agree that by the end of the second century the four-fold gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) was recognized as authoritative. This is a full 125 years before Constantine and the Nicean Council came on the scene to do the alleged defining work for orthodoxy according to the novel. The evidence for this includes (1) Irenaeus’s majestic description of the gospel needing to have four gospels as the world has four zones and four winds. This text appears in his Against Heresies 3.11.8, a famous and often cited text from the end of the second century. (2) The attempt of Tatian to combine the gospels into one running account in AD 170 in his Diatessaron largely failed. This effort to tell Jesus’ story in one running account on the surface made sense, but it failed because the four gospels were already too well established in the late second century church to be replaced, even by a seemingly more efficient way to present the gospels. (3) We also have a citation from Origen in the early third century from his First Homily to Luke on Luke 1:1 that gospels like Thomas are not read in the churches because they are not seen as having authority. (4) Justin Martyr’s description of the gospels in his First Apology 66:3 in the middle of the second century explains why the gospels were so highly valued. He calls them the “memoirs” of the apostles, a description that notes they are rooted in testimony that gores back to the apostles. It is the apostolic roots of the four gospels, the fact they go back to the apostles and those who followed, them that gives these gospels their historical roots and that led to the recognition of their unique status as sources about Jesus.

By the way, what about those claims of eighty gospels? That number is a gross exaggeration. We have about two dozen works called gospels from these early centuries. If we throw in works not called gospels that supposedly discuss events in Jesus’ life, then the number goes up about another dozen. That is far short of eighty. In addition, many of those works have a Jesus who is too divine. Jesus cannot be a human, because the spirit cannot mix with this flesh. This is seen in a works like Apocalypse of Peter 81:4–24 and Second Treatise of the Great Seth 56:6–19, two works of Gnostic Christians, the group of Christians Dan Brown appeals to for his claims. He does not mention such texts in detail, however. What they teach is that Jesus was in heaven laughing as the crucifixion took place because people mistakenly thought they were crucifying Jesus. This is a Jesus who is too divine and cannot be human, a view known as docetism. The works that were not recognized fail to attain an important status because their theology was so different on issues like the creation by God, the person of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and salvation. I document these differences in detail in a new book called The Missing Gospels.

Thus, the idea that the gospels emerged as a reflection of orthodoxy about the time of the fourth century around the time of Constantine and the Nicean Council is just bad history. In addition, the claim that eighty gospels were out there and that a human Jesus was present in such works is wrong. Nothing shows this more clearly than the Gospel of Thomas77. This saying from the most significant of the extra-biblical gospels has Jesus confess that he is the All. Jesus goes on to say that if you look under a stone Jesus is there and if you split a piece of wood he is there. This is an omnipresent Jesus, a reflection of high christology in a work that Brown claims teaches about a human Jesus. I do not cite this passage to say Thomas’ view of Jesus is an actual saying of Jesus but simply to note that in this earliest of extra-biblical works, the portrait of Jesus is also one that says he is more than human. This leads to the next problem.

Problem 3: Did A Belief in Jesus’ Divinity Receive its Decisive Sanction through a “close vote” at Nicea in AD 325? This claim by Brown is probably the worst of the three problems. What we know about Nicea is this. It gathered not to determine the divinity of Jesus but to discuss the Arian view of Jesus, who saw Jesus as Son of God, but appointed to that role versus the view that the council adopted that Jesus possessed Sonship from eternity. So the debate was the type of Son of God Jesus was, not whether Jesus was divine. Arius believed that Jesus was Son as the first created being with a special, unique relationship to God. What Nicea ended up affirming is that Jesus was eternally the Son and was not created.

Constantine did call this council together because he wanted peace and unity in the church. The council had from 216 to 316 bishops from around most of Christendom in attendance, but the vast majority were from the East. There was no close vote. What the bishops did was sign a creedal statement known as the Nicean Creed. Only two out of the entire group refused, so the “vote” was hardly close. Most politicians today would view a 214-2 to 314-2 vote as a landslide (a ninety-nine percent plus majority!). There were no “hanging chads” at this signing.

Now there was pressure to accept this confession at the council, as originally seventeen opposed it. When Constantine threatened exile, that number reduced to 2. However, even if we take seventeen as the number originally opposed, this is still a significant minority of less than ten percent of the total in attendance. Brown’s claim, then, is false here as well.

This claim of a late developing view of deity also ignores the fact that the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus is something fundamental to the earliest documents we have from Christianity. This appeal is a matter of historical record about our earliest available sources. One can look at the writing of Paul (1 Cor 8:5-6; Phil 2:9-11), the unknown author of Hebrews (Heb 1:3), the author of Revelation (Rev 1:1-7 and chapters 4-5), the gospel of John (John 1:1-18), or even Jesus’ own testimony at his Jewish examination (Mark 14:62-65 and parallels) to see that the claim was that Jesus was at the side of God in a position of status equal to His, receiving worship as He does. These works all date anywhere from the sixties to the nineties of the first century. One can add to this the testimony of Pliny the Younger, writing as a Roman Governor of Bythnia, far away from Jerusalem. He writes to the Roman Emperor Trajan in around AD 117 speaking of Christians singing hymns to Jesus as a god. So even non-Christian texts corroborate the views we see in the earliest Christian texts that Jesus was worshipped long before Nicea. The belief in Jesus as divine was a core belief of the earliest church. Paul’s testimony and conversion tells us that this was believed in the thirties of the first century as letter to the Galatians indicates. Jesus’ divinity was not the result of a close decision in the fourth century. Its roots go back to Jesus himself, which is what explains why the church, originally made up of Jews, held to this new view on the doctrine of God.

Other Problems. There are a host of other problems with the “historical backdrop” of the novel.

(1) The idea that Mary was an apostle to the apostles misquotes Hippolytus’ commentary on Song of Songs. He was a church father of the later second century. When he made this remark he was not describing an office that Mary held. Rather Hippolytus used the phrase to describe all the women who saw the resurrected Jesus and reported his resurrection and not just Mary. In this sense, all these women were apostles in a generic sense, namely commissioned messengers sent on behalf of another, rather than being members of a church office. In fact, the exact phrase in the singular “apostle of the apostles” comes from the ninth century at the earliest.

(2) Leonardo Da Vinci would never have painted a Last Supper scene and replace one of the Twelve with a woman. An art historian whose work we included in the latest editions of Breaking the Da Vinci Code made this point to me originally in an email. He notes that when Mary is present at the Last Supper scene she is placed at Jesus’ feet. This scene is so stereotyped in the period of this painting that there had to be twelve apostles present because the scene’s content reflects the biblical account. In a lecture given by three art historians at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia in January, 2004, the experts on the period present said simply that Dan Brown got his art history wrong.

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What to Make of the Novel?

It is my view that the interest in this novel shows a few things about contemporary culture. There is a keen interest in things related to the origins of Christianity, Indeed, there is a spiritual hunger of sorts out there. However, it is not a very discerning kind of quest. This makes it all the more important that those who teach about early Christian history today know the roots of the early history of Christianity and communicate some of that to their students, who in turn can have informed discussions with their inquisitive neighbors. Pastors need to absorb this knowledge as well.

I have found four types of people responding to the novel. (1) Some treat the novel as fiction and do not believe its claims. Just have a nice conversation with them. (2) Others never having been in the church have heard this for the first time and have no way of knowing whether it is true or not. Just interact with their sincere questions. (3) Others in the church are in a similar position never having been taught about this material. What they need is good information, not an overreaction. (4) Some are looking for a reason, or, for reasons, not to believe. The novel’s information is something they grab onto for support. Be patient in interacting with them. In other words, as you talk about the novel, do so with a calm and confidence that the supposed “facts” the novel presents have missed the mark.

The fact that this book has put this history into the public square is a good thing. Perhaps if people are well equipped to dialogue with the novel’s readers in an engaging tone, then more readers may uncover the real code that opens up the way to life. Those readers may also be in a position to better appreciate the history of a faith that lies at the roots of our Western culture.

Leonardo da Vinci

A true Renaissance man; d. 1519; Leonardo was likely born at Anchiano, Italy, but was reared in Vinci, west of Florence. He was born to an unmarried peasant named Caterina, about whom little is known. He was educated at home by his father, a prominent lawyer, though much of his encyclopedic knowledge apparently came through independent study.

Serving an apprenticeship under noted Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio—whose patron, or financial supporter, was Lorenzo de Medici (the Magnificent)—Leonardo early demonstrated formidable talent as a painter, and through Lorenzo he became connected with many influential thinkers and artists. However, maintaining essential economic support (patronage) proved difficult for him; that, combined with the ongoing outbreak of warfare, caused him to move frequently.

In 1482, at age thirty, Leonardo relocated to design military weapons for the duke of Milan. This was not such a great leap for an artist; during the Renaissance, war was viewed as an art form, and, more significantly, Leonardo never studied an area but what he mastered it.

During his late forties, Leonardo was back in Florence after nearly two decades, but he would soon leave once more to become military engineer for the commander of the papal armies. He later returned again to Florence, then made still another move to Milan in 1506.

LEONARDO
1452 born to unmarried peasant girl, Caterina; father was well-known attorney
1469 became an apprentice under Verrocchio and acquainted with Lorenzo de Medici
1476 accused of sodomy; case dropped for lack of evidence
1476 began designing unique war machine
1482 wrote letter emphasizing his military skills; barely referenced that he was a painter; moved from Florence to Milan
1485 began designing giant crossbow; designed helicopter (aerial screw)
1487 began designing fiying machines; did first anatomical sketch; military tank, deep-sea-diving suit; drew VitruvianMan
1489 commissioned to cast largest equestrian statue ever built
1490 adopted a ten-year-old
1495 began painting TheLastSupper(later underwent numerous restorations)
1499 briefly in Venice
1500 began designing a glider; moved back to France
1502 left Florence to travel Italy with Cesare Borgia, commander of papal armies
1503 began work on Mona Lisa
1505 returned to the study of anatomy and of muscles
1506 moved back to Milan
1510 began to study respiratory system
1513 began study of the heart; began painting St.JohntheBaptist; moved to Rome; unlike Michelangelo and Raphael, was unable to find patronage
1517 moved to France, to the Loire Valley; eventually suffered a stroke
1519 died at age 67

At age sixty he fled to Rome, but younger artists (like Michelangelo and Raphael) had preceded him there for patronage, so he continued on to France. Fran˛cois I, who became his patron, was the first who seemed to fully grasp his genius. When a stroke rendered painting impossible, Leonardo continued designing until his death on May 2, 1519.

The breadth and quality of his accomplishments have caused Leonardo to be labeled ‘‘a genius of all geniuses.’’ Two of his works, Mona Lisa and The Last Supperrank among the world’s finest and figure prominently in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code for their allegedly secret symbols. In addition, Louvre curator Jacques Saunie`re’s body is found in the posture of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man.

Leonardo’s interests were nearly innumerable: music, solar power, mathematics, architecture, anatomy, philosophy, astronomy, aviation, weaponry, et al. His notebooks contain remarkably apt drawings of helicopters, bridges, machine guns, tanks, and submarines. Virtually none of his inventive ideas was implemented, but his mind was clearly one of the most creative in human history. Ironically, his scientific writings were largely unknown until centuries later, and when he moved to France in his later years, this under-appreciated artist arrived with Mona Lisa in his baggage, certainly unaware of carrying what would become one of the world’s most prized paintings.

He was regarded as the “universal genius”, an individual of great curiosity and very innovative imagination. He is one of the well known and most creative persons in the universe. He has the mention by many historians as a man to be supernatural and was mysterious and remote. These descriptions would also suit a bitcoin trader in the present era, who needs to be very creative and innovative with each move.

The Da Vinci Code portrays Leonardo as blatantly anti-Catholic or, more generally, anti-Christian. What he precisely believed is unclear, but he did perceive of science as understanding the God who had created nature. To him, God was the First Mover of all, ‘‘the Light of all things’’ who designed all things.

While most of his religious views are not well-known, and although he struggled with specific religious patterns, he was by no means an agnostic or atheist (as some have portrayed him). Allegations as to his sexual orientation are equally undemonstrated; contrary to Brown’s claims, there is no evidence that he was homosexual. He was once accused of sodomy, but the charges were dropped.

Brown states that Leonardo produced great quantities of Christian art and ‘‘hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions’’ (DVC, 45), but Leonardo often didn’t even complete his works; excluding his drawings, he produced fewer than thirty paintings. He started far more projects than he finished—several factors (including wars and failure to secure patronage) likely contributed to this, but the primary cause was most likely his perfectionism. His genius became the enemy of completion when he was concerned he could not work flawlessly. Brown also would have us believe Leonardo was the recipient of numerous commissions for Pope Leo X, when in reality he didn’t even spend much time in Rome.

The shadow of Leonardo that permeates The Da Vinci Code is essentially cast without the mass of historical substance. See also Brown, Dan; Last Supper; Louvre; Mona Lisa; Saunie`re, Jacques; Renaissance; Roman Catholic Church; Vitruvian Man.

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