Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Balderdash of The Da Vinci Code

World's best-selling novel got its key facts wrong
By David Edwards

IT purports to have cracked the greatest riddles of theology, painting
Jesus as a mere mortal and claiming that the Church has hushed up the fact
that true Christianity is a feminist religion.

The Da Vinci Code is one of the biggest-selling novels of all time. It has
sold an estimated 17 million copies, been translated into 42 languages and
reportedly made author Dan Brown £140million.

Now it's set to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Hanks
as a Harvard professor seeking the Holy Grail. But the news has dismayed
scholars who dismiss the book as "absurd rubbish".

The Da Vinci Code is a historical thriller that says Mary Magdalene
married Jesus, had his children and was meant to teach Christians to
worship goddesses after the Crucifixion - only to be brushed aside by
chauvinistic bishops.

It is the latest conspiracy theory concerning the Holy Grail, which Brown
says is not a goblet, as most people think, but Mary herself and Jesus's

The book has launched an entire tourist industry as people from around the
world flock to the places where the action takes place. But although Brown
says it is grounded in fact, critics claim it's littered with errors. Here
we look at some of them.

THE BOOK: After being forced underground by the Church, Mary was protected
by the mysterious Priory of Sion.

THE TRUTH: Although Brown says there is evidence of the Priory of Sion's
existence in the French national library, it was planted there by the
fraudster Pierre Plantard, who declared it fake in 1967.

THE BOOK: St Sulpice Church in Paris was once home to the Priory of Sion,
a fact supported by the letters P and S inscribed on its windows.

THE TRUTH: The church's Father Henri d'Antin has rubbished the story,
calling the book "odious and contradicted by historical fact". The letters
on the window stand for Saints Peter and Sulpice, he says.

THE BOOK: Opus Dei, the Catholic prelature with headquarters in New York,
is portrayed as a sinister monastic organisation - practically a training
school for assassins.

THE TRUTH: Although they have been accused of being a fundamentalist sect,
they devote themselves to spiritual matters and founder Josemaria Escriva
was declared a saint by the Pope in 2002. Members are not monks.

THE BOOK: The Louvre museum in Paris has iron bars that can drop from the
ceiling to trap burglars.

THE TRUTH: The Louvre has no such deterrents. Jaqueline Marquet, who runs
its art shop, says: "This book is a fraud, full of esoteric fabrications."

THE BOOK: In the book's first chapter, a character journeys from the Ritz
to the Louvre, travelling past the Opera House.

THE TRUTH: The Opera House is out of sight, well north of the route.

THE BOOK: From one spot near the Louvre you can see three other museums,
the Musee d'Orsay, the Pompidou Centre and the Deu de Paume.

THE TRUTH: The museums cannot be seen from one spot, says Louvre tour
guide Ellen McBreen.

THE BOOK: After burning members of the Knights Templar - the monastic
military order formed to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land - Pope Clement
V threw their ashes into the River Tiber.

THE TRUTH: The Tiber is in Rome. Pope Clement was based in Avignon and
never visited Rome.

THE BOOK: The Dead Sea Scrolls were Christian records discovered in the

THE TRUTH: The Scrolls are Jewish texts recording events at the time of
Christ and were actually found in 1947.

THE BOOK: Jesus Christ never claimed to be divine and was never worshipped
as a deity until the Council of Nicea in 325AD.

THE TRUTH: Jesus is called God (theos) seven times in the New Testament.
According to Mark's Gospel, a priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ, to
which he replies: "I am."

THE BOOK: Jesus married Mary Magdalene.

THE TRUTH: The book asserts the wedding as fact "because Jesus was a Jew
and the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to
be unmarried." There's no evidence they married. Celibacy among Jews was
common in Jesus's lifetime.

THE BOOK: Christianity copied the Pagans by making Sunday the day of worship.

THE TRUTH: Early Christians chose Sunday as it was the day Christ was

THE BOOK: The five rings of the Olympics are a secret tribute to goddess

THE TRUTH: The rings were designed in 1913 to symbolise the first five
Olympic Games.

THE BOOK: The Church is so anti-women that it burned five million of them
during 300 years of witch-hunts.

THE TRUTH: A more accurate figure is between 50,000 and 200,000 people,
says Dr Brian A Pavlac of King's College, London. Most were hanged; about
a quarter were men. Hunts were mostly led by non-religious courts.

THE BOOK: Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married at Westminster

THE TRUTH: It was St Paul's Cathedral.

THE BOOK: A character being sponsored by a thrifty university sleeps in a
four-poster bed at the Paris Ritz.

THE TRUTH: The hotel has just one such bed `and it costs £4,000 a night.

THE BOOK: The Rose Line was laid in Paris to mark zero degrees of
longitude before a committee decided in 1888 that Greenwich should mark
the Prime Meridian.

THE TRUTH: The Rose Line has never had anything to do with the meridian
but was laid to aid astronomical research.

THE BOOK: Mary's remains are buried in the Louvre in Paris.

THE TRUTH: According to accepted Christian tradition, they're actually
kept in two locations: St Maximin's Basilica near Marseilles, France, and
a Turkish monastery.