My eldest sister sent me an article on the chemistry of marshmallow and suggested I use it in a blog entry. She has a PhD in some branch of chemistry--I don't even know which one because I know approximately dick about chemistry--where I have a BS in electrical engineering. (I am working on an entry regarding marshmallow Peeps, their chemistry, and such, though. It's coming together in my head, slowly.)
Mike Lovetinski sent me a suggestion that I write about The DaVinci Code, mentioning that he has heard the story is supposed to be is rife with "errors and myths", at least from the Christian viewpoint.
I read, and really enjoyed, The DaVinci Code. It was a very good story--exciting, engaging, fascinating--and I wish that I had written it, instead of Dan Brown, so I could be the one making the millions of dollars. This entry will be RIFE (my word for the day) with spoilers, so if you have not read it and wish to read the book or see the movie "cold", then don't read this.
The movie, incidentally, comes out on my birthday. :) I got Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for my birthday one year; I got Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith another. This year it's The DaVinci Code. I am a lucky person!
First I will examine some of the basic premises of the book; what I think is right; and what I think is wrong. ***Note to nitpickers: I have read The DaVinci Code exactly one time.
The first basic premise is that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene; that she was not a reformed prostitute but his wife; and that they had children. The book remarks that, at the time Jesus lived, it would have been unusual (if not out-right strange) for a man of Jesus' age not to be married.
This is naturally at odds with the account given by the Christian Bible, of course, which states that Jesus was never married, and that he never sired any children, much less had sex out of wedlock.
The book (The DaVinci Code) mentions that the Bible was actually the result of a committee, back in the earliest days of the Roman Catholic church--back when Istanbul was still Constantinople and it was home to the last dying dregs of the Roman Empire. This committee took all the extant gospels and holy writings (including the Jewish Torah) and selected the parts it wanted to include in the holy text of the church; the rest was declared apocryphal "if not wildly inaccurate".
Brown's assertion of this fact seems to stem from the assumption--contrary to Christian beliefs--that Christ was not divine. As long as you approach The DaVinci Code from the viewpoint of the archaeologist and scholar, rather than that of the evangelical Christian, you will not be dissatisfied with the book. No one should get bent out of shape over The DaVinci Code, no matter what his religious beliefs may be. After all, it is a work of fiction.
I emphasize that because it has to be. The news media are frequently full of stories about this or that Christian group which has gotten all bent out of shape over the Satanic overtones of this or that particular creative work--anything from rock music to role-playing games to Harry Potter books to Disney's Fantasia.
In the case of cartoons or books, most children are capable of understanding the concept of fiction--"make believe"--and understand that the fantastic elements of the "Harry Potter" series are not real. Most children can understand that, and seeing Harry Potter flying on a broom will neither cause them to imitate it nor suddenly plot blood sacrifices of newborns. Any that do probably have psychological problems which just as easily could be triggered by reruns of The Brady Bunch.
So: The DaVinci Code is make-believe. Brown does not claim that any part of the book is real, except for the architecture and places that he describes. The theology, the discussions of Christian history, all that, is solely for the sake of the story. That said, let's get on with the rest of it.
So: the nascent Roman Catholic Church edited the Bible--why? Brown says that they were painting a different picture of Jesus, one in which he was divinity, not just a guy who suggested everyone be nice to each other. They chose the accounts that reinforced Jesus as God, and ignored anything which suggested that Jesus ever had the life of an ordinary mortal man. Essentially, the Bible was written by a committee.
This assertion is, naturally, anathema to Christians who believe that the Bible is the Word of God. The Word of God cannot be written by a committee; it's the Word of God, for crying out loud.
The DaVinci Code, ultimately, is about the "Holy Grail". Brown's main character, Robert Langdon, is an expert in symbology; and the book basically says that the Holy Grail is not the Chalice of Christ but Mary Magdalene and the progeny which came from her and Jesus: the lineage of Jesus. According to the information given in The DaVinci Code, both Mary M. and Jesus were royalty, and he was a legitimate heir to the throne that was occupied by Herod when Jesus was born.
That last is an interesting point, by the way; it particularly gives an interesting spin to the Slaughter of the Innocents. What if Jesus represented a real threat to Herod's heir's claim to the throne?
In any event, the revelation of Jesus' family tree would be disastrous to the Catholic Church: if Jesus' life was not as described in the gospels, people would begin to doubt everything the church told them!
For an antagonist, Brown gives us Silas, a member of Opus Dei, a prelature of the Catholic Church. Silas practices "self-mortification"; he is a flagellant and wears a device around his thigh which hurts him when tightened, even to the point of drawing blood.
According to Opus Dei's web site (http://www.opusdei.org/) the depiction of Opus Dei given in The DaVinci Code is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate. (That's two Douglas Adams references in one post. I'm on a roll.) I'm not surprised. The depiction of that order, in The DaVinci Code, is not a good one. But the book is a work of fiction and Brown obviously took some artistic license with it. Or, perhaps, "rather a LOT of artistic license".
As for the idea of Constantine manufacturing the divinity of Christ for political reasons, the issue is not exactly settled in the archaeology world, so Brown may be--figuratively speaking--speaking out of an anatomically unlikely orofice.
Brown also ties the Tarot deck, pagan ritual, and other occult elements into the story, connecting it all with Jesus and his role as the principal figure of the Christian church. He implies that Mary M's role in those days was the Yin to Jesus' Yang--she was the cup to his sword, so to speak, to borrow from the story.
The notion is that the "Holy Grail" is Mary M, as I said above: the lineage of Jesus' heirs, the "missing texts" which were excluded from the New Testament by Constantine and his committee. Brown's story includes a depiction of a rite which--to any reasonable inspection--strongly resembles a pagan (or wiccan) rite, in which the high priest and priestess have sex as part of the ceremony. Brown seems to imply that Jesus and Mary (and the Disciples) were a coven, and that their practice of religion was pagan (or wiccan) in nature, however well it otherwise adhered to the principles of Judaism.
This, naturally, will really piss Christians off.
Brown's discussion of the matter mentions that there were sexual rites in Judaism for quite some time, although I forget if he mentioned when that stopped happening--not that it matters much--the point being that Jesus' and Mary's practices were not at all incompatible with Judaism. The Holy Grail, then, was passed down from one High Priest/Priestess to the next; that Leonardo DaVinci himself held the post of High Priest in this church; and that the Holy Grail--not gold or jewels but the documentation of Jesus' family tree--has been kept hidden from the Catholic church by this cabal for the last 2,000 years.
At the end, Langdon is confident that he has discovered the location of the Holy Grail, but he says nothing. We are meant to be left wondering, I suppose, but I think the text is pretty clear.
Overall, I think The DaVinci Code is a really good book, as I said above. It's a great story. I don't know how much of it I believe; but I don't even care how "real" it is. It makes for a good yarn.
Now for my own commentary:
The DaVinci Code did make me think about the entire issue of Jesus Christ and his status as the Savior. While the book did not make me doubt my faith, it did give me some philosophical meat to chew on.
Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber, is an interesting examination of the politics behind the crucifixion of Christ.
Politics has been around as long as we've had any kind of government. In fact, politics is a natural behavior, not just for humans but for nearly all species. Think about the origin of the term "pecking order", for example: if you have a flock of birds, one is the alpha, one is the omega, and there is a hierarchy in which all the birds of the flock fit. A higher bird can chase a lower bird away from food, mates, prime roosts, etc, but not the other way around. It's essential, because politics allows species to resolve peacefully their intra-group conflicts--ones which are matters of survival, and which would therefore escalate to deadly fights. Far from being a dirty word, politics is one of the most useful tools ever invented. But tools can be misused.
In Jesus Christ Superstar, we are shown that the Pharisees saw Jesus as a threat: he represented an alarming break with tradition which could have gotten them ousted from their positions of power and influence. So, they found a way to get the Procurator (Pontius Pilate) to order Jesus' execution--and, in fact, Jesus gave them the perfect excuse for having him arrested: the tantrum he threw in the temple, over the moneychangers: "My temple should be a house of prayer! But you've turned it into a den of thieves!" His saying "my" rather than "God's" would, by itself, be a very serious breach of Jewish law; but he proceeded to act violently. The entire incident is enough for the Pharisees to have Jesus arrested, but Jewish law did not allow them to execute him for that. They wanted him dead; otherwise he was too big a threat. So, they went to Pontius Pilate.
Pilate, of course, said, "This isn't my problem, nor is it Rome's problem; solve it yourselves." Herod refused to deal with it and shipped Jesus back to Pilate. (Actually, at this point, Herod's son Archelaus had long since been deposed, and Pilate was the de facto ruler of Jerusalem.) Pilate, of course, had Jesus flogged and sentenced him to the cross. The Pharisees won the battle but not the war; they got to keep their jobs, but their successors are nonexistent, so far as I know.
Why did Pilate change his mind about executing Jesus? He was having his own political troubles, of course! According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12083c.htm , Pilate was a rather unpopular representative of the Empire. He didn't want the Pharisees to complain to Rome; and an uprising of the Jews against the occupation forces of the Empire would have made him look rather bad.
So: the Pharisees wanted Jesus out of the picture, but they couldn't do it themselves, for a variety of reasons. They paid one of Jesus' friends to rat him out, and sent the centurions into Gethsemanie to get him. They asked Rome to take care of the actual execution; and because they could put pressure on Rome's representative, that worthy (Pilate) went ahead and did it.
Does any of this detract from the divinity of Christ?
Why SHOULD it??