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The DaVinci Code

So, I finally joined the ranks of many of my congregation and read The DaVinci Code. I enjoyed it - I love mysteries, and it was a good mystery, and definitely a quick and easy read.

I wasn't shocked, really, by anything I read there - as Dan Brown has said himself, these aren't really new ideas he's putting forth - certainly a new spin, a fresh story, but the idea that Jesus was married is one I've heard before. So what to say about this book?

Some of the 'facts' Brown puts forward can be interpreted or outright disproven. I didn't take a lot of church history courses in seminary, but enough to remember that Constantine wasn't the one who decided the canon, even if that took place during his reign, under his 'guidance'. Also, his suggestion that Jesus' divinity status was the result of a vote is also stretching things. The nature of divinity was the center of a controversy, but it wasn't as black and white as he makes it sound. But, Brown is writing fiction, so I'm not concerned about these details too much - I'm more interested in the broader themes he's trying to get across, and the fact that this is a book that has people talking about religion, and I don't think that's ever a bad thing. People always seem threatened by things that have people asking questions about religion and faith. To me, this only signifies that the people who are threatened must think their faith can't withstand the pressure of questions...

Anyway, here are the positives I see in DaVinci:
1) I think it is great to reclaim feminine images in the Divine, feminine voices in church history, etc. On the other hand, I wish Brown had given us more voices of women in the plot! Sophie is a great character (I can't wait to see Audrey Tautou play her in the film) but she is the only female character of import in the novel. And no, I don't count her cameo-grandmother or Mary Magdalene. Where are the women?
2) I think the book's point that we always take the winning side as the only side is very important. I do remember in church history talking about the 'losing sides' in lots of controversies, and how those strains of Christianity get lost and trampled. It is good to remember them. Good to read those other gospels that do indeed exist. Good to stretch our minds!
3) The book certainly gives me a greater appreciation of DaVinci specifically and art in general. I like drama and music, but I'll admit that visual arts has been lower on the list. This book made me want to go hit a museum!
4) I appreciate the emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. I didn't think the book was suggesting that Jesus was not crucified - as I've heard some say this does - but that he was married and had a child - which could have been the case whether or not he was crucified. What would be diminished about Jesus if he had been married and had children? I think how we answer that question is very telling, and I think Brown raises great conversation for us in this.

I guess that's it for now. let me know what you thought of the book!


Andy B. said…
An interesting observation I have heard: one either likes the DaVinci Code or Passion of the Christ, but not both. Code stretches your mind and confronts you with things to think about, Passion just reinforces substitutionary atonement theory without giving you any new food for thought.
Great point about the lack of women characters in the book itself. I thought the same thing when I read it!
Grace and Peace,
Andy B.
James said…
At risk of seeming too much like a drive-by troller, I have disagree with almost everything you say about The Da Vinci Code.

Is Code a mystery? Not at all, in fact the only mystery is why it's so ridiculously popular. It's a book in which nothing substantive happens, there's nothing to figure out and three characters spend half the book spewing exposition at each other. The writing is genuinely atrocious.

True, Code moves quickly, especially since Brown's writing verges on adolescent simplicity and he presents it in tiny, bite-sized chunks labeled "chapters." Had there been even a token attempt at introducing characters or narrative depth, things might have been a little different.

From both a writerly point of view, and from a historical perspective -- quite apart from the religious aspect, which I won't bother to address -- Brown's book is a mess. You've already noted that Brown's grasp of Christian history is tenuous at best. His understanding of art and architecture is even worse. For example: no one refers to Leonardo Da Vinci as "Da Vinci." He is correctly known as Leonardo, and there are characters in this book who should know that.

Speaking of characters: Code's are a joke. As I mentioned, they are simply mouthpieces set in place to replicate great hunks of previously published material, often to the displeasure of other authors, such as those suing Brown for plagiarizing Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Sophie is a non-entity, the literary equivalent of one of Dr. Who's companions. She exists solely so that other characters can explain things to the reader by proxy.

While there are some who are quick to anoint Dan Brown a champion of femininity, his own definition of the "sacred feminine" is meaningless. It's an undefined definition, a weird admixture of anti-Catholic foofaraw, conspiracy theory and New Age-y philo-religiosity that's not worthy of serious consideration. And certainly not worth the $250 million plus he's made off Code thus far.
James said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chesapeake Blue said…
I've not read the book, but the Discovery Channel had a very good 2 hour special about the history behind the Da Vinci Code. It was entertaining, but they did a good job of showing why we shouldn't adopt the book as history. I'd recommend the special!

How typical of me - to know all about the non-fiction work that discusses the fiction that I haven't read.
Beth Quick said…
hey james - i hear you on some of your comments - though i still think it makes for a fun mystery read. progressive: i know what you mean - i knew a lot about the making of Mel Gibson's The Passion and all the controversy around it, the arguments for/against his interpretations, etc., but I still haven't seen it! :)
Anonymous said…
Sorry to burst the bubble of all da vinci book fans..I do ve a lot to say but i really dont ve time I will make it short..what am i or who m i doesnt matter...or from where i got this info..
da vinci code is a highly entertaining version of a 1982 book holy blood:holy grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. a lot if not almost everything is copied from this highly controversial book..
and that book has been proven to be based on a hoax.
It is now generally accepted that these documents are fake, planted by Pierre Plantard, a notorious hoaxer who had affiliations with right-wing anti-Semitic groups. These "shocking revelations" were exposed in a series of French books and a documentary, but have not earned much attention. "The only thing more powerful than a worldwide conspiracy," Miller concludes, "is our desire to believe in one."

and da vinci code was released aug 2003 after being financed by a semitic group whose mastermind is a legal mafia head in the US.and it was done to create an impression of weakness in the that come feb 2004 mel gibson's passion of christ would release..this shows the truth behind Jesus's death and who was really responsible..the jewish high priests and the pharisees of the time..this wud ve created a huge anti semitic this book wud ve made an anti christian base to counter the anti semitism..
alright c ya

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