- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A telltale moment in “The Da Vinci Code” points like a cryptogram to the real secret meaning behind the novel.

The hero, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor about to publish a nonfiction book claiming Mary Magdalene is the “real” Holy Grail, and the heroine, Sophie Neveu, who is “really” a direct descendent of Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene, are fleeing Paris because bulldog police captain Bezu Fache mistakenly believes Langdon murdered Louvre curator Jacques Sauniere.

Sauniere, it turns out, headed a secret society that for centuries has preserved documents that prove Christ was solely a mortal man, that Christianity is a fraud, and that the true religion requires mankind to embrace environmentalism and worship the “divine feminine” through ritualistic fornication in damp, dark places.

Verily, this was a book written for the tastes of Hollywood. (Wait. That’s not the secret meaning. It’s just an obvious clue.)

So, as they are pursued by the menacing police captain — who wears his Catholicism on his tie in the form of a jewel-studded crucifix — Sophie frets about the notoriety she and Robert are about to get.

“Robert, has it occurred to you that every television in France is probably getting ready to broadcast our pictures?” asks Sophie.

Robert, however, thinking of his publisher, sees the bright side: “Every time Langdon made the news, his book sales jumped.”

Yes, here is where illuminati of the publishing cult will say, “Ah ha.

Smart publishers know controversy is a good way to sell books — though you needn’t murder a Louvre curator to achieve it. Better to have your author pick a fight with a powerful, well-known person. No one has done this better than author Dan Brown and “The Da Vinci Code” publishers. They picked a fight with the Son of God.

Purely from a marketing perspective, Mr. Brown’s attack on Jesus was an act of genius. His novel has sold more than 40 million copies. Even if the movie version flops, it will spur book sales.

Don’t get me wrong. It can be a public service to execute a marketing strategy aimed at selling a book through controversy. Picking fights with the famous and formidable can be a moral duty. The courage to speak truth to power is indispensable for anyone seeking to advance our culture through written words.

But the key word here is “truth.”

Speaking lies to spark a controversy may sell books, but it also breaks a law written even before Mary Magdalene was born: “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

“The Da Vinci Code” bears false witness because it falsifies the historical record of Christ, who is both true God and true man. In violating the Eighth Commandment, it strikes at the First and Second.

The front page of Mr. Brown’s book says: “Fact: … All descriptions of … documents … in this novel are accurate.” But then Mr. Brown has a character, British Royal Historian Leigh Teabing, assert without contradiction that fourth-century Roman Emperor Constantine falsified the New Testament to fool people into believing a solely human Jesus was divine. Constantine, according to Teabing, ordered that more accurate gospels, which denied the divinity of Christ, should be “outlawed, gathered up and burned.”

“Fortunately for historians,” Teabing says in the novel, “some of the gospels Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ’s ministry in very human terms. … The scrolls highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda — to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base.”

Many scholarly authorities, both religious and secular, have debunked this claim.

Bart D. Ehrman, chairman of the Religious Studies Department at the University of North Carolina, writes in “Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code” (Oxford): “The historical reality is that the Emperor Constantine had nothing to do with the formation of the canon of the Scripture.” There “were no imperial book burnings.”

What about the Dead Sea and Nag Hammadi documents? “The Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain any Gospels, or in fact any documents that speak of Christ or Christianity at all; they are Jewish,” writes Mr. Ehrman. “Neither [the Nag Hammadi documents] nor the Dead Sea Scrolls ever speak of the Grail story. Nor do they speak of Jesus’ ministry ‘in very human terms’; if anything, Jesus is portrayed as more divine in the Nag Hammadi sources than he is in the Gospels of the New Testament.”

What about Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene? “List every ancient source we have for the historical Jesus,” writes Mr. Ehrman, “and in none of them is there mention of Jesus being married.”

Judas got 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. How much will those with a stake in “The Da Vinci Code” get?

Terence P. Jeffrey is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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