16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History

Trista - October 29, 2018

Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, became an international bestseller, one of the bestselling books of all time. A decade and a half after its release, it still garners fans who are drawn to the theory of the Holy Grail actually being the holy bloodline of Jesus Christ, who was supposedly married to Mary Magdalene and had a daughter named Sarah. The idea has proved so popular that Da Vinci Code tours have appeared in places like Paris and London, where fans can view sites connected to the book.

The problem is that all of the “history” in it is almost complete fabrication.

 

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History

Coat of arms of King’s College London. Merlaysamuel / Wikipedia.

16. The Adventures At King’s College Could Not Have Happened

In The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon visits King’s College, London to investigate the enormous databases of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology. He does so to try to uncover information that could point him in the direction of the Holy Grail, as it is one of the largest, if not the most extensive research database in the world, holding hundreds of terabytes of information. The librarian helps him navigate the massive database to find the answer to a riddle about a particular knight’s burial place in London.

The problem is that the Research Institute in Systematic Theology, while it does exist, is not actually a research database. It is a collection of theologians who meet on a weekly basis to discuss and debate issues in theology. The institute does not have a database or even its own library; the closest comparison is that it has a reading list of recommended books on systematic theology. Of additional concern is the fact that theologians are mostly uninterested in the quest for the Holy Grail. The grail is not a theological issue but rather a cultural or historical one. As such, the odds that the institute would even discuss the Holy Grail, especially to uncover where it is, are improbable.

Instead, a true grail-hunter would probably bypass systematic theology altogether and explore where much of the grail legends mainly originated: the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the roundtable.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Painting of Mary Magdalene by Guido Rene in 1635. independent.ie.

15. Mary Magdalene Was Not From The Tribe of Benjamin

One of the most important claims of The Da Vinci Code is that Mary Magdalene descended from the tribe of Benjamin. The first king of Israel, King Saul, came from the tribe of Benjamin, so someone who came from his line would potentially have claim to a royal, or at least ecclesial, throne today. As such, the holy grail actually refers to the royal blood, that of Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s child and her descendants, who are effectively in hiding until the truth can be revealed.

The problem with this claim is that Mary Magdalene was probably not from the tribe of Benjamin. The tribe of Benjamin was situated in the southern part of the ancient kingdom, whereas Magdala – the name “Magdalene” means “from Magdala” – was in the north. Additionally, there are no sources from the period that attest to Mary Magdalene being from the tribe of Benjamin. The claim comes largely from the 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which is more speculation than history.

Additionally, there would not have been anything particularly special about the tribe of Benjamin during the time of Jesus. The descendants of King Saul were not seen as possessing any legitimacy to a throne of Israel.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Mary Magdalen
Andrea Solario circa 1524. knightstemplarorder.org.

14. Mary Magdalene Was Not Married To Jesus

The boldest claim of The Da Vinci Code, the application on which the entire book rests, is that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus and was worshipped as a goddess by the early church. However, that reality was hidden by the church to protect power structures, particularly patriarchal systems that discredited the “sacred feminine.” The two had a child together, a daughter named Sarah, whose descendants are waiting for the appointed time at which the truth about the real Jesus and Mary Magdalene can come out. The problem is that there is no reason to believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

Textual evidence can be seen within the canonical gospels, which routinely refer to women through their relationship with men (Mary the mother of Jesus, Martha, the sister of Lazarus). If Mary Magdalene and Jesus had a relationship beyond companionship, surely the gospels would have said so. Considering the novel’s assertions that the church manipulated the doctrines, one could consider the fact that there is textual evidence dating these books to the first century before the church had any established power base. Additionally, the novel builds heavily upon the Gnostic gospels in making its claims. However, there is nothing in the Gnostic gospels to suggest that the two were married.

In 2012, nine years after The Da Vinci Code, a papyrus fragment was found that says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…'” However, scholarly analysis has shown that it was likely a forgery during the Middle Ages. While there are references to “the bride of Christ” in the New Testament, these are all understood to be referring to the Church.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Gnostic texts were found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont, CA / biblicalarchaeology.org.

13. Gnostic Beliefs About Mary Magdalene Are Misrepresented

In The Da Vinci Code, the Gnostic gospels take center stage as if they are an accurate historical rendering of the events surrounding the life of Jesus and the formation of the early church. From these accounts comes Dan Brown’s weaving of the story of Mary Magdalene, who was supposedly married to Jesus and who, after His crucifixion, gave birth to a daughter, Sarah. However, these ideas are a misrepresentation of the Mary Magdalene that is depicted in the Gnostic gospels.

For example, Leigh Teabing, the famous and eccentric scholar of the novel, quoted a passage from the Gnostic gospel of Philip that uses the term “companion” to refer to Mary Magdalene’s marital relationship with Jesus. However, Gnostic scholars firmly attest that the original word for “companion,” “koinonos,” does not necessarily refer to anything other than friendship or companionship. It can refer to a lover but is more often used to refer to a community or fellowship of like-minded people.

To make the error more complete, consider that Leigh Teabing insists on an Aramaic reading of the term, whereas the Gnostic gospels were translated from Greek into Coptic. Aramaic doesn’t even figure into the picture unless one were to translate backward from Greek into Aramaic retroactively. But doing so invites problems that no serious scholar is willing to entertain.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Gnostic beliefs were heavily dualistic. gnosticesotericstudyworkaids.com.

12. Gnostic Beliefs About Jesus Are Misrepresented

In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown claimed that Constantine, the emperor of Rome who legalized Christianity and all but made it a state religion, destroyed the Gnostic gospels because they depicted Jesus as being a merely human prophet. He promoted the canonical gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – because they portray Jesus as the divine Son of God. Doing this would make Christianity more appealing to pagans, whom he supposedly believed wanted a religious figure rather than a prophet.

While Constantine has undoubtedly been misrepresented in many history books and his relationship with paganism has not been fully appreciated by historians, particularly church historians, the idea that Brown put forth has the major flaw of not accurately representing the Jesus of the Gnostic gospels. While the Gnostic depiction of Jesus is indeed different than the canonical representation, He is never shown to be merely a mortal. In fact, the Gnostics made Him out to be entirely divine, so much so that some believed that His body was just an illusion, while the canonical gospels made Him out to be both human and divine. Central to Gnostic belief was the separation between flesh and spirit, human and divine. And if forced to choose whether Jesus was human or whether He was divine, the early Gnostics would have said that He was divine.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
A depiction of the “Noli me tangere”. exurbe.com.

11. Mary Magdalene Did Not Go To France

Key to the story told in The Da Vinci Code is that Mary Magdalene and her daughter, Sarah, who was also the daughter of Jesus, traveled to France in a boat as refugees. One bit of evidence that is cited is a festival that is celebrated every year in the French coastal town of Saintes Marie de le Mer. A ritual commemorates the arrival of a boat of refugees from Palestine, and on the ship was a woman named Mary and a child named Sarah. From this ritual, the deduction was made that the woman spoken of was Mary Magdalene and the child was the bearer of the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ.

However, the ritual celebrated at Saintes Marie de le Mer does not commemorate Mary Magdalene but rather a different Mary. Additionally, the Sarah that is spoken of was Mary’s servant, not her child. The legend that was passed down about them was always understood to be a legend, even in the Middle Ages, and not considered to be a factual account. Other stories from the same region of France – including those surrounding places such as Rennes le Chateau and Montsegur, home of the Cathar castle besieged by Crusaders – have been taken as circumstantial evidence that the child was the Holy Grail, the bloodline of Jesus. However, each of the stories from the region disintegrates when held up to historical investigation.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
A depiction of the Holy Grail as a chalice. lightascension.com.

10. Sarah’s Descendants Would Not Have A Royal Claim Today

According to the novel, Jesus fathered a daughter through Mary Magdalene, Sarah, whom Mary secreted away to the coast of France following the crucifixion of Jesus. Sarah’s existence had to remain a secret, as her parentage made her royal and therefore made her a threat to the powers. Her descendants have been protected by the Priory of Sion for centuries but will one day emerge as the legitimate heirs to what?

As already stated, Mary Magdalene was probably not from the tribe of Benjamin, and even if she was, there was nothing particularly special about that lineage during her time. It didn’t put her in line for a throne or any form of power. The fact is that even if Sarah existed, and even if she were a descendant of King Saul, there would be no political power that her descendants today could claim for themselves. The fact is that the world as it exists today does not have a position of political power to be claimed by someone whose parentage exists to an ancient king.

Basically, the story of Sarah and the Sang Real, or royal blood, makes for a great tale. However, there are no potential implications for modern-day politics, either regarding the state, or the church, or any other religious or political institution.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Christ Pantocrator mosaic in Byzantine style, from the Cefalù Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1130. Andreas Wahra / Wikipedia.

9. The Early Church Almost Unanimously Believed In The Divinity Of Jesus

Leigh Teabing asserted throughout the novel that the early church knew that Jesus was not divine. Claims that He was divine were made by church councils during the first few centuries after the death of Jesus as a means of consolidating their power base. They could kick out people who didn’t agree with them and get rid of the idea of Jesus’ descendants once and for all. The problem is that the early church – including the Gnostics, who were not considered by many Christians to even be followers of Jesus – was almost unanimous in belief about the divinity of Jesus.

Early church councils actually didn’t even deal with the question of whether or not Jesus was divine; instead, they were concerned with the nature of His divinity. Was He of the same substance as the Father, or was He of a similar essence as the Father? The most extreme issue regarding the divinity of Jesus was of Arianism, which proposed that Jesus was the first created being and was like the Father in all things, but was inferior to Him. However, even Arianism, which was an insult to the eternal, uncreatedness of Jesus, did not deny His divinity.

There is little argument that the early church councils did serve to consolidate a political power base of different church leaders. These leaders were effectively politicians and were savvy on ways to make sure that their rivals were somehow isolated so that their beliefs – and by extension, their policies – did not extend beyond their borders. However, the question of the divinity of Jesus was not one of these issues at stake.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Joshua passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant by Benjamin West, 1800. Public Domain / Wikipedia.

8. The Shekinah Was Not A Separate Deity

Another startling claim that the book made is that the early church, and the Jews before them, were known to have worshipped the sacred feminine, as did many other cultures, such as the Egyptians who worshipped Osiris. Elaborate rituals, such as the sexual ritual that Sofie’s grandfather took part in, were commonly used to celebrate the sacred feminine. The Jews and early Christians supposedly worshipped not only God but also the Shekinah, who was viewed as a feminine deity or counterpart to God. The early Christians also worshipped Mary Magdalene as a goddess.

However, none of the statements about the Shekinah or Mary Magdalene as manifestations of the sacred feminine have a historical, theological basis. The Shekinah was viewed by the Jews and early Christians as the manifest presence of God on earth among His people and was represented through various forms, such as the pillars of cloud and fire that guided the Hebrew people out of Egypt and the fire that burned above the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. It was not a separate deity but an aspect of the one God that they worshipped. After all, the religion of the ancient Hebrews – which they often strayed from by partaking in the worship of idols – was monotheistic.

Christianity, which grew out of the monotheistic religion of the Jews, was monotheistic, as well. Jesus was worshipped as having proceeded from God. The Shekinah came to be known as the Holy Spirit, which complemented Jesus and Father God to create the Trinity.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Rosslyn Chapel in the Scottish village. Anne Burgess / Wikipedia.

7. There Is Nothing Inside The Apprentice’s Pillar At Rosslyn Chapel

Much of the book’s mystery and intrigue comes from Rosslyn Chapel, a small church outside of Edinburgh, Scotland which houses Sofie’s grandmother, who is herself a descendant of Sarah and possessor of the Sang Real. The exterior of the chapel is covered with carvings and statues, and inside, there is no spot on the walls or pillars that has not been shaped. Its peculiar iconography has lent itself to many ideas about the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, pagan rituals, etc. Dan Brown claimed in The Da Vinci Code that the head of John the Baptist is inside the apprentice’s pillar, and the documents of the Sang Real are buried underneath.

The novel’s publication generated much excitement around Rosslyn Chapel, which became a major tourist destination for those visiting Edinburgh. Imaging devices were brought in to test out some of the theories and speculations that were put forward in the novel. What was found? Nothing. There is nothing inside the apprentice’s pillar. There is nothing underneath it. There are indeed knights buried underneath the chapel’s floor, but they are not of the Knights Templar, as the Knights Templar were destroyed 150 years before construction of Rosslyn Chapel even began.

That said, the place is nothing short of spectacular. One can easily imagine how numerous theories and speculations would arise that attempt to explain the esoteric iconography that fills and surrounds it.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Coin from the Merovingian era. Signet ring of Childeric I. Monnaie de Paris. PHGCOM / Public Domain / Wikipedia.

6. The Merovingians Did Not Descend From Mary Magdalene

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, much of Western Europe descended into chaos. The Merovingians were a dynasty of Frankish rulers who emerged from the chaos and helped bring Europe from the decline of Rome into the Middle Ages. From them came many of the families that ruled Europe for several centuries. Dan Brown painted these leaders as descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. After all, the name “Merovingian” lends itself to the idea that they came from Mary. The story sounds utterly convincing until you look at the history behind both the claim itself and the history of the Merovingian dynasty.

The claim made in The Da Vinci Code is based on pseudo-history. When Pierre Plantard invented the Priory of Sion in the 1950s, he depicted the secret organization as having descended from the Merovingians and that he had descended from them. Therefore, he was, in fact, royal and had a monarchical claim. The name “Merovingian” does not come from Mary but rather from the founder of the dynasty, Merovich. He and his ruling descendants have become legendary figures, particularly in France, where the idea of the grail as the holy bloodline has its geographical basis. However, none of it is historically correct.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
The official emblem of the Priory of Sion is partly based on the fleur-de-lis, which was a symbol particularly associated with the French monarchy. Public Domain / Wikipedia.

5. The Priory Of Sion Was A Hoax

According to The Da Vinci Code, the Priory of Sion is a secret organization that was formed in 1099 to carry on the mission of the Merovingian kings: protecting the bloodline of Jesus. The Knights Templar was allegedly formed as the military branch of the Priory. The leaders of the Priory included such notable historical figures as the author Victor Hugo, the scientist Isaac Newton, and, of course, Leonardo Da Vinci himself. Da Vinci, as leader of the Priory, left behind clues, particularly in his paintings, as to the true nature of the Holy Grail.

The problem is that the entire Priory of Sion was a giant hoax formulated around a legend in Rennes Le-Chateau in France, where much of the speculation regarding the grail as the bloodline of Jesus can be traced. All of the documents related to the Priory of Sion were elaborate forgeries made by a man named Pierre Plantard, who used them to claim that he was the “Great Monarch” that Nostradamus foresaw. In fact, Plantard had a history of forming various associations, and he registered the Priory of Sion of 1956 as advocacy for affordable housing. It had nothing to do with the Holy Grail, other than some opaque references that he made to reporters, which were interpreted by grail hunters as referring to it.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
The Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, all that remains of the Second Temple.
AbleStock / Jupiterimages / britannica.com.

4. The Knights Templar Did Not Discover Documents Below Solomon’s Temple

According to The Da Vinci Code, the Knights Templar discovered the Sang Real, or Holy Grail, documents, which confirmed the bloodline of Jesus through His marriage to Mary Magdalene, underneath Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem and saw it as their sworn duty to protect them. The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, upon which much of Dan Brown’s ideas about the Holy Grail rests, allege that one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, uncovered in the 1940s and 1950s, talk about documents and various treasures around the temple. Based on Dead Sea Scrolls, they speculate that the Knights Templar could have found documents related to the Sang Real.

That is if such documents actually existed. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written well over a millennium before the Knights Templar came to power during the Crusades, and the treasures spoken of could well have vanished well before they reached Jerusalem. The part of the temple at stake here was 150 feet below ground, so the possibility of digging that far down is doubtful. Modern archaeologists have confirmed that there is no evidence that any excavation occurred in or below the temple, particularly during the time of the Templars. The entire idea that the Knights Templar had secret documents in their possession is loose speculation based on a very creative interpretation of only a few known facts.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. bbc.co.uk.

3. Opus Dei Is Not A Sadistic Cult

One of the most colorful characters in The Da Vinci Code is Silas, a particularly devout member of the Catholic group called Opus Dei. Silas routinely commits acts of penance that draw blood and even kills for what he believes is the truth. Opus Dei itself is portrayed as a cult-like organization within the Catholic Church, who has been able to blackmail the Vatican because of its vast wealth and secret knowledge. Following the book’s release, the group received a large amount of publicity, much of it negative. It was viewed as a secret group with connections to organizations like the Freemasons, and many suspected it had something to hide.

The fact is that Opus Dei does exist. It was founded in 1926 by Josemaria Escriva, a Spanish priest who wanted to extend the morality of the church’s members beyond attending mass on Sunday morning. It is considered to be a personal prelature of the Catholic Church, meaning that the Vatican does not view it as an entity confined to a geographical locale, like a diocese, but as an international organization. Rather than being secretive, its members seek holiness through their work and other day-to-day activities. Use of devices like the cilice belt, which Silas used to punish himself, is not endorsed.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
The Château de Montségur aka the Cathar castle. catharcastles.info.

2. The Cathars Did Not Possess The Holy Grail

The Grail legend that The Da Vinci Code is based on draws heavily from the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a 1982 novel that involves speculation about the Holy Grail in the region of southern France. One thing of particular interest to the authors was the mysterious heretical sect known as the Cathars. They had a castle on Montsegur, which was besieged in 1244 as part of the Crusades. Shortly before the Cathars surrendered, some of them escaped by being roped down the face of a sheer cliff, carrying with them a mysterious object.

The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail speculated that the object that they were carrying was a collection of documents regarding Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene; in fact, their knowledge of this relationship formed the basis of the Cathar heresy. Dan Brown drew on this speculation in presenting Robert Langdon’s quest for the Holy Grail in The Da Vinci Code. However, the fact is that we have no idea what, if anything, was carried out of Montsegur that night.

Additionally, the substance of the Cathar heresy could not have been the supposed “truth” about the bloodline of Jesus. Why? The Cathars were Gnostics. As such, they believed that the material world was inherently evil and therefore could not have revered the man Jesus; instead, they thought His true nature to be entirely divine. They believed that marriage and procreation were, though necessary, evil. So no, they could not have based their belief system on the marriage of Jesus or set any stock on a belief about His bloodline.

16 Reasons Why the Da Vinci Code is Full of Inaccurate History
Il Cenacolo or L’Ultima Cena, The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci. Public Domain / Wikipedia.

1. Leonardo Da Vinci Did Not Paint Mary Magdalene

The title of The Da Vinci Code comes from the idea that Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper features not Jesus and 12 male disciples, but rather Jesus sitting next to a woman, Mary Magdalene. The two are positioned in such a way that their hips touch each other’s, but their bodies move apart, forming a “W” shape, signifying a vessel or the female womb. A larger “M” shape can be found in the painting, which stands for “Magdalene” or “matrimonious,” indicating that the two were married. Various other clues can supposedly be found in other paintings by the same painter, and Robert Langdon had to decipher these clues in his quest to find the Holy Grail and recover the sacred feminine that was supposedly revered by the early church.

The problem is that placed into the context of what we know about Leonardo Da Vinci, and his other paintings, the figure in question was, in fact, the disciple John, not Mary Magdalene. Da Vinci painted numerous pictures of effeminate young men who appear to have androgynous features. His final painting was of John the Baptist, and he seems to have feminine features which could lead to him being mistaken for a female. The same idea is apparent in The Mona Lisa, who is a female with androgynous features.

Additionally, Da Vinci was known to be a trickster who enjoyed using his work to mess with people’s minds. In fact, the notorious Voynich Manuscript, which a myriad of researchers have attempted to interpret but have found to be impossible, may have been written by him when he was a child, purely as a means of confusing people.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” Harvard University.

“Rosslyn Chapel: Da Vinci Code’s Holy Grail Theory Debunked,” by George Mair. The Scotsman. January 13, 2016.

“Catharism.” Wikipedia.

“The Real Da Vinci Code with Tony Robinson.” DocumentaryTube.

“Pierre Plantard.” Wikipedia.

“Merovingian Dynasty.” Wikipedia.

“Opus Dei.” BBC. August 10, 2009.

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