An insult to Catholics — and historians

MICHAEL COREN

For Dan Brown’s fans, a primer on his many errors.

Leonardo Da Vinci
Madonna with the Yarnwinder (detail)


The book, the movie and now the board game. Yes, The Da Vinci Code board game is currently available and will probably provide the gullible with hours of harmless fun. Roll a double six, proceed five squares and then beat oneself with a whip whilst murdering a nun. And all the while author Dan Brown becomes wealthier and Christians do a pretty good job of turning the other cheek.

The Islamic world went into mass revolt over a bunch of largely innocuous cartoons. Roman Catholics, the main victims of Brown’s book, have merely gone to Mass. Brown makes repugnant and completely baseless attacks on Christianity in general, but it is Catholicism with which he seems particularly angry.

Combine anti-Catholicism with a few beautiful heroes, mad monks, facile plots and the now obligatory conspiracy theory and the pages turn as fast as the figures on a certain author’s bank account. A silly novel, however, is merely that. It is when Dan Brown claims to be writing of fact, as he does at some length in the book, that we have a duty to correct him.

He claims that Jesus was regarded even by His followers as merely a great moral teacher or at best a prophet. They never thought of Him as a Messianic figure, he continues, and the earliest written documents substantiate this. It was only at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 that Jesus was said to be divine.

Not quite. Jesus is called “God” seven times in the New Testament and is referred to as divine on dozens of occasions. He was crucified not for being a prophet or an ethicist, or for that matter a champion of social justice, but for claiming to be the Son of God. The early martyrs died because of this belief alone.

There are numerous letters from pagan and thus objective writers from the first and second century, long before Nicaea, describing how Christians believe Jesus to be divine; including one written to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in AD 180. All the Council of Nicaea did was to affirm that Jesus was the Son of God as a self-evident truth.


The historians he lists are Margaret Starbird, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, Clive Prince, Lynn Picknett and Michael Baigent. But, like Dan Brown, these people aren’t historians either. Baigent has a basic degree in psychology and is working on an MA in mysticism, and Picknett and Prince are best known for their work on the occult and UFOs.


Brown then says that The Dead Sea Scrolls are the earliest Christian writings in existence and that The Gnostic Gospels frequently mention Mary Magdalene and her marriage to Jesus.

This is a howler. The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish writings and have no direct connection with Christianity at all. As for those much-discussed Gnostic Gospels, they at no time mention Jesus being married to Mary. But then Dan Brown probably doesn’t expect his readers to actually read the Gnostic Gospels.

If they did, they would be extremely disappointed. They are often misogynistic, frequently contradictory and tend to be self-serving and achingly dull. They were rejected by the Church because they were written relatively late and are wholly unreliable. It was not a case of Christianity trying to hide some greater story, but of Christianity adopting only books that were, well, true.

If Brown doesn’t think much of the Church, he doesn’t like Constantine very much at all. Except when he thinks him a virtual god: “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine.” Who knew? Certainly not Constantine. Because the Old Testament existed even before the birth of Jesus, and the New Testament began to take shape at the end of the first century. The compilation was not finalized until the end of the fourth century.

Constantine, however, died in AD 337. In other words, there is no way that he could have compiled the Bible. What he certainly did do was to commission Eusebius, the genius Bishop of Carthage, to make 50 copies of the Bible that already existed so that more people could read it. No serious historian has ever claimed otherwise or written anything to support Brown’s thesis.

Brown’s advocates argue he doesn’t claim to be a historian. True, but he does claim that distinction for others — as in “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians.”

The historians he lists are Margaret Starbird, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, Clive Prince, Lynn Picknett and Michael Baigent. But, like Dan Brown, these people aren’t historians either. Baigent has a basic degree in psychology and is working on an MA in mysticism, and Picknett and Prince are best known for their work on the occult and UFOs.

Brown is often at his most fatuous when he tries to be at his most clever. He writes that YHWH, the Jewish sacred name for God, is based on the word Jehovah. And Jehovah, he says, is a combination of the masculine Jah and the feminine Havah, signifying Eve.

Thus God gave us feminism, Jesus was a pioneer of progressive gender politics and the Church has hidden all of this to preserve male power and exclude women, particularly Mary Magdalene, from their rightful place in society and culture.

Brown’s politics are as confused as his semantics. YHWH doesn’t come from Jehovah, but Jehovah from YHWH. The word was used thousands of years before Jehovah came into existence, as late as the 16th-century.

The Da Vinci Code insists that evil men and women have for 2,000 years been telling a grotesque lie and that they still torture and kill to maintain their power. Those people apparently include me, my wife, our children and our family and friends. Hundreds of millions of others too. What evil swine we must be. Make sure the popcorn has extra butter and hooray for Hollywood and publishing.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Michael Coren, "An insult to Catholics — and historians." National Post, (Canada) May 18, 2006.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post.

THE AUTHOR

Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.

 

He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

Copyright © 2006 National Post


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