Dan Brown, author of that curiously popular beach-read that so many people take seriously The Da Vinci Code, made a rare public appearance and a rare statement to the media today, to defend himself against charges made by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh that his novel constitutes a breach of copyright.
Baigent and Leigh co-authored the 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and they say that Brown stole their ideas. As ever, there may be a fine line between theft and homage; the novel certainly pays cryptic tribute to Baigent and Leigh by naming one of its characters Sir Leigh Teabing, an anagram of “Leigh Baigent”, and by listing Holy Blood, Holy Grail as one of the books on his shelf. (Teabing is played in the upcoming film by Sir Ian McKellen.)
Brown is a pretty reclusive fellow, and not a whole lot about him or his beliefs is known outside of what may be inferred from his novels. But now the Associated Press reports:
Both books hinge on the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a child, and that blood line survives to this day. The earlier book set out the notion that Christ did not die on the cross but lived later in France. . . .
Phrases used in both books to describe arguments that Jesus had been married showed similarities, [lawyer Jonathan Rayner] James said. He told the court Brown’s work also appeared to reproduce “unusual and unlikely” connections between historical and religious figures set out in the earlier work.
“This is not an idea that I would ever have found appealing. Being raised a Christian and having sung in my Church choir for 15 years, I’m well aware that Christ’s crucifixion is the very core of the Christian faith,” Brown told reporters outside the courtroom, referring to the argument in the 1982 book that Christ had not died.
Brown has denied claims that he reproduced sections of argument from the 1982 book and said he disputes the proposition it makes that Jesus did not die on the cross.
“Suggesting a married Jesus is one thing, but questioning the Resurrection undermines the very heart of Christian belief,” Brown said in a statement released to reporters.
Why, it almost sounds like he’s a believer. Would he describe his novel as an expression of Christian faith, then, rather than as the anti-Christian thing that many of his critics have taken it to be?
FEB 28 UPDATE: A new version of the AP story is up now.
MAR 1 UPDATE: I notice now that The Daily Telegraph describes Dan Brown as a “devout Christian”. And I don’t know why I didn’t think of checking for something like this before, but I notice that Brown himself makes the claim in a FAQ at his website:
ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?
Yes. Interestingly, if you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as absolute historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious–that is, that we are all trying to decipher life’s big mysteries, and we’re each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.
Interestingly, he also provides a partial bibliography for his novel, and he does list Holy Blood, Holy Grail among the titles, as well as one other book co-authored by Baigent and Leigh.