The Da Vinci Code (Part 3)

The Da Vinci Code (Part 3) April 2, 2005

Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Addendum.

There are portions of The Da Vinci Code where it seems Dan Brown’s research consisted of digging through the works of Hal Lindsey and Jack Chick. Perhaps this was intentional in hopes of playing to the masses. If that’s the case he sure thinks the masses be dumb.

For example:

“… conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan” (p.21).

The number 666 comes from the Apocalypse of St John, otherwise known as the Book of Revelation. It refers to the Antichrist and not to the Archangel Lucifer, aka Satan. While certain amateur devil-loving folks might use the code numbers, 666, to show their evil “veracity”, it is not considered to be the number of Satan himself. I assume Brown used the mysterious “666” solely for its kook value — never mind the erroneous reference.

Brown’s grasp of Church History, of which there is a fairly substantial “paper trail”, is severely lacking:

“As part of the Vatican’s campaign to eradicate pagan religions and convert the masses to Christianity, the Church launched a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses, recasting their divine symbols as evil” (p.37).

For the first couple hundred years of the Church’s existence the followers of Christ were persecuted: lions, arenas, skin peelings, fiery stakes, beheadings, etc. Pagan gods and goddesses were the least of their worries. Yet “competing deities” were very much a part of the struggle between the early followers of Judaism and the Canaanites and others. But that was long before a “Vatican” which did not exist as a papal residence until the 5th century.

But of course, since Brown later claims that the victors write the history books, he wouldn’t — couldn’t — use real scholarship, real sources, because then he would be playing with the “enemy”, the “victor”, the Church. Thus it is that he must stick to rejected sources of spiritual knowledge (gnosis).

Brown’s feminist agenda is no secret. For years mainstream seminarians have been subjected to the sort of Women Church agenda that continually bubbles up in The Da Vinci Code. Yet, judging from reactions I’ve heard, this sort of “new theology” (a marriage of gnosticism & feminism) is new and intriguing to many.

“It seems Eve’s bite from the apple of knowledge was a debt women were doomed to pay for eternity” (p.41).

Throughout the book Brown refers to the “apple of knowledge” instead of its correct reference, the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Incidentally, no where in all of Scripture is the fruit identified as an apple. I assume this helps to make his case for Gnosticism (as the Greek word, gnosis, refers to spiritual knowledge). He also has to refer to the fruit as an “apple” to make his eventual tie in with Sir Isaac Newton (of all people).

What exactly is Gnosticism? Here’s a primer from Planet Envoy.

Gnosticism was the greatest challenge to the fledgling Christian faith of the second and third centuries. Yet, despite its influence, it is a difficult movement to define precisely because of its esoteric, decentralized, and eclectic nature. In general, Gnosticism is dualistic, focused on secret spiritual knowledge (gnosis), antagonistic towards or uninterested in time and history, and distrustful — even hateful — towards the physical realm and the human body. Gnosticism seeks to escape the limits of time and space, to transcend the physical and historical realm, and attempts to obtain salvation through secretive, individualistic means (see James A. Herrick, The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition [Intervarsity, 2003], 179-203).

Elaine Pagels explains that some of the early Gnostics claimed “that humanity created God — and so, from its own inner potential, discovered for itself the revelation of truth” (The Gnostic Gospels, 122). Rather than being outside of — and separate from — humanity, God is a creation of mankind. Salvation is not about overcoming sin through and by God’s assistance, but is the overcoming of ignorance through self-knowledge (p. 123-4). Ignorance insures destruction, while self-knowledge provides liberation and escape from suffering. This means that the Jesus was not the God-man who came to save mankind from sin, as orthodox Christians believe, but is a “teacher, revealer, and spiritual master” who is human only. In Gnostic teaching, Jesus is not greater than the student, but he will help the student to transcend him in knowledge and “Christ consciousness.”

Another key concept embraced by many Gnostic groups was that of an androgynous God, a deity who is a perfect balance of feminine and masculine. Pagels writes, “Some [Gnostic groups] insisted that the divine is to be considered masculofeminine ‘the great male-female power.’ Others claimed that the terms were meant only as metaphors, since, in reality, the divine is neither male nor female. A third group suggested that one can describe the primal Source in either masculine or feminine terms, depending on which aspect one intends to stress.” She adds: “Proponents of these diverse views agreed that the divine is to be understood in terms of a harmonious, dynamic relationship of opposites — a concept that may be akin to the Eastern view of yin and yang, but remains alien to orthodox Judaism and Christianity” (The Gnostic Gospels, 51).

The Gnostic deity is both god and goddess, and the Gnostics despised the Christians for “suppressing” the feminine nature of the godhead.

This plays out in Brown’s assertion that Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is actually a self portrait — hence, an androgynous Gnostic metaphor. Yet, as many reviewers have pointed out, the work is actually “a masterful painting of an Italian lady, most likely Mona Lisa Gherardini, the wife of merchant Francesco di Bartolommeo di Zanobi del Giocondo”.

Though Brown relies heavily on Gnostic sources and rejected “gospels” …

“[He] never bothers to have his characters quote from the final verse of the Gospel of Thomas, the most famous of the Gnostic texts. That verse states: ‘Simon Peter said to them: “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven’ (v. 114). This passage and others like it do not fit well with the feminist view of the Gnostics, just as the Church’s positive treatment of women throughout history does not compare well with the negative picture often depicted by feminist groups.”

Gnosticism and feminism constitute the central themes of Brown’s book. Relying heavily on rejected Gospel accounts, Brown weaves a tale of scandal and conspiracy inaugurated and perpetuated by the sinister and omnipotent Roman Catholic Church — which, for short, he calls “the Vatican”.

Stay tuned. More to come — Same Vat time, same Vat channel!

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