In 2004 Dan Brown’s runaway best selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, had sold 8 million copies and had become and a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks. Since then, it has sold 80 million copies. This thriller hooks the reader from the very beginning. It is a book about secret societies, code words, and religion—in particular Christianity.
The protagonist, Robert Langdon, is forced into a life-threatening quest for the Holy Grail. But the Holy Grail in this story is not what it is traditionally believed to be—the chalice from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. The Holy Grail is the body of Mary Magdalene. According to Dan Brown’s deconstruction of the New Testament Story, Jesus and Mary were married and gave birth to a daughter they named Sarah. After Jesus’ death, Mary fled to Gaul, and, under the protection of secret societies throughout the centuries, the seed line from Christ was preserved. There is no resurrection in this story, just a dead Jesus of Nazareth. What makes Jesus important is not his deity, which is denied in the book. It is the fact that he came from a royal line, the line of David. This is the justification given in the book for the preservation of his descendents. It is purported that the works of Leonardo Da Vinci left clues for what the book claims to be true.
The Da Vinci Code comes complete with proposed evidence to support its claims. When asked what is true in the book, Mr. Brown affirms that all its history claims are true. Though it is a work of fiction, he argues that the particulars concerning Jesus and the Holy Grail are based on fact.
There are two main issues at stake in the book. One is the reliability of the New Testament documents. The second is the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. If you can destroy the first, you can cast a mighty big shadow over the second. For those whose faith may have been shaken by reading the book, let me recommend a few resources. The first is a book by F. F. Bruce, Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? Another book is by Hermann Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures. A third book I would recommend is written by Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ. These should help put to rest much that is amiss in this novel. And any Bible bookstore you walk into today will have at least half a dozen books written for the explicit purpose of addressing the preposterous claims of this novel.
One of the characters, an expert on the Grail, sums up the impact of the book in this sentence: “What I mean… is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 235).