By CNS | Published March 25, 2004
“The Da Vinci Code,” a best-selling book by Dan Brown, stirred up controversy with its assertions that the Gospels didn’t tell the true story of Jesus and claims that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and appointed her to lead a feminist spiritual movement.
“De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’” a new book published by Our Sunday Visitor, examines these claims and countless others in the bestseller and points out what it describes as factual and historical inaccuracies.
The bestseller, published last year, begins with the premise that Leonardo da Vinci used his art to communicate secret knowledge about the Holy Grail. It then claims that early Christians did not see Jesus as divine and also criticizes the church for keeping secret thousands of texts that detail Christ’s humanity.
“De-Coding Da Vinci,” which will be in bookstores in April, was written by Amy Welborn, a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and formerly for Catholic News Service. It asserts that Brown’s novel contains a mixture of “a number of different strands of speculation, esoteric lore, and pseudo-history published in other books.”
Welborn said there is simply no evidence to support the premise that Jesus wanted to begin a movement focusing on awareness of the “sacred feminine” which was eventually suppressed by Emperor Constantine.
She holds up many of Brown’s claims to credible scholarly sources with the hope that readers will be able to distinguish fact from fiction.
In her introduction, Welborn finds fault with “The Da Vinci Code” for its claims to historical accuracy. She said the book’s “imaginative detail and false historical assertions are presented as facts and the fruit of serious historical research, which they simply are not.”
After Welborn takes a close look at Mary Magdalene, the Gospels, women in Christianity, Leonardo da Vinci’s art, Opus Dei, the Holy Grail and other topics, she concludes that a positive outcome from the popularity of “The Da Vinci Code” is the interest it stirred in thinking about who Jesus really is, what Christianity was all about, and issues of gender and spirituality.
“What’s unfortunate,” she writes, “is that the reading public has embraced the historical assertions made in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ with such enthusiasm.”
She notes that the way people have been so taken up by the book shows a “failure of churches of all kinds to communicate these very basic facts of history and Christian theology” to their members. She suggests that readers set themselves straight by going back to a source they most likely already have on their bookshelves—the Bible.
“De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of ‘The Da Vinci Code’” will be in bookstores this April for $9.95. It can be ordered directly from Our Sunday Visitor by phone at: (800) 348-2440, ext. 3. Our Sunday Visitor has also produced “The Da Vinci Code” pamphlet examining the bestseller’s claims and providing succinct answers for parish or group use. The pamphlets can be purchased in bulk orders of 50 for $12.95.