*_ Book Review (UPDATE: and Movie Review) of The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown _*
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| Book Review and |
| Movie Review of: |
| THE |
| DAVINCI |
| CODE XX*X*X**|
| XXXX |
|Novel by: DAN BROWN|
|Reviewed by: G. W. Watts|
The DaVinci Code opened in theatres nationwide / worldwide on Friday, 19 May 2006. (Film based on Dan Brown's book by the same
name.) Register editor-in-chief, Gordon Watts gives a review of Dan Brown’s book -and newly released movie, “The DaVinci Code.”
LAKELAND, FL (The Register) Tuesday, 23 May 2006 -- Reviewer, Watts, has read the entire 489-page paperback edition published by Anchor Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., New York. (The 454-page edition, published by Doubleday, however, is generally cited in other book reviews. Citations below shall be from the 454-page edition.) The book was “very interesting” according to Watts, who claimed it was “well-written, by a seasoned pro, whether or not it is actually based on fact.” While Watts says the book is “more fiction than fact,” he concurred with other reviewers in the assessment of this fast-paced thriller and says he enjoyed the story and felt he got his money’s worth -and recommends everyone get a copy to enjoy -and to challenge critical thinking and analysis skills.
In addition, Watts has also seen the movie based on the book (starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, and Paul Bettany; Directed by Ron Howard and Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman), and it is said that the movie was "also very interesting" and fairly faithful to the book. Without revealing how it ends, Watts makes several points about differences between the movie and book: Audrey Tautou is not a tall redhead, as her character is depicted in the book, but instead, a brunette of average height. Also, Ian McKellen, who played Leigh Teabing, is not a fat, plump character as the book shows. Other minor changes were made and some shall be mentioned below -without spoiling the end.
Editor's Note: The original version of this review stated that Watts had only read the book. Since publication, Watts has also seen the roughly two-and-a-half-hour movie -in its entirety -at a local theatre in Lakeland, Florida. Watts commented to this writer that it was difficult
to sit through such a lengthy movie without having a bathroom break, but careful planning allowed the viewing from almost 10 O'Clock pm until about 12:21 at the Lakeland Square Cinema. Watts suggested that avoiding all food and excess beverages several hours
before show time is an important factor. All updated material below shall be in italicized dark red font.
The book (and movie) are generating loads of controversy because author, Dan Brown makes claims that this fiction book, which takes swipes at the Bible as we know it, is actually based on fact:
“All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Source: Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code (ISBN: 1-4000-7917-9; New York: Anchor Books, 2003), the “FACT” page between Acknowledgements and Prologue; Last Paragraph. Also, Brown, when questioned by Borders, responded as follows:
“How would you describe The Da Vinci Code to someone who hasn't read any of your previous novels?
Dan Brown:…One of the many qualities that make The Da Vinci Code unique is the factual nature of the story. All the history, artwork, ancient documents, and secret rituals in the novel are accurate, as are the hidden codes revealed in some of da Vinci's most famous paintings.” (Source: http://bordersstores.com/features/feature.jsp?file=browndan)
Is, however, The DaVinci Code factual? Watts looks at three standards (which may have been pioneered by American philosopher, James Rachels) to evaluate this claim:
1) Does the DaVinci Code agree with known fact?
2) Does the DaVinci Code agree with itself? (Is it “self” consistent?)
3) Does the DaVinci Code agree with gut feeling? (Intuition’s inner voice alone is not enough, but, taken together with #’s 1 and 2 above, gives a “big picture.”)
TEST #1: Does the DaVinci Code agree with known fact?
The DVC says the church were misogynic women-haters:
CLAIM: The DaVinci Code’s claims that “powerful men in the early church ‘conned’ the world by propagating lies that devalued the female and tipped the scales in favor of the masculine [and waged] a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine…” Source: Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code (ISBN: 0-385-50420-0; New York: Anchor Books, 2003), page 124 of the 454-page edition. Brown also claims that “The power of the female…posed a threat to the rise of the predominately male church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean [by] a church that had subjugated women…and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine.” (Source: Brown, The DVC, pages 238-239)
UPDATE: The movie, while making similar claims, as the book, that the Catholic Church tried to propagate woman-hating propaganda and put together a woman-hating Bible in the Council of Nicaea, does not seem to make such a direct attack as does the book -based on the way the movie presents the issue. However, the movie does seem to claim -or suggest -the same thing as the book's quotes above.
FACT: The “early church” as we know it (Peter, Paul, Jesus, etc.) did *not* devalue women: For example, while women normally were not allowed to be a witness in court or participate in religious functions in that era, we have Mary Magdalene being one of the first people to tell the disciples of the risen Jesus (John chapter 20) -and we have numerous cases of women participating in Jesus’ ministry and the ministries of Peter and Paul. Furthermore, Paul the Apostle *clearly* tells his readers that both the husband *and* the wife are to be treated with love and respect. (1st Corinthians 7:3-4) Peter tells his readers in Acts 2:17 that both our sons *and* our daughters shall prophecy. Lastly, if we are to understand the “early church” to mean the early Christian leaders who put together the Bible, then we see that they did *not* edit out Old Testament sections of the Bible mentioning Deborah the Prophetess (Judges, chapter 4 & 5), or the Joel 2:28 passage, quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17 above, mentioning both sons *and* (female) daughters. Proverbs, chapter 31, is certainly *NOT* a Bible of a “women-hating” church. Of course, both Ruth and Esther have books named after them. That should erase any doubt at the absurdness of Dan Brown’s claims above. (After history showed us that “professional pundits” and “experts” got it wrong in claims that Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” would incite Jews to anger, perhaps we should “think twice” before believing “experts” a second time, when they speak of Dan Brown’s book as historical “fact.” Will we ever learn?)
TEST #2: Does the DaVinci Code agree with itself?
The DVC first claims that the church demonized the pagan symbols, but then later claims that the church adopted those pagan symbols as their own. Which is it, Dan Brown?
** FIRST CLAIM: Dan Brown‘s character, Robert Langdon states: “As part of the Vatican’s campaign to eradicate the 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…Poseidon’s trident became the devil’s pitchfork, the wise crone’s pointed hat became the devil’s pitchfork, and Venus’s pentacle became a sign of the devil.” (Brown, The DVC, page37)
** SECOND CLAIM: Brown’s character Langdon also claims that: “virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual - the miter, the alter, the doxology, and communion, the act of ‘God-eating’ - were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions.” (Brown, The DVC, page 232)
UPDATE: Watts: The movie, as I recall it, made no comments either way about pagan symbols or elements of the Catholic rituals, as does the book. All the same, the book's claims should be evaluated for accuracy and consistency.
** CONCLUSION: Dan Brown is delusional if he thinks that we should accept him making sense here: Which is it, Mr. Brown: Did the Church trash and demonize the pagan symbols, or, instead, did they merely steal them for all of their rituals? ** The DaVinci Code does not even agree with itself. **
TEST #3: Does the DaVinci Code agree with gut feeling?
The DVC says that almost 400 years after Jesus’ death, an emperor ordered a recall of the current Bibles circulating.
CLAIM: The DaVinci Code states as follows: “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicled His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books…Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.” (Brown, The DVC, page 234)
UPDATE: Watts: I don't recall the movie saying anything about actually recalling or gathering up and burning Bibles worldwide. However, the movie did say (through its main characters) that Constantine rewrote the Bible to change Christ from man to God by de-emphasizing His human traits, similar to the claims made it the book -and quoted above.
REALITY CHECK: After four centuries? Constantine was somehow able to do a recall of HUNDREDS or THOUSANDS of Bibles which were circulating after about 400 YEARS --all around the known world? What do you think he was? God? Earth calling Dan Brown: This is impossible!
MORE FACTUAL ERROR:
FURTHERMORE: This emperor “financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits?” Is Dan Brown also illiterate and unable to read? Even a grade school kid knows that the New Testament gospels speak clearly of Jesus’ human traits: Jesus was happy to spread good cheer and blessings (Matt. 14:27; also Matt. 25:34), Jesus was sad (John 11:33-36), Jesus was angry (Mark 11:15-17; also Matt: 25:41), as well as hungry (Matt. 4:2; Luke 4:2), and also physical fatigued at times (Luke 8:23). Let’s not forget Jesus also experienced the “human traits” of pain and death on the cross -much pain, I might add. (Lastly, what about Isaiah, chapter 53, which describes a *very human* Christ Jesus? Obviously, Constantine did not recall this book either.) Dan Brown’s claim above is obviously not factual, for either New Testament or Old Testament.
If Dan Brown fails and flunks these simple tests, can he really be trusted with heavy claims of conspiracy regarding the Bible? Jesus married? No credible evidence has come to light, and the Bible is arguably the most studied book in history. After all of Dan Brown’s blunders so far, we can not trust him against a solid record, as is the Bible.
UPDATE: Watts: Besides the observation I made above (that the Bible has been more researched and studied than any other book in history), Dr. Jay Dennis (of the Lakeland, Florida based "First Baptist Church at the Mall") suggests in his recent May 21, 2006 sermon that the Bible has also been highly persecuted -not only surviving persecution (a good "defense," I estimate), but also changing lives in a positive way (a good "offense," I would term it). Between the survival of both scholarly research and heavy persecution -while changing lives, the strong endurance of the Bible is a testament to its quality -and hints at its Divine authorship.
However, Dan Brown’s book, claimed to be factual by its author, makes further claims.
UPDATE: Watts: In addition to incorrectly claiming Jesus' human nature was hidden by the Church, Brown also makes claims that Christ was not divine. While this is harder to prove or disprove, Dr. Dennis also suggests in that 05-21-2006 sermon that a mere man would not die for a lie. "Pastor Jay," as he is called, hints that even a mad man would not claim he was very God if it meant his execution and very painful death. This, Dennis says, is proof that Jesus was the Christ and long-prophesied Messiah of the Jewish nation (and world). Taken together, it would seem, then, that Dan Brown makes false claims about both the Church and about Jesus of Nazareth.
Pastor Jay, in his sermon, "What Jesus thinks about The DaVinci Code," relies heavily upon Biblical scripture to make his arguments and prove his points about what Jesus might think about this or other subjects. This is O.K. for the Bible-believing Christian, but this is insufficient for people who don't believe that the Bible is authored by God Almighty. To prove a point, however, to Bible skeptics, one must resort to other proof, and God is not lacking in "self-evident" proof. This is why I made additional truthful claims and endeavored to prove them, that is, so I would be able to "...be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh..." (1 Peter 3:15, KJV)
CLAIM: “Historians [could not] confirm the authenticity of the Bible [because] History is always written by the winners.” (Brown, The DVC, page 256)
UPDATE: Watts: I don't recall this quote in the movie.
REALITY CHECK: Many of the Heroes of our Bible were *certainly* not “winners”: The nation of Israel, God’s chosen people constantly fell from grace and “sinned against the Lord” in both the Old and New Testaments; King David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery with a married woman and ordered the assassination of her husband -to cover up the affair. (2nd Samuel, chapters 11-12) Both Peter and Paul certainly made a lot of human mistakes, both before *and* after being “saved.” Lastly, Jesus, the “number one” hero of the Bible, was not always a “pretty boy” winner: He endured a lot of pain, and He asks us to follow his own example (John 13:15) and pick up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 10:18; 16:24; Mark 8:31; 10:21; Luke 9:23), and even do greater works than He did Himself (John 14:12)!
UPDATE: Watts: Although it should be apparent by the "Warts and All" nature of the Bible -a historical record that does not cover up or hide mistakes, Dr. Jay Dennis also made a point that I initially missed: Attempting a cover-up is next to impossible. Pastor Jay points out in his sermon that no matter how hard a conspiracy attempts to do a cover up, you can't stifle the truth forever: If there had been anything to Mary Magdalene's relationship with Jesus (a very hard-to-contain hot potato), it would have come out long ago. This is a good intuitive proof to justify claims that the Bible is right -and that Dan Brown is wrong -and thus not totally trustworthy regarding other claims. Dr. Dennis does
make the theological point, however, that JESUS was indeed married -married to His bride, the Church (probably referring to Revelations 18:23, John 3:29, and related scriptures), in His role as Bridegroom.
CLAIM: Brown claims that “the predominately male Church…demonized and called [the sacred feminine] unclean…[and] created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy.” (Brown, The DVC, page238)
UPDATE: Watts: The movie at least hints at the same.
FACT: The “Church” as he calls it, sanctioned the Bible as we know it, including the part where it says that both Lucifer and Adam played a part in the fall of man -not just Eve. (Genesis, chapter 3; 1st Corinthians 15:21-22, 45; Romans 5:14; Acts 26:18)
CONCLUSION: Dan Brown is again wrong in his claim that the Church demonized women. The church laid the blame on *all* mankind (man and woman) for sin, and demanded both man and woman be treated with love and respect. Dan Brown is on a witch hunt, and he’s fishing, but he won’t catch anything.
CLAIM: “The earlier [Gnostic] gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.” (Brown, The DVC, page 234)
UPDATE: Watts: The movie makes reference to the "Gospels" of Phillip and Mary, and Leigh Teabing is quoted as saying that the Church performed a coverup of these book and kept Mary Magdalene's role secret and hidden. However, I don't recall that the movie suggests any of these documents were gathered up and destroyed -and that they did a coverup. For all I know, Teabing may have meant that the church merely got the original documents and prevented recopying and publication, thus making the mass gatherings and mass burnings unnecessary.
FACT: Evidence is strong that most scholars, both Christian and non-Christian date the Gnostic gospels to around A.D. 250-350, and the Greek originals on which the Coptic translations were based to around the 100’s or 200’s.
UPDATE: Watts: After I had published this review on 05-19 and made claims above that many scholars had indeed researched the Gnostic Gospels, Pastor Jay made similar claims in his May 21 sermon, even naming at least one researcher (whose name I do not recall).
BOTTOM LINE: Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code” mixes fact with fiction and is a very interesting read.
* Richard Abanes, “The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code (paperback)” (ISBN: 0-7369-1439-0; Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)
* Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail (paperback)” (ISBN: 0-440-13648-2; New York: Dell Publishing, 1983)
* Dan Brown, “The DaVinci Code (hardback)” (ISBN: 0-385-50420-9; New York: Doubleday, 2003) 254 pages
* Dan Brown, “The DaVinci Code (paperback)” (ISBN: 1-4000-7917-9; New York: Anchor Books, 2003) 289 pages
* Dr. Jay Dennis, "What Jesus thinks about The DaVinci Code," Sermon preached on Sunday, 21 May 2006, 8am, 930am, & 11am Services, First Baptist Church @ The Mall, Lakeland, Florida: http://www.ChurchAtTheMall.com ; http://www.FBCLakeland.org -Lakeland, Florida: USA
* James L. Garlow, Ph.D., Peter Jones, Ph.D., “Cracking Da Vinci’s Code (Abridged, paperback)” (ISBN: 0781443563; Colorado, Paris, Ontario: Cook Communications Ministries; Eastbourne, England: Kingsway Communications, LTD, 2005)
Reminder: The updated material has been added in dark red font and in italics, as indicated here.
USELESS TRIVIA: Michael Baigent’s last name is an anagram of Leigh Teabing’s last name, and Richard Leigh’s last name is Leigh Teabing’s first name. Coincidence? (Hint: The novel is based on cryptic puzzles involving letters, anagrams, symbols, and hidden messages.)
Other Comments about the movie: While watching Great Britain's Sir Ian McKellen play Leigh Teabing, I could not help but remember his role as Magneto in the famous X-Men movie series. Although this great actor eventually settled into his role, he did not seem the best for the part: Every time Leigh Teabing got upset, I almost expected him to start hurling metal objects with his magnetic superpowers. This was almost a distraction. Additionally, from reading the book, I know that Robert Langdon was claustrophobic, that is, afraid
of closed spaces, but this fact was not developed properly early on, and the viewer is left hanging and wondering what his problem is in the elevator with Bezu Fache (played by Jean Reno). Is he nervous because he is guilty? (That is what Captain Fache seems to think.) Lastly, the choice of Tom Hanks did not seem as scholarly as we might have hoped for, especially considering Hanks' recent role
as Forest Gump in the eponymous movie; However, Hanks also settled into the role quite convincingly. All in all, the movie was a good catch -entertaining and fun, even if more fiction than fact.
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Gordon W. Watts,
** Personal site: http://GordonWatts.com **
"First, they [Nazis] came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they
came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me." (Martin Niemoller,
given credit for a quotation in The Harper Religious and Inspirational Quotation Companion, ed. Margaret Pepper (New York: Harper &Row, 1989), 429 -as
cited on page 44, note 17, of Religious Cleansing in the American Republic, by Keith A. Fornier, Copyright 1993, by Liberty, Life, and Family