Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Da Vinci Code

Just back from a 1 week holiday in Northern Italy with my wife. The kids now being in their later teens and beyond, it was our first time on a holiday on our own since they were born. Absolute bliss for us (and them I dare say!). We had a brilliant week.

As an appropriate coincidence for our first trip to Italy I happened upon The Da Vinci Code novel in a newsagent at Dublin Airport departures (the novel leans somewhat pivotally on Da Vinci's The Last Supper - the famous huge fresco in a church in Milan not far from our destination in Lake Garda). A few weeks earlier I had watched a fascinating and very balanced documentary on the religious history aspects of the novel on National Geographic TV channel. Following all the hype the novel seemed like a good holiday read.

I ate through the 600 pages comfortably over the 7 days of our holiday. It was an absorbing read. I'm sure many would correctly argue that Dan Brown's book is - from an historical perspective - a somewhat incomplete, imbalanced and " Readers Digest" treatment of a rather big subject. We must remember that The Da Vinci Code is a fictional novel which of course can only touch the surface on many historical topics. Also, the fictional novel characters are naturally portrayed giving their own subjective views for purpose of the plot.

Nevertheless, as Dan Brown has argued on his website and elsewhere, the book should provoke thought and is a springboard in many ways. The positives I've taken from the book are many and include:

1. The whole Mary Magdalene theory is of course very interesting. The fundamental inputs lead to some prima facia logical analysis. It provokes additional research.

2. I've found myself carrying out further studies and readings on the Bible itself, Mary Magdalene, Da Vinci, The Louvre (I was last there in 1991 and was completely enthralled), Westminster Abbey etc. My new studies are wider than analyzing the core ideas from the book, so it has extended my interests (although both history and art have been interests of mine for a long time).

3. I've always been fascinated by objective research of Christ and the early Christian Church. I've too logical a mind to accept blind faith and complete face-value acceptance of the 4 official Gospels - written/rewritten and edited of course by very ordinary people 2,000 years ago. From my earlier Bloggs one can detect that I'm hungry to learn more in my search for truth and the "Big Picture"and the book has helped me focus some of this curiosity in certain directions.

So, overall The Da Vinci Code is a good read on many levels for many different types of people. Of course Dan Brown is also a cunning author and has gone out of his way to appeal to every group imaginable - not least many Christian women no doubt (it's even been said that many nuns have given positive reactions)!

It's hard for anyone to be deeply offended - as it is after all a work of fiction and by Brown's own admission merely another view to be weighed up in the mysteries of distant history. "What is history but a fable agreed upon!" - Napoleon Bonaparte. If believing Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus and bore Him descendants helps some people live better lives - then is it not a good thing for them? Does it matter to some that we can't totally prove it? The square root of minus one (i) is quite literally an imaginary number - but it's mathematical concept contributes hugely in all aspects of modern engineering. This clever analogy was thrown up in the novel and made me smile!

Anyway, I'm still conducting further readings, but below is a link to an article from a Christian lecturer in theology (Ramon K. Jusino) who puts up a reasonably well argued hypothesis that Mary Magdalene could be the "Beloved Disciple" and the author of the 4th Gospel (normally attributed to St. John). It was written before The Da Vinci Code novel hype and does not analyse the subject of whether or not Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus......

In Jusino's summary arguments there is one brilliant paragraph....

"Does this thesis seem radical to you only because I propose that a woman authored one of the four Holy Gospels in the Bible? If I had a thesis which proposed that Bartholomew, or Andrew, or James, or any of the other male apostles authored the Fourth Gospel instead of John -- would that be considered very radical? Probably not. In fact, the church has no problem with the prevailing scholarship which says that a man whose name we don't even know wrote one of the most sacred Christian documents. Imagine -- even a nameless man is preferable to a woman."

Here's another secular site that seems good for basic known information on Mary Magdalene:

1 comment:

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