Did the Catholic Church rewrite the Bible to subvert women like Dan Brown claims in the Da Vinci Code?

Did da Vinci paint Mary Magdalene in the Last Supper?

da vinci

The "woman" to the left of Jesus in Leonardo's painting of "The Last Supper" is the disciple Philip, not Mary Magdalene.

Some women (and men) believe Dan Brown's cleverly written intriguing novel that proposes that men in the early Catholic Church rewrote the Bible to undermine the role of women in the Church. Mr. Brown claims Mary Magdalene should have been the first Pope and that Jesus had sex with her, made her Pope and had a bunch of kids with her.

The "Da Vinci Code" is full of historical inaccuracies. In saying that early Christians re-wrote the Bible, Mr. Brown's fans are questioning the integrity of men who died at the teeth of lions to protect the truth and the integrity of "the Word" (Bible) in the first centuries of Christianity.

Dan Brown got rich rewriting church history in the Da Vinci Code.
Early Christian martyrs died penniless making Church history.

Fans of the Da Vinci Code" who are trusting Dan Brown may want to consider that he made millions of dollars and became famous from his theories while early martyrs died penniless so that we could hear the truth about Jesus. Jesus was not popular at the end. There were no strokes for being Christian only pokes from Roman spears. We cannot imagine these people putting their salvation at stake and the salvation of humanity at stake to cover up Mary Magdalene's "claim to the Papacy" like the Da Vinci Code claims. Dan Brown is getting rich selling books to women. He is making money off of women.

I recently read an interview with Ron Howard, the director of "The Da Vinci Code" movie. He said:

"Unlike Dan Brown, I acknowledge that the Da Vinci Code is not historically correct."

Historical Inaccuracies

Dan Brown's accusation:

"These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls, which I mentioned earlier...[they are] the earliest Christian records." (Da Vinci Code, 245)

The Catholic Response:

  • Although the Dead Sea Scrolls tell us a lot about 1st century Judaism, they tell us nothing about Christianity - there is no mention of Jesus or Christianity at all! They are not "Christian Records" And yet they uphold Catholic thought. They do not support Dan Brown's assertions. (More about that below)
  • The Nag Hammadi texts contain Christian documents, but scholars date them 300-400 A.D. (this is hardly among "the earliest Christian records")
  • The two Gnostic Gospels Brown mentions:
    • Gospel of Phillip "was probably written in Syria in the second half of the 3rd century."
    • Gospel of Mary "although the date of the composition is unknown, the Coptic manuscript itself has been dated to the early 5th century" (Nag Hammadi Library in English)

The earliest Christian records are:

  1. St. Paul's letters: 1 Thessalonians - 51 A.D., Galatians 54-58 AD
  2. Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) written around 60-80 A.D. and the Gospel of John written around 90 A.D.
  3. Ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of John discovered in the 20th century
    • P52 - The Rylands Papyrus, dated to ~125 A.D. contains John 18:31-33
      Discovered in Egypt, in 1920 ß  Earliest know piece of the New Testament!
    • P45 - Chester Beatty Gospels, early 3rd century (200-225 A.D.) contains John 10:7-25

All of these records uphold Catholic teaching.

Speaking of Dan Brown's claim about earliest Christian records Robert Sheaffer says:
“In matters of historical analysis, it is not possible to be more wrong than this.”

      (Robert Sheaffer, The Da Vinci Code Cult – A Critical Look at Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code)

Reliability of the Gospels

  • They are 4 independent eyewitness accounts written by close associates of Jesus (5th – St. Paul)
  • They Confirm one another, other documents in Church history, names, places, locations of Palestine.
  • Unlike mythology, small details discovered by archaeologists are 100% accurate.
  • 4 portraits of the same person will look different, because each has a different perspective but they all correspond to each other.
  • There are 25,000 manuscripts of scripture (whole & partial) earliest partial is ~125 AD, most ~350 AD. textual comparison. They are 99.5% consistent with each other
  • There is more than enough evidence to address their authenticity. Historians accept reliability of non-Christian ancient documents such as Plato and Sophocles with much less manuscript evidence! If you consider NT unreliable, then ALL ancient documents are unreliable (Aristotle, Plato, Caesar, Sophocles)

There are Extra-biblical writings outside of the NT such as the Jewish scholar Josephus, which is a non-Christian account of the basic story of Jesus including Jesus' death. This is an external eye witness to Jesus's story, and he had no motivation to make it up.

Contrary to Dan Brown's claim the Dead Sea Scrolls clearly demonstrate the integrity of the Church's transcription of the Old Testament. They were found by a Muslim in 1946 and they predate the Church and Christ by 250 years and they blew away all the previous claims through the centuries that the Catholic Church wrote the Bible to suit itself. They are word for word what the Church transcribed from the Septuagint (Old Testament). Why would we believe that these men and women who died for the faith would put their souls in jeopardy by re-writing the New Testament. I've read the Gnostic texts were messed up, and that is why they were not included in the Bible. It is not because they were surpressed by the Church. The Gnostic texts are freely available for anyone to read. They are more anti-women than any of the Gospels. Any women who reads the Gnostic texts would be grateful they were not included in the Bible.

Was the crucifixion and resurrection a hoax?

  • Ignores the severity of Jesus injuries:
    • Scourged at the pillar - designed to rip flesh off and expose bone, could easily be fatal
    • Repeatedly beaten by soldiers, kept up all night, 4 trials.
    • Crowning with thorns with thorns up to 2 inches in length.
    • Spear thrust into his side, wound which flowed with blood and water a sure sign of death.
      Didn’t die from blood loss, but by asphyxiation: lungs fill up with blood and water.
    • Wrapped in burial cloths (70-75 pounds of linen) in addition to the spice
  • Roman soldiers would pay with their lives if he didn’t die
  • Evidence of Resurrection is strong enough that it is the most reasonable thing to believe

Did Jesus marry Mary Magdalene?

  • The Da Vinci Code contains quote from the Gospel of Phillip of Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene.
  • Quote is taken out of context, and in that same text Jesus kissed other students as well…
  • Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus mentioned several times in the Gospels.
    Life was drastically changed when she met Jesus who cast out 7 demons from her.
  • There is no evidence at all that Jesus chose Mary Magdalene as the leader of Christianity
  • All the evidence points to Jesus remaining a life-long celibate (never married)
  • Christ taught about celibacy, when disciples were asking him about marriage.
    • “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever can accept this, ought to accept it.”  (Matt 19:12)
  • The Apostles practiced it.  Paul recommends celibacy: 
    • “I wish that all were as I myself am [celibate], but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” (1 Cor 7:7)
    • “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” (1 Cor 7:32)
    • “There are many to be found among us, both men and women, who remain unmarried their whole life long in the hope of becoming more closely united with God.” (Athenagoras, ~150 A.D.)
    •  “Christ & Mary, both virgins laid the basis of virginity for both sexes”   (St. Jerome, PL 22,510, )

We got an email that said:

Long before Dan Brown, scholars considered the possibility of Jesus having been married, because he was a Jew and he was called Rabbi and he taught in synagogues. Under Jewish law that meant that he had to be married, unless he went against the law, which he was quite capable of, as I mention on my web page.

Jesus was never ordained a Rabbi under the order of Levites. The reason the Levites needed to be married is that the priesthood depended on ordination by blood line. No marriages = no kids =  no more priests. Jesus never went to Rabbinical college. The opening of Mathew gives the lineage of Jesus. He was not a Levite. If he did he would have been assigned to one synagogue and would not be bouncing around all over the country side. He was ordained Rabbi by virtue of his Son ship. If Jesus had been a married Rabbi, it would have been forbidden for him to talk to women, he wouldn't have been able to travel around, because he would be in one place. The Church is described as the "Bride of Christ." (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:21-33; cf. Rev. 21:9-10). The Church would never would have been given that title if Jesus had married Mary Magdalene.

Did the Church oppress women to hide the secret about Mary Magdalene?

  • Jesus elevated the role of women in society:  Samaritan woman, Mary is eyewitness
  • In Christianity, men & women are equal in dignity, created in God’s image & likeness
  • Women raised above where they were in the culture
  • Women’s right to vote movement in the U.S. was connected with churches.

Did the Church rewrite the Bible to subvert the role of women?

If the Church rewrote the Bible to subvert the role of women, we doubt they would have confirmed the book of Judith at the Council of Trent in 1545 when the Protestants threw it out. Judith was a heroine who saved the Jewish people by cutting off the head of Holofernes, king of the Assyrians. (Jud 13:7) If the Catholic Church rewrote the Bible to subvert the role of women we doubt they would have left in the book of Ruth. Ruth wasn't even a Jew, yet she plays a key role in salvation history. If they rewrote the Bible one would think the would put whiteout to the book of Esther who saved the Israelites. If they wanted to subvert woman they would have rewrote the story of Mary herself? And there are all the great women of the New Testament. There is Martha, Mary Magdalene, Anna in the temple (Lk2:36) described as a prophet, Elizabeth and dozens more. The Catholic Church did not rewrite the Bible to subvert the role of women. Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code, re-wrote Church history to sell books, and it worked. Everybody loves to hate the Catholic Church.

Notice that Dan Brown ignores all the great Catholic women such as St. Thérèse de Lisieux who is a doctor of the Church, Catherine of Siena, who gave the Pope a blast and told him to move his office back to Rome from France in the 1500's, and the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, a mystic who lived from 1774-1824 and whose visions inspired certain scenes in Mel Gibson's Passion.

Did Constantine determine the Canon of Scripture?

Dan Brown's accusation:

“The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine the Great” (Da Vinci Code, 231)  

The Catholic Response:

  • Constantine had nothing to do with the formation of the New Testament
  • The Gnostic Gospels were rejected from the NT Canon because…
    • They were not of Apostolic origin.
    • They were written much later than the four Gospel accounts (2nd – 3rd centuries)
  • Accounts are generally reliable to the extent that it is closer to the events recorded.
  • By time of Constantine, Church had concluded that the Gnostic Gospels were false & unhelpful.

Did Constantine stamp out matriarchal religion?

Dan Brown's accusation:

“The Priory believes that Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever.” (Da Vinci Code, 124)

The Catholic Response:

 Male gods were clearly dominant in pre-Christian paganism. They were not matriarchial.

Did Constantine convince the Bishops to declare Jesus to be God?

Dan Brown's accusation:

 “Jesus’ establishment as the ‘Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea”  (Da Vinci Code, 233) 

The Catholic Response:

  • Jesus was viewed as Divine by Christians from the first century
  • Called together the bishops of the Empire to settle disputes of theology at the Council of Nicea
  • Knew Christ was God, but how to express in theological terms
  • "Homo Ousion (same substance) vs. Homoi Ousion (like substance): the sticking point at the Nicene Council…  According to the concept of homoousion, Christ the Son was consubstantial (sharing the same substance) with the Father. Arius and Eusebius disagreed. Arius thought the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were materially separate from each other and that the Father created the Son.”
                (The Catholic Encyclopedia: The First Council of Nicaea, www.newadvent.org/cathen/11044a.htm)

Was the Priory of Sion a secret society founded in 1099 AD?

Dan Brown's accusation:

He says: “FACT:  The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.”  (Da Vinci Code, 1)

The facts that Brown didn’t tell you…

  • The Priory of Sion was a club founded in 1956 by four young Frenchmen.
  • One founder was Pierre Plantard “who previously had been sentenced to six months in prison for fraud and embezzlement” (Catholic Answers, Cracking the Da Vinci Code, p. 5)
  • He was obsessed with restoring the French Monarchy so he planted forged documents in the Bibliothèque Nationale: Les Dossiers Secretes (documents of a genealogy for Merovingian kings that traced back to Jesus) à trying to restore the French Monarchy
  • French historians concluded that the documents were fake.
    • “The parchments in particular were created by Philippe de Chérisey … Plantard and de Chérisey declared the ‘parchments’ to be forgeries…”  (http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id84.html )
  • André Bonhomme, the original president of the Priory of Sion, and one of Plantard’s associates confessed that they made up the whole thing:
    • “The Priory of Sion doesn’t exist anymore. We were never involved in any activities of a political nature. It was four friends who came together to have fun. We called ourselves the Priory of Sion because there was a mountain by the same name close-by. We haven’t seen Pierre Plantard in over twenty years and we don’t know what he’s up to but he always had a great imagination. We don’t know why people try to make such a big thing out of nothing.” (André Bonhomme, Statement made to the BBC in 1996, quoted in Paul Smith, “The Real Historical Origin of the Priory of Sion”,
    • Priory of Sion exists in 20th century as a social club à nothing to do with Leonardo da Vinci

This last series of points are quite disturbing, because it is clear that Dan Brown has not created his story out of sincere ignorance of history, but out of deliberate deception. He has lied to make money, your money!

What’s the Problem?

  1. Danger is that the historical core is inaccurate, presented as truth.
    “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”
  2. The author at least claims he believes the conspiracy theory is true.
    “I began as a skeptic.  As I started researching The Da Vinci Code, I really thought I would disprove a lot of this theory about Mary Magdalene and holy blood and all of that. I became a believer.”  (Dan Brown, Interview in National Geographic document., Unlocking Da Vinci's Code: The Full Story)
  3. Because parts of the novel are presented as factual truth, many people believe it!
    “The book is everywhere. There is a very real risk that many people who read it will believe that the fables it contains are true.”   (Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, March 15, 2005)
    “Greg Watts, a Catholic author, has similar concerns about Brown's credentials. ‘Dan Brown's concern is to make money rather than teach theology. He has found a gullible audience and has played on their ignorance,’ he says. ‘He gives the readers the impression that they understand Christianity when in fact they've been hoodwinked and manipulated.’”
            (Guardian Newspapers, 3/15/2005, http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/3-15-2005-67121.asp)
  4. The book exhibits a strong anti-Catholic bias
     “There's a great anti-Catholic prejudice. I ask myself if a similar book was written, full of lies about Buddha, Mohammed, or, even, for example, if a novel came out which manipulated all the history of the Holocaust or of the Shoah, what would have happened?”  (Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, March 15, 2005)
    “Imagine a novel based on the premise that the Holocaust had never happened, but was the invention of a powerful group of Jewish leaders who have used that 'myth' to garner themselves power and fortune. ... Yet The Da Vinci Code, a novel claiming that Christianity is fraudulent, the Catholic Church is a violent, misogynist institution run by murderers and liars, and androgyny is the answer to life’s problems is not met with condemnation, but incredible success and even significant critical acclaim.”  (The Da Vinci Hoax, 294)
  5. Threats to historical accuracy are threats to the Catholic Faith
           “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find,
             knock and the door will be opened to you.”
    (Matthew 7:7)
          - Christianity is a religion based on historical events
          - If you start messing with the history, you can cause serious problems!

Ron Howard, the director of the movie clearly says, "unlike Dan Brown, I acknowledge that the Da Vinci Code is not historically correct."

More about women in Church here