Da Vinci Code Criticism Research and Commentary
When I first began this website arae, it only contained one picture - of the Last Supper - and a discussion by me about the hand and knife. That was IT. The only reason this site has grown since that day has been because of user questions, which led to more questions, and so on. If you ask why this site exists and is so large, it's because people kept writing me with questions. If you ask why they had questions, then ask yourself why you found this site.
Why is everyone writing with questions? Yes, The Da Vinci Code is only a book. It is clearly labelled as being FICTION, i.e. false, made up. Because of that, many people wonder what all the hubbub is about and why the book has stayed on the top of the sales charts for over a year. Especially since Holy Blood Holy Grail had the EXACT same plot, back in 1982. The Jesus/Mary M concept is hardly a new one.
The answer in short is the marketing effort put into a book that is based on a religion that millions of people use to guide their day to day lives. Dan Brown made clear in interviews that this is the HIDDEN TRUTH and that he and his wife are art historians and painstakingly researched every detail. In fact the book has a statement in it that while the situations are made up, the research on the religious organizations and artwork is all fully authentic. Dan Brown is telling people that the book is based in a fully authentic "environment". This then makes art historians and historians in general furious, because there are many glaring errors in the book. It makes religious people furious, because the book makes some serious claims about what the church has done in the past and is doing in the present. Dan Brown named real peoples' names, and gave backgrounds on real, actual organizations. In his text, some issues are simple errors that any real art historian should have figured out as a basic background check. Others are far more serious errors of genealogy and history.
You can say that people should read this book and KNOW it is fiction, completely made up. But when you read a story written by an "expert" about something important - like the Titanic or the Native Americans or the Alamo - don't you want it based in truth? And don't you want to learn something about that world while you read? You know the "people in the stories" are false but you want to learn something about what it was really like to live during those times. So you want a "truthful environment". Say you read an Alamo story by the world expert on the Alamo, and he gets to the critical battle. Suddenly "a plane flies by overhead", distracting the Alamo troops, and this is why they died. Wouldn't it bother you? In The Da Vinci Code, we're not just talking about a ship or a fort. We're talking about a church that millions of people trust with their eternal soul. Therefore, most readers of the Da Vinci Code - especially because Dan Brown is going around claiming it's all true - are intensely interested in where the line between truth and lies is.
For example, people read the book and learn about Mary M. They want to know if they have in fact learned cool new things about Mary M or if the entire Mary M information was false. Was there even a Mary M? Did she hang out with Jesus? What was her background? Where did she go after Jesus died? These curious readers come to the web to find "what the truth is". So people who are coming to this site are trying to figure out which parts of the Da Vinci Code are true, and which are false. With Dan Brown saying "the basic premise is all true", the readers therefore get upset if some things that are really important and seem believable end up being blatant falsehoods. The readers wonder what they should believe and what they should not believe. If anything we should praise these people for stirring up curiosities based on a book, instead of just tossing the book back into a pile and saying "that was interesting, OK on to the next book". To me, a person who learns nothing from a book pretty much just wasted their time reading it.
So again, for example, people read that "millions of women were burned" by the church and are horrified. It begins to shape their way of thinking about the church. Then they come here and hear it was not true. It makes them wonder, "Well jeez, what ELSE in this book that I felt was based on truth is not true?" And they research, and the truth becomes more clear. Think of it in this way. What if you were a Jewish person and this book said "no Jews were actually harmed in Nazi concentration camps. The images seen in the papers were made up on Hollywood sets in order to help Jews take over Israel". Wouldn't it upset you to learn Dan Brown just tossed this myth in to his book that he is claiming is "thoroughly researched and authentic" in its background? Not only is the information incorrect, but it spreads false assumptions against an entire group of REAL people. Now book readers might be angry at Jewish WW2 survivors they meet. This book says it's about revealing truths - but it actually perpetuates many stereotypes.
In any case, much of what this book has done is stirred up a number of conspiracy theories and wonderings that have caught the popular imagination. Certainly, women were not treated well by the church. Certainly, the church has done horrific things over the years. While most of us know about this, a large segment of the population apparently did not, and is now fascinated. Which is a GOOD thing, that people who did not know real, historical facts are now learning them.
I'm really happy the book has gotten people to think - but it concerns me that people then come to me and say "OK tell me the truth!" These people are now sure that the church has been lying to them and they want to blindly believe another person? I have a LARGE list of source reference books. Go read them! Exercise your brain! Figure out for YOURSELF what is true and what is not. If all you do is sit back and say "OK I will believe someone else now", then you've missed a main point of my website. The point is that people are free when they learn for themselves what to believe.
One final note - this is from the introduction to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. This book was written in 1982. "In the course of our book, however, we did discuss some of Schonfield's arguments [he wrote The Passover Plot in 1963]. This provoked an entirely new rumpus. 'Authors claim Jesus did not die on the cross!' the media shrieked - as if Schonfield had not said as much a mere twenty years before, as if The Passover Plot had never been published. We were baffled and bemused by such naivete, or by such shortness of memory. In 1993, A.N. Wilson produced his own speculative biography of Jesus. In this work, he put forward a perfectly plausible argument to the effect that Jesus was, in all probability, married. A fresh furore erupted, as if The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail had not made the same suggestion a mere decade previously. In another few years the suggestion will undoubtedly be made again by another author; and the media will undoubtedly prove as forgetful of Wilson's book as they were of ours. Thus does amnesia prevail in the sphere of biblical commentary."
From a Visitor:
Yes of course I'm currently reading DaVinci Code. I very much enjoyed your site. I just wanted to say that while I do enjoy the book and have looked some of the material it presents up to check it's authenticity, I generally read for pleasure and take ALL works of fiction as just that, Fiction. I don't know how to describe my religious beliefs as I don't necessarily consider myself an agnostic or atheist. My personal opinion is that even if there is a Supreme Being and Creator then that being probably created us and then forgot about us or just doesn't care anymore. All that aside, you seem to be a very knowledgable person, and again I enjoyed your DaVinci Code analysis, and there's nothing you need to change.
I agree with you, this is certainly fiction. But there is some basis in fact and a lot of people are curious where the "lines are drawn" - where the reality is and where the fiction begins. As in much of life, the question of truth is often based on the beholder's point of view.
From a Visitor:
Whilst i enjoyed the book and reading about the mistakes made by Dan Brown, i think people are taking this too seriously, is it not after all a work of fiction? The fact that it stimulates discussion on these subjects is a good thing.
Yes discussion and exploration is always great, so it's wonderful that Dan Brown inspired people to actually learn more about their own history. On the other hand, the fact that so many people think it is 100% true and then want me to "tell them the truth" instead of discovering it for themselves gives me pause ...
From a Visitor:
Fantastic contribution you are making. Nothing surprised me about the "Factual Errors..." page - it comes with the territory as far as many writers are concerned, not to mention history in general. However, many things in the book seem to ring true: oppression against pagans; subversion of the feminine in society and religion; the bible's compilation and translations influenced by human politics. Is this a path worth exploring?
Well certainly, I love history so I think anything in history is worth exploring. But none of these are new, startling topics. There are countless books on how the church squashed pagans and females. The church was trying to take control, and like any other multinational corporation, they took steps to eliminate those in their way. I think those issues are fairly well documented. The way the Bible was compiled from various books over the years was VERY well documented as many gatherings took place to decide what was included and what was not. The same is true for translations which was a HOTLY debated topic. The first English translation was done in the late 1300s and there was a HUGE uproar because many felt that it had therefore changed the "true meaning" of the book. So certainly, if you want to read more about these things, I highly encourage it!
From a Visitor:
You - and most of the visitors who write to you - point out errors in Brown's book citing other writings. Is it possible that these other "writings" may also be in error? Why is it that certain "writings" are assumed to be "correct", even though they come from eras far removed from the current era and are "writings", just as Brown's novel is a writing. At least he presents his as fiction. Maybe which writings are assumed to be correct are those most in sync with your own beliefs?
All references are in the public domain. You can go to the Louvre and count the panes. You can go to the Last Supper location and learn how it is NOT a fresco. These aren't rocket scientist issues, they're simple facts that any other human being can validate.
The issue is that Dan Brown does NOT present his work as fiction. If he did, it wouldn't have stayed on the top of the charts for over a year now. He goes around to interviews describing himself as an art historian, his wife as an art historian, his work is perfectly accurate and that he is revealing secrets that all other people are hiding from the world. Given the errors in the book, this has the real art historians up in arms ...
From a Visitor -
I just finished reading your website and the areas mainly focusing on the errors in Dan Brown's novel. I am not a a well versed man on the subject of religion, but I do know the feeling of a swindle. I have felt it all my life when being exposed to the so-called word of GOD contained within the BIBLE. I believe you too have always felt it. I believe in GOD but not the way the Church wants me to. I beleieve in the beauty of the human female and the sanctitiy of her gift of childbearing. Nothing saddens me more than a woman who doesn't want children. They are the only ones wgo can give us the gift of life. Who are they to turn that gift down. My point is, the complete context of his book is being trivialized by your website when you pick at topis about wheter there are 666 panes in the Louvre's pyramid or if he called a person by the correct name. Does any of that really matter? His modern revelation of the hustle of the church and the truth of true religion is what makes this work a masterpiece! Of course he changed some facts to captivate the reader. Thank GOD he didn't hide the fact that he really isn't a writer but the MESSIAH. Do you understand my point. It is all trivial in the grand scheme of things. A little respect is in accordance II believe.
My Response -
But the point is that it's not like Dan Brown suddenly came out of nowhere and revealed this great truth. TONS of books have been written on these topics, they have been debated by people for many, many years. All Dan did was write a pulp fiction novel involving some of the ideas others had already discussed - but then he tossed in many FALSE ideas with them. So if people thought some information was cool, how could they then know what was actually true and what was false? Again, I draw a similarity to any other historically based writings by a "researcher". Say you read a book on the Titanic written by a "specialist in Titanic history". And say that he says that the Titanic actually had rotten planks in it that were given by the Catholic Church on purpose, to drown the decadent people on board. So now you read this and you get all upset with the Catholic Church and angry at the Titanic builders for what they did. And then you have to go research for YOURSELF to realize that you were just taken advantage of - that it was all false. Your "expert" threw lies in to deceive you.
There's a difference between making up characters and setting them in a real world vs deliberately introducing falsehoods into the world purely to trash the reputation of a real organization. The 666 panes is saying "the mark of the antiChrist was deliberately put into a famous Parisian landmark". It is trashing the reputation of a real architect and a real project he labored on. Don't you think the architect cares that his great glass sculpture is erroneously being equated with The Beast and being vilified? Don't you think the people of Paris might get upset - most of them being Christian and all - with the idea that a large building in their midst is the symbol of evil? Why in the world would a writer aiming to talk about "truths" deliberately perpetuate falsehoods like that? And if a "researcher" is capable of doing that - then how can you appreciate anything else he reports as being "fully true"?
From a Visitor -
I just wanted to tell you that I thought you did a fantastic job on your pages. It really cleared up alot of questions I had on the book and what was fiction/nonfiction. Great job!!!
My Response -
I'm glad to help out! It amazes me that this book has been on the top of the sales lists for so long. It really is getting a lot of people to think. But the critical part is that they NOT accept this book as "truth". While it brings up some good points, it also perpetuates MANY falsehoods and it's important to understand what is true and what is not. This is after all a religion we're talking about, that is the foundation for millions of peoples' lives. It's important that we understand each other and our beliefs. It would be like a book talking about how all Islamics feel that women should be leashed like dogs and beaten. If people read that book and even partially believed it was true, it would affect how a ton of people related in their day to day life with Islamic individuals. That's the scary thing here, that Dan Brown's book is so popular and its made-up materials are so interwoven with things that seem true that some people may just accept him as a "researcher" and assume that the material is all presented in a "true environment". Which it is not.
From a Visitor -
I have a bunch of things to say about you "anaylysis" of the book the Da Vinci code. First of all, I understand it is your right to critique the book, but you have dedicated practically a whole section of your website trashing one book. I just finished the Da Vinci Code today, and I think it is one of the best books ever written. I am only thirteen years old, I know, and people will say well, what does she know, but believe me, my reading skills are many YEARS above level. The book interested me greatly, and I went to this sight looking for more information about everything that was going on in the story, such as Mary and Opus Dei and The Priory of Sion. What I found definately DID NOT please me. Please be a little bit more sympathetic.
My Response -
You sound like you feel "sorry" for Dan Brown. Remember, he is an author who went around telling people that his book was based on solid fact. That is the entire reason it has been a top seller for over a year and that he has made MILLIONS of dollars. How about all of the other authors out there who DID do the proper research, but did not make these claims that their work was 100% accurate and therefore did not get the publicity or cash he did? Why not feel sorry for them - when their writings are far better? If Dan Brown is going to make millions because of his claims, then we as critical readers have an obligation to check his facts.
Reading a book critically is about questioning its merit and researching its background. That doesn't mean necessarily that we are taking a baseball bat and whapping the author on the head. You are going to be in high school soon (assuming you are not already) and one of THE most important things you are going to learn is how to critically analyze a piece of written work. You will be critically analyzing political speeches, newspaper articles, novels, and much more. This isn't about "personal" issues, and you need to learn to be impartial about this. Analyzing a work critically is about investigating the merit or lack thereof in a written piece and then sharing that information with others.
Remember, I don't tell people to believe me. I tell people to go out and find the truth for themselves. But in order for people to do that, they need to know which issues are in question. Unless they want to start at the beginning and research "does France exist" ...
From a Visitor -
While reading the Da Vinci Code I was gripped and intrigued by how its story corroborates information from many other non-fictitious writings I've read over the years. To name a few - Shirley Maclaine's 'Out on a Limb', Jane Roberts' 'Seth Speaks', N.D. Walsch's 'Conversation with God', Steven Levine's 'Healing into Life and Death', etc.
What is frustrating and patronising about Dan Brown's book is how it reflects on the times we live - that we need read these truths in sugar coated fictions - perhaps to make them more acceptable? The very mediocre 'Celestine Prophecy' was one such example of spirituality made palpable for the masses.
I'm disappointed to see your criticism of this book is also very patronsing - in the light of information contained who cares if Leonardo's painting is a fresco or not because the point being made is fathoms deeper than the trite, snippy comments of frustrated art historians.
I wish you continued success with your website.
My Response -
I'm sorry you find my comments patronising - if anything, especially in the artwork areas, I try to be very thorough and give people enough basis to go off and find for themselves what is true. Remember, the point of my site isn't to have people read it and believe me. The point is to give people enough starting information so they can go off and research for themselves what is true. In the sense that I have to sometimes explain things in basic detail, well, it is usually because people wrote me and said they could not understand my more complex answer. We get all levels of visitors to this site - from visitors who understand the Bible history very well to people who don't even know that the Bible is made up of separate individual codexes.
As far as the fresco issue, that actually is fascinating to many people. That's the whole reason it's listed. This website didn't spring out of the ether fully formed. I started with one page on the painting itself. People wrote in with questions. I researched them and put up the answers. More people wrote in with their questions or observations. So every single page here was developed in direct response to people who wanted to know the answers to those issues. If anything we should praise all of these people who actively want to learn and know more about the world around them. To complain that they shouldn't care about the work of art is sort of silly - isn't the point of learning and growing that we DO care to find out how things are really made and what they're really all about? Part of the whole reason the Last Supper is so famous is that it IS done in a "new and amazingly different way" and not in the traditional old-fashioned fresco way. If Leonardo *had* done just a normal Fresco, the colors would have been dull and he would have only had one chance to do it, meaning it would have been finished in a few months. He wouldn't have developed the fantastic work of art that he did, and it wouldn't have immediately begun to fall apart leading to all of the contemplation about what it originally looked like. In a way, the entire basis for the brilliance of that painting is that it is not a fresco. I think that's a topic worth exploring.
From a Visitor -
Dear Lisa, what a great site, how do you find time to do all this? My comment is as follows...I assumed Dan Brown's work was fact-based fiction when I read it. Your many comments that 'it is good that this book has gotten people to think' says it very well for me. I have always had and enduring and profound mistrust of the church and of the Bible. There is too much power to be gained from the word of God for people not to exploit it. I read the Bible like I read Brown's work VERY critically. I am not one who believes that the greater good of the church justifies the horrors which they have perpetrated. The reason for this is that the lineage of the world churches are nowbuilt on rotten foundations. What I have gained from The DaVinci Code is mostly entertainment but there is more..To question IS to know the truth. I do not suggest that brown has uncovered some great secret and,as you so aptly point out, an enormous amount of work on this kind of subject has been written already. I seek the truth but my suspicion is that it is not to be found on this planet. Show me one book in the history of man that contains the truth? The sheer, unadulterated truth. There isn't such a book or such an objective truth. This is the reason that I applaude Dan Brown and you, Lisa Shea. Bring back thought to this brain dead world.
My Response -
I think that's the perfect point to make. We shouldn't trust any book, any source or any website. We should explore the world and find out the truth for ourselves. Dan Brown and his book made many people think. That is a good thing. My website hopefully is helping people to know what is questionable about the book which is also a good thing. But in the end people should go out and do research for themselves to find out what is true and what is not true. For them to believe Dan OR Me OR the Bible would be wrong. It's time for them to wake up and start exercising their little grey cells instead of just sitting back and watching cable TV.
From a Visitor -
Apart from its historical authenticity or not, I found it disbelievable that so much 'running around' went on in such a few hours! Initially I was fascinated by [what seemed to be] the good research that went into making this book a best-seller, but as it went on (tediously) I became disillusioned. I'm a writer myself, and was taught that even fictional novels should have a basis of fact, as readers like to quote stuff from them. Dare I say it? Sad but true, I found The Da Vinci Code disappointing - factually and fictionally. But of course millions disagree, so I must be missing something!
My Response -
Ah but the millions of people bought the book because they thought it contained well researched, factual information. That's what they were led to believe. So now the question is what percentage of them accepted the novel as having truth and are now walking around with mistaken information in their heads (and judging certain religions and groups based on that inaccurate information). They might not even realize that this information is untrue ...
From a Visitor -
Thank you for the information on your site.
I don't practice any religion though I am interested to learn more. I had no intention of reading The Da Vinci Code and only bought it out of depseration as I needed something to distract me from what was a bumpy flight.
It is the most predictable book that I have read in a long time. Not only that, I suspected that even though it was being advertised as thoroughly researched, that there was artistic licence involved.
This is the first and last time I buy a book to find out what the fuss is about without reading Chapter One first.
Priory of Sion indeed.
My Response -
Ah but at least now you know what the fuss was about :)