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The Da Vinci Code : A Review

A review of the audio book version of Dan Brown's bestseller.

In preparing for a six-hour drive, I searched for an entertaining book to keep me awake. I found it in Dan Brown's international bestseller, The Da Vince Code. But, not for many of the reasons others have found it captivating.

Over 20 years ago, another book was written about the Knights Templar, the Prieure de Sion, the descendants of the Merovingian bloodline, and other "amazing" revelations about Jesus. This book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, trod much of the same ground as The Da Vinci Code, but with surer steps.

The Da Vinci Code is a so-so mystery and poor history. I spent the majority of my time saying, "Come on Robert [the protagonist] catch-up, it's __________ [fill in object, place, person, or idea]." The characters are all two dimensional. The French cryptologist speaks perfect English because her grandfather insisted that they only speak English at home. Excuse me?! The curator of the Louvre only speaks English in his home? How about the logical explanation that Sophie benefited from the European practice of beginning foreign languages early in school. I know many Europeans who speak impeccable English for this very reason.

The history is appalling. When explaining why Jesus had to have children because of his Jewish culture the Harvard professor seems lacking in fundamental information about the period. Has this Ivy League educator never heard of the Nazarites?

John the Baptist was a Nazarite. Nazarites took vows that involved three primary things:

  1. Abstinence from wine and strong drink
  2. Refraining from cutting the hair off the head during the whole period of the continuance of the vow
  3. The avoidance of contact with the dead

You can read more about the Nazarites in the Catholic Encyclopedia. It would be considered "normal" for a person taking this vow to abstain from sexual relations. It would not be seen as the great oddity Brown would like his readers to believe.

The Essenes were one of the major sects of Judaism in the first century C.E. One of the Essenes' major identifiers was their rejection of marriage. They opted to live as a celibate community. The status of the Essenes and John the Baptist's status as a Nazarite would mean that a new prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, would not be atypical for not marrying.

It turns out that Dan Brown is familiar with the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here he takes a great deal of liberty with the facts. The dialogue on pg. 254 is as follows:

Fortunately for historians, some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 (not the 1950s). They do not mention Jesus Christ at all. And they were hidden in those caves c. 70 AD, some 250 years before the Council of Nicaea for reasons that had nothing to do with the as yet unborn Emperor Constantine at all.

The Nag Hammadi texts are incorrectly called "scrolls" by Brown. They are instead codices that contain no mention of Jesus, nor Mary Magdalene.

I could continue pointing out other instances of poor use of history. This book did bring me back to look at Da Vinci's Last Supper. I recommend this book to pass the time with, perhaps on your long drive, but don't invest a great deal in it. Take everything you read with a LARGE grain of salt.

Discuss this book in the Library Sciences Forum.

By, Paula S.W. Laurita, 2003

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