On codes and Christianity

Having read the book and seen the movie of “The Da Vinci Code” I have to
admit that it is a lot of hooey. I deliberately read one of Dan Brown’s
earlier books to compare and it had exactly the same plot contrivances, codes
and chases and unexpected villains, just the content was different. In the
case of the Da Vinci codes, the idea that there was an extreme Christian
heresy that was kept secret all those years by a small coterie of devotees,
the so-called “Priory of Sion” is ridiculous. In fact, contrary to what Brown
states in his book, the whole Priory of Sion story was the invention of the
vivid imagination of Pierre Plantard, and has no ancient origins, but was
founded in 1956 in Annemasse, France. In order to support his claims Plantard
forged allegedly old documents that contain lists of names of eminent people
who were supposedly leaders or members of the organization. Whether or not
Brown knew this or indeed believed it when he wrote his book, is unknown.
Of course, the Templars and Opus Dei are real, and the latter is indeed a
right wing Catholic organization, although it has no monks, not even Albinos.
There were many Christian heresies that were suppressed during the last 2,000
years. The one in the book, that supposedly Jesus Christ was married to Mary
Magdalene and she bore him a child who was removed to France, is entirely
unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, it allows us to speculate on what might have
been had other actual heresies of Christianity been allowed to continue.
The first of course, was that Christianity was a sect of Judaism, and was
considered as such by its Aramaic speaking Jewish followers. These followers
were killed in the general destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem by the
Romans in 70 ce.
Then there were the “Gnostics,” a general philosophical term meaning a
believer in spiritual truths. These early Christians believed that Jesus
Christ expressed important spiritual truths, while denying his divinity.
And the Ebionites (from the Hebrew ‘poor’), who emphasized the humanity
of Jesus, also denying all divine attributes. Then there were the
Arians, followers of Arius, who believed that while Jesus Christ was
the “son” of God he did not have the same divine nature as God,
because he was actually born of woman, while Godliness is eternal. These
issues were voted on at the first Council of Nicaea in 325 ce, at which a
minority of Bishops of the Church decided by a slim majority that Christ’s
divinity was equivalent to that of God (his father), i.e. he was fully divine.
As a consequence, all other interpretations, including the Arian Heresy, were
suppressed, although it remained a minority view until the 6th century. This
lead to what might be called “Pauline Christianity” as the normative version.
Finally, there was of course the Protestant reformation, that was considered
heretical by the Catholic Church. However, this particular heresy, rejecting
the centrality of the Church in Rome, has become quite widespread.
Returning to the book, at the end of the story one wonders why the hero and
heroine had to dash thru Europe solving codes, when the people she finally
meets are her family who knew about her all the time.
The whole issue of the feminine in Western religion is a difficult one,
because it has been largely suppressed, in that Brown is right. Many ancient
beliefs were fertility cults and somehow this was excluded when Judaism gave
rise to Christianity. Whether this was merely natural, or whether the Papacy
deliberately suppressed worship of female deities as in Roman religion is
unclear. But the outcome was definitely a male-oriented Christianity. Maybe
that’s why in comparatively modern times the Marian cult has made a come-
back in Catholicism.
While we cannot take “The Da Vinci Code” seriously as theology, nevertheless
it suffices to remind us that Christianity was a religion made by man and as
such its fundamental tenets are open to question and reinterpretation. Then
again, all religions are the products of human fallibility.

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