After church on Easter Sunday, my wife and I hosted our second annual "Easter Musicians Meltdown" for a few exhausted organists and choir directors. One guest told me that his congregation was in an uproar over The Da Vinci Code. People who had joined the church the previous Easter were already talking about leaving it because of what they had "learned" in Dan Brown's bestseller. When the novel was published in April 2003, most Christian leaders dismissed the book's fabrications, because it was, after all, fiction. But as stories like the one above started circulating, scholars and pastors began to feel the need to reassure the rattled.

A front-page article in the April 27 New York Times announced that 10 books were being released "with titles that promise to break, crack, unlock or decode 'The Da Vinci Code.' " Pre-publication copies of four of those books have come across my desk (two with requests for endorsements).

The Da Vinci Code is full of fabrications, ranging from silly interpretations of Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings to unsupported charges that Constantine brutally repressed competing gospels. (Read Ben Witherington's "Why the 'Lost Gospels' Lost Out" on page 26 for the details on that claim.) In addition, Brown's book alleges that:

  • Mary Magdalene and Jesus got married and had a daughter, and that they settled in the south of France and became the progenitors of the Merovingian kings;
  • The real Holy Grail that bore Jesus' blood was not a chalice but Mary Magdalene's womb;
  • The Catholic church has harshly suppressed this truth that would en-danger ecclesiastical power by proving that Jesus was merely human;
  • A secret organization called the Priory of Sion guarded the truth about the Magdalene and the evidence to prove it (documents once thought to prove the Priory's existence are now known to be forgeries);
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Editor's Bookshelf
David Neff
David Neff was editor in chief of Christianity Today, where he worked from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He is also the former editor in chief of Christian History magazine, and continues to explore the intersection of history and current events in his bimonthly column, "Past Imperfect." His earlier column, "Editor's Bookshelf," ran from 2002 to 2004 and paired Neff's reviews of thought-provoking books and interviews with the authors.
Previous Editor's Bookshelf Columns:
July/August
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Christianity Today
Da Vinci Dissenters
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June 2004

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