While visiting relatives in northern Sweden last September, we flew from Stockholm to Luleå. Then we drove to Piteå, a small town far from any tourist itinerary (and 100 miles from the Arctic Circle). I found Piteå's one bookstore in the town market, entered out of curiosity—and there it was, a full display, spilling over with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code in Swedish. Here among the reindeer and lingonberries, Swedes were preparing for their long winter with copies of Da Vinci Koden.

The book has been translated into 43 languages since being published three years ago. Now Hollywood is hoping for similar blockbuster status for its heavily hyped movie starring Tom Hanks, now in theaters.

Though the general public is fascinated with the book's conjectures, The Da Vinci Code has merely brought into the open a heated discussion among scholars that is at least 50 years old. Among Dan Brown's more controversial claims are these:

  1. Jesus had an intimate relationship with Mary Magdalene.
  2. Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife.
  3. Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children.
  4. Church leaders (some mysterious Catholic order) hid this secret.
  5. Long-suppressed Gospels—such as the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Philip—now are finally telling us the truth.

These claims are not being made only by agnostics and "liberals." Recently, in a basic New Testament class at Wheaton College, a sophomore presented me with the February 27 edition of Time. An article described a "long-lost second-century Gospel," the Gospel of Judas, that promised to unveil new secrets about Jesus. Later that same hour, another student asked, "I've read that the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John are similar, so if John ...

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