FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nathan Bupp
(April 27, 2006)—Have you ever wondered: How did the Roman Emperor Constantine figure in the development of Christian theology? How did the Gospels come to be accepted as the established accounts of Jesus’ life, and why were other versions, such as the Gnostic traditions, suppressed? What was Mary Magdalene’s role in early Christianity, and how was it adapted in later attempts to develop a “sacred feminine” element in Christianity?
With the recent plagiarism trial in London and the upcoming movie thriller, scheduled to open on May 19th, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has generated a firestorm of publicity. The novel has stirred the popular imagination, allowing intriguing questions about the divinity of Jesus—once considered way too taboo for public consumption—to float to the surface of “pop culture.” Brown did this by cleverly interweaving theories about medieval history and the origins of Christianity. Many readers have been so swept away by the drama of this murder mystery that they have accepted Brown’s fictional reconstruction of Christian origins and medieval history as established fact. But a number of New Testament scholars see the controversy as an opportunity to finally reveal the real story behind many of the ideas hinted at in the best-selling novel. “However intriguing Brown’s fictional speculations may be, the real facts behind the novel are even more fascinating—in fact, when it comes to The Da Vinci Code, the truth is often stranger than fiction,” said Robert M. Price, a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), and the author of The Da Vinci Fraud.
It is hard to see how a lively tradition of legend, based originally on flimsy sources, and an initial misidentification can arouse such intense public debate. The majority of New Testament scholars find the attention given to Brown’s novel as surprising as the charge of plagiarism. Continues Price, "But most of them perceive the novel as a gauntlet cast down, to which they feel they must reply for the honor of their faith. The problem is that Brown's book only rocks the boat. The real facts might just torpedo it! Brown's falsehoods are as fatuous as the faith he tries to subvert.”
The vast majority of the criticism that’s been leveled at Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code has come from religious quarters, attempting to defend Catholic and Christian orthodoxy. Yet a completely secular and critical historical analysis has also been applied to the novel. Judging by the popularity of Brown’s novel, there just may be a sneaking suspicion on the part of many that the true origins of Christianity are more obscure and more complicated then they have been taught. This is indeed the case, but they won’t get the real story from The Da Vinci Code.
The Center for Inquiry/Transnational, a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York, is home to the Council for Secular Humanism, founded in 1980, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), founded in 1976, and the recently formed Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health. Their research and educational projects focus on three broad areas: religion, ethics, and society; paranormal and fringe-science claims; and medicine and health. The Center’s Web site is www.centerforinquiry.net