Saturday, May 06, 2006

Debunking Da Vinci Code # 6

Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code, claims that Leonardo da Vinci painted Mary Magdalene at Jesus' right hand in The Last Supper, as a clue that she was really Jesus' wife.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could interview Leonardo and ask him who it was he was painting on Jesus' right hand? Well, actually, we can!
During the years 1494-1495, Leonardo drew sketches in preparation for his famous painting, and wrote notes labeling them. We have those sketches to read.
Here is what Leonardo wrote about the three characters to the right of Jesus: "Another speaks into his neighbour’s ear and he, as he listens to him, turns towards him to lend an ear, while he holds a knife in one hand, and in the other the loaf half cut through by the knife. Another who has turned, holding a knife in his hand, upsets with his hand a glass on the table."
Notice that all three of these persons are described with the masculine pronoun. Can there be any doubt that da Vinci intended to paint Peter (the one who "speaks into his neighbour's ear"), Judas (the one who "turned, holding a knife in his hand," and John (the one who as "he listens to him, turns towards him to lend an ear")? The editor of the sketches notes that when Leonardo actually did the painting, he had an upset "salt cellar" rather than a glass, but otherwise he painted it as described. No Mary Magdalene. No "V." No "M." No secret codes.
(Source: Jean Paul Richter, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, 1880. On the Internet at http://www.fromoldbooks.org/Richter-NotebooksOfLeonardo/. Note the "contents" to the right and click on "X. Studies and Sketches..." Then click on each of the four pages that give da Vinci's words and the editor's comments of the sketches.)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brother bob, i want to thank you for the information in regards to The Da Vinci Code novel. Even though my father had read every book under the sun it appeared, i seem to lack in his enthusiasm for reading. I appreciate your ability to stick to the facts and not get caught up in the emotional turmoil side of how this book could potentially confuse many who are easily influenced. My belief is in god and my opinion is that Dan Brown is not a man of integrity if he puts his name on something that says Fact when it is Not! Maybe there was a typagraphical error made by his publishing staff?
I also appreciate that you chose not to buy the book , and emphasised that during sunday worship. Yes we were listening.

Anonymous said...

Why are many Christian congregations around the country debunking this book, which is (even by the author's account), only a piece of fiction?

Anonymous said...

Why are many Christian congregations around the country debunking this book, which is (even by the author's account), only a piece of fiction?

Brother Bob said...

Anonymous,
The short answer to your question is that the book claims that it is historically factual and accurate when it claims that everything you've heard about Christ is false.
Read my full answer to your question in my April 24 blog, "The Da Vinci Code- Why the Fuss?"

Jesse said...

Hi Bob. I'm glad that you said, "So for Christians, if we will respond with facts rather than anger, The Da Vinci Code can actually become an opportunity to share our faith." (your April 24 blog) I totally agree. But I think I have to agree with anonymous' bewilderment as to why so many books and Bible Studies are being written on DVC. In the same post, you also said, "Some may ask, why all the fuss over a piece of fiction? Don't people know it's just a novel? The answer comes on page 1 of the book, with the headline "FACT," where the author claims that what the book says about the secret societies is true, when in fact it is not true. Page 1 includes this claim: "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."
Over 40 million people have read this novel, and millions more will see the movie. With its claim to be a historical novel based on "fact," Christians need to respond."
Fact is, DVC DOES contain facts... half-truths to be exact. His "facts" are all technically fact, but he adds details that are not, and produces conclusions that are based on the manufactured details he provides. We need to be clear that a "historical novel based on fact" is not the same as an actual historical account (such as the New Testament's 4 gospels). Dan Brown isn't technically claiming factual authority. He's banking on the confusion created by his intentional ambiguity.
In any event, this whole DVC thing has showcased the need for Apologetics - nothing but gravy for a professional Apologist like me!

Brother Bob said...

Jesse, I think we basically agree. However, not only does Dan Brown mix facts with half-truths, but he also tells outright lies. For example, it is an outright lie to say that the Council of Nicea decided by a close vote to make Jesus God. It is an outright lie to say that the New Testament that we have today was a "new Bible" of books that were commissioned by Emperor Constantine after the Council of Nicea, and it is an outright lie to say that the Dead Sea Scrolls contained ancient gospels. Yet all of this and more is presented as "fact" in the book.
As I said in a reply to an earlier blog comment, if a similar novel had been written with World War II as the background but denied the holocaust took place, Jews would be rightly offended and feel a need to respond. Christians are in a similar position with "The Da Vinci Code." That's why so many books and articles by Christians have come out in response.

Jesse said...

While I completely agree with your assertions about the Council of Nicea, the historicity of the NT canon, and the content of the Dead Sea Scrolls, I'm not sure if the term "outright lie" is the best choice, especially when communicating to postmodern minds (to whom you're most likely speaking). "Outright lie" implies eyewitness certainty. Many Americans question the honesty of historical accounts because it is true that we all inherently seek to preserve our own self-interests and opinions, including historians. We must also remember that many people are skeptical or indifferent to the inspiration of Scripture, so we must be mindful of how we are being understood. It is also true that we are limited by our individual perceptive abilities, which restrict our certainty. Truth is indeed absolute, but our certainty, while it may be substantial, can't be.
Furthermore, what should we expect from "historical fiction"? The mixture of truth and fiction in the genre is exactly what I was referring to in my first comment.

I understand your point about the hypothetical holocaust novel, but I'm not sure what you mean by "rightly offended". Would Jews be offended? Undoubtedly some would. Maybe a better word would be "understandably" offended. I don't think it is necessarily wise or right to voice our personal offense towards anti-Christian rhetoric. If we think of this whole DVC thing as an ideological shoving match, it might be better to just step out of the way than shove back. Then we can help our opponents up and offer them a hand in discovering the truth. I think that's more consistent with Jesus' teaching.

Brother Bob said...

I hear what you are saying.
By "rightly offended," I meant "deservedly offended," or as you say, "understandably offended."
While I agree that we should take care as to how we express our offense, I disagree with your statement that "I don't think it is necessarily wise or right to voice our personal offense towards anti-Christian rhetoric." Isn't it a part of apologetics to point out the hypocrisy of the politically correct crusade against intolerance that seems to tolerate intolerance toward Christianity?