And so, against my better judgment, I've started on Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I seriously doubt I'll ever finish it. I'll not contest that the book has merit -- as a murder mystery, it may even be good (although I wouldn't know, as I'm not normally drawn to murder mysteries and don't have much experience of them). What makes the book unreadable to me is the representation of the 'facts' on which its whole premise is based, which are anything but.
Perhaps I should explain: at university where I majored in both History of Art and (Classical) Archaeology, I minored in such disciplines as philosophy, theology, byzantinology and judaica. The history of the early church and indeed, of Christianity, has always been a particular interest of mine. I read Greek and some Hebrew...or I used to, 20 years ago. I have studied many an ancient text dealing with the question of how Jesus was divine, exactly. I'm familiar with the controversy between (the followers of) Arius and Athanasius, between the question whether his divinity was to be understood as homoiousios or homoousios, and about the Council of Nicaea called by Constantine the Great, that established the orthodox view to be the homoousios-one: Jesus Christ was/is both God and Man in equal, yet separate, measure.
This is all included as the historical background to The Da Vinci Code -- but in a very twisted and in some cases, demonstrably incorrect, way. Dan Brown makes his characters believe, (and through them, some of his readership as well), that Constantine was an evil genius who gave us our present-day Bible, suppressing certain gospels that weren't to his taste and calling the Council of Nicaea to proclaim Jesus's divinity; that he was a lifelong pagan who only promoted Christianity for opportunistic reasons ('backing the winning horse') -- ignoring the fact that the Christians made up only a tiny, and moreover, persecuted minority of the Roman Empire's population at the time of his conversion, which took place on the eve of the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. And I know he's also wrong when he claims that the Dead Sea scrolls hold gospels and the story of the Grail. They're not Christian, but Jewish documents containing all the books of the Old Testament except for Esther, and other, apocalyptic-messianic texts -- but none of them mention Jesus or his ministry. And he's wrong when he refers to the Nag Hammadi library as having been written on scrolls, too -- those books, in fact, are codices.
From what I've read of this book, it reminds me of nothing so much as of that BBC documentary which was broadcast sometime in the 80s, and the book that was somehow tied in with that (in my mind at least), Holy Blood & Holy Grail, I think it was called. In it, it was claimed that a bloodline had been preserved from JC, via the Merovingian kings of the early Middle Ages, to the present day. What a nonsense! Anyone tracing their family tree back more than 16 generations ends up with over a million forebears already. Tracing it back to one particular Jew who lived and died 2000 years ago is a complete impossibility. I remember I put that book away in disgust, too -- and had a quiet chuckle when, some years later, I read in the papers that the person claiming to be that 'direct descendant' had since been sent to prison for fraud.
Throughout the 90s, a lot of other books were published that tied in Leonardo da Vinci with secret societies and/or the Priory of Sion. As far as I know, there's never been any real proof for this association. It seems to me that whenever someone wants to launch another crackpot theory, and get it talked about, they claim Leonardo had something to do with it.
::re-reads post from the beginning::
I think I'd better stop this pointless critique here -- I'm sure I stand revealed as a total geek enough already...and besides, I haven't finished the book yet. I may be premature and unnecessarily harsh in my criticism. What do I know of anything, anyway? Maybe I misinterpretated the documents I was studying all those years ago, or was told lies in order to perpetuate the myth of Christianity's beginnings.