The impact of The Da Vinci Code

  • Question from KR, India

    Hello, I came across your site and I found it very useful. But, I couldn’t find one answer, I searched all over the internet but didn’t find any luck. Could you please tell me how the Da Vinci Code affected/influenced Western thought? I hope you can help me.

    There is already an item on freelance theology about The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. In terms of this question, the book has had very little impact on Western academic thought because it is a poorly researched detective novel that repackages some old, unproven and historically dubious ideas as part of its storyline.

    The Da Vinci Code has of course proved very popular in terms of book sales and, with a film dramatisation being released next year, that popularity is probably set to continue. However, while it has sparked interest in the history of Christianity, a cursory glance at the contemporary features of the book indicates that this is a work of fiction. For example, the Catholic organisation Opus Dei, cast as villains in the novel, do not have monks, and the real Westminster Abbey does not have metal detectors at the doors.

    Given the lack of contemporary accuracy, it is telling that the author shies away from questions about the accuracy of his research. Despite an assertion of truth on the introductory page, most of the ‘revelations’ concerning Jesus and Mary Magdalene are old ideas borrowed straight from a book published in 1982 called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. The authors of that book are now reportedly suing Brown for borrowing their ‘research’ without asking permission.

    Incidentally, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was dismissed as fringe nonsense back in the 1980s. Other parts of The Da Vinci Code, including the description of the discussions at the Council of Nicea and the assertion that the Emperor Constantine rewrote the Bible to ‘prove’ Jesus was divine are laughable in the extreme and betray a complete lack of historical knowledge.

    The success of The Da Vinci Code is undoubtedly because it challenges conventional religious norms and established religion. As such, its popularity is telling, revealing that despite centuries of scholarship the sensational and novel (i.e. new) grabs the imagination of people, who are willing to accept fiction as fact for no other reason than that they want to.

    Thanks for your question, KR.

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