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~ Leonardo Da Vinci's Storm ~
For a junior high school project, I did extensive research on Leonardo Da Vinci, copying and commenting on his art and his extraordinary vision reflected in his sketches of helicopters and other futuristic imaginations that did become reality, and his remarkably accurate sketches of the human anatomy long before they were confirmed in medical science. Da Vinci was a genius, way ahead of his time, but not ahead enough to predict the abuse of his work and beliefs in the 21st century. As the saying goes, he may well be turning over in his grave right now. During my last visit to France, I visited the Louvre and stared intently at the original Mona Lisa. Was I looking at a self-portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci in drag as claim some art interpreters? As TV commentator John Stossle likes to say, "Give me a break!"
Tomorrow, The Da Vinci Code makes its debut on film. Boycott it if you will in the decision to not contribute your money to its profits. You can always borrow the book and eventual DVD from a library or friend because the Christian community cannot ignore its claims and silence implies complicity and ignorance. Unlike other blasphemous films and books that haven't merited a response due to their obvious fallacious stupidity, this one is an unprecedented opportunity for dialog that must not be overlooked.
You may have already heard such dialogs of scholars interviewed on TV and radio programs. Some Christians are rightfully upset by some of their views that clearly contradict the Scriptures, other historical records, and orthodoxy. It would relieve some stress to understand that a scholar in Christian History isn't necessarily a follower of Christ. For example, should I be offered and accept a position in the US Ambassador's Office in Iraq, my work would be enhanced by a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. Having that degree would not make me a Muslim. Nor would having a degree in Greek Mythology tempt me to worship their ancient gods. If I had a degree in Wiccan practices, this would not imply I practice or believe in them. Furthermore, the Wiccans would not want me to be a spokesman for them. What I know as an expert is not to be construed as my believing or practicing such knowledge. Let us keep that in mind when we hear dialog on The Da Vinci Code and related subjects.
People who read or did not read the book seem to focus on the claim that Jesus married as a central issue. While this is not the most atrocious claim of the book and film, for some reason it seems the most provocative, yet the most easily refuted. Most Jewish men, including priests and rabbis (and Jesus was a recognized rabbi), married. Jesus' apostles had wives. The apostle Paul was an exception, being celibate for personal, not religious, reasons. In his letter to the church at Corinth, he addressed a controversy regarding apostolic leaders entering into marriages stating they certainly can. His strongest argument could have been, "After all, our Christ married." That would have been no secret. Paul did not use this clincher argument because it never happened. (See 1 Corinthians 9:5).
Jesus made clear His mission on earth, and marrying and producing progeny that founded a monarchy line in France would sabotage it, detract from it, and be utterly meaningless, without purpose. What is of far more concern is the claim that the early Christians did not regard Christ as the Messiah-God and that the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 established this new doctrine and belief. The Council was convened to specifically address the Arian heresy that taught God created Jesus, as do the Jehovah Witnesses today. And it was not convened by the Vatican or the Roman Catholic Church, as Dan Brown stages it. The RC Church and Vatican did not exist then.
Several hundreds of years prior to the popularity of that heresy (and others), the first Christians were quite clear: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him [the Word] all things were made" (John 1:1-3a). "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord [Yahweh] and Christ [Messiah]" (Acts 2:36). In response to this proclamation, the followers of Christ were systematically tortured and executed, for three hundred years before the Council of Nicea. Constantine declared Christianity as a legal religion/sect and thus allowed the open dialog regarding heresies that previously needed to be addressed through the letters of St. Paul, St. John and St. Peter, smuggled to the churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Contrary to The Da Vinci Code, the devotion to the divinity of Christ (and His humanity, denied by the Gnostic writers), did not begin in 325, but from the time of Christ's incarnation and mission on earth, even before His crucifixion.
A major concentration of The Da Vinci Code is the work of the Priory of Sion, and, like the rest of Dan Browns book, is so fallacious almost beyond meriting refutation. But we must indulge him. This society was founded in 1956, within my lifetime, and its legacy is confined to forging documents that claimed Newton and Da Vinci, among others, were members of a secret society. Nonetheless, Dan Brown explains that this group of no influence was a dynasty founded by Jesus and Mary Magdalene. I need to say no more.
There is another organization that does exist today, Opus Dei. The Da Vinci Code postulates that the Roman Catholic Church entrusted its deepest "secrets" to this group with the authorization to resort to murder to protect them. Like other orders in the Roman Catholic Church, Opus Dei adheres to the orthodoxy and personal spiritual development of both priests and laity through daily, vigorious spiritual disciplines. Such organizations also exist in other traditions, such as Hinduism. Preposterous is the claim that the Vatican would entrust any secrets to the guardianship of an order or organization even under its supervision. The Vatican is a repository of much wisdom, historical knowledge and literature, and does not relegate to any sub-division the responsibility of guardianship of such. It does not need to and would certainly be exercising stupidity in doing so. Despite the anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism that exists and influences the views of many (including Dan Brown's towards Catholicism), those who accuse Catholics and Jews of stupidity or ignorance expose their own. Dan Brown, however, cannot pass the test of stupidity or ignorance.
Regarding that last sentence above, consider his claim that Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting, The Last Supper, reveals a "secret." The Gospels, written by Christ's apostles who directly witnessed the events about which they recorded, were clear on their depiction of that Passover meal. John, the youngest, reclined next to Jesus and was recorded to have laid his head on His shoulder. Sacred art and those that produce it do not have any intentions of expressing physical reality, as seen in the iconography of Christian art throughout the centuries. If they did, then artists would have painted the crucified Christ as described in biblical and historical literature: a naked person who cannot be identified as a human, but who looked rather like a skinned and bloody deer hanging in a hunter's backyard. Mel Gibson's Passion film, that was rated R for violence, held back on reality despite the criticism of some that he had gone too far.
The first "secret" about Da Vinci's painting (not a fresco) is that Jesus and His apostles did not all sit on just one side of the table, as though posing for a camera photo. Nor did they sit on chairs. (In reality, meal tables were low to the floor and everyone reclined on the floor, picking at the food leisurely.) What does Dan Brown deduce from that depiction of unreality by the artist Leonardo? The second "secret" is that artists in Leonardo's time typically paid attention to distinguishing status and age of their subjects by various means. In the case of the Last Supper , John had high status and was the youngest of the apostles. So Leonardo needed to give him somewhat feminine features (such as no beard) to accentuate his youth in comparison to the others. Thus The Da Vinci Code claims this apostle was really Jesus' wife, Mary Magdalene. So where was John? Out to Wawa to buy 13 cups of coffee? No, John was Christ's most beloved apostle, the one to whom He gave His Revelation in a vision and to whom He entrusted the care of His mother during His crucifixion, and was indeed the person Leonardo painted.
The history of the holocaust was been rewritten by holocaust deniers. Those
who have not studied or directly interviewed the survivors are most prone
to believe the revision of history. The Russian Communists constantly revised
history, going into libraries and tearing out pages replacing them with rewritten
ones. The Russian people, who lived their history, joked about this and knew
better. Unfortunately, many Christians and non-Christians alike are not familiar
with the history of the early church. Thus it is so easy for fictional writers
like Dan Brown to dupe them into thinking, "Hey, this makes sense and is
believable." It's been said that people who don't know their history are
destined to repeat it. Let me venture beyond that and suggest that people
who don't know their history are destined to believe the historical revisionists
and adopt such lies into their present belief systems. To me, that is worse
than repeating the history we already know to be true.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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