The juiciest part of the Da Vinci conspiracy is the assertion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a secret marriage that produced a child, perpetuating his bloodline. Furthermore, Mary Magdalene’s womb, carrying Jesus’ offspring, is presented in the book as the legendary Holy Grail, a secret closely held by a Catholic organization called the Priory of Sion. Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo Da Vinci were all cited as members.
Romance. Scandal. Intrigue. Great stuff for a conspiracy theory. But is it true? Let’s look at what scholars say.
A Newsweek magazine article, that summarized leading scholars’ opinions, concluded that the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were secretly married has no historical basis. The proposal set forth in The Da Vinci Code is built primarily upon one solitary verse in the Gospel of Philip that indicates Jesus and Mary were companions. In the book, Teabing tries to build a case that the word for companion (koinonos) could mean spouse. But Teabing’s theory is not accepted by scholars.
There is also a single verse in the Gospel of Philip that says Jesus kissed Mary. Greeting friends with a kiss was common in the first century, and had no sexual connotation. But even if The Da Vinci Code interpretation is correct, there is no other historical document to confirm its theory. And since the Gospel of Philip is a forged document written 150-220 years after Christ by an unknown author, its statement about Jesus isn’t historically reliable.
Perhaps the Gnostics felt the New Testament was a bit shy on romance and decided to sauce it up a little. Whatever the reason, this isolated and obscure verse written two centuries after Christ isn’t much to base a conspiracy theory upon. Interesting reading perhaps, but definitely not history.
As to the Holy Grail and the Priory of Sion, Brown’s fictional account again distorts history. The legendary Holy Grail was supposedly Jesus’ cup at his last supper, and had nothing to do with Mary Magdalene. And Leonardo da Vinci never could have known about the Priory of Sion, since it wasn’t founded until 1956, 437 years after his death. Again, interesting fiction, but phony history.
The “Secret” Documents
But what about Teabing’s disclosure that “thousands of secret documents” prove that Christianity is a hoax? Could this be true?
If there were such documents, scholars opposed to Christianity would have a field day with them. Fraudulent writings that were rejected by the early church for heretical views are not secret, having been known about for centuries. No surprise there. They have never been considered part of the authentic writings of the apostles.
And if Brown (Teabing) is referring to the apocryphal, or infancy Gospels, that cat is also out of the bag. They are not secret, nor do they disprove Christianity. New Testament scholar Raymond Brown has said of the Gnostic gospels,
“We learn not a single verifiable new fact about the historical Jesus’ ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been his.”
Unlike the Gnostic gospels, whose authors are unknown and who were not eyewitnesses, the New Testament we have today has passed numerous tests for authenticity. (Click to read Jesus.doc) The contrast is devastating to those pushing conspiracy theories. New Testament historian F. F. Bruce wrote:
“There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”
New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger revealed why the Gospel of Thomas was not accepted by the early church:
“It is not right to say that the Gospel of Thomas was excluded by some fiat on the part of a council: the right way to put it is, the Gospel of Thomas excluded itself! It did not harmonize with other testimony about Jesus that early Christians accepted as trustworthy.”