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Post Dan Brown's *Da Vinci Code*
Created by John Eipper on 01/06/15 11:40 AM

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Dan Brown's *Da Vinci Code* (Randy Black, USA, 01/06/15 11:40 am)

In his post of 5 January, and pertaining to our discussion about God, Christianity, etc., Enrique Torner brought up the name of fiction writer Dan Brown. Enrique wrote, "Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code is an example, though he has been shunned by many Christians for his many 'blasphemies.'"

Pardon me for bringing up the obvious to WAIS, but what in the world does fiction writer Dan Brown have to do with anything in these discussions? And on what authority does Enrique claim that Brown "has been shunned by many Christians for his many 'blasphemies'"?

For those who have somehow missed The Da Vinci Code issues, Dan Brown is a writer of the conspiracy-fiction best seller, The Da Vinci Code, which was later made into one of the most popular movies in recent years starring Tom Hanks and an international cast of stars.

It's important to remember that Brown writes fiction, nothing more, nothing less.

The Da Vinci Code, while a fantastically compelling movie, is just a movie and one book. It is based on just enough historical fact to remain interesting to more than 50 million readers and millions more movie goers and to confuse readers and movie goers, Christians included. For Enrique to say that "many Christians shunned Da Vinci Code" is simply not an accurate representation of fact.

I cannot fathom what Dan Brown could possibly have to do with anything in these deeper matters of creation, religion, Big Bang theory and atheism.

Let's start with the typo in the name of Dan Brown's book. The DaVinci Code implies that Leonardo's last name was Da Vinci. It was not. He was from Venice (de Vinci). It's like calling me "Mr. from Texas." Randy Da Texas, while a bit over the top, has a nice ring however.

From the historical records, Leonardo's birth name was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, meaning "Leonardo, son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci." Some may argue that Leonardo was born a bastard and therefore not entitled to his father's last name.

There is conflict with that premise but nevertheless, the Dan Brown book is full of half-truths, sort-of-truths, not truths, no way-no hows, maybe facts with a large margin for error, and in Brown's own words on page 8, "it is fiction made up from his imagination."

A few facts about the lack of facts and outright falsehoods portrayed in Dan Brown's best-seller:

  • On page 8 of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown writes, "In this work of fiction, the characters, places and events are either the product of the author's imagination or they are used entirely fictitiously."
  •  There was never a Priory of Sion (protector of the "secret").
  • The figure in Da Vinci's Last Supper, portrayed by actor Tom Hanks (Langdon), is not Mary Magdalene, it is John.
  • Mary Magdalene was not demonized by the Church; in fact, her life was recognized by the Church, she was promoted to Saint, and her sainthood is celebrated on July 22.
  • Dan Brown, a former school teacher, has no advanced knowledge or education in religion. He began his book-writing career full-time in 1996. It's my understanding that his wife is his fact-checker. I have read his other works, and they are not particularly as entertaining as The Da Vinci Code.
  • Scenes appearing to be shot in Westminster Abbey: Westminster Abbey commendably re­fused permission for filming the Ab­bey scenes on site because of the "wayward religious and historic suggestions" and "factual errors" in the book.
  • Mary Magdalene is not buried in the Louvre.

The list goes on and on but... But I still enjoy the movie.

Sources include: http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/common-misconceptions/the-da-vinci-code-the-facts-behind-the-fiction.html


JE comments:  Enrique Torner (like Yours Truly), is a teacher of fiction, so he certainly is aware of the discrepancies pointed out by Randy Black.  I'll let Enrique answer for himself, but I assume he cited Brown's book as an example of how the nexus of religion and science (and here, history) has entered into the "collective" or "popular" consciousness.

Have I read the Code?  As Ric Mauricio might say, hmmm.  (Full disclosure:  no.)

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  • Brown's *Da Vince Code*; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 01/07/15 4:16 AM)
    Ric Mauricio sends this comment on The Da Vince Code (see Randy Black, 6 January):

    Hmmm, indeed. I did see that very entertaining movie and read that very entertaining book. As I explained to many who elicited my thoughts on Dan Brown's book, I explained to them that the fictional movie was based on a fictional book based a fictional painting. In other words, very fictional. I started laughing half way through the book.

    But I think I will start referring to Randy Black as Da Texan, you know, like you da man.

    But I digress. I have been reading the WAIS discussions on religion and many have brought up some interesting points. My question is, why is it that we treat science and God as being mutually exclusive?  Whenever I look at the stars or pictures of the universe, especially the nebulae, I marvel. Whenever I ponder the number of species of fishes and flora and animals and insects, I marvel. On Christmas Day, my grandkids and I were watching a documentary on the many species of sharks, and we all marveled at how many species of just sharks there were and how they were very different from each other. To me, that is science, and a natural life force.

    My atheist friend and I have many discussions on the existence vs. the non-existence of God. He says that everything can be explained by science or physics. Ah, but this natural force you call physics, isn't that the same force that some call God, or Allah, or Yahweh, Great Spirit, the Creator or even a polytheistic deity? Isn't the reason that people simplify the definition of this great natural force is because their minds simply cannot comprehend? Perhaps the reason the beginning of the universe was described as such in the Bible (seven days, Adam and Eve) is because a student asked his professor how the world or man began, and the professor, not wanting to look ignorant, made up a simple story to explain what of course, was inexplicable at the time.

    To me, science and God are the same thing. Now where we may get into trouble is attributing human attributes to god or gods. God gets angry, God is loving, God is jealous. This is what my atheist friend has an issue with. There has been some discussion on whether man is made in God's image or whether God is made in man's image. But if man is made from the same natural forces that made the universe, are we not part of God, or whatever we choose to call the great natural force? Now when I say "man," I am referring to both mankind and womankind. One of the guys in my Christian Men's Fraternity came up with, "Since Jesus was a man, God is a man, and the Holy Spirit is a man." Whoa, don't know where he got that logic.

    JE comments:  To shift the subject slightly, when preparing a comment for my Adrian colleague Scott Elliott's volume on Bible translation (http://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/pubs/060669P.front.pdf ), I learned that the Hebrew Old Testament is far less "gendered" than the Latin Vulgate and subsequent English translations.  Why this need for God to be so manly?  One wonders if the Holy Scriptures caused Judeo-Christian society to embrace a patriarchal system, or conversely, if the patriarchy informed the masculinist bias of the Biblical translators.

    Perhaps Ed Jajko can help:  did the King James translators work from the Hebrew and Greek originals, or from Jerome's Vulgate?

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  • Leonardo, Venice, and Vinci (Luciano Dondero, Italy 01/06/15 4:00 PM)
    I enjoyed Randy Black's post of 6 January.

    A small point. Randy wrote: "The Da Vinci Code implies that Leonardo's last name was Da Vinci. It was not. He was from Venice (de Vinci)."

    This is not correct. Vinci is a little town in Tuscany, by the Arno valley not very far from Florence.

    JE comments: Thanks, Luciano! I should have caught that during my editing, but that is what the collective eyes and brains of WAISdom are for.

    Surnames (and first/given/"Christian" names) were one of Prof. Hilton's favorite subjects. It's interesting that of the four Ninja Turtle Italian artists, only Leonardo is known by a "surname" of any kind: da Vinci. Nobody refers to Messrs Betto Bardi (Donatello), Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael), or Buonarotti (Michelangelo). In Spanish, this last painter is known as "Miguel Ángel." "Michael Angel" would sound very bizarre in English.  I should note too that in Spanish, Leonardo is named by mononym only.

    Wikipedia's entry on "mononym" tells us that in Turkey, surnames were introduced only after World War I.  Yusuf Kanli is traveling (I think he's in Spain presently), but if he sees this post, I hope he'll tell us where and how the Kanli originated.  Another surname-free culture:  Iceland, where first names and patronymics are used.

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    • Turkish Surnames; Drinkwater, Trinkwasser, etc. (Edward Jajko, USA 01/07/15 3:01 PM)
      Not to speak for Yusuf Kanli, but in November 2013 he mentioned that he comes from the northern Cyprus city of Gonyeli. Kanli is the name of a town a little to the west.

      I share Prof. Hilton's interest in names.  (See Luciano Dondero, 7 January.)  I find the name of the actor Sean Bean curiously compelling. It requires a decent knowledge of the language to know how to pronounce two words in apposition that are almost identical in their spelling but are not homophones. I have looked into how his name is represented in Arabic ads for his movies and there it is "Shawn B_in."  Among other names that interest me is the English "Drinkwater." Explanations for this name in on-line sources are entirely fanciful and specious. They are based on the assumption that the name exists in English/England only and ignore German "Trinkwasser," Polish "Pijewoda," Italian "Bevilacqua," etc. I can't figure out the source of this name.

      JE comments:  Water is good for you, so in Darwinian terms, the Trinkwassers of the world are going to thrive and multiply.  My favorite near-equivalent surname in Spanish would be Entrambasaguas (Between Both Waters).  It's also a small town in Cantabria, on the N Spanish coast.  Also, I'd like to put in a word for the surname Goodenough.  I once had a student with that name, and it must do wonders for self-esteem.  There's also Goodenough College in Central London, which is not a "college" in the US sense but a postgraduate residence facility for students studying in London.  Q:  What are your accommodations like?  A:  Adequate, Satisfactory, Not Bad at All.  That's the Goodenough way.


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  • More on Brown's *Da Vinci Code* (Enrique Torner, USA 01/07/15 5:48 AM)

    This discussion on God and science already took place last year, and, if I'm not mistaken, I started it by asking WAISers for the reasons behind the recent (last 20-30 years, but especially during the last few) resurgence of bestselling books and movies on God and religion.

    I have read and studied all of Dan Brown; as a matter of fact, I am in the process of writing a research article on him and a Spanish writer who is very influenced by him. Dan Brown has written several novels on the subject of God and science; many other writers from the US and Spain have done the same. Thus my mentioning him. I am perfectly aware that Dan Brown is a writer of fiction, but he writes historical thrillers. At the beginning of his books, he mentions his historical sources, and offers his legal disclaimer. His novels, as Randy Black well states, are a mix of fact and fiction. I could write a whole research article showing Randy how Dan Brown has discussed, through characters in several of his novels, creation, the Big Bang, and the existence of the soul, but I'll spare of you all the details. Believe me, I have read all of his novels. Randy Black talks about the Da Vinci Code, but either he has not read his other novels, or he has forgotten about them. I'll let you know when I publish my article. I have to work on it this coming summer.

    Regarding Randy's second question, as those of you who have read my comments know, I am a Christian, besides a Spanish professor, and one of my fields of expertise is the role of religion in Spanish literature. As a matter of fact, the fact that religion, history, and literature are important subjects in this community is what led me to WAIS. There are many Christian leaders, pastors, and organizations that have repudiated Dan Brown, especially the Da Vinci Code, including Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Kan Ham (founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum) and John MacArthur (pastor of Grace to You and president of The Master's College in California) are two of the most outspoken biblical pastors in the US, and they both published their repudiation of the novelist. Here are supporting websites, a few among many:






    Pope Francis, however, has turned things around. He has been trying to establish a good relationship between the Catholic Church and science, and recently stated publicly that evolution and the Big Bang theory are not contradictory with God's creation:


    His liberal views strongly contrasts with his predecessors and with many Christian and Catholic leaders. His view on Dan Brown is so positive that, lo and behold, he invited Dan Brown to design the Vatican Easter Egg hunt that took place on Easter of 2013:


    I could add many more sources to prove my point that Christians of all types, as well as Jews and Muslims, joined Christians in their attack on Dan Brown:


    To top this post off, I'll finish with a blog post that quotes an Indian newspaper article in which some Christians are so enraged at Brown, that they offer a $25,000 bounty for his head!


    God bless, pax et lux.

    JE comments: A Christian fatwa?  I didn't see any reference to the $25K bounty in the above article, but some Catholic leaders in India were enraged to the point of beginning a hunger strike.  This must have been great publicity for the book and film.

    A curiosity:  Have Dan Brown and Salman Rushdie ever met?  They are members of an exclusive club:  writers who have been condemned to death by religious zealots.

    Can anyone tell us how long the Vatican has held an Easter Egg hunt?  Isn't this a rather Pagan thing to do?

    ADDENDUM 8 January:  Enrique Torner sent this link which reports on the $25,000 bounty on Brown's life:



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    • Dan Brown and Spanish Writers Today (John Heelan, UK 01/08/15 8:09 AM)
      Enrique Torner wrote on 7 January that he is writing a research article on Dan Brown and a Spanish writer who is very influenced by him. Who is the writer? I am very much looking forward to Enrique's article.

      Some years ago through lack of funds, I had to abandon my PhD research on the influence of al-Andalus's Moorish heritage on Lorca's poetry. Part of that work investigated traces of Moorish culture, writings and poetry in his work. The first indication was that the influence provided a leitmotiv, but I did not have the opportunity to flesh out that research path. In any case such influence would have been overwhelmed by the psychological turmoil between his religious upbringing and his homosexuality that underpins much of his poetry.

      JE comments: And Federico García Lorca is the reason John Heelan first made contact with Prof. Hilton, which resulted in John joining WAIS.  By my calculations, John has been the most prolific contributor to our discussions in modern times.  Since 1997, fully 2.6% of the 33,000+ WAIS posts have the Heelan byline!

      For this reason alone, I'll be forever grateful to Lorca. (I actually prefer his plays to his poetry: this semester I'll be teaching La casa de Bernarda Alba for probably the 20th time.  One of my favorite lines from the tyrannical Bernarda:  "women in church should look at no man other than the priest, and that's because he wears a skirt.")

      Returning to Dan Brown, I look forward to Enrique Torner's response. If I may piggyback an additional question: aren't there a lot of Brown imitators because his is a proven formula for commercial success?

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      • Dan Brown's Imitators (Enrique Torner, USA 01/09/15 4:51 AM)
        In response to John Heelan (8 January), the article on Dan Brown that I am working on is a comparison between his Angels and Demons and Espía de Dios (God's Spy), by Juan Gómez Jurado, a young Spanish novelist who has also become an award-winning Spanish journalist and bestselling author. He was born in 1977, and has had his novels translated into 42 languages, being on The New York Times top bestselling list several times, together with Spanish authors Javier Sierra and Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Gómez Jurado's Espía de Dios shares many elements with Angels and Demons. I really appreciate John Heelan's interest in my article. I'll be glad to share it with him and anybody else who is interested--maybe Randy Black? Regarding John's question, the answer is yes, Dan Brown has lots of imitators. However, Gómez Jurado's novel is much more of an imitator of him than anybody else. Thus my article. Wikipedia mentions an interesting controversy regarding the novel:

        "There were several very controversial issues in Spain relating to God's Spy. The main reason is that the antagonist, Viktor Karoski, is a serial killer, pedophile priest. In the book there is a highly detailed portrait of Saint Matthew's Institute, a carbon copy of a real institution in the United States (Maryland-based, as well) dedicated to the rehabilitation of sex-offender priests. Some Catholic organizations in Spain and Poland protested against the novel because of this. In both countries, nonetheless, the main reaction of the critics was fairly favourable to the novel. In the USA the reviews were positive. Booklist, i. e., praised the book as a 'First-rate thriller.'"

        JE comments:  I've heard anecdotally that there is another center for sex-offender priests somewhere in the wilds of central Michigan.  I cannot find any Internet references.  Understandably, such a place wouldn't want to draw attention to itself.
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