What Da Vinci Didn’t Know: A Book Review

May_2006_DaVinciDidntKnowWhat Da Vinci Didn’t Know: An LDS Perspective
Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Andrew C. Skinner, Thomas A. Wayment

Page one of The Da Vinci Code boldly declares, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 1). Though admittedly other factors play into the success of this book, one might wonder how well it would have done without this opening assertion.

At this point, such speculation is neither here nor there. Just as many other critics have already sprung to the task of debunking The Da Vinci Code, Holzapfel and Co. have released “An LDS Perspective” just ahead of the movie opening this weekend (even references to the movie are made in the book).

Speaking of Richard Holzapfel, I took a History of Civilization class from him at BYU and recommend him highly. In fact, that class holds special meaning to me, as it was the only class that my wife and I attended together at BYU. But I digress.

What Da Vinci Didn’t Know sets the stage by explaining, “Although they [the book and movie] provide the basis of our discussion, they are simply a springboard to reconsider, once again, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ” (p. XV11). The authors continue by explaining that some Latter-day Saints, due to belief in additional scripture, are quick to gobble up seemingly plausible additions to / omissions of history.

The first chapter focuses around “approaching history.” At only eight pages, it is an outstanding elucidation of best practices for the history enthusiast. The “LDS perspective” doesn’t show through here, and The Da Vinci Code is only used as an example of the difficulties surrounding the fusion of history and fiction. For example, the book states: “…The Da Vinci Code purports that a secret cache of documents exists…to make such a claim, we would ether have had to view those documents or to know where they could be found…are there external historical sources that confirm the existence of such documents?” (p. 6).

The following chapters begin dissecting the major controversies surrounding claims made in The Da Vinci Code. Included are brief but fairly thorough responses/introductions to issues such as a married Jesus, the Holy Grail, Mary Magdalene, women in early Christianity, etc. The book is a quick and easy read at just over 100 pages.

Ironically, perhaps my main issue with this book is that it is very critical of The Da Vinci Code while making extremely audacious statements in its own right, such as: “And the thing that matters most–the most important event in time or all eternity–is the Atonement, including the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (p. 40). I say “ironically” because at first I thought “the LDS perspective” would be refreshing (which it is in some sections, such as within the context of a married Jesus). But, as many of you may know, I’m not a fan of the superlative, especially when we’re talking about eternity. Not to say that I don’t think the atonement is important, but most important in all eternity? How could we make such a statement, let alone in a book criticizing another book’s credibility? I won’t detract further, but for those interested, please refer to my issues with eternal coincidences.

Otherwise, the only aspect lacking in this response to The Da Vinci Code is any sort of positive reinforcement. The authors admit that the book has well developed characters and an engaging story. But I would have been interested in any sort of here’s-where-Brown-got-it-right approach. As it stands, the book makes you feel like Brown didn’t get history right at all. Obviously The Da Vinci Code has issues on this front, but I think those issues might have been all the more interesting if pointed out in contrast to those references to history that didn’t have issues.

All and all, a good read for any Da Vinci enthusiast (I’d say it’s best suited for Mormons but could do well among non-Mormons) or for anyone interested in a brief historical context of most things mentioned in The Da Vinci Code.


  1. “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate”

    Picasso’s Guernica is also “accurate”.

    The Davinci Code is pop culture trash that will be forgotten like all other trash (e.g., The Late Great Planet Earth, The Bible Code, Left Behind, Touched by the Light, etc.).

    I just wish I could figure out what the next pop cultural trash hit will be and write it myself so I can cash in.

  2. Elisabeth says:

    Thanks for the review, Bob. I thought The DaVinci Code was annoying from the moment I picked it up, but I was forced by an unseen power to finish reading the book so I could find out what happened in the end – rolling my eyes in disdain at the end of every overwrought chapter.

    Of course, the underlying themes of murder, intrigue and grandiose religious conspiracies are overblown and silly, but I think the book will make for a decent entertaining (if not overblown and silly) movie. Despite Tom Hanks’ mullet. What are you thinking, Tom? Get a haircut!

  3. Justin has posted on “was Jesus married?” over at BT.

  4. ED-

    “Accurate” is an interesting choice of word. Let’s just be grateful that Brown didn’t use the Mormon favorite “true.”


    I too read the book, though I think I’m more of a sucker for “overblown and silly,” as someone usually has to remind me how implausible certain events are. And good point, what’s with Tom’s hair?

  5. The Church makes a statement on the plotline of Da Vinci Code:

    Official Comment

    Say what?

    Why does the Church need to make an official statement on this? And why are they are being so … standoffish? Is this another one of those “we are a mainstream religion” things?

    Incidentally, I don’t hold with the current intellectual opinion that Dan Brown’s book is fluff – to me, it’s a great read. (As were his other books, to some extent.) So what if the facts don’t all match up despite his claim at the beginning? Still very exciting stuff. Ever read the “abridgement” of the Princess Bride? ;)

    P.S. I wish I could forget Left Behind

  6. Elisabeth says:

    Does it really matter whether Jesus was married? I’m not feeling the urgency to know the answer one way or another. There’s enough speculation around the Mormon marriage doctrine already. We don’t really know. End of story. Phew.

    Wish I could be satisfied with that answer for all of my doctrinal questions!

  7. Like FHL, I actually have to disagree with the prevailing opinion on this thread about The Da Vinci Code–although in the opposite direction. I didn’t even think it was a compelling read; if I hadn’t been stuck on a 16-hour bus trip when I read it, I would have quit early on. I found the puzzles in the book goofy, but the single biggest problem for me was that none of the discoveries in the narrative were really very important. The main characters start the story already knowing that Jesus was married, had children, etc. The only real discoveries are who those people are. But aren’t those identities relatively trivial in comparison with the generic information about Jesus?

    Really, anything by Terry Pratchett is a much better recreational read…

  8. S. P. Bailey says:

    Churches and scholars of religion getting all hot and bothered by the Da Vinci Code looks kind of rediculous to me. Not getting a joke is one thing. Writing a book or issuing an official statement about how a joke is historically inaccurate is beyond the pale. Not that Brown’s book is a joke exactly, but the principle is the same.

    For the record, Brown’s writing is not what I would call good. Sentence to sentence, he is DULL. Yet calling him popular garbage misses the point. He clearly did not set out to be literary. Page-to-page and plot point-to-plot point Brown is entertaining. And suprise! It is all a matter of formula (see this interesting Slate article).

    Furthermore, and since the bloggernacle is a somewhat darker place without new material from Russell A. Fox, check out this post. Brown does tap into something profound–the Feminine Divine–something that Mormonism I think is better equipped to cope with and embrace than more theologically conservative religions.

  9. Julie M. Smith says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: there are at least a dozen debunking-dan-brown style books out there, but I don’t know of anyone who takes this book seriously. What’s with the overwrought reaction–from all quarters?

  10. Going by poll results roughly 2 million people say their religious beliefs have changed because of the books content. It’s a small percentage, but still a large number of people.

  11. I too am a bit puzzled by the Church’s “official” comment. A married Jesus doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the controversy in Brown’s book (the Feminine Divine, overall doctrinal cover ups, sexual ceremonies, etc.). Why did the Church single out that tidbit? I can’t help but speculate that it’s because the Church wants to distance itself from the book. And without this “official” comment, any Joe could look up what Mormonism has to say on a married Jesus and find that our religion is more likely to agree with Brown than practically any other religion. And I guess that’s a bad thing at this point…

  12. And Julie (and whoever else), am I the only one who is interested in a book possibly entitled “What Da Vinci DID Know”? In the same fashion that everyone is so excited to debunk Brown, I really do wish someone would point out where he got it right. But perhaps I’m alone there…

    And can I just say that I read this book because it is genuinely interesting. I’m surprised by all the comments of readers who have to excuse themselves out of some sort of shame? “I only read it because…” Sheesh. Putting down a crappy book before page 400 is easier than walking out of a movie. It couldn’t have been that bad, or am I the only one who doesn’t make it to page 400 of books that I think suck?

  13. Jonathan Green says:

    Julie, I think it works like this:

    1. Pick a book that has sold a bazillion copies.
    2. Write a book that caters to the suspicons of people who have read or just have heard of the original book.
    3. Profit!

    Has Deseret Book come out with a DaVinci Code knockoff yet? I’ve already got a great plot outline: Not only did Joseph Smith marry, but he had children, and his descendants are still alive today, protected by a mysterious religious group–and this shocking secret can be proved with documents hidden deep in a mountain outside of Salt Lake City!

  14. re # 13, Bob, the fact that you have to ask the question you do in # 13 is the answer to Julie’s question in # 10.

    Julie — I am surprised you have not encountered people who, after reading the Da Vinci Code, make such statements as “wow, I didn’t know that the Catholic Church was covering up Jesus’ marriage and bloodline in order to cover up the Divine Feminine!” completely oblivious to the line between fact and fiction in the book. I have run into many. It’s not so much that these people take up arms, storm the Catholic churches, and smash the idols there, but rather they just walk around thinking some new and inaccurate things about “history” and “religion.”

    I think you put too much confidence in the American reading public if you are serious about your question in # 10. After all, even Bob, someone far more intellectually capable than the average eight-grade-level-reader that constitutes our jury pool nationwide, has asked in # 13, “so, just what in this book is fact and what is fiction?”

    Having said all that, though, I think that the . . . hysteria . . . around the world about this book/movie is ridiculous.

  15. Ivan Wolfe says:

    Julie –

    I know you teach at the Austin institute, so I’m surprised you haven’t noticed the widespread popularity of the DaVinci Code among the students (and at least one of the full-time faculty) there.

    Even outside the Institute, I know quite a few people in the Church who love, love, love the book and have even quoted it in Sunday School.

  16. Julie M. Smith says:

    OK, OK, I guess I am out of the loop. I was basing my response on the fact that every bookstore (real or online) has an entire shelf of “What Dan Brown Got Wrong” and not a single “Join the Church of Dan Brown!” Perhaps my mileage would vary if I interacted with, you know, actual human beings instead of just books . . .

    Another thought, though: it is at least theoretically possible to love a book (because the plot engaged you, etc.) without believing that–or even caring whether–it is true. Perhaps when I have heard people raving about the book, I’ve been hearing the former and they intended the latter. Or maybe some of you are hearing the latter when they intended the former. I don’t know.

  17. Julie, I agree. My wife and I both love historical fiction. I am, however, vain enough to think that I am actually capable of separating the fact and the fiction, and I certainly don’t take statements made in fiction books to be new insights or knowledge. (Fiction might contribute to aesthetic or moral eduction, however.)

  18. Elisabeth says:

    Bob – I agree with you. There is SOME truth to The DaVinci Code, after all. I mean, there is a real painting, Mona Lisa (which I’ve seen with my own eyes, even), there’s a real museum called the Louvre, a city in France called Paris, etc. :P

    Also, I didn’t mean to be snooty about The DaVinci Code. I like pulp fiction as much as the next guy or gal – in fact, I just finished Nick Hornby’s book How To Be Good, which was a delightful read. I recommend it!

  19. (I’m pretty sure the Da Vinci Code doesn’t contribute to aesthetic or moral education.)

  20. RT, I hope you seriously didn’t think that I implied that. I was referring more to classical works of fiction, which, even though I wouldn’t take as statements of facts or new insights, are routinely studied for their contributions to aesthetic and moral education.

  21. No, John, just a joke.

  22. Elisabeth says:

    Let’s settle down around here, guys. This is a serious discussion.

  23. Steve Evans says:

    RT, I can’t believe you’re scorning one of the greatest works of fiction in the last 25 years. I was reading the snooty NY Times list (Maya Angelou… WHATEVER!) and couldn’t believe that Dan Brown wasn’t on it. 100 years from now, who do you think will be remembered? This book will be studied in colleges and be the subject of PhD theses the world over.

  24. John (and other history experts),

    I agree that historical fiction can be quite enjoyable. I know you’ve already stated that you are “…vain enough to think that [you are] actually capable of separating the fact and the fiction.” But, I’m curious, have you read the Da Vinci Code?

    I only ask because I’m here to say that my respect for you has gone up if you’ve both read the book and are capable of separating its fact from fiction. I suppose, in a general sense, there is some stuff in the book I can separate too. But I’m getting the vibe that you and other readers here finished the book with no questions whatsoever.

    I feel like you really would either need to be a historian or a pretty big history buff to know where to even start. The book contains many, many references to history. And unless you are intimately familiar with each reference to history made, the book can easily blur fact and fiction (in fact, it can be argued that it takes advantage of this).

    In other words, I’m just incredibly impressed with all you smarty pants if I’m the only one admitting that I need external sources to validate or discredit certain aspects of The Da Vinci Code with any certainty. Somehow you’ve all been educated about each aspect of the historical context needed to really separate fact from fiction in this novel on your own.

    I’m not saying I was ready to believe in anything mentioned in the book (or to change any of my current beliefs). That’s different. I’m just saying that I really feel uncomfortable making my own assumptions about information I’m not very familiar with. And that I apparently missed out on some good education before reading this book.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    Bob, do the SparkNotes for the Da Vinci Code count? I’m seeing the movie tomorrow at a press screening, btw, and will have a review at Kulturblog.

    You might also like the “How the Da Vinci Code Doesn’t Work”.

  26. Julie M. Smith says:

    Bob, I’ll go on record: I’ve studied the ancient texts Brown refers to, so I feel competent to make a judgment there. I am no expert on art or architecture and I have no idea what Da Vinci did or did not think about Christ.

  27. Julie M. Smith says:

    Steve, that site is really great: “The restrooms of the Louvre have liquid soap, just like most other public restrooms.”

  28. Funny, Steve, for missing my point… I thought it was good a read that is an easy target due to its success and controversy more so than any notion of it not being very compelling. But greatest work of fiction in the last 25 years? I’m not sure where you came up with that as part of your sarcasm.

    Elisabeth, thanks for the response. I may check out your recommendation!

  29. Steve, thanks for the links! You didn’t know about these sites out of personal curiosity, did you? :-)

    Thanks, Julie.

  30. Bob, I didn’t miss your point — you’re missing mine. It’s indeed a good read, a very good read, and a far more culturally significant book than any of the best fiction in the past 25 years, as listed here. The sarcasm is double-edged: DVC is a fun book, an interesting story, but no more. Yet we have enshrined it far beyond the “best” works of American fiction in recent years — and the fact of this enshrinement is itself meaningful and important.

    But you see, Bob, it’s much more dry and boring for me to just say it like that.

  31. FYI, I’ve only skimmed the book, not done any real reading. But my parents are reading it now and are thoroughly enjoying it. But Tom Hanks with long hair? Ecchhhhhh.

  32. Steve,

    But I like it when you just say what you mean. This is Bob here, I-can’t-separate-fact-from-fiction Bob. I’m flattered you find me capable of figuring out your double-edged sarcasm!

  33. I think seeing poll results like in #11 – religious beliefs changed because of a FICTION book’s content – is what makes the popularity of Scientology a little more understandable.

    Also, this reinforces my belief that the general public will believe in just about anything.

    …Can’t wait till Angels & Demons gets made into a movie…

  34. rleonard says:

    The reason for the churchs statement is that some early church leaders taught and many LDS believe today (folk Doctrine) that Jesus was married. Most of my family members believe that He was in fact married.

    SLC is trying to clear the air with an official statement

  35. rleonard,

    Right. That’s what I gathered.

  36. By the way, while the church is clearly free to deny anything it wants, if we take the distinctively LDS scriptures seriously, we have to conclude that a married Jesus is highly likely. From 2 Nephi 31, we learn that Jesus follows the same ordinances we do. From D&C 132 we learn that unmarried people cannot be exalted. Since we definitely want to believe that Jesus is exalted, we probably have to conclude that he married.

  37. Bob, if you reread my # 15, you’ll see that I wasn’t knocking you for asking the question. My point was that even you and many of us are asking the question about what is fact and what is fiction, and so why should we think that the American reading public is drawing that line? (This was in response to Julie wondering what all the fuss is about in her # 10, not to your questions in this post.)

    As for my comment about being vain enough to separate fact from fiction, that came in the context of explaining that my wife and I love historical fiction generally and didn’t refer specifically to the Da Vinci Code. I guarantee that I would need guidance if I were interested in gleaning any true historical insights from this particular novel.

  38. Elisabeth says:

    Steve – I don’t think anyone can make a credible case for doing any enshrining (shrining?) of the DVC beyond it being an entertaining, contagious read. The DVC is culturally significant as the Rubik’s Cube and the Macarena dance were culturally significant. The books in the NY Times article are on a much higher plane of significance than the DVC. Will people be reading the DVC in another 20 years or The Plot Against America? You decide (since you have my copy). :)

  39. An example of an art-history-historical-fiction novel in which I was able to separate fact from fiction as I read was Michael Frayn’s Headlong. Because it dealt with a period and a subject matter with which I felt very confident, I was able to do that and it made the book even more enjoyable for me. This is particularly the case because my wife and I were able to discuss it at length.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    I haven’t read the DVC, but I did read a prepublication copy of Bart Ehrman’s take on it quite some time ago. I thought Ehrman’s book was good, even if I am more open to a married Jesus than he is.

    I saw Margaret Starbird at Sunstone in SLC a couple of years ago. That was interesting.

    But I’ll definitely be seeing the movie, mainly for Audrey Tautou. I loved Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. She’s worth the price of admission, I’m sure, Tom’s hair notwithstanding.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    Did the newspaper reports of the polls saying that 2 MM people have changed their religious opinions because of the DVC indicate how they have changed? Have people been giving up on Christianity, or becoming Christians, or some mix?

    That the DVC could have that kind of an impact, in whichever direction, boggles the mind.

  42. rleonard says:

    I am actually favorably inclined towards the idea that JC was married. Its just not “official” doctrine at least not in 2006!!!

  43. Kevin,
    Audrey Tatou is lovely beyond loveliness.

  44. Elisabeth says:

    AT is beautiful, but she has an overbite. It’s quite distracting.

    Glad to see equal opportunity objectifying going on around here. Although, Tom Hanks can always cut his hair.

  45. Steve and Elisabeth, I’m pretty sure there’s a quality dissertation to be written juxtaposing the Da Vinci Code and the Left Behind books–a comparison of audience, influence, themes, etc., that would have a lot to say about the profound social divisions in America today, and also about American cultural influence around the world.

    But if we’re ranking books according to how important they will look to pop-culture historians in the future, I think the Da Vinci Code probably doesn’t outrank either Harry Potter or the Left Behind series…

  46. John,

    I didn’t think you were knocking me. If anything, you were quite nice. I was just surprised at your ability (and others’) to separate fact from fiction. But that was coming from within the context of DVC. Your comment #38 clarifies it for me.


    I too am a huge fan of Audrey Tautou (loved both movies you mentioned) and am excited to see her speak in English. Have you seen Happenstance?

  47. Elisabeth says:

    P.S. AT’s best movie is “Dirty Pretty Things”.

    And there you have the added bonus of Sophie Okonedo.

  48. Sure, Elisabeth… You just had to point out her flaw in the midst of all the praise.

  49. Elisabeth says:

    LOL! Sorry. I think she’s beautiful. Really.

    You’re excited to see her speak English? :)

  50. Amelie was great and I’m excited to see how she does in DVC.

  51. Elisabeth, too right about “Dirty Pretty Things.”

  52. Elisabeth says:

    RT – I’d love to read that dissertation. Well, maybe not. But one of my favorite bumper stickers is, “When the Rapture Comes, Can I Have Your Car?”

  53. Kevin Barney says:

    I did see DPT, but not Happenstance (I’m not even familiar with that one).

    She has a flaw? I didn’t notice…

  54. Tom Hanks was trying to look like an academic with a ‘do inspired by the locks of John Langdon and Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi:

    Stylists wig out

    Plenty of buzz

    Hair therapy

    Hair don’t

  55. Larryco_ says:

    The DaVinci Code Cottage Industry now has new members: The BYU faculty. It drives me nuts that all of these books, pamphlets, videos, and television documentaries have been produced to save us by “declaring the truth” about a book of fiction! Who knew there were big bucks to be made by debunking the pretend. It’s not enough that professors’ Skinner, Millet, McConkie, Black and others pontificate through their books and on BYU-TV as though they possessed the apostolic mantle, now they are going to save us from the world of fictional literature. Can the defaming of Harry Potter be far behind? Or Frodo, or Wonder Woman, or Jack Bauer?

  56. AT is beautiful, but she has an overbite. It’s quite distracting.

    The overbite is the best part.

  57. No one defames Jack Bauer. The city of Los Angeles once named a street after Jack Bauer in gratitude for his saving the city several times. They had to rename it after people kept dying when they tried to cross the street. No one crosses Jack Bauer and lives.

    Don’t believe me? See here for the FACTS.

  58. Elisabeth,

    Her voice alone does nothing for me… :-)


    One minor quibble… When you used your doctrinal basis to come up with “we probably have to conclude that he married.” Doesn’t our doctrine also include the possibility that marriage during His time on earth isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for exaltation? Meaning, he easily could have married and been exalted without marrying on the earth. I’m just thinking the current controversy is focused around a married Jesus (past tense). Our doctrine allows for the marriage possibility while side stepping the history issue.


    I had no idea the almost mullet was receiving so much buzz. Now, if only there was a way to link it to a misrepresentation of history… It could be a controversy in its own right!


    The book is fiction, true. But Brown’s statement at the beginning has caused much of the hoopla. One could just disregard it. But my opinion is that some of the historical reference is, in actuality, accurate. Thus, not all of it is fiction. If it were so, then authors wouldn’t need to publish detailed books to explain which parts Brown got wrong. They could just debunk but saying the whole thing is fiction.

  59. Jared E. says:

    That is absolutely hilarious.

  60. Bob,

    Doesn’t our doctrine also include the possibility that marriage during His time on earth isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for exaltation? Meaning, he easily could have married and been exalted without marrying on the earth.

    Perhaps. On the other hand, a similar argument could be made that His baptism on this earth was unnecessary. But if we buy Nephi’s argument about the need for Christ’s baptism, a parallel argument (in light of D&C 132) would seem logical.

    This isn’t a certain argument, but I think it’s a probable one.

  61. Julie M. Smith says:

    As long as we are on the subject, maybe someone can help me with something I didn’t know in DVC: What’s the business with the hand with the dagger in The Last Supper? And by that I mean: Who do reputable art people think that hand belongs to and ‘means’?

  62. Julie, this link has the info on the hand with the knife.

  63. The book is fiction, true. But Brown’s statement at the beginning has caused much of the hoopla. One could just disregard it. But my opinion is that some of the historical reference is, in actuality, accurate. Thus, not all of it is fiction. If it were so, then authors wouldn’t need to publish detailed books to explain which parts Brown got wrong. They could just debunk but saying the whole thing is fiction.

    It seems that many people having an issue with that statement can’t tell the difference between an accurate description and an accurate interpretation.
    I can certainly say that the person sitting to the right of Jesus in the Last Supper has long reddish hair and claim that to be an accurate description. However when I say that the long hair means that the person in question is a woman, specifically Mary Magdelene, and that this woman was married to Christ because she’s sitting at his right hand, then I’m doing a lot of interpreting. As far as I know, Brown never claimed correct interpretations, he only claimed correct descriptions.

  64. Jared E. says:

    I personally liked reading the Da Vinci Code. I mean, sure it’s rediculous, I have a friend who got his doctorate in New Testament studies and he just laughs at the book. But hey, for brain candy you could do a lot worse. And does anybody here really think that Dan Brown believes any of that stuff? I think he is just trying to sell books.

  65. Jared, I’d amend your statement to say that Dan Brown is just trying to sell books and attack religion. It’s my sense that he really means to hurt traditional Christianity.

  66. Starfoxy,

    Now we’re getting somewhere! I think your distinction between description and interpretation is very helpful. However, there are still plenty of references to descriptions within DVC that I am curious about (but really have no idea as to their accuracy without seeking third party verification). Some examples:

    The book states (as fact) that the Priory of Sion is a European secret society with members including Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci. Something even more specific on Page 202:

    “The Romans hung a rose over meetings to indicate the meeting was confidential…the Priory used it as a symbol for the Grail.”

    So here are some “descriptions” that don’t necessarily seem like “interpretations.”

    1) The Priory of Sion is a secret society with famous history figures of the past being leaders.

    2) A rose meant confidentiality to Romans.

    3) The Priory of Sion used the rose as a symbol for the grail.

    So which is bunk and which is “accurate?” Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing of the Priory of Sion, their symbols, or Roman symbols. And Brown isn’t making everything up, is he? I really don’t know the validity of any of three examples listed above. And as I stated earlier, I’d be quite impressed if readers here just knew this kind of information with any certainty off the top of their head. Brown’s book is full of dozens of similar examples that are closer to “description” than “interpretation.” But with all the controversy and my own skepticism, I still can’t necessarily accept all these “descriptions” as fact. Throw in my curiosity, and I read other books to help me along.

    Not that Brown’s book is the best way to learn history (probably a horrible way really), but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to ignore any history found within the pages either. Note that none of my examples have much to do with a married Jesus and are thus not ripped to shreds as part of the debunking process. I suppose I can make my own assumptions and draw my own conclusions for “descriptions” like these but that’s ultimately not nearly as satisfying as really understanding fact from fiction.

  67. The Priory of Sion is a hoax. It was actually founded in 1956 by Pierre Plantard. He invented the pedigree that included famous historical figures like DaVinci. They were trying to create a quasi-Masonic society. They also tried to connect themselves to the Abbey of Sion which dates back to the first crusades. They even went so far as to create a series of forged documents to attempt to verify their claims.

  68. Jared E. says:

    I doubt that Dan Brown actually has it out for traditional Christianity, I think he most likely an opportunist. Besides, if someone is going to take what Dan Brown says, and loose their ‘faith’ over it, then they didn’t have very much ‘faith’ to begin with.

  69. Mark B. says:

    I learned everything I needed to know about the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, the Holy Grail and every other whackjob conspiracy from the beginning of Christianity from reading Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. Now, I have to confess that by the end I was totally confused, and inclined to agree with the professor’s assessment: “Monsieur, vous êtes fou.”

    So why the big fuss about Dan Brown’s book, which I haven’t read and which will soon enough be mouldering in its own grave? Didn’t any of you understand Foucault’s Pendulum either?

  70. Steve Evans says:

    Amen Mark B. Foucault’s Pendulum, I was pleased to note, included a minute reference to Mormonism in its whirlwind tour of the world of the conspiracy. It remains one of my favorite books ever.

  71. g.wesley says:

    i agree with larryco (#56).

    WDVDK seems to be a shameless capitalist venture.

    ironically, despite the dust jacket claim to be a ‘hard look at the evidence’ WDVDK has approximately 20(!) total endnotes to scrape over its century of pages.

    wayment, last night on fox news, stated that ‘as a historian’ he couldn’t say whether jesus was married or not. how is it that a historian can’t weight the evidence and make an arguement one way or the other? isn’t that what they get paid to do?

  72. Steve Evans says:

    g.wesley, that’s what lawyers get paid to do, not historians. Ideally, historians are supposed to examine the evidence and state conclusions supported by the evidence. If there is insufficient evidence, then an historian should not come to any conclusion.

  73. Jared, have you read Dan Brown’s other smash hit, Angels and Demons? Even more than the Da Vinci Code, that book is a frontal assault on religiosity, depicting it as a power-hungry con game.

  74. g.wesley says:

    steve, i think your perception of historians is too idealistic.

    and is it not that (trial) lawyers are assigned their arguemt and then expected to find the evidence to defend it? this is the opposite of a historian’s craft, which is to weigh the evidence first.

    but this is off the topic

  75. g.wesley,

    How many endnotes are required for a 100 page book to be endorsed by you?


    Fascinating information that I’ll need to look into…

    Mark B.,

    Not so fascinating… You’re killing me! Foucault’s Pendulum? That’s like Da Vinci on steroids.

  76. Bob, here’s a detailed description of the Priory of Sion scam. In 1993, Pierre Plantard confessed in court to the forgery of some documents relied on by Brown and the fraudulent creation of an ancient history for his very modern secret society, the Priory of Sion.

  77. g.wesley says:

    bob, that would depend on what the book claims to be. for a novel i wouldn’t expect any. for a book that professes to be a ‘hard look at the evidence,’ one that takes upon itself the task of establishing fact, then personally i would expect more than an average of one per five pages. would a note per page be too much to ask?

  78. RT/JNS,

    I love knowing smart people! Plenty of other potentially intriguing history or history-like “descriptions” exist in Brown’s book. As the non-historian reader among us here, I’d be interested in learning of descriptive reference to history that Brown used that weren’t bogus. I could keep coming up with more specific examples that I’d love to see debunked. But I’d love for someone here to point out a few instances of “Brown getting it right” just to appease my curiosity. Or are the rumors true and he never does get it right? And I mean more than just “yes, that Da Vinci painting exists.” Like, for example, the Roman rose thing I mentioned above. Is that accurate?


    I’m not sure if that would be too much to ask. I guess for me credibility isn’t necessarily based much on endnote frequency.

  79. Bob, Brown seems to have in fact gotten it right about the rose meaning confidentiality to Romans. Here’s a brief but as far as I can tell accurate explanation:

    Cupid is said to have offered a rose to the Harpocrates, the Roman god of silence, to keep secret the various love affairs of Venus. Harpocrates was usually depicted holding a rose in one hand, with a finger of the other hand at his lips, in a sign of silence. This established the rose as a symbol of secrecy. To this day, the term sub rosa, meaning “under the rose,” means confidentiality or secrecy. (Borrowed from this Masonic journal.)

  80. Steve Evans says:

    RT/JNS et al, Brown claims to be rather Christian, or thus saith the Wiki. He also dresses like a douchebag.

  81. RT/JNS,

    You’re a living prototype of what I hope Google will eventually be.

  82. The Da Vinci Code is successful because Brown has tapped into the Anglo anti-Catholic conspiracy myth, which has been around since the reformation. He dressed it into contemporary garb. That’s how you get a bestseller. You repackage a tried and proven recipe and you invoke themes that are already present in a community’s shared discourse.

    Bashing the Catholic Church reverberates because folks are familiar with it. Lately, that kind of discourse has been taboo and was limited to fundamentalist protestant wackos like the Orange Lords. But some of the implications of anti-Catholicism continued to shape people’s consciousness and I would suspect that in private discourse elements of anti-Catholic mythology continued to thrive.

    Thanks to the taboo Brown could appeal to these beliefs without competition. I don’t know about his intentions but the fact is that Brown’s book appeals to the worst in his readers: suspicion and may be even hate.

  83. g.wesley says:

    bob, i think you are wise not to equate endnote frequency with credibility. i wouldn’t either. i just like to be able to retrace the autor’s steps and check his or her sources when i read history, especial treatments dealing with controversial religious topics. and in general, the number of notes is often a good indication as to whether or not the author has ‘taken a hard look’ a the evidence.

  84. In reference to: “for a book that professes to be a ‘hard look at the evidence,’ one that takes upon itself the task of establishing fact:” from #78 above, and actually in reference to the fact that this thread starts from the note at the beginning of the book, I would venture to say that the fact that so many millions of people actually take Dan Brown at his word that he claims his book to be a hard look at the evidence is a testament to the fact that his fiction has been successful. After all, the fiction doesn’t begin on page one of the “story” — the fiction begins on the front cover. The note he inserts there about accuracy is, in fact, part of the story — part of the tale he is telling to his readers. To take it for a “truthful” statement is a demonstration of what he wants his readers to do with the rest of the book itself.

    I’m not claiming Brown to be any sort of literary master, by any means, and his dramatic dialogue is over the top in nearly every instance. But he uses this literary device (attesting to a historical accuracy) perfectly.

    My BIGGEST beef with Brown is that he calls the artist at the center of the book “Da Vinci.” The man’s name was Leonardo, and was always known by that. Having a character that is supposedly an academic in art history call Leonardo by the name “Da Vinci” shows that Brown made a major slip in the creation of his whole purposefully facade-ish historical fiction.

  85. Jared E. says:

    Actually I did start ‘Angels and Demons’. I read the first chapter, and then thought to myself ‘you know, I really liked this book when it was called ‘The Da Vinci Code'”. So much for originality.

  86. Steve Evans says:

    I want to apologize to everyone for using the term “douchebag” when describing Dan Brown’s appearance. He is more like a fusion of the Michaels — McDonald and Bolton. A tenor sax would not be out of place in his hands

  87. Jared E. says:

    Why a tenor sax? Do either of the Michaels play it?

  88. Steve Evans says:

    Well, maybe not a tenor specifically. He just struck me as someone who would have contributed to albums such as these.

  89. Jared E. says:

    I esspecially like the sun medalian (or what ever it is.) Who would have thought that her mamory exposure would be enough to spark a tribute smooth jazz album?

  90. Jared E. says:

    I just read the story on http://nn.byu.edu/story.cfm/59740 about Dan Brown taking on the Mormon/Freemasonry connection.

    “With Brown examining the mysteries of the Masons and their connection to Mormons, codebreaker fanatics anticipate another gripping ride.”

    What do you all think will come from this? I know it will be more than ‘nothing’, so please don’t say so.

  91. Well, I for one, Jared, would like to know the exact release date so that I can at least plan around losing my testimony.

  92. D. Fletcher says:

    One serious inaccuracy in the book, that Jesus wasn’t considered divine or resurrected until Constantine. Nope, the apostles fought over which of them had seen him first in the resurrected state. It turns out, Mary Magdelene was the first.

    See The Gnostic Gospels, for further, confirmed information.

  93. Kevin Barney says:

    My son and I saw the movie last night. I liked it, terrble Cannes buzz notwithstanding. I think I may have been aided by several factors:

    1. I never read the book, so the story had suspense for me.

    2. I have a natural interest in this sort of thing, so wasn’t bored by the exposition as most critics were.

    3. I had read the Ehrman critique, so I was already prepared for the historical gaffes.

    4. My tastes in movies aren’t particularly discriminating. I love movies, I see a lot of them, and I enjoy most of them.

  94. Jared #91, the relatively thorough Wikipedia article on Dan Brown’s next book does confirm that the novel will have a Masonic theme, but there is no hint of Mormonism as a major (or even minor) component. Instead, it seems that the focus will be on Masonry among US presidents and in Washington, D.C.

  95. Jared E. says:

    I am only going by the link that was put up on BCC. Byu seems to be under the impression that there will be a clear mormon connection in the book.

  96. D. Fletcher says:

    An excellent analysis of the ludicrous claims of the book, may be found here:


  97. Jared,

    I noticed that too. Though, I think BYU often feels the need to be the watch dog of supposed “clear Mormon connections” that exist all over the place.

    So, in a nutshell, I would give more credibility to practically any other source claiming a “clear Mormon connection.”

  98. I am from Brasil in US ovr 20 yrs / ran in to this site accidentaly.
    I think you might be the little boy I cared for as a nanny many,many years ago. If so please say hello to you family on Olcione’s behalf.
    ps: would love to see everyone again.


  1. […] EDIT: Bob at BCC has posted a review of a new book by LDS scholars on Dan Brown’s wreck. […]