The Da Vinci Code and Actual History

book cover
The Da Vinci Code
and Actual History

Unfortunately, many people don’t seem to realize that The Da Vinci Code is a fictional story designed to entertain and sell books. It’s not history. Despite what the author seems to claim, it is full of many clear historical inaccuracies. Even the staunchest opponents of Christianity write:

"The Da Vinci Code … is indeed fabricated from start to finish: invented, made-up fiction."

If you’ve read or watched the book or movie, you’d do well to learn what parts of the book are fact and which are fiction.

Quick Links

Was Jesus Married?
The Priory of Sion
Other Gospels
Nag Hammadi
Dead Sea Scrolls

Holy Grail
Last Supper Code
Council of Nicea
Constantine & the Bible
Other minor mistakes

Was Jesus Married?

There is no evidence that Jesus was married, all historical documents and scholars indicate the opposite, that he was not probably married. Islam, too, agrees with this. The only evidence for any unique relationship (not even so far as marriage) between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is from two gnostic writing written around 200 years after the New Testament called The Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip. Even these writings do not claim that Jesus was married. For more on the historical relevance of these sources, read the article Fake Gospels. Dan Brown has one of his characters say that Jesus’ marriage is a "matter of historical record", but no scholar would claim this. The historical records Brown refers to are 20th-century conspiracy books, not early Christian historical records. 2

Did the "Priory of Sion" really exist?


Brown bases a lot of his ideas from one document in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France called Les Dossiers Secrets d’Henri Lobineau supporting the existence of the Priory of Sion, written by Pierre Plantard. Plantard himself admitted that this document he wrote was a hoax. The Priory of Sion hoax was examined in a CBS 60 Minutes programme and also here. Jonathan Riley-Smith, the former professor of ecclesiastical history at Cambridge University and a leading authority on the Crusades says:

“I do know what was going on in Jerusalem in the 12th Century, I do know. I spent 40 years working on it and what these people say — did not happen,” ( source)

What are the all the Gospel Sources
Da Vinci Code mentions?

The Nag Hammadi documents are a collection of later gnostic writings found in Upper Egypt around 1945. The Da Vinci Code claims that these are:

"the earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible" (p245-46).

False, these are not "the earliest Christian records" – the New Testament was written between AD 40 and 95, which the Nag Hammadi documents were written between 300 and 600 AD. The earliest Nag Hammadi document (the "Gospel of Thomas") was composed around AD 140, about two generations after the last apostle. These include Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, and Gospel of Philip.

Do they have a higher view of women?
The Gospel of Mary actually teaches a very insulting view of women. According to this document, Mary says: "Let us praise Christ’s greatness! He has prepared us all by making us men." Another Gnostic gospel, the Gospel of Thomas, has Jesus saying, "For every woman who will make herself male will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." In other words, a woman’s only hope of significance is by becoming a man – that doesn’t sound very uplifting.

Why are they not accepted by the church?
The primary reason is because they were obviously not written by the first apostolic community. Secondly, the philosophy taught in these gospels is Gnosticism, which has more connection to Greek and pagan philosophies than to Jesus. Gnosticism teaches that there are two Gods and that the created world is evil. For more, read the article Fake Gospels.

What about the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The Da Vinci Code reads:

"Teabing located a huge book and pulled it toward him (sic) across the table. The leather-bound edition was poster sized, like a huge atlas. The cover read: The Gnostic Gospels. . . .These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea scrolls, which I mentioned earlier," Teabing said. "The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible." (p. 245-6)

There are no Gnostic gospels or Christian documents among the Dead Sea Scrolls; only Jewish; there is no mention of Jesus, and no at all.

Where did the idea of a ‘Holy Grail’ come from?

The whole idea of a ‘Holy Grail’ or chalice did not exist before 1170. It is simply a fanciful religious rumor that has emerged in popular legends and myths with no basis in history. In 1170 a Frenchman wrote a creative poem called Percival which probably started the grail idea, and this story was told and retold in popular writings.

Does Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting
really contain a code message?

last supperNo. The idea suggested by this book, is that the apostle John pictured is actually Mary Magdelene and that she is the grail, is unsupported by art historians. Actually, John’s feminine appearance is very normal for portrayals of the apostles of that time. Bruce Bocher, Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago writes:

"how much does this murder mystery have to do with the real Leonardo? The short answer is not much, and the author’s grasp of the historical Leonardo is shaky." (read the full New York Times article )

What was the Council of Nicea for?

According to the Da Vinci Code:

"Jesus’ establishment as the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea… [and] a relatively close vote at that" (p233)

This was not a "relatively close vote" – according to eyewitnesses, out of over three hundred church leaders, only two refused to sign the Nicene Creed.

Second, the false teaching attributed to Arius which the council opposed was the abhorrent idea that God fathered Jesus like a child (God forbid) sometime before Creation and therefore he was just a created being. Both sides of this argument accepted the same New Testament Gospels and none of the Gnostic Gospels that Da Vinci Code likes to quote. For more information, read the article Fake Gospels.

Did Constantine decide what went in the Bible?

The Da Vinci Code states:

"the Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan emperor Constantine the Great" (p.231)

False – read the following articles :

Constantine and the Canon of 325

Couldn’t the Church have Changed the Bible for Political Motives?


* * *

Other Minor Mistakes

Jesus Toppled Kings?
Da Vinci Code:
"As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions and founded new philosophies."
Actual History: Jesus never toppled any kings, it doesn’t take much of a historian to know that.

Merovingians founded Paris?
Da Vinci Code:
"Merovingian was a term learned by every student in France. "The Merovingians founded Paris." (p.257)"
Actual History: Paris is more than 2,000 years old; the Merovingian ruler Clovis l made Paris his seat in the early 6th century

Leonardo did hundreds of Vatican Commissions?
Da Vinci Code
"Accepting hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions, Da Vinci painted Christian themes not as an expression of his own beliefs but rather as a commercial venture a means of funding a lavish lifestyle. (p. 45)
Actual History: Leonardo da Vinci did not have a prodigious output and had only one uncompleted commission from the Vatican. 

Jehovah derives from mythic male-female names?
Da Vinci Code:
" The Jewish tretragrammaton YHWH, the sacred name of God in fact derived from Jehovah, and androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah. (p. 309)"
Actual history: YHWH didn’t derive from Jehovah, but from applying the vowels from Adonai (Lord) to the Hebrew consonants for "I AM" (). See for example Jehovah (Online Etymology Dictionary), Jehovah (Merriam-Webster Online), Jehovah (MSN Encarta Dictionary)

Millions burned as witches?
Da Vinci Code:
The Church burned five million women as witches.
Actual History: The highest historical estimates for total witch-burnings are no way near millions, 20% of which were men.

The Olympics were held for whom?
Da Vinci Code:
Actual History: Zeus.

Who Made Christianity the Official Roman Religion?
Da Vinci Code:
Actual History: Not the Emperor Constantine in A.D. 325, but it happened under Theodosius 50 years later.

Templar Round Churches
Da Vinci Code:
The Templars built round churches and roundness was considered an insult by the Church.
Actual History: Some churches used by the Templars were not round (e.g. the Little Maplestead) and those that were, were a tribute to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Knights Templar masterminded Gothic Architecture
Da Vinci Code:
The Templars "masterminded" the construction of Gothic cathedrals.
Actual History: The Knights Templar were a medieval military order that had nothing to do with architecture, masonry guilds or Gothic cathedrals.

  1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.
  2. Amy Welborn, The Da Vinci Code: The facts behind the fiction.

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