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The Da Vinci Code: A novel

Some things are not what they seem

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Caveat Emptor: some things are not what they seem:

bulletThe most important two words in the book "The Da Vinci Code" is seen in tiny print on its front cover. They are: "A Novel." It is very important to realize that the book is not a documentary. It contains some material that factually correct, some speculation and conjecture, some statements that do not agree with the historical record, some pure fantasy, and some blatant untruths.

It is not every copy that admits that the book is really a novel. One edition published by Doubleday for its book club omits the label for some reason that is not clear to us.
bulletOn Page 1, under the title "FACT," the author states: "All descriptions of artwork architecture documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." 1 However, Page 1 is an integral part of the novel. In fact, some of the references to documents in the book are not accurate. One glaring example is his reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls as Christian documents. They are definitely Jewish.
bulletIt is not a particularly easy task to separate factual content from the rest. There are places where the author rattles off a bunch of facts which includes a zinger. One glaring example is his discussion of the number PHI (pronounced "fee.") 1 It is approximately equal to 1.618 and is derived from the Fibonacci sequence. This is a series of numbers that is famous because:
bulletThe sum of two adjacent terms equals the next term
bulletThe quotients of adjacent terms approaches the number PHI.

Brown describes it as the "most beautiful number in the universe." Others call it the Divine Proportion. He cites many places in nature where the number appears as a ratio:

bulletThe ratio of adjacent spirals on a nautilus -- a species of mollusk.
bulletThe ratios of adjacent spirals on a sunflower seed head.
bullet"Spiraled pinecone petals, leaf arrangement on plant stalks, insect segmentation," etc.

The very first example that Brown gives is the ratio of female bees to male bees in "any beehive in the world." He says that it is always PHI. But may be really closer to 50 than to 1.6. "...there are up to 60,000 worker bees (non-reproductive females), and up to 1,000 male bees, or drones" in a beehive. 2,3

bullet One famous "fact" in the book is related to the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. If you ask many people who are knowledgeable about Christianity and/or artwork to describe who the painting portrays, you will probably receive the response: "Jesus and his twelve disciples." There are indeed 13 individuals shown -- and what some people interpret as a disembodied hand. But look at the center of the painting closely, focusing on the person to Jesus' right: It appears to be a woman! 4 Note the female face, the long hair, no beard, the delicate fingers, etc. Brown suggests that one of the twelve disciples had to be deleted from the painting. The place of honor is apparently taken by Mary Magdalene ! This theory was first suggested by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, in their 1997 pseudohistorical book "The Templar Revelation." 5 However, as pointed out in Wikipedia:
bulletThe figure is shown as wearing male clothing.
bullet"Other paintings from that period (Castagno’s 1447 and Ghirlandaio’s 1480) also show John to be a very boyish or feminine looking figure with long fair hair. This was because John was supposed to have been the youngest and most unquestioningly devoted of the apostles. Hence he is often shown asleep against Jesus' shoulder. It was common in the period to show neophytes as very young or even feminine figures, as a way of showing their inferior position."
bullet"Leonardo also portrayed a male saint with similar effeminate features in his painting St. John the Baptist." 6

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References used:

  1. Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code," Doubleday, (2003), Pages 93-96. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  2. Joel Loveridge, "The Chemistry of Bees," University of Bristol (UK), at: http://www.chemsoc.org/
  3. Glenn Smith, "Pi, Phi and the Pentacle," at: http://www.glenn.freehomepage.com/
  4. "The figure of John and face detail," University of Chicago Press, at: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/
  5. Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, "The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ." (1998). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  6. "The Last Supper (Leonardo) Wikipedia," at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Home page > Religions > Christianity > History, beliefs... > Da Vinci Code > here

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Copyright © 2005 & 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-MAR-06
Latest update: 2006-JUL-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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