John Carroll professor breaks ‘DaVinci Code’

Abbey Stirgwolt

Dan Brown is an author, not a scholar.

The DaVinci Code is a novel, not a historical document.

It follows, according to Joseph Kelly of John Carroll University, that “the author has freedom scholars do not.”

Kelly, chair of religious studies at John Carroll, presented the historical background that frames Brown’s The DaVinci Code to an audience of more than 140 last night in the Kiva.

Kelly opened his lecture with a disclaimer that he would focus on the historical and feminist aspects of the novel and nothing more. He admitted, though the end of his presentation touched on DaVinci’s The Last Supper, he was no art scholar and had little expertise in the area.

The lecture outlined several historical truths and falsehoods in Brown’s novel:

A§ Opus Dei is a conservative Catholic movement. Its members, unlike those portrayed in The DaVinci Code, do not advocate violence.

“Now realistically, if you’re gonna send out assassins, are you gonna have a Web site?” Kelly said of the group’s current Internet publicity.

A§ The Priory of Sion was a fraud, created in the 1950s and mentioned in a 1982 novel entitled Holy Blood, Holy Grail. This novel, authored by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, was the source of much of Brown’s research, Kelly said.

A§ The common concept of the Holy Grail – a brilliant silver chalice bedazzled with jewels and often floating in midair – is incorrect. Brown acknowledged this in The DaVinci Code.

“There never was a Holy Grail like this,” Kelly said.

A§ Jesus Christ never married Mary Magdalene, as The DaVinci Code suggests. Extensive historical research of the Merovingian family line – the alleged family of Christ – has proven this.

“There is no mention of Mary Magdalene in historical records,” Kelly said.

A§ Kelly affirmed the validity of Brown’s assertions that several books were eliminated from the New Testament.

“There were books that were supposed to be there (in the New Testament) and didn’t get in,” he said. He listed the Gospel of Phillip and the Gospel of Andrew as examples.

Kelly also discussed women’s roles in The DaVinci Code. He detailed the historical suppression of women’s roles, which influenced the selection of books for the New Testament because those who ultimately selected these books were men.

Current interest in Mary Magdalene’s role in The DaVinci Code demonstrates that historical circumstances affect religious writers, Kelly said.

Kelly’s formal presentation closed with an analysis of Brown’s novel in a feminist light.

“In The DaVinci Code, marriage to Jesus symbolized the union of male and female,” he said.

Kelly said The DaVinci Code portrays an “open, pleasant kind of feminism.”

“The true secret of the Holy Grail is the union of male and female,” he said.

Contact religion reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].