Posted by: incywincy | January 16, 2007

The Da Vinci Code

A couple of weeks ago, I found the novel, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, hidden somewhere among the thousands of books we have at home. After hearing so much about it, and watching a lousy quality (aka low resolution, aka cinema recorded version) of the movie, I grabbed it excitedly, and began reading.

Sure enough, the book presented a very convincing argument through a fast-paced thriller that was packed with action on every flip of the page. In fact, this book is one of the best that I have read, and I give it 5 stars for its entertainment value.

Yes, I’ll have to admit that my faith (which was not all that strong to begin with) started wavering as I delved further into  the novel with the main characters in the story – Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu. Perhaps the realisation came to me in a statement by another character in the book, historian Sir Leigh Teabing. I quote a paragraph from the novel:

“The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven,” Teabing says. Patiently and authoritatively, he tells the two detectives, “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.” (page 231)

Yes, there may be some sweeping statements in the paragraph above, but it certainly got me thinking.

What is religion? I speak with no particular religion in mind, but I don’t know how historians can prove that something happened in the past. History can be altered, as we know, and we would be none the wiser about these ‘minor adjustments’ anyway. History textbooks in schools are often written in such a way that would somewhat glorify (or at least, put in a better light) the nation of the origin of the textbook.

If you don’t believe me, try oh, maybe the Rape of Nanking. I’m pretty sure Chinese textbooks and Japanese textbooks have varying accounts of the incident. Afterall, isn’t history recorded by Man?

Anyway, back to religion. I am not denouncing my faith entirely, or defaming any religion per se, but how does one know whether these gods, goddesses, deities, and what have you, ever existed? Or were they merely a figment of Man’s imagination? Or maybe a story that began with the intent of teaching some moral values and which was layered over the centuries with increasing details, characters, subplots, etc?

Historical artefacts and books record what supposedly happened in the past. But no one can guarantee that this history portrays an unbiased recount of the actual incident.

The Bible scriptures may have been accurate, for all I know, but what I’m trying to say here is: Who can guarantee that?

After reading this novel within the span of less than 40 hours (during which I went to work for 10 hours), I was intrigued to no ends. I didn’t think further about Christianity, or whether Jesus was ‘made divine’ by Emperor Constantine, or whether Mary Magdalene really was a prostitute instead of what the novel claimed.

Rather, I was amazed by the way Dan Brown so artfully weaved all these information (whether created or not), real artefacts (painting, sculptures), and real places (for example, the Rosslyn Chapel, which does exist somewhere in Scotland) into this incredible, convincing story!

This is the most captivating piece of work by an author whom I can only describe as the master of the genre of fiction! I love it!

Anyway, I hadn’t given much thought to it after finishing the book, as I had begun my new semester at school. But today, while waiting for the next CW3 bus at Jurong East Interchange, I decided to hop over to Popular Bookstore to cool myself down in its air conditioning, while browsing through some of the new best selling titles.

Then, this book caught my eye:

mcdowell.jpg

It claims to be the answer to the questions raised by readers of the novel. A short introduction to the book states the following:

“Drawing on the mountains of historical evidence, McDowell skillfully separates fact from fallacy and presents unassailable truths that readers can depend on to be rock solid.”

I realised, after some simple calculations, that this small 112-page volume was selling for only $6.60 (after using my Popular discount card), which was a relatively cheap price for “Answers”. So I bought it, and walked to the bus interchange while eagerly ripping off the shrink wrap plastic which protected the book from the cheapskates who wanted the “Truth” at the cost of nothing. Haha.

I must say that I was rather enthusiastic about reading this book – afterall, having read the actual novel, which gave rise to the existence of this guidebook.

The book narrates the author’s arguments through 3 fictatious characters, Christ, Matt and Andrea. They are three undergraduates who, after watching The Da Vinci Code movie, decide to read the novel and find out exactly how much of what Dan Brown has written is true. A little cheesy, but fine.

Their arguments aren’t spectacular, aren’t particularly convincing – but hey, the other one is a fictatious novel, so who am I to say what is fact and what is fiction? The three friends go on page after page, picking at all the ‘wrongly presented’ information in the novel.

Enter Dr Maria Martinez (entirely fictatious character, I am sure, to make this presentation of arguments more ‘interesting’), a supposed expert in the history of the early church and an expert on the church fathers. This is the point where I begin to get irritated. Because as the three main characters in this cheesy book read to her bits of the Da Vinci Code novel, she begins to laugh, almost as if in disbelief, like “How can they write something so stupid, bind it as book, and sell thirty six million copies of it?”

With each time Dr Martinez laughs or haughtily presents what she claims as “actual facts”, I feel like boxing someone.

I am not saying that she is wrong. In fact, this character may be accurate in whatever she says, for all I care. But it is the way that I have been ‘cheated’ into buying this book which irks me!

I soon realise that McDowell is without a doubt, a Christian, and a very defensive one, at that. He is also most likely a priest, or someone affiliated to some theology college.

Well, I’m right.

I stopped reading soon after, at page 48. I hardly think that one who is so firmly immersed in his Christian faith would be the best candidate to write this book, a book that supposedly provided answers (and presented arguments or evidence as truth) to a best-selling novel which has caused much controversy among (yes, you guessed it) the Christian community.

I can almost hear myself scoff at his audacity.

This book would have been a pleasant (and convincing) read if it was:
(1) written by an unbiased historian who is of, well, a different religion
(2) not written with such strong Christian undertones and themes
(3) presented in a table-form (under one column “What was written in the novel” and under another “What historical records show”)

Thanks to Dan Brown’s wonderful (it really is, I must state again) novel, Josh McDowell has managed to sell to me (and probably thousands of others) this completely biased book which presents truths only from the Christian point of view.


Responses

  1. you mean we have the book at home? since when? siape punye? ish, some more i went and downloaded the e-version. haha.

  2. lik bought it.. mom n serene *tried* to read it n found it soooo boring. i tot otherwise, obviously. haha..
    i also got all the e-books by dan brown.. haha.

  3. haha i guess it’s not called faith for nothing, and blind faith at that. solid facts are not really the foundation of religion to begin with, i feel.

  4. i read ebook hehe.. so popular, i oso follow crowd, my 1st english novel since Sherlock Holmes in 97.. Revise a few SH last holiday, love it. I was abit too young in my 1st read.

    Well, the argument that set u thinking abt Christianity can be found in Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” wc was published in 1794. There are many philosophers on this issue thereafter. If possible, it’s better to read proper texts on religion than to rely on fictions ma..

  5. Brown has done well to propagate lies and half-truths in his book. he basically rehashes old arguments from gnosticism that have long ago been put down.

    it is impossible for me to write a full and detailed response to your concerns in such a short space. but do allow me to refer you to a few articles that i have written on this subject.

    #1 – the historical reliability of the Bible
    http://shangjun.blogspot.com/2006/03/historical-reliability-of-bible-new.html

    #2 – was Jesus really resurrected?
    http://shangjun.blogspot.com/2006/03/jesus-death-and-resurrection-lies.html

    #3 – a response to the ‘gospel’ of judas
    http://shangjun.blogspot.com/2006/04/gospel-of-judas-response.html

    #4 – three ways to disprove religion
    http://shangjun.blogspot.com/2006/08/three-ways-to-disprove-religion.html

    #5 – introduction to evolution
    http://shangjun.blogspot.com/2006/07/evolution-or-creation-more-than-just.html

    no one else will defend our faith for us. we cannot expect them to. 🙂

    cheers

  6. The book was better than the movie. That said, I don’t think it’s meant to be the final word on religion. But I do think it makes people ask questions, and that’s important. Good luck with school!


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