Should we see 'The Da Vinci Code'?
Milena Kindziuk talks to Rev. Prof. Jozef Naumowicz, the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University (UKSW) in Warsaw, specialist in Christian antiquity.
Milena Kindziuk: - Why did the Vatican Archbishop Angelo Amato call to boycott the film based on Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'?
Rev. Prof. Jozef Naumowicz: - Because both the novel and the film are not only full of historical and theological errors but also contain insults and calumnies against Jesus and the Church. They are a clear falsification of the truth. Thus certain warning is necessary.
- Dan Brown even claims that the Church hid the truth that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and had children with her, doesn't he?
- This is one of the forgeries of this book. Of course, the Church would not have feared to speak about Jesus' marriage and it would not have concealed the news if it had been true. Why should it have hidden that? First of all, if Jesus had been married, the four Evangelists would have written about that. They mentioned in a natural way that a group of women had accompanied Jesus, apart from the Apostles and disciples; that Jesus, to the surprise of his disciples, had talked to a Samaritan woman, that he had stayed with Mary and Martha, that Mary Magdalene had been the first to talk to Resurrected Christ, etc. There is no historical truth about historical Christ that the Evangelists would have hidden.
- What is then the reason to refer to some hidden or 'covered' truth?
- It comes from a wrong and misleading use of some apocrypha, especially the Gnostic ones. These writings came into being in the middle of the 2nd century, i.e. after the four Gospels, which the Church accepted, had been written. Some of them are interesting from the catechetical angle. Others were totally sectarian, in a bad taste, i.e. ancient equivalents of 'The Da Vinci Code'. The apocryphal 'gospels' are an example. They promoted the doctrines of various Gnostic sections. They related to some mystical, hidden revelations. But it was not that they preserved some historical tradition, which was commonly unknown or forbidden but they preserved some inner revelation, which a given Gnostic was to receive. In fact, the authors of those new 'gospels' presented their own ideas and reflections. To sum up, they promoted the Gnostic doctrine.
- Can the new film 'The Da Vinci Code' be dangerous to believers?
- I know the reactions of students who read the book. Most of them do not see any reasons to deal with the historical truth of this book, thinking that it is a literally fiction, which no one is going to believe. Some were even inspired to deepen their knowledge about the origin of the Gospels, the Divinity of Christ, the role of Mary Magdalene or the true picture of Opus Dei. But I have also met readers who after having read the book became suspicious that the Church hid the truth. So the words of Voltaire came true, 'Lie, lie and something will remain'.
- So the film can be dangerous...
- Yes, but first of all to those who know little about Christianity and who take all the knowledge about it from the film. Having no other knowledge they will not be able to have their own opinion about this. The film can also provide some fuel for those who seek arguments against faith in order to justify their own prejudices, stereotypes or difficulties (I think there are not so many people like these). After seeing a dose of falsification they will have an even more falsified picture. They will look at the Church in an even more suspicious way, for example they will think that the Church hides the truth about Jesus and his relationship with Mary Magdalene.
- So we come back to Jesus and Mary Magdalene. There are many biblical testimonies that claim that Jesus was not married. And what about the apocrypha?
-They claim the same. What is interesting is that in spite of the existence of many apocryphal 'gospels' in the first centuries of Christianity, some of them were totally science fiction; no text says that Jesus was married and had children. Some authors, including Dan Brown, find some 'foundation' in the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, which they interpret in a false and tendentious way.
- This text, dated back to the end of the 2nd century, has one sentence that says that Mary Magdalene was 'a companion' of Jesus and that he 'kissed' her. But this text, like other Gnostic texts, uses a whole system of symbols. It did not refer to the historical person of Mary Magdalene but to a symbol of Wisdom and the Holy Spirit that constantly accompanied Jesus. Similarly, a kiss is not a physical kiss but a spiritual one. One must be a total ignorant or have a completely evil will to take one sentence out of the symbolic context and understand it in a historical, physical and literal sense.
- So the apocryphal writing does not say anything about a real relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene?
- Of course, it does not. Both the symbolic character of the Gnostic writing and the fact that Gnostics negated the value of human body, creation, matter and marriage testifies this relationship. One must also take into account numerous writings that were created in the early centuries. They all clearly show that Jesus was not married.
- Dan Brown says that the famous Leonardo da Vinci's painting 'The Last Supper' hides a coded message: the figure on the right, identified as St John, is actually Mary Magdalene...
- Another invented idea of the author, which fills us with disgust. We know that John was the youngest Apostle. During the last supper he was certainly a young man. Therefore, he was portrayed without a beard, as opposed to other Apostles. One cannot deny that the painting shows John, beloved disciple, very close to Jesus. The Gospel says John was leaning on Jesus' breast when Jesus declared that he would be betrayed.
- Therefore, the last supper does not contain any secret or a code?
- Not in the sense Brown speaks of. Leonardo da Vinci was not a member of any secret association that originated from Mary Magdalene's children and was to preserve some mystical knowledge.
- What is the basis for the claim that the royal Frankish dynasty of Merovingians came from Mary Magdalene?
- It is based on another Mediaeval French legend. When Mary Magdalene became patroness of a big sanctuary in Vezalay in Burgundy some legends were created to explain why her relics had been brought to that church. One legend says that Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who had to leave after Jesus' crucifixion, took a boat and rowed to France. Mary, Martha's sister, was even connected with Mary Magdalene. By the way, traditionally those three Marys from the Gospels were mixed. So there was a mediaeval legend about Mary Magdalene coming to France. Brown invented the rest.
- Numerous books have been written about the historical errors in Brown's book. But this author popularises a thesis that the Roman emperor Constantine invented the doctrine of Christ's Divinity during the Council of Nicaea in 325 because of political reasons.
- This slander is very painful to all believers and to each person who sincerely seeks the truth. The Nicene Creed was formulated but the council fathers did not invent the doctrine of Christ's Divinity. It was the New Testament and the earliest Christian writings that expressed their belief in Christ's Divinity. The entire liturgy and piety of early Christians, including the martyrs, who died for Christ, speak about that.
- Will the Church forbid seeing the film?
- It is neither about forbidding the film nor making it more popular. On the contrary, one must encourage people to make solid and true research. Faith comes from the heart, i.e. from love, but also seeks understanding and justification. It must have intellectual and rational foundations. So instead of pursuing some cheap sensation and false news it is worth making effort to deepen one's faith.