Saturday, May 20, 2006

On Jesus and fact vs fiction ...

With the release of the Da Vinci Code movie last night, we've been talking about the Da Vinci Code 'controversy' for what seems like forever, lol. It seems a pretty logical bet that this current movie, based on the book by Dan Brown, will do well at the box office ... given the sales of the book, movie ticket sales seem to be little more than a formality. I suppose time will tell the real story on that but honestly, I can't really speak to how well it will do, or even do much in the way of a review as I haven't seen the movie, nor even read the book.

In fact, I haven't even read the Holy Blood, Holy Grail book, upon which many of the fictional plot points for Da Vinci are based. So I am probably the least qualified person on the planet to write a review of the movie, or the book, or to discuss any of the specific theories that Brown brings up in da Vinci, and Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln bring up in HBHG. That's not what this blog article is about, though I may very well review the movie later if I decide to see it.

Instead, I want to explore the nature of fact and fiction in the modern world of writing, especially as it deals with religious figures. Da Vinci has been decried as blasphemous by many people because it challenges the account of Jesus' life as told by traditional Christianity through the Bible and specifically through the 4 Gospels. Usually, these charges of blasphemy seem centred on the notion that the 4 Gospels in the New Testament of the Bible represent a complete and historically accurate account of Jesus' life.

The fact is, the 4 Gospels of the New Testament don't even represent a complete religious account of Jesus' life, never mind a historical account. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are 4 specific versions of the Jesus story, but they are only 4 of literally dozens of Gnostic Gospels that speak directly of Jesus life, His mission, and His Ministry. The 4 stories that modern Christianity regard as Gospels, as well as all of the rest of what is known as the 'New Testament' was codified in late 4th century, finally accepted at the Third Council of Carthage in 396.

But the list of texts and discussion about Jesus and his life goes well beyond simply what's in the New Testament, even in a religious context. When you speak historically, however, you also have to ask questions of anthropology and archaeology ... to find out who Jesus REALLY was, you have to look honestly and accurately at the world he lived in. Any attempt to look at the historic life of Jesus, even in a fictional sense, would have to start with a firm understanding of the world Jesus walked in ... of what he smelled, of what he saw, of what his bare feet felt as he crossed Judea.

If you are one of the three people on the planet who don't know the main premise of Da Vinci, and HBGB, and who want to be surprised at the movie, the is a SPOILER alert. For the rest of the planet, its important to note that the idea that Jesus and Mary were intimate and potentially produced children is hardly new to Dan Brown. Even Baigent and Leigh were late to the game with HBGB ... Gnosticism has been discussing the life and sexuality of Jesus for 2000 odd years in all sorts of forms.

The real question of 'blasphemy' comes down to a question of who gets to define what is sacred. Blasphemy is the intentional ridicule of something sacred, and the ultimate question is whether Brown, or Baigent and Leigh, or in fact any of the thousands of Gnostics who simply worship Jesus in a different, are intentionally ridiculing anything by exploring their own questions of history, of fiction, of faith.

I think instead its important to realize that 'traditional Christianity' represents but one view of the life of Jesus. Even in the religious world, there is widespread dissention about who Jesus was and what his impact was (most Christians don't realize that Jesus is revered in the Muslim faith as one of the most enlightened Prophets in history). In secular history and literature, there are bound to be competing theories about Jesus, and there's really nothing wrong with it. There IS such a thing as blasphemy, but I really don't see how the Da Vinci Code meets the standard. Its just a fresh look a someone who clearly has had an impact in the world, and in the end, its hard for me to see that as a bad thing.


At 11:57 a.m., Anonymous Tigereyes60 said...

Great post Elron :) I'm am reading the DaVinci Code,almost finished btw, to me it makes me look at things in whole new light. I have to admit i haven't read much of the bible, but by things i have been taught or thought i knew this book, and movie puts things in a new perspective.

I guess i'm in between now, now sure what to think actually.

Thanks for the post



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