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May 19, 2006


What all of this ignores is that it was a perfectly dreadful book. Ecclesiastical history aside, it is a literary failure.

Angels and Demons was better.

Agree with Melanie.

I don't read thrillers very often. So when I can guess how it ends very early in the book, it's not so good.

By my mother, an employee of the Jesuits who has a theology degree and did a lot of work on Mary Magdalene, found it to be an amusing book.

Thanks emptypockets. I don't know of any credible historical evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalen married and had children. That's irrelevant, however, to the extraordinary prominence she is given by name in all FOUR canonical gospels.
John, chapter 20
1: Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag'dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
2: So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
Luke, chapter 24
1: But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared.
2: And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
3: but when they went in they did not find the body.
4: While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel;
5: and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?
6: Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
7: that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise."
8: And they remembered his words,
9: and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.
10: Now it was Mary Mag'dalene and Jo-an'na and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles
Mark, chapter 16
1: And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo'me, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2: And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3: And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?"
4: And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; -- it was very large.
5: And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed.
6: And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him.
7: But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you."
8: And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.
9: Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
10: She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
Matthew, chapter 28
1: Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Mag'dalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre.
2: And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
3: His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.
4: And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
5: But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
6: He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7: Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you."
8: So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
9: And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
10: Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."

This is the most priveledged real estate in early Xtianity, the discovery of the Resurrection. To really appreciate the power that Mary Magdalen's memory had over the early Church, one has to understand how little the four canoncial gospels actually agree on. Luke is the only one with a virgin birth. Matthew has Mary as an unwed Mother and Joseph is not the father. Mark and John ignore the material completely. Matthew and Luke both use Mark as their foundation, but Mark has no sermon on the mount. Matthew and Luke feel free to add things that neither Mark nor the other has, except wrt what scholars call the "Q sayings." When using that material, neither Matthew nor Luke feel free to change it in any way. Neither Mark or John knows about Q and John has virtually no miracles and is referred to as the "maverick" of the four, because he has a lot of material no one else has.
Add to this the really virulent sexism which over took Xtianity after Paul's death, (about ten years before Mark was written (70ce)), the earliest of the four gospels. All you have to do is read Paul's authentic letters to realize how important women were in his Churches and some of their names still survive in the gospels, especially Luke/Acts. By the time the Gospels are written and in their wake, the memory of these women who obviously played such a vital role in the early Church that their names are mentioned is completely wiped out. Against all this the tradition of Mary Magdalen, as the primary witness to the Resurrection, stood firm. Whomever she was, she was remembered with a loyalty usually reserved for only Peter and Paul.
It's certainly possible that Mary Magdalen and Jesus were married and had children. What's well known from the canonical gospels is that Peter (and so far as we know all the apostles) were married. Jesus' first miracle in Mark is healing Peter's mother-in-law. Paul was the only celibate we know of and he routinely ordained bishops who had not "been married more than twice."
In Romans 16:7, Paul calls Ju'nia, (Julia) an "apostle," if you have an accurate translation.

I should have made my point more clearly.

For example I was wondering if there would have been any advantage for the National Academy of Sciences or the AAAS to have put up a web site written by intelligent design advocates, when that movement was first gaining political momentum. Scientists have been criticized for ignoring the ID movement rather than give it credibility by responding to it. Sony here has shown the advantages of engaging your opponent. On the other hand, the two situations may be fundamentally different: the IDers were aching for official recognition, so for scientists to give them a soapbox may have been more dangerous than what Sony did. Is there anything to be learned from the Da Vinci battles that we can apply to it?

Likewise, if Bush were to include some (respected) Dems as advisers -- given them a seat at the table -- would it help to prevent the organized resistance to Bush, as we begin turning on our own? Is that what we see happening with Lieberman -- are we being played the way Sony played Darrell Bock, above, or did he really get played at all?

Is it the same playbook that Sony used that now has us focused on Jason Leopold's veracity and talking less about Rove (or was that the aim, and we did not play into it)?

All comments are welcome, and clearly there is some interest in discussing the book and the Book. Personally I don't care who fathered whom 2000 years ago and I haven't read anything by Dan Brown (I'll probably go see the movie this weekend, as the appeal of Audrey Tautou outweighs even my dislike of Tom Hanks). But I meant this post to be about the interesting use of blogs and other websites and the tactics used by both Sony and anti-Da Vincists to manipulate opinion -- and if there's something to learn there.

Teaches me to try writing a post in the morning -- too much fluffery and the ideas get lost!

emptypockets, please feel free to delete my comment. It's awfully long and quite off topic.

John, not at all! on the contrary I appreciate your scholarship, and the beauty of the comments section is you never know where it will go (if I wanted to stay purely on-topic I'd just talk to myself. In fact sometimes I do). All perspectives are welcome... I only meant to clarify my own, not take away from other interesting tangents.

Science is different than history (ID vs AAAS). There is no need for a scientific society to use clever rhetorical and marketing strategies to discredit pseudo-scientific movements because *experiment* is the final arbiter, not public opinion. Now it's true that scientists want to keep working and so they push their societies (like the AAAS) to push government for more funding, etc. But this only affects the rate at which new knowledge is created, not the reliability of that knowledge. The latter cannot be gamed (except temporarily through dishonesty (fundamentally, science is institutionalized honesty)).

The issue of whether a pseudo-science like ID gets any credibility belongs far more to society at large than to practicing scientists. We have a method for creating new, reliable knowledge. If a society wants to discover new knowledge (and reap the rewards and face the terrors that accompany such pursuit) then the path is clear. The choice to pursue scientific knowledge is one that may be debated (using modern tactics) but the knowledge itself can only be addressed through empirical experiment.

Nevertheless, I still find it ridiculous that the writings of bronze-age Israelites are considered the capstone of moral philosophy.

I enjoyed "Angels and Demons" but kept waiting for "The Da Vinci Code" to come out in paperback, as I rarely buy novels in hardback. When the publishers kept it in hardback, my wait turned into a boycott, during which I picked up enough to realize that the book was probably trash.

There is a real grain of truth in the idea that the early Church distorted and suppressed Jesus' teachings, but Elaine Pagels' books stemming from her scholarship on the gnostic gospels lays that out very clearly and convincingly. It happened much earlier. Irenaeus of Lyon is one of her prime villans, and he died in 202.

Tons of feminist scholarship and less have touted Mary Magdalen's role for decades. But the Priory of Sion was exposed as a hoax by some French guy. Brown should have had the grace to admit he was taken.

What is really interesting about the controversy (Tweety even broadcast form Opus Dei yesterday) is that so many Christians either don't understand their own faith (the centrality of Jesus' divinity) or don't understand how hard it is to practice it faithfully.

Any religion, practiced faithfully and seriously, requires great personal sacrifice (of material desires, primarily) and complete submission of the individual will to a higher power or understanding, some personified or abstract vision of the Whole. Not at all easy to do, especially in such a material, hedonistic, individualistic society. But many people identify with their religion in a tribal way without really understanding it, and that leads to phenomena like the book and the controversy and the marketing campaign.

On a similar theme, I enjoyed "The Genesis Code" a lot--kind of like "Jurassic Park" meets "The DaVinci Code".

Leaving the planet is the correct answer. Never pass here. Anything not from here is from Satan anyway, not that we've all been damned by God and are in living hell hoping to cease rather than go on in continued further existence. Why 'you' don't pass is, basically, anything that has met anything human will be ceased in existence at the same time we are........ so, we've done the Universes a favor.

The really unforgivable sin is the movie pulls its punches and doesn't even believe in what it purports to be telling you, i.e., the created scene where Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellan sleepwalking for the mortgage) gives a long disseration on how it doesn't matter if this is true or not, what matters is how important Jesus is to people alive today. But given that it's written by the guy who was the model for the brother in "Adaptation" - the guy who is Robert McKee's poster boy for "do what I say and you too can make a bazillion dollars" - why am I unsurprised???

At least Dan Brown comes across in his book as seriously believing what he's saying. As a screenwriter myself, I long ago learned that the road to failure no matter the level of talent, is to write something you don't believe in. People "get it." And if you don't believe it, why the hell should anyone else?

I do, however, wish I could trade bank balances with Mr. Goldsman.

Unfortunately, I don't think we can attribute Ian McKellan's participation to his mortgage, no matter how big his house may be. And that is a sad thing.

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