Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? Did they have a daughter
named Sarah who was brought up in what is modern day France? Does
Jesus have physical descendants who walk among us today? These are
all questions bandied about with the advent of The Da Vinci Code.
These are the questions upon which many have focused their
attention, almost as a smokescreen to the deeper issues. Other
questions posed by the book: Did Constantine single-handedly shape
modern Christianity by deciding which books would be in the Bible
and by editing them to teach his message for Roman unification?
Was Jesus just a great human teacher who was deified by a close
counsel vote in 325 AD, nearly 300 years after He lived and died?
Are there other “gospel” accounts that reveal the real
historical Jesus hidden from us by the biggest cover-up scandal of
all times? Was Mary Magdalene the rock upon which Jesus was
building His church? The reality is we could spend lesson after
lesson after lesson dealing with all the issues raised by the
runaway bestseller. We will attempt to get down to brass tacks and
deal with the important issues in two brief lessons. In this first
lesson, we will examine the three pieces of evidence presented in
Dan Brown’s book. Tonight, we want to get under the surface
though and see what the real point of this book is and how it
stands up to the test of truth.
Why deal with this in a sermon?
Do I believe Brown’s book should be taken off the
shelves? His movie banned? No. Do I want to raise an alarm
claiming the very fabric of Christianity is in danger of collapse?
Clearly not. Frankly, I am not the least bit worried about the
nature or existence of Christianity. Dan Brown himself provides
the truth on this matter as he quoted a British priest in an
address made to New Hampshire writers. He said, “Christian
theology has survived the writings of Galileo and the writings of
Darwin, surely it will survive the writings of some novelist from
Many wonder why books are being written and sermons being
presented in response to this novel. After all, it is a work of
fiction. Who cares? The sad reality is it seems many people care.
60.5 million copies of the book are in print. By the end of last
weekend, the movie had grossed over $462 million worldwide. In
2005, Time magazine listed Dan Brown as one of their 100 most
influential people. Is this book fiction? Absolutely! The question
is not whether the book is fictional. The question is whether
people are being influenced by it? Undoubtedly.
Allow me to explain what is happening here. Dan Brown has
written a novel providing what he calls a possible other side to
the greatest story ever told. Brown’s character, Leigh Teabing,
expresses what I believe is the authors sentiments about why his
own book is important saying, “The Sangreal documents simply
tell the other side of
the Christ story. In the end, which side you believe becomes a
matter of faith and personal exploration, but at least the
information has survived” (p. 256).
On his website, Brown claims he wants open and honest debate over
these issues. However, nearly every time someone comes out to
claim the book is based on fallacies and already disproven
theories, people cry, “It’s just a novel, why are you being so
mean?” We Christians get put in a bad spot. If we don’t say
something, the book is allowed unhindered influence for error. If
we do say something, we are mean conservative Christian wackos who
want to suppress other possibilities. I have no desire to suppress
anything. In fact, I welcome the search for truth this book
invites. Within this lesson we will examine the truth about the
three pieces of evidence for the unorthodox claims made in the
book. First, a brief synopsis for those who have neither read the
book nor seen the movie.
The Da Vinci Code in a nutshell.
The book begins with the murder of Jacques Sauniere,
curator of the Louvre Museam in Paris, France. Shot in the
stomach, left to bleed to death and unable to get to help,
Sauniere realizes the secret he was sworn to protect is going to
be lost if he doesn’t act fast. He leaves a riddle on the floor
next to where he dies in order to get the attention of his
estranged granddaughter, Sophie Neveu, and Harvard professor of
symbology, Robert Langdon. Regrettably, the message left behind
leads the French police to believe Langdon is the killer.
With the help of Neveu, Langdon eludes the French police
and follows the trail of clues left by Sauniere to uncover the
greatest secret of all time. The initial clue leads Langdon and
Neveu to the Mona Lisa, where another clue is left. The words
“So Dark the Con of Man.” Neveu realizes that is an anagram
for “Madonna of the Rocks.” Searching that painting she finds
a key to a Swiss bank safe deposit box. In which they find more
What is going on here? The murder victim was actually the
member of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion, supposedly
founded in 1099 in order to protect and preserve a secret so
powerful the Catholic Church historically stopped at nothing to
destroy it. If you have not already read the book, I am sure you
have already guessed, Leonardo Da Vinci was part of the secret
society as well. The murder victim was one of four people who knew
the location of the evidence that would prove the secret beyond
doubt. However, all four were killed in one night. The final
victim left the clues behind to lead his granddaughter to discover
the greatest cover up in the history of mankind.
What was the great secret? Jesus, who was actually nothing
more than a great human philosopher and teacher, married Mary
Magdalene. Together they had a child, whose descendents continue
among us today. Further, Mary Magdalene was actually the intended
rock of the church Jesus wanted to establish. Within the book,
Mary Magdalene is presented as the “true Holy Grail.” Her
sarcophagus as well as documents that will definitively prove this
whole story are kept secret by the Priory of Sion. The rumor is
they will one day reveal this information to the world. This stash
is known in the book as “the Sangreal.”
In the midst of this story, asserted as historical fact,
are several startling claims that question the very foundations of
Christian faith. We are told that the Nicene Council of 325 AD
voted Jesus’ deity into the fundamental doctrine of
Christianity. The fictional British historian Leigh Teabing refers
to that council, which took place nearly 300 years after Jesus
died and says, “My dear, until that
moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal
prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man
nonetheless” (p. 233). He further claims, “Christ as Messiah
was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars
claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His
original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in
an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their
own power” (p. 233). Further, “Because Constantine upgraded
Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death,
thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal
man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need
a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in
Christian history…Constantine commissioned and financed a new
Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human
traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The
earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned” (p.
234). The long and short of it is this. According to Teabing,
“…almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false” (p. 235).
What evidence was given for these claims? Not much. There
are some references to what we today call the Gnostic Gospels.
There is a look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s The
Last Supper. Finally, there are the Sangreal documents
kept in hiding by the Priory of Sion.
Seek the truth—Examine the evidence.
The Gnostic Gospels:
While we are told there are countless references in the
Gnostic Gospels to a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, we
are given only one.
the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her
more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her
mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expresses
disapproval. They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than
all of us?’
—The Gospel of Philip (as
quoted on p. 246)
According to Leigh Teabing, “As any Aramaic scholar will
tell you, the word companion,
in those days, literally meant spouse” (p. 246). Actually, any
Aramaic scholar will tell you that this Gnostic gospel wasn’t
written in Aramaic. The only surviving fragment that we have is
written in Coptic. The word translated “companion” is borrowed
from the Greek “koinonos,” which does, in fact, simply mean
companion, friend or associate.
This word is used in the New Testament repeatedly and never once
means spouse (e.g. Luke
5:10; II Corinthians 8:23; Philemon 17; et
Further, scholars also tell us this particular quote is
fragmented. The codex, when discovered, was worn thin in many
places leaving gaps and missing words. This particular passage is
one of the places. According to Bart Ehrman, who is no great
friend to the Bible or Christianity, the following is what we
really have in the manuscript:
companion of the [gap in the manuscript] Mary Magdalene [gap] more
than [gap] the disciples [gap] kiss her [gap] on her [gap].
don’t really know what this text said about Mary’s
relationship with Jesus in relation to the other disciples or what
it says about how she was kissed—could it be on the cheek, a
simple customary greeting with a holy kiss?
One final comment regarding the Gospel
of Philip and its presentation of Jesus as married. There is
an interesting statement made in the book about marriage:
is the mystery of marriage! For without it, the world would not
exist. Now the existence of the world […], and the existence of
[…] marriage. Think of the […] relationship, for it possesses
[…] power. Its image consists of a defilement.
a perfect place to have said something about Jesus’ marriage if
this work really wanted to present Jesus as married. Yet, nothing
is said about that.
The second reference in The Da Vinci Code to the Gnostic Gospels is a quote from
the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
Peter said, “Did the Saviour really speak with a woman without
our knowledge? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he
prefer her to us?”
Levi answered, “Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I
see you contending against the woman
like an adversary. If the Saviour made her worthy, who are you
indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That
is why he loved her more than us.”
Gospel of Mary
According to the fictional historian in Brown’s book, Sir
Leigh Teabing, the woman they are referring to is Mary Magdalene.
He says, “At this point in the gospels, Jesus suspects He will
soon be captured and crucified. So He gives Mary Magdalene
instructions on how to carry on His church after He is
gone…According to these unaltered gospels, it was not Peter
to whom Christ gave directions with which to establish the
Christian Church. It was Mary
Magdalene” (pp. 247-248).
Regarding this book, understand that more than half of this
book is missing, making it very difficult to understand the point
behind it at all. However, within what has been discovered, there
is absolutely nothing about Mary Magdalene being the head of
Jesus’ church. She is not even one who is sent out to teach the
world. Rather, she was an encourager, exhorting the men to teach
the Gospel Jesus had taught them without fear. At this point,
Peter asks Mary what she remembers about what Jesus taught her.
She then relates a vision she supposedly had (5:8).
Interesting facts to note. The text never says when Mary
supposedly received the vision. Further, the events described are
not when Jesus is worried He is about to be arrested. Rather, they
are events after Jesus has departed and commissioned the apostles
to go teach. Finally, there is nothing here about instructions to
carry on the church. There is merely a vision (or a fragment of a
vision) that has to do with the difference between the soul and
the spirit and then something described as the seven powers of
wrath. Interestingly, in the text, Andrew is actually the first to
respond saying, “Say what you wish to say about what she has
said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For
certainly these teachings are strange ideas” (9:2). Then Peter
responds as quoted above with Levi’s retort. Immediately
following this the men went forth to preach as Jesus had told them
and Mary encouraged them.
If I might make a comment about the “love” Jesus had
for Mary according to this text. There is nothing here to indicate
romantic love. Rather, Levi’s reference to Jesus loving Mary
more than the disciples is a reference to Him giving her a vision
He did not give the others. Also, we might point out that had
Jesus been married to Mary Magdalene, wouldn’t Levi’s natural
response to Peter and Andrew be, “Look guys, this is Jesus’
wife. Shouldn’t we expect Him to say things to her that we
There you have it. The huge amount of evidence presented
from the Gnostic Gospels. Even if we assume these supposed Gospels
carry as much wait as the ones in the Bible, the evidence for Dan
Brown’s claims is pretty sparse here. In fact, non-existent.
The central piece of evidence for this theory is the
artwork of Leonardo Da Vinci. Interestingly, since the book is
Da Vinci Code and several of Leonardo’s works are
referenced, we are left with the impression that this message
regarding Jesus and Mary Magdalene is found throughout
Leonardo’s paintings. However, when you review what is presented
there is only one painting that is presented as any kind of proof:
The Last Supper.
What does Brown, through the characters Teabing and
Langdon, present as evidence from this picture?
13 cups instead of 1.
Teabing says, “A bit strange, don’t you think,
considering that both the Bible and our standard Grail legend
celebrate this moment as the definitive arrival of the Holy Grail.
Oddly, Da Vinci appears to have forgotten to paint the Cup of
Christ” (p. 236).
Response: Then again, perhaps Leonardo just read his Bible
and noticed that the Bible never presents a “Holy Grail.”
There is nothing special about any cup used at that Supper. There
may be legends, but there is nothing Biblical about it.
The character to Jesus’ right, whom most believe to be
John, is actually a woman.
“Sophie examined the figure to Jesus’ immediate right,
focusing in. As she studied the person’s face and body, a wave
of astonishment rose within her. The individual had flowing red
hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was,
without a doubt…female.
“’That’s a woman!’ Sophie exclaimed” (p. 243).
Response: I must admit poor John was painted with seemingly
feminine features. But why? We can make up reasons for that, that
doesn’t make them so. Have you ever noticed that some men just
seem to have feminine features? Leonardo may have simply painted
John that way. Not to mention it appears from other paintings in
the same time period that was a standard way to paint John, who
was considered to be the youngest of the disciples and would
therefore be less manly. If we assume for a moment it is a woman,
how on earth would we know it is Mary Magdalene? Finally, keep in
mind that this whole thing is predicated on a missing cup, which
is not even mentioned in the Bible. John, however, is supposed to
be at the supper (Matthew
26:20, 37; John 13:23). If this is Mary Magdalene, where
The presence of “the chalice.”
As Teabing and Langdon tell us about who is really the Holy
Grail, we are informed that the most ancient symbol for female is
called the chalice. It is basically a V. Langdon said, “The
chalice…resembles a cup or vessel, and more important, it
resembles the shape of a woman’s womb. This symbol communicates
femininity, womanhood, and fertility” (p. 238). This chalice is
supposedly seen in the painting in the void between Jesus and John
(the supposed Mary). The point, the Holy Grail is really not a
cup, but a woman and that woman is Mary Magdalene.
Response: All I can say is, “Give me a break.” This is
one of those interesting points where no matter what Leonardo did,
it would be interpreted to make the point. What if he had painted
John leaning on Jesus’ breast as John
13:23 presents John? Then we would have heard about
Jesus’ lover laying on Him at the table. Perhaps this negative
space is simply a representation of the disciples pulling away
from Jesus, a representation of His coming isolation. Then again,
it may be just the way Leonardo painted the conversations among
the men. Interestingly, he left Jesus alone and put the apostles
in 4 groups of 3. Naturally, there is going to be some leaning.
Can we really read into that an ancient symbol of the feminine
which means Mary Magdalene is in the picture?
The presence of an “M”.
Teabing said, “if you view Jesus and Magdalene as compositional
elements rather than as people, you will see another obvious shape
leap out at you.” He paused. “A letter
of the alphabet.”
saw it at once. To say the letter leapt out at her was an
understatement. The letter was suddenly all Sophie could see.
Glaring in the center of the painting was the unquestionable
outline of an enormous, flawlessly formed letter M.
too perfect for coincidence, wouldn’t you say?” Teabing asked.
was amazed. “Why is it there?”
shrugged. “Conspiracy theorists will tell you it stands for Matrimonio
or Mary Magdalene. To be honest, nobody is certain. The only certainty
is the hidden M is no mistake” (pp 244-245).
You may have trouble finding this M. It is not nearly so
obvious to me. But if you allow the arms of Jesus and John to form
the inner arms of the M and then trace along the outer arms of the
two men, you can formulate an M in the picture.
Response: So what? If the M is there and is too perfect for
coincidence, Brown, through Teabing, admits that they have no idea
what it stands for. It could be Matrimonio.
It could be Mary Magdalene.
Or how about this? Maybe it is Messiah!
Additionally, I think if we work hard enough, we could find lots
of letters in this painting. For instance, to the right of the
painting, we can find an abbreviation of Leonardo’s
name—“Leo”. A bit too perfect for coincidence, wouldn’t
you say? Or notice a prophetic message encouraging you not to
listen to Dan Brown but to a 21st century preacher. You
may not have been aware, but my name, “Edwin,” is found in
Leonardo’s painting. A bit too perfect for coincidence,
wouldn’t you say?
There it is, The Da Vinci Code. One picture with a few pieces of
evidence. What do you say? Convincing or contrived? By the way,
has it occurred to anyone that if we grant Brown’s thesis about
this painting and Leonardo really was putting these clues into the
painting, who cares? This picture was painted from 1495 to 1498. A
millennium and a half after Jesus instituted the Supper. Even if
Brown’s interpretation of Leonardo’s meaning is accurate, why
would we take the word of a man nearly 1500 years after the fact
especially when it contradicts every piece of evidence we have
from within a generation of the event?
The Sangreal Documents:
Now we get down to the whole crux of the matter. Remember
the Sangreal, the Holy Grail itself. The sarcophagus of Mary
Magdalene along with thousands of documents that tell us about the
real Jesus, His human nature and His marriage, and about the real
Mary Magdalene, her goddess nature and her rule over Jesus’
church. In fact, as Langdon describes these documents to Neveu we
read the following conversation:
an enormous difference between hypothetically discussing an
alternate history of Christ, and…presenting to the world
thousands of ancient documents as scientific evidence that the New
Testament is false testimony” (p. 341).
Brown makes an interesting admission through the character
Leigh Teabing on p. 268. Teabing, concerned that the Catholic
Church will acquire these Sangreal documents before he does and
destroy them says, “Then, my dear, with the Sangreal documents
gone, all evidence will be lost.” Do you see the admission?
Without those documents, all evidence will be lost. Brown admits
that nothing else he has presented is really evidence. Guess what.
Nobody has seen these documents. Even in the book they remain
Of course, that is saying nothing about the fact that the
secret society that guards the secret has been proven to be a hoax
propagated by a French con-man in the 1950s and 1960s. There is no
secret society called the Priory of Sion. They are not protecting
any historical or scientific evidence behind the claims of
Brown’s book. What is admitted by the author to be the only
evidence doesn’t even exist.
There you have it. The third piece of evidence. More people
have seen the Loch Ness Monster than have seen this evidence. You
tell me what the truth is.
Finally, the apostle Paul told us what to do with men like
Dan Brown in Romans
16:17. “I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause
division and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have
learned; and avoid them.” Interestingly, Leonardo himself has
coded this very message for us and Brown has unwittingly revealed
that code in his book as well. Do you remember we earlier talked
about Leonardo’s painting “Madonna of the Rocks” and how
Brown’s book used that title as an anagram for “So dark the
con of man”? Surely you noticed the message and anagram hidden
within both of those phrases warning us to “so mark the con of
There you have it. A look at all of the evidence presented
amid the propaganda of a fictional novel. You tell me. Is there a
case to be made here? Or is it a fanciful and entertaining story
based on fictional fabrication? The truth is there and it is not
hard to find.
I would like to address one further issue. This is an issue
of logic. The Da Vinci Code
is a self-imploding work. If we take the main claim as true, that
Jesus is not God the Son but was just a man, a great moral
teacher, then who cares about His wife or His offspring? Who cares
that Jesus might have descendants walking among us today if He was
nothing more than an influential philosopher? No one cares if
Socrates, Aristotle or Plato have descendants walking among us. No
one even cares if Ramses the Great, Alexander the Great, Julius
Caesar or Attila the Hun have descendants among us. Why would
anyone care if a philosopher and would-be claimant to the throne
of a defunct and destroyed nation of Israel had descendants among
us? What do we end up with? If the Bible is incorrect about Jesus,
then Brown’s assertions of Mary Magadalene and a lineage of
Jesus are pointless and not worth the centuries of supposed cover
up. On the other hand, if the Bible is correct, then Brown’s
assertions are just plain wrong.
There is one issue about which Brown, his book and the
movie are correct. We need to seek the truth. Why? Because truth
has nothing to fear. And, as the Bible says in John
8:32, “The truth will set you free.” As Jesus prayed
17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is
truth.” Seek the truth. Do not fear it. Truth is what will set
you free. The truth is, Jesus is the Son of God. The Bible is His
word. Through submission to it, we can be set free from sin and
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ