The Da Vinci Hoax

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A frequent question asked by readers of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is “How much of the novel’s depiction of historical events, people, artwork, and institutions is correct.” The short answer is “Not much.” In fact, the only thing more amazing than Brown’s consistent misrepresentation of facts is a widespread acceptance of his claims, with both reviewers and readers praising the “research” and “knowledge” supposedly evident in his novel. The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Codeexamines, in much detail, the lengthy list of claims made in the Code. Here is a brief look at just a few of the claims made in Brown’s novel and on his web site.

Opus Dei

One of Brown’s “bizarre true facts” is that Opus Dei exists and “has recently completed construction of a $47 million, 133,000-square-foot American Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.” Why this is considered bizarre is, well, bizarre. Far more bizarre than the existence of a personal prelature of the Catholic Church – erroneously described as a “a church” in the Code – is the character of a murderous albino Opus Dei monk. Never mind that Opus Dei is not a religious order and that it consists of mostly lay people, with less than 2% of its members being priests. As others have noted, Brown’s mythical Opus Dei has simply taken the place of the Jesuits, an order commonly depicted as murderous, vile, and corrupt by anti-Catholics writing in the 1800s and well into the 1900s.

Clear Facts about muddy fiction The Da Vinci Code states that over a three hundred year period in the medieval era, the Catholic Church was responsible for burning a total of five million women at the stake. That’s quite a bit off of the best current estimate of 30,000 to 50,000 of men and women killed during the four hundred years from 1400 to 1800—certainly a significant number, but not comparable to the Holocaust or Stalin’s purges. Many of those deaths didn’t involve burning. Witches were hanged, strangled, and beheaded as well. In addition, witch-hunting was not woman-hunting: at least twenty percent of all suspected witches were male. Despite what the novel clams, midwives were not especially targeted; nor were witches liquidated as obstacles to professionalized medicine and mechanistic science.

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Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel comment on their book, “The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code.”