This is not a foreword because in my opinion people (at least some) do not read forewords. Treat this section as chapter 1. It’s critical that you see how and why this book came to be.
Every book has a story, and this one is no exception; a book tends to be more valuable if its readers know that story. In order to tell the story of this book, I must tell you the story of one that came before it.
I knew something was wrong when Priscilla greeted me that morning with urgency. “My brother-in-law has just read a book attacking the Bible and Jesus, and he believes the book.”
“What book?” I asked.
“The Da Vinci Code !” she exclaimed. “Furthermore, it claims that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a child.”
I’d never heard of The Da Vinci Code, which was just starting to be noted by the reading public. “If it’s a novel, don’t worry about it. No one will ever believe it!”
I was wrong.
The Da Vinci Code exploded around the world, selling well over 40 million copies in forty-three languages and resulting in a major motion picture. More than merely a bestseller, it became the bestselling adult novel of all time.
In the weeks that followed, I encountered more people with friends and family who believed the historical and theological concepts in Dan Brown’s book. These people were said to be willing to abandon their Christian faith in favor of the core themes of a novel.
Then came Jeff ‘s call. Jeff had been the editor of a book I’d written on the Muslim faith, A Christian’s Response to Islam (Cook, 2002), and now he too had urgency in his voice: “Jim, you have to write a book responding to The Da Vinci Code!” I informed him that while honored to be asked, I was not the right guy. But two more calls followed within twenty-four hours, both with the same intensity: “You must write a response.”
It was the third call that caused me to hesitantly consider. When I explained that I would need a research assistant, a quick call to my friend Peter Jones revealed that he too had been approached to write on the topic. “Let’s coauthor a book,” he suggested. I was overjoyed to work with him.
Within a couple of weeks, Peter, Jeff, and I met in a hotel room for two days, outlining key issues to be addressed. A few weeks later Cracking Da Vinci’s Code (Cook, 2004) was on the shelves, and we were off to New York City for interviews at CNN and Fox. A front page New York Times article (4/27/04) would open doors to every major national news outlet—we ended up with more than a dozen national TV appearances, countless radio interviews, and dialogues with national magazines and foreign newspapers. Meanwhile, Cracking Da Vinci’s Code hit #17 on the New York Times Bestseller List (Paperback—Nonfiction), #96 on the USA TODAY Top 150 Bestseller List, and #4 among inspirational books in Wal-Mart stores.
While this response indicated widespread desire to know more about Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code claims, our book signings were even more revealing. The recipient would lean over and say, “I’m getting this book for my . . .” (son or daughter, father or mother, nephew or niece, or someone). The next phrase was one I heard hundreds of times: “He (or she) believes The Da Vinci Code.” This only confirmed what had compelled us to write in the first place.
Radio interviews confirmed the same—when hosts opened the lines for questions, callers repeatedly referred to those who believed Dan Brown’s book. One host began chiding me, “Why on earth did you write a book against a novel ?” When he prodded a third time, almost mockingly, I asked him if he’d read it. Hesitantly, he admitted he hadn’t.
Brown’s writing style mixes fact (very little) with fiction (very much) in such a way that the uninitiated cannot distinguish between them; I call this style “fact-ion.” When I was interviewed by Linda Vester on Fox’s DaySide show, a guest with an opposing view scoffed at the notion of people failing to sort out fact from fiction. Vester turned to her studio audience and asked, “How many of you have read The Da Vinci Code?”
Many hands went up. She looked at a woman near her and asked, “Could you tell the difference between fact and fiction when you read it?”
“Absolutely not,” the woman forcefully responded.
My point exactly.
To help people sort fact from fiction, accurate definitions were needed for the terms used in (and related to) The Da Vinci Code. I originally wanted to include a glossary in the back of Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, but as every author knows, time (deadlines) and space (allotted pages) are often enemies of the writer who has more to say. With the passage of time, hundreds of conversations, radio interviews, and media buzz persuaded me that a glossary was still badly needed. Thus The Da Vinci Code Breaker was born.
Allow me to make a disclaimer: This book is not about bashing Dan Brown. Frankly, I think his novelist’s skills are strong, and I found his writing to be a true page-turner—I read straight through, finishing at five in the morning.
Furthermore, as a courtesy, we tried to contact him before we wrote Cracking Da Vinci’s Code. His publicist would not allow any contact.
Dan Brown could have spared himself the critical barrage from historians, theologians, and art experts of all persuasions. He invited ridicule when his opening page began with the word FACT and then proceeded to expound fiction. Even more ludicrous is his claim that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” If he would have said that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are fictional,” almost no one would have taken issue with him.
If Brown had simply come forward and stated that his book is a novel and that as fiction it should not be taken seriously with regard to history, theology, and art, he would not have created the (admittedly lucrative) consequent firestorm. Or if he had come forward in a timely manner and acknowledged that it contains a myriad of significant errors, serious thinkers would have been very forgiving. Book errors are common—I’ve found postpublication errors in every book I’ve written, even though editors and proofreaders have gone to great lengths to locate and correct errors before the first printing. I suspect that we’ll have to make corrections in later editions of this book as well.
But rather than admitting that his book is fiction or contains many errors, Brown defended it as being accurate, triggering an avalanche of merited anti-Da Vinci Code media—articles, books, DVDs, even television shows.
Foolishly, when provided opportunities to speak, Brown dug himself yet deeper. On Today with Matt Lauer, when asked if the novel was based on “things that actually occurred,” Brown responded, “Absolutely all of it. Obviously . . . Robert Langdon is fictional, but all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact.”
What is one to conclude?
Is Brown so unskilled as to do such shoddy historical work and not realize it? Unlikely. He seems extremely bright.
Is it possible that Brown uses the status of his work as fiction so that he can regard historical accuracy as unimportant? No—he has firmly defended it as “historical fact.”
What possibilities remain? There are two, both with the same inflection:
That he intentionally misled by mishandling data. If so, why? The only probable answer would be that Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code with an agenda: to convince his reader of something, whether or not it’s true.
That he truly believes what he wrote and that he also has the aforementioned agenda.
If Brown has an agenda, what is it? To destroy, as best he can, the credibility of orthodox Christianity by refuting two themes: the authenticity and reliability of the New Testament and the full divinity of Jesus. Overarching both is the redefinition of God; this was first pointed out to me by Peter Jones. God, to Dan Brown, is not the transcendent, above-and-beyond God portrayed in the Bible. God is creation itself—something within me. It (god) is, in fact, me. I don’t look to the Bible for truth. I simply look within.
In one sense, The Da Vinci Code has done Christianity and the Bible a great favor, sparking questions believers should have been asking and answering long before reading about “the code.” If people will seriously examine the historical data, they will know what they believe and why they believe it. For example, they will discover the monumental evidence for the reliability and authenticity of the Old and New Testaments, along with the historical verifiability for the resurrection of Jesus. Dan Brown is not to be feared but cheered. When people are truly open to honest exploration, orthodox Christianity fares well.
Does Brown succeed in making his case through The Da Vinci Code? If he does, his facts, sources, and terms must be accurate. To determine this, turn the page and read the following glossary of terms, concepts, and persons that either are included in The Da Vinci Code or should have been included.