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Interview with Sandra Miesel, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax

What is it about The Da Vinci Code that you find so distasteful that you’ve written a book about it?

The sheer falsity and stupidity of The Da Vinci Code would have given me enough incentive to rebut it, quite apart from its anti-Catholic slant. As a trained historian, I was outraged to see so many errors between two covers, errors naively taken as absolute fact by vast numbers of readers. I wrote to defend Truth and Christianity.

Dan Brown says that he meticulously researched The Da Vinci Code. But you say are there historical inaccuracies in the book. What are they?

The Da Vinci Code was heavily promoted as the product of meticulous research. Many reviewers praised its supposed accuracy and profundity. Sorry, but readers have been sadly misinformed. Brown gives four titles of sources in his text and sixteen additional ones on his website but most his material was taken in great heaping handfuls from Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln and The Templar Revelation by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. One finds parallel passages in The Da Vinci Code which repeat the same ideas in the same order with the same referents. Brown’s other sources include worthless esoteric books and legitimate histories, but when they give correct information, he deliberately reverses it. This is particularly apparent in his treatment of the Templars, whose destruction he falsely attributes to the Pope and not the King of France. Brown can’t even describe the Templar church in London correctly despite accurate data in his claimed sources and easy availability of photos on the Internet. He doesn’t know the back end of church from the front!

Brown drastically misrepresents: early Christian belief in Christ’s divinity, the credibility of the New Testament, the nature of Gnosticism, Scriptural and legendary material about Mary Magdalene, the life of the Emperor Constantine, pagan cults in the Roman Empire, the nature and fall of the Knights Templar, the origins and characteristics of Gothic architecture, the career of Leonardo Da Vinci, the claim that the power-mad patriarchal Church burned five million women as witches, the origin of Tarot cards, the operation of Opus Dei, and the hoax known as the Priory of Sion. He routinely fails the desk encyclopedia test by missing readily accessible facts. Brown isn’t even familiar with passport laws in the European Union. A man who thinks the Merovingians founded Paris and forgets that fourteenth century popes lived in France has no business posing as a scholar.

What are the Gnostic Gospels and what is it about them that is so appealing to fiction writers and those seeking an alternative spiritualist path?

The Gnostic Gospels--which aren’t really "gospels" in the sense of narratives about the life of Jesus--are texts produced by heretics fifty years to several centuries after our canonical Gospels. They describe a "spiritual" Christ who is neither True God nor True Man but a filmy illusion who guides us to recognize our own innate "divinity." Salvation comes from gnosis (knowledge), not grace. These bizarre and often contradictory texts are readily available. One collection is The Nag Hammadi Library edited James M. Robinson. Contrary to Brown’s claims, these materials are anything but feminist.

Readers seem to think that The Da Vinci Code is revealing profound secrets that "enlighten" them, the same claim Gnostic documents make. What they could get out of actually trying to read this material, I can’t imagine. But Gnosticism would make no demands concerning dogma or morals, just free-floating spirituality at no cost to the self.

What is the Holy Grail?

In medieval romances, the Holy Grail is a normally a vessel (dish, ciborium, or chalice) used at the Last Supper and brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea. King Arthur’s Knights seek it but only the worthiest find it before it is removed to Heaven forever. The standard English version is told in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur where it is unambiguously connected with normal Catholic beliefs about the Real Presence in the Eucharist. No one in the Middle Ages thought of the Grail as Mary Magdalene’s body. As anti-materialists, neither ancient Gnostics nor the Cathar heretics of medieval times could have imagined Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Does the book’s contention that the Church has been engaged in a 2,000 year coverup of the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene have any basis in fact?

The Church, following the Gospels, honors Mary Magdalene as a faithful follower who stood by the Cross and proclaimed the Resurrection. There is no evidence of any romance or marriage with Jesus. Why is she assumed to be young and beautiful? The sources say nothing about her appearance.

If readers only take one point away from reading your book, what should it be?

The lesson we’re hoping to teach with The Da Vinci Hoax is: don’t get your facts from fiction. And most certainly, don’t base your spiritual life on a badly written novel.

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