New York: Doubleday, 2003.
Famed American symbologist Robert Langdon finds himself accused of the murder of Jaques Sauniere, the elderly curator of the Louvre museum in Paris. Trying to escape the police who are tailing him, Langdon teams up with cryptologist Sophie Neveau, in trying to solve the murder and unravel the odd clues that Sophie's uncle Jaques left them. As they work through the puzzles left behind by the curator, who worshipped Da Vinci and was a part of an ancient pagan cult, which celebrated the divine in the female and tried to experience it through sexual intercourse, they find that Sauniere was a part of the Priory of Sion, a not-so-secret secret society that holds the secret to the Holy Grail, the “Cup of Christ”, which turns out to be Mary Magdalene and the child she bore Jesus. Through the investigation Langdon and Neveau find out not only that various famous western characters (including Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton) were part of the Priory of Sion, but that there are two opposing forces, the first trying to hide the supposed secrets about Mary Magdalene and the second trying to reveal them. The one trying to reveal the secret is an elderly English knight who has spent his entire life working on the Grail question. According to the legends propounded by this man, Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus of Nazareth and bore him a daughter, from whom Jaques Sauniere and thus Sophie Neveau are descended.
By the end of the book, the murder of Jaques Sauniere is firmly planted upon a follower of Opus Dei, an extremely rich society of Roman Catholic extremists, the knight who has masterminded the whole operation is caught, and Langdon reunites Sophie with her grandmother and brother, both of whom she thought dead. Langdon then returns to the Louvre and finally figures out where Mary Magdalene's body was supposedly buried.
While this is a well-written thriller and Dan Brown knows his western conspiracy theories and his Da Vinci paintings, he has no understanding of Middle Eastern culture and the backgrounds to this tale. It makes for a very nice western story with western motifs, but both Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth were Jews and Middle-Easterners, not Westerners or mediaeval Europeans! The heresy that Mary Magdalene was more than just a devout follower of Christ has existed for centuries, but it cannot be based in Middle Eastern or Jewish thinking. When we look at it from a Middle Eastern and historic point of view, the whole idea of Mary Magdalene being Jesus of Nazareth's wife is ludicrous.
First, it is argued that Jesus needed to secure his claim to the throne of Israel by his marriage to the Magdalene, because she was from a powerful house of the tribe of Benjamin. Several things go against this, foremost the fact that the lineage was passed from father to son and the mother had little or nothing to do with whether the son acceded the throne. It may have lent support, but nothing more. And the wife had absolutely nothing to do with the right to rule.
At the time of Jesus, the genealogical records were still complete and Jesus could trace his lineage back on both sides of his family to David. But more importantly, his human father, Joseph Ben Jacob, was directly descended – first-born to first-born – from King David's son Solomon. If the Davidic dynasty had been on the throne at that time Joseph would have been king and Jesus would have been crown prince and later king himself. Both Jesus' enemies and his followers could have looked this up in the temple records. There was no question to Jesus' rightful claim to the throne. He had no need of a powerful Benjamite wife to secure his claim to the throne.
Added to that there needed be no marriage alliance between Benjamin and Judah, because they had been allied for millennia, from the time that David married Saul's daughter Michal. Bonds such as this were not broken over centuries. In the Middle East relatives remain relatives, no matter how far removed. The idea that a Benjamite-Judahite marriage was necessary is purely European. If there had been any need for a marriage alliance it would have had to have been between Judah and Ephraim, because the northern ten tribes were initially ruled by an Ephraimite. Because of Jesus' unquestionable standing, the marriage would have not only been unnecessary, but worthless to political aims.
Second, the book says that Jesus entrusted the kingdom to Mary Magdalene and their unborn daughter. This is also impossible from a Middle Eastern standpoint, from a mediaeval European one perhaps, but never from either a Jewish, generally Middle Eastern, Greek, or even Roman point of view. Women had no business in politics and the few exceptions do not support Jesus passing on his all-important kingdom even to his wife. She may have been privy to the preparation of the kingdom, but the disciples would have been charged with the actual carrying-out of the work. And if this had been true, due to their love for Jesus, they would have protected and supported not only Mary Magdalene's claims, but those of Jesus' child, if it turned out to be a boy. Mary would not have needed to flee Judea even after Jesus' death, she could have merely returned to Magdala in Galilee. The fact is they did not, so it suggests that this alternate history as described in Brown's book did not happen.
Besides these two points arguing against any truly Middle-Eastern origin of the Jesus-Marian marriage, there is also the point that Brown has either never read the Bible, or has chosen to ignore vast parts of it in order to support his pagan and evolutionistic views that the mother goddess religion is the first religion ever, which was forcibly supplanted by the father-god religions. He uses the old argument that the Bible was changed at the Council of Nicea, an argument that can be easily disproved by reading the extant original documents of that council. The Muslims hold to that one, too, but have never been able to prove it.
His claim that the Holy of Holies was where Yahweh and Shekinah met to have sex smacks of a demeaning of the True God and a lack of understanding of the Hebrew background of the term Shekinah , which simply means “indwelling.” When you read the Law of God, it is very clear that God does not condone sexual intercourse as worship. He even orders his priests to wear underwear, so their nakedness cannot be seen in any case (Exodus 28:42-43)! His main order of business is complete eradication of the Canaanite peoples who precisely worship the mother goddess Ashtoreth through sexual intercourse. It is true that Solomon built other temples to such false gods and goddesses, complete with the sex-worship, but that sort or “worship” was never condoned at either the Tabernacle or the Temple. As a matter of fact it was repudiated and punished by God (see here, for example, the sons of Eli in I Samuel 2:22-36; 4:11).
It is extremely clear that Dan Brown is fascinated by sexual intercourse as worship, the sexualizing of all religious symbols and the degrading of any truth that transcends the physical realm. He does not seem to understand that there can be love other than physical love and that there can be a perfect man who does not need sex to keep his manhood. He also does not seem to understand that God is beyond the physical realm and that no physical act can come close to a true knowledge of Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
Of course a book like this can tickle the ears of those who hate both organized Christianity and the Roman Catholic church, so it is understandable how such tantalizing conspiracy theories would make people want to read this book. However, they are implausible and create barriers to anyone who would hear the Truth after reading such sweet lies. Thus this book belongs in the poison closet, along with any that argue the same topics.