“Da Vinci Code”controversy: Is the truth stranger than fiction?

For Immediate Release: April 27, 2006
Contact: Jefferson Seaver, Communications
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

New Testament scholars see upcoming movie as an opportunity

to tell the



(April 27, 2006)—Have you ever wondered: How did the Roman Emperor Constantine figure in the development of Christian theology? How did the Gospels come to be accepted as the established accounts of Jesus’ life, and why were other versions, such as the Gnostic traditions, suppressed? What was Mary Magdalene’s role in early Christianity, and how was it adapted in later attempts to develop a “sacred feminine” element in Christianity?

With the recent plagiarism trial in London and the upcoming movie thriller, scheduled to open on May 19th, Dan Brown’s

The Da Vinci Code

has generated a firestorm of publicity. The novel has stirred the popular imagination, allowing intriguing questions about the divinity of Jesus—once considered way too taboo for public consumption—to float to the surface of “pop culture.” Brown did this by cleverly interweaving theories about medieval history and the origins of Christianity. Many readers have been so swept away by the drama of this murder mystery that they have accepted Brown’s fictional reconstruction of Christian origins and medieval history as established fact. But a number of New Testament scholars see the controversy as an opportunity to finally reveal the real story behind many of the ideas hinted at in the best-selling novel. “However intriguing Brown’s fictional speculations may be, the real facts behind the novel are even more fascinating—in fact, when it comes to

The Da Vinci Code

, the truth is often stranger than fiction,” said Robert M. Price, a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), and the author of

The Da Vinci Fraud


It is hard to see how a lively tradition of legend, based originally on flimsy sources, and an initial misidentification can arouse such intense public debate. The majority of New Testament scholars find the attention given to Brown’s novel as surprising as the charge of plagiarism. Continues Price, "But most of them perceive the novel as a gauntlet cast down, to which they feel they must reply for the honor of their faith. The problem is that Brown's book


rocks the boat. The real facts might just torpedo it! Brown's falsehoods are as fatuous as the faith he tries to subvert.”

The vast majority of the criticism that’s been leveled at Dan Brown and

The Da Vinci Code

has come from religious quarters, attempting to defend Catholic and Christian orthodoxy. Yet a completely secular and critical historical analysis has also been applied to the novel. Judging by the popularity of Brown’s novel, there just may be a sneaking suspicion on the part of many that the true origins of Christianity are more obscure and more complicated then they have been taught. This is indeed the case, but they won’t get the real story from

The Da Vinci Code


CSER fellows and scholars available to provide critical historical commentary on

"The Da Vinci Code"


  • R. Joseph Hoffmann, Ph.D.

    —Chair of the international research organization, the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), a program of the Center for Inquiry, based in Amherst, New York, of which he is a Fellow. Hoffmann holds graduate degrees in theology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Christian Origins from Oxford University, where he was Senior Scholar of St. Cross College (1980–1983).

  • Robert M. Price, Ph.D.

    —a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), a New Testament scholar, and a member of the prestigious Jesus Seminar. Price is the author of

    The Da Vinci Fraud

    , published by Prometheus Books.

To arrange interviews with or to book any of these experts for an electronic media appearance, please contact either Nathan Bupp at (716) 636-7571 x 218 or Lauren Becker at (716) 636-7571 x 219.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.