Monday, January 29, 2007
28.The Da Vinci Code
At the center of all the controversy surrounding the book and the movie stands Sex. Opus Dei, Priori of Sion, Knights of Templar, The Secret Dossier - all these terms that had come into vogue ever since Dan Brown published his thriller a few years ago are just diversions to the main issue that has the Catholic Church up in arms - Did Jesus have Sex, did Jesus consummate his relationship with Mary Magdalene, or precisely, Did Jesus engage in normal regular human activities? Populist history (theology, mythology and the different bodies that dealt with the life and death of Jesus Christ) has portrayed Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, who had been rescued by Jesus from the public, casting stones and aspersions against her and her lifestyle. She was inducted into his coterie (disciples) and had been awarded a respectable status both from the historical standpoint and from a religious perspective in all the 4 important gospels. Again, the populist history stopped at this point as far Magdalene was concerned regarding her no more or no less than the rest of disciples following Jesus at that point. The theory, that was in question for some time ago, dusted up and brought into popular culture in the current era, first by the non-fiction publication "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and later by the fiction "The Da Vinci Code", takes the issue one step further and questions the relationship between Jesus and Magdalene - whether it was purely spiritual or platonic or whether Magdalene was indeed the wife of Jesus - a point that is quite keenly contested and vociferously rejected by the devout Christians the world over in general, and the Roman Catholic Church, in particular.
So what if Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, had physical relationship with her and produced an offspring? A few years ago, one more book (and later made into a movie by the same name) "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Nikos Kazantzakis posed the same question, in that, a bruised and battered Jesus, in his final moments on the cross, briefly entertains the thought of not bearing the burden of sins of the entire humanity earning him a painful crucifixion in the process, but leading a normal life like any other regular human being, getting married and bearing kids. However unlike "Last Temptation" which poses the question in a rather philosophical way, "Da Vinci Code" argues with a straight face that Jesus was indeed married and had most certainly borne an offspring with Magdalene, citing age old documents, secret parchments, hidden codes and sometimes the secrets that lie between the lines. So what if Jesus had a wife and a kid? Would it reduce his divinity any lesser making him a mere mortal? Does it completely wipe away his sacrifice for humanity? Would it totally skew or negate his preachings and teachings about love, affection and tolerance? The questions, though seem innocuously simple, do not have easy answers. The point is not whether Jesus could have had the life of a normal man. The implications surrounding an issue as huge as "Jesus' kid" would become not only mythological in nature but also gigantically political. Entertaining the thought that there indeed was a Jesus' kid and that history had clearly marked his lineage, the order of the religion founded on the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, would question its faith and its foundation time and again, when the world witnesses Jesus' kid and his progeny undergo the same day to day difficulties and hardships that the rest of the world is saddled with.
It would only then seem natural that God's kids and his lineage be bestowed with special powers and privileges than the rest. Miracles would become commonplace; Eradication of the misery, hunger, poverty and other's wordly plagues would be expected of them. And failure to do so would immediately reflect on the belief system. If the grandson of God does not have the capability of bringing a dead person to life, His healing powers are a myth and the God in question does not exist, and the whole belief system is a farce.... or so would the argument go. Therefore the situation was perfectly ripe to whoever founded a religion around the life and death of Christ or the powers that finally vested control of the religion, wipe off any traces of mortality to Jesus thus making him the sole descendant of God. For a conspiracy theory to survive and perpetuate over a period of time, it is not the believability or rather the veracity of the theory that makes it tick, but it is the mere possibility that such a situation might exist that determines how long the theory lasts. Oliver Stone's brilliant movie "JFK" a few years ago plays on this very issue quite dramatically. It may never be known to the world the identity of the killer(s) or the reasons behind the assassination of Kennedy. But Oliver Stone pieces the puzzle in such a way that he creates the possibility of a conspiracy, with everyone right from an ordinary cop in the Dallas Police Department all the way upto the White House dragging even the President Lyndon Johnson into the muddle, to be in on a massive cover up operation. Again, it is not the truth but the possibility that such a situation might exist, however slim the chances are, that determines the lifeline of the conspiracy theory.
In just the same way the conspiracy theory put forth in Da Vinci Code that Medeival Kings colluding with the Catholic Church burned down all the documents that made any reference to the marital life of Jesus, and summoned religious writers to clean up the gospels, publish only those that conformed with the Catholic Church's view of Christianity and relegate the rest to either gather dust or burn up in smoke, has some roots in truth and deduction. The recent unearthing of the "Gospel of Judas" by the archaelogical teams that throws a different light (a more benevolent light) on the relationship between Jesus and Judas as against the accepted traitor-betrayed theory, leads to believe that there is more here than meets the eye. Chruchill once famously said "History is written by the victors". If at the end of the day, Roman Catholic Church stands as the lone victor among the capitulated and the defeated versions of Christianity, it is befitting that the world and history percieve Chrisitianity through the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, accepting whatever Rome decides that Christ had done or not done religiously, promptly rejecting all other versions that would not agree with the fundamental foundations of the Chruch. Conspiracy? Yes, but, possible? Yes, equally. The reason that such kind of highly contentious and potentially damning situation exists is because of fact that with Christianity, history has as much say in the belief system as pure faith. Jesus was as much a mythical figure as much as he was historical. If it is to believed as per all the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that vouch for Judas being a traitor who betrayed Jesus for a few gold coins, as a statement of faith, then the Gospel of Judas, that wasn't accorded the same status alongside the other four, which argues against that notion bearing a stamp of history, stands right up against it.
The fact that Dan Brown bases his entire theory on Priori of Sion, a secret society that purports to protect the bloodline of Jesus without revealing their identities to the world for obvious reasons, which included illustrious members like Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci and many such, was an elaborate hoax in itself. The society was cooked up in the fertile imagination of a French swindler during the period of second world war, who created an entire back history to the society about how it protected Jesus' and Mary's lineage through tightly guarded secrets and tightly lipped personnel, who passed on the secret from generation to generation. That he registered the name of the society in France, registered all his documents with the French National Library in Paris under the name "The Secret Dossier", indicated in them that Magdalene fled to France after Christ's crucifixion, and even insinuated that the bloodline of Jesus are still in France, were all purely patriotic, if not brilliantly clever. Even though Brown's instrument to prove this theory about Jesus was blunt and bent in shape, he did stumble upon a potentially explosive piece in his research about the possibility of Jesus's mortal marital actions. Whether, as he says, this was the greatest lie perpetrated on the mankind since the dawn of civilization can be greatly argued about, there are no arguments that his work remains a highly entertaining piece of fiction, with a dash of conspiracy, backed up by some truths of history. If not for all the crazy conspiracy and unnecessary controversy that Dan Brown welcomed into Christianity, he should at least be commended for prodding every Christian into asking himself this question at a very personal level - Does it matter?