Those Witty Judges...

Okay, I did say that I liked this one... The judge in the UK lawsuit against Dan Brown's publishers encoded a secret message in his ruling, in the spirit of the Code. Journalists are now falling all over themselves trying to get to the bottom of it all...

Update: The Code's Been Cracked. And what a disappointment. See the second link below.

The Scotsman, 27.04.06 and The New York Times, 28.04.06

Only ONE Cryptex?!!?!?

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly has got a few details on the upcoming movie, but not a lot. It does sound, though, like there will be a lot of plot and detail streamlining. Will that spoil the fun? Dunno. We'll see. The real question is now: so what's the password going to be: sofia, apple, or something else—like "money"?

Check it out on the newsstand.


Olson's Hoax and Education

A Eugene, Oregon paper is running a fairly decent article about Carl Olson's book and similar efforts at dealing with the issues raised by Dan Brown's book. Here's a snip:

Olson is by no means the only believer hoping to use the book and movie as a tool for education. At the University of Oregon, for example, Campus Crusade for Christ adviser Mike Alverts and students in the interdenominational group plan to distribute brochures challenging the ssertions found in "The Da Vinci Code." I don't feel threatened by the book or the movie, but this is a good opportunity to talk about this kind of stuff because people have these questions," says Alverts. In an era when fact and fiction are increasingly blurred, a novel can leave "an assumption of validity," Alverts says. He especially worries, he says, "about the person who is interested in but doesn't have any real education about Christianity. They could connect dots that are not really there."
The Register-Guard, 23.04.06

Dan Brown Speaks (Publically)

Boston.com has a great report on Dan Brown's lecture on Sunday. Here's a snip:
He's happy his best-selling novel about hidden religious history, secret societies and code-breaking has captured popular interest. The rest is not his responsibility. "Let the biblical scholars and historians battle it out," he said Sunday during a writers talk presented by New Hampshire Public Radio and The Music Hall of Portsmouth. "It's a book about big ideas, you can love them or you can hate them," Brown said. "But we're all talking about them, and that's really the point."
Boston.com, 23.04.06

"Holy War"??? NOT!

A Scottish Catholic priest has undertaken to distribute a DVD titled Debunking the Da Vinci Myths, saying that TDVC's "inaccuracies are equivalent to claiming John Knox was a child abuser."

Okay... I guess I don't see the comparison.

But really. The press is labelling this promotion a "Holy War." Please. In holy wars, people die. I don't think that's what's going to happen here.

Here's a snip from Scotsman.com:

Reilly's assault on the "monumentally inexcusable nonsense" of Dan Brown's book will be sent to all 60 Catholic secondary schools and 500 parishes and is deliberately timed to coincide with the release of the movie.
Scotsman.com, 23.04.06


Finally! Some Movie News!

Okay, it's not much. Actually, just a single quote from Ron Howard. But it's news, and it's about the movie! The director talks about shooting in the Louvre...
Howard says, "We had to be very specific about every single shot we were going to do, both for security and for preservation reasons. There were all kinds of things we couldn't do. In the script, there is blood on the floor but we couldn't do that, and obviously we couldn't take paintings off the walls."
Star Pulse, 21.04.06

Brown Wins Another Round

Amidst reports that Dan Brown is about to sued by a Russian who claims the idea of The Da Vinci Code originated with him, a U.S. Appeals Court has upheld an earlier ruling against a domestic litigant, saying that Brown played by the usual literary rules.

Wow. What a pain it is to write a bestseller!

Reuters, 21.04.06

Debunking, and Debunking

Today's side-by-side comparison puts two debunkers on different sides of the same coin face.

First, author Sharan Newman tries to keep things light:
The Da Vinci Code has sparked outcry from Christians around the world for its controversial claims. Describing herself as non-religious, she said: 'I really don't look at it from a religious point of view because religion is faith, and faith is what you have when there's no proof. I think that certainly, as a writer, I wish the Vatican would condemn a book of mine, because it does wonders for sales.'

Second, UK Christian writer Mal Fletcher goes for the hard-edged approach (and also misses the fact that Dan Brown is indeed a Christian):
Mr. Brown, as far as I know, has never professed any sort of Christian faith, so he can't be accused of betrayal in the proper sense of the word. Yet he has betrayed truth, by insisting that Jesus did not die as the Bible suggests, but went on living and eventually marrying Mary Magdalene.
The Electric New Paper and Cross Rhythms, 20.04.06

The Duduk Code

I'm not exactly sure what a "duduk" is, but we'll apparently be hearing the sound one of them makes in the upcoming Code soundtrack—and Armenians are apparently pretty happy about that! For more, click below...

PanArmenian Network, 19.04.06


Catholic Views at the Dialogue

Early Catholic buzz about The Da Vinci Dialogue criticized the effort because none of the "experts" named in the press release were Roman Catholic authorities. Well, the early criticism may have paid dividends—or it may have just been uninformed.

The latest two essays posted at the Dialogue are by John L. Allen, Jr., a Catholic journalist who specializes in news about the Roman Catholic Church, and Monsignor Francis J. Maniscalco, who has been director of communications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops since 1995. The Monsignor deals in broad terms about the potrayal of Catholic teaching in Dan Brown's book, while Allen writes a much more interesting and informative piece on Opus Dei. Allen's weekly column about Vatican affairs, called “The Word from Rome,” appears in the National Catholic Reporter.

The Da Vinci Dialogue

Test Audiences? "Bad Hair!"

Been waiting a long time to hear about reactions from test audiences... And what do we get?
Viewers admitted to researchers they found his lank locks a major turn-off. A studio insider told The Sun newspaper: "Much of the talk is about the hair. But it's too late to fix it."

Star Pulse, 18.04.06

Opus Dei Opens Up

ABC News interviews an Opus Dei spokeswoman, who seems quite genial and levelheaded—for whatever that's worth.

It does seem as if Opus Dei has been getting more positive exposure than negative from the whole thing... But the ABC article does include some details from one of those ex-OD members. It's worth a read.

Oh... Those headlines you may be seeing about Opus Dei "demanding" a disclaimer on the film? Wrong. They're asking for one. That's quite a different thing. Shame on those headline writers.

UPDATE: ABC has added another article about Opus Dei members.

ABC News, 18.04.06 / 20.04.06

It's Game Time

TeamXbox has got some screenshots of the upcoming game. If you're an X-Boxer, check 'em out!

TeamXbox, 17.04.06

Google Hosts Online Code Quest

Wow. The opportunity to play an online game for a whole month! If you're interested, check out the press release from Columbia Pictures, the studio producing the upcoming film. The puzzle is located at www.google.com/davincicode.

Home Office, 17.04.06

TDVC, Uh, Unites Christians

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has also now weighed in against Dan Brown's book and Ron Howard's movie.

All this accomplishes, of course, is to put Ted Baehr and Williams on the same side of an issue. And that's doing something.

CNN, 17.04.06

Two Takes on Olson's DV Hoax

Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media is pretty high on Carl Olson's book The Da Vinci Hoax, which uses secluar historians to "debunk" Dan Brown's book. Sounds like a kind of interesting and well-motivated idea.

Perhaps, that is, until you read Steve Kellmeyer's opinion at Renew America. I think Kellmeyer's piece is the best (short) work on The Da Vinci Code that I have read—and he pretty much slices and dices Ignatius Press right along with Olson's book.

Accuracy in Media, 17.04.06 and Renew America, 18.04.06

Da Vinci Code and Polls

Or, "What's New In Misleading Headlines."

This one's been making the circuit this week: "'Da Vinci Code' affects Christians in North America--poll."

No, it doesn't. Read the article. The idea that Dan Brown's book plays a role in American beliefs about the resurrection, etc., is just speculation.

But try telling that to the headline writer!

INQ7.net, 17.04.06


Good Stuff from Da Vinci Dialogue

It's been a good week over at The Da Vinci Dialogue. Here's a roundup of the hightlights:

  • Dr. Mark D. Roberts, Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, offers "Was Jesus Really Human?" The highlight is his comments regarding the Nag Hammadi texts: "I haven't read every word of the Gnostic writings in the Nag Hammadi Library, but I have read at least two-thirds of them. And I can assure you that you're not going to find a human Jesus there." He includes a link to online copies of the texts. Very helpful!
  • Patrick Henry Reardon, Pastor of All Saints’ Orthodox Church in Chicago and Senior Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, put together "What Really Happened at the Council of Nicaea?" The article clarifies that the central issue of the council was a decision of the Arian heresy—a relatively new teaching that Jesus was created by God the Father. Alan Schreck's more recent article covers much of the same territory, and is not quite as well-written.
  • Darrell L. Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, provides a good examination of the transmission of oral traditions in "How did the Church have a codified set of beliefs before there was a New Testament?"
The Da Vinci Dialogue

Big Billboard Comes Down

An enormous billboard for the upcoming movie stayed up for only one week. Now it must come down because of zoning violations and resulting complaints.

Conspiracy theories, anyone?

New York Times, 15.04.06

The Vatican Response on Good Friday

"The pope's personal preacher railed on Friday against Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and the recently published Gospel of Judas, saying they amounted to a fresh betrayal of Christ. In a Good Friday homily in St Peter's Basilica, Capuchin father Raniero Cantalamessa told Benedict XVI and several top Vatican officials that the media was exploiting the Christian tradition to make millions of dollars."

ANSA.it, 14.04.06

Baigent No Answer Man

Boston.com is carrying an excellent article by AP Religion Writer Richard N. Ostling, a piece which covers the conspiracy theory angle on the Code. The article concludes with a couple of quotes from Michael Baigent, including the following:
I'm in the business of raising questions. I'm not in the business of providing answers. The moment you provide answers, you have a new power structure, so for me it's a journey of exploration. ... It's necessary that we question [the Church] constantly.
boston.com, 12.04.06

Christians on Mary Magdelene

Pat McCarthy, associate editor of the NZ Catholic (New Zealand’s national Catholic newspaper) has written an excellent summary of the Christian teaching regarding Mary Magdelene. Normally, I don't post links to these types of columns because they tend to be retreads of what's already been covered. But this one's a good and worthy exception. Very informative and balanced in its presentation. Catholic Online picked a good reprint.

Catholic Online, 12.04.06

No-View Review of the Movie

Fred Stesney is at it as usual. Here's a link to his review of Ron Howard's film, despite the fact (of course) that Stesney hasn't seen the film. He's just seen the previews. But Stesney is actually pretty good as judging books by their covers...

No View Reviews, 11.04.06


Yet Another Lost Gospel

Last week, Reuters carried a story about the vast number of TV programs spawned by interest in The Da Vinci Code. Almost hidden at the end of the article was this news:

National Geographic is using MIPTV to roll out its "The Lost Gospel of Judas," a two-hour documentary on a newly discovered account of the life of Jesus allegedly written by the man who betrayed him. National Geographic was scheduled to reveal some of the secrets contained in the "lost gospel" at a press conference in Washington on Thursday.

"We've been working on this for years, long before 'The Da Vinci Code.' It's just luck that its finished now, just before the film gets released," said Michael Rosenfeld, executive vp of programing and production at National Geographic Television & Film.
UPDATE: AP reporter Randolph Schmid has written an excellent article on the Gospel of Judas. Click on the second link below.

Reuters, 05.04.06 and boston.com, 05.06.06


Baigent's New Work Reviewed

Salon.com is running a very lengthy and entertaining review of Michael Baigent's new book, The Jesus Papers. You have to click through an ad page to read the whole article, but it's actually a painless hoop to jump through, and the three-screen review is really worth the read. Here's a snip:
The most intriguing discovery to be found in "The Jesus Papers" will probably only interest those of us who pursue the odd and somewhat pitiful hobby of crank-watching; it's finally clear from reading this book that it was Baigent -- rather than co-authors Leigh and Henry Lincoln -- who actually wrote "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." The voice, which grows more and more authoritative in tone as the foundations of its arguments dissolve into piffle, is unmistakable. Baigent's co-authors may have supplied the research and quite possibly the underlying structure of "Grail"; this book offers little fresh information and is badly muddled. But the style of "The Jesus Papers," a masterly counterpoint of bluster, false humility and self-righteousness, matches that of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" like a fingerprint.

Salon, 07.04.06

What's the Fuss?

Over at the Denver Post, columnist David Harsanyi has written a very entertaining article from the point of view of one who just doesn't see why the Code is so popular—or why people are so upset by it. It's an entertaining read, and might help bring things back into perspective for many readers.

A good deal of his article reports on a public debate he attended regarding the novel. Here's a snip:

What are we debating here? Doesn't it clearly state "a novel" right on the front cover?

Danica d'Hondt, author of the forthcoming "Beyond the Da Vinci Code," was there to defend the book. Her basic message: Brown has forced us to think. To think about why the Catholic Church hasn't grown along with society. And, why, she asked, couldn't Jesus have been married?

Actually, there are plenty of sensible reasons to avoid marriage. Let's assume being the Son of God kept Jesus pretty busy.

Fact is, in the end, you either have some faith or you don't.

Her defense did make me think, though. It made me think that the commotion over the book was a byproduct of the culture war. Even d'Hondt admitted Brown had butchered most of his facts. Why should we take this book seriously?

Denver Post, 06.05.06

The Code to Play China

A UPI story this last week reported that China will allow exhibition of the Da Vinci Code movie. Says the story,
There were concerns the Tom Hanks vehicle may not make it past China's Film Bureau because of its religious theme, Daily Variety reported. "The Da Vinci
Code" is the second Sony film to make it to China's cinemas, Variety noted.

This on the heels of allowing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be exhibited as well. At least they're no more afraid of the sacred feminine than they are of a sacred lion!

DailyIndia, 05.04.06


Leigh and Baigent Lose in Court

The judge in the copyright infringement case against the UK publisher of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code today ruled against the claimants, Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent. Random House is thereby exempt from any claims of damages in the case. The really bad news for Leigh and Baigent is that they'll have to pay all of the court costs in the case (including those for Random House's defense) according to British civil law.

The Washington Post, among many other news agencies, reports on the ruling and the Times Online carries the full transcript of the ruling in the case.

Washington Post and Times Online (UK), 07.03.06


A Slow News Week

Gosh. After that big flurry of activity over the court case, this week turned out to be pretty boring. Here's a roundup of the most interesting stories I ran across:

The Christian Examiner reported on Lee Strobel's position against Da Vinci Code protests: "I just think that that's not productive. ... I can understand it, because when I read The Da Vinci Code I got mad, because it's saying that my faith is based on a fraud. But then I thought, ‘Wait a minute, my anger is not going to help too much. How can I use this for good? How can I do what the story of Joseph tells us in Genesis, where God took something that was intended for ill and turned it for good?’"

Catholic Online reported on efforts by The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property to "gather at least 100,000 protest letters and e-mails before May 19, when the blasphemous film is scheduled to hit theaters across the country." The article quotes America Needs Fatima director Robert Ritchie as saying, "As faithful sons and daughters of the Church, it’s our duty to defend the honor of Our Lord whenever He is blasphemed. ... And since The Da Vinci Code is a public blasphemy, our reparation and protest should be public."

Christian Newswire carried a press release from Focus on the Family, whose director of teen apologetics, Alex McFarland, was quote as sayin, "We realize that we won't be able to stop people from seeing this film, but we can be prepared to answer their questions. ... Entertainment media has the ability to change history. Oliver Stone's JFK altered the way a generation viewed the Kennedy assassination; The Da Vinci Code may change the way future generations view Christianity. Christians need to be educated and ready to respond to the critical questions millions will be asking."