Friday, May 12, 2006

New Testament Geek

I suppose that's as good a title for me, and a fairly fitting description of the Christian side of Lower Greenville's work, as any.

Finished Da Vinci Code. Surprised it was such a traditional "international spy thriller" kind of book--a decent page-turner, in the Crichton / Clancy / Grisham sort of way. Depthless, and not even very interested in its ostensible subject matter. Most of the objectionable religious nonsense is in maybe three or four chapters. It isn't any better than, or much different from, Gary Kleier's The Last...uh, whatever. The latter was a Y2K thriller, also with murky stuff about Jesus's female descendants and the Catholic church and...As a matter of fact, DVC sounds like something Brown started on in the 90s, but didn't get ready in time for the 2000 market, and so had to rework it. But not a lot; a bunch of this stuff is in such highbrow films as Dogma and Dracula 2000. It was all done vastly better by someone actually into and knowledgeable about the stuff, namely the Italian semiological philosopher Umberto Eco (he of Name of the Rose) fame, in Foucault's Pendulum. Both XFiles and Alias are better as conspiracy theory books--Brown ends up letting the Masons, the main Catholic church, the supposedly sinister 'priory of Sion,' and even--good grief, of all the people who don't need a break--Opus Dei, off the hook. They're all misunderstood by others or are themselves victims of bad information, overzealousness, etc. The only bad guys are--give me a break!--a fat, wealthy, British cripple, and his greasy French butler! Talk about stereotypes.

Now maybe Brown is like the Wachowski brothers, who made a lesbian detective movie first in order to score cash and cred before making the Matrix series. Maybe there's a lot more to the guy, and other stuff of his is coming out. But my impression was, what a lightweight. Doesn't know anything about the Dead Sea Scrolls (the Catholic hierarchy had nothing to do with the academic turf wars that kept a lot of the less important texts in limbo for decades, and in any case the Qumraners who made them were Essene-like, not gnostic in any way), next to nothing about the gnostic literature (that you know that there is a Nag Hammadi library or can quote (once) the Gospel of Phillip means, pretty much, zero. I have the library, and have read almost all of it (in English). In any case the Gospel of Thomas is much more important--at least the Jesus Seminar got that right. But Brown...), and is apparently unaware of the large Patristic literature, including Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History of the 330s, that pertains to the time period when he allegedly alleges shenanigans took place.

Just a bit more. I'll bet my granddad's ax he can't read any of the languages or make any but plot advancement and marketing sense out of any actual data he managed to get himself into--don't get me started. Not to mention the sexist notion that Mary Magdalene is only of, or is most, interesting if she's married to some important guy, and the "gamist" notion that Jesus must have been married and had biological descendants. He doesn't know anything about early church history or Greco-Roman religions, either, beyond maybe a National Geographic article or two level.

Well, that's enough. Not a serious engagement with anything, the way Last Temptation tried to be, and an extremely transparent publicity and income ploy. No surprises there, no mysteries to unravel in this mystery.

In happier news, Beth and I are watching Kingdom of Heaven. I should have known Ridley Scott would be thoughtful. What else are we to make of a movie about the Crusades than that it is a commentary on the Iraq war? As far as i know he's got the broad history right: Baldwin or one of the other Crusader rulers of Jerusalem was a leper king, and he or one of the others had a respectful relationship with Saladin, his opposite number among the Muslims. What a contrast to the preening we're-right-because-we're-us, God's-on-our-side-whether-we're-on-his-or-not jingoism of Guy de whatever (in the movie), or the rough unilateralism of Chantillon, who is disgraced and dismissed by the leader of the unified European occupation force. Not to mention the depiction of the good guy as one who, with his men, builds irrigation channels for his Arab subjects' benefit...

And in happier news still, this is Jonathan's last day of classes. Graduation is a week from today: might as well start the congratulations now.

3 Comments:

Blogger some chick said...

NICE. So of all the people who take issues with the Da Vinci Code, I like your arguments the BEST. If only all of Christendom could be so discerning. And I REALLY like your point about Mary Magdalene....

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like your thoughts in TDVC. I was not really offended by the content of the book. I think way too many Christians are focusing on his claims that anyone with a modicum of research can debunk. My problem was more with the lack of depth of character and the predictable and pedestrian writing style.

My question is, why is the Jesus of TDVC so much more attractive than th one presented by the Church today?

Kyle (Kristen's brother)

6:42 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, Kyle, good question. I suppose a writer looking to grab attention can't go far wrong if he suggests, however demurely, that Jesus had sex with somebody.
Part of it is the XFiles / Alias / Bush paranoia thing that stretches from left to right across our culture, saying that somebody somewhere is up to no good, that nefarious deeds are being done behind closed doors, and there's thangs goin on that you don't know. Apply that to religion, and you get the usual nonsense about Rosicrucians, the Masons, medieval Jewry, the evil Catholic heirarchy (which didn't exist in 150AD) suppressing the *real story,* etc. But I have very little appetite for conspiracy theories (I love the Kevin Costner line in "Bull Durham," what do I believe? I believe that lee harvey oswald acted alone.
so maybe i'm the wrong guy to ask.
the only upside is that this is a way of people inarticulately expressing that what they think they have a problem with is not jesus, but the church.

11:02 AM  

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