One thing Dan Brown got right, or: The Church was and is an institution run by men for men

by spaceinvaderjoe

I recently saw »The Da Vinci Code« for the first time (I know I am late to this). Besides the fact that I never thought to hear the sentence »I need to get to a library – fast!« uttered in a movie with a tone of urgency normally reserved for an action movie a la Mission Impossible, I found it to be a historical mess. Conspiracy theories mixed with half-truths and incredibly stupid characters (»Da Vinci painted a woman in his Last Supper! Yes, I see it too and because Da Vinci painted it, it must be historical truth!«) might make for an entertaining story but are dangerous when people start believing it. Several people have already disproven Brown’s claim that »all of the organizations and rituals described in this book are historical fact« but one aspect Brown used, I find especially interesting because it is really based in historical truth and it goes to show how history can be written. This aspect is Biblical apocrypha and the Gospel of Mary in particular.

The question of the existence of the historical person Jesus (there are no contemporary sources for his historical existence, the first independent Roman source dates 40 years after his supposed death) aside, the gospels presents us with a picture of him and his male followers being responsible for spreading the word of God during his life time and after his death. One would assume that with all the historical problems the Bible in general has (Jewish court against Jesus on a high holiday and at night? Somebody didn’t know his Judaism very well) this is basically the story everybody can agree on: One man, his twelve male followers and the only women in the story his virgin-mother and Mary-Magdalene, the prostitute that kind of just hung around.
However, even for this there are sources that prove this wrong: In 1896 a German scholar unearthed a 5th century papyrus codex, which contained the so-called Gospel of Mary. Most biblical scholars agree that this particular book was written by the historical Mary-Magdalene (again, given that what the bible presents us is at least half-historically accurate) and it presents a very different version of Jesus and his followers. From what can be gathered from this book, Mary-Magdalene was one of the apostles and even outranked Peter in the hierarchy of who gets told about the teachings of Jesus first. This version is – in slight variations – backed up by several other gospels that two farmers found buried in the sands of Egypt in 1945 (the so-called Nag Hammadi library).
All of these texts were not included in the canonical version of the New Testament that was put together in the 3rd and 4th century AD. Was it because Jesus and Mary-Magdalene were married and had a child as Dan Brown claims? Most likely not. Was it because Christian officials at the time wanted the fact that in the earliest of Christianity women were to the most part equal to men (at least in terms of preaching and spreading the word) suppressed? That paired with the fact that some of the content of these gospels is gnostic, is a historically more likely explanation.

My intention with this post was not to bash Christianity or Christians. I just wanted to point out that in my opinion it is important to question the dogma of the church as well as to not take everything in the bible as literal because there is a lot of stuff left out and how can you take something literal if it is not complete or is contradictory in its content? I think it is important to recognize that many a content of what today is considered the right Christian way comes rather from 2000 years of official and not accurate history and therefore rather than oppose gay marriage, women in church hierarchy or abortion, Christians should focus on the positive aspects of their belief such as helping the poor or fighting for the underdogs in society.