The immensely popular book The Da Vinci Code is a groundbreaking work that causes the reader to ask a profoundly personal question: Who did I loan my copy to and when will the five people they loaned it to give it back?
And thats not all. The book also challenges our basic understanding of biblical history and the theology that created the modern church. Even though The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction (much like the upcoming biography The Greatness of George W. Bush), its descriptions of early church history are purportedly true, leaving the reader with the disturbing notion that the creation of the Bible itself was compromised by one major problem: They left out the good stuff.
According to The Da Vinci Code (and LOTS of respected academic literature, which I would have read but for my longstanding principle of being 100-percent research-free), the Roman emperor Constantine conspired with the early church hierarchywhich may have included Karl Roveto create a set of scriptures that emphasized Jesus divinity rather than his more accessible humanity. Whole parts of Jesus life and legacy have been left out, depriving us of a fuller sense of what it must have been like to be the Son of God during, say, snack time in kindergarten. (TEACHER: Goodness me, whered all those extra cookies come from?)
Nor do we have a record of his teenage years, a typically difficult time that youngsters could better deal with had the biblical narrative included inspirational stories of an adolescent Jesus of Nazareth:
EDDIE OF HASKEL: Good morning, Mrs. Nazareth, is Jesus at home? And may I say you look lovely today. Having children at an early age certainly seems to have agreed with you.
JESUS: Cut it out, Eddie. And that reminds me, you are SO not going to be one of my disciples when I grow up.
EDDIE: Fine with me, Mr. Alpha and Omega Junior. Me and Lumpy have other plans anyway. Were going to beget thisfishers of fish. As opposed to that wacky idea of yours.
JESUS: Whatever. Hey, Dad, can we take the car?
JOSEPH: What is a "car," my son?
JESUS: Oops. Never mind.
And while the Bible dwells on the 40 days of temptation before Jesus starts his ministry, we read nothing about the arguments he must have had with his teachers who probably wanted him to go to grad school first.
BUT THE BIGGEST problem with the Bible, according to The Da Vinci Code, is that it only tells half the story of the early churchthe guy halfand omits much of the legacy of women. Its obvious the early church fathers didnt run their ideas by the early church ladies, probably for fear of having Third Century crockery flung at them in disgust. (In fact, some scientists believe the broken bits of pottery found in archeological digs were not the result of millennial decay, but were caused by angry women trying to keep priests away from the office shredders.)
I dont think Im giving away the ending (since its obvious by Chapter Two) to say that a particularly controversial aspect of the book, if true, would add a second shortest verse to the Bible. Specifically, "Jesus dated."
Lets face it, Constantine and his scribes couldnt have included scripture recounting Jesus first social engagement with a girl (JESUS: Open thine eyes, and sin no more. GIRL: Look, Im not really blind, okay? Its just an expression...), much less have the Bible making reference to the more controversial possibility that Jesus may have been married. (And it would have been the perfect marriage, with minimal chores! Sigh.)
No, the state-sanctioned church wanted to keep Jesus above the people, so the church could be the go-between for their salvation. Had the full story been told of Jesus empowerment of his followers, todays ecclesial hierarchy would be like the Maytag Repairman. There might be a phone, but it wouldnt ring.
As it is, the deeper experience of community and gender inclusiveness within the early church is little mentioned by scripture, and few other documents have survived to fill in these sinful omissions. All we have is the official Bible, the still unreleased Dead Sea Scrolls (TRANSLATOR: Whats another word for "equal"? Oh, I know: "male headship."), and some bits of parchment containing the earliest known recipe for Jell-O with miniature marshmallows. (Some Christian sects may have added coconut to this ancient potluck dish, but again, the flawed biblical record is unable to debunk this egregious heresy.)
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.