Are you confused about "The Da Vinci Code" and the strong reactions it's received from both supporters and detractors? You're not alone. No novel sells 50 million copies without hitting some kind of nerve in the popular imagination. The following Study Guide is intended to help spur personal thought and group discussion about the many spiritual issues raised in "The Da Vinci Code." It was created by Richard Smoley, who has more than 25 years of experience studying and practicing the Western mystical tradition.

Why Is "The Da Vinci Code" So Compelling?
The key probably lies in the secrets it mentions--a strange alternative history of the last 2,000 years, starting with the claim that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene.
Points to Consider:
• According to the novel, Jesus’ and Mary Magdalene’s descendants included the Merovingians, dynastic rulers who led what is now France from the fifth to the eighth centuries C.E. This theory holds that even after the Merovingians fell from power, the sacred bloodline survived. That would mean descendants of Jesus could be alive today.

• This sacred bloodline was known as the sang réal, meaning “royal blood” in Old French, according to"The Da Vinci Code." Later it became known as the Sangreal, which later produced its English equivalent, the “Holy Grail.” Although the Holy Grail is usually imagined as the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper, according to Brown’s novel, the real Grail is actually this “royal blood,” this sacred bloodline.

• Old legends in Europe say the couple did have children, who were eventually brought either to France or England (the versions differ). But these are legends, and there isn’t much, if any, documentation to prove they are true.

For More Information:
• "The Da Vinci Code"--Faith, Doubt, and the Search for Truth: Beliefnet's full "Da Vinci" coverage

• "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" (New York: Dell, 1983), by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, inspired many of the ideas in "The Da Vinci Code." Baigent and Leigh recently sued Brown for plagiarism in an unsuccessful but highly publicized case. A good discussion of why the suit lost can be found on the website

•  John Matthews’ "Sources of the Grail" (Hudson, N.Y.: Lindisfarne, 1998) is the best single-volume collection of the original Grail texts, which date from the Middle Ages. (The texts don’t talk about a sacred bloodline, though.

Questions to Ponder:
• Do you find "The Da Vinci Code" compelling? If so, why?

• Do you believe that the Grail could have been a sacred bloodline

• Would it change your beliefs to know that Jesus had surviving descendants?

How Many of The Claims in the Story Are True?
There are a lot assertions presented as fact in the novel. A number of these can be verified. But the theories in it are extremely speculative. The evidence for these theories is not very strong.
Points to Consider:
• "The Da Vinci Code" is a novel. Brown would have been within his rights to make up everything in it.
• Most of the novel’s theories are considered by mainstream scholars to fall into the category of “fringe” or “alternative” history--popular accounts of mysteries in the past that are based on highly circumstantial evidence. Very few scholars take these theories seriously.
• Brown himself has said, “The documents, rituals, organization, artwork, and architecture in the novel all exist,” but he goes on to say that he makes no claim to advocate “any of the ancient theories discussed by fictional characters. Interpreting those ideas is left to the reader.”
For More Information:
•  Watch an exclusive Beliefnet video, "Demystifying 'Da Vinci'":
• Brown’s views can be found on his Web site:
• A good online source on alternative Christianity is the Gnosis Archive:
Questions to Ponder:

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