But if she’s his wife, as the book suggests, then I still don’t get why that makes Jesus not divine.

Because the point about the “secret” documents, which include the knowledge that she was married to him, also include the idea that there are these works about Jesus that show that he was human and not divine. According to the novel, the issue of Jesus’ divinity is something that was voted on in the 4th century.

So that if the other parts about these documents are true, then the underlying idea of Jesus’ divinity is called into question.

Exactly right. This is why I ask in the first chapter, Did the church perpetrate a lie? Because the central theological point of Christianity is portrayed in the novel as having been misleading.

Why do you think this book has become so popular?

It’s the right book at the right time or the right book at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it. It touches on issues that people are particularly sensitive about right now in a very entertaining way that raises all these questions to a level of consciousness. It works with romantic locales, central themes of our culture, and it weaves it together in an interesting and a creative way.

There’s a lot of interest in spirituality and religion right now. There’s a lot of interest in Christianity generically right now. The whole issue of Christianity and Islam, for example, has brought religion forward as a topic. The other dimension of it is the way in which the divine feminine and the role of women are raised in the book.

In addition, there is an element of intrigue to the idea that we’ve got secret gospels and secret documents floating around. People like to be in the know on something that was previously a secret. Only the problem is, 1. It isn’t a secret, since we’ve known about these movements for centuries, and 2. The secret is not portrayed in a historically accurate way.

What has been the response to the book among evangelicals?

I had 850 people for lectures about it on three consecutive Wednesday nights at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. I know that other people have drawn very large crowds for these types of things. And I think it’s because Christians are running into friends and neighbors who are asking them about the book. What often happens is that someone who doesn’t have much contact with the church reads the book, tells someone whom they know is a Christian about it, starts asking all these questions and then boom, the discussion is off and running. So people in the church are asking questions, and in some cases they’re asking questions for themselves because they don’t know this early church history.

I think evangelicals reading it realize in their gut or in their soul that there’s something not quite right, but because they don’t know the history of the material, they don’t know quite how to deal with it.

Are pastors telling people "Don’t read this book"?

No. In some cases, they’re telling people to read the book and to be aware of what’s going on and, in fact, that’s often why I’m being asking in to speak—to encourage them. Now they might say, "Don’t buy the book, get it from a friend." You know, something like that, but they’re not being told not to read the book, not by any means. Because it suggests that the traditional presentation of Christianity and the Church wasn’t historically correct. And that if we were to find these secret documents that really reflect the roots of Christianity, we would find a human Jesus--and that that’s what the church was purposely trying to keep the world from finding out. So there is a sinister undertone to what motivates this novel.

So the basic feeling that most Christians have is that they’re puzzled and interested.

There are two sets of reactions among Christians I have contact with. One is a group that senses there’s something wrong about what’s being said about Christianity, but they don’t know what the response is. So they aren’t embracing or even entertaining the idea, but they are curious and want to know what the facts are. Then there’s the second group that reads the book, who when they walk away ask, “Could this possibly be?” They’re actually entertaining the possibility that it might be true.

Could you name the top one or two outrageous claims made in the Da Vinci Code?

I go back and forth on this, but I think my first choice is the claim that there are 80 gospels. And with that the idea that there was a vote in the 4th century at the Council of Nicea, and the people in attendance picked four out of these 80.