THE INCREDIBLE DA VINCI CODE
by Frank Mobbs
(Freedom Publishing, 2005, 53pp, $9.95. Available from AD Books)
Few books in recent years have prompted so many published rebuttals as has Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. The amazon.com website lists an array of titles exposing hundreds of errors in this prodigious best-seller. But, as Dr Frank Mobbs notes drily in his new book, appropriately titled The Incredible Da Vinci Code, the exposés sell in the thousands (if they are lucky) whereas Brown's book has sold in countless millions.
Some may wonder at the need for yet another critical appraisal. But Dr Mobbs' book - apart from being the first Australian title of this kind - has a number of advantages over other similar ventures: it is inexpensive, clear, brief, accessible and very much to the point, confining itself to the central pillars of Brown's fatally flawed book, without getting bogged down in minutiae.
By the time Mobbs has finished his dissection, concentrating on the alleged historical roles of Mary Magdalen, the Gnostic Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci and the Emperor Constantine, Brown's house of cards collapses.
The Incredible Da Vinci Code would be an ideal gift for one's friends, family members or relations who have read The Da Vinci Code and seem impressed with its authenticity; even more so, given the planned release of a movie version of the book in mid-2006.
Those already sceptical about Brown's book will find Mobbs' incisive, dryly humorous analysis fortifying of their faith as well as their ability to discuss the book intelligently and effectively. For example, Mobbs notes Brown's claim (through one of his book's main characters, a learned professor) that the bishops at the Council of Nicea approved the doctrine of Jesus Christ's divinity by a narrow margin, pointing out that "around 300 voted for the doctrine and two voted against".
Importantly, Mobbs aims his book at a general readership - including those of no religion. As he puts it in his Introduction: "It is as much a matter of interest to an atheist whether Jesus married as it is to a Christian, for it is either a fact of history or not."
How is that such a shoddy work as The Da Vinci Code has enjoyed such phenomenal sales?
No doubt some - especially jet- setters - find it an undemanding time-killer, with distinctions between fact and fiction inconsequential.
Others in our increasingly anti- Christian Western cultures are receptive to any claims - however flimsy - that Christianity (and especially Catholicism) is based on falsehoods. Most people these days have only the sketchiest knowledge of history and Scripture - if that - and are easily impressed by the appearances of learning and research.
Brown's book certainly presents itself, not only as a work of fiction, but also as dealing with certain historical facts which could easily destroy the credibility of Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular. However, as Mobbs argues, the very point of The Da Vinci Code's plot depends on the likelihood that Jesus was a mere man, not divine, that he married Mary Magdalen, fathered a child and that his descendants are around today.
If these are simply figments of Brown's fertile imagination, as Mobbs demonstrates, then Brown's book becomes pointless, even when viewed purely as a novel.
The pity of it is that relatively few of those millions sucked in by Brown's fabricated history will ever read The Incredible Da Vinci Code, or any other such works. All one can do is urge people to get Dr Mobbs' book into as many hands as possible - particularly before the movie is released next year. Its modest price and compact size should make this task easier.