Last week I saw this headline on a supermarket tabloid, "The Da Vinci Code Diet!" Talk about the ultimate transformation of the sacred into the profane, at least in terms of contemporary American materialism.
I haven't read The Da Vinci Code. I haven't read Holy Blood, Holy Grail either, but many of my friends read it years ago, and then asked my husband and I to verify what we could of it's claims. This means that while everyone else is running around talking about "new" revelations, I'm scratching my head and going, "But we did this ten years ago."
So, here's what I remember from those sessions:
Yes, the Opus Dei is the new(er) name of the Inquisition. No, they've never had monks. It's a branch of the Vatican government, not an order.
Yes, early Christianity was 100 times more diverse than Catholic tradition records. Women played a large role as missionaries and church leaders. Many early churches were originally the property of Roman women, who by law could not will their land to their choice of heir but who could leave it to a religious organization.
Yes, the Gnostics had very different ideas about life and Christianity than the proto-Catholics did, however they appear to have been even more hung up over sex for the most part. Some poor soul even tried to start a branch of Christianity that included an Eluesian-style mystery rite, but this failed. According to the witnesses, the initiates were laughing so hard when they emerged they could hardly stand up.
At that time it was fashionable for all royal families to claim divine descent from their patron God/dess, even though these claims were not taken literally in cosmopolitan areas. When the Romans wrote up their own attempts to make the emperor semi-Divine, you could tell they were having trouble keeping a straight face. The Frankish Mero Vinca family originally billed itself as "the children of the sea Goddess Mer." Later, when the patron God/dess of the region switched, the family switched its lineage as well. No one ever said they weren't pragmatic.
They did say the Merovingians were stupid and cruel. They became kings by killing off their own relatives -- think Dynasty meets the Godfather and ramp it a hundredfold. In the end, most of the work was done by their major-domo, Pippin the Younger aka Pepin the Short. Pippin wrote the Pope asking what to do. The Pope wrote back that "the one who does the work should wear the crown", thus sanctioning Pepin to take out the Merovingians. Pippin saw to it that all the Merovingians were either put to death or died without issue. If the Merovingians were supposed to be the "bloodline of Christ" it's highly unlikely the Pope would have sanctioned their extermination. And don't doubt that in those days "removing" a family from office amounted to exterminating the bloodline. Even the in-laws of distant cousins were in danger of being killed. These people believed in "long-lost heirs to the throne", and they were deadly serious about preventing any.
Mary Magdalene. In the Bible it says that Jesus "cast seven devils" out of her. It says that she didn't go in the kitchen with the other women to help clean up after meals, but stayed to talk with the men. When the women rebuked her, Jesus rebuked them. It says that she stayed by the tomb and was the first to speak to Jesus after the Resurrection, calling him "Teacher."
That's little to base a portrait on, but to me it seems simplest to think of Mary M. as a sharp-tongued, opinionated woman who loved learning and chafed from not having anyone to converse with. When she finally found someone worth talking to she stopped taking out her frustration on her neighbors, and began spending all her time with him and his friends.
Did she love him? Under those circumstances it's not unlikely.
Was she married to him? Insufficient data.
Was Jesus married to anybody? The Bible doesn't say, but the Bible was edited by men who had a bone to pick with women. It's possible Jesus' marital status was edited out.
It's true that Jesus' mother was obsessing about the food and wine at the wedding as if she were the hostess and mother of the groom, but we don't have sufficient information to say if she was the mother of the groom, if she was assisting the mother of the groom, and/or if she was just an obsessive busybody. The Bible does say that Jesus had brothers and sisters, and many of the extra-Biblical sources from his lifetime that mention Jesus spend more time talking about his brother James. It seems more likely to me that she was nagging the brother(s) and/or cousin(s) of the groom to make a wine run.
Tradition says that after witnessing the Resurrection Mary M. moved to Europe with a group of other Christian women. While there she worked as a high-level missionary and church leader, even witnessing to the Roman emperor before moving to what is now southern France.
Among her party was a little girl named Sara. Various accounts call Sara the daughter of Mary M., the daughter of another of the women, or a foundling, or slave child owned by the women. Sara inherited the women's property and job, becoming an early Christian saint, but it appears that she never married and died without issue. Another tradition names Sara as a Pagan princess unrelated to any of the women. The Catholic church eventually un-Sainted her as a myth, but there is insufficient data available to the public to say.
Did Jesus have a child? More bluntly, did he have sex? Even when I was a Christian, I never understood the people to whom this mattered. Surely what Jesus did the 16 hours each day he was out of bed were more important than what he did the 8 hours he was in bed, provided whatever it was was consensual.
Was Jesus the Son of God? Of course he was. So are we all the sons and daughters of God and Goddess.
But if everybody is the Child of God then he isn't special! I have trouble imagining how anyone could be "not special", especially someone as extraordinary as Jesus.
But what about Sin and Redemption? Most of the sin-and-redemption schtick was added to the Christian interpretation of the Bible 300 years after Christ died, by Augustine of Hippo. He also introduced many other not-so-lovely innovations to Christianity, like burning people at the stake who disagreed with him. His sinful interpretation of the Bible was so far from the contemporary interpretations that his early treatise was greeted with outright laughter by other Christian leaders. His followers spent 100 years lobbying, defaming the supporters of the traditional view of Jesus and burning their writings, and in one case outright bribing the emperor with war horses, before they finally got it accepted at the Council of Nicea. The Nicene Creed would not have won the vote without nearly century of dirty politics behind it. And that story would make a far more interesting movie than The Da Vinci Code.