On our way to see War of the Worlds last week, my wife and I noticed an advertisement poster for the 2006 release of The Da Vinci Code. It’s sure to be a blockbuster with Ron Howard directing and Tom Hanks starring in the lead role. The Da Vinci Code has sold nearly 10 million copies, and it’s still in hardback! Books about the book have been published as well as books against the book’s quirky theological and historical perspectives. Those ignorant of the Bible and history may be influenced by the supposed factual nature of the storyline. We shouldn’t be surprised at this since Christians believe the eschatology outlined in Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkin’s mega-Left-Behind series is actually taught in the Bible.

A number of good critiques of The Da Vinci Code have been published. I have most of them and have found them to be very helpful. But as far as I can tell, they have missed an important way to show the absurdity of Dan Brown’s claims that the material he is presenting in art and architecture is factual.

Let me set up the argument for you from Brown’s perspective. Brown claims that Da Vinci’s “Last  Supper” carries clues that Mary Magdalene is the true “Holy Grail.” She was Jesus’ lover and had a child by him. The Roman Catholic Church has kept this secret hidden from faithful Christians for centuries. If you look at Da Vinci’s painting, Brown insists you will see that there is a woman to the left of Jesus. According to Brown, this is Mary Magdalene not John the apostle.[1] The feminine characteristics give her away. Peter is giving a threatening hand sign as if to cut her off. This is the church reacting to the truth of the Grail legend that Mary’s womb is the real Holy Grail. You can see this expressed in the V-shaped space between Jesus and “Mary”: V=Womb=Grail. Da Vinci offers other “clues.” You will notice in the painting that there is no chalice, the traditional Grail artifact.[2] You can also see an M configuration which points us once again to Mary Magdalene as the true Holy Grail.

There will be lots of people who will believe this nonsense just like there were people who believed that The Beatles’ songs, lyrics, and album covers carried clues that Paul McCartney had actually died in an automobile accident in 1966 and was replaced by a look-a-like named William Campbell. The “Death of Paul” rumors began to circulate in 1969. Two disc-jockeys ran with the wild story and perpetuated the canard that the death of McCartney was real, and the media and the three surviving Beatles had covered it up. But like Da Vinci, the Beatles couldn’t stop themselves from planting clues in their art. This is most evident in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover (see how many clues you can find).

The story states that Paul McCartney was involved in a car accident. Apparently “he hadn’t noticed that the lights had changed.” Here’s the context of the lyric from “A Day in the Life”: “He blew his mind out in a car/He hadn’t noticed that the lights had changed/A crowd of people stood and stared/They’d seen his face before/Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords.”

McCartney’s accident occurred at 5 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Cause of death was massive head trauma. So severe were his wounds that dental records were useless for identifying the body (see the famous “Butcher” album cover that was later replaced). At the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” we hear “I buried Paul.” There are dozens of clues that can be strung together to make a strong case that the Paul McCartney you see today is an imposter. He’s been playing a role for nearly 40 years.

Of course, none of it’s true, just like there are no clues in Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” that Mary Magdalene is the true Holy Grail.


[1] This presents a problem since if the person next to Jesus is Mary Magdalene, then the painting is one person short. There were 12 apostles.
[2] The painting shows that each person at the table has a cup. There was no single cup. Matthew, Mark, and Luke state that Jesus “took a cup” (Matt. 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17). Luke 22:20 does say “the cup,” but this is only after Jesus had taken “a cup.