My Favorite DaVinci Code Conspiracy

Posted: January 14, 2011 in Arguments, Conspiracy Theories, History Related
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Ah, the famous and best selling book/movie, The Da Vinci Code. A story full of false claims and improvable speculations. There are so many great claims made in this story that are so easily refutable that it is hard to pick any one favorite. But if I must, I would have to select the conspiracy of Da Vinci’s painting, the Last Supper.

If you don’t already know the conspiracy, it is really quite interesting. The theory is that Jesus actually had a secret love affair with Mary Magdalene.[1] This secret love affair is made evident in the Last Supper. Look at the figure sitting to the left of Jesus (His right). It appears to be a woman! The conspiracy is that originally the figure sat on the opposite side of Jesus, which would mean there hands would be touching!!! Oh my!

The only reason these conspiracy theories work is because people don’t know their history and art, or just love drama. Here are the facts behind Da Vinci’s painting:

Da Vinci painted all the disciples in distinguishable ways so that they could all be identified in the picture. For example; Peter is holding keys (this identifies him because Jesus said he would give Peter the keys to His church), Andrew is holding a cross (which identifies him because that is later how he would be martyred). Therefore, when we look at the painting we can distinguish all the disciples. If Mary is painted next to Jesus, then all the disciples are accounted for accept for one; John. John was one of the closest of Jesus’ disciples, there is no way Da Vinci would leave him out of the picture.

But I know what you’re thinking, that looks like a woman, not a man. So was John a woman? No, not at all. In fact, that is not supposed to be a woman. During Jesus’ ministry John was the youngest of all the disciples. To distinguish John from the other disciples so that he could be identified in the painting, Da Vinci gave him a very youthful appearance. In Da Vinci’s other paintings very young men were painted very feminine-like, that was Da Vinci’s style. Don’t believe me? Google “Angel in the Flesh.” John is also beardless, beards were associated with mature adult males, but John being young was not given one. Notice that John is sitting very close to Jesus as well, which we know John was one of Jesus’ most trusted and beloved disciples. To the uneducated and untrained eye, it may appear as a woman, but I can promise you it is not.

Even if I were to assume Da Vinci did intend for that person to be Mary Magdalene, what does that prove? The painting is not a snap shot of reality but an artist’s depiction of what happened over 1400 years after it really happened. Da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519. Why would we hold his painting in higher esteem than eyewitness testimony written down within 60-80 years from Jesus’ lifetime? If you believe that the gospels were corrupted based off pure speculation, than I can argue that Da Vinci’s painting was perhaps corrupted as well. After all, there would be only one painting to corrupt or alter, which is much more practical than trying to corrupt and alter hundreds if not thousands of the gospel manuscripts circulating around.

In Reader’s Digest’s Atlas of the Bible, much of the artwork depicting the life of Jesus in the hundreds of years after his death were examined, to which it was concluded; “It was common for artists to incorporate various non-biblical details in their portrayals of the gospel stories.”[2] The reasoning behind why artists commonly added non-biblical details is considered to be based off a lack of understanding of cultures of the past (they didn’t have the History Channel). Only thurough knowledge of the era and time they themselves lived.  Therefore, many details were left up to the artist’s imagination or what they knew from Christian tradition, in which we see these embellishments. For example; almost all paintings of Jesus show him with long hair, even though all Jewish men in the first century were to have short hair.   The artists in question had no way of knowing how men and women dressed or looked in the 1st Century, and unfortunately long haired Jesus persists to this day in artwork.

Those who still believe this poor theory point out dozens of other paintings and works of art which seem to suggest Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. The paintings only suggest such a theory if that’s what you’re looking for in the first place. I also must once again point out that all these works of art were made over a thousand years after the life time of Christ. They are not photographs of reality, but of artist depictions. If there were a painting discovered of Jesus with red curly hair, or of him riding a dolphin, would anyone believe that Jesus really had red curly hair and rode dolphins? Paintings are not considered historical proof of anything other than the era from which they originated.

We must also not fail to recognize the authority of the church during this era in history. A painter, even one as renowned as Da Vinci, isn’t stupid enough to paint anything that would incriminate him as conspiring against the church and the authority of the bible. Because back then, any such allegations of heresy could lead to your imprisonment. Not the 21st century humane kind either. But perhaps you’re thinking, that’s why he swapped the figures and encoded what he knew to be true, because of the consequences.

To answer that, I refer back to my college art course in which we studied perspective. Da Vinci was a master of perspective, and he used vanishing points and horizons in his artwork purposefully and skillfully. If you take a ruler and line up all of the perspective lines in the photo (the ceiling or windows on the wall) they all meet at the same vanishing point, which is right above Jesus’ head. This was used to highlight the focal point in the painting, which was Jesus. If Da Vinci was trying to send us message in the painting, he would have made the vanishing point over John (Mary Magdalena).

The last and most important thing to address is the book Da Vinci code itself. Do you know where you can find this book at Barnes and Noble or the library? You find it in the fiction section. Yeah… fiction, as in non-fact. This alone should be enough to dispel rumors and conspiracy theories.


[1] This rumor stems from the Gospel of Philip (Gnostic) from A.D. 250, which says Jesus kissed Mary on her ______. It’s blank because the manuscript was damaged and the last word cannot be made out. Jesus could have kissed her on her cheek or forehead which was a very common tradition in Jesus’ times. The bible records Judas kissing Jesus on the cheek to identify him to the authorities. Should we then suppose Jesus was also married to Judas? The Gospel of Philip is also part of the Gnostic gospels which are widely discounted as accurate by scholars since the Gnostic gospels appeared long after the lifetime of Christ in much smaller numbers than the original four gospels. Not to mention the gospels contradict one another. So they can hardly be taken as factual evidence.

[2] Reader’s Digest, Atlas of the Bible, An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1981)

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