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Thursday, April 14, 2005


Eric Giunta


With all due respect, I think you need to chill out.

The program was excellent, and went out of it's way to refute what Brown wrote in his book. What's your prob?

It seems that so many orthodox Catholics are not pleased with any secular presentation on religion that doesn't jump out at you and say "Catholicism is the true religion! Become Catholic!"

Your book was wonderful; in all truth, this program probably reached more people, but you've basically been vindicated by NBC.

It was a very balanced program; of course they featured the dissenrters. The last word was always given to those who propunded the orthodox view, however.

Cut 'em some slack.


It was a well-groomed commercial for an adult fairy tale that a lot of lost souls think is the gospel-truth-with-a-small "t". If I was gullible, Stone Phillips' delivery could sell me anything... apparently this is what the producers are counting on, as dissing Catholicism is still permitted, and there is big money to be made.

Carl Olson

Eric: "Chillin' out" from you is, well, humorous. But thanks for the advice. I'll file it away somewhere....

Carl Olson

Eric: Sorry, not chillin' out quite yet. I have to address your comment: "It seems that so many orthodox Catholics are not pleased with any secular presentation on religion that doesn't jump out at you and say 'Catholicism is the true religion! Become Catholic!'" That's absurd and it only shows that you're not paying attention. I don't expect NBC to urge people to become Catholic and attend daily Mass. The issue is that "Dateline" pretends to be a reputable journalistic program. But the program the other night had little to no journalistic value or integrity. It spent 50-55 minutes breathlessly asking if TDVC could be true, using all sorts of 'B' level nonsense: dramatic music, breathless voiceovers, shadowy shots of Catholic churches, etc. No Catholic biblical scholars were interviewed. One decent biblical scholar, Ben Witherington, was interviewed, but didn't get much air time. People could have read one of my articles in ten minutes and learned many times over the info given in the segment. Just like the November 2003 ABC primetime special (hosted by a Catholic, Elizabeth Vargas), it was utter crap. To say it was "excellent" or "balanced" is befuddling at best. Sorry for being so damned passionate about the truth and so irritated that horse dung is treated like a priceless diamond. Guess I have a problem with hack authors being treated like geniuses by hack journalists. Bottomline: this nonsense sells and the major networks know it.

Okay, back to the chillin' thang...

Eric Giunta


Did we watch the same program?!

Every single claim made by "The Code" was refuted, and the program made clear that the majority of scholars reject these claims, even as it interivewed only a handful of experts, most of whom dismissed the Code's claims as rubbish.

Again, all the major claims of the "Code" were refuted. It obviously didn't go into a lot of detail, but I don't think anyone was expecting an exhaustive refutation from a 50-minute prime-time program. For that, they should go to your book.


The ABC special a year ago was a completely different animal. It actually made it sound as if the claims made by Dan Brown could actually have some plausibility, and even featured dissident Catholics like Father McBrien to "prove" this.

I don't see, by any stetch of the imagination, that anyone could say Dan Brown was treated as a "genius."

The show's transcript can even be found online here:

You find me what you find objectionable. I leave it to your readers to judge.

I'm no fan of MSNBC; but I give them their props when it's due. I think you should also.

Eric Giunta

Pardon me; I forgot that you had already linked to the transcript. We really are talking about the same show?!

Eric Giunta

For instance, after giving Starbird her say, the program notes:

"*Most scholars* and of course the Catholic Church refute the notion that the scene in the garden suggests anything intimate between Jesus and Mary."

I could go on, but we get the point, I think. Again let your readers judge.

Carl Olson

"Every single claim made by "The Code" was refuted."

Not even close. Not that it would be possible in a 45-minute program. But here are a few major claims (there are dozens of smaller claims) that NBC never bothered to address:

1). Nobody, not even His followers, believed Jesus was divine until Constantine "made" Him divine at the Council of Nicaea.
2). Emperor Constantine revised and edited the Bible and destroyed all of the other "eighty gospels."
3). Every major Christian doctrine was stolen from existing pagan beliefs.
4). The "gnostic gospels" are more historically reliable and present a more believable, human Jesus than do the canonical Gospels.
5). The Templar Knights were murdered by the Church.
6). The Catholic Church launched a "smear campaign" against Mary Magdalene and outlawed her name.
7). Leonardo da Vinci was a "flamboyant homosexual" who feared the Church but still managed to accept "hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions" during his life.
8). Five million "witches" were killed by the Catholic Church between 1400-1500.

I'll stop there, for the sake of some brevity and to make one other point: a major problem with the "Dateline" piece is in how the wingnuts and conspiracy theorists are given the majority of the time and how the refutations of their ideas, while there, are soft, clipped, and piled on at the end as almost an afterthought.

Even worse, the alleged marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is never denied. And the presentation on this important point is seriously biased:


And, as for the book's claim that a married Jesus makes infinitely more sense than our view of Jesus as a bachelor, scholarly opinion is mixed.

Elaine Pagels: "It's certainly true that most Jewish men got married and Rabbis in particular. And it could well be that Jesus was married.

Witherington: "It was the norm and it was normal that Jews got married. Were there a lot of notable exceptions? Absolutely there were. And Jesus could be one."

But one thing scholars agree on is this: nowhere in the New Testament or in any other Christian teachings does it spell out whether or not Jesus was married. That's because it never happened. But for others, that silence is rich with possibility.

King: "If there were any definitive piece of evidence that Jesus and Mary were married, it would have been told many times."

Phillips: "That's a secret that would not have kept."

King: "What we really have is silence, and silence is pregnant with many kinds of meaning."

But what if there was a reason for that silence, a truth, says "The Da Vinci Code," that if revealed, was far more threatening to the church than a marriage?


Well scholarly opinion might be "mixed," but if it is, it is 98% against and 2% for. Even John Dominic Crossan mocks the notion that Jesus was married. That's because there is plenty of evidence that Jesus was not married, but none is given in the "Dateline" piece. There is also the Church's belief that Jesus is married to the Church, His Bride--that point, which is really at the heart of this entire discussion, is never brought up. On and on and on it goes.

Finally, of course Dan Brown is never called a "genius." But when Stone Phillips starts off by marvelling at Brown's "mind-bending thriller," what impression is being given?

Eric Giunta

Carl, I later qualified my remarks by saing that the *major*, or primary controversial claims made by the Code were refuted by the Dateline special.

You're going to fault them because they didn't take the time out to read your entire book out-loud for 50 minutes? Obviously they weren't going to address *every* claim of the Code. But everything that was brought up, was refuted.

Regarding the marriage of Jesus:

I read over the excerpt you posted, Carl. If anything, the presumption is in favor of the fact that Jesus was not married. This seems clear to me.

The Special was not perfect by any means, but I still believe that your criticisms are way over-exagerrated.

Carl Olson

Eric: Obviously we are going to have to agree to disagree about a number of things, including what constitutes a "major claim." But I hope you agree that the claim that prior to A.D. 325 NOBODY believed that Jesus was divine is a serious claim. I think it is THE major claim of the book. But the MSM never talks about it. Instead, it's all about Jesus and MM being married. Which shows, I think, a strong proclivity to sensationalism over scholarship. Put bluntly, they go groin matter, not grey matter.

Sandra Miesel

Eric, are you working from the transcript or from viewing the actual show? The presentation by time allotted to the different arguments, by tone of voice and facial expression of the host, by probably editing of the rebutters' comments, by the continual repeating of marriage thesis, the long, loving pans over Old Master art showing a lushly beautiful Mary Magdalen, the average viewer would be more willing to believe Brown than the brief, casual denials by the host. This is the way visual media works!
DATELINE has given us insight what readers of TDVC find most interesting--a sexually active Jesus. This is the only way he can be "human": in the eyes of many moderns, even Catholics. And that's a sad discovery.

Eric Giunta


I did watch the actual show. Obviously the "marriage thesis" was constantly repeated; it's the main thesis of Brown's book, and the spring from which all his other erros flow! It wasn't affirmed, however.

And so far as I can tell, the published transcript correlates exactly to what wwas said on the show: no more, no less.


"But I hope you agree that the claim that prior to A.D. 325 NOBODY believed that Jesus was divine is a serious claim. I think it is THE major claim of the book."

A serious claim? Sure. THE major claim? Doubtful. Read any plot summary of the book; ask the average viewer what the main book's thesis was, and plainly it is the whole marriage/blood-line claim.

I would agree with you that the Dateline special was not at all exhaustive as a refutation of the Book's claims.

But it's overall orientation was pro-Christian/Catholic, or at leats anti-Brown. To refer to it in any way as an "infomercial" for Brown's book is just calumny.

Are you just sore about the fact that neither you or Sandra wers invited to speak on the program? I admit that this is itself something of an injustice, seeing as how you two wrote wwhat is b yfar the book's definitive debunking. But really, get over it.

Carl Olson

Eric, I'd probably have more patience with your comments/criticisms if you didn't make condescending remarks like, "But, really, get over it." Can't we simply argue as adults and skip the high school level snarkiness?

I'm not surprised that "Dateline" didn't bother to contact us, even though they were given our names and contact information. Frankly, I'm surprised I ever made it on MSNBC and (to a lesser degree) FOX, simply because it's not common in MSM Land to give orthodox Catholics air time. When it comes to my criticisms, what you see is what you get.

Sandra Miesel

As you well know, Amy Welborn was brought to NY to be taped for the show and not used. Neither was a female prof from Harvard Med School who belongs to Opus Dei. For my part, I'm glad I wasn't invited because I could not have endured a visit to NY. Stop making personal assumptions about us.
The show was demonstrably an infomercial. It was also a cunningly designed lead-in to NBC's apocalyptic miniseries.

Eric Giunta


Do excuse me if I was in any way uncharitable. I meant that remark tongue-in-cheek; yet another drawback to online blogging. Sometimes it's difficult to get subtle nuances across, which would otherwise be apparent in face-to-face communication.


"It was also a cunningly designed lead-in to NBC's apocalyptic miniseries."

I think this goes without saying.

Carl Olson

Thanks, Eric, for the clarification. Now, I do hope we can agree that "Desperate Housewives" cannot compare to "House" when it comes to writing, acting, and moral content. ;-)


I came here because I'm an old friend of Sandra's and a fellow medievalist; and because I've been interested in the subject ever since I vivisected HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL in a review back when it first came out.

Someone posted the first few paragraphs of TDVC in a language forum I belong to, and a friend of mine destroyed Brown's credibility in an analysis of the first couple of sentences. Is she a devout Catholic? An expert on Renaissance art? No--she's a former museum curator herself! She pointed out, for example, that there is no such thing as a "famous curator;" any curator with fame got it for his scholarship, not his curating. And he was well past retirement age. (So is my friend, but she still pops into the British Museum on a daily basis to catalogue the Hoxne Treasure). So it looks as though, theology and history aside, Brown doesn't even have a firm handle on his contemporary setting!

Carl Olson

Dan Burstein, editor of the horrible Secrets of the Code, actually insists that Brown's novel is more accurate with ancient events, people, ideas, etc. than with contemporary ones. Which, if you spend .00001 of a second thinking about it, makes absolutely no sense.

Sandra Miesel

Well, if Burstein turned that around and said that Brown is even more inaccurate on modern stuff than on ancient and medieval, he'd have a point. Examples: besides location problems of sites in Paris, Brown is woefully off in his description of the Templar Church in London, doesn't know EU passport laws, thinks brass ribbings are done with charcoal sticks, thinks Harvard never wins rowing competitions against Oxford (there's no overall "Oxford" team in the first place), thinks lemon and milk can be used together in tea, thinks huge paintings can be easily removed from musem walls, etc. etc. Dumb mistakes! Dumb!

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