Last week, Catholic Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone urged Catholics to not read “The Da Vinci Code,” saying it was full of “cheap lies” and that it aims to “discredit the Church and its history.” Cardinal Bertone is a close friend and advisor to the Pope.
Now, I’ve read “The Da Vinci Code.” Maybe it’s because I’m not Catholic, but I didn’t see what the big deal was. It was OK, but nothing to write home about. I’ve read a couple other Biblicly-themed thrillers (Richard Ben Sapir’s “The Body” and Warren Murphy’s “Quest,” to name a couple ones I particularly enjoyed), but I didn’t see the big deal.
But if Cardinal Bertone wants to extend his authority from Catholic theology to literary criticism, I suggest he turn his gaze first to his own organization’s primary publication — the Bible. There are a few things in there that could use a little attention and clarification, if not outright correction.
(Author’s note: at this point, this piece could very well veer into Catholic-bashing, and even general Christian-bashing. In fact, it most likely will. With that in mind, I’m going to stuff it in the extended section, so readers who would rather not see it can easily avoid it.)
First off, Cardinal, let’s look at the Book of Exodus. In particular, Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Later scholars have pretty much agreed that “witch” was a mistranslation; it should have been “poisoner.” Now, killing poisoners is something most of us can agree on. But would you care to retract that, and issue some kind of apology or pardon for all those “witches” who have been tortured or killed over the centuries in the name of this verse? I think the only people who would be upset would be a few merchants in Salem, Massachusetts, who make a good living off the city’s historical witch trials.
Secondly, let’s look at the Song of Songs (also known as the Song Of Solomon). Chapter 7, Verse 2 reads “Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.”
Now, I’ve read that in ancient Hebrew, vowels were omitted from written versions. And further, the words for “navel” and “vagina” are indistinguishable when written, as they differ only in their vowels. Which body part do you think is more likely to referred to by a lover as “a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine?” I tell ya, if MY lover had a navel that produced liquids, I’d rush her to the hospital.
Finally, Cardinal, let’s look at the New Testament. Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke give the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-16, Luke 3:23-38). Matthew traces Jesus from Joseph through King David back to Abraham, while Luke goes all the way back to Adam. But here’s the odd part: in the middle, they don’t agree. (PDF of Excel spreadsheet Download file“>here.) Which is correct, or somehow are they both correct?
Cardinal, when you can answer these questions about your own book, then I’ll listen to your criticisms of others — especially since “The Da Vinci Code” is labeled as fiction, while yours is plugged as “the infallible word of God.”