for National Geographic Channel
The secrets in The Da Vinci CodeDan Brown's hugely successful best-seller, to be released as a Tom Hanks movie Fridayare hardly secret any more: Mary Magdalene was really the wife of Jesus, the novel says. The two had a child and their descendants walk among us today, the story goes.
According to Brown, the truth was suppressed by the Catholic Church but handed down through centuries by a secret society that included Leonardo da Vinci, who hid clues about the union in his paintings.
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While the novel has spawned a whole cottage industry of museum tours and books exploring the credibility of this claim, Brown himself has stayed largely out of the spotlight.
But in a 2004 National Geographic Channel documentary, Unlocking Da Vinci's Code: The Full Story, the reclusive author talks about his controversial theory.
"I began as a skeptic," Brown said. "As I started researching The Da Vinci Code, I really thought I would disprove a lot of this theory about Mary Magdalene and holy blood and all of that. I became a believer."
Most scholars interviewed in the documentary and elsewhere, however, say that Brown is relying on discredited sources and flimsy connections to make his bloodline theory.
Still, most experts concede that the Church suppressed some early Christian writings that may have differed from the version of events described in the Bible. They also contend that Mary Magdalene, while not married to Jesus Christ, was probably a lot closer to Jesus than most people imagine.
Gospel of Mary
Mary Magdalene is one of the most elusive figures in Christianity. She has been depicted as a prostitute, though there is no evidence in the Bible for that.
Instead, she was an intimate disciple of Jesus. All four gospels in the New Testament say she was present at both the Crucifixion of Jesus and the empty tomb on the morning of the Resurrection.
But neither the Bible nor any other historical text identifies Mary as the wife of Jesus. A married woman at the time would have gone by her husband's name, but Mary was referred to as being from the town of Magdala.
"This notion that she's talked about as being from this place indicates that she was independent," said Karen King, a history professor at Harvard Divinity School and a leading authority on Mary Magdalene.
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