I finally got around to reading The Da Vinci Code. It was an intense page-turner. I finished it in one day.
But suspense and cleverness aside, I had some problems with the “factual” setting of the story. The author set up the premise that there is a body of knowledge that academics know about the history of Christianity that the folks in the pews don’t know. The problem is that some of the things that presumably are in this set of academic knowledge are in truth fringe speculation among academics. While there are non-canonical gospels that indeed to suggest that there was a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdeline, there is no reason to think that these gospels stretch back to any authentic historical tradition about Jesus. The Gospels in the Bible are 1st century; the Gospel of Philip is 3rd century.
I wrote a bit on USENET back in 1996 about some of these “gospels”.
I found a couple of factual mistakes in the book: the suggestion that there are non-canonical gospels among the Dead Sea Scrolls and the statement that Havva is the “proto-hebraic” name of Eve. I’m not quite sure what “proto-hebraic” means and how anybody would know a word from a non-surviving language, but Havva is the plain Hebrew word for Eve.
After reading The Da Vinci Code, one would do well to get a really academic history of Christianity to flush out all the misinformation.
[Edited 8/16/05] I watched a program entitled The Real Da Vinci Code on the Discover Channel. I was surprised to learn that the book is even more misleading than I had at first realized. For example, some of the documents the book relies on are admitted hoaxes, and the Priory of Sion never existed.