As a writer and an historian, I’m always interested in the way history can be squeezed into unusual and compelling stories. For example, in 2003 author Dan Brown released a mystery-thriller called The DaVinci Code. [Sidebar: Dan Brown has a pretty cool website for a writer. Check it out at www.danbrown.com]
Not only did The DaVinci Code become an international bestseller, in 2006 it became a very popular movie starring Tom Hanks (now available on DVD if you have not seen it). Readers and viewers (including myself) became so engrossed in the plot that it was easy to overlook its basic premise, which was (are you ready?) that Jesus married Mary Magdalene.
This was not a new concept. I first heard the story in a medieval history class. Jesus, according to legend, did not die on a cross. He was not buried in a tomb from which he became the first man to rise from the dead, and the founder of a major world religion. No. According to the legend, Jesus eloped to Gaul with Mary Magdalene and together they founded the Merovingian Dynasty. From a certain perspective, it only makes sense that if you are trying to unite territory under your own personal control; you need to have a better reason than “my army is bigger than yours.” Perhaps not a better reason, but an additional reason for the peasants to hold you in awe. For example, it’s generally useful to be related to God. “Don’t obey me because I will kill you if you don’t. Obey me because my ancestor is God.” Point being, the story about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Merovingian Dynasty has been around a long time.
I suggest Dan Brown heard about the story, and wondered how it might have played out. Warning: if you don’t know the ending, stop reading. The final plot point in the novel is when the heroes discover the enemy (a guy named Teabing) is trying to prove that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and that they had children, because, that would mean Jesus was not crucified and therefore did not rise from the dead as proclaimed by the Catholic church and its various Christian derivatives. [Sidebar: This would, naturally, destroy the Vatican or at least cause it great embarrassment. On the other hand, since the Vatican has international standing and is a major tourist destination, I, personally, think it could still stay in business.]
I share this information for two reasons. First, Dan Brown is a very astute writer. He took a legend, and wondered what would happen if it was true. He wrote a really terrific book. He sold the movie rights. Thus, Dan Brown is a hero to many writers.
Second reason. Have you heard the news? A historian at Harvard Divinity School authenticated a tiny piece of papyrus from the fourth century. According to her translation of the original Coptic, there is a quotation “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’” [See full story at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?pagewanted=all.] So, were the Merovingians truthful? Is Dan Brown’s story true? Is the world really flat? It’s all a matter of perspective.
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.