Luke Timothy Johnson and Bernadette Brooten —
Deciphering the Da Vinci Code

The wildly popular novel turned movie reimagines the New Testament, in part, as a cover-up. What really happened in the fluid early years of Christianity? What is the truth about Mary Magdalene? We separate fact from fiction in the story's plot with two New Testament scholars who say that the story is simpler and much more interesting than conspiracy theories suggest.

Share Episode

Shortened URL


is R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

is Kraft-Hiatt Professor of Christian Studies at Brandeis University, and Program Director of The Feminist Sexual Ethics Project.

SoundSeen (our multimedia stories)

Scenes of the Early Christian Church

This audio gallery features a photographic landscape of places associated with early Christianity. Image accompanied by the Kronos Quartet performing Franghiz Ali-Zadeh's "Oasis." (Flash required)

Many Faces of Mary Magdalene

View the changing perspectives of Mary Magdalene depicted in art over the centuries.

Selected Audio

Unheard Cuts

Bart Ehrman and Luke Timothy Johnson discuss early forms of Christianity and the value of ancient texts.

About the Image

At the digital exhibition "The Da Vinci Code Museum," in Tokyo, Japan, visitors view a life-sized projected image of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper."

Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

Episode Sponsor

Share a Reflection



Deciphering the Davinci Code
How did present day women develop a skewed idea of women in early Christianity? Orthodox Christianity was found under a controversial and diverse process that was formed into a definitive measure of which we gauge our morality. Canonization began refining the scriptures into a specific view of who Jesus might be. Jesus' character began to become a gateway of obedience towards God and a symbol of humility to people who believed in him. There was an ability to understand Jesus throughout the scriptures from a variety of ideas that gave us more understanding. Gnostic writings did not just define Jesus to the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It gave an older and broader view of the unrefined original meanings in texts about Jesus. The new Testament was closed off to the interpretation about women, there was a capacity to authority and functionality of women that was part of the culture in the second century. It began to be interpreted incorrectly as the role of women in society changed, leaving the role of women in the Bible a modern misconception.

Mary Magdalen was suggested to be one Jesus' closest comrades and most influential followers. Bernadette Bruten proved a biblical cover-up that indicated that women in the early church were relatively uninfluential and subordinate characters. Rather, scholars had translated hesitantly about women and often manipulated the texts to be more popular to the people that would be reading it. She proved that there were women in the early Jewish synagogues and leaders in pagan practices and even within the church who were influential leaders.

Luke Timothy Johnson's take on the generation gap between the insight of living faith and the communal educational process has created some contradictory practices. The new writings coming out as non canonical texts seems to strike a notion that Christianity is something we have made up. It is hard to discredit that there is a level of narrative when there has been so much influence fluxed by the interpreters and translators of original texts.

Mary Magdalen was proclaimed a woman who was close and important to Jesus. The ways in which she has been interpreted have varied from a proud and respected apostle to a vulnerable and secret lover of Jesus. This is something that opens our eyes to all interpretations of the Bibles texts, and the true meaning behind the words in scripture.

I have heard a bit of this stuff before.

But I still think it is radical that his followers were the illiterate not the educated well off. As most faiths are the opposite, geared for those who have access to knowledge. Not those who have never had the access.

I also think it would be cool to find out more about who did what of the Bible and other faiths. Since we know so little.

I also think it is crazy who like the spanse of time it was written in. How much it jumped. And was really accurate. That's just amazing.

Reply to Thread