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Holy Blood, Holy Grail

With the explosion of popularity attributed to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, it can be easy to overlook the fact that this fictional account was not the first to assert an alternative theory for the true meaning of the Holy Grail, and Jesus’ own historicity. Indeed, in 1982 a non-fictional account by Michael Baigent (whose surname may look familiar to readers of the Code, as it is an anagram for Teabing, the name of Brown’s protagonist), Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln proposed a very similar theory. In fact, the authors felt the theory was so similar they decided to take Brown to trial on the matter, although the case was later dismissed.

The Story

According to the book, there is historical evidence that Jesus: 1) survived the crucifixion; 2) was married to Mary Magdalene; and 3) with her, had one or more children. These children, the authors claim, would later relocate to France where they would become the Merovingian dynasty. The secret of their holy bloodline, or the Holy Grail, would be kept by the ancient brotherhood of the Priory of Sion.

Indeed, the authors delve into considerable detail concerning the origins and goals of the Priory, which they claim:

  • Has a history dating as far back as the First Crusade;
  • Is led by a Grand Master;
  • Is what eventually created the Knights Templar;
  • Sought to protect the dynasty’s descendants, who they believe were either actual descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, or at the very least, King David;
  • Believed that the dynasty and its supporters were killed off by the Roman Catholic Church in an effort to maintain the supremacy of the apostle Peter and the Church itself;
  • Had the goal of restoring the Merovingian dynasty, which they believed would become the “Holy European Empire” and introduce a new world order as well as a messianic mystery state religion through the revelation of the Holy Grail

The book became an immediate bestseller, although its conspiratorial claims did not fail to attract considerable negative attention within both religious and academic communities. Certain countries with a population comprised of a Catholic majority, including the Philippines, even chose to ban the book altogether.

Reactions to the Book

Although the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail seem to present the facts about the Priory of Sion as being precisely that, they later retracted the veracity of their arguments, stating that they only intended to present a hypothesis.

In general, their theory – if not all the facts presented in the book – was widely discredited by scholars and historians. Indeed, literary and scholarly critics claimed the book would have been better labeled as a work of fiction. (Of course, the fact that Dan Brown’s novel fell under this category did not stop it from suffering a similar backlash.)

The Church, for its part, vehemently denied the assertions made by the authors.

Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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