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Da Vinci, women & the film's new trailer

As I sifted through the seemingly endless stream of Da Vinci Code articles (believe me, there's plenty of it out there), I ran across two worth noting, both of which focus on women—one on women in the early church and the other on one in particular, Mary Magdalene.

First up, “Is Christianity Anti-Women?” is a new post by Beverly Roberts Gaventa (New Testament lit and exegesis prof at Princeton Theological Seminary) on Da Vinci Dialogue (the Sony-sponsored site where Christian scholars, educators and authors are posting essays addressing many of the historical and theological issues touched on in The Da Vinci Code). Gaventa addresses a supposition made in the novel that the “early church deliberately repressed women and excluded them from roles of leadership.” She counters immediately, saying “there is no need to resort to fiction to find places for women in the early church.” She highlights various prominent women in the Gospels and other New Testament writings, adding that their place in church history is authoritatively established:

. . . these writings early on become part of the church’s canon, which recognizes the presence of these women and their work as authoritative. And the writings become part of the canon because of their constant use in the churches–a bubbling up from pew and pulpit, not because of a decree from Constantine.
In other words, the prominence of women in the early church was a widely accepted practice, contrary to the novel's supposition. Gaventa readily admits that the role of women in the church today is far from settled: “Is the church’s treatment of women what we might like? Certainly not. The same could readily be said of most of human history. But,” she concludes, “Christianity doesn’t require Dan Brown’s imagination to find strong roles for women among its leaders.”

Next up is an article from Catholic News Service: Women speakers denounce as distorted Da Vinci Code depiction of Mary Magdalene. The article reports on a recent round-table discussion between four panelists at the Marianum Pontifical Theological Faculty in Rome. In general, the panalists agreed there is no scriptural evidence that Jesus and Mary were lovers, which is a key element in the plot of The Da Vinci Code. Even taking the Gnostic gospels into consideration, one panelist commented, the relationship depicted was one "spiritual intimacy," not a sexual relationship. Another panelist, a Catholic journalist who lectures on communications, said it was disturbing that the novel was succeeding so well. While it has given Catholics a chance to explain themselves, she said, Catholics clearly need to be better instructed in their faith. In addition, she said the church needs more widely published scholarship on the figure of Mary Magdalene—“something more profound than presenting her as ‘the icon of the fallen woman.’”

In other news, the film's new trailer is up and running. On the small-screen end, Jesus DeCoded (a Catholic-sponsored documentary) will be available to NBC-TV stations for broadcast in the third week of May 2006, to coincide with the film's screening. The documentary focuses on the first three centuries of the development of the church and carries interviews with scholars in Scripture, art and history in order “to separate Catholic truth from popular fiction.” If that’s still not enough for you, check out Business Weeks’ Leonardo Couldn't Dream Up Better Publicity, which looks at how the controversy surrounding the film is almost guaranteed to drum up ticket-sales.

And that's all for now (thank goodness).

(Image: BiblePicturesGallary)