Picks and Pans Review: War of Words

updated 05/31/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/31/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Da Vinci Code Backlash

The Da Vinci Code,

Dan Brown's hit religious thriller, has sold millions of copies, but that doesn't mean all those readers are fans. The book's controversial portrayal of Jesus—in Brown's book Christ marries Mary Magdalene, has children and isn't declared divine until some 300 years after his death—has created a cottage industry of Christian rebuttals. "Documents from the 1st century show Jesus was regarded as divine," argues Professor Darrel Bock of the Dallas Theological Seminary, author of Breaking the Da Vinci Code. "And we have no evidence he was married."

But isn't Code just a novel? "Brown gives the impression that the fiction is fact," says Chicago pastor Erwin Lutzer, who added The Da Vinci Deception to the anti-Code canon. "It strikes at the heart of the Christian faith." Adds journalist Richard Abanes, author of The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code: "It is terrifying to see someone so misrepresent truth and then have people believe it."

Brown's reaction to the flap? No comment. But his Web site notes that while his book is fiction, he thinks its ideas "have merit." Hollywood is behind him: The book has just been optioned for the screen by director Ron Howard. "I'm disappointed," says San Diego pastor Jim Garlow, coauthor of Cracking Da Vinci's Code. But not too worried. In a few years, Garlow says, it's the Bible that "will still be the bestseller."

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