Well, I'll offer my orthodox Jewish $0.02.
I can see very much how Roman Catholics might be (very) offended by the book. If this book had been written with a Jewish angle instead of a Roman Catholic one, Jewish groups (such as the ADL) the world over would be screaming bloody murder that it was libelous, anti-Semitic, etc.
Brown cleverly mixed in just enough facts (i.e. regarding the Christian makeover of various pagan symbols into symbols of evil) with his fiction to give the latter a veneer of plausibility. An undereducated/underinformed person could easily be led to believe some of the more outrageous stuff (i.e. Opus Dei buying its bishopric by bailing the Vatican out of bankruptcy, that the Church has murderously sought to suppress certain information, etc).
Also, I must fault very many of his references to Judaism & Jewish practices:
1) There were NO
“sacred prostitutes” in the First Temple in Jerusalem, as Brown wrote. Temple prostitution was a Canaanite practice. The Torah denounces such gross immorality. Such a charge (that there were “sacred prostitutes” in the Temple) has no basis whatsoever in any Jewish source.
2) The Hebrew word shekhinah
means "God’s presence" (and is a cognate of a root meaning "to dwell" & is related to the Hebrew words for "neighbor", the Biblical "tent of meeting" and, oddly enough, "mortgage") & is feminine.ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š (The Semitic languages, like the Romance languages, but unlike English, assign gender to all nouns). Shekhinah
God’s female consort, as Brown wrote. We believe that God is Wholly Other and, that as such, completely transcends the physical concept/construct of gender. Insofar as we, with our necessarily limited human understanding, perceive God and how He (I use the masculine pronoun simply because it is the customary usage, not because I attribute any particular gender to God) makes His presence felt in the world, we discern features/aspects that appear to be feminine or masculine, as the case may be. Accordingly, we see the shekhinah
as representing the more feminine side of God’s presence in the world.
3) Judaism does not, in any way, denigrate or disparage the role of women (as Brown insinuated more than once). A common (and very condescending) liberal fallacy is that because a traditional faith like orthodox Judaism believes that men & women are different and have different roles, that we necessarily believe that women are inferior; people confuse uniformity with equality & mistake the absence of the former for a lack of the latter. This is nonsense. Neither does orthodox Judaism deny/disparage a married woman’s sexuality; indeed, it is our view that satisfactory sexual relations are the wife’s right & the husband’s duty to meet that right & not the other way ‘round.
Still, I found Brown's comments on the pre-Christian/pagan spirituality of the act of sexual intercourse & communing with the goddess/feminine aspects of Divinity, very interesting.ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š This actually jibes with the orthodox Jewish view very nicely.ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Our Sages teach that when a loving & respectful husband & wife unite in the act of love that the Shekhinah
(which, as I noted above, represents more feminine side of God’s presence in the world) rests upon them and that they sanctify the physical act and invest it with holiness.
4) The idea that Jews living in Roman Gaul would have kept the genealogical lists of Mary Magdelene’s presumed descendants is also pure hokum. Brown said (based on what?) that she was from the tribe of Benjamin & hinted at her descent from the House of Saul. Big deal; who cares? In Judaism, tribal affiliation is passed in the male line only & the House of Saul was perpetually excluded by God from the kingship. Also, David’s royal line continued among the Jews of Babylonia until well into Islamic times (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exilarch
). Brown should know very well that Jews have never accepted Jesus’s presumed Davidic descent (no offense!) & to assert that Jews in Gaul would have is ludicrous.
5) Still, my wife & I found it to be a good whodunit conspiracy thriller and a fun read that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. That just generates more publicity & makes more even money for Brown. Learn from some Jewish groups' way overblown overreaction (which I didn’t agree with at all, by the way) to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ
6) The more we peer at DaVinci's Last Supper
, the more we are convinced that the disciple reputed to be St. John the Evangelist is a woman & not merely a youthful, possibly pre-pubescent, male.