"JESUS, MARY AND DA VINCI": EXPLORING CONTROVERSIAL THEORIES
ABOUT JESUS, MARY MAGDALENE AND THE HOLY GRAIL
RAISED IN THE BEST-SELLING NOVEL, "THE DA VINCI CODE"
THE SPECIAL EDITION OF "20/20" AIRS WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4
"The Da Vinci Code" has sparked a vigorous debate by raising a number of provocative questions -- most notably, was the historical Jesus really a married man? Could he have even been a father? Do his direct descendants still survive today? In the ABC News special "Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci," which originally aired last November, Elizabeth Vargas investigates these and other controversial "what-ifs" presented in the best-selling novel that has both intrigued and enraged millions of readers. "JESUS, MARY AND DA VINCI" -- a special edition of "20/20" -- airs WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.
Editors, please note: This release replaces the version issued July 19.
Vargas talks with author Dan Brown in his only extensive television interview on the topic, and also with an array of scholars from both conservative and more liberal backgrounds. These include those who hold open the possibility that Jesus was married, as well as outspoken skeptics like Darrell Bock, author of the best-selling "Breaking the Da Vinci Code," and Umberto Ecco, the novelist who has often made fun of theories that Brown takes seriously.
"The Da Vinci Code," a mystery novel that claims to be based in part on historical fact, contains theories that Mary Magdalene may have been Jesus' wife, that she fled Jerusalem for France following His crucifixion carrying their child - and that she, herself, was perhaps the true Holy Grail. According to this theory, the descendants of Jesus married into French royalty and to this day the bloodline of Jesus and Mary runs through the French aristocratic families. This story, it is said, was protected and perpetuated for centuries by a secret society that included some of the most famous men in history, including Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton.
Vargas travels to the Holy Land, Italy, Scotland, France and other locations to investigate what evidence exists to support some of these extraordinary claims in an effort to separate fact from legend. Among those she speaks with are religion and art history scholars, as well as a Scottish aristocrat who says he thinks his family married into Jesus' bloodline in the 12th century.
Vargas finds plenty of disagreement among theologians and historians about whether there is any evidence to suggest that Jesus was married. One thing several of the authorities do agree on is that Mary Magdalene's portrayal as a prostitute is attributable to a case of mistaken identity, and her importance may have been grossly understated -- or, as some charge, purposely suppressed by the Church. "There's no factual basis for that longstanding tradition that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, a woman of ill repute," says Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame University. "Mary Magdalene is one of the greatest saints in the history of the church."
Elizabeth Vargas anchors "Jesus, Mary and da Vinci." Rudy Bednar is the executive producer. Jeanmarie Condon is the senior producer. Yael Lavie is the producer and Jenna Millman is associate producer.