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About The Book

Dan Burstein on the
Mary Magdalene Phenomenon

The Da Vinci Code phenomenon is clearly winding down after three years of dominating book publishing, book selling, and bestseller lists. Dan Burstein, Co-Editor of the newly-published Secrets of Mary Magdalene (September 2006)—and previously the editor of the New York Times bestselling Secrets of the Code—was asked to comment on the popular culture’s interest and fascination with Mary Magdalene. Since so much of the interest appeared to be a byproduct of The Da Vinci Code phenomenon, will readers continue to want to talk about and read about Mary Magdalene? Below are excerpts from a commentary Burstein wrote for Publisher’s Weekly.

Dan Brown discovered the Mary Magdalene phenomenon and wrapped it into the heart of the Da Vinci Code plot, which made the new discussion about Mary Magdalene much better known and more accessible to many people. But the last half century's steadily growing interest in Mary Magdalene is rooted in American and global culture much more deeply than it is in The Da Vinci Code or other pop novels.

Of the nearly three dozen experts we used as authors and contributors for our book, Secrets of Mary Magdalene, almost all of them were writing and speaking about Mary Magdalene long before the publication of The Da Vinci Code in 2003. Many were involved and continue to be involved with spiritual, theological, intellectual, archeological, historical, and artistic quests to come to terms with Mary Magdalene. The roundtable of experts we brought together for our book as well as for a remarkable Secrets of Mary Magdalene documentary DVD, included people like Elaine Pagels, Susan Haskins, Jane Schaberg, Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, Deirdre Good, and Lesa Bellevie, all of whom published books and articles or created web sites and art exhibitions on aspects of the Mary Magdalene debate not only before The Da Vinci Code in 2003, but in some cases as early as the 1970s. (Elaine Pagels' seminal work, the Gnostic Gospels, was first published in 1979; Susan Haskins' book is from the 1990s, as is much of Margaret Starbird's work that Dan Brown borrowed heavily from).

Scholars and literary figures including Robert Graves and Nikos Kazantzakis were interested in new interpretations of Mary Magdalene more than half a century ago. And of course, the Nag Hammadi trove of alternative gospels and lost scriptures (these documents, discovered in 1945, date at least from the third or fourth century and probably earlier), has revolutionized contemporary theology and secular study of the Christian experience. These documents include the fascinating Gospel of Mary Magdalene with its references to secret, intuitive, spiritual knowledge; the Gospel of Thomas, with its eastern-sounding principles of self-knowledge and self-discovery; and the tantalizing Gospel of Philip with its references to Jesus kissing Mary frequently on the (mouth) and Jesus favoring Mary most of all his disciples and conveying secret knowledge to her. There is a reason why U.S. celebrations of Mary Magdalene's official saint day (July 22) have increased from a handful to hundreds over the last decade, and it has almost nothing to do with The Da Vinci Code.

Most of those deeply interested in Mary Magdalene found The Da Vinci Code an interesting read, but superficial or even trivial. Indeed, some of our experts represented in our book dismiss The Da Vinci Code as portraying Mary Magdalene as nothing more than "Mrs. Jesus" and the two thousand year saga of Mary Magdalene's identity theft as nothing more than a story about an elitist aristocratic bloodline. The new thinking about Mary Magdalene occupies a much more profound cultural space at the multi-dimensional intersection of:

  • the new interest in gnosticism and other ancient beliefs,
  • the new search for the oftentimes repressed feminine traditions at the heart of ancient pagan religions and their applications to the modern world,
  • the search for new spiritual identity and meaning in contemporary times,
  • new appraisals of the role of sex and sexuality in history and how people choose to live today,
  • the evolving gender roles assumed and assigned not just by the Catholic church but by most faiths and denominations, as well as secular culture,
  • and everything we see happening not only in the changing mainstream religions, but in trends like the new interest in Kabbalah, Wicca, alchemy, the occult, and new age lifestyles.


In short, Mary Magdalene is a heroine to many, many people whose involvement in spiritual and cosmological journeys goes way beyond the pages of The Da Vinci Code.

The Untold Story of History’s Most Misunderstood Woman

Publication date: September 17, 2006
384 pages with 16 page full color insert
ISBN: 1-59315-205-1

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dan Burstein, please contact: Lottchen Shivers, 845,876-8791,