Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code : A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine
In his staggeringly popular work of fiction, Dan Brown states up front that the historical information in the The Da Vinci Code is all factually accurate. But is this claim true? As historian Bart D. Ehrman shows in this informative and witty book, The Da Vinci Code is filled with numerous historical mistakes.
Did the ancient church engage in a cover-up to make the man Jesus into a divine figure? Did Emperor Constantine select for the New Testament--from some 80 contending Gospels--the only four Gospels that stressed that Jesus was divine? Was Jesus Christ married to Mary Magdalene? Did the Church suppress Gospels that told the secret of their marriage? Bart Ehrman thoroughly debunks all of these claims. But the book is not merely a laundry list of Brown's misreading of history. Throughout, Ehrman offers a wealth of fascinating background information--all historically accurate--on early Christianity. He describes, for instance, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls ; outlines in simple terms how scholars of early Christianity determine which sources are most reliable; and explores the many other Gospels that have been found in the last half century. In his engaging book, Ehrman separates fact from fiction, the historical realities from the flights of literary fancy. Anyone who would like to know the truth about the beginnings of Christianity and the real truth behind The Da Vinci Code will find this book riveting.
Ehrman, chair of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, has written widely on the subject of early Christian documents and the formation of the biblical canon. While acknowledging that Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is an exciting mystery novel, Ehrman questions some of its historical claims. Focusing on 10 areas of concern, including the role Constantine played in the formation of the both the church and the Bible and the evidence for Jesus' personal involvement with Mary Magdalene, Ehrman reviews the historical record and demonstrates that Brown's history behind the mystery is seriously flawed. Ehrman is not concerned with theology; he has no interest beyond that of the professional historian who wants to arm the everyday reader with sound research and helpful historical perspective. His is a documentary approach, avoiding speculation and theory. This tone distinguishes the book from many other responses to Brown's novel that uphold a particular theological agenda. Ultimately, Ehrman believes that readers should not try to learn history from speculative fiction. This is a very readable treatment of some difficult themes, such as the reasons for the exclusion of some early gospels from the canon and the enormous influence of recent archeological discoveries. Readers at every level will appreciate this book.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
March 30, 2006
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