100 of 107 people found the following review helpful
Scholarly yet accessible on flawed historical claims,
This review is from: Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine (Hardcover)
"If Dan Brown had gotten all his facts straight, there would have been no compelling reason for me to write this book. But he didn't", concludes Bart D. Ehrman in his epilogue to 'Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code' (p. 189). Ehrman, also the author of 'Lost Christianities' (Oxford University Press, 2004), chairs University of North Carolina's Department of Religious Studies and is considered a leading expert on the life of Christ and the documents and practices of early Christendom. Having read (or rather devoured) Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' (Bantam Press, 2003), I found myself greatly in need of a historian's unbiased opinions on the historical claims made by the novel's fictional scholars. What sets Ehrman's effort apart from most of the other books written in critical response to Brown's novel, is the fact that his is not a Christian polemic. In a scholarly yet pedagogic way, the author takes the reader on a journey during which all the major claims of Robert Langdon and Leigh Teabing (and ultimately, one suspects, of Dan Brown himself) that are based on ancient, Middle Eastern documents, are thoroughly evaluated. (He does not, however, discuss claims relating to religious symbolism, art, rituals and architecture.) Ehrman skillfully deals with the various claims in enough detail to make it an enlightening read for people like myself, who are fairly well acquainted both with the New Testament and with the history of the ancient Church. At the same time, he studiously avoids getting too deep for his prime audience: the inquisitive and perhaps confused layman. The book is divided into two major sections; the first dealing with accusations hurled against Constantine the Great, Rome's first Christian emperor, and the second with what we actually know about the historical Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Ancient written sources refered to in 'The Da Vince Code', such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library, are dealt with at length. As a bonus, the reader is given a basic understanding of historical methodology in general, and how it pertains to early Church history in particular. Special emphasis is here given to the formation of the New Testament canon. For an analysis of religious symbolism and societies described in the novel, you must look elsewhere. To pull the carpet from under the feet of the novel's most serious accusations against the ancient Church, however, you need look no further.