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Mr. Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at UNC and is the author of Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew, which examines how and why certain texts did or didn't make it into the New Testament. So he was understandably intrigued by the phenomenal success of Dan Brown's megabestseller, The Da Vinci Code, which seemed to borrow from studies in his own field to great dramatic effect. However, when he sat down to read the book he discovered that while it is undeniably thrilling it is also terribly inaccurate, and inaccurate in such elementary ways that it inevitably raises questions about the author's motives. In this book-length rebuttal, Mr. Ehrman, probably wisely, shies away from the motivation issue and instead brings his guns to bear on just the factual mess that Mr. Brown made. Here is a list of errors that Mr. Ehrman quickly drew up for his publisher:
Some Factual Errors in The Da Vinci Code

1. Jesus' life was decidedly not "recorded by thousands of followers across the land." He didn't even have thousands of followers, let alone literate ones (p. 231).

2. It's not true that eighty Gospels "were considered for the New Testament" (p. 231). This makes it sound like there was a contest, entered by mail...

3. It's absolutely not true that Jesus was not considered divine until the Council of Nicea, that before that he was considered merely as "a mortal prophet" (p. 233). The vast majority of Christians by the early fourth century acknowledged him as divine. (Some thought he was so divine he wasn't even human!)

4. Constantine did not commission a "new Bible "that omitted references to Jesus' human traits (p. 234). For one thing, he didn't commission a new Bible at all. For another thing, the books that did get included are chock-full of references to his human traits (he gets hungry, tired, angry; he gets upset; he bleeds, he dies...).

5. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not "found in the 1950s" (p. 234). It was 1947. And the Nag Hammadi documents do not tell the Grail story at all, nor do they emphasize Jesus' human traits. Quite the contrary.

6. "Jewish decorum" in no way forbade "a Jewish man to be unmarried" (p. 245). In fact, most of the community behind the Dead Sea Scrolls were male unmarried celibates.

7. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not among "the earliest Christian records" (p. 245). They are Jewish, with nothing Christian in them.

8. We have no idea about the lineage of Mary Magdalene; nothing connects her with the "house of Benjamin." And even if she were, this wouldn't make her a descendant of David (p. 248).

9. Mary Magdalene was pregnant at the crucifixion? That's a good one (p. 255).

10. The Q document is not a surviving source hid by the Vatican, nor is it a book allegedly written by Jesus himself. It's a hypothetical document that scholars have posited as having been available to Matthew and Luke, principally a collection of the sayings of Jesus. Roman Catholic scholars think the same of it as non-Catholics there's nothing secretive about it (p. 256).
All of these and many more are addressed in the book. You'll have noticed that many of the errors are so absurdly obvious that were this all Mr. Ehrman did his book would be overkill--a case of hunting flies with an elephant gun--but along the way he takes advantage of our attention to provide a genuine history of early Christianity that is quite fascinating in its own right.

We may never know why Dan Brown's book is so deceitful but Mr. Ehrman leaves no doubt that it is just a pastiche of lies. That he entertains and informs us in the process of administering a thoroughgoing debunking makes his book a pleasure to read.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Bart Ehrman Links:

    -BART D. EHRMAN (Chair, Department of Religious Studies, UNC)
    -Bart D. Ehrman (The Teaching Company)
    -INTERVIEW: The Dan Brown Code (LISA PAUL STREITFELD, 11/21/04. NY Times)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Theologian Bart D. Ehrman (Fresh Air, 12/17/03)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Listen to Bart Ehrman, author and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discuss some early forms of Christianity and the value of reading ancient texts not found in the New Testament. (Decipherinmg the Da Vinci Code)
    -TRANSCRIPT: "The Da Vinci Code" (CNN, September 27, 2004)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with Bart Ehrman about Lost Christianities (Deborah Caldwell, BeliefNet)
    -REVIEW: of Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine By Bart D. Ehrman (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW: of Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code (Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty)
    -REVIEW: of Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew By Bart D. Ehrman ( Daniel J. Harrington, America)
    -REVIEW: of Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew (Steve Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW: of Bart D. Ehrman (trans.), The Apostolic Fathers. Vol. I: I Clement, II Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Didache. (Benjamin Garstad, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: Decoding The Da Vinci Code (Michael Gleghorn, Probe)
    -AUDIO: Decipherinmg the Da Vinci Code (Speaking of Faith, NPR)
    -ESSAY: The Da Vinci Code�quest for a relevant Christianity (Steven R. Harmon, Biblical Recorder)

    -The North American Patristics Society: an organization dedicated to the study of the history and theology of early Christianity.


Like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

- oj

- Feb-14-2005, 07:12


I think that the main mistake is to consider "The Da Vinci Code" as an history textbook, when it is only a quite entertaining fictional novel

- César Álvarez

- Feb-14-2005, 05:14