Truth and Fiction in "The Da Vinci Code" Summary

Bart D. Ehrman

Truth and Fiction in “The Da Vinci Code”

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Since its publication in 2003, Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code has sat atop the New York Times bestseller list--and spawned several books debunking Brown’s controversial take on the origins of early Christianity. Many of these publications not only take issue with Brown’s claims but also promote various theological agendas. Bart D. Ehrman’s Truth and Fiction in “The Da Vinci Code”: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine is different. Instead of defending traditional Christian dogma against Brown’s unorthodox allegations, Ehrman looks at the novel from a purely historical perspective, meticulously separating fact from fantasy.

Brown’s novel raises many troubling questions about the people and events involved in the birth to the church. Did the ancient church conspire to transform the man Jesus into a deity? Did Constantine promote Christ’s divinity by selecting certain gospels for the New Testament canon? Was Mary Magdalene Jesus’ wife and the mother of his child? Has the church suppressed evidence of their relationship down through the centuries?

Ehrman, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, systematically examines each of these questions in light of the historical record. For the benefit of those who have not read the novel, he includes frequent quotes from Brown’s bestseller, particularly the words of Leigh Teabing, who is the main mouthpiece for Brown’s views. Ehrman’s masterful analysis of the four New Testament gospels, as well as Gnostic sources such as the gospels of Mary and Philip referred to in The Da Vinci Code, thoroughly discredits the allegations presented by main characters Teabing and Robert Langdon.

Going beyond the novel’s sensational assertions, Ehrman also explores first century Jewish culture and religious beliefs, the political and social milieu leading up to Constantine’s time, and the place of the feminine in the early church. His lucid, accessible study will appeal to those interested in early church history, as well as readers of The Da Vinci Code.