Thursday, October 2, 2008

Da Vinci Code - history podcast review

Thanks to DIY Scholar, I found The Teaching Company a great source for educational audio. They have a huge repository of lectures you can enjoy in stream. In addition, a handful of these lectures are podcast. DIY Scholar already reported about the lecture about the extinction of the Dinosaurs (Are we next?). I would like to high light a double feature the company put in the feed.

Professor Bart D. Ehrman begins his lectures by saying Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is a fantastic page-turner and he repeats that a couple of more times. His lectures' object is, however, to evaluate the historic assumption upon which the novel is based. The inevitable conclusion is that the novel is mere fiction and its assumptions are unlikely (if not falsified) based on the available sources or merely unfounded at best. The first set of assumption evolve around the Nicene Creed and Emperor Constantine's influence in the course of Church History. Brown's claim Constantine directed the change and this involved a removal of the feminine from the faith appears false rather than unlikely. The second foot on which the novel stands, the possibility Jesus may have had offspring with Mary Magdalene is also torn down by Ehrman.

I was less impressed by the second refutation though. Ehrman's example of the Essenes, a celibate Jewish sect of the time, goes to show that Jesus might also have been celibate, but it cannot serve as a refutation of Brown's assumption that he wasn't. Hence, Jesus might have had relationships with women and might have had children and if so, why not with Mary Magdalene? A historian couldn't venture into that line of thinking without sources, but since the sources do not seem to exclude it, it is an excellent challenge for fiction to explore the supposition.

Personally I was hardly charmed by Brown's novel. A novel of similar subject and atmosphere, but much more to my liking was Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.

More DIY Scholar:
The blog you all should follow,
History 7b about Goldwater,
Philip Harland's podcast,
German Politics,
Samson, the conflicted hero.