N.C. professor challenges ‘Da Vinci Code’

Azka Khan

It wasn’t Tom Hanks or Dan Brown who starred at the Veroni Lecture series last night. Instead, the lecture, which discussed the truth and fiction in The Da Vinci Code, starred Bart Ehrman.

The lecture was sponsored by the department of philosophy and the humanities.

“We wanted a scholar in the humanities that would give a scholarly approach to a widely popular subject,” said David Odell-Scott, professor and chair of the philosophy department.

Ehrman’s lecture discussed seven points from The Da Vinci Code that he finds to be fiction.

He said his first issue with the book begins on the inside cover, where Brown states that everything in the book is accurate.

According to Brown, Ehrman said, there were 80 gospels vying for a spot in the New Testament. Ehrman said it could have been 80, or maybe even 800 gospels, but there is no evidence of any number.

Ehrman also said he disagreed with Brown’s claim that some of the gospels that did not make it into the New Testament are more reliable than those that did.

“In fact, the first four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the most historically accurate,” Ehrman said. “Before the gospels there was the Dead Sea Scrolls, and those are Jewish texts and, therefore, do not give historical context about Christianity.”

Ehrman said although Brown credits Roman emperor Constantine for calling Jesus divine, Christians had been calling him divine long before.

“Jesus once said that, ‘I am divine and you are debranches,'” Ehrman joked.

He said the book portrays Jesus as a divine being and not a man, adding that this was already established in historical contexts.

Ehrman also challenged Brown’s idea that Jesus’ being single was contrary to Jewish customs of the time.

“Many Jewish sources say that men at that time were single and celibate,” Ehrman said. “There were actually communities made up of single, celibate men.”

Ehrman said there was no indication in the gospels of Jesus being married to Mary.

“There is no reference to this statement in any gospel, and Mary was never mentioned in the gospels,” Ehrman said. “There is an old text that refers to Jesus kissing Mary.”

Ehrman was quick to point out that at this time in history “kissing” was a Christian ritual that meant one had received the word of God.

Ehrman said that Mary was only mentioned once in the gospel of Luke because Mary and many other women gave money to Jesus and his disciples. If Mary was the wife of Jesus, he said, she would have been given another name in the gospels to distinguish her as such.

Ehrman ended by saying that he did not pay much attention to The Da Vinci Code until he began getting questions about the book.

“It is a novel and a work of fiction, not a history book, and that is important to keep in mind,” Ehrman said.

Ehrman is the author of several religious historical novels, including his recent book titled, Truth and Fiction in ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ Ehrman is also a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I always tell my students that if they want to know about the Holy Grail, they should watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” Ehrman said. “Not read this book.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Azka Khan at [email protected].