Monday, May 22, 2006

Bad History

Razib of the Gene Expression has a good post on why the Da Vinci Code is historically inaccurate. He's uncomfortable having to agree with the fundamentalists, but sides with truth.

That being said, why does it matter that The Da Vinci Code is historically inaccurate? Some readers might view it as fantasy, but the problem is that it is billed as historical fiction (see the preface to the book). 45 million Americans have read this book, that's 20% of the population. A small minority, on the order of millions, claim to have had their view of the Bible and Christianity altered. This is nothing to sneeze at, if a new religious movement claimed millions in a few years we would take note.

For me, the biggest problem with The Da Vinci Code is that the fundamentalists are right! All the critiques that the fundamentalists make about The Da Vinci Code have a lot of truth in them, and when I'm agreeing with fundamentalists, something is wrong. It puts them on the same side as the majority of Biblical scholars, and that hasn't happened in a long time. Instead of "refuting" scholarly debunkings of the inerrant or literal character of the Bible, fundamentalists are now drawing from the wellspring of New Testament scholarship to debunk a rival superstition.

Among the many historical inaccuracies, he lists:

1) Christians did not overwhelmingly believe Jesus Christ was human before the Council of Nicea

2) The Council of Nicea had little to do with what books were included in the New Testament

3) There were celibate Jewish males around the time of Jesus, and if they were celibate they were very likely to have expressed the opinions that Jesus himself expressed (in other words, basic conditional probabilities here, even if Jewish males were unlikely to be celibate at this time, Jewish males who expressed the religious opinions that Jesus reputedly did were far more likely to be celibate than the basal frequency)

4) The Dead Sea Scrolls say nothing about Jesus (though they give us an interesting glance into the minds of radical Jews of the time)

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