Friday, May 19, 2006

Gratitude for those who engage the Da Vinci Code

I don't think I have anything of interest to contribute to the discussion of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. I have not read the book and have absolutely no intention of doing so; it's just so far down my list of fiction that I'd like to read that I can't imagine ever being in the position to find the time to read it. On occasions like this, I tend to be quite grateful when a film comes out because then I only need to waste a couple of hours on something that someone with a better imagination than me has read and converted into a film for me. And I just love the cinema. My guess is that on this occasion I won't get round to going to see the film, though, because the reviews are not positive and a certain perverse desire to miss the big event kicks in. It was nice to be able to say to one of the dads at my kids' school this morning that I was not planning to go and see it.

I am not particularly proud of that perverse desire to stand outside of the big cultural event (if you can call it that), though, because I think it's fantastic that so many of my colleagues in the guild have taken the time not only to read the book but to engage the historical claims made in it. In other words, I am really grateful to those like Bart Ehrman who have provided an interested public with some proper history, not least because it is always so important that we take seriously our task to communicate the methods, results and conclusions of our scholarship to a wide public.

This is the biggest pop cultural event relating to early Christian history since the release of The Passion of the Christ just over two years ago. It has been interesting on this occasion to be on completely the other side of the fence. On that occasion, I couldn't get enough of it, the film, the media buzz, the scholarly reaction and over-reaction, as this blog testified. Goodness, I even went out of my way to sneak into a vicars-only preview screening. My interest at the time eventually let to an article on it, and I have another one in preparation. The difference for me was that I have always been fascinated by Jesus films, and the prospect of a new one was very exciting; I was the same about The Miracle Maker in 1999 and will be the same about future ones, good, bad and ugly. So getting stuck in, blogging about it, writing about it, etc., was never difficult. This makes me all the more impressed with those of my colleagues who have engaged the Da Vinci Code since few, if any, have any kind of love for the genre or for this specific piece. So this is a public thank you from a representative of those who did not have the energy to engage this book.

7 comments:

Whit said...

Mark, you said, "I even went out of my way to sneak into a vicars-only preview screening." As part of your further Americanization, we in the Episcopal Church here use that term a little differently than you all do in the U.K. Here, a vicar is the priest in charge of a mission (that is a church that receives financial support from the diocese or is too small to be a parish. The priest in charge of a parish is a rector. I am both rector and vicar because I'm in charge of a parish and a mission church. Lastly, if there was such an event here, it would probably be called a clergy or pastor only event, since the majority of our clergy are from denominations with no such terminology. We do however love The Vicar of Dibley! By the way, I have read the book and will see the movie. I am engaged constantly in discussions about it with my congregation.

crystal said...

About the Da Vinci Code, there was much frenzied blogging among the Catholics (like myself) on the subject ... I kind of enjoyed the flying fur :-)

Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...

Mark,

I too dreaded seeing the film this last Friday. I had heard awful things about Hanks acting. However, I did see the film (only because I had to make a presentation against it this Sunday morning) and Hanks was not too bad. I liked the acting it was first rate - the subject matter was lacking but acting good.

Best
Joe

Brian said...

The fuss made over the book does the film a disservice - went to see it almost by chance on Saturday. Entertaining, quite well-done at parts, Hanks' acting is fine and the whole thing probably deserves some better reviews across the board. Could be confusing for those who haven't read the book (like me) unless they know something about the various topics involved (like me). Based on the film, I am saving the book for the next time I am pinned down in bed by a bad cold.
Brian

Anonymous said...

Prof. Goodacre wrote: "I am really grateful to those like Bart Ehrman...." I have few hard and fast rules in life, but one is to read whatever Prof. Ehrman writes. Curious to know if Profs. Goodacre and Ehrman have crossed paths now that their universities are approximately 15 miles apart. Prof. Ehrman has been doing amazing work in making scholarly discussion accessible to interested general readers like me. Also curious to know if he ever sleeps given his deluge of books since 1999 or so. Maybe Prof. Goodacre could inquire and post the answer here? :-)

Bob Derrenbacker said...

Mark,
The only good reason to see Davinci Code is to catch the trailer for Casino Royale...
Bob D.

Anonymous said...

The Davinci Code film was a disappointment.It neither entertaining nor mind opening.The book itself don,t deserved such huge attention and publicity!