Sharan Newman is a medieval historian who lives somewhere in Oregon, where I also reside. She is the author of The Real History Behind The Da Vinci Code, which she wrote, her website explains, to meet "the needs of the curious non-partisan" by being "completely unbiased by religious opinion." Sounds to me like she has a bias against bias — especially Christian bias. As though all Christian books about The Da Vinci Code are filled with errors caused by "religious bias." Thank goodness for non-religious non-bias!
Anyhow, a news piece about Newman reports that she hopes readers keep in mind that The Da Vinci Code is fiction.
Not that she agrees with the book's premise that Jesus Christ had a child by Mary Magdalene and that his bloodline survives to this day.
But knowing these claims are unsupported by historical evidence did not take away her enjoyment of the book. She hopes other readers will treat the novel's plot devices with a pinch of salt, too.
'When I first read it, I kept putting little notes in the margin, about...'this is definitely wrong'. But after a while, I got into just the story of the murder mystery...that I enjoyed,' said Ms Newman in a phone interview from her home in Oregon in the US.
But if the novel is just a murder mystery and a work of fiction, why did Newman bother to write a book debunking it and go so far as to visit "the places mentioned in The Da Vinci Code, such as the Louvre in Paris and Westminster Abbey in London"? She says:
'There are definite discrepancies. In terms of just geography, I wouldn't try to take the book and actually go anywhere in Paris because that's completely inaccurate,' said Ms Newman, who also writes mystery novels set in mediaeval France.
She also found numerous factual errors in the novel - such as Godefroi de Bouillon being called the king of France when he was only a duke.
Not that such errors aren't significant, one some level, but I don't think that most of the furor surrounding the novel has been generated by an American novelist failing to correctly identify dukes and other assorted members of European royalty. As the article notes:
The Da Vinci Code has sparked outcry from Christians around the world for its controversial claims.
Describing herself as non-religious, she said: 'I really don't look at it from a religious point of view because religion is faith, and faith is what you have when there's no proof.
'I think that certainly, as a writer, I wish the Vatican would condemn a book of mine, because it does wonders for sales.'
Did I mention that Newman and her book are completely free of bias? Not that I'm unhappy that a medieval historian has taken the time to debunk some of the historical errors in The Da Vinci Code. But I should point out — in a very biased, faith-filled and therefore proof-less way — that The Da Vinci Hoax was co-authored by Sandra Miesel, a medieval historian. And that it has been endorsed by Catholics (Francis Cardinal George and Dr. James Hitchcock, for example), Episcopalians (Dr. Philip Jenkins), Evangelicals (Marvin Olasky and Dr. Darrell Bock), and even some atheists. And, yes, we do have a bias, as we've happily admitted before on this blog.