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Is Elaine Pagels a Fraud?

Princeton University professor Elaine Pagels is widely quoted in the media as an expert on early Christianity; she is often a sympathetic advocate in favor of bogus documents about early Christianity, whether those bogus documents be ancient (such as the so-called Judas Gospel) or modern (such as The DaVinci Code). Jesuit Paul Mankowski, in his essay "The Pagels Imposture," suggests that Pagels' reputation for expertise is undeserved. Dissecting a Pagels passage about Ireneus (an early church father who wrote an essay against heresies), Mankowski shows that "Pagels has carpentered a non-existent quotation, putatively from an ancient source, by silent suppression of relevant context, silent omission of troublesome words, and a mid-sentence shift of 34 chapters backwards through the cited text, so as deliberately to pervert the meaning of the original." If the Mankowski essay is accurate, then there does appear to be reason for readers to be cautious about presuming the accuracy of the rest of Pagels' writings.

Steve:
I hardly think playing fast and loose with a single quotation is enough to make one "a fraud." If that were the standard, we would have to conclude that Prof. Bernstein, Prof. Zywicki, et al. are all frauds, and I just don't think that's fair.
5.1.2006 11:40am
ox:
Usually, we don't accuse people of fraud over a single instance of academic disagreement. At most, Mankowski has shown a mistaken interpretation and suggested that there are other more ambiguous examples. That's not much on which to hang an accusation of fraud, especially against someone with such a long and distinguished career. I'm not saying that Pagels is immune from criticism, or that someone couldn't make out a case of fraud. But this sort of thing shouldn't be done lightly. Here, it smacks of poltiical disagreement. You don't have to like what Pagels writes, but this post is a not so carefully worded smear.
5.1.2006 11:48am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Right. If you're going to play "gotcha," best have lots of examples. Otherwise, the implication is that the critic can't face Pagels on the merits.

(Haven't read a word of Pagels &have no desire to do so, just by way of disclaiming any interest in defending her in particular.)
5.1.2006 11:58am
BJ (mail) (www):
What is this about "a single quotation"?

Mankowski's charge is that the instance he discusses is just one EXAMPLE of a PATTERN. Note his statment "The Gnostic Gospels, like those portions of Pagels's later work with which I am familiar, is chock-full of tendentious readings and instances where counter-evidence is suppressed. [emphasis mine]"

Now it might be fair to ask where Mankowski himself (or others he can cite) provides a fuller catalog of these alleged abuses. And if he is unwilling or unable to do so, he does indeed deserve censure. But it does not accurately represent him to claim that he is basing his entire case on a single instance or that he is doing this lightly.
5.1.2006 12:03pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
Of course she's a fraud. She wants to destroy the sanctity of the Bible -- those are the actions of a fraud. She wants to undermine the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. She's an academic liberal. But I repeat myself.
5.1.2006 12:04pm
SLS 1L:
I agree with the posters who think a single instance of mistaken interpretation does not a fraud make, but I would go further because you are mistaken in kind, not just degree. Pagels would be a fraud if she had claimed credentials she doesn't possess, claimed to have read historical documents she fabricated or never read, etc. Even an entire career of egregiously bad scholarship is not the same as fraud.

This kind of baseless attack undermines your credibility. Call Pagels incompetent or ideologically driven, but don't accuse her of fraud unless you have evidence.
5.1.2006 12:13pm
Cheburashka (mail):
If it weren't for fraud there wouldn't be an academic left.

I don't know why anyone is still shocked, shocked! to find gambling in the casino.
5.1.2006 12:15pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Now it might be fair to ask where Mankowski himself (or others he can cite) provides a fuller catalog of these alleged abuses.

Glad you've caught up, BJ. It's one thing to claim that the State Dep't is full of Reds; it's another thing to produce the list.
5.1.2006 12:33pm
Tim DeRoche (mail) (www):
I'm skeptical of Mankowski's take. At the end of the article, he dismisses Pagels as a "lady novelist" and then compares her - unfavorably - to romance writer Barbara Cartland.

Pagels may indeed be making stuff up to support her own theories...but Mankowski hardly seems like a dispassionate observer.
5.1.2006 12:38pm
Riskable (mail) (www):
"Pagels has carpentered a non-existent quotation, putatively from an ancient source, by silent suppression of relevant context, silent omission of troublesome words, and a mid-sentence shift"

Sounds like The King James Bible! It also bears resemblance to today's widespread Christian beliefs. Such as the anti-abortion stance and referring to Mary Magdalen as a whore (neither of which are spelled out as such in The Bible).

Seriously, why should the nuances of religious myth matter so much? If I had a bible that said Jesus was a woman, would it be any more or less credible than a King James bible? No! Religious texts are not historical references. Pagels could say that Jesus was an albino and had gills. Would it make any difference?

We're talking about a character in history that probably didn't exist. Evidence suggests that the stories and parables from the Bible were stolen from earlier religions such as Zoroastrianism. It is a jumble of "what to do" anecdotes wrapped in nonsense from a time before science and enlightenment. All passed down from generation to generation via brainwashing techniques, FUD, and good old fashioned genocide of the opposition.

-Riskable
http://www.riskable.com
"I have a license to kill -9"
5.1.2006 12:39pm
Gordo:
The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction, pure and simple, appropriate for an Indiana Jones-type movie, and not much more.

The Judas Gospel is a legitimate early Christian document. If it is a fraud because Judas himself didn't write it, then the Gospel of John is a fraud, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are probably frauds, and the Gospel of Mark was written by a senile old man who might have forgotten a lot of stuff.

I haven't read anyone who seriously claims that Judas actually wrote this gospel. The question is whether it represents an oral tradition that goes back to the days of the resurrection. And even if not, it certainly represents a very early viewpoint on the Judas issue that deserves to be taken seriously.

Dismissing the Judas Gospel as an "ancient fraud" without elaboration sounds like something Pat Robertson might say, not a contributor ot the Volokh Conspiracy.
5.1.2006 12:45pm
Gordo:
So now we are going to take as gospel (pardon the metaphor) words attacking Pagel from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome Italy?

That would be like taking as gospel the testimony of a gun manufacturer on weapons control legislation.
5.1.2006 12:50pm
SLS 1L:
Gordo - I hadn't noticed that, but amen.
5.1.2006 12:53pm
Some Lurker:
So by "fraud", you mean "not an apologist for my particular flavor of christianity"? Because then I'd have to agree with you.
5.1.2006 12:58pm
ox:
More and more, I think this post should be updated or withdrawn. The comments supporting it above are not reflective of the academic standards generally upheld by this blog. The claim strongly imputed in the post is unsubstantiated by the evidence cited for it. No one is saying that Kopel or Mankowski should pull any punches, but this is hitting below the belt.
5.1.2006 1:04pm
Chukuang:
Of course she's a fraud. She wants to destroy the sanctity of the Bible -- those are the actions of a fraud. She wants to undermine the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. She's an academic liberal. But I repeat myself.

Smithy's posts are just so ignorant and absurd I keep thinking they have to be jokes. But then there's the website. Could anyone possibly devote so much time to maintaining such a carefully crafted village-idiot persona? Couldn't be.

So, enlighten us, Smithy, what do you think about the Bible? Literal truth? What translation do you use? Or do you think God just magically makes it appear in all languages? Did he just make a lot of mistakes, hence the numerous contradictions and redundancies? Do you avoid mixed fabrics? Do you keep Kosher?

I never cease to be amazed that SOME (but certainly not all or even a majority of) Christians have such a problem with treating this set of texts just like we would treat any other historically bound set of texts. They can still contain important truths, but don't we better understand those truths by understanding the way they have come down to us today? Should we also cease all archeology that doesn't support a literalist reading of the Bible? Does faith not only have to be separate from reason but do active battle with it on all fronts at all times? That's just sad.
5.1.2006 1:08pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Gordo: Great ad hominem argument. If it's okay with you, I'd like to use it as an example in future courses I may teach.

The work of Pagels -- popularized analyses of Gnosticism -- that I've read has been tendentious crap. Her attempts to portray the Gnostics as a finer version of Christianity than the more orthodox tradition leave out little points like Gnosticism's often strident anti-semitism (the Demiurge of the Old Testament == Satan); the misogyny of many Gnostic thinkers (debates over whether women in fact had souls); and the elitism of many forms of Gnosticism (only the intellectual elite - which in Classical times meant elements of the ruling elite - would have the trained intellects that were needed to achieve salvation).

Her assertions that late 2nd and 3rd century writings with obvious Neo-Platonic influences are somehow truer to the Jewish-based teachings of Jesus and his disciples (including Paul who wrote in the period immediately after the death of Jesus and is the earliest source writing about Jesus's teaching) are absurd on their face.

Anyone who doubts the historicity of Jesus is right up there with Holocaust deniers: The man is contemporaneously referenced in Josephus, Tacitus, and the Babylonian Talmud, among other contemporaneous, non-Christian sources.
5.1.2006 1:17pm
Steve:
Anyone who doubts the historicity of Jesus is right up there with Holocaust deniers

I nominate this for the most sickening argument of the day.
5.1.2006 1:24pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The claim strongly imputed in the post is unsubstantiated by the evidence cited for it.

Oh, but Prof. Kopel wrote "Is Elaine Pagels a Fraud?", so it's okay. You can say anything about anybody if you just phrase it as a question: "Are Democrats Traitors?", "Is David Kopel Obsessed with Guns?", "Is Anderson a Snarky Hack?", etc., etc.

AppSocRes certainly echoes my understanding of Gnosticism, tho anti-Semitism and misogyny would be hilarious grounds for a Jesuit to cite. As for Jesus's existence, I think someone once said that the evidence for Jesus is at least as good as that for Socrates, and nobody denies that Socrates existed.
5.1.2006 1:28pm
marghlar:
Count me as one commenter who won't be so quick to dismiss Mankowski's argument on this one. We aren't talking about an innocent mistake here -- we are talking about a fabricated quote, with made-up words, ripped out of context and conflated as if it were one statement.

If I read that in a scholarly paper, I would instantly lose a lot of respect for the author. It takes a fair bit of effort to do something like that, and it doesn't just happen by accident -- note that she cited her own quote as "conflated."

No, it doesn't damn everything else she's written, and yes, it would be worthwhile to see a list of his other allegations. But why the unwillingness on this thread to say, "Wow. That's a pretty bad thing for an academic to have done..."?
5.1.2006 1:30pm
quihana:
To this amateur reader, it seems that Fr. Mankowski's claims regarding Dr. Pagels' arguments are unsupported by the evidence he supplies. Pagels' reading is interpretive - but that's what historians do, interpret. The conflated quotation is noted as such, and while Mankowski makes much of the way she's presented it, he overstates the case. Pagels seems to be making general claims about the theological politics of the day - Mankowski chides her for citing examples that have specific referents, as if generalities were not built from aggregating specifics. If he's cited "not ... the worst example of its kind but ... among the most unambiguous" Pagels can rest easy.

The Gnostic Gospels was written for a popular audience; a certain amount of compression and streamlining, which would be inappropriate in a scholarly journal, are useful and normal in this kind of work. One final thought: given the high profile of Pagels' work, and the tendentious territory it treads in a densely populated field, how likely is it that pervasive, egregiously "creative" scholarship would have escaped notice until now?
5.1.2006 1:30pm
The Human Fund (mail):
I could be wrong, but I don't think that AppSocRes' argument is really all that sickening. I think he is simply saying that from an historical perspective, it makes as much sense to deny the holocaust as it does to deny the existence of Jesus. He's not calling people who deny the existence of Jesus Nazis.
5.1.2006 1:32pm
SLS 1L:
Steve - indeed. Time for Godwin's Law.

AppSocRes's comparison is inappropriate because the problem with Holocaust denial is not just that it's been thoroughly refuted. The problem is that it's a cover for anti-Semitism and an attempt to spin the genocidial murder of 12 million people as not such a big deal. No intellectual error can compare merely by virtue of its inaccuracy or even dishonesty. To be comparable to Holocaust denial, it has to be motivated by hate comparable to anti-Semitism (which opposition to Christianity usually is not).
5.1.2006 1:34pm
Gordo:
AppSocRes: You've missed my point entirely.

I have no opinion on the Gnostics - I haven't read enough about them, and frankly I'm not that interested in them. I do know enough that they represent a strain of early Christianity that didn't hold up. The Judas Gospel is at worst a gnostic work, which gives it some interest as an early Christian interpretation of the Resurrection story.

If, however, the Judas Gospel was written before A.D. 200, and there is no conclusive proof either way at this point (despite your dismissive statements to the contrary), then it becomes almost contemporaneous with the Gospels that were accepted into the New Testament. It is well-accepted by all but true Biblical literalists that the Gospel of John was put to pen at least 100 years after the Resurrection, and Luke and Matthew pretty clearly were written well beyond the possible life span of the tellers of the tale. Also, I make no claim that the Gospel of Judas is truer than the accepted Gospels - I only claim that it raises some interesting questions about Jesus' last days on Earth before he returned to his disciples.

And since when did I doubt the historicity of Jesus? I don't know of any serious scholars who deny his existence. And, as a practicing Episcopalian, I go quite a bit farther than that.

As for my swipe at Paglia's inquisitor, I make no apology for questioning Fr. Mankowski's motives in writing his poisonous piece. The Catholic Church's intolerance for any intepretation of scripture, or any deviance on the pronouncements of the Bishop of Rome and his followers, is nothing but contemptuous.
5.1.2006 1:35pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

AppSocRes's comparison is inappropriate because the problem with Holocaust denial is not just that it's been thoroughly refuted. The problem is that it's a cover for anti-Semitism and an attempt to spin the genocidial murder of 12 million people as not such a big deal. No intellectual error can compare merely by virtue of its inaccuracy or even dishonesty. To be comparable to Holocaust denial, it has to be motivated by hate comparable to anti-Semitism (which opposition to Christianity usually is not).
Opposition to Christianity isn't the same as denying the historicity of Jesus Christ (or Jesus of Nazareth, if you prefer). I agree that Holocaust is often driven by anti-Semitism--but I've run into people who seem to want to deny the Holocaust (or at least its scale) because they refuse to believe that people could be so evil. If you believe that humans are fundamentally good, then I guess the Holocaust is pretty hard to accept.

As another commenter points out, the historical evidence for the life of a man named Jesus of Nazareth is comparable to the historical evidence for the life of a great many men in the ancient world, such as Socrates. I don't think most people have any idea how few actual written documents we have from the classical period. Most of what we are relatively recent reproductions of those documents. It is astonishing how many Greek playwrights we know about only because of references to them--but with either no surviving plays, or only fragments of those plays.
5.1.2006 1:52pm
Randy R. (mail):
I have read Paglia's book about the Gospel of Thomas. It was well researched and well reasoned, and gave balance to many other interpretations. It was not a screed by any means. Now, since I am not a scholar, I can't tell you whether her research was indeed accurate, but there were extensive footnotes for all her quotes and arguments.

What it did do, however, was give me greater depth of knowledge about a crucial period of history, and examined the motives of many of the players. She was careful to show that none of the players were 'evil' or had some ulterior motive -- they were human beings who had certain goals in mind, primarily the survival of the church at a critical time.

So, an argument of fraud is a strong one, and it requires strong proof. Bring it on, of course, and let us decide. But the critical issue for me, is that even through there might be errors, are the errors so egregious that her entire thesis is wrong? Most historical books I know contain several errors, but the overall picture is rarely doubted. People may argue about the interpretation of history, but it's very rare for someone to say that a historian's interpretation is way off the mark and of no substance whatsoever. If that is what the critics are alleging, then they must proof extensive proof.
5.1.2006 1:54pm
Grover_Cleveland:
AppSocRes wrote:


Anyone who doubts the historicity of Jesus is right up there with Holocaust deniers: The man is contemporaneously referenced in Josephus, Tacitus, and the Babylonian Talmud, among other contemporaneous, non-Christian sources.



None of those sources are "contemporaneous" with Jesus. Josephus wrote in the last decade of the first century; the Babylonian Talmud and Tacitus both date from the second century. What's more, all of the suposed references are heavily problematic. The main Josephus reference has clearly been subject to Christian interpolation of some sort (the earliest Christian commentators such as Origen fail to mention it, and there is a reference to Jesus as the Messiah when we know from the rest of his writings that Josephus was clearly not a Christian). Tacitus erroneously gives Pilate's title as "Procurator" rather than "Prefect", and the Talmudic reference is not clearly about Jesus at all and disagrees on several points with all other sources of informaton about Jesus (it claims that his trial lasted forty days rather than part of one evening, and names five disciples wholly at variance with the traditional lists of twelve given in the Gospels.

Here are some links to get you started: Josephus, Tacitus, Talmud
5.1.2006 1:57pm
Mahlon:
When did we, as a society, become tolerant of intellectual dishonesty? When did it become acceptable to twist history, or someone's version of it, to advance an idealogy? I have not read any of Pagel's work, nor any of Mankowski's criticism of her work. The merits of the debate are not that relevant. What is relevant is the trend that we are seeing on a societal level.

Allow me to assume that Mankowski's criticisms are valid. I have no problem with anyone picking and choosing, mixing and matching, verbiage in texts to make a point. Lawyers and preachers do it all of the time. (It's remarkable how similar the two professions really are. Next time you're in church, listen carefully to how the preacher explains why you're going to burn in hell. Sounds like the building of a legal argument to me.) With lawyers and preachers, however, we are almost always cognizant of their bias. They both act as advocates.

In intellectual discourse (an admittedly vague term), we must all insist on a higher standard - intellectual honesty. If you want to rearrange text to support your view, either note that you are doing so, or at least do so in a manner which makes it clear that you are doing so. Once you stray from the path of such honesty, you debase not just your argument, but the entire debate.

That is not to say that Ms. Pagel (again assuming all of her alleged sins to be true) must forever be branded with a scarlet letter. She can redeeem herself, if only through heightened scrutiny over time. We cannot, however, give anyone a free pass if it is clear that some level of intent was behind the error.

(By the same token, I do not think anyone should be crucified for failing to follow perfect attribution form, as long as proper credit is given.)

We have Jayson Blair and Ward Churchill as notable examples of late. Why is this happening? Is the practice any more prevalent now than in the past, or are we now simply better able to catch the frauds?

I am also troubled by the use of the word "expert." Just what is the threshhold which one must cross to be elevated to such a status? It seems that too many people claim such status for them all to be true experts. Is technology enabling such claims?

Perhaps these points are far afield from the debate, but I find them more relevant.
5.1.2006 1:58pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Gordo writes:


It is well-accepted by all but true Biblical literalists that the Gospel of John was put to pen at least 100 years after the Resurrection, and Luke and Matthew pretty clearly were written well beyond the possible life span of the tellers of the tale.
Hmmm. I've read that one fragment of the Gospel of John (generally agreed to be last of the Gospels) has been found used as mummy wrapping from an 100-125 AD Egyptian tomb. This would suggest that it was already in circulation by that point--and suggest that the other three Gospels were in distribution considerably earlier.
5.1.2006 1:58pm
KeithK (mail):
An earlier commenter (Riskable) made the statement that Jesus probably didn't exist: We're talking about a character in history that probably didn't exist. Invoking the Holocaust was probably an inapt way to make the point that it is generally accepted that the historical figure Jesus did exist. Whether or not you believe in his teachings is a different matter.
5.1.2006 1:59pm
Sydney Carton (www):
"But why the unwillingness on this thread to say, "Wow. That's a pretty bad thing for an academic to have done..."?"

Isn't it obvious? Anything that attacks Christianity is a good thing (even if it's a fabricated quote). You watch. This thread will degenerate into bashing Christianity in no time.
5.1.2006 2:00pm
CJColucci (mail):
What is a "bogus document about early Christianity," and what makes such documents, if ancient, any more "bogus" than any other contemporaneous document about early Christianity? Obviously, the gospel of Judas wasn't written by Judas, in which respect it is indistinguishable from Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, but it is nearly as old as many presumably non-bogus documents. Equally obviously, the viewpoint expressed in the gospel of Judas didn't prevail in the early struggles between contending Christian factions, but we already knew that. Assigning "truth" to one of these sets of documents over another is simply a category mistake. One side won. End of story. Still, it's always interesting to see how things used to be even if the verdict of history won't change.
5.1.2006 2:00pm
Tim Sisk (mail) (www):
Pagels was often referenced when I in seminary (I graduated from Candler School of Theology, Emory University). My impression was always that she was waa-ay to sympathetic to gnostics but her research was an important resource.

But her status as a scholar was completely blown for me after watching NGC's The Gospel of Juas. At the conclusion of the program the "scholars" were giving their last thoughts on the discovery when one of them said something (I'm paraphrasing from memory) "The Gospel of Judas tells us a lot about 3rd and 4th Century gnosticism (-me: for that was when the document was carbon-dated) but nothing about Judas or Jesus.

Quick edit to Pagels who said (I thought quite haughtily) "While this document is from the 3-4 century you can't say that earlier copies don't exist". And I thought, gee, if a Yale professor can't the logical falliablity of proving a negative, then Yale really has problems other than its Taliban problem.
5.1.2006 2:09pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Mahlon asks:

When did we, as a society, become tolerant of intellectual dishonesty? When did it become acceptable to twist history, or someone's version of it, to advance an idealogy?
I'm not sure that it has ever been intolerant of it. What has happened in the last few years is that people outside of the academy are now in a position to get the word out when they catch an academic engaged in massive falsification of sources, and force the academy to admit that they have scoundrels in their midst.

Back in 1965, an historian named Poulshock published The Two Parties and the Tariff in the 1880s which made extensive use of documents that did not exist—and could not exist.
Poulshock relied upon little more than his febrile imagination. He engaged in almost no archival research but instead fabricated hundreds of quotations and statements, including correspondence between some people who never lived and some politicians who were long dead, all dreamed up to give substance and structure to his argument and all dressed up in the most respectable, though thoroughly deceptive, scholarly garb. His footnotes, especially, looked like models of careful annotation, seemingly providing all the information any reader might ever require. Moreover, not content with merely citing his spurious sources, Poulshock often larded his footnotes with learned suggestions pointing to new avenues for study so as to impress any and all with his unrivaled mastery of the material. Ironically, it was one of those authoritative musings on a subject I was working on which eventually led to his exposure.
After the fraud was exposed, Syracuse University Press withdrew the book, and Poulshock was very quietly disgraced—quietly enough for him to go back and get a Ph.D. in Sociology, and become a professor again. (The same institution that awarded him a Ph.D. in History based on this fraud gave him a Ph.D. in Sociology.)

This scandal never made it bigtime because the academic community really doesn't object to fraud, as long as it furthers their political goals. Thus, when I first raised the flag about Michael Bellesiles's falsification of sources in Armed America, historians circled the wagons, doing their best to protect him.

Eventually, the pressure from both Internet distribution of the information, and Professor Lindgren's published work (not an historian, but a law professor was hard to ignore), eventually forced the academy to look at the problem. Their criticism of Bellesiles's integrity was polite, but devastating—and he "resigned" a tenured position at Emory University.

The fact is that fraud in academic circles is widespread, to serve the left's political purposes. (If there were any significant number of rightists in academic circles, there would probably be similar fraud for that purpose as well.) There is a lot of work that, if the evidence isn't strong enough to call it fraud, you can at least call it substandard work, unfit to be called academically rigorous.
5.1.2006 2:17pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
CJCollucci writes:

What is a "bogus document about early Christianity," and what makes such documents, if ancient, any more "bogus" than any other contemporaneous document about early Christianity? Obviously, the gospel of Judas wasn't written by Judas, in which respect it is indistinguishable from Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, but it is nearly as old as many presumably non-bogus documents.
Judas is supposed to have killed himself very shortly after Jesus's crucifixion--so he would have had little time (and no reason) to write a "Gospel." Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, were not in quite the same position.

Now, it could be that Mark, Luke, Matthew and John didn't really write the gospels that bear their names. It is at least possible. But to suggest that the Gospel of Judas is just as likely to have been written by Judas as the Gospels of Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John implies that Judas didn't commit suicide shortly after the Crucifixion.
5.1.2006 2:21pm
alkali (mail) (www):
Now, it could be that Mark, Luke, Matthew and John didn't really write the gospels that bear their names. It is at least possible.

To be clear, the titles of the canonical gospels are traditional ones, not titles given by their authors. None of the various gospels purport on their face to have been written by any particular person.
5.1.2006 2:41pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
(1) I nominate this for the most sickening argument of the day.

Oh, pooh. Exaggerated, but sickening? Steve wins the "most pompous rebuttal of the day" award.

(2) As for my swipe at Paglia's inquisitor

[Shudder.] Pagels. Actually, a book on the Gnostics by Camille Paglia would be a romp---much moreso than the screeds by her onetime mentor, the self-professed "Gnostice Jew" Harold Bloom.

(3) Quick edit to Pagels who said (I thought quite haughtily) "While this document is from the 3-4 century you can't say that earlier copies don't exist".

Tim, don't force any analogies between formal logic and archaeology. Why would the copy we happen to stumble upon also just *happen* to be the earliest copy ever? If anything, it would seem *more* likely that it's a copy of an earlier document. Archaelogy has to be about probabilities &possibilities.

(4) "But why the unwillingness on this thread to say, "Wow. That's a pretty bad thing for an academic to have done..."?"

Because (i) she may not have done it and (ii) there may be some explanation other than an intent to mislead. Anybody who writes a book will make mistakes. Pagels has written *lots* of books, so I'm sure she has made lots of mistakes. My first guess, without even reading the linked article, was that she might very well have committed the venial sin of quoting a secondary source's version of the quotation in question. Even if that isn't what she did, there are plenty such ways of messing up that don't rise to the level implied by Kopel's nasty little post.
5.1.2006 2:46pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

To be clear, the titles of the canonical gospels are traditional ones, not titles given by their authors. None of the various gospels purport on their face to have been written by any particular person.
Still, the traditional names in the titles could be the names of the authors; the "Gospel of Judas" almost certainly could not be the name of the author, unless the accounts of Judas's suicide are wrong.
5.1.2006 2:47pm
Mahlon:
Clayton - So is honest intellectual discourse a myth? Is academia so besotted with itself that it is incapable of policing its own? Or, are the left-leaning educationist establishment so devoid of reason that it has no choice but to lie?
5.1.2006 2:52pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
So is honest intellectual discourse a myth? Is academia so besotted with itself that it is incapable of policing its own? Or, are the left-leaning educationist establishment so devoid of reason that it has no choice but to lie?

Are those the only choices?
5.1.2006 3:09pm
keypusher (mail):
"What is a "bogus document about early Christianity," and what makes such documents, if ancient, any more "bogus" than any other contemporaneous document about early Christianity? Obviously, the gospel of Judas wasn't written by Judas, in which respect it is indistinguishable from Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, but it is nearly as old as many presumably non-bogus documents."

The National Geographic translation of the text of the Gospel of Judas is available online.



This "gospel" is not an account of the life or ministry of Jesus, but a recounting of secret knowledge Jesus gives to Judas. The secret knowledge turns out to be boring, silly, and mind-numbingly numerological, kind of like an LSD trip as experienced by an accountant. It's certainly not an alternative to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Judge for yourself.
5.1.2006 3:10pm
keypusher (mail):
oops, here's the url.

Gospel of Judas
5.1.2006 3:12pm
Tim Sisk (mail) (www):
Anderson:Tim, don't force any analogies between formal logic and archaeology. Why would the copy we happen to stumble upon also just *happen* to be the earliest copy ever? If anything, it would seem *more* likely that it's a copy of an earlier document. Archaelogy has to be about probabilities &possibilities.

I think Pagels' point was "well we don't know definitely that this couldn't be a copy of a contemporaneous to Jesus gospel because the only way we will is if you can prove that there aren't any older documents out there" absolutely puts the other scholar of having to prove a negative to be accepted. Using Pagel's logic we can also not definitely say that it wasn't written by Homer either unless you can't say there aren't other copies of it written in Ionic Greek that we just haven't found yet.

Pagels knows that the "Gospel of Judas" fits very, very comfortably in the genre of Gnostic literature being produced in the second and third centuries because she is the world's leading expert gnosticism. But she so wants "Gnosticism" to be honored as a lost and valued tradition that was ruthlessly put down by a church hierarchy that she's willing to fudge using inane logical fallacies to do it.

Put it another way: The OT book of Daniel contains chapters that are quite frankly very apocalyptic in genre (and I mean apocalyptic proper, the genre of literature of Judaism that flourished from approximately 200 BCE to 200 AD) which forces much of Daniel if not all to have been written in a period many years after the Jewish exile. Pagels, herself, as any other mainstream scholar (especially those teaching at top-notch institutions such as Yale) would date Daniel accordingly. But she is unwilling to apply that same reasoning to date the gospel of Judas at least one hundred and fifty years after Jesus/Judas, even given the objective evidence (carbon-dating) and the subjective evidence (genre and literary criticism).

Which to me raises the issue: is she shrewd or a bad scholar? I don't know which is better.
5.1.2006 3:16pm
Tim Sisk (mail) (www):
Doh! Pagels teaches at Princeton not Yale! Bad memory and completely unnecessary reference to the Taliban/Yale controversy. Mea culpa!
5.1.2006 3:20pm
RHD (mail):
This thread has gone ballistic and tendentious, but for reasons that are hard to follow.

First, Mankowsi doesn't claim that Pagels is a "fraud," and I think it's unfortunate that David Kopel chose that term in this context. Instead, Mankowski says that his objective is "to demonstrate that Professor Pagels's media reputation as a scholar is undeserved, her reputation as an expert in Gnosticism still less so." Presumably, Mankoski is writing in reaction to the media hype over the so-called Gospel of Judas, and the even greater hype over the Da Vinci Code. It is certainly true -- indeed, does anyone really dispute this? -- that the Da Vinci Code is wholly without substance except as an entertaining potboiler. The silliness about Mary Magdalene and the Merovingian line is, well, just that -- silliness. The Gospel of Judas (it's short and available online both in English translation and Coptic original) is hardly convincing as a portrait of real-life Jewish men of the first century --a category that surely includes both Jesus and Judas. Instead, it offers bizarre speculations about Barbelo, Yaldabaoth, the Self-Generated One, that are completely disconnected to any Jewish source or belief, but entirely in keeping with the usual run of the gnostic imagination. It's as if the author of the Judas text knew nothing about first century Jewish customs, culture or religion as he was neverthelss writing about two men defined by that tradition. It may well be that the Coptic-speaking author of the Judas text didn't know much about Jewish traditions, and what he did know he rejected in favor of his own peculiar religious dualisms. Many a thesis will be written trying to ferret out the antecedents of this gnostic text, to determine whether, for instance, there is any internal evidence that the author was familiar with some of the Christian canonical writings, the septuagint, etc.

Against that background, the media hype about all of this is itself something to wonder about. The Judas text even got cover page treatment from the newsweeklies, with wildly uninformed commentary suggesting that the text's "revelations" might undermine Christian beliefs. How ridiculous, really, but par for the course when the journalistic pack is in full hype-mode. Pagels, for better of worse, has been an eager participant in the current hype, and more generally has been exploiting popular interest in these oddball gnostic texts for many years now. Her writings emphasize the popular over the scholarly, most particularly when she suggests that the gnostic texts were suppressed for improper, or perhaps evil, reasons. Her commercial interest in the success of her popular writings provides a reason for her to hype the evidence, and to push a conspiratorial slant on it for reasons of sensationalism and profit. While Pagels is certainly a player in the cottage industry that has grown up around these gnostic texts, it's rare to see her work cited in any serious scholarly study of the history of early Christianity. Against that background, Mankowski's criticisms seem the sort of thing one would expect from other scholars working in more conventional academic ways in the same general area.

It's also absurd to dismiss any ancient text as a "fraud" -- no one seriously claims that these texts are bogus in the way, to take a recent example, that the phony inscription of the supposed ossuary of James, brother or Jesus, was shown to be. The real question is what these gnostic texts can tell us, and that depends on what one is seeking to learn from them. It's highly unlikely, for example, that the gnostic texts derive from any independent tradition traceable to the time of the historical Jesus, but instead are derivative texts written after and dependent on the canonical texts. Thus they are not a useful source about the historical Jesus or his circle of disciples. There are lots of reasons for that conclusion, and (with the possible exception of the Gospel of Thomas) I think it's fair to say that the strong scholarly consensus agrees with it. Any decent work on the historical Jesus usually contains a chapter (at least) on the subject. For those who are interested, volume 1 of John P. Meier's Jesus: A Marginal Jew, gives a comprehensive review of the available sources of information. As it happens, except for Josephus, most are derivative from the Christian canon, and thus not useful as a source of historic information.

I found Mankowski's article revealing but not surprising. Having read Pagel's books, my impression was that her use of the evidence was tendentious. She wrote like a scholar with a definite agenda as well as a point of view, into which she was determined to fit the evidence, and to my mind that puts her in a different category from disinterested historian. That was basically Mankowski's point. He may be overstating his case, but those accusing him of a baseless smear have done nothing to show that he has done so or that they are right.
5.1.2006 3:21pm
DFrancis:

John 21:20-23 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.


alkali - While I do not dispute that the titles are traditional, I would have to call the text above at minimum a facial purportment to having been written by an eyewitness.
5.1.2006 3:24pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Thanks for the fuller response, Tim, which makes better sense of your objection.
5.1.2006 3:33pm
alkali (mail) (www):
"We know that his testimony ..." Who's we? Who's he?

In seriousness, the point is not that these gospels don't have an author, but rather that they don't name their author after the fashion of modern books.
5.1.2006 3:36pm
CJColucci (mail):
keypusher:
No argument here that the gospel of Judas isn't "boring, silly and mind-numbingly numerological," or that it does not purport to be a full account of the life and ministry of Yeshua ben-Yusuf, the noted Palestinian religious figure of the early first century c.e.. (The Iliad doesn't purport to tell the story of the whole Trojan War, either. Selection is all.) But my question wasn't what makes it a "bad" book, but what makes it a "bogus" one.
5.1.2006 3:43pm
Mahlon:
Anderson - I'm listening.
5.1.2006 4:01pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Anderson - I'm listening.

Oh, it was fill-in-the-blank? How about "the use of a scholar's errors to conduct an ad hominem dismissal of her entire work"?

(And lord knows, whatever one thinks of Pagels, comparing her to a "lady novelist" as Mankowski does is just astonishingly sexist. Silly scribbing women! Go home to your kitchens and let men like Mankowski do the intellectual work!)
5.1.2006 4:30pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Clayton - So is honest intellectual discourse a myth? Is academia so besotted with itself that it is incapable of policing its own? Or, are the left-leaning educationist establishment so devoid of reason that it has no choice but to lie?
At least in American history, there is such a severe lack of political diversity within the profession that fraud is easy to pass off as scholarship. Now, I suppose if the material in question had no political significance today, historians might catch such a fraud. Unfortunately, a lot of the history being written today is transparently being done for political reasons. Bellesiles's Arming America was written to provide an historic justification for banning private gun ownership. Why? Because enough research has been done on the subject of the Second Amendment in the last twenty years that the left could no longer justify banning guns as being part of the American tradition. They needed to come up with an historical argument.

The brief submitted by a bunch of historians for the Lawrence decision needed to exist so that the Supreme Court could have an historical basis for striking down state sodomy laws (which I consider constitutional, but stupid), rather than admitting that they were acting as an unelected superlegislature.

Ward Churchill's falsification of history claiming that the U.S. Army intentionally spread disease through a particular Indian tribe was needed to provoke the correct level of guilt among modern whites. There's no shortage of disgraceful actions taken by American government and society in that time--but these actions really don't analogize to the Nazis very well, so Churchill had to make up something that would make you think of U.S. Army officers with swastika armbands.

Yes, some historians on the left, because of their post-modernist orientation, don't believe that there is anything which is actually true. Therefore, they feel free to make things up to achieve whatever political ends they wish.

The biggest problem, however, isn't that most historians intentionally cover up lies, but that there is a truly shocking credulity when it comes to their own profession. The notion that Bellesiles intentionally altered quotes to reverse their meeting was simply incredible to many historians to whom I first showed the materials. They could not imagine that "one of theirs" would alter quotes, make stuff up, etc. for a clearly politically-driven agenda. Perhaps the core problem is an incredible naivete in academia. It makes you wonder what happens when they go to buy a car.
5.1.2006 4:42pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Anderson writes:


Oh, it was fill-in-the-blank? How about "the use of a scholar's errors to conduct an ad hominem dismissal of her entire work"?
The claim is not "errors" (some of which are unavoidable in any scholarly work), but intentional deception. Someone who intentionally falsifies (and that isn't easy to prove) can't be trusted.

The entire scholarly enterprise makes some assumptions about integrity. If we have to check every citation in a scholarly work, it really slows down the process. Unfortunately, it appears, at least based on my experience with the Bellesiles fraud, that American historians are far too trusting--at least, if you are a member of "the club."

Even before the Bellesiles matter, I was far less trusting. I have traditionally looked up the more astonishing claims that I found in secondary works. My motivations were several:

1. Did this secondary work get it right?

2. Is there other interesting material in this source that might be useful to me?

Often, these somewhat unlikely facts turned out to be correct--or at least, the secondary work was accurately reporting what was at the cited location. But often enough over the years I have found questionable or fraudulent uses of quotes that I no longer assume honesty from someone just because they are a professor somewhere.

Error vs. fraud is difficult. In most cases, it is difficult to tell if someone is just careless, or if their ideological zeal for a particular conclusion has caused them to misread sources. In the Bellesiles case, there were not just a few mistakes--there were many hundreds of them. (I have found that I could literally flip Arming America open at random, start checking footnotes, and find at least one example of false quotation or inaccurate reporting of a source.) It took me 12 hours of checking his more bizarre claims to find one that was actually an accurate description of the cited work's claims.
5.1.2006 5:01pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Prof. Cramer gives an excellent example of what constitutes "fraud" in the academic context. When someone produces a similarly damning critique of Pagels, it will be time to use the f-word.

And "club" aside, I think that most historians just find it difficult to believe that anyone would blow his own career out of the water by gross Belleislesque (eww!) fraud. What tips a reader off to start cite-checking is some contradiction with one's preexisting ideas, which as Prof. Cramer correctly notes, means that when one preaches to the choir, one's Bible quotes aren't likely to be spot-checked.

That's obviously not peculiar to the Left, but plain old human nature.
5.1.2006 5:13pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

And "club" aside, I think that most historians just find it difficult to believe that anyone would blow his own career out of the water by gross Belleislesque (eww!) fraud. What tips a reader off to start cite-checking is some contradiction with one's preexisting ideas, which as Prof. Cramer correctly notes, means that when one preaches to the choir, one's Bible quotes aren't likely to be spot-checked.

That's obviously not peculiar to the Left, but plain old human nature.
Just to clarify: I am not a professor. I am a software engineer.

I completely agree with you about the source of the problem. I understand that in the 1950s, history journals would regularly not publish papers that were critical of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. From my experiences trying to get this paper published, it is pretty clear that the homogenity of the academy has pretty well reached the same bizarre point in the opposite direction. The paper points out members of the Cabinet said in minutes declassified 50 years later that a firearms licensing bill would have to be introduced into Parliament under the pretense that it was a crime control measure. The same minutes admit that the goal was to prevent a Bolshevik revolution in Britain by disarming the masses. Less than two months after that meeting, the Home Secretary introduced a firearms licensing bill, and claimed that it was uncontroversial, merely a crime control measure.

In Parliamentary debates, leftist opponents argued that the bill was not a crime control measure, but an attempt to prevent the workers from striking by making it easier to intimidate them with armed force. Supporters of the bill stupidly admitted that this was precisely why the bill was required.

And why was the paper unpublishable? One of the reviewers claimed that I did not understand the concept of post hoc ergo propter hoc. After all, just because:

1. Cabinet members (including the Home Secretary) had said in private that they were going to deceive Parliament about it being a crime control bill;

2. The Home Secretary made that claim when he introduced it "criminals or weak-minded persons and those who should not have firearms"[Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, House of Commons, 5th series, 1920, 130:361-2];

3. Both supporters and opponents of the bill acknowledged that preventing a revolution was the actual reason for the bill.

Well, that's no reason to assume that the stated purpose in private was the reason why they introduced the bill. I mean, there might be no connection between the intentions stated in private, as an intentional deception, and the reasons stated when the bill was introduced in Parliament!

This is part of why I think too much of the academic community. It could work well, if it was honest, had enough diversity to allow for multiple points of view, and the people involved weren't using the mechanisms as a way to impose their political agenda on the society.
5.1.2006 7:19pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
No scholar doubts the historical existence of somebody who went around raising people from the dead?

Somebody's drinking the Kool-Aid.

It is less difficult to accept (provisionally, as always) that it's an historical fact that Socrates drank the hemlock.
5.1.2006 7:30pm
Michael Jacovides (mail):
Mankowski's criticisms are astonishingly thin.


1: "From this sentence Pagels takes only the words communes et ecclesiasticos ipsi dicunt, omitting the larger context."


All quotation omits the larger context. Nothing misleading arises in this case.

2: "Note that the "[us]" which Pagels inserts in her quotation refers not, as her context requires, to bishops, but to all the Catholic faithful: those who belong to the Church."


Her context does not require 'bishops'. Rather, it requires some group to which Irenaeus belongs. Moreover, the initial passage draws a contrast between the multitude and those who are from Irenaeus's church.

3. "We note that the last phrase is omitted and the order of the preceding clauses reversed to disguise the non sequitur -- and for a very good reason: Irenaeus actually says that the same allegations made against the orthodox by the Valentinians are made against the Valentinians by their fellow Gnostics, the disciples of Basilides, and that's an embarrassment to Pagels's notion of the Gnostic-Catholic divide."


The fact that the Gnostics were divided among themselves hardly shows that there wasn't a Gnostic-Catholic divide. No one denies that there was a Gnostic-Catholic divide, not even Mankowski.

4. While her endnote calls the quote "conflated," the word doesn't fit even as a euphemism: what we have is not conflation but creation.


Any accusation of fraud has to get around the fact that she has said in the footnote that her translation conflates two different texts and gives a reference to the relevant passages. Pagels can only be accused of 'creation' if Irenaeus didn't say that Valetinian Gnostics called him and his ilk "common," and "ecclesiastic" and if they didn't say that Irenaeus and those like him "go on living in the hebdomad [the lower regions], as if we could not lift our minds to the things on high, nor understand the things that are above." But they did say those things, so it isn't creation.

5. Re-reading Pagels's putative quotation, you may have noticed that the word "unspiritual" corresponds to nothing in the Latin. It too was supplied by Pagels's imagination. The reason for the interpolation will be plain from the comment that immediately follows (page 44 in The Gnostic Gospels).


This is the only point that Mankowski makes that has any merit. But it's scandalous that he transforms a disagreement about translation into an accusation of fraud serious enough to justify expulsion from academia. The problem arises from the fact that the Valentinians call the orthodox 'communes'. 'Common' is a straightforward translation, but (one might think) that translation doesn't bring the pejorative sense of the original. 'Vulgar' might be better. Pagels supplemented 'common' with 'unspiritual' in an attempt to explain what the Valentinians meant by the insult. One might dispute the choice, but these kinds of choices have to be made in translating texts.
5.1.2006 7:36pm
Gordo:
Harry Eagar: We're talking the historical existence of Jesus, not necessarily the truth of all the Gospel stories. The historical existence of a religious figure crucified by the Romans around 30 A.D. is pretty strong. Everything after that is open to conjecture. I happen to believe the rest of the story - others don't.
5.1.2006 8:58pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I am not aware of the slightest scrap of evidence for any particular execution by the Romans around 30 AD in Palestine.

No doubt there were some. Romans were great executors. But to get an identified victim, you have to come forward quite a ways.
5.1.2006 10:12pm
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Michael Jacovides and the other defenders of Pagels, I have to call into question your own intellectual honesty. Pagels took two different quotes, modified and inserted, and blended them into one in order to produce a single quote that would support her position. That isn't quoting; it is fabrication. The only way that this is less dishonest than am invention from whole cloth is that she didn't also fabricate the citation.

The reason to avoid fabricating the citation, of course, is that if she gets caught in her invented quotes, she can point to the citation and expect dishonest partisan defenders to pretend inventing quotes with a tenuous connection to real sources is not a lie.

But the fact remains that if nine tenths of her readers don't bother to follow the citation and if half of those who do follow it don't recognize that it admits to inventing a quote from two different places, then she has successfully deceived 95% of her readers with a false quote, no matter how honestly she documented it.

Even if this were an isolated occurrence, it should get her sanctioned at her university. If there are more examples as Mankowksi claims, then she should be fired to try to slow the on-going errosion of confidence in the academy. Why should anyone believe what academics say if academics lie and other academics defend them for it?
5.2.2006 12:18am
DG:
Has anybody actually read Fr. Mankowski's piece? If anybody is being "creative," he is. The section of the Gnostic Gospels that he quotes makes a very modest claim:

What Irenaeus found most galling of all was that, instead of repenting or even openly defying the bishop, they responded to his protests with diabolically clever theological arguments:

They call [us] "unspiritual," "common," and "ecclesiastic." ... Because we do not accept their monstrous allegations, they say that we go on living in the hebdomad [the lower regions], as if we could not lift our minds to the things on high, nor understand the things that are above.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but all Pagels is saying is that Irenaeus was pissed that the Gnostics were deploying theological arguments against the orthodox understanding of Christianity. This doesn't seem to me to be an earth-shattering proposition: they were ostensibly in a fight about theology, after all.

Mankowski's criticisms seem to miss her point entirely. To add to Michael Jacovides' earlier comments:

1: "From this sentence Pagels takes only the words communes et ecclesiasticos ipsi dicunt, omitting the larger context."


As Michael noted, all quotation necessarily omits the larger context. In this case, the rest of the passage describes the Gnostics' theological attack in more detail. If anything it strengthens Pagels's case that theological arguments were being used. See here.

2: "Note that the "[us]" which Pagels inserts in her quotation refers not, as her context requires, to bishops, but to all the Catholic faithful: those who belong to the Church."


Again, Michael hits the nail on the head. What about Pagels's passage requires "us" to refer to bishops? To reiterate: her claim is that the Gnostics were making theological arguments. Nowhere in this selection does she suggest that the Gnostics were singling out the bishops for censure.

3: "We note that the last phrase is omitted and the order of the preceding clauses reversed to disguise the non sequitur -- and for a very good reason: Irenaeus actually says that the same allegations made against the orthodox by the Valentinians are made against the Valentinians by their fellow Gnostics, the disciples of Basilides, and that's an embarrassment to Pagels's notion of the Gnostic-Catholic divide."


What does Mankowski even mean? Remember that the Church Fathers' apologias against Gnosticism are some of the only evidence we have of what the Gnostics themselves thought; many of the Gnostics' own writings were lost or destroyed. We do not need to include the Fathers' criticism of Gnosticism in order to reconstruct the Gnostic arguments. Here, for example, Irenaeus describes the Gnostics' arguments and then parries them by saying that the disciples of Basilides say the same things about the Gnostics. Pagels then takes the first part as evidence that the Gnostics are making theological arguments. Irenaeus's response to those arguments is irrelevant. For Mankowski to suggest that Pagels doctored the quote in order to obscure divisions within Gnosticism is silly.

(For what it's worth, Pagels seems to regret having suggested that the Gnostics were a unified movement. Her central thesis these days is that there was a diversity of thought within early Christianity, not that there were two warring camps.)

4: "While her endnote calls the quote "conflated," the word doesn't fit even as a euphemism: what we have is not conflation but creation."


"Conflation" of quotations may not be the best idea generally, but it certainly didn't cause any harm in this case. Each quote independently supports the proposition that the Gnostics were making theological arguments. Would it really have improved the passage to split the two quotes and link them with "and"?

5: "Re-reading Pagels's putative quotation, you may have noticed that the word "unspiritual" corresponds to nothing in the Latin. It too was supplied by Pagels's imagination. The reason for the interpolation will be plain from the comment that immediately follows (page 44 in The Gnostic Gospels)."


As Michael points out, this is a quibble about translation. In fact, it's a quibble about an English translation of a Latin translation of a Greek text. I have no idea if the original Greek survives today, but perhaps Pagels, who reads both Greek and Latin, translated directly from that. Or perhaps she chose "unspiritual" over the ambiguous "common" to express the true flavor of the insult.

In any case, it doesn't follow that Pagels chose the word to support an unsubstantiated claim. Mankowski writes:

The reason for the interpolation will be plain from the comment that immediately follows (page 44 in The Gnostic Gospels). Remember that she wants to argue that Irenaeus was interested in authority and the Valentinians in the life of the spirit:

Irenaeus was outraged at their claim that they, being spiritual, were released from the ethical restraints that he, as a mere servant of the demiurge, ignorantly sought to foist upon them.

Put simply, Irenaeus did not write what Prof. Pagels wished he would have written, so she made good the defect by silently changing the text. Creativity, when applied to one's sources, is not a compliment. She is a very naughty historian.


Well and good, except that Irenaeus did write what Pagels says he did. The footnote for this selection points back to the same passage, which contains the following:

"The majority, however, having become scoffers also, as if already perfect, and living without regard [to appearances], yea, in contempt [of that which is good], call themselves "the spiritual," and allege that they have already become acquainted with that place of refreshing which is within their Pleroma." (emphasis added)


Does that not say that the Gnostics, "being spiritual, were released from the ethical restraints" to which Irenaeus adhered?

Fr. Mankowski's essay comes close to character assassination, and is certainly sloppy scholarship, but at least he's clear about why he thinks she's a bad scholar. David Kopel, on the other hand, gives us a cleverly worded post that suggests that Pagels is a "fraud" without actually committing himself to Mankowski's argument ("If the Mankowski essay is accurate..."). Such tactics do not become him.

Addendum: Doc Rampage, the point is that Mankowski's essay doesn't demonstrate that Pagels engaged in fabrication. The passages she cites very clearly support the proposition preceding them. I agree that the potential for deception is high when a scholar "conflates" two quotes. However, the fact is that Pagels has engaged in no deception here. To disagree with a scholar's conclusions is one thing. To accuse that scholar of dishonesty without evidence of any actual wrongdoing is another thing entirely.

-----------------------------------

Links:

Mankowski Essay
The Gnostic Gospels (you can search within the book; type in "galling" to get the passage in question)
Against Heresies, 3.15.2 (scroll down to #2)
Against Heresies, 2.16.4 (scroll down to #4)
5.2.2006 2:13am
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
DG, just because you can't see the point of the deception doesn't mean that the deception isn't there. Frankly, I can't see the point either. Neither of the two quotes, nor the fabricated combination support Pagel's assertion:

What Irenaeus found most galling of all was that, instead of repenting or even openly defying the bishop, they responded to his protests with diabolically clever theological arguments
Either alone would support the claim that the Gnostics were making theological arguments, but since that is not in dispute, I can't see why that claim would require any support.

What requires support is the polemical claim that Ireneous found the existence of theological arguments particularly distressing. Pagel is here inviting us to dislike Ireneous because of the man's pettiness. How could he be so unreasonable as to find it galling that someone simply disagreed with his theology? She gives as evidence that Ireneous disputed certain accusations that the Gnostics made agsinst the church. Since when does disputing someone's negative opinion of you count as evidence that what you find "most galling of all" is the fact that they would dare to make theological arguments? Maybe he was just annoyed that the Gnostics were slandering him.

In any case, whether it was pointless or effective, she fabricated the quote. If she wanted to follow the accepted standards of scholarship, she could have made it clear that these were two different quotes that supported her view. Instead, she made it seem to be one quote.

Since it didn't really advance her argument, maybe it was done for stylistic reasons. I don't know. But She told her readers that Irenious wrote something that he didn't write. Where I went to school, we called that a "lie".
5.2.2006 5:50am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Back to the bogus gospels point.

First of all the argument that other gospels say Judas killed himself shortly after (don't remember if it was long enough to write a gospel) is just a circular argument to establish that if the commonly acepted gospels are true that the Juda gospel is false. We already knew that.

Also my understanding is that there is some pretty good evidence that these gospels were not written down until the 100s or so and any testaments in them to be by the real disciples could be later additions (maybe not I just don't know but there were many documented later changes).

But fine lets just stipulate that Judas died right away. Well fine he came back from the grave and penned his gospel and just forgot to mention the part about coming back from the dead. Is this absurd? Of course. But if we are even going to seriously entertain gospels that describe some guy coming back from the dead as non-bogus we have to give the same deference to this ridiculous explanation.

Basically there is an inherint problem in claiming there is something particularly non-bogus about the original gospels. They clearly make claims that are totally incompatible with everything we know with science or experience (many of them). Thus the second one starts ruling out alternative acounts just because it would violate physics or well supported laws if they were true we would have to throw out the cannonical gospels as well.
5.2.2006 9:44am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

But fine lets just stipulate that Judas died right away. Well fine he came back from the grave and penned his gospel and just forgot to mention the part about coming back from the dead. Is this absurd? Of course. But if we are even going to seriously entertain gospels that describe some guy coming back from the dead as non-bogus we have to give the same deference to this ridiculous explanation.
If Judas had come back from the dead (or at least his Gnostic defenders claimed it), I can't picture them forgetting to mention it.
5.2.2006 11:36am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Harry, give it a rest. What's your evidence that Socrates existed, outside the writings of Plato and Xenophon? Surely you don't mean to suggest that a comic buffoon in Aristophanes was real, do you?

Tacitus, Annals 15:44:
But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
Written less than 100 years after the execution of Jesus. Proof that Jesus existed? Nope. But what would that proof look like?
5.2.2006 11:44am
Mahlon:
Anderson writes:
<blockquote>
And "club" aside, I think that most historians just find it difficult to believe that anyone would blow his own career out of the water by gross Belleislesque (eww!) fraud.
</blockquote>

Have you ever driven faster than the speed limit? Ever been agressive in claiming a tax deduction that was, perhaps, slightly questionable? Of course you have. Why? Because doing so advances your self-interests and the likelihood of being caught are remote. Further, at least with the tax deduction example, if caught you can at least put forward some argument to support your position.

How different is this type of intellectual dishonesty? If the dishonest are never called to task for their bad conduct, what is stopping them from engaging in bad conduct? If, as Clayton advances, the wagons are circled upon the allegation of bad conduct, such actors feel that they have a safety net, protecting them from the full consequences of their acts. In the environment of "publish or perish," careers are based on the ability to generate work - quality be damned. The problem is cultural.

I think there is another reason, as well. Simply put, many of those trying to establish themselves as serious researchers and thinkers just don't have the horses to pull it off. Academia is full of those who are not that bright. The world is full of consultants who consult because they can't "do." That doesn't stop them from cashing the check. If there is money, or status, at the end of the road, I find that many will take all manner of shortcuts to "travel" it.
5.2.2006 12:13pm
Mahlon:
Anderson writes:

"Harry, give it a rest. What's your evidence that Socrates existed, outside the writings of Plato and Xenophon? * * * Proof that Jesus existed? Nope. But what would that proof look like?"

Please define your terms. The writings of ancient Greeks is certainly evidence of Socrates's existence, just as the quote you provide offers evidence of that of Jesus. In that vein, your post offers evidence of your own existence, but not "proof." What do you mean by "proof?" It appears that you mean something different from "evidence."

Just what are your standards?
5.2.2006 12:24pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Because doing so advances your self-interests and the likelihood of being caught are remote. * * * If the dishonest are never called to task for their bad conduct, what is stopping them from engaging in bad conduct?

Mahlon, your premises are imaginary. The likelihood of being busted, sooner or later, for wholesale academic fraud is indeed high. There are too many grad students out there poring over stuff. Belleisles would've been caught eventually even without Cramer's excellent intervention (tho the sooner the better).

As for "proof," you somehow missed my point, which was that there's no such thing as "proof" of Jesus's existence (or Anderson's, or Mahlon's). The quote from Tacitus is subject to criticism, most plausibly on the grounds that he was repeating what a Christian informant told him, but the evidence available certainly would seem to make it more likely than not that a religious figure named Yeshua was executed by the Romans sometime around A.D. 30. Almost no one seriously disputes this, since the real issues lie elsewhere.
5.2.2006 12:34pm
Mahlon:
Anderson - Forgive me. I'm sure Ward Churchill would like to know that he is an imaginary figure. If only it were so. He was only called to task because he opened his mouth one too many times.

As for proof, is my body not "proof" that I live, or are you quibbling over the meaning of "existence?" Do you ignore all evidence because it does not satisfy your definition of "proof?" Be careful, your semantics are showing.
5.2.2006 12:46pm
CJColucci (mail):
I don't claim expertise in this area, but the impression I get from my reading and some lectures I've heard is that pseudonymous writing was so common back then that virtually no one around at the time would have thought Judas the actual author of the gospel that bears his name. Hence the unlikelihood of his having written it either pre- or post-mortem would not have been an issue for anyone. To all appearances, the gospel of Judas is an authentically old document pushing (under the pseudonym of Judas) a well-known, if long since defeated, early version of Christianity.
So back to my original question: what makes it "bogus"?
5.2.2006 12:49pm
Mike Jacovides (mail):

Michael Jacovides and the other defenders of Pagels, I have to call into question your own intellectual honesty.


You don't have to. You only do it because you're mean.

The only way that this is less dishonest than am invention from whole cloth is that she didn't also fabricate the citation.
The reason to avoid fabricating the citation, of course, is that if she gets caught in her invented quotes, she can point to the citation and expect dishonest partisan defenders to pretend inventing quotes with a tenuous connection to real sources is not a lie.


Suppose Pagels bought a toaster. I guess you would say that the only reason that she paid money for it is that if she got caught, she could point to the receipt and expect dishonest partisan defenders to pretend that she wasn't shoplifting. Believe it or not, the footnote makes more difference than a receipt in this context.

I'm not a partisan of Gnosticism, and I don't think that Pagels is right to think that the lines she quotes show that the Gnostics had diabolically clever theological arguments. I only wrote to defend her because the accusation of fraud was so outrageous. Fine, maybe you wouldn't conflate two passages from different parts of a book in your best-selling popularized account of early Christian heretical cults. But she drops a footnote saying what she's doing. Since nothing about the translation in the body of the text is misleading on any matter of substance, that's enough to clear her of the charge of fraud.
5.2.2006 1:47pm
pb:
Mike Jacovides: "'I only wrote to defend her because the accusation of fraud was so outrageous (1)... and because you are mean (2) ... and expect dishonest partisan defenders to pretend that (3) ' Pagels is not a toaster shoplifter."



How could you even imagine Pagels stealing a damn toaster?

Footnotes:

1 Mike Jacovides, "hxxp://volokh.com," hxxp://volokh.com/posts/1146493490.shtml, May 2, 2006

2 Mike Jacovides, "hxxp://volokh.com," hxxp://volokh.com/posts/1146493490.shtml, May 2, 2006

3 Mike Jacovides, "hxxp://volokh.com," hxxp://volokh.com/posts/1146493490.shtml, May 2, 2006
5.2.2006 2:11pm
DG:
Doc Rampage,

I disagree with your assessment of Pagels's claim. Click on the link to the Gnostic Gospels. It seems pretty obvious to me that her claim is that the Gnostics were making theological arguments rather than that Irenaeus found such arguments galling. Thus her italics on "theological." Moreover, the subsequent paragraph is about the theological arguments that Irenaeus deploys in response: "To defend the church against these self-styled theologians, Irenaeus realized that he must forge theological weapons."

So Pagels says that the Gnostics were making theological arguments and then backs it up with two quotations that describe their theological arguments. Where's the lie?

As for the "conflation," she does note it as such. I'm not a religious historian, so I have no idea whether conflating quotes is an accepted practice. (As I said, it strikes me as a bad idea, but so do lots of accepted professional practices.) What I do know is that she only does it twice in the whole book, both times to defend modest claims. And she didn't do it at all in her most recent book, Beyond Belief. (Ah, the wonders of Amazon's "Search Inside" feature.) Even if you think the practice of "conflation" is per se fraudulent, it hardly follows that Pagels has made a career out of fraud.

In any case, my modest point is that we should be reluctant to charge fraud where a passage admits of plausible non-fraudulent interpretations.
5.2.2006 2:37pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I never said anything about 'proof' of Socrates' existence. I said there was evidence of it, and I noted that this kind of evidence always has to be taken provisionally. We cannot independently test it.

Evidence of the existence of a particular religious preacher in Palestine around 30 AD would reasonably consist of reports by witnesses who were not demonstrably incapable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. These reports would not contradict each other in important ways. They would fit into unrelated but contemporaneous events that we think we know of otherwise without much difficulty.

The canonical books of the NT do not come close to meeting any of these standards, and the non-canonical books create even more contradictions. And the grounds for distinguishing some as canonical and others not are primarily or entirely arbitrary.

I don't know whether Socrates drank hemlock, but it could be. Did Jesus clone dead fish to order? I'll need some heavier duty evidence of that than we've got.
5.2.2006 4:16pm
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
If this is the best that Mankowski can up with, I must say I am underwhelmed. DG's detailed analysis of the charge is spot on.

To answer his question about conflating quotes, I have to say that what Pagels did was unusual in her field (historical criticism of Christianity), but it was duly noted and it did not produce a statement that Irenaeus would have disagreed with.
5.2.2006 11:11pm