The case of Elaine Pagels – academic fraud or just a (perceived) heretic?

(The following is rather more of an “essay”, but as it’s meta-discussion of a matter of some consequence occurring here in discussion – but not directly relating to EBT – I’ve chosen to put it in this category.)


I: Background

In the thread The historicity of the Buddha” an off-topic exchange took place, which, IMO, needs clarification – here rather than to hi-jack that discussion.

There I wrote a post (cjmacie 2017-06-27 12:41:35 UTC #33), offering source reference to the writings of the scholar Elaine Pagels as an historical overview of the genesis of the Christian Gospels (insofar as that thread was originally titled “The historicity of the Buddha (and Jesus)”).

This was replied-to, on a s/w tangential issue (Gnosticism in general) in the post (Coemgenu 2017-06-27 12:56:28 UTC #34).

Then an exchange relating to “gnosticism” and the evolution of the Christian canon in general, in (cjmacie 2017-06-27 13:40:21 UTC #37) and (Coemgenu 2017-06-27 15:27:45 UTC #38).

To which I replied (cjmacie 2017-06-28 07:59:12 UTC #56), questioning accusations directed against Pagels in post #38.


II: The core issue – critique of Elaine Pagels by Paul Mankowski

In the above noted post (#38) the author of the post states: “.…I do not consider her [Dr. Elaine Pagels] at all qualified to be engaging in the work she does…” The bulk of that post is then an extensive quotation, in fact an entire essay, introduced with: “Paul Mankowski of the Pontifical Institute, a brilliant scholar of Christian literature and textual criticism, says it better than I:

(Mankowski’s essay seems to have originated in Catholic World News News Feature – “The Pagels Imposture” April 26, 2006
(http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=43736), and copied in other orthodox Catholic media.)

The crux of the essay begins (4th paragraph) with (emphasis added):
Pagels’s The Gnostic Gospels is in large measure a polemic against St. Irenaeus (approx. 130-202 AD), Bishop of Lyons and a Father of the Church, and is aimed in particular against the defense of ecclesial orthodoxy offered by Irenaeus in his work Against Heresies – which was written in Greek but which survives, for the most part, in an ancient Latin translation.

And bulk of the rest of the essay (911 of the total 1372 words) is devoted to the issue of a passage where Pagels quotes and interprets (or mis-interprets, per Mankowski) a passage from Irenaeus. Mankowski’s chief point in this essay appears to be defense against a perceived attack on “ecclesial orthodoxy” as argued by “a Father of the Church”.

All that (2/3 of the essay) is followed with a simple blanket and otherwise undocumented criticism “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.”

Other than the prolonged the Irenaeius issue, Mankowski’s text is devoted to mainly degrading Pagels ad hominem, in two paragraphs (and a quotation from the NYT) at the beginning, including
I am going to demonstrate that Professor Pagels’s media reputation as a scholar is undeserved”;
and in the final two paragraphs, concluding with
I am not calling for academic sanctions but, more simply, for clarification. Pagels should be billed accurately – not as an expert on Gnosticism or Coptic Christianity but as what she is: a novelist. Her oeuvre is that of fiction – in fact, historical romance.”


The main protagonists:

Dr. Elaine Pagels – Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University. She was educated at Stanford and at Harvard, where she received her Ph.D. She is a member of the American Theological Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was twice a visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study. She has received both Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships and was a Mellon Fellow at the Aspen Institute, where she later served on the Board of Trustees. Among her published works are Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (1988) ; The Origin of Satan (1995) ; and The Gnostic Gospels (1979), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award (1979) and the American Book Award (1980). She is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ, – BA in classics and philosophy from the University of Chicago, an MA in classics and philosophy from Oxford, a Licentiate in the Old Testament from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and a PhD in Semitic philology from Harvard. He has ordained in the Society of Jesus [i.e. Jesuit] in 1987. Fr Paul is (or was) a Visiting Lector in Biblical Hebrew at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, having been Language Instructor at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, in Massachusetts, and Assistant Professor of Classics and Philosophy at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio. He has published widely in the field of philology, including his book Akkadian
Loanwords in Biblical Hebrew. From a later source (2015) “Paul Mankowski, S.J. is scholar-in-residence at the Lumen Christi Institute, Chicago.”.

(The following information, from my research, is not touched upon, that I’ve seen, in the discussions below, but contributes to understanding his career focus.)

Wikipedia: The Pontifical Biblical Institute (it: Pontificio Istituto Biblico) or “Biblicum” in Rome, Italy, is an institution of the Holy See run by the Jesuits that offers instruction at the university level. It was founded by Pope Pius X in the Apostolic Letter Vinea Electa in 1909 as a center of advanced studies in Holy Scripture, for the purpose of the effective promotion of Catholic doctrine and its related studies.

Fr. Mankowski has widely written on various conservative Catholic topics, notably arguing that “God” is strictly “he”, and multiple other issues relating to women and feminism vis-a-vis church dogma (and politics); in particular an essay in which he (in his own words) “demolishes” one Phyllis Tribe’s arguments regarding the femininity of Yahweh in the Old Testament. Fr. Mankowski is clearly a dedicated and skilled “Defender of the Faith” against heresy.


Context of Mankowski’s critique of Pagels:

A recurrent theme in Pagels’ writings has been investigating the wealth of relatively newly discovered versions of early Christian literature, which present a more varied picture than in the orthodox accepted books of the “New Testament”. She argues that contemporary Christianity is “richer by having a wider range of Gospels” which she studies and writes about. The problem, for Mankowski and others with a stake in Christian orthodoxy, is that those “lost” texts are considered “heresy” today, in line with way back in the formative centuries of the orthodox churches when they were suppressed as heretical.

Note that Pagels has, in fact, voiced the view that the suppression (of all but the selected books of the NT) was, at the time, a perfectly understandable and justifiable course of action for the emerging orthodox Christian church, as it’s existence was threatened by a chaos of conflicting views and sub-movements (and their political entanglements.

The unexpected popularity (beyond the world of academia) of Pagels’ books, especially the well-documented view that development of early Christianity was in fact far more diverse than present-day orthodoxy will admit, was apparently perceived as something of a crisis by more conservative Christian interests, as that (s/t termed “liberal”) broadening of perspective was taken-up more positively in less extreme Christian circles (and critics), and probably was attracting some “believers” away from the more conservative circles.

(From Wikipedia: Gnosticsism – “The study of Gnosticism and of early Alexandrian Christianity received a strong impetus from the discovery of the Coptic Nag Hammadi Library in 1945. A great number of translations have been published, and the works of Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, especially The Gnostic Gospels, which detailed the suppression of some of the writings found at Nag Hammadi by early bishops of the Christian church, has popularized Gnosticism in mainstream culture, but also incited strong responses and condemnations from clergical writers.”)

It would appear that Fr. Mankowski’s essay is less motivated by scholarly matters and more with attacking perceived heresy against orthodox dogma; hence his diatribes about Pagels’ academic value are disingenuous, if not outright slanderous.


III: The larger context of debate of this issue

The overall picture reflects, as I suggested (back in post #56 above) that “There
are viewpoints from which to criticize any work of scholarship, which can be expressed and discussed in a manner focusing on sources and interpretations, which in all cases reflect interpretative slants and oversights due to human limitations and fallibility.”

Also back in the SC post containing Mankowski’s essay, the author there follows the quotation of the essay with: “There are positive mountains full of similar critiques of Pagel’s highly questionable methodologies and claims.”

While the book Mankowski criticizes (”The Gnostic Gospels”) was published first in 1979, when Pagels’ book “Beyond Belief – The Secret Gospel of Thomas” was published in 2003, the publicity surrounding which appears to have triggered a large scale reaction in orthodox Catholic (and other) circles. There were, of course, numerous published critiques of Pagel’s books since the 1970’s, some appreciative and some challenging (the latter largely on the part of orthodox viewpoints), but the 2003 book triggered a veritable
fire-storm of critique and counter critique.

Given extensive internet research, there are many serious reviews of Pagels interpretations, e.g. in the NYT and it’s Review of Books, but on a far more civilized level of discourse, sans the ad hominem and alone lines of standard literary criticism. But “similar [to Mankowski’s] critiques” appear largely in s/w conservative Catholic (and other “orthodox” Christian, e.g. Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Reformed, etc.) websites where Mankowski’s work is repeatedly cited and praised.

There are also extensive blog-type discussions / debates on this issue, sampled (attempting even-handedness) below (emphasis added) to give the flavor:


III:1: One relatively brief discussion (https://forums.plentyoffish.com/datingPosts8198125.aspx – I’m puzzled by the context “Free Dating…”, but this particular discussion seems relevant) arguing both sides of the issue; a couple of passages worth noting:

(Artz) Now I do note that in looking up this story I have not seen other academics jumping on the band wagon to denounce Pagels.

(Countlbli) I think this deserves further investigation. That’s what peer review is all about, after all. However, I’m not ready to call her a fraud yet because she tells us in a footnote that she’s conflating two quotes. This Jesuit clearly has a religious ax to
grind, so I’m not ready to take his claims on face value.


III:2: A far more extensive discussion, 23 pages, from multiple perspectives (pro and contra), which in fact is not unlike some discussions here at SuttaCentral (The Volokh Conspiracy - Is Elaine Pagels a Fraud? – http://volokh.com/posts/1146493490.shtml).

Here are sample comments from there, IMO representing the various facets of viewpoint, including bits of humor as well as lapses of decorum:

1: (David Kopel – quoted from “Is Elaine Pagels a Fraud?”) 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”.

2: (Steve – reply to 1) 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.

3: (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.

4: (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.

5: (Tim DeRoche) 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.

6: (Riskabe) _“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!

7: (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.

8: (AppSocRes) 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… Anyonewho doubts the historicity of Jesus is right up there with Holocaust deniers… [Goodwin’s Law lives on…]

9: (Anderson) 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.

10: (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.

11: (Mahlon) 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.

12: (RHD) This thread has gone ballistic and tendentious, but for reasons that are hard to follow.

13: (Anderson) 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!)

14: (Michael Jacovides) Mankowski’s criticisms are astonishingly thin. [followed by a list of the criticisms in the essay and offering less drastic interpretations]

15: (DG) 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.

16: (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?

17: (DG) In any case, my modest point is that we should be reluctant to charge fraud where a passage admits of plausible non-fraudulent interpretations.


P.S. Admittedly, the Jesuits are not historically associated with the Inquisition (which was more under the charge of the Dominicans), but focus more on higher learning, scholarship (they maintain active outposts at major universities, at least around here). Both share the common purpose, however, of defending the Faith against (perceived) heresy.

[minor edits – formatting, spelling, …]

Religion is a crazy thing.

3 Likes

[quote=“cjmacie, post:1, topic:5845”]
Fr. Mankowski has widely written on various conservative Catholic topics, notably arguing that “God” is strictly “he”, and multiple other issues relating to women and feminism vis-a-vis church dogma (and politics); in particular an essay in which he (in his own words) “demolishes” one Phyllis Tribe’s arguments regarding the femininity of Yahweh in the Old Testament. Fr. Mankowski is clearly a dedicated and skilled “Defender of the Faith” against heresy.
[/quote]In the interest of having the facts laid out plainly in these respective posts, and to let readers draw their own informed conclusions therefrom, I will only say that Mankowski’s religious inclinations do not lessen his ability to engage in academic and informed critique as well as participate in scholarship that seeks to avoid undue bias, any more than the Buddhadharma practice of the Venerables here impede their ability to do so with regards to Buddhism. Many of the scholars who participate in academic work regarding Christian history are not Christians themselves, and do not have any vested interests in proving the historical precedence of any sort of “traditional truths” or any “other truths” ideally, and yet they largely draw a converging picture of the history of early Christianity, based on the same sources and analyses thereof. Elaine Pagels draws a different conclusions about early Christianityand that does not mean that her conclusions are wrong because they are divergent.

[details=The “Early Gnosticism” Enthusiasts]Elaine Pagels is part of a small but strong number of perspectives in the academic study of early Christian history who date the Gnostic Gospels much earlier than what mainstream consensus is regarding them (IMO obv) (for some of these datings, for instance one need only go to http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ to see The Sophia of Jesus Christ dated to 50-500 or so AD (they might just outright say “50AD”, I’ll have to check).

Suffice to say this perspective does not deserve immidiate dismissal, as much as I argue against it here, based on its intersections with the study of Early Buddhism and EBTs. [/details]

Similarly, this statement here:[quote=“cjmacie, post:1, topic:5845”]
Fr. Mankowski is clearly a dedicated and skilled “Defender of the Faith” against heresy.
[/quote]Do you think that Elaine Pagels is not without motive and agenda to argue how she argues, and continue to publish from a certain perspective? New York Times Bestseller as she is? It is certainly a possibility, as much so as Mankowski’s implied motives.

We can search for construed motives all we want. We (and readers) should look at the actual scholarship presented, I think we can all agree to that, regardless how we stand on the matter.

[details=Further analyses of Elaine Pagels claims of “Gnostic” literature in early Christianity]Even in the beginning of her 1979 publication The Gnostic Gospels, in the introduction alone, we have a host of problems:[quote]Third, orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is Lord and Son of God in a unique way: he remains forever distinct from the rest of humanity whom he came to save.[/quote] This is contradicted by orthodox Christianity itself, particularly manifest in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” This questioning of the duality and seperation of God and man is part and parcel to the teaching of Jesus Christ as preserved in the earliest strata of Christian literature, the Pauline Epistles, and the various orthodox Christianities that grew out of that tradition, all the way up the theosis in the Eastern Orthodox Church and deification in the Roman Church. [quote]Yet the gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates that as soon as Thomas recognizes him, Jesus says to Thomas that they have both received their being from the same source: Jesus said, [quote]“I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out. . . . He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.”[/quote]Does not such teaching—the identity of the divine and human, the concern with illusion and enlightenment, the founder who is presented not as Lord, but as spiritual guide- sound more Eastern than Western? Some scholars have suggested that if the names were changed, the “living Buddha” appropriately could say what the Gospel of Thomas attributes to the living Jesus. Could Hindu or Buddhist tradition have influenced gnosticism? The British scholara of Buddhism, Edward Conze, suggests that it had. He points out that [quote]Buddhists were in contact with the Thomas Christians (that is, Christians who knew and used such writings as the Gospel of Thomas) in South India[/quote][/quote]This is the first of many false claims that characterize Pagels’ writings. The Gospel of Thomas, in addition to not being a Gnostic text, is an early Christian “Sayings-Gospel” in the Coptic-language text and there is absolutely no evidence of it having been translated from an Indian language, or to have come from India in any way.

Furthermore, the Saint Thomas Christians are a real people with a real history and they have no records of The Gospel of Thomas ever existing among them, you can look up their literature online.[quote]Trade routes between the Greco-Roman world and the Far East were opening up at the time when gnosticism flourished (AD 80-200); for generations, Buddhist missionaries had been proselytizing in Alexandria. We note, too, that Hippolytus, who was a Greek-speaking Christian in Rome (c. 225), knows of the Indian Brahmins, and includes their tradition among the sources of heresy:[quote]There is … among the Indians a heresy of those who philosophize among the Brahmins, who live a self-sufficient life, abstaining from (eating) living creatures and all cooked food…
They say that God is light, not like the light one sees, nor like the sun nor fire,
but to them God is discourse, not that which finds expression in articulate sounds, but that of knowledge (gnosis) through which the secret mysteries of nature are perceived by the wise.[/quote]First of all, this quote from Hippolytus is a complete non-sequitur, there is no such doctrine like the one described above, were “God is discourse”, in the Gospel of Thomas. God being described as light is a mainstream feature orthodox Christianity. Could the title of the Gospel of Thomas, named for the disciple who, tradition tells us, went to India, suggest the influence of Indian tradition?[/quote]On this matter, from what has been presented, there is no evidence that they ever had a Gospel of Thomas let alone considered it canonical, given all this, does the title of the manuscript (which, as is well known in textual criticism of Christian literature, has no bearing on the actual author of the gospel in question) “suggest the influence of Indian tradition”?

Elaine Pagels does the scholarly thing, and avoids outrightly saying this. She notes that evidence is inconclusive, but why even bring it up when it is so groundless? [/details]

In addition, the issue of Elaine Pagels treatment of source text as illustrated by Mankowski still stands, but rather than add to proliferation here, if it is necessary to demonstrate this further I will add to the original posts, as to not disturb the forum.

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[quote=“Coemgenu, post:3, topic:5845”]
In addition, the issue of Elaine Pagels treatment of source text as illustrated by Mankowski still stands, but rather than add to proliferation here, if it is necessary to demonstrate this further I will add to the original posts, as to not disturb the forum.[/quote]

Though I’ve personally no axe to grind in this issue, I think it would indeed be necessary if Mankowski’s indictment is to have any credibility. He has described Pagels’ work as, “… chock-full of tendentious readings and instances where counter-evidence is suppressed.” These are fighting words and any scholar who uttered them would surely owe it to his readers to support them with more than just a single example.

Chock-full: Filled so as to leave no vacant space; cram-full; stuffed full; full to suffocation.
(OED)

[quote=“Dhammanando, post:4, topic:5845”]
Though I’ve personally no axe to grind in this issue, I think it would indeed be necessary if Mankowski’s indictment is to have any credibility. He has described Pagels’ work as, “… chock-full of tendentious readings and instances where counter-evidence is suppressed.” These are fighting words and any scholar who uttered them would surely owe it to his readers to support them with more than just a single example.
[/quote]I’m currently making my way through Elaine Pagels The Gnostic Gospels and recounting exhaustively every single mistake (most of them, I will demonstrate, are likely to be deliberate falsifications), issue of citation, and case of academic slight of hand. It is the hidden in “Further analyses of Elaine Pagels’ claims of “Gnostic” literature in early Christianity” as to not take up too much room on the forum.

Already in the introduction alone we have claims that the Gospel of Thomas is from India, as a document, that the Saint Thomas Christians used, venerated, and considered canonical the Gospel of Thomas, that the Gospel of Thomas contains “Brahmin/Buddhist” teachings about knowledge and “discourse” being God in early Christianity (the Gospel of Thomas is very short, anyone can read it for themselves and decide if what Elaine Pagels says is there is there indeed).

Now she hasn’t “actually” claimed any of this. At the end of the introduction she points out that there is no substantiating evidence for anything she has brought up, but why even bring it up if it is all completely groundless (why, indeed, say all of these assertions when they are all groundless?). Pagels’ books are full of lovely things that moderns love to hear, but historical scholarship is lacking, as will be demonstrated.

If she “doesn’t actually say any of these things,” then how can they be “deliberate falsifications”?

[quote=“DKervick, post:6, topic:5845”]
“deliberate falsifications”?
[/quote]Because it is likely she knows what she is saying is false, and uses the fact that “there is no evidence” as a smoke screen to defend herself making that assumption and presenting it, for a moment, as fact, only to disavow it a few paragraphs later. This academic slight of hand gives tidbits of what readers want to hear. The PDF of her text, The Gnostic Gospels, is available freely online via searching the name of the book followed by “PDF”. I would recommend reading the book for yourself and you will see what I am talking about.

Ok, will do. But if an author only proposes certain things are possible, but refrains from asserting those proposals outright, and accepts there is no evidence for the proposals, then they simply cannot be engaged in deliberate falsification.

In any case, the Gnostic Gospels is s pretty old book now, and a lot has been learned since then. What are Pagels’ most recent works on the subject?

Ok , I have just read the Introduction, and I have to say your attributions of these views to Pagels herself is remarkably sloppy. The Introduction gives only a kind of “state of the field” survey of the questions and conjectures that were current in Nag Hammadi studies as of 1979, posing several questions and citing the opinions of other prominent scholars in the field, without telling us much about the position Pagels herself is ultimately going to take on the questions she raises.

[quote=“DKervick, post:9, topic:5845”]
Ok , I have just read the Introduction, and I have to say your attributions of these views to Pagels herself is remarkably sloppy.
[/quote]We will simply have to agree to disagree on this matter. As the analysis moves past the introduction we will see how things develop.

Elaine Pagels has a pattern throughout her entire work of devoting text to all manner of unsubstantiated assumption, only to double back and later say “there is no evidence”. This will be a pattern we will see throughout the work, but we need to be patient, as I can only devote so much time to this side project. There are more important things, I’m sure everyone can agree to that.

Ok, but you told me to read the introduction, and claimed Pagels already made those assertion there. Alas, she didn’t.

Not only did I not miss that passage, but I referred to it earlier in pointing out the contradiction in holding that Pagels didn’t actually say various things while at the same time holding that, in saying those things, she is engaged in deliberate falsification.

You seem to have a low threshold for what it takes to accuse a scholar of lying.

[quote=“DKervick, post:13, topic:5845”]
You seem to have a low threshold for what it takes to accuse a scholar of lying.
[/quote]Perhaps, this is certainly a possibility. I may have far too high (and thus more or less unreasonable) standards in terms of what I consider to be truthful and honest academic work, and I may be more vigilant than an average reader for pointing out attempts to generate controversy where there is none.

Well, I will await your meticulous documentation of Pagels’s errors.

Surely this is a normal feature of dialectic? You have to present a spectrum of views, and do so in a persuasive way, otherwise the reader has no idea why the facts or arguments that you adduce actually matter.

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I am aware of Prof. Pagels’ writings in summary form, but not enough to even comment on this discussion, above. I did look her up to refresh my memory of her books, and found this article, which I found very compelling and worth adding to this discussion. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/14/books/the-heresy-that-saved-a-skeptic.html

I did the same for Fr. Malinowski, the other day. Sometimes, aside from the arguments and the scholarship I like to know the “story behind the story” of the author or scholar. Both of these authors have interesting backstories.

Mankowski’s article seemed to be a very aggressive attempt to destroy Pagels’s scholarly reputation. And he used extremely discourteous and demeaning language in doing it, calling her a “novelist” whose genre is “historical romance”. But I guess he made himself a big man in the eyes of the conservative catholic press with that kind of behavior.

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Spinning through some of his essays ( for example, https://www.ewtn.com/library/PRIESTS/FR93103.TXT, an essay denouncing ‘the Pill’ as a weakening factor for the moral integrity of the RC Church) ), it felt like a “throwback Thursday” to the time I spent at a large Catholic university (the same city where Fr. Mankowski is from), required to attend Mass on Sundays, and being exposed to some priests on campus that, at times, acted and sounded like they were wound just a bit too tightly. Educated fellows, but a bit scary. Fr. Mankowski seems to be out of that same mold. That time seems so long ago, and reading through Mankowski’s essays brought me right back. Highly literate stuff, but depressing to read.

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Does Mankowski’s Catholicism prevent him from participating in scholarship?

That he is opposed to specific movements in specific feminisms (and birth control, a long standing controversy within Christianity and Buddhism), does that make him less of a scholar? Is his career built on knocking down Pagels? The case is, IMO, not such.