"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Pagels story: getting worse and worse

Last year I wrote a post about a bit of scholarly legerdemain by Professor Elaine Pagels, whom I described, correctly, as "the media's go-to person" for the nest of historical and theological topics associated with The DaVinci Code, Gnosticism, and indeed the early Church generally. Now, another flap about her scholarship has made its appearance in the blogosphere. It gets worse and worse. I don't enjoy chronicling all this, since I like Elaine, having once been her student and been treated fairly by her. But as I feel strongly that her influence on the general public has been, on the whole, pernicious, I think it important to make people aware of her reputation among her peers.

Fr. Robert Hart of The Continuum, in a post with the characteristically understated title "Lies and Slander," has exposed two other such piece of deception by Pagels and defended himself from one erudite commenter's charge of tu quoque. Good for him. What I most enjoyed was the following quotation in the combox from his brother, the Orthodox theologian David B. Hart, whom I presume has given consent to its being made public:

It might be germane to the conversation to point out that, in the academic world (of which, if you don't mind my saying so, I am a somewhat veteran witness), Pagels is often an object of ridicule, but never of respect. Even at Princeton her colleagues hold her in scorn as a silly popularizer who entirely distorts the history she discusses. And it has not gone unnoticed by her students that--for a reputed expert in ancient Gnostic documents--she owns a very small knowledge of either Greek or Coptic. In my year's sojourn at Princeton, I heard many barbed remarks about the quality of her "scholarship" from the faculty of the divinity school; not once did I hear anyone undertake to defend her. Anyway, since she writes about a period I know quite well (the languages pertinent to which, moreover, I can actually read), I feel free to assert that what she really knows about the early Church or the Gnostics could fit quite comfortably on the back of her calling card. I'm surprised anyone would be so silly as to leap into the breach to defend her; she is--and has long been known to be--a charlatan.

Wow. The next time you hear Pagels cited as an authority against the Church, keep all that in mind.
blog comments powered by Disqus