Priestly Pedophiles, Hidden Gospels, and Other Dubious Topics


At Jeremiads, Jeremy Lott has an interesting interview with academic polymath Philip Jenkins.

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  1. " I seriously thought in late 2001 that unless very dramatic action was taken, this country probably had about 10 or 20 years more to survive."

    Polymath? I don't know. Hyperbolist I'll grant you.

    The only people who--any time in the forseeable future--can destroy the US are Americans.

  2. Philip Jenkins is full of baloney. Granted, anybody whose enemies include James Carroll, Daniel Goldhagen, and Elaine Pagels can't be all bad. But his claim about the New Anti-Catholicism, on the evidence of alleged similarities between 19th-century nativist tracts and contemporary political cartoons (an argument he trots out again with Jeremy), doesn't have any juice-and in fact doesn't even have any evidence if you actually look for yourself at the iconography he's talking about.

  3. Tim: I don't find Jenkins' arguments about anti-Catholic prejudice very persuasive. But I do think his arguments about the clerical abuse scandal and the "historical Jesus" crowd are persuasive.

  4. Like I said, any enemy of Elaine Pagels can't be all bad.

    I read Pedophiles and Priests, and the argument is persuasive mainly because it's such a limited argument. It's true that most of the priests in statutory rape cases are not, strictly speaking, pedophiles, but so what? The guy who maintains the Hermione Granger 18th birthday countdown isn't a pedophile either, but he's certainly creepy. And if some organization put him in a position of authority over minors and the expected happened, I wouldn't blame the media for not drawing more precise distinctions about his sexual habits.

  5. Why the consensus about Elaine Pagels being such a villainess ? I'm certainly not a church&jesus expert at all but her books, especially the one on the gnostic gospels, seem historically plausible from a secular, non-religious POV. All that thee-thou stuff had to come from somewhere real.

  6. Is this the Elaine Pagels who was the wife of the late physicist, Heinz Pagels?

  7. America ceasing to exist? Suppose the terrorists got a hold of not one but four or five atomic bombs and the US lost say, Houston, NYC, Washington, LA and Boston. We would still exist I suppose, but not in any recognizable form and it would take decades to recover if we ever could.

  8. I wonder how Pagels explains this bit at the end of the Gospel of Thomas:

    (114) Simon Peter said to him, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life."
    Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."

    Gee, those Gnostics sure were feminists, weren't they?

    I'll stick with the New Testament, thank you.

  9. Tim,
    The "Gnostic Gospels" seemed persuasive because it suggested the syncretic origins of world religion rather than the official version ie revealed by Creator to Law Giver etc. But I have to admit to not being nearly knowledgeable enough on church history and related subject matter that the thought of reading the footnotes to "Gnostic Gospels" or "Beyond Belief" even occured.

    Seems she was married to Hienz Pagels, yes.

  10. SM,

    My beef with Pagels is procedural and stylistic, not philosophical. I'm actually inclined to agree with her critique of church history.

    But The Gnostic Gospels I thought made a really tortured argument and left me knowing as little about the Gnostics as I knew going in. Follow the endnotes and you realize she's building her view of the Gnostics not from their own writings but (mostly) from St. Irenaeus and other orthodox types who were writing (frequently caricatured) polemics against them.

    She'll quote an anti-Gnostic passage from Irenaeus and then expound for a whole chapter on how that shows what groovy and subversive folks the Gnostics where, while citing little or no material from the Gnostics-i.e., the material you're reading the book for in the first place. It became clear to me that she wasn't so much interested in what the Gnostics were as in what the church fathers were not.

    Again, as far as I'm concerned the church fathers can all go pound sand. But I was expecting the book to be a study of a fascinating period in intellectual history based on newly discovered sources, and it wasn't. Beyond Belief, which I thumbed through in the store, looks more interesting and at least quotes from Gospel of Thomas; but when your reputation-making work is new-agey skylarking, I'm disinclined to hope there'll be an improvement-and Pagels' subsequent career as an academic superstar has struck me as pretty annoying.

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