The Faked “Gospel” That Duped Scholars and Revealed Academia’s Prejudices and Foibles

Sept. 16 2020

In 2012, Karen King, a Harvard professor specializing in Gnosticism and early Christianity, announced to much hoopla that she had in her possession a fragmentary text of a forgotten gospel in which Jesus discusses Mary and refers to his wife. Four years later, the journalist Ariel Sabar revealed that the document—written on papyrus in the ancient Coptic language—was in fact a forgery. Matti Friedman reviews Sabar’s recent book, Veritas, which recounts the story:

Unavoidable throughout the story of the papyrus, and throughout Veritas, is the long, silly shadow of The Da Vinci Code, the bestseller by Dan Brown that posited a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and a lurid Catholic conspiracy to cover it up. . . . In the frenzy that followed the novel’s publication in 2003, King had become one of the academics interviewed frequently on the subject, seeing the popularity of Brown’s work as an opportunity to talk about the multiplicity of voices in early Christianity and about the greater role that women [supposedly] played before they were sidelined by men.

King saw herself as a historian and spoke much about “data,” but she also wrote, “History is not about truth but about power relations,” and thought the historian’s priority should be to drop “the association between truth and chronology.” All of this made King the perfect mark for the forger peddling the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.

One of the book’s unlikely heroes is Christian Askeland, a New Testament Coptologist with a Cambridge PhD and a sharp eye for forgery. Askeland is an evangelical Christian, making him an outsider in the world of the mainstream academy. With the outsider’s sharpened senses and a familiarity with religious modes of thinking, Askeland understands that there are “fundamentalists” on both the left and the right. The world of religious studies at places like Harvard might have more diversity of sex and race than they used to, but “intellectually, Askeland felt, they were monoliths, often blind to their own liberal pieties.” This is an important part of the intellectual landscape of our times, and it turns out to be a key part of the sorry, fascinating, and relentlessly entertaining tale told in Veritas.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Academia, Christianity, Manuscripts, New Testament

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy