What ever happened to columnists who knew what they were talking about?
Geez. It’s like he came straight from his New Age Crystals Earth-Air-Water Gaia Priestess meeting:
The first-century church was inclusive and democratic, even including a proto-feminist wing and texts. The Gospel of Philip, a Gnostic text from the third century, declares of Mary Magdalene: “She is the one the Savior loved more than all the disciples.” Likewise, the Gospel of Mary (from the early second century) suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to instruct the disciples on his religious teachings.
Earth to Nick Kristof: The Gnostic gospels, my boy, are basically fakes. They were written in the second century, as you say. Think about it: Mary lived to about maybe 60 A.D. If her gospel was only written in the year 150, let’s say, it sure wasn’t written by her. Somebody else wrote it. Since it was only found in Egypt, and only used by the Gnostic sects, which were goofier than hell anyway, it kind of gives you a clue, doesn’t it?
Oh, you might have read an interesting book by Elaine Pagels or something, but she is to be pitied more than anything else.
Oh well. This early church that Kristof speaks of seems to be something the left wing would dearly love. It’s just the sort of thing they would make up if they were going to make up their own version of Christianity. Isn’t it great how the “early church” turns out to be exactly what the writers at the New York Times want it to be? What a coincidence.
The most basic point to be made about Kristof’s laughable claim is that the Gnostics were not part of the Catholic Church, nor would they have desired to be part of the Catholic Church. They figured themselves to be far too enlightened (gnosis = special/secret knowledge) to be part of a Church that was encumbered with material things such as sacraments. Of course, Kristof’s use of the word “wing” suggests that he sees this in political terms (doesn’t every political body have a “proto-feminist wing”? No?? Outrageous!). And, of course, there is the whole matter of taking seriously the historical claims made in Gnostic texts considering how loopy they are and how unconcerned with historical events were Gnostics save for promoting their elitist, secretive blatherin—er, teachings.
As for Pagels, the prime “academic” exponent of the Gnostic gospels, she is ” a very naughty historian” as Professor Paul Mankowski outlines here. He says:
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.
Or she would be, were she judged by the conventional canons of scholarship. At the post-graduate institute where I teach, and at any university with which I am familiar, for a professor or a grad student intentionally to falsify a source is a career-ending offense. Among professional scholars, witness tampering is no joke: once the charge is proven, the miscreant is dismissed from the guild and not re-admitted.
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.
That’s your denizen of the modern university for you. Suppression of counter-evidence; slyly manufactured quotes, fiddling with sources.
Yet she is standard New York Times fare:
Pagels should be billed accurately — not as an expert on Gnosticism or Coptic Christianity but as what she is: a lady novelist. Her oeuvre is that of fiction — in fact, historical romance. Had New York Times reporters sought Barbara Cartland’s views on discoveries in Merovingian religion or paleography, most of us would find it odd, but we’d expect them to make it plain that was romance, not history, in which she had the right to an opinion.