Friday, August 24, 2012

Marvin Meyer - Telegraph Obituary

The Telegraph has just published its obituary of Marvin Meyer:

Marvin Meyer
Marvin Meyer, who has died aged 64, was an expert on Gnosticism whose translation of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas challenged the traditional portrayal of Judas Iscariot as the Apostle who betrayed Jesus.

I am delighted to see The Telegraph honouring Marvin Meyer's life and work by publishing an obituary, but unfortunately, there are some rather sweeping generalisations and questionable elements in the piece, including the following:
The Gnostic Gospels are a collection of about 52 texts supposedly based upon the teachings of prophets and spiritual leaders, including Jesus, written from the 2nd to the 4th century AD. 
The number "52" is the number of tractates found among the Nag Hammadi codices, not all of which are "Gnostic" and not all of which are "Gospels".  Moreover there are "Gnostic Gospels" not found among the Nag Hammadi codices.  The obituary goes on to mention Nag Hammadi but appears unclear about how these things line up.  The following is also not entirely accurate:
These writings offer profoundly differing accounts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Philip, for example, ridicules the virgin birth and Christ’s bodily resurrection; The Apocalypse of Paul also claims that Christ’s rise from the dead was spiritual, not physical; The Gospel of Mary suggests a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
The idea that the Gospel of Mary suggests a sexual relationship between Jesus  and Mary Magdalene is false.

Most of the piece is devoted to the controversy over the Gospel of Judas, with a couple of paragraphs of obituary proper at the end.  It is a shame that The Telegraph did not think to fact-check its obituary before publication.  The kind of confusion found in the piece does not honour the work of a fine scholar.

Update (Saturday 25th): It's worse.  The piece is in fact plagiarized.

5 comments:

Phil H. said...

I only met Marvin last year for the first time, but I found him to be a very down-to-earth and nice man (besides being an excellent scholar). He seemed so young to me. This is very sad.

Phil

Phil H. said...

I only met Marvin last year for the first time, but I found him to be a very down-to-earth and nice man (besides being an excellent scholar). He seemed so young to me. This is very sad.

Phil

Todd said...

Not only is it wrong, it's also plagiarism.

The false information concerning the Gospel of Mary, as well as the description of the Gospel of Philip and the Apocalypse of Paul come from a NY Post article last year, "The new, New Testament" (http://nyp.st/gzRQXI). It writes:

"The Gospel of Philip ridicules the idea of a virgin birth and of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead and anyone who would believe either.The Apocalypse of Paul also claims that Christ’s rise from the dead was spiritual, not physical. The Gospel of Mary suggests a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene"

See also Wikipedia's article on the Gnostic Gospels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnostic_Gospels):

"The Gnostic Gospels are a collection of about fifty-two texts supposedly based upon the ancient wisdom teachings of several prophets and spiritual leaders including Jesus, written from the 2nd to the 4th century AD..."

Both quotations are word-for-word taken up by the Telegraph's obituary. I know that many papers are now outsourcing their obituaries to companies in places like India. Perhaps something like that is happening here? I notice that the article itself isn't attributed to an author.

Todd said...

Also, from a 2003 NY Times article on Elaine Pagels (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/14/books/the-heresy-that-saved-a-skeptic.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm):

"Early Christians were subject to unimaginable persecutions, and church fathers believed that for Christianity to survive, there had to be a unified belief system, Ms. Pagels said. Some time around A.D. 180, Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons denounced all gospels but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as heretical, ''an abyss of madness and of blasphemy.'' About 50 years after Constantine's conversion early in the fourth century, the New Testament became Christianity's official text."

Or from this 2007 LA times article on Meyer(http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jan/06/local/me-judas6):

"Author James M. Robinson, a giant in the world of early Christian studies, also accused National Geographic of sensationalizing the gospel "in order to make as large a profit as possible."

...If James has been hurt, I am truly sorry," he added. "I sense there is a passing of the mantle going on, and I would hope it can be passed with joy."

... Meyer said the world was better off with the new Judas, who "was someone who understood Jesus better than any other apostle," and who was anything but the traitor reviled by anti-Semitic church officials for centuries."


I don't have time to go through every line, but I assume that other quotations and paraphrasing can be found in these or other articles.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Todd. Fully detailed and posted, with acknowledgement to you. I'd like to use your full name in the post, if possible, but don't know who you are. Thanks again and best wishes, Mark Goodacre