Elaine Pagels accused of scholarly fraud

Elaine Pagels accused of scholarly fraud

I just received the following note from Phil Lawler of Catholic World News about an article he has from Fr. Paul Mankowski accusing Elaine Pagels of scholarly fraud. Pagels is often cited as the premier expert on Gnostics, and she is a big booster of the validity of Gnostic thought over orthodox Christianity. Here’s the email from Phil:

A Jesuit scholar has uncovered clear evidence of scholarly fraud in the work of Elaine Pagels, the Princeton professor of history whose work has been regularly cited in support of popular works such as The Da Vinci Code.

In a post on the Catholic World News web site, Father Paul Mankowski shows that in her book The Gnostic Gospels, Pagels constructed a quotation from the 2nd-century Christian apologist Irenaeus by omitting some critical words, inserting other words that the original author did not use, and cobbling together two sentence fragments from unrelated chapters of Irenaeus’ work.

In her own endnotes, Father Mankowski observes, Pagels concedes that the quotation is “conflated.” But the Jesuit scholar adds “the word doesn’t fit even as a euphemism: what we have is not conflation but creation.”

Father Mankowski, who teaches at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, points out that such gross manipulation of the historic record is ordinarily grounds for scholarly discipline. He writes: “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.”

While he stops short of calling for academic sanctions, Father Mankowski concludes that “Pagels should be billed accurately—not as an expert on Gnosticism or Coptic Christianity but as what she is: a lady novelist.”

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