Jesuit Scholar Debunks Prominent Da Vinci Code Supporter

by Hilary White

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2006 ( – The Easter season has come to be as characterized by the anti-Christian media outbursts as by the appearance of bunnies and coloured eggs in shop windows.

Among this year’s offerings, appearing shortly after the announcement of the film version of the Da Vinci Code, was the “discovery” of the purported, long-lost “gospel of Judas,” which, according to the secular press, would destroy once and for all Christian claims about the early teaching of Christ and His Apostles.

One of the most vocal supporters of both the Da Vinci Code frenzy and this latest in a string of “Gnostic Gospels”, is Professor Elaine Pagels, an “expert” in Gnosticism and early Christianity at Princeton University, best known for her 1979 book, The Gnostic Gospels.

The New York Times quoted Pagels saying, “These discoveries (of Gnostic texts) are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion, and demonstrating how diverse—and fascinating—the early Christian movement really was.”

Today, Jesuit Rev. Paul Mankowski, an expert in scripture and ancient languages, writes at Catholic World News web forum that Pagels’ scholarship is not just shoddy but falsified.

Mankowski says Pagels’ first interest is discrediting Catholic ecclesiology, the doctrines on the nature and structure of the Church, which were clarified in a series of controversies in the early centuries of the Christian era.

In a detailed scholarly examination, Mankowski, a professor of Biblical Hebrew at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and author of many books and articles, shows that Pagels research methodology is reversed: she starts with the theory and looks for support material. Worse, than this, he says, when she cannot find it, she makes it up.

Mankowski writes, “Pagels is concerned to show that the doctrine of monotheism and the hierarchical structuring of the Church were mutually reinforcing ploys designed to consolidate ecclesiastical power.”

But Pagels goes even further than selectively misrepresenting ancient texts as genuinely Christian and re-writes ancient authors to suit her purposes. “Creativity,” says Mankowski, “when applied to one’s sources, is not a compliment. She is a very naughty historian.”

Mankowski says that falsifying a text source would be a career-ending offense and that Pagels has escaped censure only because she draws conclusions that are in vogue in most of modern academia.

“Attractive as her ideological sympathies may be to many persons—including many academics—she does not deserve to be ranked with serious textual scholars…and her testimony on the accuracy of inventions such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code cannot be solicited without irony,” Fr. Mankowski writes.

Pagels’ remains a favorite with feminists and dissident Catholics interested in discrediting Catholic teaching on the hierarchical nature of the cosmos and the Church. Her most recent book, published in May 2003, was titled, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 19 weeks and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

The problem of the erosion of ecclesiology was identified before his election to the papacy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who said it was the most pressing problem faced by the modern Church since the close of the Second Vatican Council.

Mankowski writes, “I am not calling for academic sanctions but, more simply, for clarification. Pagels should be billed accurately—not as an expert on Gnosticism or Coptic Christianity but as what she is: a lady novelist.”

Read Rev. Mankowski’s full examination:

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