Review: Beyond Belief pt V

5) Ignoring Other Theories

Pagels makes no attempt to address the arguments of other scholars and simply asserts her version. It is not problematic for her to have a diverse view, but certainly a credible argument must be given as to why her opinion is correct in the face of so much scholarly opinion to the contrary. She seems simply unaware of (or unwilling to tangle with) the realm of scholarship on an issue like the significance of the resurrection. She puts forth as plausible that Christians might believe in a 'spiritual' resurrection, when at least some contemporary scholars have argued significantly that no Jewish Christian would believe such a thing, nor would such a belief lead to the rise of the Church.

Even on issues where I do not know the opinion of scholarship, she still fails to argue for her assertions when they seem to have obvious alternative explanations. This is true of the dating of various manuscripts, the degree to which certain theological diversities would have been acceptable as 'within orthodoxy' prior to Irenaeus, and many other issues.

Case in point, she asserts that the 2nd Century argument by Irenaeus for a four-fold gospel canon (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and the simultaneous creation of Tatian's Diatessaron (the single book harmonizing these same four gospels), suggests that this was a new idea; that people would not have been familiar with the idea of a four gospel canon, and that this was why Irenaeus was so forceful in his argument for it. But to me it suggests exactly the opposite! Why would two men from two completely different parts of the world, from different cultures, simultaneously turn to these four gospels as authoritative if there were no previous weight given to those same documents? It seems a question that needs answering, not ignoring...

Even a basic working knowledge of orthodox doctrine seems to be lacking. She sees orthodox Christians arguing for a divine Jesus against the gnostic picture of a human one. This actually flips reality on its head; the gnostics were the ones who often pictured Jesus as lacking humanity (and a physical body), it was the orthodox position that affirmed both his divinity (and of equal importance) his humanity.

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