Hypocrisy in the academy

Hypocrisy in the academy June 22, 2016

A little earthquake just took place in the  academic community.

But first, imagine the following scenario.

A New Testament scholar at the world’s best known evangelical college, Wheaton College,  concedes that the “Jesus’ wife” papyrus she showed the world in 2012 was a fake.  At that time she stunned the world with a press conference in Rome, after privately informing elite media like the New York Times and the Smithsonian, that she had unearthed “the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” shocking evidence that some in the early church believed that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. 

It seems the Wheaton College professor was forced to admit her mistake because of last week’s lurid account by an investigative journalist in the Atlantic.  It showed that she had been a “mark,” a naif “played” by a skillful shyster.

The scholarly world is furious.  Harvard historian of early Christianity Karen King is calling on Wheaton College to dismiss this professor as an amateur unworthy of her title as full professor. A scholar at the University of Chicago Divinity School who did not want to give his name told reporters, “We always suspected that evangelicals were intellectual lightweights.  Now we have proof.  After all, Wheaton is the best that evangelicals have, and this professor held an endowed chair in biblical studies!”

Willi Marxsen, famed professor of early Christianity at prestigious Tubingen University in Germany, wrote in Der Spiegel, “This so-called scholar has given all of us true scholars a bad name.  The American government should challenge the accreditation of Wheaton College.”

A Catholic scholar told the New York Times, “I’m relieved that it wasn’t a conservative Catholic academic.  Otherwise my colleagues in the profession would be crowing that this proves you cannot be orthodox and a good scholar at the same time.”

If you opened the links above, you have realized by now that the naive scholar played by a cool operator was not an evangelical at Wheaton College but Karen King herself, holder of the oldest endowed chair in the United States, the Hollis Chair of Divinity at Harvard University.

If she had indeed been from Wheaton–or Abe Maria University–the uproar might have been similar to what I imagined above.

Instead there has been stunning silence from the academic world, and even public support from her dean.

Go figure.



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