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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

If this is "mainstream" scholarship, I'd hate to see the fringe.

In the pages of The New Republic, Boston University Professor Paula Fredriksen (a member of that (in)famous committee Cardinal Keeler is always distancing himself from) is the latest rattan cane-wielding scholar to weigh in on "The Passion":

Gibson has continued to speak earnestly of his film as "conforming" to the New Testament. Unless he ditched the script with which he was working as late as March, wrote an almost entirely new one, re-assembled his cast, re-shot his movie, and then edited it in time to be screened in June, this statement, too, must be false. Six pages of our report lay out for him exactly those places where he not only misreads but actually contravenes material given in the Gospels. And his historical mistakes, no less profound, are spelled out for him there, too.

As another commenter has ably noted, the gripes are picayune.

What is odd is that someone with Professor Fredriksen's background would have a problem with a presentation that was either ahistorical or deviated from the text of the Gospels. After all, she's built her career on it.

Essentially, she denies a historical resurrection, the historicity of the infancy narratives, the miracles depicted in the Gospels, the historicity of the passion narratives--the list is impressive.

Here you can examine her most recent opus, which argues that Jesus and his thick followers didn't understand him to be the Messiah until after the Crucifixion. Ooookay.

She was also one of the scholars consulted on Peter Jennings' "The Search For Jesus" in 2000. She didn't like the fact she was depicted as affirming the historicity of the Resurrection, and distanced herself quite strongly from Anglican scholar N.T. Wright's firm affirmation on the subject. See pages 50-52 in the above link.

Consider also the Professor's take on the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of Mark, allegedly the earliest and most "historical" of the Gospels (see p. 92):

Mark’s passion narrative makes up in drama what it lacks in historical probability.

In fact, her attitude toward the Gospels as a whole is broadly dismissive:

"'The gospels are very peculiar types of literature. They're not biographies,'" says Prof. Paula Fredriksen, "'they are a kind of religious advertisement. What they do is proclaim their individual author's interpretation of the Christian message through the device of using Jesus of Nazareth as a spokesperson for the evangelists' position.'"

Ah, yes: the assured results of critical scholarship. In light of this, it's hard to understand why Prof. Fredriksen would have a problem with someone who went beyond the text of the Gospels in a few places, when she is in large measure inclined to dismiss them.

I'm beginning to understand the problem the "scholarly" community has with the film: they view Mel as a naive, pre-critical hick who actually takes the narratives at face value--the moron.

No doubt the same attitude extends to the average believer in the pews. This is the kind of scholarship the USCCB wants to be associated with?

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