Posts Tagged ‘Tony Burke’

In response to Tony Burke’s criticism that conservative scholars’ characterization of Gospel of Thomas 114 ignored mainstream scholarship on Thomas, I had quoted from Elaine Pagels, Antti Marjanen, Stephen Patterson, and Marvin Meyer, all of whom generally agreed with the characterization that Burke disputed. In his reply, Burke asserted that “Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer…may not be the best scholars to appeal to in this debate, however, as they write often for popular audiences and their comments on the texts may suffer from the same lack of depth as the apologists I criticize.” I expressed some amazement at this statement and asked which scholars Burke thought should be consulted on the subject. In his most recent reply, Burke chose not to name one, and defended his comment by saying:

My point, however, was not that they were not accomplished scholars, but that the works that Bowman was appealing to (some of them, that is, particularly Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels) do not present a range of opinions on the topic. And my objection to the apologists’ comments on Gos. Thom. 114 is that they state only that it is misogynist, as if there are no other ways to interpret the saying. So, by “lack of depth” I simply meant that some of these other works (by Pagels, etc.) also only present one interpretation of the saying. Bowman is right, however, to object to my generalization of all four of the scholars as writing for popular audiences; Marjanen’s contribution is certainly not in the same vein.

Although I’m glad Burke acknowledges that his generalization did not apply to Marjanen, it really doesn’t apply to the other scholars either. To be fair to Pagels (imagine that, coming from this conservative!), when she wrote The Gnostic Gospels very little had yet been written about the saying. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tony Burke has posted on his blog a response to my recent post on women in Gospel of Thomas 114. Burke begins his response as follows:

Just to recap the discussion, I stated previously that assessments of the logion as “misogynist” were anachronistic and showed a lack of awareness of scholarship on the text. In response, Bowman excerpted a number of non-conservative scholars (including Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer) who agree that the saying is indeed misogynist. These may not be the best scholars to appeal to in this debate, however, as they write often for popular audiences and their comments on the texts may suffer from the same lack of depth as the apologists I criticize.

I expect to be at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in a couple of weeks, and I would love to get Burke in a room together with Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer to hear him defend this statement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Women and Gospel of Thomas 114: Reply to Tony Burke (V)

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in apocrypha

This is the fifth installment of my response to Tony Burke’s article on the SBL Forum, Heresy Hunting in the New Millennium.” In that article Burke had mentioned Ben Witherington’s description of saying 114 in the Gospel of Thomas as “misogynist” as an example of a conservative scholar misrepresenting the “Christian Apocrypha” (CA) by focusing on the supposed odd, absurd, or bizarre elements of those works taken out of context. In a follow-up post, Burke elaborates on his criticism of Witherington:

It is unfair, I think, to label Gos. Thom. 114 “misogynistic.” For one thing, such an assessment is anachronistic; for another, it is far too simplistic a way to interpret the saying. I won’t attempt to do so here as there are far too many other experts on the text who could do so, and have done so. Unfortunately, the apologists (like Witherington) do not consult these works; they simply draw attention to these sections of the texts that will alarm their readers. Read the rest of this entry »

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According to Tony Burke, conservative scholars writing about the “Christian Apocrypha” (CA) unfairly focus on their allegedly “absurd” and “bizarre” elements and in doing so misrepresent them:

Of course, only those sections of the CA texts that are particularly odd are provided and commented upon. The favorite targets appear to be the resurrection account from the Gospel of Peter, the “absurd tales” of the various infancy gospels, and certain logia from the Gospel of Thomas (Witherington, for example, considers 31 “pantheistic,” 114 “misogynist,” and 18 “is just being obscure for obscurity’s sake!”). Such focus on the “bizarre” elements of the texts misrepresents their contents…. Large parts of the CA are quite “orthodox” but these sections are not discussed…. The refutation by exposure is assisted, as with the ancient heresiologists, by explicit ridicule of the texts’ contents.

Let us stipulate that the conservative scholars whose works Burke is criticizing do have a specific agenda or polemical purpose that involves, at least in part, discrediting the noncanonical gospels in some way. Read the rest of this entry »

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I mentioned in my previous post Tony Burke’s reference to “anti-Semitism” in the Gospel of John as one of the “objectionable” elements in the canonical Gospels. (In context, he was arguing that we should not characterize the Christian Apocrypha on the basis of such objectionable elements any more than we should characterize the canonical writings on such a selective basis.) A thorough treatment of this question in a blog entry is out of the question, so I will offer some brief comments and then recommend some further reading on the subject. Read the rest of this entry »

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This is the second installment of my response to Tony Burke’s article, Heresy Hunting in the New Millennium.”[1] Regarding the citation by conservative scholars of “bizarre” elements of the apocryphal writings, Burke offers the following objection:

“Such focus on the ‘bizarre’ elements of the texts misrepresents their contents. There is plenty of material in the canonical texts that is bizarre or objectionable but it would be unfair to characterize Acts simply on the basis of the cursing stories, or Luke on Jesus’ disappearing act (4:30) or the sweating of blood (22:43-44), or John on its anti-Semitism.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Defending Heresy in the New Millennium

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in apocrypha, apologetics, Biblical studies

The words “Defending Heresy” in the title of this blog are deliberately provocative. I am referring to a recent article published on the Society of Biblical Literature’s web site by Tony Burke entitled “Heresy Hunting in the New Millennium.”  Burke (whose full name, according to his web site, is Tony Chartrand-Burke) teaches biblical studies at York University in Toronto, Canada, and specializes in the study of the Christian (or New Testament) apocrypha. His doctoral dissertation was on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.  This post is the first installment (Lord willing) of a thorough reply to Burke’s article.

Burke’s SBL article is a critique of the way various conservative Christian apologetic works handle the Christian apocrypha (hereafter CA). The main authors he criticizes are Darrell Bock,[1] Ben Witherington,[2] N. T. Wright,[3] J. Ed Komoszewski,[4] Philip Jenkins,[5] and Craig A. Evans.[6] According to Burke, these authors’ works “often misrepresent the texts, their authors, and the scholars who study them. Proper research and sober argument take a back seat to the apologists’ goal of buttressing the faith.” Like the ancient orthodox apologists such as Irenaeus and Hippolytus, they sacrifice accuracy “to the needs of apologetics” and hurl demonizing invective against modern advocates of the CA. Read the rest of this entry »

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