Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Heresy Channel

The Biography Channel is right up there with the History Channel in competition for the official title of "Channels Most Likely to Dispute Biblical Accounts." Perhaps the worst example is the series "Mysteries of the Bible," which should more properly be called "Postmodern Feminist Mysteries of the Bible."

The episode focused on Mary, the Mother of God. Naturally, the regular cast of modernist theologians and scripture scholars were trotted out to make claims of conflicting accounts (cave vs. stable, birth in Bethlehem vs. Nazareth). Nevermind that each of them has a reasonable explanation supported by documentary evidence. Surprisingly, one or two of the scholars mentioned the "Protevangelium of James." This document, attributed pseudonymously to James (the brother of Jesus, son of Joseph from a previous marriage), recounts the conception and births of Mary and Jesus. The earliest manuscript dates from the third century, but there are references to other works that suggest a date of around the middle of the second century.

But not shortly after the mention of this extracanonical work, one of the scholars, a professor from a Marymount College, claims that the references to a "virgin" in Matthew and Luke are likely mistranslations of a term used to refer to a woman of marriageable age and disputed the claim of technical virginity. She made no mention whatsoever of the development of a document not 100 years later that clearly sets forth an account of Mary as a virgin in every possible sense of the word.

Of course, these claims are nothing new. It would be refreshing if either of these two channels would try nearly as hard to find a group of scholars who supported the orthodox interpretation of scripture. But when Elaine Pagels is perpetually available to give us gnosis, I guess we can't expect producers of such codswallop to work all that hard to find better scholars.


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