Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Scholarly Smackdown (Pagels and Witherington) Round 2

Beliefnet have published Round 2 of the new Scholarly Smackdown on Jesus and Paul between Elaine Pagels and Ben Witherington III. Remember to read it while you can -- the last one (Crossan and Witherington) went premium after it was finished:

Scholarly Smackdown: Did Paul Distort Christianity?
Round 2
Since you and I have some substantive disagreements on what Paul said, it’s important for those participating in this conversation who are not scholars to know that this discussion is not just a matter of “liberal” vs. “conservative,”-much less “he said, she said”-- but that serious scholars, the great majority of them Christians, like you and me, can honestly interpret these letters differently. Those who want to read more about the various viewpoints will find here suggestions of a few places to start, so that they may come to their own decisions.
There's lots of material of interest, though I can't help thinking -- as with the Crossan / Witherington exchange -- that there is much too much talking past each other. There is not enough of the kind of really stimulating direct exchange of views that one might have expected. One of them will ask a question and the other will not answer it or will answer it only indirectly. I wonder if they would benefit from some of the everyday cut-and-thrust of the academic e-lists which can often hold one to account in a pretty direct way. If you don't answer a question, someone will ask it to you again; if your answer skates around the issue, someone will point this out. One of the things I like about the e-lists is the (intelligent) use of the in-line comment -- quoting your dialogue partner's views and engaging with them. I am enjoying these new "Scholarly Smackdowns" (though I still hate the title); I hope beliefnet do more of these in the future; and I think that they are more than just a series of mini-articles from contrasting perspectives; but I would like to see the participants engaging with each other a little more directly than they sometimes do at present.

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