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April DeConick laments that (biblical) scholars usually prefer “rationalizations”, apologetics, “buts”, “tortured exegesis”, “negative labeling”, “side-stepping”, “illogical claims”, and preservation of the church-academy symbiosis over critical engagement with primary and even secondary texts.

“I have known for a long time that traditions are conservative and self-interested, but what is coming home for me in a very real way is just how much the traditions are safe-guarded by the dominant group – be it the mainstream churches or the academy – and how far the dominant group will go to protect them. The interests and preservation of those interests often become the end-all, even at the expense of historical truth. The rationalizations, the apologies, the ‘buts’, the tortured exegesis, the negative labeling, the side-stepping, the illogical claims accumulate until they create an insurmountable wall that preserves both church and academy, which remain (uncomfortably so for me) symbiotic. The entrenchment of the academy is particularly worrisome for me. Scholars’ works are often spun by other scholars, not to really engage in authentic critical debate or review, but to cast the works in such a way that they can be dismissed (if they don’t support the entrenchment) or engaged (if they do). In other words, fair reproduction of the author’s position and engagement with it does not seem to me to be the top priority. The quest for historical knowledge does not appear to me to be the major concern. It usually plays back seat to other issues including the self-preservation of the ideas and traditions of the dominant parties – those who control the churches, and the academy with its long history of alliance with the churches.”

The Naassene fragment (in Hippolytus, Refut 5.10.2)

The Naassene fragment (in Hippolytus, Refut 5.10.2), Miroslav Marcovich, Studies in Graeco-Roman religions and Gnosticism, 80

Call me naive (go on, do it!), but before I got into this game, I honestly thought that I would be joining a stimulating community constantly challenging the ways we think about everything. While there are some honourable exceptions, such an open-minded approach is, disappointingly, rare.

One such exception will (most probably) be April DeConick’s forthcoming book on the gnostic/canonical Gospel of John, which has the working title, John Interrupted – hints of which will appear within her forthcoming paper at the Rockwell Religious Studies 2010 Symposium: Hidden God, Hidden Histories, “What is hiding in the Gospel of John? Reconceptualizing Johannine Origins and the Roots of Gnosticism”, 15 April 2010.