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Thoughts inspired by “the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”

1. Harvard’s current position on the matter

This is at Harvard University’s website:

But, no, it’s not a “Coptic Papyrus Fragment.” That’s a lie. Or, I guess, several years ago we could call that statement a mistake, but given that it’s been known to be false for several years, I think it’s fair to call it a lie at this point.

Also, I love that bit about “Report Copyright Infringement.” Promoting a debunked fraud, that’s no big deal, it’s just a day’s work at the uni. But copyright infringement . . . that’s another story!

2. The story

After reading a review of Ariel Sabar’s “Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” I decided to follow Paul Alper’s advice and read the book, which was conveniently available at the local library.

At first I thought the book would be boring, not because of the topic but because I’d already read the review so I knew how the story would turn out. But, no, the book was interesting and thought provoking. It had good guys and bad guys but was lots more than that, and there were three major strands: (1) The document itself: where it came from, how it was revealed and publicized, and the ways in which people figured out that it was fake; (2) The story of the German dude who did the forgery; (3) The story of Harvard and the academic world of early Christian studies. Each of these strands was interesting, and they interacted in interesting ways.

As with the book about Theranos, there was something weird about the whole thing, in that the warnings come right at the beginning and never stop. Agatha Christie it ain’t. The big difference is that the Theranos story was full of bad guys—I was particularly annoyed at the lawyer who went around intimidating anyone who might be a whistleblower—whereas the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife story seems to have involved one bad guy and a thousand dupes, people who legitimately felt bad when it turned out they’d been scammed. The Harvard professor in the story, Karen King, was somewhere in the middle: she got fooled, and then when the evidence of the scam started to come in, she kept looking away, as if she could just make the unwelcome evidence go away by just dismissing it.

In comparison, when my political science colleague Don Green learned that he’d been conned by Michael Lacour, a graduate student from another university, he (Green) made the wise decision to just hit reset oon the story. Lacour’s fraud was hard to detect because it required looking carefully at his data. When the claims first came out, I’d written that the published results seemed too good to be true, but I didn’t suspect fraud; I just thought there might be some methodological issue I was missing. On the other hand, to see the problems in Lacour’s data did not require any specialized knowledge of ancient languages or dating of documents.

As noted in my earlier post, the first thing that Sabar’s story reminded me of was various junk science ideas that got debunked, but often only after many defensive moves by the people who originally promoted the bad ideas, and even after the original experimental claims had been abandoned, the bad ideas remained in Cheshire-cat or zombie form. An example is the so-called critical positivity ratio; see here for the latest in that story. One difference is that the “Jesus’s wife” document was an out-and-out fraud, whereas most of the junk science seems more like delusion or just bad scientific reasoning. For example, I have no reason whatsoever to think that the ages-ending-in-9 or ovulation-and-voting or himmicanes researchers engaged in fraud; I just think they received bad (if conventional) training, they didn’t know what they’re doing, and then, once people pointed out the problems in their work, they were too committed to let go.

Another thing that struck me was the role of the news media, both in puffing up fraud or junk science or unsubstantiated claims more generally, then in shooting these claims down, then in promoting salvage operations, etc.

Sabar has this great quote:

King had correctly forecast the need to distance herself from a certain kind of coverage: the tabloids and clickbait sites that would inevitably mischaracterize the scrap as biographical proof that Jesus was married. But she failed to grasp something essential about the more responsible news organizations: they were not there to do her bidding and move on.

I’ve thought about this before. When academics get in the news for their research, they typically get uncritical coverage. So then when negative coverage does happen, it can be a real shock that the media are not “there to do their bidding.”

Later Sabar discusses two researchers who discovered a fatal flaw in the fake Bible document. These scholars had an insider-outsider perspective: they had professional training but were doing this particular research as a side hobby:

Though they groused about doing scholarship in basements alongside loads of laundry, they’d also come to see advantages: live outside academia’s high walls afforded freedoms unavailable inside. Bernhard and Askeland didn’t have to worry about what Harvard might think of them. They didn’t have to weigh the professional cost, as many young scholars do, of challenging powerful gatekeepers who might one day sit on a hiring or tenure committee.

Indeed, I get emails from people all the time who talk about bad things they’re seeing but request anonymity because they fear retaliation. That’s one advantage to me of being in the statistics and political science departments: the Association for Psychological Science can publish lies about me, and I don’t like it, but they live in a different world than I do.

This brings me to something that is notable by its absence in the Jesus’s wife story. There was no nastiness. Yes, the Harvard professor was a bit slippery with her evidence, engaging in wishful thinking long after it was clear that the document was a fraud—but neither she nor anyone else involved attacked their critics, either directly or through proxies. A couple years ago we talked about a ladder of responses to criticism, ranging from the most open (“1. Look into the issue and, if you find there really was an error, fix it publicly and thank the person who told you about it.”) to the most defensive (“7. Attack the messenger: attempt to smear the people who pointed out the error in your work, lie about them, and enlist your friends in the attack.”) In this case, the academics who were fooled by the forged document were somewhere in the middle. Lots of bullshitting but no attacks.

Sabar also discusses the writings of Robert Funk, a scholar of the Bible and collaborator of Karen King:

“The Bible, along with all our histories, is a fiction,” Funk said in his inaugural 1985 speech to the Jesus Seminar. Like all stories, the Bible was a series of “arbitrary” selections by an author who picked characters and events, then forced them into a causal chain with beginning, middle, and end. It was only by exposing the Bible’s fictive underpinnings that scholars could conjure a new, better tale. Unaccountably, however, this new tale wouldn’t necessarily be truer than the one it replaced. “What we need is a new fiction,” Funk told his colleagues . . .

This makes sense to me. When it comes to millennia-old stories, we have to distinguish between truth/fiction of the provenance of the documents and truth/fiction of the stories themselves. Lots of Biblical stories (not the so-called Gospel of Jesus’s wife, but many others, canonical and non-canonical) really were written down between 1500 and 2500 years ago (roughly), so it’s true that the stories existed as stories, even though there’s no independent evidence for the content of the stories. Similarly we can say it’s a fact that Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings even though hobbits are no more real than unicorns.

But this brings us to an interesting point, the argument that it wasn’t fair to diss the “Jesus’s wife” document. Sure, it was a modern forgery, but so what? Lots of genuine Biblical documents were written hundreds of years after the events they purport to describe, then there’s the Book of Mormon, etc. So why hold the Jesus’s wife document to a higher standard? I don’t really know the answer to this one. I think we should describe its provenance accurately. If it was really created around the year 2000, then don’t say it’s from the year 400 or 800 or whatever. But, sure, if you want to argue that Jesus was married, you can argue it now as much as you could argue it in the year 400. The reason why the document, if real, would’ve been relevant to Biblical scholarship is because it inform claims about what was being debated about Christ in the centuries after his death.

Remember that Keynes quote about the stock market as a beauty contest where the goal is to predict the face who other contestants think is most beautiful? Similarly, this sort of biblical scholarship is studying not what happened in Jesus’s time but, rather, what people 200 years later were saying happened around 0 A.D.

Here’s another quote, this time from Roger Bagnall, one of the scholars who was fooled by the forged document:

It’s hard to construct a scenario that is at all plausible in which somebody fakes something like this.

This reminds me of the findings from cognitive psychology that we evaluate hypotheses by their “availability.” Remember Linda the bank teller? The funny thing is, people fake documents all the time. They faked the Hitler diaries! So it’s kind of weird that he said this wasn’t plausible. I guess this was his way of saying he didn’t want to think hard about it.

Oh, and I like this line from Sabar after a lab test provided evidence of forgery:

There were no press releases from Harvard Divinity School this time.

Is this a cheap shot? I don’t think so. Especially given that, even now, years after the fraud was publicly exposed Harvard Divinity School continues to host this page, “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which lists three early “Scientific Reports” that purport to support the authenticity of the document, but none of the definitive followups. This is flat-out poor scholarship, especially given that James Yardley, the Columbia professor who did one of the studies, explicitly told Sabar that his earlier report was “never intended to be a proper scientific presentation of the results.” That Harvard webpage also deadpans it with a “transcription” of the document without any indication that it is a fake or any crediting of Mike Grondin’s interlinear translation of the Gospel of Thomas, which is where Walter Fritz had stolen this from. No need to credit Fritz, perhaps, but they should definitely credit Grondin.

What’s up with you, Harvard? Presenting a fake document as real and not crediting the source? That’s not cool. Not at all. Give your sources. Always.

Ummm, ok, yeah, here it is:

Members of the Harvard College community commit themselves to producing academic work of integrity – that is, work that adheres to the scholarly and intellectual standards of accurate attribution of sources, appropriate collection and use of data, and transparent acknowledgement of the contribution of others to our ideas, discoveries, interpretations, and conclusions. Cheating on exams or problem sets, plagiarizing or misrepresenting the ideas or language of someone else as one’s own, falsifying data, or any other instance of academic dishonesty violates the standards of our community, as well as the standards of the wider world of learning and affairs.

Maybe Harvard could set up a single convenient one-stop website for all its false claims. There’s the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, Surgisphere, that thing about the replication rate in psychology being statistically indistinguishable from 100%, the monkey tapes, etc. The idea is they could put all these in one place, so we’d know that everything else coming out of the Ivy institution could be trusted.

Here’s Sabar’s summary:

The story came first; the data managed after. The narrative before the evidence; the news conference before the scientific analysis; the interpretation before the authentication.

And then once claim gets out there, people work hard to prop it up.

Elsewhere, Sabar talks about some academic politics regarding Harvard’s Divinity School. In 2006 a university committee proposed a new program:

“Reason and Faith is a category unlike any that Harvard has included in its general education curriculum,” the task force wrote. The classes would treat religion academically, covering topics like church versus state, the history of religion, gender and worship, the Vatican as an institution . . .

This proposal was slammed by psychology professor Steven Pinker who wrote, “universities are about reason pure and simple . . . Faith—believing something without good reasons to do so–has no place in anything but a religious institution, and out society has no shortage of these. Imagine if we had a requirement for ‘Astronomy and Astrology’ or ‘Psychology and Parapsychology.'”

I wasn’t there at Harvard for the conversation, and if I were a student I think I’d be annoyed if they tried to require me to take a religion course, in the same way that I’d be annoyed if they tried to require me to take an astronomy course or a psychology course—but I feel like something’s off in the discussion of that religion program, something off in the way it was discussed by its proponents and its opponents. On the “pro” side, there’s the claim that there’s something wonderful and unique about this program—but how is it different from the teaching of literature? If you take a class on Shakespeare, you learn about the history of the plays and about their content, but you’re not required to believe that the story he was telling about Richard III was real. If you take a class on Tolkien, you’ll learn about Beowulf and all sorts of things, but you don’t have to believe in orcs. So, yeah, have the religion program, but I don’t see how it’s so damn special. On the other side, the opponents seem a bit extreme. Universities are not all about reason. You can take art and music at Harvard. You can take a poetry class. Sure, these classes involve reason, but they’re not “about reason pure and simple.” So I don’t agree with Pinker on that one, indeed I can’t see how he ever could’ve believed such a claim.

P.S. Sabar isn’t perfect, though. I noticed this line:

Peer reviewers are academia’s highway patrol—the officers who pull over speeders before they hurt themselves and others.

I don’t think so!

Adam Marcus of Retraction Watch tells it:

Coptic cop-out? Religion journal won’t pull paper based on bogus ‘gospel’

What the Harvard Theological Review giveth, it evidently will not taketh away.

The venerable publication about religious matters is refusing to retract a 2014 article by a noted scholar of early Christianity despite evidence that the article — about Jesus’s wife — was based on a forgery. . . .

However, the journal issued a statement about the article, a cop-out of — bear with us — Biblical proportions:

Harvard Theological Review has scrupulously and consistently avoided committing itself on the issue of the authenticity of the papyrus fragment. HTR is a peer-reviewed journal. Acceptance of an essay for publication means that it has successfully passed through the review process. It does not mean that the journal agrees with the claims of the paper. . . . Given that HTR has never endorsed a position on the issue, it has no need to issue a response.

Good to know they’ve “never endorsed a position on the issue.” We wouldn’t want them calling a forgery a forgery. That would just be rude.

For the straight story, you’ll want to read this article by Leo Depuydt written in 2012 and published in the Harvard Theological Review in 2014. Depuydt’s article, refreshingly, begins:

The following analysis submits that it is out of the question that the so-called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, also known as the Wife of Jesus Fragment, is an authentic source. The author of this analysis has not the slightest doubt that the document is a forgery, and not a very good one at that.

Too bad the editor of the journal can’t write so clearly. On the plus side, at least they’re not personally attacking their critics. So let’s appreciate that they are showing some restraint.

P.P.S. Alper points to this review of Sabar’s book by Biblical scholar Tony Burke. I agree with Alper that it’s interesting to see Burke’s take on the story from the inside. But there’s one aspect of Burke’s post that I don’t like, which is its defensiveness. I should think Burke would be furious at the Harvard professors etc. who went all-in on this con, thus making his field into a laughingstock, but instead he seems to be bending over backward criticizing the messenger. Sure, I can see how people in this field would be happiest if the fraud were just quietly laid to rest. But, hey, Harvard Divinity School had no problem with positive press accounts. And the idea of criticizing a popular book for being too vividly written, and criticizing an investigative reporter for having “worked way too long and too hard on this story” . . . hey, that’s what investigative reporters are supposed to do! It’s the Javert paradox all over again.

Also, I followed the link to the article by Leo Depuydt that Burke referred to as an “ad hominem attack.” Depuydt’s article not an ad hominem argument (or “attack”; I guess that’s what scholars call it when you disagree with them) at all! It’s entirely focused on technical details. I really really don’t like when people call an article an “ad hominem attack” when what they really mean is that it’s (a) a substantive argument that they happen to disagree with and (b) doesn’t show exaggerated deference to a person who got things wrong. King did not behave well in that situation, Depuydt had every right to be annoyed, and, even if he didn’t have such a right, it’s not an ad hominem attack for him to detail exactly why the argument he’s addressing is ridiculous. Some academics seem so used to deference that they perceive any disagreement that is not swaddled in praise to be an ad hominem attack. One could argue that Depuydt in his article is impolite. But impolite is not the same as ad hominem. The use of the term “ad hominem” implies there is a logical fallacy in the argument. It’s a convenient trick to use if you think that people aren’t going to click through and read the original article. In this case, though, I expect Burke didn’t think it through, and that he just thinks that lack of deference is itself an ad hominem attack. So frustrating. Again, it’s his Harvard colleague who got conned and then stayed with it for way too long. Don’t blame the reporter for the embarrassment, and for Christ’s stake don’t blame an outside scholar who was justifiably annoyed at fraud being promoted by a leading academic institution. When scholar A makes an argument and scholar B impolitely pokes holes in it, that’s not an ad hominem attack, that’s scholarship.

This seems like a case of the Stockholm syndrome, or the shoot-the-messenger syndrome. Some people in Burke’s field get conned and then try their darnedest to look away from the abundant evidence of forgery—but Burke is more annoyed by the people who called it right from the start! That makes no sense to me. I mean, sure, it makes some psychological sense, but it doesn’t make scholarly sense.

P.P.P.S. Completely unrelatedly and much more consequentially, there’s this story from Shane Bauer:

Five months before Monterrosa was killed, the Vallejo [California] Police Officers’ Association had replaced its president, Detective Mat Mustard, who had run the union for ten years. Mustard was notorious in Vallejo for the investigation he led into the kidnapping of a woman named Denise Huskins, in 2015. Someone broke into the house where she and her boyfriend were sleeping, blindfolded and drugged them, and put her in the trunk of a car. When the boyfriend reported the crime, Mustard suspected that he had killed Huskins and invented the kidnapping story. At the police station, the boyfriend said, officers dressed him in jail clothes, then Mustard and others interrogated him for eighteen hours, calling him a murderer. Huskins, who was being held a hundred and sixty miles away, was raped repeatedly. After she was released, the Vallejo police publicly accused her and her boyfriend of faking the kidnapping, comparing the situation to the movie “Gone Girl.” The police threatened to press charges against the couple, and after the rapist e-mailed the San Francisco Chronicle, confessing to the kidnapping, the police accused Huskins and her boyfriend of writing the e-mail. Soon, the rapist was arrested in South Lake Tahoe, after trying to repeat the crime. Even then, the Vallejo police insisted that Huskins and her boyfriend were lying. The couple sued Mustard and the city, eventually winning a $2.5-million settlement. In a show of defiance, the police department named Mustard officer of the year.

I guess a book might be coming out about this one too. Authority figures do something wrong, don’t back down, then reward the perpetrators: that’s a tale as old as time.

31 Comments

  1. D Kane says:

    > Harvard could set up a single convenient one-stop website for all its false claims . . . that thing about the replication rate in psychology being statistically indistinguishable from 100%

    This seems to be a reference to this PDF, one of whose authors is Gary King, your co-author. You really think that Gary is making a “false” claim in this paper? You would really put that in the same category three other clear-cut cases of outright fraud? That seems fairly aggressive!

    Did you ever reach out to Gary and/or his co-authors? Would love to read a back-and-forth on this topic.

    • Andrew says:

      D:

      I never said it was fraud, just that it was a false claim. As I wrote above, “most of the junk science seems more like delusion or just bad scientific reasoning. For example, I have no reason whatsoever to think that the ages-ending-in-9 or ovulation-and-voting or himmicanes researchers engaged in fraud; I just think they received bad (if conventional) training, they didn’t know what they’re doing, and then, once people pointed out the problems in their work, they were too committed to let go.”

      For background on this particular story, see here. Short answer is, yes, it’s a false claim, the authors didn’t know what they were doing, and when other people pointed out the problems in their work, they were too committed to let go.

  2. paul alper says:

    Something is wrong with this link

    After reading the review of Ariel Sabar’s “Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,”

    • Andrew says:

      Paul:

      The link works for me. OK . . . now I see it . . . that’s a link to a future post! Somehow these got out of order. No big deal, I guess. The other post is scheduled to appear in a couple of months.

  3. jim says:

    “Some academics seem so used to deference that they perceive any disagreement that is not swaddled in praise to be an ad hominem attack. “

    Some? :) Well, not “all”, that’s for sure, but “some” might be understated.

    Nor is this restricted to academics. Should you have the temerity to show up at a struggling company and dramatically improve things by correcting blatantly obvious shortcomings, your efforts aren’t likely to be appreciated by the existing management. And – since we’re on the subject – Christ forbid you should use the existing record of failure as a justification for your proposed changes. It’s rude to point out people’s failings, even if those failings are costing everyone alot of money and grief.

    “I should think Burke would be furious at the Harvard professors etc. who went all-in on this con”

    And it should be the same in companies that are losing money; governments that fail at solving problems; and many other circumstances. But time and time again the established authorities would rather keep failing – even when there is a human cost – than suffer the embarrassment of having someone else point out the solution.

    We should keep this in mind when we’re talking about “incentives” in the experimental sense. People are often responding to seemingly opposite incentives that are primarily social, even when the social incentive has a direct financial cost.

  4. jim says:

    “live outside academia’s high walls afforded freedoms unavailable inside. “

    +10

  5. John Richters says:

    Andrew:

    The link to Sabar’s review is dead

    John

  6. Thinkling says:

    Sabar had a long form teaser piece in The Atlantic about three years ago. It was fantastic; like Andrew pointed out it could easily have been boring but was instead completely captivating. The full book was more of the same. Agreed that it did a good job of pointing out some serious foibles of many parties involved, without resorting to fallacy or uncharity.

    My one red flag with the book was that Sabar demonstrated several times throughout that he had some grave misunderstandings about the Catholic Church. To his credit, I could not see in any way how that sloppy background negatively impacted the actual story, it was just grating annoyances. Now in the 21st century it is not surprising, especially among journalists, etc., to hold to caricatures as he did. But as the story revolves around specialized issues in archeology, chemistry, etc., I need to worry about succumbing to Gell-Mann amnesia. It is my hope he did his homework better in those areas, and from what I heard from relevant experts I know, I do suspect he did.

    With that caveat, I fully recommend this book to any of your readers. I will probably read it again in the near future, to be honest.

  7. RE: ‘ Some academics seem so used to deference that they perceive any disagreement that is not swaddled in praise to be an ad hominem attack.’
    —–

    This is funny dynamic to watch unfold. It isn’t limited to academics obviously. Social media intensifies the need for praise.

    I find many people defensive for reasons I don’t always know. Could be the pressures on workers more generally.

  8. Dzhaughn says:

    That’s one Mean Mr. Mustard! It was the Beatles what made him do it, cf. Manson.

  9. David Marcus says:

    > it inform claims about what was being debated about Christ in the
    > centuries after his death.

    Should be “in the centuries after his purported death”, since Christ is a myth.

    • paul alper says:

      As far as I can tell, everyone quoted in Sabar’s book is a Christian of one form or another. Sabar’s father, Yona Sabar is a world-famous Jewish scholar of the Aramaic language, the language it is assumed Jesus spoke. Unless I missed it in my reading and rereading of “Veritas,” Sabar’s father or his opinion is never mentioned.

  10. Ian Fellows says:

    Okay, you make some good points but what kind of monster does scholarship in comic sans (Depuydt’s rebuttal, http://markgoodacre.org/Depuydt.pdf)?

  11. paul alper says:

    One of Sabar’s intriguing sidelights is his discussion of the importance and standing of the Harvard Divinity School compared to that of “The Yard.” To those of us who never partook of either, what is the current state of play? Especially now that the dust is (definitively?) settling.

  12. i.e. rabinovitz says:

    Forged ecclesiastical documents and forged compendia of such documents were a commonplace in medieval canonical disputes. Entire systems of precedent in canonical law were forged, not merely to support a particular side in a particular dispute; but to create the appearance of canonical precedent, generative of subtle, long-run biases in favor of one or another contending attitude among the monastic factions; in respect of canonical decisions, secular and spiritual both. Some of these series of ostensible judgements (so-called forged decretals) of early church fathers were not merely voluminous and persistent (spanning hundreds of thousands of words in codices and centuries worth of application to the most imponderable but yet tendentious and ferocious casuistry) but became eventually canonical themselves, with the passage of time and the invariable realignment or recalibration of some strain within the heterodox – orthodox continuum. One of the most famous rightfully of this category are the so-called “Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals”, attributed variously to the “Pseudo-Isidore” (after the learned bishop and encyclopaedist of Seville) or “Isisdor Mercator” (Isidor the Merchant). The problem of the provenance and correct attribution of this material proves to be a minefield for modern scholarship.

    • Andrew says:

      Ie:

      I don’t know anything about the history you discuss, but, I was alluding to this sort of thing when mentioning the Book of Mormon above. Sabar brings up this general issue, that the promoters of the forged work were moving the goalposts around, sometimes presenting it as offering direct insight into Jesus, sometimes presenting it as having some historical value, and sometimes saying that it was important just because it got people talking about the topic.

      A similar issue arose with the famous ESP paper published by the psychology journal in 2011. One defense was that so much nonsense had been published in academic social, behavioral, and biological sciences, so it wasn’t considered to draw the line there and exclude the ESP paper just because it was particularly ridiculous nonsense. Remember the beauty and sex ratio paper? That was published in a legitimate biology journal and promoted in Freakonomics, even though from a quantitative standpoint it was as ridiculous as the ESP paper.

      But historical Biblical scholarship, yeah, sure, I can only imagine how bad some of it must be. It’x a mix of religion and politics where anything goes.

      • Kyle C says:

        I recall once reading a book on the historical Jesus in which the author deemed it necessary to remind fellow historians that the order that books appear in the New Testament is not the order they were written, i.e., Paul’s works are the earliest so it’s hardly surprising that the Gospels seem to foreshadow them.

      • i.e. rabinovitz says:

        Often, forgeries of high-antiquity are work of the first order sit within the penumbra of the author’s actual or ostensible writing. Some of the productions (many of Moorish or North-African provenance) of the “pseudo-Aristotle” are thus distinguished.

  13. Re the Denise Huskins kidnapping, where you wrote, “Authority figures do something wrong, don’t back down”.

    Yes, this is a very important issue. An unfortunate feature of the American justice system (can’t speak for other countries) is the unwillingness of police and prosecutors to say, “Oops, we made a mistake” and move on. I’ve read of case after case where law enforcement doggedly clung to a pet theory long after the evidence made it clear they were wrong, even after courts had unequivocally ruled that the suspect was innocent, continuing to harass the person they have decided is guilty rather than admit even the slightest possibility that they could have made a mistake.

    • i.e. rabinovitz says:

      Like the Easter Pageant, “Discipline and Punish” plays to enthusiastic audiences who make their way — at great expense and risk to limb of the trans-Alpine crossing — to experience the time-worn and comfortable old crowd-please. Even the most miserable cottar gets a thrill from it; for he then is reminded: the cross he must bear himself is nothing compared to what is suffered before him.

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