fake martin luther king, jr. quote demonstrates how we got the apocrypha

MLK said what?There is a beautiful quote going around the internet. It reads:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is only one problem with this quote: Martin Luther King, Jr. never said it. As Megan McArdle and Erik Haugsjaa point out, the second part of the quote is from Dr. King’s 1963 Strength to Love, but the first sentence isn’t part of the original quote. It’s fake. Someone added it to the King quote to make it relevant to Osama bin Laden’s death.

MLK 'Strength to Love' on Google Books

The actual quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Strength to Love' as demonstrated in Google Books. Note the first part of the quotation was not written by Dr. King.

The viral nature of this quote demonstrates how people will believe whatever they read if it fits their preconceived notions, especially when it is attributed to a well-respected authority or personality. This is precisely how we got the Apocrypha (the books that didn’t make it into the Bible), and a number of the books that actually did make it into the biblical canon. Someone writes something, it sounds like something someone authoritative would say, the quote or book is attributed to said authority, people read it, believe it, and pass it on. (Recommended reading: Forged by Bart Ehrman.)

It’s how we got the fake Bin Laden death photos, it’s how we got the MLK quote, and it’s how we got many of the books of the Bible (i.e., some letters attributed to Paul, all 4 Gospels, many of the pastoral letters, the Apocrypha, etc.).

What’s a shame in the modern age is that it’s actually quite easy to fact check. Unfortunately, people don’t. They just parrot misinformation without citations because they like the way it sounds. It reiterates the need for readers to check their facts, and for authors to cite their sources.

In the words of Al Gore, “This is not why I invented the internet.”1

1Al Gore did not make this statement.


UPDATE: See the Salon.com article by Drew Grant, who attributes the quote to a tweet from Penn Jillette, who got it on Facebook from someone named Jessica Dovey. A screenshot of Dovey’s Facebook message shows that she did, in fact, offset MLK’s quote from her own comments. So Penn (apparently) mis-attributed the first portion to Dr. King. Penn acknowledged his mistake, but not before it went viral.

This demonstrates that there are usually two attributions needed for a saying to become ‘authoritative’: attribution to a recognized respected authority, and the propagation by another respected/beloved figure. It also demonstrates a point that Bart Ehrman and his teacher, Bruce Metzger, both make: not all edits and changes are intentional. Like Penn in this case, it was an honest mistake, which, to his credit, he immediately corrected.

Excellent work Drew!!

the latest on the search for noah’s ark

who does one root for on this one?

first, noah’s ark ministries international announced to the world via press conference that they were ‘99.9% certain’ that they had discovered noah’s ark.

many of us responded, rejecting the claims.

dr. randall price of liberty university also responded. however, since he had previously worked with nami, he had information (revealed by paleobabble’s michael heiser and the christian science monitor’s stephen kurczy) that the whole thing may have been fake.

dr. price also did an interview for fox news where he said the following:

btw, dr. paul zimansky, professor of archaeology at the state university of new york, stony brook, makes a wonderful point in his interview. he states:

it happens every year that somebody finds an ark. i don’t know of many expeditions that have gone off and failed to find an ark. but within a year, everybody’s forgotten it and they do it again. they never refer to previous discoveries.

now it appears that noah’s ark ministries international has put together a video response to the smackdown (see also here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) that scholars worldwide, including randall price, have sent to the media since nami told the world they discovered the ark. nami attempts to answer the following questions:

  1. are rumors more scientific than solid evidence?
  2. did the expedition team witness and examine the wooden structure in noah’s ark?
  3. is it possible to deliver large wood beams to an elevation of 4000 meters?
  4. is the wooden structure at an elevation of 4000 meters is no more than a fake set?

these videos do little to answer the questions. but perhaps the most telling video released by the media evangelism, ltd. is one entitled do we believe in the noah’s ark or the god behind it?

in the video the speaker explicitly states that he became a christian after a previous bogus ark discovery claim (at the 3:50 mark). he goes on to state that whether or not nami‘s claim is verified in the end, as long as people come to jesus, it is worthwhile (view from the 4:25 mark). watch the video. in fact at the 5:13 mark, the speaker amazingly states:

Therefore as mature Christians, we should be accurate in speaking. When we talk about it from news or scientific aspects, we are just making use of it. The thing itself is not the truth. It is prone to change. Even today when i say that this is 90% sure to be the Ark, assume that one day the 10% rest showed that it is not to be the Ark, even then I don’t think it matters. Because what people believe is not only Noah’s Ark itself, they should believe the God who worked behind Noah’s Ark.

the speaker goes on to compare this find to the claims made about the shroud of turin, which he says brought many people to believe in jesus, even though it was later shown to be a fake. what matters to the speaker is that people believe in jesus, not whether or not the ark they claim to have found is real.

if this is not the most egregious, blatant, irresponsible misuse of archaeology to intentionally fool people into believing in christianity, then i don’t know what is. it’s just wrong.

for his part, dr. price has responded on his world of the bible ministries website. and he pulled no punches.

randall price shot back with a press release and an extensive explanation complete with email evidence – evidence that shows the collaboration between him and nami, and evidence that shows dr. price sent 60,000 euros to nami, about 2/3 of which was refunded to dr. price after he quit.

you can read it all here.

i think that as the fallout from this entire debacle continues, it will become quite clear that the entire mission was a premeditated campaign of deception intended to use something that will appeal to people – noah’s ark, and a lie at that – in an attempt to get them to convert to christianity. it is unthinkable that a group of christians would think that this is an acceptable form of evangelism, much less an acceptable form of science.

on false accusations of anti-semitism in the academy

My daughter, Talitha, at the Temple Etz Chaim kindergarten Hanukkah celebration.

My daughter, Talitha, at the Temple Etz Chaim kindergarten Hanukkah celebration.

bible and interpretation has published my most recent essay on the inappropriate use of accusations of anti-semitism as a weapon against scholars in the field of jewish studies. specifically, the essay is, in part, a response to recent motions to dismiss the charges and suppress evidence collected in the criminal case against raphael golb, son of university of chicago oriental institute historian norman golb, that is currently working its way through the ny court system, as well as to a feb 26, 2009 essay by golb’s alias ‘charles gadda’ entitled ‘antisemitism and the dead sea scrolls’ that was posted on a nowpublic.com website that has since been removed by nowpublic.

i encourage you to read the article and take seriously false charges of anti-semitism, or any form of discrimination. while racism and discrimination are a very real problems in the world, the terms ‘racist’ and anti-semite’ are too often tossed about inappropriately and without due accountability in an effort to paint one’s political or academic opponent in a negative light. i conclude that we should use discretion and caution when labeling others as racist or anti-semitic, and that we should treat those that flagrantly misuse and abuse the term in a similar manner to which we treat those that engage in actual racist or discriminatory behavior.

words mean things, and scholars should exercise the same non-sensationalist, guarded restraint in labeling others that we use in discussing our academic subject matter.

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