Sentences from Wikipedia Used in Error-Strewn Daily Telegraph Obituary for Biblical Scholar

Mark Goodacre’s NT Blog has the details:

I commented yesterday on the error-laden obituary of Marvin Meyer in The Telegraph.  It turns out that the errors are not the worst of it.  Chunks of the piece have been plagiarized.

Meyer’s specialism was Gnosticism, and the errors in the obituary include the false claim that “The Gospel of Mary suggests a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene”.

Particularly egregiously, the plagiarism includes sentences lifted from Wikipedia. Goodacre adds:

I think that it is disgraceful that The Telegraph‘s obituary of Marvin Meyer is a patchwork of passages plagiarized from different electronic articles and I would like to suggest that they acknowledge what they have done, issuing a full apology, and replacing the plagiarized piece with something that appropriately honours Professor Meyer’s memory.


This is particularly shocking given that the Telegraphs obituaries have a reputation for being the best in the business, thanks to a distinctive approach developed in the 1980s and 1990s by the late Hugh Massingberd, who died in 2007. Massinberd’s own obituary in the New York Times noted his reputation as “the father of the modern British obituary”:

Mr. Massingberd transformed the paper’s obituaries from ponderous, sycophantic eulogies into mordant, warts-and-all profiles of the delectable departed…

In Mr. Massingberd’s hands the newspaper obituary became unabashed entertainment, and the page attracted a passionate following that endures to this day. It also helped to set a benchmark for newspapers throughout Britain, where obituaries are now far more irreverent, more editorial and more prurient than their American counterparts.

…There was this much-quoted line… from 1988, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph’s obituary of John Allegro. A once-renowned scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Mr. Allegro later advanced a theory that Judaism and Christianity were the products of an ancient cult that worshiped sex and mushrooms. His obit in The Daily Telegraph pronounced him “the Liberace of biblical scholarship.”

(Emphasis added) What a shame that a shabby and botched obituary of another Biblical scholar has seen that reputation squandered overnight.

And the rot appears to go deep: a recent Tweet on the Telegraph‘s dedicated obituary Twitter feed, @telegraphobits, consists of the following notice:

Apologies for the erroneous tweet earlier regarding Neil Armstrong, which contained some text from a previous obituary for Sally Ride.

In a now-deleted Tweet with provoked widespread mirth and derision across the Twittersphere, @telegraphobits had shortly beforehand announced the death of “Neil Armstrong: First American woman in space”.

2 Responses

  1. really who cares?

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