undergraduate theft?

To get the mental juices flowing this morning, I decided to skim Marsh-Moyise’s, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction (1999),¹ partly because I’ve never read it and partly because it was the first book I noticed on the shelf. It’s (so far) clear, concise, and useful in its basic summary of the key issues in Gospels scholarship. For those wanting to meander around the field, Marsh-Moyise’s book is a decent place to start.

The only hiccup (so far) is that some details are mentioned as though they are common-coin and therefore unnecessary to footnote. In other words: there is a bit of “assumed knowledge” in what Marsh-Moyise present. This is fine for those familiar with coinage but not entirely helpful for those unfamiliar the currency, the latter being the intended audience of the book.

For example: in the chapter on Mark’s Gospel, Marsh-Moyise point out that “[f]or much of church history, it [i.e. Mark's Gospel] was thought to be an abbreviation of Matthew” (p.14) but say nothing about who historically held that thought. Again, this is well and good if you know the history but potentially frustrating (or at least unsatisfying) if you don’t.

I could remember from when I took a Gospels course in College (eons ago) that St Augustine maintained the “abbreviated” view of Mark’s Gospel (see De consensu evangelistarum 1.2), but I did not recall anyone else. So, after reading Marsh-Moyise’s chapter on Mark, I decided to dig around (quickly) to see what I could find. This cursory search revealed no other proponents of the “abbreviated” view; Augustine’s name was the only one that continued to emerge.

However, I did discover something that troubled me quite deeply, and that something became the reason for this post. Before stating what that “something” is, let me quote the opening paragraph of Marsh-Moyise’s chapter on Mark (p.14):

Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, beginning at Jesus’ baptism (nothing about his birth) and ending at the empty tomb (no resurrection appearances). For much of church history, it was thought to be an abbreviation of Matthew and hence less important. Over 600 of its 661 verses find a parallel in Matthew, and although early tradition suggests that Mark drew on the memories of Peter (see Appendix), the fact remains that it was not written by an apostle. This probably explains why so few commentaries were written on Mark in the early church and the book fell into neglect.

Now, having read that, have a look at this. Look familiar? My only hope is that the website is unable to show documentation and that this person “mitch106″ gave Marsh-Moyise due respect. However, the cynic in me thinks “mitch106″ simply lifted the material, changed a couple of words, slightly altered the punctuation, and reordered some of the sentences hoping that the teacher/professor wouldn’t notice.

Shame.

___________________________________________
¹ Yeah, yeah, yeah; I know the link is to the 2nd edition and my reference is to the 1st.

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4 comments

  1. Unfortunately this does not surprise me. Earlier this year I caught one of my students using a very similar website. It cost her £80 too and she only just escaped getting expelled. These websites are a plague. The one she used had a screed of writing stating that this was not plagiarism and that the problem was that many universities do not properly understand plagiarism!
    Mind you, not having a solitary reference in this piece would have been a fail anyway!

    1. I agree that there are only a (limited) number of ways to state certain facts. However, in academic writing, if one is going to say something–in precisely the same way (i.e. exact same words)–that has already been said, academic integrity requires giving credit to the one who said it first. The issue in this instance is not a student being limited in what he can say; it’s that he essentially stole what someone else said and pawned it off as his own finding.

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