oversensitivity or ignorance of the rules

A curse of ADD is that while doing one thing, something will catch my attention and I’ll want to pursue it in more detail. On some days this sort of thing is really bad–not to mention mentally exhausting–while on others it can be quite rewarding. (I’ve thought about attempting a written documentation of what happens in my head on a bad day. Maybe one day I’ll try it). Today seems to be riding the fence.

In the past I have pointed out instances of what very well appears to be plagiarism (see e.g. here, herehere). Whether stated or not, I maintain that plagiarism is not only sloppy, poor scholarship and unacceptable; it is also theft, pure and simple. In the words of Ron White: ‘I tell you that story to tell you this one.’ While following up on a minor detail in my research, I ventured (briefly) into the ‘Jesus and Paul’ debate–i.e. how much of the historical Jesus did Paul know–and came across something rather troubling. This is an occasion where I’m not 100% sure what to conclude.  I’ll let you look for yourselves first.

First, check out Richard Longenecker’s book, Studies in Paul, Exegetical and Theological (2004) and begin reading on page 2, under the heading: ‘Saul and the Historical Jesus’ (specifically the second paragraph in that section).  Once you’re done with that, check out J. Stanly Jones’ book, A Study of Pauline Interpretation: Ethical Sayings in ‘Q’ and Its Significance in Today’s Indian Context (2007) and read footnote 76 on page 19. Look familiar? Granted, Jones’ reference is to an earlier work of Longenecker, which, if you read it here (pages 19-20), mirrors exactly what appears in the 2004 work.  (I originally mentioned the 2004 work because that’s what I read first; I only came to know about the 1997 after reading Jones’ entry).

Now, before going any further, let me be clear about one thing: I am not accusing J. Stanly Jones of plagiarism. (Read that again in case there is any confusion or uncertainty in what I’m saying). Completely unlike the examples in my earlier discussions on plagiarism, Jones openly and willingly gives the reference from which he is drawing his information. So, that being said: because Jones provides the source, how are we to deal with the similarities in content? Is there a grey area in this regard? I ask because I am genuinely concerned and want to make sure I do things properly in my own writing.

Any thoughts?

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One comment

  1. The safest bet is to always place others’ words in quotation marks and cite the proper reference. Jones may not be guilty of plagiarism, but the footnote is a bit misleading. He’s slightly changed what Longenecker said and then referred the reader to Longenecker for comparison. As a reader this makes me think that the thought in the footnote is original to Jones and that Longenecker says something similar or in support of the point. When I get to Longenecker I see that the thought was his and Jones has recycled it, or at least that’s how it seems.

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