The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, after doing some Google searching, is pretty sure that a quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, is a fake:
Shortly after I posted my piece on feeling curiously un-thrilled about Bin Laden's death, the following quote came across my twitter feed:"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
I admire the sentiment. But something about it just strikes me as off, like that great Marx quote about the housing bubble that didn't appear anywhere in Das Kapital.Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867
Like the Marx quote, it's a bit too a propos. What "thousands" would King have been talking about? In which enemy's death was he supposed to be rejoicing?
UPDATE: Getting in on the fun, Drew Grant at Salon.com asks, "Why did Penn Jillette create a fake [MLK] quote yesterday?"
So apparently there are people who think it's OK to put words in the mouth (so to speak) of an historical figure, presumably for greater authority.
Surely this sort of thing could never, ever have happened in the early church, right? Surely (for example) the author of the Fourth Gospel couldn't possibly have put words in Jesus' mouth decades after the fact?
Um, except that we already have compelling evidence that this sort of thing did indeed happen. Consider Paul's warning to his readers about forged letters circulating in his name, in 2 Thessalonians 1-2:
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us — whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter ... [Emphasis added]As someone else has pointed out (Bart Ehrman, maybe?), there are two possibilities:
- if 2 Thessalonians was in fact written by Paul, then Paul himself is warning his readers about forged letters bearing his name; presumably he didn't issue that warning for no reason;
- on the other hand, if 2 Thessalonians was not written by Paul, then that epistle is itself a forgery, Q.E.D.
So this apparently-bogus quotation from Dr. King gives us still more reason to conclude that respectful agnosticism is the appropriate view to take of Scripture.