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Bruce Fraser MacDonald, PhD
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Gary Renard’s Stolen Gospel
This article on Gary Renard's plagiarized Gospel has been getting a lot of interest and many enquiries so I have now expanded this page into other pages on this website, under the menu buttons at the left called `A Course in Miracles` and `Gary Renard.`
I think you will find all of these very interesting.
For those of you who came here from Circle of Atonement, you can find your way back by clicking: http://www.circleofa.org/
Gary Renard’s Stolen Gospel
© Bruce Fraser MacDonald, PhD 2010
The evidence is incontrovertible. Gary Renard has plagiarized one of the most important parts of his book, Your Immortal Reality. What he calls “Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas” comes directly from Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer’s translation ofThe Gospel of Thomas fromThe Nag Hammadi Library,
Renard has objected to my using the term “stolen” in regard to this Gospel. It is actually a title taken from a quote which precedes Pursah’s Gospel. Renard says, ““The Hugh Lynn Cayce version was obtained illegally, I guess meaning it was stolen, by someone who put it on the Internet” (p. 144). If he is justified in calling this version “stolen,” when it was actually tried in court and found not to be stolen at all, then it is certainly justified to call Pursah’s Gospel “stolen” when it is so obviously taken directly from the translators without their permission. It has not been tried in court yet, but other similar cases have been considered to be “theft of intellectual property.”
I know many people will find that what I have to say here brings them considerable hurt because they have benefited from Gary’s writing. They will be always grateful to him for that and will have to learn well the lessons of forgiveness he has been teaching them. It makes it doubly sad that, for some undetermined reason, Renard felt impelled to take someone else’s work and present it as his own – because he could have done it himself without the dishonesty.
I am not the only one who has found reason to doubt Renard’s truthfulness. Miracles Magazine, a Course in Miracles journal, recognized, in 2006, the serious nature of what they felt to be Gary’s lack of truthfulness, so they devoted a special issue to “The Extremely Dubious Tale of Gary Renard.” Jon Mundy, PhD, Greg Mackie and Robert Perry examined what they felt were extremely doubtful aspects of Gary’s claims (Sept/Oct, 2006).
Renard’s plagiarism from Patterson and Meyer is part of a pattern. In his article, “Why Don’t the Masters Have An Original Thought,” now at Circle of Atonement: http://www.circleofa.org/articles/DuOriginalThought.php?dig=renard(originally in Miracles Magazine) Robert Perry gives extensive evidence that Renard used the same phrases and ideas used by a teacher of ACIM named Ken Wapnick, without acknowledging the source. Perry has even presented the borrowings in graph form, first to show the parallels and, secondly, to demonstrate how Renard’s ideas are different from the actual teachings of ACIM. However, few people in the Course community have taken any of the three writers seriously and many have even attacked them viciously for daring to ask for honesty.
Renard has created a strange dynamic around himself, in which his many followers refuse to see what he is doing in his works. They attack anyone who demonstrates the truth to them. I think this time they will be forced to acknowledge that Renard has actually plagiarized almost the whole of “Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas.” Strangely, he and others argue that because “Pursah” left out 44 verses “she” changed it drastically. That is a bit like arguing that “I did not steal your jewels because I only took two thirds of them and left the other third in your jewelry box.”
I will present the evidence for the plagiarism first and then will look at some of the serious implications which arise from this plagiarism.
In Your Immortal Reality, Renard claims that Pursah again appeared to him and recited a new version of The Gospel of Thomas. The same pattern is supposed to have been followed, Renard recording the text, copying it and then destroying the tapes. Pursah is quoted as saying the following:
“I consider it an act of completion to have J’s [Jesus’] words in The Gospel of Thomasrecorded accurately by a later incarnation of myself. I recorded J’s words 2,000 years ago, and now you will record them again. Thus will the Gospel be corrected and passed along in its original form.” NOTE: I [Gary] inserted the title below. Pursah spoke all 70 of the sayings. They were recorded for accuracy.
Pursah is referring here to “The Gospel of Thomas” which was found in Egypt in 1945 and is currently included in a collection of works called The Nag Hammadi Library, named after the town where the documents were found. There are several translations of the work. Pursah implies here that she will provide a new, corrected and original text which will differ considerably from any of the current translations because, as the reincarnation of Thomas, the original author, she has inside information not available to anyone else.
We now know, without any doubt, that all of this is fabrication because the work Pursah “recites” is an almost verbatim copy of Patterson and Meyer’s translation of the work. I include several passages here to demonstrate the exact nature of the plagiarism.
I have gone through all 70 verses of “Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas” and have the following surprising statistics on the composition of Renard’s work in relation to the original. I will present my findings as five categories with examples of each drawn from the original source (left hand column) and from Renard (right column).
Category One: 29 verses. Renard’s verses are identical to the original -- I have underlined the plagiarized text in the right column.
A translator is a writer and, in the same way as styles of writers vary, so the styles of translators vary. There may be some minor similarities because they are using the English grammatical structures and wordings we all use, or even because they are drawing on a common cultural base. For instance, the first sentence in Lambdin’s translation is the same as Patterson/Meyer because the phrase “Seek and you will find,” has actually become part of the cultural heritage of the English language. The rest is almost completely different. The amount of actual identity (not similarity) between Renard and Patterson/Meyer is unheard of in any stylistic comparison of two writers without plagiarism being involved.
Actually, the difference should be greater than usual because Pursah has told us that she is going to give us a completely new, corrected and previously unheard version of the gospel drawn directly from Jesus’ words -- which would have been in Aramaic. We should have a new translation from Aramaic which would indeed provide a completely different linguistic original from which to translate, with strikingly new renditions arising from the different language base, rather than the Greek or Coptic origins of the Gospel of Thomas we now have.
Category Two: 18 verses: Identical except for one simple change as in “God’s Divine Rule” for “The Father’s Kingdom,” “Brother” for “mister,” “shall” for “will,” “fortunate” for “congratulations,.” Changes are in bold capital letters: plagiarized text underlined.
Category Three: 12 verses: Minor phrase removed or changed, minor word added: the rest is identical. Text which was removed or changed is italicized in the left column. Added words in Renard’s text are in bold capitals on the right, plagiarism underlined.
Category Four: 5 verses: Omits major parts of the verse but what remains is identical. Italicized bold words in the left column are those which Renard omitted.
Category Five: 6 verses: major rearranging, sometimes using the same words or phrases as the original, but not always. It is only in these six verses that we see any original work. Note that there are very few similarities. This is the kind of difference which usually arises between versions of translations but is absent in 64 of the 70 verses in Pursah’s gospel. Underlining and capitalization as usual.
The easiest way to see the extent of the plagiarism is to scan the underlined text in the right column and multiply by the number of verses in that category. We can see from these examples that almost the whole of Pursah’s gospel is plagiarized.
Statistics reveal another striking feature of Pursah’s gospel. In the first 39 verses of the gospel, Renard at least tried to make some minor changes. However, starting with verse 63, he stopped making changed almost entirely. Again, statistics prove the point. Of the final 31 verses
This can be presented in table form which is perhaps more revealing:
It looks like Renard got tired of revising about half way through the text because, in the last 31 verses of the total 70 verses, there are no “original” verses, nor are there any of the Category Four verses which required a bit more work than Categories 1, 2 and 3. All of the eleven verses which show signs of having had more work done on them are in the first 39 verses.
Surprisingly, this gospel, which was supposed to be a genuine, new, original and CORRECTED version, translated from a completely new language, has only 6 out of 70 verses (14 %) which might be considered original. At least 86% of the text is identical to the Patterson/Meyer translation. There is absolutely no doubt that Renard plagiarized at least 86% of his text.
One wonders why Renard omitted verse 6 from his gospel rendition, since its message is of tremendous importance. It reads as follows, again using the Patterson/Meyer translation:
Jesus said, “Don’t lie, and don’t do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. After all, there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered up that will remain undisclosed.”
There are several troubling implications which arise logically from the discovery of plagiarism in almost all of Pursah’s gospel.
First, at the beginning of the chapter in which the gospel appears, Renard comments about a version of ACIM over which there is considerable controversy. He says, “The Hugh Lynn Cayce version was obtained illegally, I guess meaning it was stolen, by someone who put it on the Internet. That’s why it is available” (p. 144, quotes are taken from the 2006 paperback edition). Renard is obviously opposed to plagiarism in any form so, I assume, would also condemn his own actions in having plagiarized almost his entire Thomas gospel from Patterson and Meyer. It is odd that this passage is introduced just before the “stolen” (to use his term) gospel. Was it designed to divert the reader’s attention away from the possibility of theft, by condemning theft, as part of an attempt to hide the plagiarized text which follows shortly after this passage?
We now know that Pursah is a fictional character because Ascended Masters do not plagiarize and lie to the world about such an important matter as a new translation of such an important work as the Gospel of Thomas. Thus, when Renard portrays Pursah as saying to him, before her recitation, that she has “a little surprise . . . for you,” we know it is not actually Pursah speaking but Renard constructing a dialogue for his own purposes. Is he intentionally trying to deceive the reader into thinking the gospel is real because an “on the spur of the moment” recitation could not have been carefully laboured over and therefore could not be plagiarized?
After the recitation is over, even though almost the whole of the gospel comes straight from Patterson and Meyer and is not new at all, Renard says, “Whoa, Pursah. That was incredible. It really rang true for me. And the whole thing has a much better flow to it now, too. I could picture J saying the words. In fact, the first time I really heard his Voice, he said a few of the words to me that you said near the end there, at number 110” (p. 171). We know this is also not part of an actual conversation because Pursah is not real. That means it was also planned along with the plagiarism itself. The troubling question here is whether this is another part of a carefully planned pattern of deception to make the reader think that what they have just heard is so new it would be futile to look for its source in a published document.
I suppose we will never know but, given our present knowledge that the gospel is plagiarized, these passages seem to be designed to deceive the reader, like the smoke and mirrors which magicians use to distract the audience from what is really going on. They are so strategically placed that one can’t avoid wondering if they were planned that way to distract the reader’s attention at key points in the fictitious dialogue to divert the reader’s attention. We know generally that plagiarism must be concealed carefully with whatever means are available because to be caught in the act is fatal to one’s reputation.
In 2006 Robert Perry outlined a fantasy of what it would be like for a writer to make up a fictional story and then pass it off as real: “Imagine you yourself going through all the steps to plan such a deception, carry it off, and then maintain it in the face of criticism, as you ride its wave of ill-gotten fame. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? And yet it is done.” It seems unquestionable that the fantasy has become truth, at least in regard to the gospel.
The Course community will have to come to terms with a number of serious questions. What is it about parts of the Community that has made it possible for Renard to get away with this kind of deception when so many voices have been warning about what was really going on?
We now know that Pursah is not real. As I have observed, Ascended Masters do not steal the work of others and lie about it to the world. And if Pursah is not real, we also know that Arten is also not real. It follows that they are both fictions invented by Renard. And since Renard made the claim to have heard the voice of Jesus in the context of this major deception, we can be quite certain that is false also.
It is also safe to assume that Renard is not a reincarnation of the Apostle Thomas, as he claims, even though Kevin Ryerson, spiritual guide to Shirley MacLaine has said he is. There are actually two disciples in the Bible named Thomas and Renard claims to be both of them at the same time. I have addressed that complicated question more fully in the sample chapter readings on this website.
Perhaps the most troubling question the community will have to address is how someone could work so carefully to deceive readers who bought books in good faith, and at the same time could stand in front of those same people and claim to teach them spiritual truths.
These are illustrations of the problems facing Renard’s many followers -- they will have to determine exactly what they can believe of what he has told them over the years.
If Renard had been writing on any other subject, he probably would have been exposed long ago. But it seems from the extremely negative reaction to his critics that people actually wanted to be fooled – and not just ignorant people. Many prominent people in the media and film and writing industries have been fooled. Perhaps people wanted to believe that what he was telling them was actually possible. The sad thing is that he answered some of the spiritual longings of his readers with untruths and now they are left with a great blank which had been filled by his fantasies. They will have to start over again to find the truth they thought they had found in him.
There are spiritual sources which are true but every time someone commits another fraud in the name of the things of the Spirit, it becomes harder to find the really true things. Those who plagiarize and commit fraud harm not just the authors from whom they have stolen. They especially cause harm to the spiritual Seekers who turned to them in good faith expecting truthful insight and meaning. And perhaps most important, plagiarists betray all of Spirit in Its attempt to make Its Presence known to the people of the world, because the frauds put yet another stumbling block in the way of trust.
[A number of people have asked questions which are related to the information which I have presented on this website. Instead of writing long, individual emails in answer to these questions, I have chosen to write two longer pieces which will address most of the questions. One is the following article, (click: “Jesus, God and A Course in Miracles” and the other follows this one (click here) and addresses some of the spurious ways people have found to try to defend what Renard has done with “Pursah’s Gospel.” I think they will answer most of your questions and at the same time introduce you to some profound ideas.