Parallelomania, Bad Scholarship, and Fake History

There are pyramids in Egypt.  Indeed if we know anything about Egypt, we know it has pyramids.  Almost as well-known are the massive pyramids of Mexico.  This tells a certain sort of person that the two are connected!  Either the Mexicans travelled to Egypt, or the Egyptians sailed to Mexico, or … inevitably … a now vanished continent in mid-Atlantic held a civilisation notable for its pyramids.  This Atlantis would, of course, have a high technology.  Inevitably spacefaring aliens must be involved.  It is easy to find examples online.[1]

All of this is twaddle, based on nothing more than a vague perception of similarity.  If we look at the details, the two sorts of pyramids are different in almost every way beyond the general shape.  The Mexican pyramids are temples, while those of Egypt are tombs, and so on.  But our friend is not influenced by this.  “They’re both pyramids,” he will cry, and no amount of information will shake his conviction that the two “must” be connected.  The lack of any evidence will be met with reiteration, elaboration and rhetoric.

In a way he is right.  There is a connection.  But the connection is human nature plus gravity.  Human beings find it convenient to build stuff out of square blocks.  They also find it convenient to pile up building materials.  Because of gravity these piles will always tend to a pyramidal shape.  There is no need for any more complex explanation.

This type of mad argument from a “parallel” has been named “parallelomania”.  Broadly it states that if this looks like that, then this IS that, and that this, if later, is copied from that, or otherwise connected directly to it.

Obviously this is bunk.  The similarities are often trivial.  Often they are very selectively chosen!  Two things may have certain similarities, arising quite independently, because of human nature. And even if two things are indeed similar, this is no evidence of connection or derivation, unless the parallel is nearly unique.  It’s a false way to argue.

For instance, some parallelomaniacs like to claim that the Christian communion meal “must” be the same as pagan ritual meals. A few days ago one of them kindly informed me that Christmas “must” be borrowed from paganism because Christmas involves a big meal and ancient events like Saturnalia – they thought – did also.

The parallelomaniac will never reflect that human beings will naturally come together for a meal while doing something else, without any need to copy the idea from others.  I wonder if they could be convinced that the modern business breakfast is copied from communion?  Or the other way around?  But of course these “parallels” are deployed only selectively, and for convenience.

Indeed nothing is funnier than watching a parallelomaniac trying to force the facts into a parallel in which they will not fit.  He may start with “Christmas is a stolen pagan holiday.  Jesus was not born on 25 Dec.”  If you call his attention to the fact that in 336, when Christmas is first recorded, there is no record of any Roman holiday, he will merely respond with “around the time of the solstice”; for thereby he can introduce Saturnalia!  If you point out that Saturnalia was not a solstice festival, because it was originally one day, on December 17, he will engage in further slipperiness.  Christmas must be “stolen” from Saturnalia.  And from “Yule”.  If you a little cynical, and ask our friend to tell us whether Yule is stolen from Saturnalia, or the other way around, on the same grounds, then you will get no answer.  That isn’t the point, you see.

It is easy to laugh at such antics.  Most parallelomaniacs are lacking in education, and not a few are lacking in good faith either.  But many are perfectly sincere, especially on things like pyramids, and simply lacking the education that we are lucky enough to possess.  We need not always presume bad faith.

As a method, parallelomania is a subset of the general way in which fake history deals with historical data.  This is:

  1. Selection.  Only those bits of data that fit the argument will be used.
  2. Omission.  Those bits that don’t will be discarded.  Arguments will be found to ignore them.
  3. Misrepresentation.  Of course the pyramids in Mexico are like those in Egypt.

These failures will be found in very many older academic works.  Again, these are not always undertaken in bad faith.  But they are a failure of methodology.

This is one reason why arguments based on a claim that a literary text is interpolated are made less often today.  In the 19th century the claim was very often made, based on subjective grounds, as a way to dispose of evidence.  But it was always made selectively.  The same arguments were not made about text that the writer found convenient.  Thus in Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy, which created a fantastical picture of early Christianity in the near east, the testimony of Eusebius was against him.  So Bauer calmly claimed that the relevant passage was interpolated.  In fact it was not, as can be shown from 5th century Syriac witnesses that he knew about but conveniently neglected to consult.  We have reached the more sensible position of never asserting interpolation without compelling evidence.

It is the same with any case of parallels.  A parallel must be very limited, very striking, and clearly non-trivial.  Even then, I find, today we usually comment that it is “interesting”, rather than a basis for argument.  Otherwise we introduce parallelomania.

  1. [1]Jon Rogers, “SHOCK CLAIM: Ancient Egyptians did NOT build the pyramids,” Daily Express, Oct 2 2017. Online here: “HISTORIANS has thrown doubt on the Ancient Egyptians ever having built the Great Pyramids of Giza instead claiming the monuments could have been built by a lost civilisation.”

Better to visit every brothel in the city than deny the worship of images? A quote from Nicaea II?

A curious claim on Twitter a couple of days ago, here:

“It is better to admit all brothals into a city than deny the worship of Images.”

-John, legate of the Greeks at the Second Council of Nicaea

The quotation is clearly corrupt, genuine or otherwise.  But where does it come from?  Was this really said in the Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD, the council that approved the worship – or veneration – of images?

The immediate source for this statement seems to be Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.  This passage, in the English translation edited by John T. McNeill, tr. Ford Lewis Battles, Westminster John Knox Press (1960), volume 1, chapter 11, section 14 (“Childish arguments for images at the Council of Nicaea (787)”), p.116 (preview here):

… a double marvel that everybody did not cry out against them with greatest loathing. But it is expedient that this wicked madness be publicly exposed, that the pretense of antiquity which the papists allege may at least be torn away from the worship of images. Theodosius, Bishop of Amorium, pronounces anathema against all who are unwilling that images be adored. Another imputes all the misfortunes of Greece and the East to the crime that images had not been adored. What punishments do the prophets, apostles, martyrs, deserve, in whose day no images existed? Thereafter they add: if the image of the emperor be approached with perfume and incense, much more do we owe this honor to the images of saints. Constantius, Bishop of Constance in Cyprus, professes to embrace images reverently, and affirms that he is going to show toward them the same worship and honor that is owed to the life-giving Trinity. Anyone who refuses to do the same he anathematizes and relegates among the Manichees and Marcionites. And lest you think this the private opinion of one man, the rest agree. Indeed, John, the legate of the Easterns, moved by even greater heat, warned that it would be better to admit all brothels into the city than to deny the worship of images. Finally, it was determined by the consent of all that the Samaritans are worse than all heretics, yet image fighters are worse than the Samaritans. Besides, lest the play should go unapplauded, a clause is added: let those who, having an image of Christ, offer sacrifice to it rejoice and exult. Where now is the distinction between latria and dulia, by which they are wont to hoodwink God and men? For the Council accords, without exception, as much to images as to the living God.

This is word for word the same as our “quote”, so this is not a direct quote from the Acts, but reported speech.  The editor indeed informs us (p.114, n.28) that:

28. In secs. 14-16, written in 1550, Calvin derives his data from the Libri Carolini, the four books prepared at Charlemagne’s direction in response to the action of the Second Council of Nicaea, 787, and adopted by the Synod of Frankfort, 794. An edition of the Libri Carolini by Jean du Tillet had appeared in 1549. The passages referred to are: Libri Carolini I. 7, 9, 10, 13, 23, 24, 28, 30; II. 5, 6, 10; III. 7, 15, 17, 26, 31; IV. 6, 18. The work may be consulted in MPL 98, where these passages are in cols. 1022 f., 1027 ff., 1034 f., 1053 f., 1057 ff, 1061 f., 1065 f., 1071 ff., 1075 f., 1127 ff., 1142 f., 1148 f., 1170 ff., 1180 ff., 1197 ff., 1221 ff. The notes in OS III. 103 f. provide the references to the text in Monumenta Germaniae Historica Leges III. Concilia II. The editors here indicate two instances in which Calvin has erroneously ascribed to “John, the Eastern legate” (who spoke frequently at the council) words that should be attributed to others present. Calvin’s quotations are otherwise in accord with the text.

The reference in the Libri Carolini is to book 3, chapter 36 (col. 1179 f.), and the exact passage in f. 1181 C, where “an abbot”  (a “mad abbot” in the heading) says that “Commodius tibi est omnia in civitate lupanaria ingredi, quam abnegare adorationem imaginis Domini aut eius sanctae genitricis”, “It is better for you to visit every brothel in the city, than to deny the adoration of the image of God or of his holy mother.”  This is followed, quite properly, by expressions of disgust at this disregard of the biblical injunction about joining the body of Christ to a whore.

But is this in the Acts of Nicaea II?

Well, we are fortunate that at least two complete English translations of the Acts of Nicaea II exist.  There is an 1850 version, by John Mendham, with notes helpfully from the Libri Carolini, which was produced in response to the Oxford Movement.  This is curiously impossible to find by Google, but is here.  There is a Liverpool University Press two-volume set, The Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea (787), translated by Richard Price, which appeared in 2020, to which I have no access.

So let’s use Mr Mendham’s 1850 text, with its interesting footnotes.

Page 186 (here), overparagraphed by me, and English modernised:

THE HOLY COUNCIL: “ Glory be to you, O God, who has wrought miracles by means of holy images.”

EUSTATHIUS: Monk Presbyter and Abbot of the Monastery of Maximin said: “ I also, holy fathers, have brought thither a book of the same father containing the lives of many holy men ; and if it be agreeable to your holy Assembly let it be read.”

THE HOLY COUNCIL: “ Let it be read.”

STEPHEN the Monk, having received the book, read a passage from the “ Spiritual Meadow” of St. Sophronius:—

“Theodore Abbot, of Aelia, said there was a certain recluse in the Mount of Olives a perfect champion. This man was sorely assaulted by the demon of fornication. One day, when the demon was more than usually hard upon him. the old man began to lament and to cry out to the demon, ‘Why will you not spare me—leave me for the future: you have grown old with me.’

On which the demon, having made himself visible, said to him, ‘Swear to me that you will tell no man that which I am now about to say to you, and I will trouble you no more.’ And the old man swore to him, saying, ‘By Him who dwells above, never will I tell to any what now you may declare to me.’ Then the demon said to him, ‘Worship that image no more, and I will no more contend with you.’

Now, he had there a picture representing our Lady, the holy Mary, Mother of God, bearing in her arms our Lord Jesus Christ. The recluse gave answer to the demon, ‘Go, and I will consider of it.’

On the morrow he revealed the whole matter to Theodore Abbot, of Aeliota, then living in the Laura of Pharan, for the Abbot came to him and he told him all. And the aged man said to the recluse, ‘Really, father, have you been so imposed upon as to swear to a demon? However, you have done well to consult me about it; for it were better for you not to pass by a single brothel in yon city without entering into it, than that you should refuse to worship our Lord and God Jesus Christ with His own Mother represented in a picture.’  Having confirmed and strengthened him with many other exhortations the aged man went to his own abode.

Again the demon appears to the recluse and says to him, ‘What now, you old sinner, did you not swear to me that you would tell no man? How have you dared to tell all to him who came to you? I tell you, you vile old man, you shall be judged for this in the day of judgment as a perjurer.’ The recluse answered him, saying, ‘What I have sworn, I have sworn; and that I have foresworn myself I know; but I have not foresworn my Lord and Maker; and, therefore, for you I care not.’ ”

CONSTANTINE Bishop of Constantia: “Like to links in a chain of gold, so harmonious are the testimonies brought by our God-inspired fathers in favour of images.”

JOHN Legate of the East: “ The discourse of our Father Sophronius teaches us another lesson also—namely, that it is better for him that hath sworn to foreswear himself rather than to regard any oath tending to the destruction of holy images; and this we say because there are some to-day who feel unsettled on account of the oath they have taken.”

TARASIUS: “Because the old man knew the goodness of God and also how ready He is to receive the penitent, therefore he determined to violate his sinful oath. Whence it appears that those who have taken an oath in favour of this heresy (if they have no other sin laid to their charge), have a reasonable precedent, and may plead this in their own defence; but.should they have fallen into other sins, they must for these endeavour to propitiate God for them, as well as to supplicate Him for the remission of this their unlawful oath.”

THEODORE Bishop of the Subritenses: “ Peter, chief of the Apostles, denied his Master; but, having repented, he was received again into favour.”

So the idea is found, not in the Acts, but rather in a colourful story quoted during the sessions, mainly to show that those who had sworn oaths against icons could validly break them.

Mendham helpfully translates the Libri Carolini passage as a footnote on p.186-7:

* This history is so great a favourite with this Council that it is narrated a second time in the next Session. It is intended in both to serve very important purposes—in this Session to teach that no wickedness is so great as the neglect of image-worship, and that no oath tending to the renunciation of this worship is to be regarded : in the next, it does not appear for what purpose it is brought forward except to show that the Devil was an Iconoclast. In the “Caroline Books” (lib. iii. cap. 31) it is treated according to its merits as being Deliramentum errore plenum:—

“Often in the course of this our work we are compelled to declare that no example should be taken from things really bad in themselves; and we are compelled so often to repeat this caution because we find them so ready to act thus in order to confirm their error. Nor is this wholly inconsistent; for, as the example of good acts do form evermore a support to good acts, so they, from erroneous acts, seek a support for their erroneous doings. Thus, to support their error, they bring forward the example of a certain recluse, who, if he really did that which in the history he is said to have done, was guilty of no less than three signal faults—viz., (1). That he should voluntarily have engaged in a conference with the devil; (2). That he should have been beguiled by the same to bind himself under on oath; and (3). That he should violate that oath: all which things, so far from being any example to a Catholic, should by him be utterly renounced as being forbidden by many testimonies of the divine law.”

Here follow the texts which are condemnatory of each of these faults ; after which it is continued as follows—

“The recluse having committed these three faults, his Abbot, so far from correcting what be had done amiss, actually points out to him a way still worse, saying, ‘It were better for thee to go into every brothel in yonder city than to refuse to worship the image of our Lord or that of His holy Mother.’ O incomparable absurdity! O pestilent evil! O folly surpassing many follies! He declares that it were better to do that which is forbidden alike by the Law and in the Gospel than to abstain from that which is not commanded either in the Law or in the Gospel! He declares that it is better to perpetrate crime than to abstain from crime! He declares that it is better voluntarily to plunge oneself in the mire than to walk unblameably in the right path! He declares that it is better to defile the temple of God than to despise the worship of things without sense! He declares that it is better to take the members of Christ and to make them the members of an harlot than to despise the worship of the work of some artificer!

Let him then tell us (if he can) where the Lord hath said, ‘You shall not refuse to worship images’, as plainly as He has said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ Let him then tell us, if he can, anywhere find that the Lord has said, ‘If you see an image and do not worship it you have sinned,’ as plainly as he has declared. ‘If you look on a woman to lust after her you have committed adultery with her already in your heart.’ And if he can never discover anything of this kind, let him reflect how great his error is in granting a licence to do that which is absolutely disgraceful rather than to omit that which is altogether unprofitable; for, while the Lord in the Law and in the Gospel commands us in many ways to the observance of chastity, nowhere is there found any such injunction relative to the worship of images.

As this same Abbot, who ought to have led this recluse into the way of salvation, did, on the contrary, give the rein to his lust—as he who ought to have recovered his fellow from the snare into which he had fallen in having sworn to the devil did rather rush together with him into the abyss of error by telling him that it was better for him to commit a grievous crime— beyond all doubt he has fulfilled that saying in the Gospel. ‘If the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch.’ And any one who would endeavour to prove any argument by any such example as this would manifest that his madness was of no ordinary kind, but even surpassing that of others.’

The footnote continues by quoting the response of “Adrian” – i.e. Pope Hadrian – to previous criticism on this point, which those interested can read at the link above.

So back to our starting point.  We have found:

  • The “quote” is from Calvin, not from the Acts of Nicaea 2
  • Calvin is quoting the Libri Carolini representation of a passage in the Acts, rather than the Acts themselves.
  • The sentence is found in a hagiographical text of dubious authenticity, quoted (like many others, some heretical) during the sessions of Nicaea 2.
  • The delegates at the Council do not even discuss the idea of brothels being better than iconoclasm – surely a colourful image rather than a serious argument – but concentrate on the idea that an oath made to the devil need not be kept, and so breaking an oath made to heretics was not wrong.

In reality, the “quote” is bogus.  Nicaea 2 did not endorse any such position.

It is interesting to see the appearance of the “oaths to heretics are not binding”.  This evil principle was used as a justification to burn John Hus at the Council of Constance, despite his pass of safe-conduct.  Knowledge of this tendency caused protestants in general to regard catholics – especially Jesuits – as untrustworthy liars.  Curiously enough the hagiographer knew better: that breaking even an oath to the devil was a sin.

UPDATE: A kind correspondent has pointed out that the story by Sophronius is in fact chapter 45 of the Pratum Spirituale or Spiritual Meadow by John Moschus.  I have written a further post about this here.


Mithras scholar Vermaseren on the Mithras cranks

wynne-tyson_mithras_the_fellow_in_the_capThere are endless crank books about Mithras, usually with an anti-Christian twist.  They go unnoticed by scholars, as a rule.

A correspondent drew my attention to some remarks made by Maarten Vermaseren on one of them.  The title is Mithras: the fellow in the cap, by a certain Mrs Wynne-Tyson, back in 1958 (but reprinted since).

The title is a reference to a curious passage in St. Augustine, in his  Tractatus in Joh. Evang. VII, 6.  This reads, in the ANF translation, thus:

“And this is a great thing to see in the whole world, the lion vanquished by  the blood of the Lamb: members of Christ delivered from the teeth of the  lions, and joined to the body of Christ.

“Therefore some spirit or other  contrived the counterfeit that His image should be bought for blood, because  he knew that the human race was at some time to be redeemed by the precious  blood.

“For evil spirits counterfeit certain shadows of honor to themselves,  that they may deceive those who follow Christ. So much so, my brethren, that  those who seduce by means of amulets, by incantations, by the devices of the  enemy, mingle the name of Christ with their incantations: because they are not  now able to seduce Christians, so as to give them poison they add some honey,  that by means of the sweet the bitter may be concealed, and be drunk to ruin.

“So much so, that I know that the priest of that Pilleatus was sometimes in the  habit of saying, ‘Pilleatus himself also is a Christian’. Why so, brethren,  unless that they were not able otherwise to seduce Christians?”

The word “pilleatus” is of less than certain meaning – it means the “god wearing a mitre” or wearing a peaked cap.  It could mean Mithras, but also Attis, and apparently a number of other gods accustomed to appear with a cap.[1]

Mrs Wynne-Tyson has chosen to render “pilleatus” as “the fellow in the cap”, which is fair enough.  But let us now see what professional Mithras scholar and archaeologist M. Vermaseren says, after himself referring to Mithras as “the fellow in the cap”[2].  (I will split this footnote into sections for easier reading).

4.  This is the dreadful title of a book by Mrs Wynne-Tyson published in 1972. The Times Literary Supplement said of this work : “The argument of this book, showing that the facts about Mithras reveal the basic pattern of Western civilisation and throw light into many of the darker comers of history, points disturbing conclusions for Christian orthodoxy”.

But reading the astonishing lines “To the Christian and others outside the Mithraic fold, Mithraism, with its bull-slaying God who was also identifiable as the Bull, in whose regenerative blood the Faithful bathed; with its animal masks of Lion and Bull, Horse, Eagle and Gryphon, and its eschatological teachings of metempsychosis, evidently seemed to be the worship of the Beast, even as Pure Christianity has always been the worship of the Perfect Man” etc., one would be tempted to think that Franz Cumont and his successors had all written in vain. I wonder what Stevie Smith in the Observer really meant when writing about this book “Most fascinating and apt to our times.”

Mithraism as the introduction to the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner is preached by Alfred Schütze, Mithras, Mysterien und Urchristentum, Stuttgart 1972(2). The petitio principii already is wrong.

The wildest opinions as well as unadulterated twaddle about the revealing excavations in the Mithraeum of Sa Prisca (M. J. Vermaseren – C. C. van Essen, The Excavations in the Mithraeum of the Church of Santa Prisca in Rome, Leiden 1965) can be found in the book by Father Geremia Sangiorgi O.S.A., S. Prisca e it suo Mitreo (Le Chiese di Roma illustrate 101), Roma 1968, which is now the official guide for visitors!

It becomes each year more necessary for scholars to waste their precious time in refuting the many pseudo-scholars = anti- scholars: read, for example, the exemplary review by Theodor Klauser in JAC 11/12, 1968/1969, 215-224 who rightly emphasizes:

“Wer die Wissenschaft wirklich fördern will, darf sich nicht damit begnügen, Einfälle und Lesefrüchte unkontrolliert zu einer verführerischen Synthese zu vereinigen und diese in gefälliger Form vorzutragen, die leiseste kritische Berührung bringt solche Konstruktionen zum Einsturz. Die bewährten Regeln der wissenschaftlichen Methode lassen sich nicht ungestraft ignorieren; auch der Begabteste kann langwierige Arbeitsprozesse, wenn sie nötig sind, nicht nach Belieben überspringen”.

A rough translation of Klauser’s words:

“Anyone who really wants to promote scholarship may not content themselves with uniting uncontrolled ideas and research into a seductive synthesis, written in an attractive form, for the slightest critical touch causes such constructs to collapse.  The established rules of scholarly method cannot be ignored with impunity; even the most gifted may not skip over the necessarily lengthy process.”

I think perhaps those words sound more impressive in German!

  1. [1]A.S. Geden states that Cumont believes this refers to Attis, and the blood to the criobolium.
  2. [2]M. Vermaseren, The Mithraeum at Ponza, Brill, 1974, p.12-13.  Google books preview here.

What is bad scholarship?

I’ve just carried out a Google search asking, “What is bad scholarship”?  I got a total of ten results, most duplicating one blog entry that really is about something else.

That surprises me, I must say.  In view of the silence, I thought that I, in my amateur way, would make an effort to give a personal answer to the question.  My focus is on ancient history, of course; different sections of the humanities will doubtless have slightly different perspectives.

There’s one big (but vague) generalisation we can make.  First, let’s ask just why we are doing ancient history at all.  The answer surely is as follows:

We study ancient history in order to find out what we would have seen, at a given date at a given place, had we been there; insofar as we can recover this information from the remains left behind from that time and place, which themselves may be damaged, partial, corrupt, biased or non-existent.

That gives us our first criterion of bad scholarship:

1.  Bad scholarship doesn’t care what happened in the past (although it pretends it does).  Bad scholarship is determined to convince the present of something about the past, whether it happened or not.

Curiously there are “scholars” willing to say that they don’t believe that they can ever find out what happened in the past.  If so, they have nothing to contribute.  Such people need a spell flipping burgers at MacDonalds, rather than state-funded tenure.

But of course this criterion, although true, is not very useful to us in detecting bad scholarship.  It’s more like a conclusion from a process of investigation, than a way to reach a conclusion.

Sometimes you get people say things like, “A PhD thesis must have a thesis!”  This is true — you’re supposed to be producing a piece of research that tells us something that we did not know before.  But it sometimes seems as if it is understood to mean “You must invent some novel statement about what happened in the past and then see how far you can get with it by whatever tricks you can find.”   The latter is bad scholarship.

Our first criterion does give us our next question: How do we find out what happened in the  past?  The answer is that, either whatever happened left some traces somewhere that inform us, or else we know nothing about it.  The second point leads us to our second criterion.

2.  Bad scholarship loves a void.  If we know nothing about something, it is bad scholarship to pretend that we do, or to argue that “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”.

There is, unhappily, a further stage to this particular piece of bad scholarship.  It is a standard feature of polemic that it finds evidence an inconvenience, to be got over by accusations of bias, ad hominem arguments against the sources — “they only say that because they are Catholics!” — and the like.  Of course the evidence does need evaluation before anything much can be built on it.  But:

3.  Any scholarship that consists of debunking all the evidence and then arguing that the manufactured absence of evidence is evidence of absence is not merely bad scholarship but dishonest scholarship.

Every piece of useful scholarship starts by documenting all the relevant evidence on the point at issue.  If you are publishing data, publish it.  If you are asserting that the totality of the ancient data tells us a certain story, gather all that data together and let the reader see what it says.  The more discursive the book is, the more likely that some subterfuge is involved.  Why should the reader trawl through my book to find out what the corpus of data is?

4.  Any study that is alludes to the data rather than presenting it systematically, or discusses it discursively, or otherwise intentionally makes it difficult for the reader to see what all the relevant data is, is either very badly written and structured, or, more commonly, is bad scholarship.

Of course references and context are important.

5.  If the sources do not support the argument, when examined in context, if the references are wrong or misleading or partial, that is bad scholarship.

In a way, some of the best guides to bad scholarship are books like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, or Chariots of the Gods, and such like.  Not that these are festooned with references and written in the sober prose that scholars affect.  But the failures are in some ways more obvious.

6.  Bad scholarship likes to take a possibility as a certainty.  When a writer suggests that the evidence might support an idea, and some pages later has taken it for granted that his hypothesis is true and certain and at least equal to any statement made by someone there at the time, that is bad scholarship.

An indelible footprint of bad scholarship is to appeal to authority in non-technical matters.  We may believe, with reasonable certainty, that, if all the scholars who study Coptic paleography of 4th century documentary texts date a tax return to the year 345 AD, then that authority is reasonable.  But if a scholar writes something about what “all scholars” think, proposing that we should accept their authority as grounds to believe that (e.g.) Marxist economics is not true; the earth is flat (or not); Roman Catholicism is true (or false); or any statement which has no practical difference from the above, then we must immediately be on our guard.  The consensus of scholars in every discipline in every period of history and every country in the world on every controversial subject bears an uncanny resemblance to the opinions of those non-scholars who control university appointments.  So:

7.  Bad scholarship upholds the controversial political or religious views congenial to the funding authorities of the state in the time and place when the scholarship is written.

And of course:

8.  Bad scholarship controverts the controversial political or religious views unwelcome to the funding authorities of the state in the time and place when the scholarship is written.

Because good scholarship allows for these urgencies and relies on some structured methodology, rather than on the “clamour of the age”.

Note that if you publish at a secular university and agree with its agenda, that does not automatically make your work bad scholarship; nor at a Catholic university and are a practising Catholic; nor any other variant thereof.

Likewise another sign of undue credulity is a tendency to treat a theory as equivalent to data.  Data is always data, even when we decide that it does not seem to be reliable (from examining other data, of course; not from speculation on our part).

9.  Bad scholarship treats the conclusions of modern speculation as at least equivalent to the statements of ancient writers.

I do not suppose that I have exhausted the possible signs of bad scholarship, of course.  But I thought that I would offer these as a first cut at the problem.  If you are writing an article, I hope that they will help you avoid some crass pitfalls.