Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Master's Thesis: Censured Portion from the Introduction

How much biographical information is it necessary to reveal so that one's readers will be able to assess one's arguments fairly? In the field of pedagogics, this is a matter of great importance, and no paper should be written without some. In theology, however, the opinions are varied. From the feedback I received in the final stage of my writing, I gathered that naught is required, especially when we're talking about mere theses. Thus, I ended up cutting everything out, as my material was already twice the size recommended for a Master's Thesis.

Only later did I understand the irony. In Chapter 4 of my thesis I discuss in moderate length how the presuppositions tend to guide the reading of the evidence available. A conclusion regarding Stephen C. Carlson's hoax hypothesis is made, namely, that some parts of the said hypothesis are construed utilizing unscientific methods and harnessing inherent cognitive weaknesses within the human mind. With all this fancy talk, the one thing that got discarded from the overblown mass of text was about my own presuppositions on the subject. Like some interesting biographical twists in my life hadn't any consequences to my analysis!

I feel it is only fair to present this short chronological narration, originally situated between the numbers 1 (Introduction) and 1.1 (Clement's letter to Theodore: Discovery story) in my thesis, that sheds some light on the question, how did I manage to combine Carlson's hoax hypothesis and modern conspiracy theory thinking. I think the following text reveals possible means to counter some key arguments in my thesis, but, for the sake of a fair debate, I nevertheless feel this to be important.

The rough machine translation (which I have corrected; not a single sentence was good enough without a major revision) was done by WebTranSmart. (If the language sounds even more contrived than my usual English, blame It.)

"In the autumn of 2005 I got an assignment from Dr. Ismo Dunderberg, as part of my studies at the Department of Biblical Studies at Helsinki University, to read two chapters from a recently published book by Stephen C. Carlson named "The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark". In my earlier studies I had become acquainted with Morton Smith, his theory about Jesus as a magician, and his alleged discovery of an unknown letter by Clement of Alexandria to Theodore (including two excerpts from the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark) only cursorily. Outside my university studies I knew of this letter having read about it in a conspiracy theory classic "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. The authors used the Secret Gospel of Mark to give a naturalistic explanation to the healings (exorcisms) of Jesus. These were deliberately staged incidents as Secret Mark witnesses: a shout is heard from the grave even though the young man inside should be dead. And no, the interpretation made no sense, not even for a student with three years of theological studies in the back pocket.

The work of Carlson aroused my interest immediately: he claimed that Clement's letter to Theodore (in the shorter form the Theodore-letter) and its excerpts from the Secret Gospel of Mark were forged by the alleged discoverer of the manuscript, Morton Smith. On top of that, the usual motives - money or fame - were not applicable, since, according to Carlson, Smith had far more ambiguous reasons for his deed: Theodore-letter was more of a hoax than a forgery. The difference was important because the hoaxer could hid jokes and clues about his true identity in the forged text. It was possible to find these kinds of clues in the Theodore-letter, clues referring to the baldness (!) of Morton Smith and to his given names. According to my notes, I had thought that Carlson's work "beat hands down Da Vinci Code", a novel by Dan Brown I had read a year earlier (naturally) among the first readers. In my opinion, Carlson wan, since his text was fact, whilst Dan Brown's was fiction.

I was astonished that it was possible to argue like Carlson had done in a scientific work, with arguments I had seen earlier utilized only in conspiracy theories. On the whole, the presentation of Carlson seemed very strong, and I archived the case of the Secret Gospel of Mark as a "recently discovered hoax" in my mind. Two years after this first encounter with the hoax hypothesis I promised to write an article about the Secret Gospel to a Finnish magazine Vartija. The editor-in-chief, Dr. Matti Myllykoski, had noticed the publication of a new book which addressed this subject. The work in question was Peter Jeffery's provocatively titled monograph "The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Death, Sex, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery". But it was not the book itself which had picked Myllykoski's curiosity, but a book review by Scott G. Brown - all 47 pages of it - in which Brown, who had written a dissertation in 1999 on the Secret Gospel of Mark, defended furiously the authenticity of the Theodore-letter. Was it possible that the debate about the question of authenticity wasn't over yet?

This was the question I pursued from January 2008 onwards, starting with gathering all available material that discussed Clement's letter to Theodore. I decided to read them through in chronological order, beginning with Scott G. Brown's 2005 work "Mark's Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith's Controversial Discovery", which was an update of his earlier (1999) dissertation. The central thesis in this work had everything to do with the writer of the canonical Gospel of Mark: according to Brown, the one and the same person was responsible for composing both, the canonical Gospel as well as the Alexandrian "Secret Edition". I noticed that the book of Brown had been published at the beginning of the year 2005 whereas the hoax hypothesis of Carlson was published in the summer of the same year. From the bibliography I saw that Carlson had had time to read Brown's. Two years earlier I had read only two chapters from Carlson, and perusing through Brown's numerous literary critical arguments backing the authenticity of the text, I wondered how on Earth would Carlson be able to proclaim them wrong.

The answer was surprising: he doesn't. Carlson does not discuss the literary critical arguments of Brown at all. Instead, he acknowledges them, with one sentence, in a footnote: according to Carlson the criteria used by Brown are "too lenient". In principle, there is a legitimate reason for dismissing Brown completely: Carlson sees his own arguments to be so strong that it makes no sense to offer a detailed criticism - since Theodore-letter is a hoax written by Morton Smith, there must be something wrong with Brown's case. What about Carlson's own arguments? As I read through "The Gospel Hoax", I began to see an alternative point of view. The fact, that it is not always easy to distinguish the argumentation of Carlson from standard conspiracy theory thinking - maybe it's not necessarily a good thing! However, not everything in Carlson's case is based on the clues and jokes hidden by the hoaxer. Are these other arguments persuasive enough to make the hoax hypothesis plausible?

The final result of this work was an article that the Finnish magazine Vartija published in two parts in the autumn of 2008. I collected all the claims together, commented on them and paid attention to the fact that some of the arguments for the hoax hypothesis seemed to resemble pseudoscientific, conspiracy theory thinking. However, my analysis was too general. I wondered, if it was possible to analyze the connection I perceived between the alleged deliberate clues hid by Morton Smith and other claims usually deemed as pseudoscientific by the academic consensus in more detail. On the other hand, I also saw that various arguments and their counterarguments were all over the place: the task to bring all of these into a single paper hadn't been done yet. These two tasks - bring all the arguments from both sides together and comment on them; analyse the similarities and differences between Carlson's clue arguments and known (and established) pseudoscientific (conspiracy theory thinking) arguments - became the core questions for my Master's Thesis. My very special thanks go to my tutor in this project, professor Ismo Dunderberg, who kept his (well grounded, I might add) protests to a minimum, when I presented him my great idea to switch the subject of my thesis - when the first one was already well under way - from explaining the twin motif used in Thomas-literature to assessing the hoax hypothesis of Clement's letter to Theodore."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Should I pray for a PhD?

Probably not, as the following evidence clearly shows. Better to keep God out of it. Before the quite funny part, I'm offering your standard internet rant in your standard blog format. Try not to cringe too much.

Some common internet slang expressions - which are in many cases (technically) acronyms - have had a rough inflation in their meaning during the Brave New Millennium. Whilst lOl - or some other morphs like lol, LOL, Lol, LoL, LOl, loL, lOL, l0l, L0L etc. - meant originally that some very funny things were going on, since one doesn't Laugh Out Loud constantly - at least, not, if one wishes to give the impression of an even moderate saneness to on-lookers - nowadays one throws lols, rotfls and lulz around, everywhere, everytime, without the least thought to the quality of the humour. As Victoria Clarke has argumented in her 2002 paper "Internet English: an analysis of the variety of language used on Telnet talkers", a serious overuse of these acronyms relating to laughter is diminishing their matrix of meaning. One cannot anymore distinguish the mildly humorous from the belly-bursting hilariousness by these acronyms alone, since everything - even the most dull attempts at humour - gain lols from passing online-commentators. Oh, the rage.

Of the following 14 points of humour: I did a genuine "Laughing Out Loud" -exercise after reading number eight (going through the numbers quickly, having just chuckled silently for number seven), and buried my head in my hands after scanning number nine in a fit of uncontrollable giggling. Why these three (numbers 7 to 9) stood out from the rest, I certainly do not know. Maybe they're more funny because they're more true?

(Note: The person who send the list to me did not cite any sources for it. I could probably google it up, but I don't feel like it. My respects for the unknown humourist.)

Why God never received a PhD:

1. He had only one major publication.
2. It wasn't published in a refereed journal.
3. Some even doubt he wrote it by himself.
4. It may be true that he created the world, but what has he done since then?
5. His cooperative efforts have been quite limited.
6. The scientific community has had a hard time replicating his results.
7. He never applied to the ethics board for permission to use human subjects.
8. When one experiment went awry he tried to cover it by drowning his subjects.
9. When subjects didn't behave as predicted, he deleted them from the sample.
10. He rarely came to class, just told students to read the book.
11. Some say he had his son teach the class.
12. He expelled his first two students for learning.
13. Although there were only 10 requirements, most of his students failed his tests.
14. His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountain top, without a hotel or heated pool.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pro gradu: Sensuroitu johdannon alaluku

Tieteenalojen käytänteissä on eroja. Kasvatustieteessä pidetään tärkeänä sen huomioimista, kuinka tutkijan oma elämänhistoria on vaikuttanut niin tutkimusaiheen valintaan kuin sen käsittelytapaankin. Teologisissa tieteissä suhtautuminen tutkijan kriittiseen itsereflektioon, erityisesti sen esilletuomiseen, näyttää vaihtelevan. Uskontotieteessä, josta esimerkkitapauksena selaan parhaillaan Kennet Granholmin väitöskirjaa "Embracing the Dark: The Magic Order of Dragon Rouge - Its Practice in Dark Magic and Meaning Making", erityisesti kenttätutkimukseen pohjautuvassa tieteentekemisessä, näyttää olevan tärkeää lukijankin tuntea tutkijan biografiaa - vain siten voi lukija arvioida ja ymmärtää tutkijan tekemiä (aineisto)valintoja ja johtopäätöksiä oikein.

Väitöstyössään Granholm tuokin esille joitakin elämänhistoriansa osasia, joiden hän katsoo vaikuttaneen merkittävästi tutkimuksen tekemiseen. Esimerkiksi työn aihe liittyy läheisesti Granholmin kauhun estetiikkaan (esim. kauhuelokuvat ja niistä inspiraatiota ammentavat rock-yhtyeet) tuntemaan mielenkiintoon, ja työn johtopäätöksissä näkyvät hänen sosiaaliset suhteensa tutkittavana olleen liikkeen jäseniin, joista toisia Granholm ei epäröi nimittää ystävikseen. Myös kirjoittajan kaksoisrooli toisaalta uskontotiedettä harjoittavana tutkijana ja toisaalta liikkeen maagikkonoviisina (magic initiate) on lukijankin tärkeä huomata.1

Oleellisten biografisten seikkojen esilletuominen on merkittävää, jotta tutkimuksen voi sanoa olevan mahdollisimman avointa, läpinäkyvää ja täyttävän reilun pelin ehdot.

Pro gradussani "Salaisen evankelistan salaliitto: Uusin keskustelu Klemens Aleksandrialaisen kirjeestä Theodorokselle" pohdin tutkijan ennakko-oletusten vaikutusta aineiston tulkintaan. Johtopäätökseni on, että Klemensin kirjeen väärennöshypoteesin puolustajat (joista tarkastelin erityisesti Stephen C. Carlsonia) rakentavat osan argumentaatiostaan epätieteellisten metodien pohjalta, hyödyntäen ihmisten kognitiivisten ohjelmointien heikkouksia. Nämä epätieteelliset metodit eivät kuitenkaan ole uusia, sillä moderni salaliittoteoriakirjallisuus on hyödyntänyt niitä laajasti. Väitteiden, kuten että Morton Smith piilotti Klemensin kirjeen tekstiin viittauksen omaan etunimeensä mainintaan paakkuuntumattomasta suolasta, joka on Morton Salt Companyn kehittämä, rakentuminen ei edusta tieteellistä metodia.

Lukijan sopii tekstini äärellä kuitenkin kysyä, miten minä - eikä kukaan muu asiaan perehtynyt - olen päätynyt liittämään yhteen Klemensin Theodoros-kirjeen huijaushypoteesin ja modernit salaliittoteoriat. Ainoastaan tarjoamalla itse asiaan liittyvät biografiset seikat voin olla varma siitä, että lukijoillani on hallussaan kaikki tarpeellinen tieto, jonka avulla analyysini ja johtopäätösteni laatua on mahdollista arvioida.

Tässä on arkipäivän ironian makua: työstäni, joka käsitteli tutkijan ennakko-oletuksia, poistettiin loppuvaiheessa johdannon osa, joka käsitteli minun esiymmärrystäni ja tarjosi lyhyen kronologisen katsauksen siihen, kuinka keskeiset johtopäätökseni ovat syntyneet. Teksti tiputettiin pois, koska saamani palautteen mukaan sitä ei pidetty aiheen kannalta relevanttina, varsinkaan opinnäytetyön yhteydessä.

Alla oleva teksti on alunperin sijainnut otsikoiden 1 (Johdanto) ja 1.1 (Klemensin kirje Theodorokselle: löytötarina) välissä.

"Syksyllä 2005 sain Uuden testamentin aineseminaarini ohjaajalta, Ismo Dunderbergiltä, luettavakseni kaksi lukua Stephen C. Carlsonin tuoreesta kirjasta “The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark”. Aikaisemmissa opinnoissani olin tutustunut Morton Smithiin, hänen teoriaansa historian Jeesuksesta maagikkona, ja Smithin 1900-luvun puolivälissä Mar Saban luostarissa tekemään käsikirjoituslöytöön ainoastaan kursorisesti. Jälkimmäiseen – käsikirjoituslöytö oli Klemens Aleksandrialaisen kirje Theodorokselle, joka sisälsi myös kaksi katkelmaa Salaisesta Markuksen evankeliumista – olin yliopisto-opintojeni ulkopuolella törmännyt mainintana salaliittoteoria-ajattelun klassikossa, Michael Baigentin, Richard Leighin ja Henry Lincolnin teoksessa “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”, jossa kirjoittajat käyttävät Salaista Markuksen evankeliumia inhimillistääkseen Jeesuksen: parantamis- ja kuolleistaherättämisihmeet olivat lavastettuja tilanteita, minkä osoituksena Salaisessa Markuksen evankeliumissa kuullaan haudasta huuto, vaikka nuorukaisen sen sisällä pitäisi olla kuollut. Edes kolmannen vuoden teologian opiskelijan mielestä tulkinnassa ei ollut mitään järkeä.

Carlsonin teos herätti välittömästi mielenkiintoni: hän väitti, että Klemensin kirje Theodorokselle (lyhyemmässä muodossa Theodoros-kirje) ja sen lainaamat katkelmat Salaisesta Markuksen evankeliumista olivat käsikirjoituksen löytäjän, Morton Smithin, väärentämiä. Eikä kysymyksessä ollut se tavanomainen motiivi – raha tai maine – vaan Smith oli Carlsonin mukaan ryhtynyt toimeen moniselitteisemmistä syistä: Theodoros-kirje oli pikemminkin huijaus kuin väärennös. Ero oli tärkeä, sillä huijari piilotti tekaistuun tekstiinsä nokkeluuksia ja vihjeitä henkilöllisyydestään. Myös Theodoros-kirjeestä oli löydettävissä kätketyt viittaukset Morton Smithin kaljuun (!), ja hänen etu- ja sukunimiinsä. Muistiinpanojeni mukaan olin ajatellut silloin Carlsonin tekstin “lyövän laudalta Da Vinci -koodinkin”, Dan Brownin romaanin, jonka olin (tietysti) lukenut ensimmäisten joukossa vuotta aiemmin. Carlsonin kynänjälki toimi mielestäni paremmin: hänen tekstinsä oli faktaa, Dan Brownin fiktiota.

Oli mieltäkiihdyttävää ajatella, että myös tieteentekemisen piirissä oli mahdollista argumentoida tämänkaltaisilla argumenteilla, joita olin aikaisemmin nähnyt käytettävän ainoastaan salaliittoteorioissa. Carlsonin esitys tuntui kaiken kaikkiaan vahvalta, ja arkistoin tapauksen mieleeni “huom! Theod. = huijaus” –viittauksella varustettuna. Kaksi vuotta tämän ensikosketuksen jälkeen lupauduin kirjoittamaan Vartija-lehteen artikkelin Salaisesta Markuksen evankeliumista. Lehden toinen päätoimittaja, Matti Myllykoski, oli huomannut uuden aihetta käsittelevän kirjan ilmestymisen. Kyseessä oli Peter Jefferyn raflaavasti otsikoitu teos “The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery”. Myllykosken huomiota ei kuitenkaan herättänyt itse kirja, vaan siihen kirjoitettu vastine: Scott G. Brown, joka oli väitellyt tohtoriksi Salaisesta Markuksen evankeliumista vuonna 1999, kirjoitti Jefferylle vastineeksi 47-sivua pitkän “kirja-arvostelun”. Oliko mahdollista, ettei kysymystä väärennöksestä oltu vielä käsitelty loppuun?

Tätä kysymystä lähdin selvittämään tammikuussa 2008, jolloin keräsin yhteen kaiken saatavilla olleen aineiston Klemensin kirjeestä Theodorokselle. Päätin lukea aineistoni läpi kronologisessa järjestyksessä aloittaen Brownin vuonna 2005 ilmestyneestä teoksesta “Mark's Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith's Controversial Discovery”, joka oli hänen aiemman väitöskirjansa päivitys. Keskeinen teesi tässä työssä koski Salaisen Markuksen evankeliumin kirjoittajaa: Brownin mukaan yksi ja sama henkilö oli vastuussa sekä kanonisen Markuksen evankeliumin että Salaisen Markuksen evankeliumin tekstistä. Näin, että Brownin kirja oli julkaistu alkuvuodesta 2005, kun taas Carlsonin huijaushypoteesi ilmestyi saman vuoden kesänä. Bibliografiasta havaitsin, että Carlson oli ehtinyt lukemaan Brownin kirjan. Kaksi vuotta aikaisemmin en itse ollut lukenut Carlsonin teosta kokonaan, ja kahlatessani läpi Brownin perusteellista analyysiä mietin, kuinka Carlson pystyy oikein osoittamaan lukuisat kirjallisuuskriittiset argumentit Salaisen Markuksen evankeliumin antiikkisuudesta vääriksi.

Vastaus oli yllättävä: ei mitenkään. Carlson ei yksinkertaisesti lähde keskustelemaan Brownin kirjallisuuskriittisistä argumenteista, vaan kuittaa ne yhdellä lauseella alaviitteessä: Brownin käyttämät kriteerit ovat “liian lepsut” (too lenient). Tähän keskustelutyylin valintaan on periaatteessa täysin hyväksyttävä syy: Carlson näkee omat argumenttinsa Theodoros-kirjeestä huijauksena niin vahvoiksi, ettei Brownin lähestymistapaa ole tarpeen sen tarkemmin kommentoida – jotain vikaa siinä on oltava. Entäpä Carlsonin omat argumentit? “The Gospel Hoax” –teosta lukiessani aloin ajatella asiaa toisesta näkökulmasta: ehkäpä se, ettei Carlsonin argumentointia ole aina helppoa erottaa salaliittoteoria-ajatteluargumentoinnista, ole välttämättä hyvä asia! Koko Carlsonin argumentointi ei tosin perustu huijarin kätkemille vihjeille ja vitseille. Riittävätkö nämä muut argumentit osoittamaan huijaushypoteesin todennäköiseksi?

Työskentelyni lopputuloksena oli lopulta kaksi Vartija-lehden mittapuulla laajaa artikkelia Salaisesta Markuksen evankeliumista. Näissä kokosin yhteen eri osapuolten väitteitä, kommentoin niitä ja kiinnitin myös huomiota siihen, että toiset väärennösteorian kannattajien argumentit näyttivät edustavan salaliittoteoria-ajattelua, pseudotiedettä. Analyysini oli kuitenkin liian yleisellä tasolla. Mietin, oliko mahdollista eritellä tarkemmin, miten esimerkiksi Carlsonin löytämät Morton Smithin tarkoituksella jättämät vihjeet liittyivät muihin yleisesti tieteen piirissä pseudotieteenä pidettyihin väitteisiin. Toisaalta näin myös sen, että Carlsonin koko argumentoinnin arvioiminen ja kaiken esitetyn vasta-argumentoinnin tuominen yhteen dokumenttiin oli vielä tekemättä. Näistä kahdesta tehtävänannosta – tuo yhteen kaikki esitetyt argumentit ja kommentoi niitä; erittele Carlsonin argumenttien ja tunnettujen pseudotieteellisten argumenttien yhtäläisyyksiä ja eroja – lähdin rakentamaan Uuden testamentin eksegetiikan pro gradu –tutkielmaani. Erityiskiitokseni kuuluvat työni ohjaajalle, professori Ismo Dunderbergille, joka tyytyi lopulta vain hillittyyn protestointiin ilmoitettuani vaihtavani Tuomas-kirjallisuuden kaksosmotiivin tutkimisen Theodoros-kirjeen huijaushypoteesin arvioimiseen."

1Kennet Granholm: Embracing the Dark: The Magic Order of Dragon Rouge - Its Practice in Dark Magic and Meaning Making. Åbo Akademi University Press. 2005, 55-60.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled by Peter Jeffery: An Interesting Book Review by J. Harold Ellens

J. Harold Ellens of University of Michigan-Ann Arbor has written a very interesting review of Peter Jeffery's controversial work "The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery". The book seems to gather the weirdest reviews ever, including Scott G. Brown's 47-paged (!) essay, published in the same journal - Review of Biblical Literature - as Ellens'. As Jeffery himself has noted: "Does all this attention imply that I’m too original a thinker, or too pugnacious a writer, or . . . just exasperatingly prone to being head-smackingly, hair-tearingly wrong?"1 I'm leaning towards the last option (see my Finnish article originally published in Vartija), but - as it is supposed to go in critical scholarship - only time and future generations of scholars will be able to proclaim the winner.

To summarize the book briefly: Jeffery comes to the same conclusions as Stephen C. Carlson in his 2005 book "The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark", namely, that Clement's letter to Theodore and the excerpts from the (so-called) Secret Gospel of Mark are a forgery/hoax by Morton Smith (1915-1991), who claimed to have found an unknown MS containing the said texts. Whereas I have treated extensively with Carlson's argumentation in my Master's Thesis, Jeffery gets a more cursory treatment in one of my articles published in Vartija. For the record, I think Jeffery's book is an excellent introduction to a) Alexandrian liturgy in the 2nd century, b) classical Athenian pederasty, and to c) Uranian subculture of the 19th century, though I don't really understand how these topics are supposed to be used to establish Clement's letter as a forgery.

One aspect of Jeffery's work that I have not given much consideration is luckily noted by Ellens: the smell. He writes Jeffery's to be a "superbly packaged book, lovely to read, hold, fondle, smell, and contemplate as an aesthetic object" (2). Unfortunately, my own personal copy did not give much new insight with this method. Bad jokes aside, I think even I could go overboard with my rhetorics as Ellens seems to have gone here - for a joke. Somehow I get the feeling this hasn't been the case in this review.

Another odd feature is the name-dropping. Ellens gathers support for his positive reaction to the book from Robert L. Webb (2), Paul Foster (2), W. V. Harris (2), Maxwell E. Johnson (5), Stephan Goranson (7), Stephen C. Carlson (7), Loren Rosen III (8), Harold W. Attridge (8) and Adela Yarbro Collins (9). A lot of familiar names, prominent biblical scholars, who all regard the case of Clement's letter to have been solved, first by Stephen C. Carlson, and decisively by Peter Jeffery. The function of this exercise seems to be tied to Brown's aforementioned mammoth-review - Ellens wants to show clearly that not all scholars are sharing Brown's distaste for Jeffery's argumentation (Brown names it "a hermeneutics of desperation"2), and to be fair with Ellens, I myself thought that Brown's review could have been toned down to a "normal" level of criticism. It just goes to show how very few things linked to Morton Smith or his disputed discovery are anywhere near as "normal". The abnormal is the rule here, including Ellens' assessment of the criticism of Jeffery's book: "Those who have argued against it have in so doing largely discredited themselves, rather than succeeding in seriously denigrating Jeffrey’s peerless volume" (7). Peerless volume? Why is everyone utilizing such pompous rhetorics all the time? Isn't this, like, supposed to be, at least, a normal, critical, rational, scientific debate concerning a disputed early Christian text? Nothing more, nothing less, nothing more sinister, right?

Since Ellens' review seems first and foremost to be a counter to Brown's essay - both were published in the same journal - it doesn't contain any new information or educated pondering on the topic. Ellens goes through Jeffery's arguments chapter after chapter, and Ellens saw that it was good. This is not a defect: some reviews are just like this, simply stating the most relevant points of the reviewed author, without offering any substantial criticism or possibilities for a deeper analysis. Unfortunately, Ellens does promote some common myths that are seemingly too handy (for the critics of Morton Smith) to die. Putting his words down as follows Ellens concludes that "after [Smith's] publications in 1973, the manuscript disappeared, and no chemical tests on the ink were ever possible" (4). This gives the impression that Morton Smith had something to do with the disappearance, which, in any case, happened, according to the testimony of Father Kallistos Dourvas, sometime after 1990 (also, Quentin Quesnell claims to have seen the MS at the beginning of the 1980s3), and had nothing whatsoever to do with Smith. If someone needs to be blamed for the disappearance, the staff of the Jerusalem Patriarchate Library seems to be the most obvious candidate.4

Another off the mark comment notices a "suspicious peculiarity... that Clement or his forger feels the need to identify him(self) as “the author of the Stromateis.” Surely everyone, particularly a familiar correspondent of his like Theodore, would have known that Clement had written the Stromateis" (4). Scott Brown's translation gives the line as follows: "From the letters of the most holy Clement, the author of the Stromateis. To Theodore."5 This overwriting, however, is most likely an editorial introduction to the letter that seems to have belonged to a collection of Clement's letters ("from the letters"). Thus it was hardly written by Clement himself.

To let Ellens summarize the current situation: "The evidence seems to be moving rather rapidly in the other direction, against Brown’s position" (8). I'm not so sure that this is the case, but we will see. Certainly Stephen Carlson's and now Peter Jeffery's works have gained a strong following in the Academia, but would some name-dropping of the defenders of the authenticity be that difficult? From the top of my head, here goes: Scott G. Brown, Allan J. Pantuck, Jeff Jay, John Dart, James D. Tabor, Marvin Meyer, Charles W. Hedrick, Helmut Koester, Guy G. Stroumsa. All of these scholars have defended the authenticity of Clement's letter to Theodore in recent years. Add some gifted amateurs, like Wieland Wilker and Roger Viklund, to the lot, and the situation of the defendants doesn't seem to be so hopeless after all.

One final homage goes to the journal itself, Review of Biblical Literature, for allowing multiple reviews for the more controversial works, as well as offering unlimited space for the scholar to write into. There is a curious link between Scott Brown's review and my thesis, for his review of Peter Jeffery's book was a beginning of some improbable coincidences that ended up with me writing a Master's Thesis on Carlson's book. All of this (and more) is revealed in a censured portion of the said thesis, where some interesting biographical subject matter was discussed. In two days, I think I'll post this, first in its original Finnish form and then a translation.

There is another new review of Jeffery's book by Nicole Kelley published in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft - Volume 4, Number 1, Summer 2009, pp. 114-117. Unfortunately, it's unavailable at the moment, though I doubt it would be as interesting as Ellens' review.

1Peter Jeffery: The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Reply to Scott G. Brown. 2007, 1. http://www.music.princeton.edu/~jeffery/replytobrown.pdf
2Scott G. Brown: The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: An Essay Review. 2007, 27. http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5627
3Adela Yarbro Collins: Mark: A Commentary. Hermeneia - A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Fortress Press. 2007, 491.
4Charles W. Hedrick & Nikolaos Olympiou: Secret Mark: New Photographs, New Witnesses. The Fourth R 13:5. 2000, 8-9.
5Scott G. Brown: Mark's Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith's Controversial Discovery. ESCJ 15. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 2005, xvii.

Vapaa-ajattelijoiden liiton ja Humanistiliiton bussikampanja alkaa

Alussa oli Ariane Sherine, joka näki lontoolaisen bussin kyljessä kristillisen mainoksen, joka sisälsi epäsuoran uhkauksen helvettiin joutumisesta ("When the Son of Man comes, will He find Faith on this Earth?").

Vastinekampanja tunnetaan nimellä "The Atheist Bus Campaign", jonka slogan "There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life" ilmestyi Lontoon busseihin 21.10.2008. Kampanja levisi myös muualle Eurooppaan sekä Kanadaan.

Suomessa Vapaa-ajattelijoiden liiton ja Humanistiliiton kampanja starttaa Helsingissä, Turussa ja Tampereella tänään, 22.6.2009. Helsingissä Sherinen alkuperäinen iskulause on käännetty suomeksi muodossa "Jumalaa tuskin on olemassa. Lopeta siis murehtiminen ja nauti elämästä", kun taas Turussa ja Tampereella muotoilua pidettiin "hyvien tapojen vastaisena". Olen otettu, koska myös tämän blogin sisältö - keskittyminen kaanonin ulkopuolisiin varhaiskristillisiin teksteihin ja kristillisen teologian jälkimodernistinen pohdinta - lienee näillä kriteereillä "hyvien tapojen vastaista". Ehkä blogia voisi jopa koristaa plakaatilla, jossa olisi teksti "Tämä blogi on todistettavasti hyvien tapojen vastainen" tms. Joka tapauksessa, Turussa ja Tampereella kampanjan slogan on muotoa "Iloitse elämästäsi kuin se olisi ainoasi, koska se on".

Vastinekampanjan vastinekampanjoista ei niistäkään ole pulaa. Suomen Raamattuopisto, Helsingin tuomiokirkkoseurakunta ja oma kotiseurakuntani Taivallahden seurakunta järjestävät tulevana elokuuna tapahtuman "Jumala on. Älä murehdi, iloitse elämästä". Ihan kiva muotoilu tämäkin. Omani on luonnollisesti kaikkein paras (oma slogan bussin kylkeen):

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Vielä on juhannusta jäljellä

Se kun ei vielä ole alkanutkaan. Ensi keskiviikkona: Johannes Kastajan syntymäpäivä.

Johanneksesta sanottua:

"Heidän mentyään Jeesus alkoi puhua ihmisille Johanneksesta: "Mitä te lähditte autiomaahan katsomaan? Ruokoako, jota tuuli huojuttaa? Vai mitä odotitte näkevänne? Kenties hienosti pukeutuneen miehen? Kuninkaanlinnoista te niitä löydätte, jotka hienostelevat vaatteillaan! Mitä te sitten odotitte näkevänne? Profeetanko? Aivan oikein, ja minä sanon teille, että hän on enemmänkin kuin profeetta. Hän on se, josta on kirjoitettu: Minä lähetän sanansaattajani sinun edelläsi, hän raivaa sinulle tien. Totisesti: yksikään naisesta syntynyt ei ole ollut Johannes Kastajaa suurempi, mutta kaikkein vähäisin, joka on taivasten valtakunnassa, on suurempi kuin hän."1

"Silloin minä kysyin häneltä: "Herra, kuinka me kykenemme profetoimaan niille, jotka odottavat sitä meiltä? Sillä monet pyytävät meiltä sitä ja kääntyvät puoleemme kuullakseen jonkin sanan meiltä." Herra vastasi: "Ettekö te tiedä, että Johanneksen myötä profetialta katkaistiin pää?" Mutta minä sanoin: "Ei kai profetialta voi katkaista päätä?" Herra sanoi: "Kun ymmärrätte, mitä pää tarkoittaa, ja sen, että profetia lähtee päästä, silloin tajuatte myös, mitä tarkoittaa se, että profetian pää on katkaistu."2

"Ja hänen pojalleen sanottiin: "Oi Johannes, ota Kirja vastaan halukkaasti!" Ja me annoimme Hänelle viisautta, kun hän oli vielä lapsi. Annoimme hänelle myös innoitusta ja viattomuutta omastamme, ja hän kunnioitti vanhempiaan ja oli hyvä heitä kohtaan. Hän ei ollut kapinallinen eikä tottelematon. Rauha olkoon hänelle sinä päivänä, jolloin hän syntyi, ja sinä päivänä, jolloin hän kuolee, sekä sinä päivänä, jolloin hänet herätetään kuolleista."3

"Yahyā (Johanneksen arabiankielinen nimi translitteroituna) julistaa yössä ja sanoo: "Onko kukaan minua suurempi? Tekoni punnitaan; palkkioni ja kruununi koetellaan, ja ylistykseni vie minut korkealle rauhan vallitessa."4

Heti huomenna: jotain uutta Salaisesta Markuksen evankeliumista - J. Harold Ellensin kirja-arvostelu Peter Jefferyn teoksesta "The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery" Review of Biblical Literaturessa.

English Summary: The Feast Day of John the Baptist has gone (in Finland) before it even properly began (24th of June being the correct date). Tomorrow: something new regarding the Secret Gospel - a book review of Peter Jeffery by J. Harold Ellens.

1Matteuksen evankeliumi 11:7-11
2Jaakobin salainen kirja 6 (käännös: Petri Luomanen)
3Koraani, Marian Suura (19: 12-15)
4Sidrā d'Yahyā (Johanneksen kirja) §27 (G. R. S. Meadin englanninkielisestä käännöksestä (huonosti) suomeksi kääntänyt: allekirjoittanut)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Art as a Substitute for Religion? A Lecture by Richard Shusterman in Helsinki 8.6.2009 - Part III

A rather uncontroversial statement: Christianity has changed during its existence. I like to formulate this the following way, (I admit, provocatively): Christians today do not belief as the Christians during the 1st century believed. Notwithstanding the provocative tone I think this fact stands, and is easily demonstrated with historical evidence. Heikki Räisänen, to take an example, has researched the reception history of Matthew 25:40 ("The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'), namely the expression "the least of these brothers of mine" (τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν ἐλαχίστων). The case is not overly complex: before the 19th century practically no one understood these words as referring generally to the poor/sick/imprisoned. Instead, the interpretation was very particularistic. "The least of these brothers of mine" were fellow Christians, who had been put into a tight situation during their missionary activities. (Compare this to Matthew 10:40-42)

The changes have happened in minor details, like this one, but also in major ones. Apocalyptic expectation was the very topic to the 1st century Christians (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-3; Mark 9:1). Not anymore, and for good reasons, since we can't go on waiting for an end, coming right up, for centuries and centuries. Thus the question is not about change itself, but about its direction. Who decides it? Following Räisänen, there's no question as to the identity of the decider. It is I, even as a lay member of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, who will be deciding what will happen - I, with the other members of my Church. And if, following Ari Hukari, we transform our Church into an open discussion forum, there are chances that the change will be for good.

"Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful", says the Apostle. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22) Obviously, I'm going to read this in a slightly modified way compared to what I think Paul actually intended. Taking the good, like the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), and discarding the bad, like the idea of genocide as a great way to wage war (Leviticus 26:7-9); I doubt people will disagree much here. For these things have already been changed, from major ones, like the idea of death penalty as means to remove the evil from society (cf. Deuteronomium 22:23-24), to minor ones, like the habit of greeting fellow Christians with a holy kiss (2 Corinthians 13:12) - in Finland, even greeting one's fellow Christians - in the course of the liturgy - with a handshake is a much despised practice.

I look forward to the future where having a spirituality has everything to do with honesty, and nothing to do with owning the truth. Honesty is about making the choices (in my case) from the vast Christian tradition consciously, since choices will nonetheless be made. Not claiming to own the truth is also honesty, but first and foremost an opening up of a dialog between me and my fellow Christians of the Lutheran variety - then between different Churches, and ultimately between different religious traditions and more secular-oriented ideologies.

I would put my thesis down as follows (following Räisänen and Hukari):

1) Everybody, "liberal" and "conservative" Christians side by side, are cherry-picking from Christian tradition (including the Bible) various things, and discarding others; I differ from this general principle in one way only: My choices are made consciously.

2) Richard Shusterman's idea of the "religion of art" is already manifested in these conscious choices: the tradition I choose to pick consciously is transfigured into an elevated position ("art") by my choosing to pick this, and not that, from the vast tradition on my fingertips. The linkage between religion and art need not be broken. Both of them are interested in myths, and the themes of hope, renewal, redemption and unity. Working inside my own tradition I create a "religion of art of religion" with an attitude that transfigures some parts of my religious tradition. Next stop in this line: discarding the traditions that speak ill of homosexuality - when so much has already changed, why not let go of this source of misery also?

(The principle of choosing good from the bad will be a future topic. Briefly: approaching religion as one approaches art makes truth-statements meaningless - which is more truth, classical music or popular music; a nonsense question! As for ethics, it's best to keep religion out of that even if one doesn't acknowledge this pragmatist interpretation of Christianity, as Richard Holloway, then a Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church, has stated in his 1999 book "Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics".)

Morton Smith (1915-1991) described his attitude to the liturgy during his visit in the monastery of Mar Saba with the following words: "For the monks, it was truth, for me it was poetry; their practice was based on faith, mine on a willing suspension of disbelief."1 Why should this poetic approach to religion be seen as inferior? If - in the liturgy and myth - I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, to experience the presence of the absence of God (another one for Holloway), and to regard the elements of my chosen Christianity as a "religion of art of religion", whose got something to lose? And if the conflict comes down only to the rhetorics of power (of which this post is surely another example of), then what happened to the man of Nazareth, when he exclaimed the following words: "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." (Mark 10:42-44)

Looking back at this post, I see it got a tad more personal (not to mention pathetic and pretentious) than how I originally pictured it. Fuck Yeah; I'm going to post it anyway.

1Morton Smith: The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark. The Aquarian Press. 1985.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Art as a Substitute for Religion? A Lecture by Richard Shusterman in Helsinki 8.6.2009 - Part II

The main idea in Richard Shusterman's "the religion of art", presented in Helsinki last Monday, has been suggested before by Finnish theologians: namely, that the new attitude would enable us to keep the valuable parts of established religions and deny the rubbish. I will present two examples of this thinking. First the classic example of professor emeritus (of NT studies) Heikki Räisänen as he formulated it in his 1993 book "Uuteen uskoon: Teologisesta itsekritiikistä uskontojen vuoropuheluun". Second an interview of Tampereen hiippakuntadekaani Ari Hukari (I will not even try to translate his title - it's pretty high in the hierarchy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland) that was published in Kirkko & Kaupunki 26.5.2009.

Heikki Räisänen observes that religions have always been changing, for better or for worse. Thus Christianity will also keep changing, but to which direction? Who decides the change? If we are to be completely honest with this question, believers (or more generally, members of the church), according to Räisänen, make this crucial decision whether they do it consciously or not. This process will have to be transformed to a conscious one: we have to let go of the "pious self-deception" to be able to make informed choices about our Christian tradition. From the tradition we will have to pick out consciously those strands that support life, freedom and unity and discard those strands that oppose them. If we don't do the cherry-picking this way, it will nonetheless get to be done and the consequences could be worse for humanity in general.1

Ari Hukari sees the current model of the Church, where the priest dictates the "truth" to the congregation, as outdated. Many pastors are doing their job in this way as if there never were any postmodern philosophers who called into question the soundness of the concept of absolute truth. Lay members of the Church are treated like sheep, and their questions are not taken seriously. Faith, however, should not be about owning the truth (or being right) but an attitude towards God/You/Other/Ultimate meaning. I'm interpreting Hukari a bit, but I see his arguments very compatible with Räisänen's call for abandoning the "pious self-deception": there is no "truth" as this concept is only a matter of the chosen language-game, but a multitude of truths. What we make of the Christian tradition is left for us - an informed choice needs a conscious mind behind it.

According to Hukari the (Finnish Evangelical Lutheran) Church should be transformed into an open forum, where - lead by a priest - postmodern, autonomous human beings (and not sheep) are consciously discussing their views of the reality. A radical change indeed, but without an honest dialog between the various members of the Church the bid to strengthen the good in the Christian tradition and downplay the bad (consciously) will never be done properly.2

In Part III tomorrow: why Räisänen and Hukari are spot on and why Shusterman's "religion of art" could be better understood as an attitude inside the established religions to their established aspects - as a "religion of art of religion", properly speaking.

1Uuteen uskoon: Teologisesta itsekritiikistä uskontojen vuoropuheluun. Kirjapaja. 1993.
2http://www.kirkkojakaupunki.fi/?newsid=11539&deptid=127&languageid=3&NEWS=1

Friday, June 12, 2009

Art as a Substitute for Religion? A Lecture by Richard Shusterman in Helsinki 8.6.2009 - Part I

Richard Shusterman, an American pragmatist philosopher, gave a lecture with the title "Art: A Substitute for Religion?" at the University of Helsinki last Monday. There were two parts in Shusterman's paper. He began with a brief historical overlook of the meaning of art, which, beginning from the 19th century, was seen by enthusiasts to become a substitute for religion. (Religion in this equation meant simply "ultimate meaning" or so.)

Up to the present times Shusterman saw art and religion going together in the process of meaning-making, both exploring the themes of hope, unity and mystery. Bringing Richard Rorty to the discussion, Shusterman observed that art can bring people together and give them a common meaning - we need a "religion of art", and this project will be superior to the established religions, since the unwanted side effects (fanaticism, fundamentalism, violence, sectarian movements) can be kept at a minimum. Another missing link is the brand of religion, which is generally speaking in quite an awful state (even here in Finland): you won't catch many intellectuals supporting established religions, not wholeheartedly.

In a word, "the religion of art" will be able to keep valuable parts of established religions and deny the rubbish bits, while offering an intellectually superior alternative to the more primitive interpretations (of Christianity, for example - I know they are out there). Having gone this far Shusterman presented the second part of his paper, in which he discussed Arthur C. Danto's idea of transfiguration in art. The linkage between religion and art are made plain here, as the very word transfiguration comes from the Synoptic Gospel accounts where Jesus is narrated to have been turned into a shining white beacon with Moses and Elijah by his side. (Matthew 17.1-9; Mark 9.2-8; Luke 9.28-36) Danto's transfiguration is an event where an object is turned into art, and in Shusterman's interpretation this has nothing to do with metaphysics or with any other silly notion (for a pragmatist). Confessing his debt to Zen-Buddhism Shusterman sees transfiguration deriving from the changed position of the viewer, and not from the changed essence of the object that has been turned into art.

In Part II tomorrow: how Shusterman's "religion of art" has already been suggested, albeit with a different title, by eminent (biblical) scholars like professor emeritus Heikki Räisänen. In fact, "the religion of art" could be argued to be here already, to be found in The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, at least in part, in midst of a hot debate, raging right now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Juhlavastaanoton vero

Viikon tauko bloggaamisessa johtui tällä kertaa sunnuntain 7.6.2009 megapippaloista eli virallisesta valmistu-jaisvastaanotosta, joka pidettiin kodissamme. Yhteinen kiitos kaikille osallistuneille seuraavan kaksoispisteen jälkeen: kiitos!

Blogin tahti on tarkoitus pitää rauhallisena, eli uusi, loppuun asti mietitty postaus joka kolmas päivä, ellei mitään isompaa ole ilmassa. Se isompi on toki tällä hetkellä pyrkimykseni opetella miekkailemaan kuin 1400-luvun italialainen aatelismies. Kuvia aiheesta saattaa olla tulossa myöhemmin.

Heti huomenna: Onko taiteesta uskonnon korvaajaksi?














English Summary: a party last Sunday has kept me busy for a week. Absolutely nothing to do with the expression "sobering up". (The title on the card means "For the One Who Has Graduated".)

Coming up tomorrow: Art as a Substitute for Religion?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Master's Thesis: A Conspiracy of the Secret Evangelist: Recent Debate Concerning Clement of Alexandria's Letter to Theodore

E-thesis has published my Master's Thesis in pdf-format. The title of the thesis could be translated as "A Conspiracy of the Secret Evangelist: Recent Debate Concerning Clement of Alexandria's Letter to Theodore". As part of my ongoing project to learn to write English in an academic manner I will post a translation of my thesis chapter by (sub)chapter (or at least the relevant parts) during the summer of 2009.

Below:

Title, Table of Contents (with links to individual chapters) and English Summary.

[Note on the use of brackets: to keep the translation project manageable, I'm going to utilize [brackets] whenever possible. Text written inside brackets indicates that the translation has not been done word by word. Instead, in brackets I'm offering a summary of the chapter in question. This is an ongoing project, and the brackets will be opened into a proper translation at a later date. In this first going through only those chapters that I have deemed 'top priority' will be translated without brackets.]

A Conspiracy of the Secret Evangelist: Recent Debate Concerning Clement of Alexandria's Letter to Theodore

1 Introduction
(A censured portion with some biographical information)
1.1 Clement's letter to Theodore: Discovery story
1.2 A history of scholarship of the letter
1.3 Some methodological considerations

2 Clement's letter to Theodore: Physical dimension
2.1 A history of the MS
2.2 Paper and ink
2.3 Is the book of Isaac Voss an anomaly in the monastery?
2.4 Stephen Carlson's handwriting analysis
2.5 An analysis of Stephen Carlson's handwriting analysis
2.6 Conclusion of the chapter

3 Clement's letter to Theodore: Subject matter
3.1 The vocabulary of Clement's letter
3.2 An unnecessary sphragis of Clement and other oddities
3.3 Weird things in the Secret Gospel of Mark
3.4 The expertise and suspicious behaviour of Morton Smith
3.5 The irony of Bart D. Ehrman - a novel by James H. Hunter

4 Clement's letter to Theodore: A conspiracy theory
4.1 Prelude to the clues the hoaxer hid
4.2 The triune confession of the hoaxer
4.3 How a conspiracy theory is built
4.4 How Stephen Carlson builds a conspiracy theory
4.5 A conventional critique of Stephen Carlson's conspiracy theory arguments

5 Conclusions and challenges for the future
5.1 Stephen C. Carlson and the signs of the times
5.2 Conclusions and the possibilities for further inquiry

Appendix 1
The letter gamma of Morton Smith in 1958 and the letter gamma in Clement's letter: First six appearances

Appendix 2
Reductio ad absurdum: An alternative hiding place of the name 'Morton' in Clement's letter

Sources and resources
Internet sources
Bibliography

English Summary:

This thesis is an assessment of the hoax hypothesis, mainly propagated in Stephen C. Carlson's 2005 monograph "The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark", which suggests that professor Morton Smith (1915-1991) forged Clement of Alexandria's letter to Theodore. This letter Smith claimed to have discovered as an 18th century copy in the monastery of Mar Saba in 1958.

The Introduction narrates the discovery story of Morton Smith and traces the manuscript's whereabouts up to its apparent disappearance in 1990 following with a brief history of scholarship of the MS and some methodological considerations.

Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the arguments for the hoax (mainly by Stephen C. Carlson) and against it (mainly Scott G. Brown). Chapter 2 looks at the MS in its physical aspects, and chapter 3 assesses its subject matter. I conclude that some of the details fit reasonably well with the hoax hypothesis, but on the whole the arguments against it are more persuasive. Especially Carlson's use of QDE-analysis (Questioned Document Examination) has many problems. Comparing the handwriting of Clement's letter to Morton Smith's handwriting I conclude that there are some "repeated differences" between them suggesting that Smith is not the writer of the disputed letter. Clement's letter to Theodore derives most likely from antiquity though the exact details of its character are not discussed in length in this thesis.

In Chapter 4 I take a special look at Stephen C. Carlson's arguments which propose that Morton Smith hid clues of his identity to the MS and the materials surrounding it. Comparing these alleged clues to known pseudoscientific works I conclude that Carlson utilizes here methods normally reserved for building a conspiracy theory; thus Carlson's hoax hypothesis has serious methodological flaws in respect to these hidden clues. I construct a model of these questionable methods titled "a boisterous pseudohistorical method" that contains three parts: 1) beginning with a question that from the beginning implicitly contains the answer, 2) considering everything will do as evidence for the conspiracy theory, and 3) abandoning probability and thinking literally that everything is connected. I propose that Stephen C. Carlson utilizes these pseudoscientific methods in his unearthing of Morton Smith's "clues".

Chapter 5 looks briefly at the literary genre I title "textual puzzle -thriller". Because even biblical scholarship follows the signs of the times, I propose Carlson's hoax hypothesis has its literary equivalents in fiction in titles like Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" and in academic works in titles like John Dart's "Decoding Mark". All of these are interested in solving textual puzzles, even though the methodological choices are not acceptable for scholarship. Thus the hoax hypothesis as a whole is alternatively either unpersuasive or plain bad science.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pro gradu: Salaisen evankelistan salaliitto: Uusin keskustelu Klemens Aleksandrialaisen kirjeestä Theodorokselle

Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisupalvelu E-thesis on julkaissut pro gradu -tutkielmani elektronisessa muodossa. Tutkielma on vapaasti kenen tahansa ladattavissa. Käyttö normaalien tekijänoikeuskäytäntöjen mukaisesti.

Viittaaminen: Paananen, Timo S. // 2009 // Salaisen evankelistan salaliitto: Uusin keskustelu Klemens Aleksandrialaisen kirjeestä Theodorokselle. Pro gradu -tutkielma. http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe200906011581

Linkki tutkielmaan

Suomenkielinen tiivistelmä:

Tutkielma arvioi Klemens Aleksandrialaisen kirjeestä Theodorokselle esitettyjä käsikirjoitusväärennösepäilyjä. Väärennöshypoteesin, jonka tärkein edustaja on Stephen C. Carlson teoksessa "The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark", mukaan Theodoros-kirjeen oletettu löytäjä, professori Morton Smith (1915-1991), väärensi tekstin näyttämään siltä, että se olisi kopioitu 1700-luvulla vuonna 1958 ollessaan luetteloimassa Mar Saban luostarin käsikirjoituksia. Uuden testamentin tutkimukselle Theodoros-kirjeen merkittävintä antia ovat sen sisältämät kaksi lainausta ns. Salaisesta Markuksen evankeliumista.

Tarkastelen Theodoros-kirjeen fyysistä ulottuvuutta luvussa 2, sisällöllistä ulottuvuutta luvussa 3 ja väitteitä Morton Smithin käsikirjoitukseen kätkemistä vihjeistä ja vitseistä luvussa 4. Fyysisen ulottuvuuden - käsikirjoituksen paperi, muste, kirja, jonka takasivuille käsikirjoitus on kopioitu ja käsiala - osalta totean joidenkin yksityiskohtien sopivan väärennöshypoteesiin, mutta asian ratkaisun olevan mahdotonta, sillä käsikirjoituksen olinpaikkaa ei tiedetä vuoden 1990 jälkeen. Carlsonin väitteet Theodoros-kirjeen ja Morton Smithin käsialojen välisistä yhtäläisyyksistä osoittautuvat huonoksi QDE-analyysin (Questioned Document Examination) soveltamiseksi. Sen sijaan Theodoros-kirjeen ja Morton Smithin käsialat sisältävät sellaisia "toistuvia eroavaisuuksia", joiden perusteella Theodoros-kirjeen kirjoittaja ei näytä olevan Smith. Epävarmuustekijänä on kuitenkin QDE-analyysin kyseenalainen soveltuvuus 1700-luvun käsikirjoituskopioiden aitouden arvioimiseen.

Theodoros-kirjeen sisällöllisen ulottuvuuden osalta arvioin väitteitä tekstin sanaston frekvenssin ja eräiden ilmausten omituisuuksista. Carlsonin tukeutuminen Andrew H. Criddlen tutkimukseen Klemensin tuotannossa vain yhden kerran käytettyjen sanojen (hapax legomena) esiintymisestä ei ratkaise kysymystä tekstin kirjoittajasta, sillä uusimmat tilastotieteelliset tutkimukset eivät pidä menetelmää luotettavana. Väitteet ongelmallisista ilmauksista kirjeen tekstissä - Carlson esimerkiksi ehdottaa muotoilun "ja [nuorukainen] jäi hänen [Jeesuksen] luokseen siksi yöksi" (Theod. III.9) olevan ymmärrettävä ainoastaan englanninkielisessä muodossaan "spend the night with", joka on eufemismi seksuaaliselle kanssakäymiselle - perustuvat joko ylitulkintaan tai kaksoistandardeihin suhteessa muihin antiikin teksteihin. Useimmiten väärennöshypoteesi on yksinkertainen petitio principii: jotta tekstin voi lukea seksuaalisesti vihjailevana, täytyy sen olettaa olevan Morton Smithin väärentämä. Tämä on kuitenkin se väite, joka seksuaalisesti vihjailevalla lukutavalla halutaan osoittaa todeksi.

Tarkastellessani väitteitä Morton Smithin kätkemistä vihjeistä vertaan Carlsonin käyttämää metodologiaa näiden löytämiseen tunnettuihin pseudotieteellisiin teoksiin. Luon kolmiosaisen teoreettisen metodologiamallin, joita pseudo(historia)tieteen tekijät hyödyntävät. "Vallaton pseudohistoriallinen metodi" sisältää 1) huonon kysymyksenasettelun, jossa vastaus on jo implisiittisesti läsnä, 2) havaintoilluusioon ajautumisen ja kaiken havaintoaineiston kääntämisen tukemaan hypoteesia, ja 3) vakaumuksen siitä, että kahden asian yhdistäminen toisiinsa osoittaa niiden kuuluvan luontaisesti yhteen, kun todennäköisyyden käsite on ensin hylätty. Havainnoin Carlsonin väärennöshypoteesissa lukuisia esimerkkejä tämän epätieteellisen lähetysmistavan soveltamisesta Theodoros-kirjeeseen, erityisesti liittyen Morton Smithin oletettuihin vihjeisiin. Carlson ei ole kiinnostunut väärennöksestä sinänsä vaan väärentäjän henkilöllisyydestä, ja tulkitsee Morton Smithin pikkutarkan työskentelyn Theodoros-kirjeen parissa olevan ansa ja Smithin lausunnot väärennössyytöksiin liittyen olevan kielellinen testi, joiden on toisaalta tarkoitus vaikeuttaa oleellisten kysymysten esittämistä (ansa) ja toisaalta testata Smithin älykkyyttä suhteessa muihin tutkijoihin (kielellinen testi). Lopulta Carlson yhdistelee toisiinsa liittymättömiä asioita yhteen konstruoidakseen esimerkiksi Morton Salt Company -vihjeen, jonka mukaan Morton Smith piilotti etunimensä Theodoros-kirjeeseen viittauksena paakkuuntumattomaan suolaan, joka on Morton Salt Companyn kehittämä. Tämänkaltaisen argumentin heikkoutta alleviivaan luomalla liitteessä 2 Jelly Roll Morton -vihjeen, jonka mukaan Morton Smith piilotti etunimensä Theodoros-kirjeeseen, mutta eri paikkaan kuin Morton Salt Company -vihje olettaa - tällaisia vihjeitä nokkela tutkija voisi tehtailla lisää vaikka kuinka paljon.

Kokonaisuutena Theodoros-kirjeen väärennöshypoteesi ei näytä todennäköiseltä vaihtoehdolta. Erityisesti yrityksissä kohdentaa väärennössyytökset juuri Morton Smithiin on vakavia metodologisia puuttellisuuksia. Klemensin kirje on todennäköisesti peräisin antiikista, vaikka sen luonteen yksityiskohtia ei varsinaisesti arvioida tässä tutkielmassa.

English Summary: E-thesis has published my Master's Thesis in pdf-format. Available to everybody (though it's all in Finnish). Coming up tomorrow: summary and table of contents translated to English.