Thursday, July 30, 2009

Master's Thesis: Chapter 2.5 An analysis of Stephen Carlson's handwriting analysis

Are there really "signs of a forgery" to be found in the handwriting of the Theodore-letter? The first question we need to ask concerns the applicability of the principles of QDE (Questioned document examination) for assessing the handwriting of an 18th-century MS - originally, QDE was created to identify 20th-century handwritings, produced while using 20th-century equipment.1 The Theodore-letter, at least in its appearance, looks to be copied during the 18th-century, with (presumably) 18th-century equipment. Are these methods of spotting a forgery useful for all kinds of handwritings?2 Furthermore, how should the fact, that Morton Smith, if he really did forge the MS, did not have to imitate any one specific handwriting by any one specific person, but did need to write in a general way as an 18th-century copyist would have written, be taken into account? In the famous QDE-cases - in which the matter is ultimately settled by the problems found in the handwriting - the situation seems usually to be about the imitating of a specific handwriting of a specific individual.3

If we accept the applicability of QDE to the assessment of an 18th-century MS4, we have another question to settle: the sources, Morton Smith's B/W photographs he took in 1958 with his pocket camera, that Carlson uses for his analysis. Professional forensic document examiners prefer the original documents, because photographs (or worse yet, photocopies) can bring their own extras e.g. to the line quality of the handwriting. A professional in the field of QDE, Hannah McFarland, warns his clients of the dangers of not using original documents: "Photocopies do not reproduce the finer features of handwriting such as pressure, ductus, and line crossing."5 Since photocopying and Smith's photographing in 1958 use similar techniques - both are based on the information carried by light photons, though this information may never be captured in its completeness - the warning chimed by McFarland about the dangers of using photocopies when assessing the handwriting, has to be taken seriously into consideration with photographs as well. Only the originals are good enough for QDE analysis.

With these preliminary remarks out of the way - keeping in mind that every further conclusions drawn from the photographs applying the principles of QDE are not resting on a solid foundation - we must turn our attention to the comparative material Carlson provides in his book from the other 18th-century MSS from Mar Saba. For some reason, every one of these seem to have lots of the same "signs of a forgery" present as what Carlson claims to find in the Theodore-letter. To take some specific examples, Carlson observes the sign of the cross, in the beginning of the Theodore-letter, to have been drawn very slowly, with two strokes in such a way that three out of four endings of the line (according to Carlson, all four endings of the line) have blunt ends.6 However, from the comparative material provided by Carlson, I see similar blunt endings and beginnings of the line in e.g. Sabas 518 MS, folio 2, recto, line 5 in the letter tau of the word τοῦ, and in the letter lambda of the word δούλου, and in Sabas 523 MS, folio 4, recto, line 11 in the letter pi of the word πνικάς, and in the letter lambda of the word πόλε.7 When Carlson sees the lifting of the pen in the first line of the Theodore-letter, in the transition from the letter epsilon to the letter kappa of the word ἐκ, I see a similar blot of ink in e.g. Sabas 452 MS, folio 1, recto, line 11 in the word ἐκ.8 The fixing of the letters afterwards is noted by Carlson e.g. in the first line of the Theodore-letter, in the stigma ligature9, but I do not see any essential difference when comparing this ligature to the Sabas 523 MS, folio 4, recto, line 11 letter pi of the word πόλε.10 From these observations we must ask, if all these "signs of a forgery" are in reality conformances with the law, naturally present in MSS for reasons relating to their conditions of copying, e.g. in the leaving of the pen point to the MS or lifting of the pen in the middle of writing a letter or a combination of letters, while turning one's gaze to look at the original text?

The only empirical evidence readily available for assessing this question comes from a research conducted in blogosphere in 2005 and 200611, where a group of scholars, pastors, and students all proficient in ancient Greek, attempted to copy by hand (without accents or punctuation) the Second Epistle to Timothy. The results of this experiment may grant some necessary perspective for the judging of the handwriting of the Theodore-letter: some letters were harder to copy than others, and for different individuals different letters proved to be the more laborious; gradual descent into numbness due to working for a long period ended up with a much increased tendency towards making errors, and with a need to correct letters afterwards, which in turn transformed to ink blots and problems (shakiness) in the quality of the drawn line; regularly, the first letters written just after the pen had been dipped into the ink bottle came out as containing too much ink, which in turn produced more ink blots over the lines of the letters; the numbness due to working for a long period manifested itself also with diversity in the use of nomina sacra when the work had began to be mechanic without an effort to comprehend the meaning of the Greek text; in addition, the placement of the copied text (the attempt to get it into organized lines) had an effect to the way words were abbreviated and ligatures exploited, and the beginning of the text contained the bulk of the textual variants.12 And, if the copyist notices an error he has just drawn, the only option is to continue forwards - the ink must be given time to dry completely before any attempted corrections, otherwise the text becomes virtually unreadable with all the extra ink making a total mess of the passage.13

Another welcome point of view is provided by Roger Viklund in his 2009 online-article "Reclaiming Clement's Letter to Theodoros: An Examination of Carlson’s Handwriting Analysis", where Viklund analyzes the handwriting of the letter from the colour photographs that Father Kallistos Dourvas took in the late 70s (as opposed to the B/W photographs Carlson uses for his analysis). After scrutinizing the quality of the line of the handwriting, Viklund concludes that - following the criteria spelled out by Carlson for the "signs of a forgery" - these signs are to be found everywhere, and the argument proposed by Carlson that the text gets better towards the end of the letter14, does not hold water. The observations concerning "the forger's tremor" are also difficult to substantiate, for Carlson does not provide any criteria for defining just when a correct case of "the forger's tremor" is spotted. In addition, the observation made by Carlson, that there are incidents where the point of the pen has been lifted from the paper in the middle of a letter drawing, cannot be confirmed by Viklund: for every case reported by Carlson, it is not, according to Viklund, undoubtedly clear that the lifting of the pen has actually happened, and for some of the cases Viklund cannot see anything even remotely resembling the possible lifting of the pen. In the end, the argument proposed by Carlson, that the forger drew the letters slowly at first (this would manifest itself in the forger's tremor) but had the capability for some precise correction of the letters afterwards, cannot be the case here: if the forger had the ability to make precise corrections, why would there be a problem in the quality of the line in the first place? Viklund comes to the conclusion that the handwriting of the Theodore-letter derives from the 18th-century, from the hand of an elderly person.15

The "signs of a forgery" present in other 18th-century Mar Saba MSS16, the (suggestive) results of the blogosphere experiment17, and the observations made by Viklund about the regularity of the "signs of a forgery" and the subjectivity of assessing "the forger's tremor", put all together, suggest that the methods commonly used as part of QDE are not directly applicable for assessing the authenticity of MSS.

We need to draw two more question marks over Stephen Carlson's comparison between the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the other 18th-century MSS from Mar Saba. The observations made by Carlson, like the varying use of the nomina sacra, are probably irrelevant, as Scott Brown has argued, for uniformity in the handwritings practically disappears in the East after the 15th-century.18 In addition, the monastery of Mar Saba was an exception - this point is relevant only if the text of the Theodore-letter was copied into Voss' book in Mar Saba and not somewhere else - in its choosing of applicants, for only experienced monks were admitted, monks that had already developed their writing habits (and, consequently, their handwriting) somewhere else. The divergence in the handwritings of the monks in Mar Saba must have been exceptionally great.19

Also, the remark made by Carlson, that the Theodore-letter is the only MS written by a very narrow pen point, may not be an anomalous sign of a forgery, either. Had the writer of the Theodore-letter used a pen point as wide as the writer of the aforementioned Sabas 518 MS, the text could hardly have been made to fit in the back pages of Voss' book, since its dimensions were only 198x148x23 mm - a small-sized text may be produced only with a small-sized pen point.20 On the other hand, a small-sized text may more easily have problems in the quality of the drawn line (ink blots etc.), interpreted as "signs of a forgery", when the observer is especially looking for these "signs".21 The bottom line, at this point, is simply that Carlson's analysis is not very persuasive in itself when he compares the Theodore-letter to the other 18th-century MSS from Mar Saba. Next we need to turn our attention to the claimed similarities between the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Morton Smith, the purported forger of the letter.

Unfortunately, in Stephen Carlson's comparison of the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Morton Smith, he cuts too many corners short.22 First of all, Carlson's comparison material from Smith is too limited in its size, because "as a working minimum, four or five pages of carefully selected continuous, natural writing" is required for a reliable analysis between two different handwritings.23 Carlson, however, instead of four or five pages, confines himself to two pages that feature Smith's handwriting in Greek in marginal notes.24 Greater care would have been preferable, since "under no circumstances... can identity be established by one, two, or even several 'unusual' characteristics".25 Instead, a positive identification of the author of two handwritings can be made only when the both handwritings in question have "a combination of a sufficient number of points of agreement without any fundamental dissimilarities".26 When two writers are using the same alphabet, there must necessarily be some similarities in their forming of the same letters - otherwise, the correct identification of the letters would become a chore. This is perfectly understood in QDE, too, and the standards for identifying two different handwritings as deriving from the same author are strict: there has to be numerous small, but extremely individualistic characteristics present in both handwritings - a general similarity found in the handwritings is not enough for establishing their derivation from a single author.27 As Scott Brown has argued, the keywords here seem to be "highly individual habits".28 How clearly are these to be found in Carlson's comparison of the letters lambda, tau, and theta between the Theodore-letter and Morton Smith's own handwriting?

In his 1951 work, "Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels", Morton Smith wrote every Greek letter with his own hand. This large sample of Smith's handwriting, augmented with a letter by Smith from 1955, and with marginal notes - Brown performs a thorough comparison of the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the 1951 handwriting of Smith. Regarding the letter lambda, Smith seems to prefer writing it in two strokes (from the sample Brown can distinguish only eight instances where the letter lambda looks as if written in one stroke only), whereas the majority of the lambdas in the Theodore-letter look to have been written in one stroke. In Smith's two-stroke lambdas, when the first stroke has produced the hat and the right leg, the left leg of the letter is situated in relation to the middle point of the first stroke as follows: beneath the middle point 55%, approximately at the middle point 35%, above the middle point 10%. In the Theodore-letter, the point of contact is beneath the middle point in 96% of the cases.29 Consequently, the similarities between the lambdas in the handwritings cannot be due to a lapsing back into the forger's own handwriting, as Carlson suggested, because the forger, following the principles of QDE, would do this "progressively at various points", but not all the time.30

In the lambdas written with a single stroke there is even less similarity present. Smith's one-stroke lambda leans to the left, has a height comparable to other "high" letters, has not much retracing after the drawing of the right leg before commencing the left, and the hat and the left leg do not twist to point at each other. The one-stroke lambda in the Theodore-letter, on the other hand, leans to the right, has a height comparable to a "short" letter, has a long retracing after the drawing of the right leg before commencing the left, and the hat and the left leg are curled to point at each other.31 In the same vein, there is not much regarding the letters tau and theta for establishing Morton Smith as the author of the Theodore-letter. A one-stroke tau has been extremely common for centuries, and there are no "highly individual habits" in its forming for positive identification.32 In the thetas Smith wrote, there seems to be such diverging forms in existence that Carlson should not have had any trouble for finding specimens that came close to the thetas found in the Theodore-letter - here Carlson's method is named as "highly dubious" by Brown.33

Following the principles of QDE to the letter, there does not seem to be any room for firm conclusions to be drawn from the variants of theta Smith used. The handwriting of Morton Smith cannot be linked to the handwriting of the Theodore-letter on the grounds presented by Carlson, for the suggested similarities between these two are in too general a level. Brown summarizes the situation effectively:

"If these letterforms are easy to reproduce or appear consistently in MS 65 [the Theodore-letter], then the similarity to Smith's writing is probably coincidental. If they are normal for eighteenth century, then there is no basis for treating them as suspicious. If they are commonplace in twentieth-century Greek handwriting, then there is no basis for ascribing them specifically to Smith. And if Smith normally wrote these letterforms in a different way, then Carlson's examples of Smith's Greek handwriting are unrepresentative, and there is no way to explain why forms that are atypical for Smith's writing would appear with any regularity in MS 65."34

To summarize: the handwriting of the Theodore-letter cannot be linked to the handwriting of Morton Smith, and Morton Smith cannot be identified as the writer of the Theodore-letter by comparing their respective handwritings, because 1) the comparison material utilized by Carlson is too small in size, 2) there are no "highly individual habits" present in both handwritings, and 3) the handwriting in the Theodore-letter does not "lapse back" into the handwriting of Smith "progressively at various points"; instead, the Theodore-letter maintains its palaeographical identity with consistency.35

Scott Brown's argumentation related above is persuasive in its other aspects but in his choice of the sample material, which does not qualify for a rigorous analysis using the methods of QDE. A professional in the field, Hannah McFarland, directs the application of QDE thus: "A person's handwriting or handprinting habits can change over time. Consequently, the exemplars and questioned writing should be contemporary with each other. Ideally, both bodies of writing should be written with a year or two of each other."36 As we have seen above, the main body of the comparison material used by Brown was from Morton Smith's 1951 work "Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels", and from his letter from 1955. The date of the additional marginal notes is not mentioned by Brown; presumably the date cannot be established for these notes.37 Smith did not return to the monastery of Mar Saba after 1958, and Guy G. Stroumsa et al. found the letter from the monastery in 1976. At the latest, Smith would have had to forge the letter in 1958, while he was studying the MSS in Mar Saba. How much earlier could he have done the writing of the letter to Voss' book? Not much, I would argue, but, in any case, the temporal vicinity to the year 1958 of the samples of Smith's handwriting would greatly strengthen the reliability of the conclusions drawn from their comparison.

Though commonly not known, Morton Smith decided to publish the Theodore-letter before the end of the year 1958 along with his English translation in order to secure the rights to the text's "proper" publication, which did not happen until 1973. Smith's 1958 publication of the Theodore-letter was a rather ascetic self-publish, 13 sheets of A4-sized notebook paper, containing a short foreword, the Greek text of the Theodore-letter, and Smith's English translation.38 Notwithstanding the looks of the self-publication, it was still a part of Smith's extensive bibliography as "Manuscript Material from the Monastery of Mar Saba, discovered, transcribed and translated by Morton Smith. New York: Privately published, pp. I + 10".39 The publication year - and consequently the year of its writing - is 1958, and over four sheets of A4-sized pages of Smith's "continuous, natural writing" in Greek fulfills nicely the criteria set down by Ordway Hilton.40 What does the comparison between Smith's 1958 handwriting and the Theodore-letter reveal? Does it reaffirm the conclusions made by Brown that were based on Smith's handwriting from 1951 and 1955?

On the whole, the answer to this question is positive: from the very first page onwards it is clear that Smith still prefers to draw his lambdas in two strokes. The consistency we find from the Theodore-letter, that 96% of the lambdas situate the intersection of the two feet below the middle point of the letter41, is not present in Smith's handwriting, where the point of the intersection varies preferring the below only marginally. Regarding his taus, Smith writes them varyingly with one and two strokes - the Theodore-letter, on the other hand, prefers the one-stroke variant. The greatest change has happened in the way Smith writes the letter theta - whereas in 1951 he drew it with one stroke and a loop (ϑ), the 1958 version is drawn varyingly with one and two strokes (preferring one), but without the loop: instead, the brim of the letter forms an unbroken circle (θ). Naturally, this variant of theta has no similarity with the variant used in the Theodore-letter, and, consequently, the linkage observed by Carlson - that the drawing of the theta begins with a short horizontal line from left, from about the middle point in relation to the height of the letter42 - has vanished. With the comparison of these three letters Smith cannot, following the principles of QDE, be linked to the author of the Theodore-letter. In fact, the samples discussed above offer material for a very distinct conclusion: that Morton Smith has not written the Theodore-letter.

Significant differences observed between the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Morton Smith may even contain such "fundamental dissimilarities" that clearly establish the writer of the Theodore-letter not to have been Morton Smith.43 One the early pioneers of QDE, Ordway Hilton, published an article in 1954 titled "Handwriting Identification vs. Eye Witness Identification", that offers an excellent case study of the fact how repeated differences establish the authors of two different handwritings to have been separate individuals. The repeated differences are deemed to be especially weighty if they occur in inconspicious details.44 Following Hilton, these differences are 1) the drawing of the letters in such a manner that the pen is lifted (or is not lifted) in different places, 2) the inclusion (or lack) of small extra "hooks" or loops, 3) the moving (or not moving) of the pen along the line of the letter that has already been drawn, 4) the crossing of the line (or lack of crossing), 5) the variation in the sizes of the letters compared to other letters, and 6) the variation in the sizes of the parts of the letters compared to other parts of the letters.45

The most important differences, according to Hilton, are the variations in the use of the loops, and the variation in the moving of the pen along the line of the letter that has already been drawn.46 The trust put into QDE is first-rate in other aspects, too, as Hilton gives an example of a criminal case where a testimony of 13 (!) eyewitnesses was disqualified on the basis of a handwriting analysis of this kind. Or, as he himself said it: "The eye witnesses may be correct, but scientific examination of the writing is certainly a more accurate method for establishing the facts."47 What kinds of conclusions may be drawn from applying the principles of Hilton's handwriting analysis to the handwriting of Smith from 1958 and to the handwriting of the Theodore-letter?48

Numerous repeated differences are to be found. When Smith draws the circumflex in the form of a semi-circle, sometimes with a pointed top (â), the Theodore-letter has a wavy line (ã) instead. The letter sigma, as the last letter of the word, has its bottom pointing left in Smith's handwriting, whereas the Theodore-letter variant turns to point clearly straight down. Spiritus lenis in Smith has its end points pointing to the left, when in the Theodore-letter they point down. As we have already seen above, the letter theta is drawn by Smith in 1958 in such a way that the brim of the letter forms an unbroken circle, whereas the Theodore-letter features the traditional cursive variant. The bottom of the letter iota, on the other hand, tends to lean to the right in Smith, but the iota in the Theodore-letter points sometimes straight down, and at other times turns either to left or right with a hook. As for the letter gamma, Hilton would be delighted in its consistent variation including both the differing loop and differing way of moving the pen along the line of the letter that has already been drawn: for Smith the furrow of the letter - formed from the line of the letter beginning from the topmost right high point and the topmost left high point of the letter - is not very deep, when the line of the letter is already coming up after turning around with the help of a loop, whereas in the Theodore-letter the furrow of the letter is very deep in a striking manner, and the loop is altogether missing - instead, from the low point of the letter we go back up with riding quite liberally along the line of the letter that has already been drawn, but in Smith's gamma this phenomenon does not happen at all.49 The last differences are in the letter kappa, where Smith begins his drawing from high without a hook, but the Theodore-letter from low with a hook, and the letter mu, where Smith has a straight left leg, but the Theodore-letter has a hook to the right.

Applying the principles of QDE as Hilton used them, the conclusion seems evident that Morton Smith has not written the text of the Theodore-letter.50 On the other hand, there are no undisputed "signs of a forgery" present in the handwriting, either. And, as I have stated above, it should always be remembered that the application of QDE for assessing the authenticity of MSS may contain some serious flaws - everything I have written in the past 11 pages may potentially be absolutely irrelevant for the question of the MSS authenticity. If all of the above put together is not yet enough for making the reader convinced of the problematic nature of Carlson's hoax hypothesis regarding the assessment of the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Smith, one of his arguments for the hoax is still remaining. The Madiotes-clue, presented in Chapter 2.4, and the MS Smith put into his catalogue as number 22 (afterwards: MS22), turns against Carlson's case in the end, when one of the defenders of the authenticity of the Theodore-letter, Allan J. Pantuck, managed to obtain the original negative of the photograph where Carlson found the Madiotes-clue.51 The good thing with the original negative was the fact that it had not been cropped in any way - quite a different case than with the photograph Carlson had access to.

The previously published photographs of the MS2252 were cropped in such a way that of the folio 1, recto only the left part was visible, as the cropping was vertical in its orientation.53 The unfortunate line of deduction by Carlson must have gone the following way: the uppermost handwriting of the folio 1, recto of the MS22 looks to be from the 18th-century, and according to Carlson this is the same handwriting as the one in the Theodore-letter, with all the "signs of a forgery" present in both.54 On the other hand, Morton Smith had began his literary description of the handwritings on this page from the autograph of M. Madiotes, whose handwriting he estimated to be from the 20th-century.55 Carlson supposed this estimation to have been a deliberate clue left by Smith, as the first handwriting in the picture was clearly not from the 20th-century. The autograph itself, Μ. Μαδιότης, Carlson could not, however, see, because of the way the photograph was cropped.56

As these assumptions of Carlson turn out to be unfounded, the Madiotes-clue crumbles as well, for in the original negative Pantuck found it is clearly seen that the autograph of M. Madiotes has not been written with the same handwriting as the first handwriting on the page, the one Carlson interpreted to have been linked to M. Madiotes - there are, in effect, five different handwritings present on the page. Smith seems to have been right: Μ. Μαδιότης is, according to the assessment of Pantuck and Brown, from the 20th-century. Respectively, Carlson seems to have been right, too: the first handwriting on the page looks to be from the 18th-century.57 It is just that the Μ. Μαδιότης autograph and the first handwriting on the page have nothing to do with each other: additionally, the autograph's orientation is upside down compared to the first handwriting on the page.58 The root of the confusion is easy to locate: it is Morton Smith, though he certainly did not mean it.

Why does Smith mention in his catalogue published in Νέα Σιών only three names, when the original negative shows clearly that there are five different handwritings on the page? The reason must be, quite simply, that two of these handwritings do not have a personal name attached to them - they are inscriptions - like the first handwriting on the page that begins with the words το παρōν βιβλειον (with a wrong accent) translating roughly as "The present book" - but without any personal names attached Smith did not refer to them in his catalogue.59 For Carlson's defence it must be remarked that the description of Smith in his catalogue really gives the impression that there are only three different handwritings on the page, and that the personal name Μ. Μαδιότης is linked to the first of these.

As we have seen, however, this first handwriting has no personal name attached: Μ. Μαδιότης is positioned upside down beneath it, but does not contain any other writing.60 The suggestion Carlson makes - that the name is a pseudonym (as he did not find it from an online-directory)61 - is not very persuasive, either, in light of the original negative, as the spelling variant "Μ. Μαδιότης" found in Νέα Σιών looks to be a printer's error: for the offprints Smith received he had made a correction, and, spelled correctly, the name should have been Μ. Μαδεότας.62 According to Pantuck and Brown the correct spelling may very well be Μ. Μοδέστος, a name that has been very commonly used for centuries.63 After these observations, the Madiotes-clue by Carlson is far less persuasive than before the close scrutiny of the photograph in question. Brown, however, did not stop here: with the same application of the methods found in QDE, as used by Ordway Hilton, and as used by myself above to argue, based on the "repeated differences" found in the handwritings of the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Morton Smith, that the Theodore-letter has not been written by Smith, Brown studies the first handwriting on the MS22 and the handwriting of the Theodore-letter, arguing that they have not been written by a single author.

For the very first thing, Scott Brown rejects the claims of Stephen Carlson, that a single author was responsible for the handwritings in both the Theodore-letter and the MS22, on the basis of inadequate amount of comparison material: the cropped photograph of the MS22, which was used by Carlson, contains only 16 individual symbols, including nine different letters and a single ligature, and the size of the sample is far too small for making a positive identification between the author of the Theodore-letter and the author of the first hand of the MS22, as the minimum sample size should be "four or five pages of carefully selected continuous, natural writing".64 Contrary to Carlson's use of the methods of QDE, Brown cites Hilton some more: "Repeated small differences establish clearly that two specimens are the work of two individuals despite a great number of general similarities."65 Even with the extra letters revealed in the original negative of the picture, unearthed by Allan Pantuck, the size of the sample remains extremely narrow, but the observations made by Brown could still be considered suggestive.

It is a long list of differences between the handwritings. Compared to the handwriting of the Theodore-letter, the first hand of the MS22 1) does not put an accent on top of the letter omicron in the definite article το, whereas the Theodore-letter manages to put its accents right every time, 2) does not bind the letter tau to the letter omicron following it, the letter alpha to the letter rho following it, or the letter rho to the letter omicron following it, even though the Theodore-letter binds together all these letter combinations, 3) binds the letter pi to the letter alpha following it with a very thin line without a loop, whereas the Theodore-letter binds these two with a strong line, and with a loop, 4) draws the circumflex with a straight line, while the Theodore-letter uses the wave form, 5) draws the letters beta and gamma in a very dissimilar manner compared to the Theodore-letter, 6) tends to tilt the letter lambda to the left without turning the high point and the end point of the left leg towards each other, whereas the Theodore-letter tends to tilt the letter lambda to the right and turn the high point and the end point of the left leg towards each other, 7) binds the combination πο together with a line drawn on top of the cursive pi, while the Theodore-letter does not (and, furthermore, the Theodore-letter manages to draw the cursive pi in a dissimilar manner, resembling a lot of the letter epsilon), 8) uses a ligature for the epsilon-iota combination in the word βιβλειον, which makes the spelling of the word different than one used in the Theodore-letter (βιβλιον).66

In addition to these differences, Brown remarks of the general disparate nature of the two handwritings: the letters in the MS22 are drawn individually without connecting them to the letters preceding and following, whereas the Theodore-letter connects letters on a regular basis. If the handwriting in the MS22 is supposed to be a deliberate clue of the hoaxer's true identity, why was it not drawn undisputedly with the same handwriting as found in the Theodore-letter?67 Furthermore, as we have seen, the principles of QDE dictate that where there are no "highly individual habits" present, there we cannot conclude that the two texts are written by the same author - in the handwritings of the Theodore-letter and the MS22 these are not found. All things considered, the conclusion from the first hand of the MS22 is the following: as far as it is possible to conclude anything reliably from the small sample size we have, the handwriting of the MS22 is not 1) the handwriting of M. Madiotes, 2) the handwriting of the Theodore-letter, nor 3) the handwriting of Morton Smith.68

Two more observations should be made. First, the first hand of the MS22 uses a narrow pen point, suggested to be an anomaly among the MSS in Mar Saba by Carlson.69 Because the first hand of the MS22 is undoubtedly from the 18th-century70 - as Carlson himself concluded - but is not penned by the author of the Theodore-letter, it is an independent witness of the use of the narrow pen point in Mar Saba during the 18th-century, and not an anomaly, as suggested by Carlson. Second, the claims of Carlson concerning the "signs of a forgery" present in the first hand of the MS22 suddenly reappear to us in an uncanny light: when Carlson claims to have found "signs of a forgery" from a text that does not seem to have any connection with Madiotes, the Theodore-letter, or Smith, what should we conclude of Carlson's general competence for spotting and interpreting these "signs" correctly? Whatever it is he sees in the handwriting of the MS22, it looks to be a natural feature of the quality of the drawn line as they are found in MSS, and not an indication of sinister motives from the part of the copyist.71

1This question is raised by e.g. Foster 2005, 67-68.
2Carlson does not question the suitability of QDE at all, although a professional forensic document examiner, Emily J. Will, directs the search for the "signs of a forgery" from foreign language documents thus: "the examiner must first learn about the characteristics of the written language and how that writing is taught"; http://www.qdewill.com/faq.htm [Further note: the emphasis on the way a given (foreign) writing is taught sounds interesting. How was the writing of Greek taught for the orthodox monks in the 18th-century? What kind of significance does this detail play?]
3Carlson, too, gives an incident concerning the forging of an autograph, as an analogous case; Carlson 2005, 26-27.
4After the publication of "The Gospel Hoax" Carlson hired a professional examiner, Julie C. Edison, whose testimony affirms every observation of the handwriting by Carlson as valid; http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2005/11/some-initial-reviews-and-second.html
5http://www.writeexam.com/basics.php; Brown, in addition, remarks of the problems relating to varying resolutions of the photographs; Brown 2006c, 145 n. 4.
6Carlson 2005, 27-28.
7Carlson 2005, Figure 2B and Figure 2C.
8Carlson 2005, Figure 2A. Note, that - in my estimation - only the narrower pen point used in the Theodore-letter makes the blot more easily discernible.
9Carlson 2005, 29.
10Carlson 2005, Figure 2C. More examples are offered in Shandruk 2008a. A much clearer picture of the similarity between the two ἐκ words is offered in Paananen 2008a, 93. It should be noted, however, that Viklund 2009 observes from the much better (high-resolution) photographs taken by Father Kallistos Dourvas that letters epsilon and kappa, in the first line of the Theodore-letter forming the word ἐκ, are in reality written separately (not tied together), with the latter letter (kappa) just happening to hit the "tail" of the first letter (epsilon). The ink blot that has formed in this crossing of the lines, has therefore not come into existence from a lifting of the pen (in the process of forging the letter), as proposed by Carlson; Carlson 2005, 28; Viklund 2009.
11The beginning of this endeavour was Rick Brannan's blog post on December 23th, 2005;
http://www.supakoo.com/rick/ricoblog/2005/12/23/ManuscriptTransmissionScribalHabitsEtc.aspx
12Carlson argues that the text of the letter gets better towards the end; Carlson 2005, 30-31. The blogosphere experiment seems to support this observation - however, after a close scrutiny of the text of the Theodore-letter, Viklund concludes that this phenomenon is not present in the text; instead, the text of the letter is of uniform quality throughout; cf. Viklund 2009. Additionally, Viklund asks, should Carlson's observation be the other way around, if he holds the text of the letter to be a slowly drawn imitation of an 18th-century hand, for the exhaustion due to the slow process of imitation would more naturally be manifested in a tendency to put more errors in the text towards the end, and not less.
13http://www.supakoo.com/rick/ricoblog/2006/01/28/CopyingGreekTextByHand.aspx; http://powerscourt.blogspot.com/2006/01/manuscript-copying.html; http://www.supakoo.com/eli/default.asp?id=2006-02-13T19-22-46Z
14Carlson 2005, 30-31.
15Viklund 2009.
16In addition, Foster observes that some of the "signs of a forgery" are present in the Akhmïm fragment that contains the Gospel of Peter; Foster 2005, 67-68.
17I have given space to the blogosphere experiment, even though I am at present unsure about its applicability to the case at hand, as the only known empirical (though still non-controlled properly) experiment where the difficulties relating to the copying of the MSS are observed. I freely admit that the conclusions drawn from this experiment are (at least somewhat) unreliable. The results contained lots of the "signs of a forgery", in the same manner as Carlson observed these, and general illegibility, and it is virtually certain that an inexperienced copyist produces irregular handwriting. What happens to the quality of the handwriting and to the numbness and all the effects it encourages when the copyist gets more experienced, we lack knowledge of. The matter could be studied in a more professional manner, although, at the same time, we must acknowledge Rick Brannan for his exemplary way of putting into practice the best ideals of Web 2.0 ideology.
18Brown 2006a, 299. Brown cites Barbour 1981, xxii, xxiii as authoritative.
19Brown 2006a, 299; Peristeris 2001, 171. Also, Morton Smith observes that the handwriting of the Theodore-letter contains Western European influences. The reason for this inclination is, no doubt, the general practice of the Eastern monasteries during the 17th-century and the 18th-century, the collecting of patristic texts printed in the West; Smith 1973, 2-3.
20Smith 1960a, 251.
21According to his own words, Carlson went off to find the "signs of a forgery" from the handwriting, as "it is hard to find evidence of forgery if one is not looking for it”; Carlson 2005, xviii, 24.
22In my analysis of Carlson's comparison between the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Morton Smith I rely heavily on the arguments developed by Scott G. Brown; Brown 2006a; Brown 2006c.
23Hilton 1993, 300; I borrow this quote from Brown, who uses it as a basis for his critique in Brown 2006a, 300 and Brown 2006c, 144-149.
24Carlson 2005, 46.
25Hilton 1993, 153-154; I borrow this quote from Brown, who uses it as a basis for his critique in Brown 2006a, 300 and Brown 2006c, 144-149.
26Hilton 1993, 153-154; cursive mine; I borrow this quote from Brown, who uses it as a basis for his critique in Brown 2006a, 300 and Brown 2006c, 144-149.
27Hilton 1993, 200. Here Hilton talks about modern autographs; the applicability of the methods developed for modern autographs is, at present, uncertain when dealing with manuscripts.
28Brown 2006a, 301.
29Brown 2006a, 302-303. If the first chapter of the "Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels" is removed from the sample, the figures are 40% beneath, 60% rest - in this instance Smith's handwriting reaffirms the conclusions drawn from the experiment made in the blogosphere, that the writer produces more textual variants in the beginning of his text, and less towards the ending.
30Brown 2006a, 301-303; the citation is from Conway 1959, 27, whom Brown cites as authoritative.
31Brown 2006a, 303-304.
32Brown 2006a, 304. Additionally, Smith drew the letter tau varyingly with one and two strokes.
33Brown 2006a, 305.
34Brown 2006a, 302.
35Brown remarks that the idea of "lapsing back" into the forger's own handwriting is related to forging autographs in situations, where the forger cannot copy the autograph from a model, but has to resort to memory (e.g. forging a check under the nose of a bank clerk). If Smith forged the Theodore-letter, would he have done it from a model he had prepared beforehand? Would the "lapsing back" into his own handwriting take place in this scenario, at all?; Brown 2006a, 300-301.
36Bold original; http://www.writeexam.com/basics.php
37Brown 2006a, 302.
38Contrary to what some scholars have speculated, the self-publication did not contain photographs of any sort; this is, however, presumed e.g. by Jeffery 2007a, 263 n. 65.
39Kraabel 1975.
40Hilton 1993, 300. Important in QDE, along with the temporal vicinity of the samples that are to be compared, is the sufficient size of the sample material, as Brown remarks; Brown 2006c, 145; Brown cites e.g. Huber 1999, 249. At this point, my comparison of Smith's 1958 handwriting and the handwriting of the Theodore-letter is meant to supplement the comparison by Brown, related above. An even more reliable conclusion, following to the principles of QDE, would require the use of numerous samples of Smith's handwriting, all written in 1958 +/- two years.
41Brown 2006a, 303.
42Carlson 2005, 47.
43A similar analysis is made by Brown, where it is made clear that the writer of the Theodore-letter is not the same person as the writer of the unidentified handwriting in the manuscript Smith catalogued as number 22; for details of this analysis cf. Brown 2006a; Brown 2006c; Pantuck 2008.
44Hilton 1954, 209.
45Hilton 1954, 209-212.
46Hilton 1954, 211.
47Hilton 1954, 212.
48I wish to point out here that every observation and conclusion made from the handwriting of Smith from 1958 is my own, even though I have never received formal training for applying the principles of QDE to handwritings. If any one detail seems to be a bit out of place in this discussion, it is the fact that none of the individuals taking stances regarding the handwritings - that would include Carlson, Brown, Viklund, and myself - have received formal training in this field, or have access to the original material, as the Theodore-letter seems to have completely vanished after 1990. Only Carlson has confirmed his analysis with the help of a professional in QDE, but the exact details of this confirmation are lacking; http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2005/11/some-initial-reviews-and-second.html
49Appendix 1 contains examples of the first six gamma letters from the Theodore-letter, and of their transcription made by Smith in 1958.
50One possible objection to the comparison of the handwritings would draw attention to the fact that the handwriting of Smith is not cursive, as the handwriting in the Theodore-letter. It may be the case, that an even better argument would be built on the basis of multiple pages of Smith's handwriting that he would have written in the 18th-century cursive hand, on request. Unfortunately, to make any sort of comparison between the handwritings, we have to, as both Carlson and Brown have done, use whatever material we have, and the increase in the reliability of the conclusions should not be overestimated, either. To be on the safe side, my own comparison has focused on those letters and symbols that are very similar in both the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Morton Smith in 1958. The perceived differences between these letters and symbols that look very similar at first glance are, following the principles of QDE laid out by Hilton, all the more telling when they happen in small and inconspicious details.
51This photograph has been printed in Pantuck 2008.
52Smith 1960b, 177; Smith 1985, 37.
53For some reason Carlson concentrated his efforts to the picture published in Smith 1960b, although the picture that was used as an illustration in "The Secret Gospel" (1973) was cropped in a different way, revealing a few more letters of the handwritings on the page.
54Carlson 2005, 42-43.
55Smith 1960a, 119.
56The same reconstruction of Carlson's probable reasoning, as he was looking at the cropped photograph, is also done by Pantuck 2008, 112.
57Pantuck 2008, 118.
58antuck 2008, 117.
59So concludes also Pantuck 2008, 118.
60Pantuck 2008, 121.
61Carlson 2005, 43.
62It is also possible that Smith had changed his mind regarding the spelling of the name written in unclear cursive hand; Pantuck 2008, 112-115.
63Pantuck 2008, 122-123.
64Hilton 1993, 300; the quote is used as a basis for the critique in Brown 2006a, 300 and Brown 2006c, 144-149.
65Hilton 1993, 161; the quote is offered as cited in Brown 2006c, 144-149.
66Brown 2006a, 297-298; Pantuck 2008, 120-121. Brown 2006c offers an even more detailed analysis of the differences in the handwritings.
67Brown 2006c, 148.
68The comparison between the handwriting of the first hand of the MS22 and the handwriting of Morton Smith is possible with the same reservation as applies to any comparison utilizing an inadequate amount of comparison material: as was the case in the comparison between the handwriting of the Theodore-letter and the handwriting of Smith, there are no "highly individual habits" to be found, but "repeated differences" abound.
69Carlson 2005, 32-33, 46.
70Pantuck 2008, 118.
71These two conclusions are made by Pantuck 2008, 124, as well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A public talk about the Secret Gospel of Mark

I am going to give a public lecture about the case of the Secret Gospel of Mark on August 22th, at Arkadia Oy International Bookshop, conveniently located just two blocks from my current residence in Töölö, Helsinki, Finland. The street address of Arkadia is Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu 9, and the talk will be conducted in English with plenty of time reserved for questions and general discussion. Indeed, it is a scary prospect, to talk for an hour in a foreign language, but - in any case - someday or other I would have to try it for the first time. August 22th is as good a day as any other.

The teaser text (advertisement) runs as follows:

The Secret Gospel of Mark - The Most Sophisticated Forgery in the World?

A university professor, Morton Smith, found a previously unknown manuscript from the desert monastery of Mar Saba, near Jerusalem, in 1958. Unless, of course, he composed the manuscript himself and planted it in the said monastery while visiting it.

The manuscript contained a letter by Clement of Alexandria to a certain Theodore, including two excerpts from the "Secret Gospel According to Mark", which depicted Jesus giving out "the mystery of the Kingdom of God" to an unnamed youth, who - while naked under his linen sheet - was "spending a night with Jesus".

Not only the contents of the manuscript, but also its disappearance sometime after 1990, have casted doubt about its authenticity. Recently, the scholarly scale of consensus has tipped towards the forgery, with a publication of two books, "The Gospel Hoax" by Stephen C. Carlson in 2005, and "The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled" by Peter Jeffery in 2007.

But, is the sexual innuendo of the Gospel extracts in the eye of the beholder? Whose to blame for the disappearance of the manuscript? Was Morton Smith proficient enough to write in the style of both Clement and "Mark" - because the texts look unmistakable like something Clement and "Mark" would have written? And did Morton Smith really hide deliberate clues of his identity into the manuscript, including references to his given names, and to his baldness?

Is the Secret Gospel of Mark the most sophisticated forgery in human history (and in human future, too, I'd wager), or is the existence of the Secret Gospel a clear sign that the earlier (conservative) accounts of the Christian origins have missed the historical reality by miles?

Timo S. Paananen obtained his master's degree in the field of New Testament studies in May 2009 at the University of Helsinki, and plans to pursue a PhD from next January onwards. His main scholarly interests include the New Testament, other early Christian, Gnostic, and Judaic works, and the contemporary culture of conspiracy theory narratives, pervading into the Academy, including the field of biblical studies. The current academic endeavours of his are chronicled in Salainen evankelista (http://salainenevankelista.blogspot.com), a biblioblog focusing on the question of authenticity of the Secret Gospel of Mark.

--

I tried by best to play your average copywriter when composing it; still, it's not too cheesy (nor inaccurate), I presume?

This opportunity, kindly provided by Ian Bourgeot, the owner of the bookshop, naturally catches the top priority -status in my current timetable, and probably delays my translation project somewhat. For this reason I'm adopting a new policy for myself: I'm not going to wait until I get the whole subchapter translated and ready for posting - instead, I'm going to post in parts, whenever I get any work done.

For some statistics: it takes about two hours to translate 600 words. (For the record, I've given up the machine translation tools, since they actually hindered my progress with their virtually illegible babble.) Chapter 2.5, coming next, has 3561 words, not counting the footnotes, which are quite lenghty (because I do love footnotes). Still, it's coming, in pieces, starting from tomorrow (the first 600 or so words), as always.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A band of awkward Christians

I'm delighted when spotting honest assessments of one's religious ideas (something I got very close, albeit in a bit allusive way, here). Usually, there's not much honesty in public exclamations of religious nature - people tend to be rather guarded, especially in Finland, when it comes to their deeply held beliefs, or (more commonly) lack of beliefs. Isolated examples can always be found, but on the whole I think it is rather rare to find something - as the author, Cheryl Lawrie, puts it - "a bit too honest", in her post titled "awkwardly christian – in the Age today", found in her blog hold :: this space.

To cite Lawrie: "If truth be known, by most definitions, I couldn’t be called a Christian. I’m not at all convinced by the being of God, though the event of God – the actions and transformations that have been traditionally attributed to God – entice me. But much as the label ‘Christian’ doesn’t fit, I’m loathe to give it up."

This dilemma I can relate to, especially so when I remember that in Finland, if one is a prominent enough biblical scholar, one can get publicly crucified for not sharing the standard, Nicaean strand of Christianity augmented (in the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church) with the Augsburg Confession. As for the scholarly issues, I must confess, in the same vein as Lawrie above, that I could have something to say about my growing distrust concerning the various historical methods and how they are used in the study of history. More on that later, I guess. Nothing wrong with trying to be as honest and open as possible (excluding worries relating to future career options and such)?

Lawrie's blog spotted in UNE - Justice, Peace, Sustainability and Faith.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Master's Thesis: Chapter 2.4 Stephen Carlson's handwriting analysis

[Below I will give a very brief account of Stephen C. Carlson's case regarding the handwriting of the Theodore-letter, found in Carlson 2005, 23-47.

-According to Morton Smith and the experts he consulted, the Theodore-letter was written during the 18th-century, c. 1750 +/- 50 years.1 Carlson contests this consensus: Smith does not tell us how brief the expert consultation was, or from how detailed photographs was it conducted, and thus the examination of the handwriting is best to perform afresh, from the beginning.2
-A part of the method canon of the forensic science, Questioned document examination (QDE), is consistently used in court in the USA (and elsewhere). Applying QDE Carlson observes various signs of a forgery including "forger's tremor", blunt pen ends, unnecessary pen lifts, and letter fixing - in QDE, these features occur when the handwriting is not the writer's natural one, when the writer has to actually draw the letters (instead of writing them) to get the handwriting look something else than his own. More precisely, according to Carlson, both the problems of the line quality and the fixing of the letters afterwards should not occur within the same document; though the first is plausible in situations of stress, old age, or fatigue, who would have done the fixing afterwards? His conclusion: the Theodore-letter is a drawn imitation of an 18th-century hand.3
-Other odd features noted by Carlson: the Theodore-letter differs from other Mar Saba MSS of the same age in its letter forms (e.g. lambda in other MSS is always written with a single stroke, in the Theodore-letter this varies between one and two strokes), in its use of nomina sacra, in its beginning with a sign of the cross4, and in its use of a narrow pen point.5
-Furthermore, Carlson identifies the handwriting of the Theodore-letter to be the same as the handwriting of Morton Smith himself (comparing the letter to two pages with remarks written in Greek by Smith in the margins). Carlson argues that the letters lambda, theta and tau are too similar between the letter and Smith's marginal notes to be a coincidence (e.g. in theta both start with a short horizontal line beginning from the left, from about the middle of the letter).6
-Going even further, Carlson gives the first elaborate clue argument (these are assessed in detail in Chapter 2.5 (Madiotes-clue) and in Chapter 4), claiming that Smith hid a deliberate clue of his identity to another MS found in Mar Saba, using a pseudonym Μ. Μαδιότης as a clever way to refer to himself as a "bald swindler" - he was bald, after all, and if he composed the Theodore-letter, he was also a swindler.

In more detail: Morton Smith published a catalogue in 1960 of the MSS he found visiting the monastery two years earlier, with 76 titles.7 A photograph of the MS number 22 was used by Smith twice in his later publications, in his 1960 article "Monasteries and Their Manuscripts" published in Archaeology, and in his 1973 book "The Secret Gospel". From this vertically cropped photograph8 Carlson concludes, utilizing also the 1960 catalogue's description9, that there were three different handwritings to be found in folio 1, recto. The uppermost handwriting was, according to Carlson, assessed to have been from the 20th-century by Morton Smith himself.10 However, Carlson estimates the handwriting to be from the 18th-century, and moreover, to be the exact same handwriting as that of the Theodore-letter, including forger's tremor, narrow pen point, and blunt line endings.11

According to Carlson, the personal name Μ. Μαδιότης (not seen in the photograph but found in Smith's description in the 1960 catalogue) is to be associated with this handwriting of the Theodore-letter, found in MS22. Without a religious title the person in question must have been a visitor to the monastery, but the surname Μαδιότης is not found from a Greek online-directory. However, there is a verb in modern Greek, μαδάω, that has two very suitable meanings for a pseudonymous use (the verb μαδάω, if one wanted to come up with a fictitious Greek surname based on the verb, could be used to form something like Μαδιότης), literally it means "to bald", and figuratively "to swindle". M[orton] Μαδιότης is a pseudonym of Morton Smith, the bald swindler, deliberately left as a clue for the writer's true identity.12

From various famous forgeries, Carlson concludes (citing Anthony Grafton's "Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship" as authoritative) that hoaxes (differentiated here from mere forgeries) are characterized by witty clues left by the writer for the possible unearthing of his true identity. Thus, if the Theodore-letter is a hoax by Morton Smith (whose rather eccentric sense of humour is well attested by many hilarious anecdotes), it must be saturated with wit and ingenious nods towards Smith's, the hoaxer's, true identity.13 Like the Madiotes-clue presented above.]

1Smith 1960a, 251-252; Smith 1973, 1; Smith 1985, 22-25.
2Carlson 2005, 23-25.
3Carlson 2005, 25-32.
4Carlson even suggests this to be another deliberate clue left by Smith of his identity: the sign of the cross or crux critica is used in textual criticism to mark spurious text!; Carlson 2005, 33.
5Carlson 2005, 25-33, 46.
6Carlson 2005, 46-47.
7Smith 1960a.
8The photograph of MS22 in Smith 1960b was cropped vertically so far so that half(!) of the essential page (folio 1, recto) was missing. In "The Secret Gospel" there would have been some more recognisable letters to be seen, but for some reason Carlson does not utilize this instead.
9Smith 1960a, 119-120.
10Smith 1960a, 119-120.
11Carlson 2005, 42-43.
12Carlson 2005, 43.
13Carlson 2005, xviii, 16.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Master's Thesis: Chapter 2.3 Is the book of Isaac Voss an anomaly in the monastery?

Originally translated in a train...

[-The quality of the paper and of the ink in the book of Voss do not solve the question of authenticity. What about the book itself: why is there a book bound in the West, containing Latin, in an Eastern monastery in the first place?
-Voss' book, "Epistulae genuinae S. Ignatii Martyris", was published in Amsterdam in 1646.1 As the title indicates, the book contains seven authentic letters from Ignatius of Antioch (died sometime between 98 and 117). The Greek text comes from an 11th-century MS, Codex Mediceani, and there is also a Latin translation provided. In the 17th-century the authenticity of the letters of Ignatius was heavily debated in a controversy between the Anglicans and the Puritans.2
-Now, Stephen C. Carlson sees something to be amiss. Voss' book seems to have been in an improbable place for an 18th-century Sabaite to jot the Theodore-letter down onto its blank back pages. His reasons: according to the Morton Smith's 1960 catalogue3 of the MSS in the monastic library of Mar Saba, the book of Voss - compared to other 17th-century and 18th-century books (since these suit to the dating of the handwriting of the Theodore-letter) - is 1) the only one published in Amsterdam - all the others were from Venice, 2) the only book containing patristics, 3) the only book with a Latin title - all the others had a Greek title, 4) the only book to have a Latin translation with the Greek text, and 5) a work published as a part of a theological debate that had nothing to do with the Orthodox Church.4]

Is the book of Voss an anomaly in the monastery of Mar Saba? First of all, it is necessary to note the small sample size Carlson uses for his comparison: in Smith's 1960 catalogue there are only nine printed books that are roughly contemporary with Voss', and would have been able to act as a platform for copying the text of the Theodore-letter. Consequently, every anomaly found by Carlson is an anomaly in comparison with only nine other samples. The size of the sample here is simply too small to form any definitive conclusions, moreover so when we note that, according to Smith, there were a total of 489 titles in the monastery in 1958.5

The core problem of Carlson's case here is the catalogue of Smith - its being nowhere near to an exhaustive inventory of the contents of the library. The catalogue contains 76 MSS that had been used to strengthen the bindings or were copied into blank pages or margins. Along with the published 76 MSS, there were in addition 20 MSS found in the notes Smith wrote in the monastery, that, for various reasons, did not make it to the catalogue.6 Since every single printed book hardly contained MSS in 19587, the details of these works without any are anybody's guess; only their numbers - 489 in total - are known.8 Would the book of Voss still be an anomaly when compared to all the material present in the monastery in 1958?

Unfortunately, it looks to be practically impossible to find out the exact contents of the library in 1958, for the only evidence available are the catalogue of Smith published in Νέα Σιών in 1960, and a certain catalogue from 1910, that has been seen only by Smith, and even he - according to his own testimony - did not have much time to examine it.9 In addition to these two catalogues, Smith wrote the monastery to have had a second library, "a good library of old editions of the church fathers" and explained to have found "anthologies from the church fathers".10 As late as 1834 there were reportedly over 1,000 titles in the monastery11, but hundreds of MSS were transferred to the Patriarchate Library in Jerusalem in 1865, where they formed the "Saba Collection".12 For some more numbers: in 1891 there were 706 titles in the "Saba Collection"13, but the 1910 catalogue from the monastery lists only 191 titles.14 Consequently, following some simple arithmetics, there should have been left c. 400 titles to the monastery, and so the 1910 catalogue must have included only half of the available titles. Therefore, the possible non-inclusion of the book of Voss in this catalogue (NOTE: we do not, at present, know for sure if Voss' book was in this catalogue or not) does not necessarily mean anything, since there seem to have been 200 other titles in total not included in the catalogue, anyway - Voss' book could very well be one of them.15

What about the Amsterdam origin of "Epistulae genuinae S. Ignatii Martyris" (1646), while all the other 17th-century and 18th-century works in Smith's catalogue were from Venice? I would argue this to be not a very important detail, for there seems to have been all kinds of material in the monastery of Mar Saba. The European origin is in itself expected, for the majority of the printers were located either in Europe or sometimes in its colonies during the 17th-century - even those books that found their way to the Eastern monasteries were, for the most part, printed in (Western) Europe. Among the items Smith dropped from his 1960 catalogue, there is a book printed in Leipzig in 1768.16 The many Venetian books in Smith's catalogue is not a very remarkable detail, either: the first printers were founded there as early as in 146917, and in the following century up to 30% of all the printers in Italy were located there.18

The framing of the question is the key: Amsterdam looks a bit odd only when it is artificially juxtaposed against nine other books from Venice. If the question, however, is simply "From where does a given book, found in Mar Saba in the 18th-century, hail?", there is nothing extraordinary in the answer be it Venice, Amsterdam, or Leipzig. Furthermore, Voss' book could not have been printed in Venice, for the debate concerning the authentic letters of Ignatius (and the following question over bishops and their position) had much to do with the Catholics, too - so much so, that Voss' book was placed in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1684.19 Consequently, the non-Venetian origin of Voss' book should not be seen as a problem, nor as a good argument for any one scenario of authenticity.

Carlson's other observations concerned the book's subject matter (patristics), title (in Latin), and the included Latin translation of the Greek text. Some light for the assessment of these notions may be drawn from another curious cache of MSS, found in the Saint Catherine's Monastery in 1975. This finding contained "damaged leaves and fragments" of the MSS that were left and/or forgotten in a major MS transfer operation in the 18th-century - apart from the Greek MSS there were to be found MSS written in Arabic, Syrian, Hebrew, and Latin. The fragments contained also patristics.20

The collection in Mar Saba seems to have been as extensive as that in the Saint Catherine's Monastery, for the Smith 1960 catalogue reports of one MS in Turkish, many MSS in Cyrillic letters, and Romanian MSS written in Latin alphabet.21 In addition, there were MSS written in Arabic and Hebrew.22 Naturally, it is not possible to conclude directly from these multifacetous MSS that Voss' book was not a unique specimen among the printed books in the monastery, but - as I have stated above - there is not enough evidence available to draw an informed conclusion of the matter in either way; it is a stalemate in this regard.23

For the last observation made by Carlson it is best to look at the issue from a larger perspective. Side by side there runs a Latin translation with the Greek text, and the theological debate surrounding Voss' book had nothing to do with the Orthodox Church. Carlson also remarks that patristics (Ignatian and Clementine) were not popular in Mar Saba during the 18th-century citing Siméon Vailhé's "Les écrivains de Mar-Saba" from the end of the 19th-century as authoritative.24 However, the general practice in the Eastern monasteries in the 17th-century and the 18th-century was to collect patristic texts printed in the West25; thus, larger (Church) political schemes seem to have dictated the contents of the libraries of the Eastern monasteries - not just the personal preferences of the monks themselves.26 The framing of the question has again a profound impact on the possible answers. Carlson holds it curious that there was Latin text in an Eastern monastery to be found. In the MSS, however, as we have seen, the Latin alphabet was in use, as well as were Cyrillic, Arabic, and Hebrew alphabets.27 If we turn the question around, we may ask "How curious it is that a Greek MS, edited for publication in Amsterdam, is supplemented by a Latin translation?" There is hardly anything curious or out-of-place here: it was a common practice in the West to offer a Latin translation of the Greek text and to title the work with a Latin title.28

Taken everything presented above together, it should be clear that Voss' book could not possibly have been printed in Venice, nor is there anything odd in its subject matter, title, or in the included Latin translation. These are not anomalies proper; for every characteristics of Voss' book there is a plausible, natural explanation for their existence. There are various ways - in the 18th-century as well as nowadays - for a given book to end up to be a part of a library collection; from acquired consciously by the staff to received as a gift. Voss' book had a window of 50-150 years to travel to Mar Saba in time for the Theodore-letter to get copied onto its back pages, and further, there was possibly no need for the residents of the monastery to act as an interested party for this to happen. From the anomalies of Voss' book only one conclusion is to be drawn: there is not enough evidence available for any firm conclusions, since all the details fit reasonably well into all the scenarios of authenticity. The quality of the ink and of the paper, or the other characteristics of Voss' book do not offer simple solutions for the question of authenticity. One final aspect of Carlson's case, concerning the physical dimension of the Theodore-letter, is yet to be assessed: are there, in the handwriting, signs of forgery present for Morton Smith to be held the most probable author of the letter?

1Smith 1985, 13.
2Brown 1963, xii-xiii. Codex Mediceani was in such a bad shape that Voss' edition lacked the letter to the Romans. "Voss' Canon" was completed to the seven authentic letters of Ignatius only in 1689 with the publication of the missing letter by T. Ruinart.
3Smith 1960a. The purpose of the visit to the monastery of Mar Saba was to make an inventory of the MSS found in the tower library. This catalogue was published by Νέα Σιών, an official journal of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where it appeared translated to modern Greek from Smith's English original.
4Carlson 2005, 38-39.
5Pantuck 2008, 107 n. 2.
6Pantuck 2008, 107.
7Smith 1985, 10-11. Smith narrates to have gone through books until he found three or four items that contained MSS, and then to have taken them to his cell for a closer examination.
8Pantuck 2008, 107 n. 2.
9Smith 1960a, 256.
10Smith 1985, 5, 11.
11Fiaccadori 2000, 1311-1318; in addition, Robert Curzon Jr. remarks there to have been c. 1,000 items, most of them MSS; Carlson p. 114 n. 39.
12Smith 1973, 289-290.
13http://www.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/gr/patria_bibl.htm
14Smith 1960a, 256.
15Smith also notes the possibility that the catalogues were less than perfect; Smith 1973, 290. Cf. Smith 1960b, 172, 175. An alternative way for estimating the 1910 catalogue to have been less than perfect is offered by Charles W. Hedrick, who in SBL Meeting 2008 argues the following: in 1910 there were 50-60 monks in the monastery of Mar Saba, and 191 titles in the catalogue. In 1958 there were only 13 monks present, but, according to the notes by Smith, there were 489 titles to be found from the tower library alone. Hedrick's conclusion is that the 1910 catalogue must have missed a lot of items that were in reality present in the monastery in 1910; Hedrick's reasoning is reported by Allan J. Pantuck; http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2008/12/sbl-session-on-secret-mark.html?showComment=1228882140000#c6666643100328441834
16Pantuck 2008, 116 n. 28.
17Jäntti 1940, 77.
18Borsa 1977, 166-169.
19Carlson 2005, 38. This piece of information is indeed derived from Carlson, even though it gives a perfectly natural, neat explanation to Voss' book non-Venetian origin.
20The parallel was first noted by Allan J. Pantuck; http://www.sinaimonastery.com/en/index.php?lid=106
21Smith 1960a, 111.
22Smith 1960a, 120-121.
23On the other hand - as I noted above - Morton Smith observed that there were many old editions and anthologies of patristic writers to be found in the monastery; Smith 1985, 5, 11.
24Carlson 2005, 114 n. 41.
25Smith 1973, 2-3.
26It should also be noted, that no novices were accepted to the monastery of Mar Saba during the 18th-century, but only experienced (older) monks, who had had their education in various parts of the area of influence of the Orthodox Church - therefore, it is to be expected that their interests were as varied as their backgrounds; Peristeris 2001, 171.
27Smith 1960a, 111, 120-121.
28For illustrating examples, cf. Jackson 1970.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A series of posts on the Secret Gospel by Andrew Bernhard

Andrew Bernhard, the maintainer of gospels.net, has began a series of posts concerning the Secret Gospel of Mark. The first two installments are already out (part 1 and part 2), offering some basic background information about the discovery of the text, and the fate of the lost manuscript. Nothing extraordinary or details unheard of (for those who have followed the debate for some time), but future posts in the series may offer some new insights into the matter. Bernhard, for example, estimates in his first post, that "[t]here are still scholars who believe the Secret Gospel of Mark is an authentic ancient document known to Clement of Alexandria in the late second century, and there are those who believe it to be a modern forgery. Of course, both sides claim to represent the majority opinion." My own (more or less) educated guess here notes that "the majority of scholars are willing to accept the inauthenticity of the letter based on the case made by Carlson and Jeffery, but... the attitudes towards the hidden jokes and clues are more varied." We would need more accurate data than what we gather from Danny Zacharias' poll at deinde.org (still open for more votes) to answer to this question of scholarly consensus properly.

The Other Early Christian Gospels Resource Center in Bernhard's site has already a section about the Secret Mark, but - as Bernhard himself notes - it could profit from adding some more entries, most notable into the list of Scholarly Commentaries, that includes only Morton Smith's 1973 "Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark", Marvin W. Meyer's 2003 "Secret Gospels: Essays on Thomas and the Secret Gospel of Mark", Stephen C. Carlson's 2005 "The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark", and Peter Jeffery's 2007 "The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery" - for starters, I see no reason to exclude Scott G. Brown's 2005 "Mark's Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith's Controversial Discovery".

I myself have future plans to compile an exhaustive list of the scholarship regarding the Secret Gospel with some brief comments of the items (naturally published in this blog); just not top priority.

Maaseutumatkalla

Kuvassa Pohjanmaan lakeutta. Viikko maaseudulla tuo sopivan tauon myös bloggaamiseen, erityisesti silloin kun jättää kaikki mahdolliset nettiyhteydenpidon välineet kotiin.

Viikko maaseudulla on myös siinä ylärajoilla, urbaaniin elämänmuotoon tottuneella, kuinka pitkään kokee mahdolliseksi elää ilman kaupunkiasumisen hyviä puolia, kuten säännöllistä sanomalehtijakelua tai vaivatonta sähköistä yhteydenpitoa, puhumattakaan kauluksen alle majoittuvien pienten kärpästen laumojen suhteellisesta harvinaisuudesta.


Alempi kuva alahärmäläiseltä hevostalleilta. Ensi vuonna saatan (taas) uskaltautua ratsastamaankin, tänä vuonna riitti poseeraus hevosaitaus taustanani.

English Summary: On vacation. Pohjanmaa has no topographical features to speak of. Now back in town. Wasn't idle: Chapters 2.3 and 2.4 (not to forget 2.5 and 2.6) coming very soon, in this blog, as usual. (A week in the countryside once a year is about as much countryside as an urbanite like myself can handle.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Master's Thesis: Chapter 2.2 Paper and ink

[In this small chapter I ask, what can we discern about the paper and the ink from the published photographs of the MS, from those published in Morton Smith's 1973 work "Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark", and from those published in Charles W. Hedrick's and Nikolaos Olympiou's 2000 article "Secret Mark: New Photographs, New Witnesses".]

Observations regarding the quality of the paper and the ink are far from certain, for the examination of the physical MS would be fundamental for reliable conclusions to be drawn. One of the key defects here is our lack of knowledge about the conditions surrounding the process of photographing: What kinds of cameras were used? What kind of lighting conditions were the photos taken in? What about the film in the cameras? What about the small technical details like the shutter speed etc.? Since we know absolutely nothing about these, the possible conclusions are suggestive at best.

Scott Brown observes that the paper has turned to brown on the edges. Normally, this suggests an exposure to the sunlight for a lengthy time while the book rests e.g. in the book shelf.1 Additionally, Stephen Carlson sees the paper to be much more absorbing on the edges, where the ink seems to have spread out more than has happened in the center of the page. According to Carlson, this points to the effects of humidity.2 From the photographs, these two observations are about the only ones that can be made of the quality of the paper. As both Brown and Carlson point out, the exposure to the sunlight and the high levels of humidity are not conditions typically found in the tower library of the desert monastery of Mar Saba.3 The most probable conclusion would be that these forces of nature have effected themselves to the book somewhere else - however, this is entirely plausible in all the scenarios of authenticity. If we accept the validity of these observations drawn from the photographs, the effects from the sunlight and the humidity must have happened between the printing of the book and its arrival to the monastery. If the Theodore-letter is copied onto the book in Mar Saba - Smith and ten other experts estimated the text to have been written in the 18th-century4 - there is a window of 50-150 years for the sunlight and the humidity to do their work on the paper. If the text is not copied onto the book in Mar Saba (or it is a forgery), the window is larger still.

The ink used in the monastery of Mar Saba during the 18th-century was iron-gall ink, that - because of its basicity - corrodes, in time, through the page it was written on.5 Brown holds the ink of the letter to have been iron-gall ink: in the colour photographs taken by Father Kallistos the ink seems to have turned to brown, a phenomenon, that occurs 25-100 years after the text has been written.6 Carlson disagrees: the colour photographs were taken in 1977, at least 18 years after the writing of the text - if Morton Smith forged the letter, he would have written it onto Voss' book at the latest in 1958 - and the colour of the ink does not therefore prove anything. In addition, Carlson estimates the paper to be lighter in colour next to the ink, a fact that does not support the assumption of the use of the iron-gall ink in the writing of the letter.7 Also, Carlson does not find evidence about the corrosion of the ink going through to the other side of the paper.8

Unfortunately, the observations made by Brown and Carlson are of no use for establishing the quality of the ink - is it iron-gall ink commonly used in the monastery during the 18th-century or not - for, quite surprisingly, the documents written with iron-gall ink can have all the symptoms of the iron-gall ink corrosion - or none, at all. The irregularity in this respect seems to be caused by the numerous variables within the quality and quantity of the ink and in the characteristics of the paper.9 One thing, however, looks possible, even plausible. Carlson notes that the ink seems to spread out on the page of Voss' book more than in the other MSS from the monastery of the same time. The reason for this is probably the gradual disappearance of the starch, used in the paper-making process - in other words, the paper seems to have already been old when the ink was applied onto it.10 But similar to the case of the sunlight and the humidity presented above, this fact is plausible in all the scenarios of authenticity: if the Theodore-letter was copied (or composed) onto the paper during the 18th-century, the age of the paper would have been about hundred years. As for the Morton Smith as a hoaxer -scenario, there the age of the paper would have been even more (about 300 years).11

1Brown 2005, 26.
2Carlson 2005, 34.
3Brown 2005, 26; Carlson 2005, 34.
4Smith 1960a, 251; Smith 1973, 1; Smith 1985, 22-25.
5Carlson 2005, 34; about the characteristics of the iron-gall ink, cf. Banik 1997.
6Brown 2005, 27.
7Carlson 2005, 35.
8Carlson 2005, 34.
9Kolar 2006, 167-173; Carlson, too, admits the impossibility to draw any firm conclusions about the ink on the basis of the photographs; Carlson 2005, 35.
10Carlson 2005, 33.
11Carlson, too, admits that this question will not be answered unless the physical MS is to be found and scientifically tested; Carlson 2005, 33.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Master's Thesis: Chapter 2.1 A history of the MS

[Chapter 2 deals with the physical dimension of the MS, including Voss' book, its paper, the ink and the handwriting. I consider Carlson to be on his strongest here. First of all, I go through the history of the physical MS, as I had already done in Chapters 1.1 and 1.2 - every chapter in the thesis is written as a self-contained unit. Briefly:

-One of Smith's founds was a book, later to be defined to be a 1646 edition of "Epistulae genuinae S. Ignatii Martyris", a collection of Ignatius' authentic letters edited by a Dutch humanist Isaac Voss. In the blank back pages of Voss' book there were two and half pages of handwriting, Clement's letter to Theodore.1
-The book remained in the monastery for 18 years, until, in 1976, Guy G. Stroumsa et al. deposited it to the Orthodox Patriarchate Library in Jerusalem.2
-Nearing the end of the millennium Father Kallistos Dourvas told Charles W. Hedrick and Nikolaos Olympiou that he had removed the MS from Voss' book in 1977 for conservation purposes. He had also photographed the MS, and these photos were published in 2000. Kallistos reminisced further that the whereabouts of the MS were known to him up to 1990, when he retired from the Patriarchate library.3
-After Kallistos' retirement in 1990 the MS has not been seen though many scholars have made requests for it.4]

Although the MS seems to have disappeared completely, one conclusion from its history - in all fairness - should be drawn: that Morton Smith should not be blamed for the disappearance of the MS. If there is a need for a scapegoat, the staff of the Orthodox Patriarchate Library in Jerusalem would be a more apt candidate.5 It is an altogether different question, if Smith acted in a less than desirable manner when he did not bring the MS out of the monastery with him, but confined himself to take photos. At least two mitigating circumstances can be presented in defence of Smith. First, Voss' book that hold the MS in its blank back pages (not to forget the MS itself), belonged to the monastery; Smith was not allowed to simply take it with him.6 Second, according to his own words, when leaving the monastery Smith did not know that Clement, at the end of the text, quoted from a previously unknown variant of the Gospel of Mark - he could do the full transcription only after he had had the photos developed, back in Jerusalem.7 When the procedures of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem seem to be a nuisance to the scholars even today8, it would be quite unfair to necessitate more from Smith afterwards, more than what he deemed possible in 1958, the taking of the photographs.

The history of the MS and its contents seem to offer three distinct scenarios of authenticity to be made: either the Theodore-letter is an authentic document from antiquity9, that has been copied in the back pages of Voss' book in the 18th-century, the Theodore-letter is a forgery from the 18th-century, or the Theodore-letter is a forgery from the 20th-century. The second scenario has been proposed by e.g. Charles E. Murgia.10 As for the 20th-century forger, Morton Smith has been the only candidate so far. In the following chapters, the scenarios of authenticity are used to thresh the good arguments from the bad: a detail that fits reasonably well to all the scenarios should not be used to argue for any single scenario of authenticity.

1Smith 1985, 12-17.
2Stroumsa 2003, 147-153.
3Hedrick 2000, 8-9.
4Cf. Dart 2003, 137-139 and Brown 2005, 25.
5The words of Nikolaos Olympiou - that the MS may be hold in custody for reasons of piety - should not be forgotten, either; Hedrick 2000, 8-9. Alternatively, the MS is rumored to be in the hands of thieves in search for an institute rich enough to ransom it; http://www.music.princeton.edu/~jeffery/smithfaq.html
6According to his own words, Smith was only allowed to make a catalogue of the MSS and publish his findings; Smith 1985, 9. The moral integrity of Smith is further demonstrated by the fact that he did not cut open book bindings, although with this method he could have made other remarkable finds, along the lines of the MS of Sophocles he unearthed as end papers (the bindings in this particular case had already been torn); Smith 1985, 12.
7Smith 1985, 13-14. Even though, had Smith known about the previously unknown Gospel pericopes, stealing the property of the monastery would have still been a highly questionable act (although, at the same time, quite understandable).
8A highly odd case from recent years, reported by Dale A. Johnson, talks about "byzantine tactics", "delay", and the necessary bribing of the staff of the Patriarchate - Johnson uses here a guarded expression "giving of gifts" - to get Johnson a permission to photograph Syrian MSS in the Patriarchate Library; Johnson 2007.
9There is no need to differentiate between the letter of Clement proper and the excerpts he offers from the Secret Gospel of Mark in this thesis. Only in the first scenario of authenticity is there a possibility for the other being authentic (more naturally, this would be the letter by Clement to actually have been written by Clement, or even an imitation from late antiquity) and the other (more naturally, this would be the Secret Gospel) being pseudonymous extension to the Gospel of Mark. However, for the question of authenticity, as it is analyzed in this thesis, this fact has no bearing.
10Murgia 1976, 39-40.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reading the Secret Gospel of Mark in Codex Bezae: A paper presented in SBL Rome 2009 by Josep Rius-Camps

Josep Rius-Camps has presented an interesting paper in SBL International Meeting in Rome 2009 with a title "Reading the Secret Gospel of Mark in Codex Bezae". The abstract (from here) is as follows:

"The Secret Gospel of Mark is currently regarded by the majority of scholars as an sophisticated hoax on the part of Morton Smith who claimed to have ‘discovered’ it. Others, however, find the arguments for the hoax as unconvincing as the supposed hoax itself. Working on the text of Mark’s Gospel in Codex Bezae, I was struck by the evidence for the possible authenticity of the document that emerges in the high number of its readings found elsewhere only in the Bezan text of Mark. These are orthographical, lexical and grammatical variants that it would be not only difficult but also unreasonable to imitate. Furthermore, according to an analysis of the structure of Mark’s Gospel that I have carried out following the text of Codex Bezae, the Secret Gospel fits well into the arrangement of the pericopes, not only from a linguistic point of view but also from a theological perspective. Indeed, the episodes it contains contribute significantly to the depiction of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and his relationship with his disciples before his death. The proposed paper sets out the detailed evidence, which tip the balance in favour of the authenticity of the Secret Gospel. It also discusses its implications for the study of the Gospel of Mark."

One-sentence-summary: Rius-Camps sees the Secret Gospel of Mark to be authentic, because it has multiple "orthographical, lexical and grammatical variants" that are found only in Codex Bezae, the most important witness to the Western text of the Gospel of Mark.

Unfortunately, I think this fact is plausible in all the different scenarios of authenticity, including "Clement wrote the text -scenario" and "Morton Smith wrote the text -scenario". Ultimately, the question of authenticity have to be solved by some other means.

Spotted in Evangelical Textual Criticism, via PaleoBabble.

EDIT: Thinking this more thoroughly, I feel my initial reaction to Rius-Camps' paper was too one-sided, since it seems to deal with more issues than simple textual readings being common in both Codex Bezae and the Secret Gospel of Mark. Those "analysis of the structure" and "arrangement of the pericopes" bits mentioned in the abstract (I swear I read it all the way through before posting it!) seem to be more promising in establishing the Secret Gospel as an authentic writing from antiquity.

It must have been either of the following: that the correlation between SGM and Codex Bezae was highlighted too blindingly in Evangelical Textual Criticism or that I've received too much fresh air today watching football matches in Helsinki Cup 2009.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Master's Thesis: Chapter 1.3 Some methodological considerations

The work at hand is not a traditional thesis by a Finnish student of the Department of Biblical Studies. When I analyze Stephen Carlson's arguments for the hoax hypothesis, I do not content myself to choose only one (traditional) method common in the New Testament studies. Instead, I utilize deliberately various features from all the traditional methods from the field. This decision is dictated first and foremost by the arguments Carlson builds for his case: these arguments are so varied and diversified that to commit myself to just one traditional method would not make much sense, since the purpose of the work is to estimate if Morton Smith should be held to be guilty on the basis of Carlson's arguments.

In other words, it would be impossible to answer adequately to the questions I intend to pose, if I would content myself to use only one traditional method of the biblical studies. Instead of constraining myself, from the standard Finnish text book of the methods, "Johdatus eksegetiikkaan: Metodioppi" by Vilho Riekkinen and Timo Veijola, I utilize features from all of the presented methods. For example, when analyzing Carlson's arguments in Chapter 3.5, I utilize features from literary criticism as presented by Riekkinen & Veijola; likewise I work with form criticism in Chapter 3.3, with redaction criticism in Chapter 4.4, and with textual criticism in Chapter 3.2. In this regard I could be considered to have joined to the tradition of pragmatism: if a single method does not suffice, a pragmatist will utilize as many of them as is necessary and combine them in innovative ways. In addition, the debate goes well beyond the usual methods used in the field of biblical studies. QDE-analysis (Questioned Document Examination), for example, does not belong to the curriculum I have been taught by in Helsinki University. With regards to QDE-analysis, I have been working solely on the basis of foreign text books.

In addition, in the field of biblical studies there are no established criteria for assessing if complex matrices of meaning construed from a disputed text are deliberately left clues by the writer (forger/hoaxer), or ensuing simply because of coincidence(s) and/or overinterpretation; though somewhat similar questions have been asked in the research focusing on pseudepigrapha. The question is linked to the problems of demarcation between science and pseudoscience; the boundary between these two is extremely fickle at its worst.1 To be able to assess Carlson's clue arguments (that propose that there are to be found deliberately hidden clues of the identity of the writer), I compare them to the methods that an accepted pseudohistorical work, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", uses when building pseudohistorical arguments. In this way, I aim to demonstrate that Carlson utilizes in his clue arguments methods that would be valid only in a conspiracy theory narrative, although Carlson's text is in its formal aspects a true academic, scientific text.

Thus, for lack of good methods for this line of work, I have to pursue the question I pose in a creative manner. After all, the methods used in a given research are, to freely cite Robert K. Merton, good if they fulfill only two criteria: first, the methods should be able to form an argument that is logically consistent, and second, the methods should be able to form an argument that is compatible with known facts.2

The questions I will pursue in this thesis will be these: 1) I aim to collect together Stephen C. Carlson's arguments for the hoax hypothesis and its counterarguments; I aim to assess the debate and offer further commentary of its issues, and 2) I aim to analyze the similarities and differences between Stephen C. Carlson's arguments and other accepted pseudohistorical arguments. The first question will be answered in Chapters 2 and 3. In Chapter 4 I analyze conspiracy theory thinking and discuss how and in what ways can Carlson's arguments about the deliberately hidden clues be differentiated from this mode of thinking. In addition, I also assess these clue arguments from a more conventional point of view. Because the study of history can only be conducted in probabilities, I judge that some of Carlson's arguments are more plausible in the context of the hoax hypothesis. Counterarguments, however, are ultimately more persuasive - at least, the letter text, that looks to be composed by Clement himself, is probably authentic. In Chapter 4, after discussing the problems of demarcation between science and pseudoscience, I make a stronger statement, namely, that the clue arguments can't be considered to be scientific in any sense. Therefore, on the whole, the hoax hypothesis does not look to be the more probable alternative.

1 Kiikeri 2004, 92-93. I will discuss the problem of demarcation in more detail in Chapter 4.3.
2Kiikeri 2004, 113.

[In addition to the above, I defend the use of Internet material (blog posts, online-only articles, etc.) and conclude with a note that everything cited in the thesis should be available from Internet Archive, at the latest from October, 1st 2009 onwards.]