Some recent sightings of the Secret Gospel of Mark include:
James D. Tabor, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who blogs at TaborBlog, has already read the latest issue of BAR, and offers his opinion with a title Vindicating Morton Smith. As he already noted last February, the correspondence between Morton Smith and Gershom Scholem edited for publication by Guy G. Stroumsa (the second-to-last living Western scholar to have seen the MS with his own eyes) "make it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that Smith could not have forged either Clement’s letter or the passages of “Secret Mark” contained therein. The manner in which Smith’s own views and understanding of his discovery develop and change over time are clearly demonstrated in these letters, as he debates with himself the significance of the text he has found and shares his insights and his questions with Scholem."
David Henige, African Studies bibliographer at the University of Wisconsin, mentions the Secret Gospel of Mark in his new article "Authorship Renounced: The 'Found' Source in the Historical Record" published in Journal of Scholarly Publishing (October 2009; doi: 10.3138/jsp.41.1.31). The abstract is as follows:
Most often, authorship is a prized status, sometimes to the point of being claimed by those who have no right to it. Conversely, throughout history many works have appeared in which authorship to credited to someone other than the person(s) who brought to it public attention. Often these individuals masquerade as ‘editors,’ purporting to have discovered a work that they actually wrote themselves. When this claim is accepted, the record of the past becomes distortedbecause false claims are accepted as true.
Keywords: authorship, pseudohistory, false authorial attributions
Among a dozen examples of authors suggesting they have found a source they have themselves composed Henige has Morton Smith, even though Secret Mark's difference to his other (genuine) hoaxes seems rather plain, when the real hoaxers usually simply deny the requests to produce the questioned document for a close scrutiny, something they could easily do at any hour of the day. Nevertheless, Henige assesses that there is "a strong majority of them [New Testament scholars] leaning toward rejection, not least on the grounds that the manuscript’s visible lifespan was suspiciously brief." (40) One point of criticism pointed to the defenders of the authenticity should in all fairness be considered:
"Defenders typically — and, obviously, faute de mieux — regard the photographs as adequate for evaluating authenticity. For photographs as dubious evidence see David Henige, Historical Evidence and Argument (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 2005), 198–9, 271–2 nn. 56–7, and sources cited there." (51 n. 44)
But even more perplexing is the following quote from the conclusions:
"As several of the instances above point out, in many cases final resolution is virtually impossible, even for contemporary examples, short of producing the disputed documents... Refuting criticism technically (e.g., by pointing out factual errors in it), even if done successfully, increases only slightly the probability of authenticity, since it may also demonstrate that the hoaxer was well acquainted with his materials — as is often true, of course, since it is familiarity that often breeds both the desire to hoax and the competence to carry out that desire." (46)
So much for the optimism of Anthony Grafton regarding the possibility of actually detecting forgeries, I guess?
Robert M. Price, Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies at Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, a somewhat controversial figure in biblical studies for his views of Jesus as a myth (named pseudo-scholar by e.g. Chris Weimer, the founder of Thoughts on Antiquity), has recently reviewed both Scott G. Brown's "Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery" and Stephen C. Carlson's "The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark". Price had admitted earlier to have been persuaded by the similarity of the plot of James H. Hunter's 1940 novel "The Mystery of Mar Saba" and the discovery story of Morton Smith - the Secret Gospel of Mark was a hoax. For one thing, "I suggest that such a novel is exactly the sort of leisure fiction to appeal to scholars like Smith." On the other side of the table, "now I may say that the able Mr. Carlson has marked the case closed." Or, as an even greater eulogy, "We owe a great debt to Stephen C. Carlson for settling a debate that has simmered for over thirty years now."
I may come back to Price's ideas, but my initial thought is this: while Price suggests that Brown has fallen to the trap laid down by Morton Smith, I suggest that Price has himself been trapped into the web of the pseudohistorical approach of Carlson, as he seems to accept the clue arguments of Carlson with much rejoicing.
April D. DeConick, Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University who blogs at The Forbidden Gospels, has noted the latest issue of BAR, and the discussion about the Secret Gospel of Mark has taken to flight slowly and carefully. I am going to chime in once the snails of the mail deliver the physical issue at Helsinki University.
Peter Kirby Expands Early Christian Writings
6 days ago