In the search for the lost handwritten pages containing the alleged letter of Clement in which he quotes from the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark, Erik Zara in the beginning of August this year wrote to the Patriarchate in Jerusalem. A copy of the letter was sent to a number of scholars. Since now almost three months have passed and still Zara has not received an answer, I thought I might as well publish his letter. I have Zara’s permission to do so. Perhaps the leaves containing the letter are lost forever, and perhaps the Patriarchate has given up on finding them, or just is not interested in this issue.
The Library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
The Holy Land of Israel
Dear Revered Sir or Madam,
I write to you in regard to an important matter for modern Christian scholarship. During a visit in the Mar Saba monastery library in 1958, Dr. Morton Smith photographed the last three pages of the book Epistulae genuina e S. Ignatii Martyris, printed by Isaak Vossius in 1646. These pages contained a letter in 18th century hand writing, which allegedly was a transcript of a letter by His Holiness Titus Flavius Clemens, Clement of Alexandria. Prof. Guy G. Stroumsa, Shlomo Pines et alia visited Mar Saba in 1976 and studied the letter. The letter, which was regarded as a separate manuscript, was removed from the Epistulae genuinae S. Ignatii Martyris. The manuscript was later in the 1970ies moved to the library of the Patriarchy in Jerusalem, where it was photographed by the librarian Kallistos Dourvas. Reportedly, also Prof. Quentin Quesnell has photographed the manuscript, in 1983. Dourvas has claimed that the manuscript, containing the letter allegedly written by Clement, still was in the possession of the Patriarchy in Jerusalem, in 1990, when he retired. When scholars later have tried to localize the so-called Clement letter, which begins Ἐκ τῶν ἐπιστολῶν τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου Κλήμεντος τοῦ Στρωματέως Θεοδώρῳ, they have unfortunately not been successful. The letter has nevertheless been the subject of an intense scholarly debate, regarding, amongst other things, the authenticity of the letter. Since the ink it was written with has not been properly studied, but only black-and-white and colour photographs have been available, some have suggested that Morton Smith in fact forged the document in 1958. Another controversy regarding the letter is that that the writer (“Clement”) is speaking of a secret, mystical, Gospel of Mark, the authorship of which is still being under debate. In the last few years, Stephen C. Carlson has been claiming that the letter is a hoax, but has been disputed by Dr. Scott G. Brown et alia.
Since an authentic Clement letter would be important for us scholars trying to understand the early development of Gnosticism and similar heresies, and since a proven hoax on the part of Morton Smith or any other modern or medieval forger would expose the agenda of the Antichrists and make it possible to effectively refute all rumours about secret or hidden Gospels, an examination of the manuscript would indeed be very significant. I therefore hereby humbly request that you report to me if the letter allegedly written by Clement (attached to this fax) is in the possession of the Library of the Patriarchy of Jerusalem, if you could kindly provide me with high-resolution photographs of the letter, and also if the letter will be available for close examination by scholars in the future.
With the most highest respect,
Dr. Erik Zara, Th.D.
Roger Viklund, 2010-10-30