Smith did not photograph the manuscripts which Tselikas believes Smith used as a model for both imitating the Greek handwriting and learning how to make ink

Allan J. Pantuck

Allan J. Pantuck

Now Allan J. Pantuck’s Response to Agamemnon Tselikas on Morton Smith and the Manuscripts from Cephalonia has been published at Biblical Archaeology Review. Pantuck summarizes the arguments made by Agamemnon Tselikas in his Handwriting Analysis Report as such:

“Dr. Tselikas believes that although the handwriting of the Clement letter is consistent with that of the 18th-century it does not match the handwriting of any other scribe at the Mar Saba monastery, and he believes that the letter is a forged imitation of 18th century Greek script made by Smith using four 18th-century manuscripts from the Thematon monastery of the Greek island of Cephalonia as a model for the handwriting. According to Tselikas, the handwriting of these four Cephalonia manuscripts which Smith had seen and catalogued while visiting Greece in 1951, is similar to the hand of Clement letter. At the very least, here lies a theory which can be tested against known facts.

Pantuck continues:

“A fundamental question at the heart of Tselikas’ hypothesis is whether Smith photographed the Cephalonia manuscripts in order to later study and develop the necessary fluency to copy the scribal hand in order to forge the Clement letter.”

But although Smith took more than 5,000 photographs of manuscripts in Greece during his travels in 1951 and 1952, he did not photograph any of the four manuscripts on which Tselikas builds his case. Pantuck gives three reasons to why we can be sure of this.

1)      They are not among those manuscripts that are marked as being photographed in Smith’s publication Notes on collections of manuscripts in Greece.

2)      They are not listed in the Brown University library catalogue list. Smith deposited in that library the photographs and the negatives from his 1951/52-tour.

3)       They are not listed in Smith’s own catalogue list, which apart from containing the information in the Brown University-list, also lists the photographs and negatives that Smith were to send back to Greece after he had studied them.

Smith accordingly did not take any photographs of the manuscripts which Tselikas thinks form the basis for Smith’s handwriting imitation when forging the Clement letter:

“We can also assume that Morton Smith between his first and second trip to the monastery, wrote the text under the model of the manuscripts of Themata monastery, but also of other which he had seen and had photographed during his visit to Greece.” (Agamemnon Tselikas, D. TEXTOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS)

It could be said, although Pantuck never mentions this, that Tselikas also suggested that Smith would have learned how to make 18th century ink by copying two recipes found in two of those manuscripts:

Interesting note: In the last leaves of the manuscript 3 are found two recipes and ink manufacturing written by an other contemporary of the scribe hand. (Agamemnon Tselikas, The manuscripts of the Monastery of Themata in Cefalonia).

Images of these two pages were also published:

“The first page containing the recipe of the preparation of ink in the manuscript 3 of Themata manuscript”

“The second page containing the recipe of the preparation of ink in the manuscript 3 of Themata manuscript” (Anexe 2. Recipe of Ink)

But if Smith did not photograph these manuscripts, he of course nor had access to the ink recipes.

Pantuck then goes on to say “that the handwriting of the four Cephalonia manuscripts itself does not actually appear to be particularly similar to the handwriting of the Clement letter.” This was one thing that immediately struck me when I first heard of Tselikas’ theory long before he published it. The writing was not particularly similar to the handwriting of MS65 where the Clement letter is found. Since then and through the efforts of Stephan Huller I have seen much Greek 18th century handwriting which for certain more resembles the handwriting of the Clement letter than the Cephalonia manuscripts handwriting does. Pantuck presents a few examples and summarizes this by saying:

“With even such a limited comparison, it is clear that these are four different hands and that the handwriting in the Cephalonia manuscripts is not even as similar to the Clement letter as the completely unrelated handwriting from Zagora”

Agamemnon Tselikas

Maybe it was due to the fact that Pantuck dared to question Tselikas’ expertise on the handwriting that Tselikas felt offended. I do not know. But he anyway responded to Hershel Shanks:

“I read the article you sent me about the criticism made by Dr. Alan Pantuck of my report on the manuscript of Clement. I have only one remark: that Dr. Pantuck restricts his criticism only to one section, while not taking into account either the textological observations or the facts on the presence of the Ignatius edition in the library of Mar Saba. I respect the opinion of anybody, but I do not proceed to such personal criticism. Anyone who has a critical ability must have his opinion itself without any influence. I’ve written previously to you that without any bias I did my research on this topic. I spent much of my precious time for many days and many dozen of hours, here in Athens and in Jerusalem, to contribute my scientific experience and means in order to enlighten the issue. The resulting comments and opinion I exposed in my report. Of course some agree or disagree. But most certainly I have no interest in the opinion of those who, without scientific basis and method, write several non-existent and fantastic things in their blogs. To me these are parasites of real and true science.” (Agamemnon Tselikas: Response to Allan J. Pantuck)

I must say that I am amazed at Tselikas’ reaction. This reaction must be due to the fact that Pantuck wonders why Tselikas suggests that Smith would have imitated the handwriting found in those manuscripts, when in fact they are not particularly similar to the handwriting of the Clement letter? Since they are precisely the four manuscripts on which Tselikas himself published in 1982, “Tselikas’ theory of imitation appears to be dictated by the desire to connect the Clement letter to manuscripts that Smith is known to have seen.” To build one’s “opinions of historical possibility” is according to Pantuck not a correct scientific method. Instead we should rely on “verified historical evidence”.

That Pantuck was “not taking into account either the textological observations or the facts on the presence of the Ignatius edition in the library of Mar Saba”, does of course not reduce the strength of his criticism founded on facts regarding one or two of Tselikas’ major arguments. That is the way real and true science work. You focus on a particular subject and then investigate that subject. As it now turns out, we can be fairly certain that Smith did not have access to photographs of the very manuscripts Tselikas argue form the basis for Smith’s imitation of Greek handwriting and it is also obvious that there is no particular manuscript we know of which has served as a model for imitation.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-20

7 kommentarer

  1. 20 augusti, 2011 den 19:48

    How does it feel being called a ‘parasite of real and true science’? I guess it beats being called a ‘parasite of pulp fiction’ or Nascar racing, pornography, glue-sniffing or any number of other epithets.

    Gilla

  2. 20 augusti, 2011 den 19:54

    Oh, you don’t believe that he refers to us by those who “write several non-existent and fantastic things in their blogs”?

    Gilla

  3. DBlocker said,

    21 augusti, 2011 den 07:19

    Are there any computer programs that are designed to compare handwriting samples?

    How hard can it be? Scan and digitize a large number of hand-written pages, do 2D Fourier analysis and compare the results to see if there are any similar samples. OK , maybe it is hard, but it would be an interesting project to catalog 18th c. handwritten samples and compare them to the hand-writing of 20th c. scholars.

    Dr Pantuck is at UCLA, Maybe during a lunch break he could walk over to Boelter Hall and try to find an engineering student looking for interesting senior thesis topic. Or Dr, Pantuck could sent Vijay Dhir, the Dean of Engineering, a memo asking if he there is someone who could help him do computer aided hand-writing analysis.

    http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/sl297.txt

    http://www.quincy.ca/archive/files/61-TFSV7080516-0061-VaidDOC.pdf

    Gilla

  4. Den andre BB said,

    22 augusti, 2011 den 18:53

    If I had used a few MSS to forge an ancient document, I would of course not document my knowledge of these MSS :-)

    Gilla

  5. 22 augusti, 2011 den 19:08

    But then you mean that you would have had another camera or at least another set of film when you took some of the photographs. And then you would have made sure to never mix those with the others. And besides, you then would have needed to know beforehand which manuscripts you would use so that none of them ended up on the same films and negatives as other manuscripts which you not intended to use for your forgery.

    And tell me, why would you not document your knowledge of these manuscripts if you intended to forge something? In order that your forgery would never be revealed? But why would you then make the forgery in the first place, if you would have no economical or professional benefits from it?

    Gilla

  6. 24 augusti, 2011 den 18:47

    I think those who promote conspiracy theories often confuse ‘what could have happened’ with what is more likely to have happened. It is possible that humanity, ‘the government’ or some international organization which secretly rules the world has made contact with space aliens for instance, but it is nevertheless an unlikely scenario or at least a scenario that people shouldn’t pretend is likely to have occurred based on the evidence. The same is true with the Mar Saba discovery. The evidence suggests that Morton Smith found a document in the blank pages of an old book in the library of a Greek monastery. There is no compelling evidence to dispute this claim. As such it should be accepted until a compelling reason to deny this assertion emerges.

    Gilla

  7. bbnews said,

    31 augusti, 2011 den 19:34

    Apropos what is discussed in commentaries #1 and #2 here above.

    Today I got a mail from the Bible Archaeology Society with a link to the letter from Dr. Agamemnon Tselikas in which the quotations can be read in its own context.

    I must say I’m very amazed and astonished. In Dr. Tselikas’s letter you can read the following sentences:

    I spent much of my precious time for many days and many dozen of hours, here in Athens and in Jerusalem, to contribute my scientific experience and means in order to enlighten the issue. The resulting comments and opinion I exposed in my report. Of course some agree or disagree. But most certainly I have no interest in the opinion of those who, without scientific basis and method, write several non-existent and fantastic things in their blogs. To me these are parasites of real and true science.

    With deep respect to you,
    Agamemnon Tselikas

    What a hectoring and patronizing attitude!

    It reminds me of what the wellknown magician James Randi wrote in an article I got my eyes on just an hour ago or so. Let me quote a few sentences from Mr. Randi’s article (building on a lecture he gave to a Skeptics Society audience in 1992), which is now reappearing In this week’s edition of the eSkeptic:

    I have a theory about Ph.D.s and the granting of the degree itself. I am outside the field, not an academic, so as a curious observer I have many times seen films of, and in a couple of cases actually attended ceremonies where Ph.D.s are created. They are created, you know. The Ph.D. itself is earned, of course, but then the person who has passed all the tests and done all the right things in the right way and has been approved doesn’t become a Ph.D. until one significant moment where a roll of paper, usually with a red or a blue ribbon around it, is pressed into his or her hand. At that moment that person becomes a very special class of being known as Ph.D.

    Now, I have noted at those ceremonies, and perhaps you have observed it as well that the man who gives out those rolls of paper wears gloves. Why? Why would he want to wear gloves? Is the paper dirty? I don’t think so. Is there something about that roll of paper, or perhaps the ribbon, that he doesn’t want to contaminate him, and he doesn’t want to touch his skin? I’m going to postulate—just an idea—that perhaps there is a secret chemical that has been genetically engineered which is on the surface of that paper so that when the Ph.D. candidate receives that roll of paper this chemical is absorbed by the skin, goes into the bloodstream and is conducted directly to the brain. This is a very carefully engineered chemical which goes directly—please don’t laugh; this is science—goes directly to the speech center of the brain and paralyzes the brain in such a way that two sentences from then on, in any given language, are no longer possible to be pronounced by that person. Those two sentences are, “I don’t know” and “I was wrong”.

    I honestly don’t know about that; however, my observations of the situation are that I have never heard any Ph.D. utter either one of those sentences. I have never heard them say, “I’d like to marry a lobster” either, but that doesn’t mean they can’t say it. But those two sentences never seem to pass their lips.

    Right on the bull’s eye according to my humble opinion. Hooray for Mr. James Randi!

    Gilla


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