Overlaps between Secret Mark, the Raising of Lazarus in John, and the Gerasene Swine episode in Mark

This post is both in English and Swedish
Detta inlägg är på både engelska och svenska


David Blocker just wrote to me and said that he had seen my most recent post about Oxyrhynchus 5072 (Ett nytt evangelium påträffat?), and reminded me of a table he had sent me last month demonstrating similarities between the Secret Mark fragment quoted by Clement, the Raising of Lazarus episode in the Gospel of John, and the episode of the Gerasene Swine in the canonical Gospel of Mark.

I must consider this a preliminary presentation of findings, since David was working with translations and not the original Greek texts. Still I think this is interesting finding which deserves more study to evaluate its significance.

What is of particular interest is that Tony Burke had posted on his web site that the Fragment of the New Unknown Gospel from Oxyrhynchus unlike the canonical gospels, did not mention a legion of swine being used as a receptacle for the discarded demons.

I have been kind of busy lately (renovating the house), so I might as well publish David Blocker’s table. It shows that the section in Mark where Jesus drove the demons into the herd of swine does not (unlike the rest of the story) have any significant language or subject parallels in either the Secret Mark fragment or the episode of the Raising of Lazarus.

Does this confirm that the pigs are a later addition to the story, added after an original pigless story had been used as a model for other texts?  Was the story of the swine inserted into a preexistent Markan healing story that was somehow already related to the “raising Lazarus from the dead”-story in John and Secret Mark?

Since the Swine do not actually appear to have any overlap with the adjacent story of the possessed man, the story of the Swine appears to be another intercalation or at least addition. It seems like “Mark” had a collection of unconnected stories that he pasted together to create a single narrative. His literary techniques with intercalations and framing stories (i.e. putting some of his stores inside other stories instead of pasting them one after another) give us an idea of how freely he worked with his material.

David Blocker’s Table is presented beneath, but for a better view with all the parallels highlighted in different colours, I recommend the pdf-file at SM_JnLazarus_MkSwine


David Blocker skrev alldeles nyss till mig och sa att han hade sett mitt senaste inlägg om Oxyrhynchus 5072 (Ett nytt evangelium påträffat?), och påminde mig om en tabell som han skickade mig förra månaden och som pekar på vissa likheter mellan passagen ur Hemliga Markusevangeliet som Klemens citerar, episoden om uppväckandet av Lasaros i Johannesevangeliet, och berättelsen om grisarna i Gerasa i det kanoniska Markusevangeliet.

Jag betraktar detta som en preliminär presentation av materialet eftersom David Blocker har arbetat med översättningar och inte med den grekiska originaltexten. Jag anser trots detta att det är ett intressant fynd som förtjänar att studeras grundligare.

Det som är särskilt intressant är att Tony Burke på sin hemsida har skrivit att det nyidentifierade fragmentet från Oxyrhynchus av ett hittills okänt evangelium, till skillnad från de kanoniska evangelierna, inte nämner att en hjord av grisar används till att förvara en legion av fördrivna demoner.

Jag har varit rätt upptagen på sistone (med att renovera huset), så jag kan lika gärna publicera Davids Blockers tabell som den är. Den visar att det avsnitt i Markusevangeliet där Jesus fördriver demonerna in i grisarna (till skillnad från resten av berättelsen) inte har någon betydande vare sig språklig eller tematisk parallell till Hemliga Markusevangeliet eller Lazarosberättelsen i Johannesevangeliet.

Styrker detta att berättelsen om grisarna är ett senare tillägg till historien, tillagt efter att en ursprunglig berättelse utan grisar hade använts som modell för andra texter? Infogades historien om grisarna i en sedan tidigare existerande markinsk helandeberättelse som på något sätt redan stod i relation till berättelsen om uppväckandet av Lasaros i Johannesevangeliet och Hemliga Markusevangeliet?

Eftersom berättelsen om grisarna inte verkar gripa in den intilliggande berättelsen om den besatte mannen, förefaller berättelsen om grisarna vara ytterligare en interkalation eller åtminstone ett tillägg. Det verkar som om ”Markus” hade en samling osammanhängande berättelser som han fogade samman till en enda berättelse. Hans litterära tekniker med interkalationer och inramningsberättelser (det vill säga att infoga några av berättelserna i andra berättelser i stället för att foga dem efter varandra) ger oss en uppfattning om hur fritt han arbetat med sitt material.

Inunder återges David Blockers tabell, men för en tydligare återgivning med alla de relevanta parallellerna markerade i olika färger, rekommenderar jag pdf-filen på SM_JnLazarus_MkSwine

Secret Mark: from a Letter Attributed to Clement of Alexandria.  Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973). Raising of Lazarus: John 11:1-46, 12:1New International Version (NIV) Gerasene Swine: Mark 5:1-20 New International Version (NIV)
To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel. For example, after ”And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem” and what follows, until ”After three days he shall arise”, the secret Gospel brings the following material word for word:
”And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. 1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 5:1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit
2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, ”son of David, have mercy on me”. But the disciples rebuked her. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
And Jesus, being angered, 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs,
( … came to the tomb.)  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.39 “Take away the stone,” he said.   “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.)
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (7 … , “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”)
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, (7 He shouted at the top of his voice, … )
“Lazarus, come out!” (8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”)
and straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often beenchained hand and foot,.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. 11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. 14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.”
And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. (John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.) (15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.)
And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.
And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.” (46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.) 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. And all the people were amazed. (16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.)
And these words follow the text, ”And James and John come to him” and all that section. But ”naked man with naked man” and the other things about which you wrote, are not found. And after the words,”And he comes into Jericho,” the secret Gospel adds only, ”And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them.” But many other things about which you wrote both seem to be and are falsifications. Now the true explanation and that which accords with the true philosophy. John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. (17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.)
DBlocker 8/2011

Ett nytt evangelium påträffat?

Nyheten är egentligen gammal (någon dryg månad?), men det har påträffats ett (eller flera?) fragment som sannolikt innehåller en avskrift av ett dittills okänt evangelium. Fyndet är på sätt och vis ännu äldre, eftersom det kommer från den forntida staden Oxyrhynchos belägen ca 16 mil söder om Kairo i Egypten. Enorma mängder av rester från antika skrifter som verkar ha hamnat på ”sophögen” har påträffats där sedan mer än hundra år tillbaka och många av dessa fynd är ännu inte genomgångna.

Därför har man också påbörjat ett ambitiöst projekt där man ber allmänheten om hjälp att identifiera texten från tusentals fragment som kontinuerligt läggs ut på Internet: http://www.ancientlives.org/ Alla inbjuds att deltaga och man behöver inte ens kunna grekiska för att bidraga, även om det med säkerhet snabbar upp identifieringsprocessen. Tanken är att man med allmänhetens hjälp ska kunna identifiera större textmassor och kanske också kunna para samman tillsynes icke-besläktade fragment med varandra.

Informationen om detta nya och hittills okända evangelium är hittills ytterst sparsam. Jag vet inte ens vem som upptäckt texten – om det är någon ur ”allmänheten”. I vilket fall går det under beteckningen ”Oxyrhynchus 5072” eller ”p. Oxy 5072” och ett fragment (det enda?) finns nedan till beskådande.

Enligt Tony Burke New Unknown Gospel from Oxyrhynchus ska fragmentet innehålla en beskrivning av hur Jesus i Gerasa driver ut de onda andarna. Men i motsats till Mark 5:1ff (paralleller i Luk 8:26ff och Matt 8:28ff) drivs dessa andar INTE in i en svinhjord utan andarna/demonerna enbart försvinner. I varje fall verkar detta vara vad som går att utläsa av fragmentet.

Med reservation för att informationen är så ofullständig, ska jag ändå våga mig på att spekulera något kring fyndet. Det verkar paleografiskt gå att datera till 200-talet (eller möjligen slutet av 100-talet). Det är rimligen inte absolut säkert att detta är del av ett evangelium, då det skulle kunna utgöra del av en text av betydligt mindre omfång. Men det verkar ändå gå i stil med tidigare Oxyrhynchos-fynd av två i övrigt okända evangelieberättelser från något som räknas som två okända evangelier, nämligen Oxyrhynchos 840-evangeliet och Oxyrhynchos 1224-evangeliet. Kanske har vi nu också Oxyrhynchos 5072-evangeliet. P. Oxy 840 är skrivet på pergament medan p. Oxy 1224 är skrivet på papyrus. Jag har inte sett några uppgifter om vad p. Oxy 5072 är för sorts fragment, även om jag tycker att det liknar papyrus.

En tanke som uppkommer berör dateringen av Markusevangeliet till efter år 70. De tusentals svin som besätts av demonerna och drunknar i sjön, synes vara en anspelning på och ett dolt hat mot den romerska tionde legionen och dess stationering i Palestina efter krigsslutet år 70 (se: Miraklet om legionen i svinen vilket daterar Markusevangeliet). Om nu denna text innehåller samma scen som den i synoptikerna, men saknar anspelning på svinen, kan den vara en äldre form av samma berättelse. Svinen skulle då ha tillkommit hos ”Markus” eftersom denne skrev efter år 70 och antingen hade till sitt förfogande en berättelse som bestod av två sinsemellan obesläktade element eller två berättelser som han själv fogade samman.

Vidare är detta ytterligare ett exempel på hur många evangelier som verkar ha varit i omlopp och som vad vi vet inte har rapporterats om av kyrkofäderna. De som argumenterar för det osannolika i att Hemliga Markusevangeliet skulle ha kunnat existera utan att detta uppmärksammats och bevarats, borde i ljuset av detta fynd besinna sig. Eller, så kan detta eller andra fynd egentligen utgöra fragment av Hemliga Markus? Omöjligt är det inte. Ty hur kan man identifiera ett litet fragment från Hemliga Markus såvida det inte överlappar det som Klemens citerar eller möjligen utgör en okänd berättelse som omsluts av material från Markusevangeliet.

Roger Viklund, 2011-09-20

Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined: Part Four

Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three 
Part Four

Craig A. Evans

In three consecutive blog-posts, I have dealt with the argument Craig Evans considers to be the strongest in showing that Morton Smith forged the Clement letter. According to Evans, Morton Smith showed before he found the Clement letter interest in certain themes which are found in the letter. I find Evans’ assertiveness to be unsupported.

There are however many other arguments presented by Evans which he believes lend strength to the forgery hypothesis. Some have been so thoroughly refuted before, that I leave them aside for the time being. But Evans makes at least a few points regarding Stephen Carlson and the handwriting issue which I cannot resist to comment upon.

Let me quote a lengthy passage from Evans’ paper under the headline “Disputed Science”:

The debate over handwriting analysis requires a few comments. In his 2005 publication Stephen Carlson, assisted by a professional handwriting expert, concluded that Morton Smith penned the three pages of Greek text found at the back of the seventeenth-century edition of the letters of Ignatius. Other scholars have challenged these findings. Dismissing Carlson’s analysis, Hershel Shanks asked two Greek-speaking handwriting experts to compare samples of Smith’s Greek with the Greek of the Mar Saba find. One expert concluded that Smith did not write the Clementine letter. The other expert concluded that he did. The former submitted a written report, which Shanks has posted on the Biblical Archaeology Society web page. The latter expert has not yet submitted a written report. The appeal to native Greek-speakers has not resolved the controversy.

Although Carlson does not regard himself as a handwriting expert per se, his expertise in evaluating documents, as well as procuring assistance and expert advice, should not be quickly dismissed (as I think Shanks has done). Novum Testamentum, a highly respected international journal devoted to the critical study of the New Testament, recently published an article, in which Carlson’s conclusion that “Archaic Mark” (Greek NT ms 2427 = Chicago ms 972) is a modern forgery has been vindicated. This manuscript, written on what at one time was believed to be 14th century parchment, deceived the likes of Edgar Goodspeed, Ernest Cadman Colwell, Kirsopp Lake, and Kurt and Barbara Aland, scholars well versed in ancient Greek manuscripts and hands. “Archaic Mark,” under the number 2427, appears in the list of miniscules in the two standard critical editions of the Greek New Testament. In these editions it is dated to the 14th century, evidently on the basis of the presumed age of the parchment, as well as the paleography. Carlson, however, concluded that although the parchment is old, perhaps dating to the 14th or 15th century, the handwriting is modern and the forger, who imitated 14th century Greek penmanship remarkably well, used Philipp Buttmann’s 1860 edition of the Greek New Testament as his base text. As reported in the recent issue of Novum Testamentum, scientific testing has confirmed Carlson’s conclusion. The ink was found to contain a chemical that was not in use prior to 1874 and Carbon 14 has dated the parchment to the 16th century. It is now believed that the manuscript was produced in the early 20th century. Once again handwriting analysis was at best uncertain. Internal considerations, including evidence of anachronism, pointed to forgery. Scientific testing provided confirmation.

The essential arguments made by Evans in this attempt to rescue Carlson’s handwriting analysis are:

1)      Stephen Carlson concluded based on the handwriting that Morton Smith penned the Clement letter.

2)      He was assisted in his conclusion by a professional handwriting expert.

3)      Carlson’s analysis should not so easily be dismissed since Carlson managed to correctly claim that the so-called Archaic Mark is a modern forgery.

4)      By comparing samples of Smith’s Greek with the Greek of the Mar Saba find, two Greek-speaking handwriting experts came to opposite conclusions. One expert concluded that Smith did write the letter and the other that he did not.

But Evans is ill-informed. It has for a long time now been known that the “evidence” Carlson relied upon when suggesting that the letters were drawn rather than written and that all kinds of signs of forgery could be seen in the document, like tremors and ink blobs, all were due to the poor images he used. When these printed images in Morton Smith’s book were heavily magnified, they gave rise to optical illusions which misled Carlson into believing that the scribe’s hand shook because of slow writing. Se my articles Tremors, or Just an Optical Illusion? and Reclaiming Clement’s Letter to Theodoros. Besides, Carlson was at the time a patent attorney with no experience or training in the field of questioned document examination.

Evans also tries to strengthen Carlson’s conclusion by saying that he was assisted in his conclusion by a professional handwriting expert. This was for sure what Carlson said himself, but later it turned out that he had misled everybody by withholding vital information regarding this professional handwriting expert by the name of Julie C. Edison. Already in April 2010 Scott G. Brown and Allan J. Pantuck consulted Edison and she gave an entirely different description of her contribution. Brown and Pantuck presented their results in the article Stephen Carlson’s Questionable Questioned Document Examination, and they summarize their findings as such:

The people who read Edison’s letter on the internet [published by Carlson] would have been far less impressed had they known that Carlson’s consultant is unable to read Greek, that she met with him for only a few hours, that they looked exclusively at halftone reproductions of Smith’s photographs, that she disavows having expressed an opinion on the manuscript’s authenticity, and that her positive comments were prefaced by the “most important” observation that the absence of “known standards” in Carlson’s analysis violates one of the “fundamentals” of forgery detection. Clearly he hoped that this letter would discourage concerns about the objectivity, validity, and competence of his handwriting analysis, but now that we know the omitted contents and the manner in which he suppressed them, he has ultimately made us more dubious about these things than ever.

It is not hard to imagine that a handwriting analysis by a properly qualified questioned document examiner would look very different from what we see in The Gospel Hoax.

Could Evans really be unaware of this? He is after all acting as an expert on Secret Mark and that Edison did not support Carlson’s assertion has been known for one and a half year now. Or could it be that Evans is careless with the facts in the same way as he was in Fabricating Jesus, where he wrote that not only did Edison assist Carlson in analyzing the “color” photographs, but “experts [emphasize mine] in the science of the detection of forgeries [were given] the opportunity to analyze the handwriting of the document and compare it with samples of the handwriting of the late Professor Smith?”[1]

Evans made the same kind of statement in Lee Strobel’s book The Case for the real Jesus:

Carlson, a well-regarded patent attorney and amateur biblical scholar, thoroughly investigated the case, bringing in handwriting experts, and writing The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark in 2005.

“What’s your opinion about the authenticity of the letter?” I asked.

Evans’s answer was dramatic: “I think the clues really lead to the conclusion that the letter is a hoax and that Smith is almost certainly the hoaxer.” – – –

When experts examined the magnified photos of the text, they could see what they call ‘forger’s tremor,’ where the text isn’t really written, but instead it’s being drawn by a forger in an attempt to deceive. There are shaky lines, pen-lifts in the middle of strokes—all kinds of indications that this was forged. (Se my article: One Thousand and One Untruths: How Reliable Is the Account of Secret Mark by Lee Strobel and Craig Evans?)

Once again there were according to Evans experts involved, when in fact at that time no expert at all had evaluated the handwriting; not even the one Carlson said had validated his results.

Evans is trying to support his view that the letter is a forgery by referring to distinguished scholars who also believe that the letter is a forgery. He for example says that the “Harvard alumnus and distinguished scholar of Gnosticism Birger Pearson stated that he now believes the Clementine letter to be a hoax”. Pearson expressed his view on this issue in 2008 in “The Secret Gospel of Mark: A 20th Century Forgery,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 4 (2008), article 6, pp. 1–14.

But in 2009, after reading my articles on Carlson’s flawed methods for examining the handwriting, Pearson wrote the following:

“I read the Viklund pieces with considerable interest. It is curious that Carlson didn’t avail himself of the color photos. Anyway, I agree with Viklund when he says that the only way we can finally know whether Smith forged the letter is to find the actual manuscript, and subject the ink to scientific analysis.” Published by Stephan Huller at Birger Pearson Says It Best – ”It is curious that Carlson didn’t avail himself of the color photos”)

Also this Evans seems to be unaware of. Be that as it may, Evans is not taking into account the fact that Carlson based his study on inferior images which misled him (Carlson has not made any official comments on the issue of the handwriting since I published my articles; he has consequently chosen not to reply to the criticism) and that Edison was neither qualified to provide an opinion on this text, nor did she do that.

Point 3, that Carlson’s analysis should not so easily be dismissed since he correctly managed to claim that the so-called Archaic Mark is a modern forgery, is in itself a remarkable attempt to save Carlson’s so-called handwriting analysis. Actually, the issue of Archaic Mark has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of Carlson’s analysis of the handwriting of the Clement letter. Stephen Carlson may be an intelligent person, a brilliant scholar who has made brilliant discoveries. Still, he was wrong in his handwriting evaluation since he based it on erroneous photographs (i.e. printed images) and he misled everybody by presenting Edison’s letter cropped so that it appeared as if she supported his analysis. It does not matter if he is right on the issue of Archaic Mark or even if Secret Mark is a forgery. His conclusions are still flawed since they are based on incorrect observations – no matter how vigorously Evans is defending him and telling us not to dismiss his handwriting analysis so easily.

Evans is correct in saying that the two Greek-speaking handwriting experts came to the opposite conclusions when it came to deciding if Smith had written the text or not. Yet he says that one of the experts, i.e. Agamemnon Tselikas, “has not yet submitted a written report”. This Tselikas did in May this year and the paper by Evans was presented at the Toronto conference a month earlier.

It is though not entirely correct that they came to different conclusions by comparing samples of Smith’s Greek with the Greek of the Mar Saba find. Venetia Anastasopoulou did compare the writing of the Clement letter to a number of examples of Smith’s Greek handwriting, and she came to the conclusion that based on the presented material, Morton Smith most probably did not write the Clement letter. Agamemnon Tselikas did not make such a thorough evaluation by comparing the handwriting, but mainly evaluated the writing in itself. He could not find anyone from Mar Saba with that particular hand and based on how some of the letters were drawn he did not think that it was written by a Greek-speaking monk. He therefore suggested that the letter is a forgery, and for other reasons (which to me seem quite obscure) he concluded that the most likely forger was Smith. When it came to the issue of Smith’s handwriting, Tselikas only made this conclusion:

A comparison of the handwriting of the Greek letters of Morton Smith with the handwriting of Clement’s letter can not give significant evidence that Morton Smith is the scribe, and this because as imitation, certainly the scribe of the letter would not use the own personal style. Nevertheless, some factors point to Morton Smith.

Tselikas then presents six comparative examples which are far from identical. Although I of course cannot challenge Tselikas’ expertise, I do find his conclusions to be quite extraordinary. He is saying that you cannot get any significant evidence by comparing the handwriting of the Clement letter with that of Morton Smith since an impersonator would not write in his own personal style. But is not this what a questioned document examiner to a certain degree of probability is supposed to decide by comparing an allegedly forged text to that of other handwriting samples?

Evans summarizes this issue by writing:

Where does this leave us with regard to Smith’s Mar Saba find? With uncertain and conflicting handwriting analysis. Carlson and two handwriting experts, one English-speaking and one Greek-speaking, think Smith wrote the document in question. Another Greek-speaking handwriting expert thinks he did not. Which conclusion is correct?

But the fact is that there has only been one handwriting analysis done in which Smith’s own handwriting has been thoroughly compared to that of the letter, and that analysis showed it to be highly unlikely that Smith could have written the text. Carlson’s analysis should be entirely dismissed because he is not a trained expert and besides made his analysis on distorted images. Edison should also be dismissed, since she is not qualified to evaluate Greek text and did not even analyze the text. Tselikas’ judgment is of course valid. But when it comes to deciding if Smith could have written the Clement letter in his own hand, also Tselikas fails to make (or refrains from making) any serious contribution since he has not presented an in depth analysis based on a comparison between the Clement letter and Smith’s Greek writing.

Roger Viklund, 2011-09-15

[1] Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, (2006), p. 95.

Så är debatten på Newsmill igång igen

Så är debatten på Newsmill igång igen. Fredrik Bendz fortsätter ”den stora Jesus-debatten” från där den tidigare avstannade genom sitt inlägg ”Evengeliernas [sic!] Jesus är en parallell till profeten Jesaja”.

Det jag framför allt fäste mig vid i Bendz’ inlägg var följande stycke:

”Detta att samtida historiker inte fann Jesus värd att nämna brukar förklaras med att Jesus inte var känd, eller att de inte tyckte att han var tillräckligt betydelsefull för att nämnas. Ändå hävdas det att en historisk Jesus på något sätt är nödvändig för att förklara kristendomens snabba utbredning. Men vad tillför en okänd Jesus till förklaringen av kristendomens snabba spridning? Den historiske Jesus som skulle bidra till denna förståelse är en Jesus som var berömd och betydelsefull, och som därigenom beskrevs av samtida historiker. Någon sådan Jesus finner vi inga spår av i historiska källor.”

Roger Viklund, 2011-09-12

Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined: Part Three

Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Craig A. Evans

Craig Evans believes that Clement’s letter to Theodoros is forged and that the forger is Morton Smith. The reasons for this, or what he above all finds most troubling, is one circumstance—namely “that themes of interest to Professor Smith, as seen in his publications before the finding of the Clementine letter, are found in the Clementine letter”. Evans then emphasizes two themes which he believes are the best examples. They are “(1) The “mystery of the kingdom of God” and prohibited sex, and (2) Markan materials omitted from Mark that exhibit Johannine traits.”

In the previous two posts (here and here) I examined Evans’ claim regarding the first theme; that Morton Smith linked the “mystery of the kingdom of God” to prohibited sex and that the first of the two quoted fragments from Secret Mark was describing a sexual scene in which Jesus and the youth were involved. I rejected both these interpretations. This time I will look into Evans’ second example regarding Smith’s prior suggestion that there would be “Markan materials omitted from Mark that exhibit Johannine traits”.

Craig Evans writes:

The second unusual feature that Smith surmised was that the evangelist Mark may well have omitted materials that contained Johannine traits. In his 1955 review of Taylor’s commentary Smith speaks of the possibility that the evangelist Mark may have omitted material. This, of course, is the point at issue in Clement’s Mar Saba letter—material omitted from the Markan Gospel. (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 12)

Evans starts by saying that Smith in “his 1955 review of Taylor’s commentary … speaks of the possibility that the evangelist Mark may have omitted material”. Now, first of all, how amazing would it really be if Smith had suggested such a thing? Is not this a fairly reasonable suggestion and one which must have been put forward by many? After all, Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels with lot of things missing if one compares it to the other gospels.

Anyway, in the footnote to this (42) Evans writes:

Smith, “Comments,” 35: Whatever did not serve Mark’s interests, “he would leave out as uninteresting, even if he did not deliberately censor it.” Recall also “Image of God,” 487, where Smith speaks of material that “has come down to us heavily censored.”

Taylor’s book is a commentary to the Gospel of Mark, and Smith is making a review of Taylor’s work. He describes his review as such:

TAYLOR’S WORK will influence the study of Mk. for years to come. Therefore it deserves such detailed criticism as the following, which should be considered a tribute to the book’s importance and to the great learning from which that importance derives. These, however, will be obvious to every reader; therefore this article is devoted to points which seemed to deserve correction rather than praise. (Morton Smith, Comments on Taylor’s Commentary on Mark, HTR, Vol. 48, No. 1, Jan., 1955, p. 21)

The part Evans is referring to is a comment upon Mark 6.6b-13 where Taylor writes:

“The narrative itself” (of the sending out of the twelve) ”is redactional. . . . Mark has no real appreciation of the immense importance of the event. . . . He does not tell us what the issue is. He records that the Twelve went out to preach, but does not relate their message apart from the phrase ἵνα μετανοῶσιν, and he has only vague ideas concerning their experiences and the results of the Mission”. (Morton Smith, Comments on Taylor’s Commentary on Mark, HTR, Vol. 48, No. 1, Jan., 1955, p. 33–34)

Smith regards Taylor’s statement that this narrative is redactional and that Mark does not appreciate the importance of the event, to be “true”. He says that Mark “not only knows nothing about the preaching adventures of the twelve, but does not even realize the importance of their mission to the course of events in Jesus’ life.” He also says that “it is necessary, in estimating the reliability of a tradition, not only to look for little, lifelike details, but also to notice major misunderstandings, errors, and the things which the author does not know.” Still Smith believes that “the tradition which governed the ordering of events in this part of Mk. may have been more reliable than T. believes” and he then gives examples of this. Smith thinks that the execution of John the Baptist would have worried Jesus and that it …

… would then be understandable that Jesus should take to the open country for a little rest (6.31). It is equally understandable that ‘Mark himself does not represent the movements of Jesus as a flight from Herod’ (p. 308). Mk. was remote from the historical situation, his interests were those of the Church of his day, and whatever did not serve those interests – e.g., whatever historical framework his sources may have contained – was just what he would leave out as uninteresting, even if he did not deliberately censor it. (Morton Smith, Comments on Taylor’s Commentary on Mark, HTR, Vol. 48, No. 1, Jan., 1955, p. 35)

It is accordingly Taylor’s original assumption that the story of the sending out of the twelve is redactional and that Mark “has no real appreciation of the immense importance of the event” and only have vague ideas concerning the disciples’ experiences, that leads Smith to conclude that Mark would leave out as uninteresting those things which did not serve the interests of the Church of his day.  This is a deduction Smith makes from his idea that the tradition on which Mark is relying is more reliable than Taylor believes. But why this would be a sign of Smith having unique ideas that would come true in the Mar Saba letter is something which at least I have difficulty understanding. Is there anyone who believes that the gospel authors wrote down everything they had heard of?

Craig Evans continues:

Smith also discusses Mark’s use of a source with “Johannine traits.” This is precisely what the first and long quotation of Secret Mark is—a passage with Johannine traits (cf. John 11, the raising of Lazarus) that had been omitted from public (i.e., canonical) Mark. (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 12–13)

In the footnote (43) to this statement, Evans writes:

Smith, “Comments,” 26: “ . . . what one would expect of a source with other Johannine traits” (and earlier on this page: “They have many points of contact with Jn.”).

But once again is Smith only reacting to Taylor’s analysis of the story of the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum in Mark 2. Taylor writes that “[t]he reference to forgiveness at a point where one expects the word of healing is abrupt” and that the “inference seems justified that Jesus traced the man’s plight to sin and believed that his spiritual restoration was a primary and indispensable condition to recovery.” But Smith believed that “[t]he introduction to the section supposes that two stories have been combined” and that “[s]uch a contradiction in an ancient document would lead one to suspect composite authorship”.

Smith continues to say that both authors may be wrong and that this “is suggested by the peculiarities of the Streitgespräche [contradictions] in which this story occurs”. As Evans correctly says, Smith then writes that “[t]hey have many points of contact with Jn” and Smith gives a number of examples to prove his point:

For instance, they contain the only passages in Mk. (2.10 & 28) in which Jesus prior to his trial is represented as using ‘the Son of Man’ publicly with apparent reference to himself. (In 8.38 the phrasing is such as to make the hearers think he is speaking of someone else.) In Jn. Jesus uses the term of himself publicly and frequently (v. esp. chs. 5 & 6 and 12.23–34). Other points of contact are Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of men’s hearts (Mk. 2.8 // Jn. 2.24 f.), his command to the paralytic (Mk. 2.11 // Jn. 5.8), the bridegroom metaphor (Mk. 2.19 // Jn. 3.29) and above all the use of miracles as a proof of his divine com- mission (Mk. 2.10, cf. Jn. 5.36 &c.) and the early plot against Jesus’ life motivated by his healing on the Sabbath (Mk. 3.6 // Jn. 5.16 ff.). Now two characteristics of Jn.’s style are sudden change of subject and use of apparent non sequitur. Using a miracle to break off an argument is just what one would expect of a source with other Johannine traits. Therefore its occurrence here need not be explained by the hypothesis that two stories have been combined. But if it is a Johannine trait, what lies behind it is probably allegory or deliberate Johannine obfuscation, not psychological diagnosis. John’s Jesus did not trace all afflictions to sin (Jn. 9.3). (Morton Smith, Comments on Taylor’s Commentary on Mark, HTR, Vol. 48, No. 1, Jan., 1955, p. 26)

I quoted this lengthy passage just to show how many similarities there are between Mark 2 and the Gospel of John. To claim that Smith by referring to such an obvious observation; one which almost every scholar in the field must be aware of, should have revealed that he forged the Clement letter is quite remarkable. Of course he knew that there were “points of contact” between John and Mark. By referring to this obvious fact, he was reacting to Taylor’s hesitation to acknowledge that two stories have been combined. That’s it!

Evans’ further claim that Smith would have suggested that “Mark may well have omitted materials that contained Johannine traits”. This however is not true. In the same way as regarding the mystery of the Kingdom of God and forbidden sexuality, Evans picks and chooses from different parts and tries to present the material as if Smith would have presented it all at one time.

But in the first example Smith only said that Mark omitted material, and he did not refer to anything Johannine. And in the second example Smith noticed that there are parallels between Mark and John, but he never said that Mark omitted anything. So Smith never said that “Mark may well have omitted materials that contained Johannine traits”. That is Evans’ own invention.

Evans also refers to Watson:

Watson comments: “Clement’s letter confirms Smith’s surmise that Mark may have ‘deliberately censored’ his sourcematerial, and that this source-material may have included proto-Johannine elements.” Quite so. (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 13)

Yet, Smith said the exact opposite, namely that Mark “would leave out as uninteresting” whatever did not serve the interests of Mark’s church “even if he did not deliberately censor it.” So, Watson claims that Smith would have said that Mark “’deliberately censored’ his sourcematerial” and Evans agrees (Quite so), although Smith said that he did not do that!

Evans’ third example is taken from Smith’s 1958 article The Image of God. He quotes a (cautiously cropped) section from the pages 486 and 487, and I give it in full beneath with the parts quoted by Evans marked in bold text:

Of these four bodies of evidence the works of the Biblical tradition, the Jewish literature of pagan style, the testimonia concerning Jews, and the archaeological material no one is complete by itself. Each must be constantly supplemented by reference to all the others. And each carries with it a reminder that the preserved material even when accessible represents only a small part of what once existed. By their very existence, they demonstrate how much has been lost; by the variety of the material they preserve, they prove the extent of our ignorance and tacitly warn of the danger of supposing that what is not to be found in them was never to be found at all.

This supposition would be dangerous in any field of ancient studies, but it is especially dangerous in the study of Judaism, because Jewish material has come down to us heavily censored. The censorship has been double an external censorship by Christian authorities and a domestic censorship by Jews. (The domestic censorship we have seen above, at work in Exodus Rabba, in the material collected by Hoffmann as Midrash Tannaim, and in the Targum on Psalms.) What material we have, is only such as got through this double sieve. Yet even this preserved material, as we have seen, testifies consistently to the hellenization of ancient Judaism. What, then, would have been the testimony of the material which has disappeared? We cannot be sure. (Morton Smith, The Image of God: Notes on the Hellenization of Judaism, with Especial Reference to Goodenough’s Work on Jewish Symbols,” BJRL 40 (1958): p. 486–487)

So, Smith is accordingly warning us to be cautious before we jump to conclusions by “supposing that what is not to be found in them was never to be found at all”. The “preserved material … represents only a small part of what once existed” and there is accordingly a lot of material which “has been lost”.

Evans asks the rhetorical question: “What ‘would have been the testimony of the material which has disappeared?’” He then provides us with an answer: “In one case we no longer need to ask this question. We now know. The Mar Saba Clementine provides us with some potentially shocking testimony, which almost disappeared, had it not been for Smith’s amazing discovery.”

But honestly, is this an argument in favor of Smith having forged the Mar Saba letter? The fact (and I use the word “fact”) that most of the works written in antiquity are lost, must be a well-known fact to almost every scholar in the field. It is so obvious that it normally goes without saying. That Smith emphasizes this circumstance is all due to him making a point. He is investigating the evidence for hellenization of Judaism; especially when it comes to regarding “man as an image of God“. He therefore examines the preserved written sources, but also in a true scholarly way is cautious and reminds us that it represents only a small part of what once existed.

Now, if this is how things work, then every scholar needs to be extremely guarded in what he says. If I myself, God forbid, in the future would make a discovery with a similar content and of a similar magnitude as the one Smith made, I am bound to be accused of having forged it, since also I have written that only a small part of the rich literature of Antiquity has survived; as also I have speculated that the author of the Gospel of Mark may have left out material and of course have noticed that there are points of contact” between “John” and “Mark”.

Roger Viklund, 2011-09-08