The Ending of Clement’s Letter to Theodoros – A New Explanation

Clement’s Letter to Theodoros ends with the following line: “Now the true explanation, and that which accords with the true philosophy”. Therefore, when Clement shall reveal the true explanation of the things he quoted from Secret Mark, the letter ends abruptly. There is also a lot of room left on this third page, so one cannot say that the scribe had to stop because there was nothing left to write on.

This abrupt ending has led to quite some speculations. Some has used this circumstance to argue that the letter is forged and that the forger (Morton Smith) just wanted to tease us by pointing to this true explanation, but not giving it. Myself, I have argued that since the interpretation of Secret Mark was only meant for those who were being perfected, the so-called true explanation was intentionally removed before the letter was made public. I am however not so sure about this anymore.

When you study something for a long time, you are bound to eventually discover something. I have lately been examining Agamemnon Tselikas’ claims more in detail, and among many rather strange statements he makes, he also thinks that the two dots ( : ) at the end of some of the lines are dividing marks, and then complains that they are sometimes erroneously used. But they are in fact merely added to make the right-hand margin straight. However, this study made me realize that also the last line of the Clement letter is “full”, and that the ending, lines up to this straight right-hand margin.

Is not this somewhat strange? If the letter was censored by the end being removed, what are the odds that when someone later copied that same letter, he would just by chance happen to fill the last line exactly so that the right-hand margin became straight? And the same objection can be made against any theory that a forger intentionally ended the letter at this point. What are the odds that when such a forged letter was copied into this book, the last line would just by pure chance happen to end exactly so that the right-hand margin became straight?

Could the copyist then have strived to make the letter end at this point by changing the sizes of the letters or increasing/decreasing the distances between letters and words? He could have done this to some extent, as he obviously did in the other lines. But these adaptations could then only be marginal. There is no indication that the last line differs from the other lines. The last line is for sure rather short compared to many other lines if the text is transcribed into printed Greek letters. It then together with line 9 becomes the shortest on page 3. This however, is primarily due to the word φιλοσοφίαν (filosofian) in which the letter φ twice is written rather wide. This scribe wrote φ in two ways,  wide and a bit more narrow while making a downward loop. He writes the wide φ if the following letter is an alpha or an omicron, and obviously also if it is an iota (although the φι-combination only occurs in φιλοσοφίαν, and then twice).

Apart from this quite wide word φιλοσοφίαν, the rest of the text of the last line looks more or less the same as the other lines. This could be seen by examining the last word of this line and accordingly of the letter, namely ἐξήγησις (explanation). The word ἐξήγησιν is found on line 25 of the first page. And although the endings σις and σιν are not written in the same way, the first five letters (ἐξήγη) are done exactly the same, and as can be seen in the image below, are also almost identically wide.

As can be seen, the letters and the distance between the letters are more or less the same. We are then left with the original issue; how come that the scribe happened to end where he ended? If the letter just happened to end where it did, and thereby fulfilling this scribe’s wish to keep the right-hand margin straight, that would be quite a coincidence. So if we do not want to cling to an improbable scenario, we need to find a better explanation than the suggestion that the letter – whether forged or genuine – ended with the word ἐξήγησις.

The only reasonable conclusion is accordingly, based on probability, that the scribe’s model text did not end at this point, but that the scribe decided, for whatever unknown reason, to end at this point. Maybe he needed to attend some ceremony and never got a chance later to finish his task?

And from this observation can be deduced that it strengthen the chance that the letter is genuine, because why would someone compose a forged letter but later decide not to copy it in its entirety just so that the last line would end at a point making the right-hand margin straight? However, if someone first composed the letter (say Clement) and then someone later copied it (say an eighteenth century Greek monk), this later copyist of course could take other considerations.

Roger Viklund, Mars 22, 2012


4 kommentarer

  1. Den andre BB said,

    23 mars, 2012 den 00:24

    Hej. Skrevs inte tidiga handskrifter med majuskler och stundom utan blanksteg, varför förhållandet till mariginalen i denna mycket sena handskrift – vilken väl rimligen hade en äldre snarare än samtida förlaga – knappast har någon betydelse? Eller missförstår jag något här?


  2. 23 mars, 2012 den 09:55

    Jag ska försöka förtydliga mig. Tselikas förutsätter av någon för mig outgrundlig anledning att förlagan var skriven med minuskler, alltså, små bokstäver och där rimligen orden är separerade av mellanrum – ungefär såsom brevet ser ut i den form vi har det. Men jag kan inte se hur det går att avgöra hur förlagan såg ut. Om den var gammal kan den mycket väl ha varit skriven med majuskler, således stora bokstäver och där som regel orden inte separerades av mellanrum utan bokstäverna bara vara skrivna i en lång följd.

    Min poäng gäller avslutningen av brevet. Vi kan som hypotes förutsätta att förlagan till brevet slutade med formuleringen: ”Den sanna förklaringen och den förklaring som är enligt den sanna filosofin är alltså …”. Brevet slutar alltså på ett rätt iögonfallande sätt med en ”fullständig” men oavslutad mening – med en ”cliffhanger”. Man kan ju tänka sig att en förfalskare medvetet lät förlagan till brevet sluta här. Likaså kan man tänka sig att någon som ville redigera förlagan till brevet så att förklaringen inte gavs, också valde att avsluta just här. Men i båda dessa fall så fattades beslutet att brevet (förlagan) skulle sluta med ordet exêgêsis innan det kopierades in i Vossius’ 1600-talsbok, och texten förelåg således klar i sin fulla längd före kopieringen.

    Utifrån dessa båda scenarier skulle alltså brevets längd vara fixerad innan det kopierades in på de tomma sidorna i boken och sannolikheten för att det då skulle sluta exakt så att högermarginalen blev rak är liten. Den är givetvis inte obefintlig, men låg. Av den anledningen verkar det rimligare att kopisten avslutade just här med en rak högermarginal fastän förlagan som han hade tillgång till inte slutade. Jag kan inte ge någon trovärdig förklaring till varför han beslutade sig för att avsluta – kanske han blev avbruten och inte fick möjlighet att senare fortsätta. Mitt resonemang bygger på denna objektiva iakttagelse parad med ett sannolikhetsresonemang. Men något absolut bevis är det givetvis inte.


  3. 23 mars, 2012 den 23:42

    Maybe it was just a copying exercise – a scrap of old paper lying around. Examples have survived from Oxyrhynchus


  4. jimmy said,

    26 mars, 2012 den 23:05

    ”Likaså kan man tänka sig att någon som ville redigera förlagan till brevet så att förklaringen inte gavs, också valde att avsluta just här.”

    Det viktiga kan ju vara det omnämnande som görs i brevet och inte det abrupta slutet. Om man velat redigera förlagan hade man nog hellre bränt upp det eller gömt det. Kombinationen att dölja och samtidigt tycka om att visa upp inför alla stämmer inte överens. Vad leder den kombinationen till? Ingen lovande kombination. Det finns ingen sämre.



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