Did Paul write that the Jews killed Jesus?

In 1 Thessalonians 2:14–16, there is an explicit statement that Jesus was killed by the Jews:

14 ὑμεῖς γὰρ μιμηταὶ ἐγενήθητε ἀδελφοί τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ τῶν οὐσῶν ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ὅτι τὰ αὐτὰ ἐπάθετε καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων συμφυλετῶν καθὼς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων

14 Be imitators, brothers, of the churches of God that are in Judea in Christ Jesus, because you yourselves suffer the same things by your own fellow citizens as they do by the Jews (or the Judeans),

15 τῶν καὶ τὸν κύριον ἀποκτεινάντων Ἰησοῦν καὶ τοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐκδιωξάντων καὶ θεῷ μὴ ἀρεσκόντων καὶ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ἐναντίων

15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us, and are not pleasing to God and to all people,

16 κωλυόντων ἡμᾶς τοῖς ἔθνεσιν λαλῆσαι ἵνα σωθῶσιν εἰς τὸ ἀναπληρῶσαι αὐτῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας πάντοτε ἔφθασεν δὲ ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος

16 who forbade us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved, in order to fill up the full measure of their sins always. But wrath has come upon them at last.

DidJesusExistIn Did Jesus Exist Bart D. Ehrman, much to my surprise, defends the authenticity of this passage. (Above, for the sake of convenience, I am using the translation Ehrman provides in his book.) I have searched his other books to see whether he changed his mind or actually held this position earlier. In God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer from 2008, he discusses this passage on p. 148ff without giving a hint [as far as I can tell through the preview at Amazon] that it might not be genuine. So obviously he has for some time believed that this passage was indeed written by Paul.

In Did Jesus Exist Ehrman writes:

Paul thinks that Jesus was killed at the instigation of “the Jews.” This is indicated in a passage that is much disputed—in this instance, not just among mythicists.

Ehrman is accordingly (and naturally) fully aware of the fact that this passage is disputed, in part or in its entirety. Paula Fredriksen, Pheme Perkins, Daryl Schmidt, Burton Mack, Birger A. Pearson, Wayne Meeks, Helmut Koester, S. G. F. Brandon, Paul W. Schmiedel, Richard Carrier, Raymond Brown and many more have suggested that the passage was in part or in its entirety not written by Paul.

After quoting 1 Thess 2:14–16, Ehrman refers to the last sentence where the wrath (of God) is said to have come upon the Jews at last:

It is this last sentence that has caused interpreters problems. What could Paul mean that the wrath of God has finally come upon the Jews (or Judeans)? That would seem to make sense if Paul were writing in the years after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans, that is, after 70 CE. But it seems to make less sense when this letter was actually written, around 49 CE. For that reason a number of scholars have argued that this entire passage has been inserted into 1 Thessalonians and that Paul therefore did not write it. In this view some Christian scribe, copying the letter after the destruction of Jerusalem, added it.

But Ehrman objects to this:

I myself do not agree with this interpretation, for a number of reasons. To begin with, if the only part of the passage that seems truly odd on the pen of Paul is the last sentence, then it would make better sense simply to say that it is this sentence that was added by the hypothetical Christian scribe. There is no reason to doubt the entire passage, just the last few words.

Ehrman makes a conditional sentence by saying “if the only part of the passage that seems truly odd on the pen of Paul is the last sentence, then …”. But he never discusses what the options are if also other parts of the passage are odd. In fact, he begins by saying, “if”, and then simply assumes that to be the case. I will soon return to the other objections.

Ehrman continues:

But I do not doubt even these. For one thing, what is the hard evidence that the words were not in the letter of 1 Thessalonians as Paul wrote it? There is none. We do not of course have the original of l Thessalonians; we have only later copies made by scribes. But in not a single one of these manuscripts is the line (let alone the paragraph) missing. Every surviving manuscript includes it. If the passage was added sometime after the fall of Jerusalem, say, near the end of the first Christian century or even in the second, when Christians started blaming the fall of Jerusalem on the fact that the Jews had killed Jesus, why is it that none of the manuscripts of l Thessalonians that were copied before the insertion was made left any trace on the manuscript record? Why were the older copies not copied at all? I think there needs to be better evidence of a scribal insertion before we are certain that it happened. And recall, we are not talking about the entire paragraph but only the last line.

I find this reasoning to be strained, particularly since the one who is making it is Bart Ehrman. First of all, it is not “we” but Ehrman who is only talking about the last line. It is he who has quickly travelled from “if the only part … is the last sentence” to “only the last line”. Secondly, are we only to suspect forgeries in those cases where we actually have textual evidence that the text is forged? This would mean that all forgeries could in fact be detected, since they all would show up as textual variants. Thirdly, the oldest manuscript containing First Thessalonians is p46 from c. 200 CE, and this does not even include 1 Thess 2:14-16. In fact, as far as I can tell, 1 Thess 2:14–16 is not attested anywhere until Codex Sinaiticus in the fourth century and this might even be the only evidence from the fourth century of this passage. Even though it is not missing in any single manuscripts where the lines are preserved and though it of course could be quoted by some Church Father, there really are not many early witnesses to this passage.

In fact, we can think of this as a three-stage rocket. First we have those few instances where we can be fairly certain that a word, a line, a chapter or an entire book is forged. For instance the ending of Mark (16:9–20) and the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1–11) has so much textual evidence that we “know” they were not originally in the Gospels of Mark and John respectively. Then we have those instances where we have ambiguous textual evidence, supporting different readings. They are (I suppose) more numerous and we can often guess the more probable reading. Finally we have those passages which have no or nearly no textual support for any other reading than the normative. In some of these cases the text looks really suspicious, but we have no way of knowing if an original reading has been altered. In fact, if the analogy with increasing number is valid, this group should include the majority of all alterations, although we have only a remote possibility of spotting most of them. If there are no obvious signs of forgery and no textual support for this, then we must assume that the text is genuine, although it might not be what the author actually wrote.

The problem here is what to do with quite obvious forgeries without any textual support? Are we to believe without textual evidence that the Jesus-saying in Matthew 16:18, that “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church”, was actually written by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, although this looks like a perfect example of something added to support the Roman Church?

Ehrman himself thinks that Second Thessalonians is a forgery because the author of that letter holds views that are opposed those that Paul holds in First Thessalonians:

It is particularly interesting that the author of 2 Thessalonians indicates that he taught his converts all these things already, when he was with them (2:5). If that’s the case, then how can one explain 1 Thessalonians? The problem there is that people think the end is supposed to come any day now, based on what Paul told them. But according to 2 Thessalonians Paul never taught any such thing. He taught that a whole sequence of events had to transpire before the end came. Moreover, if that is what he taught them, as 2 Thessalonians insists, then it is passing strange that he never reminds them of this teaching in 1 Thessalonians, where they obviously think that they were taught something else. (Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, p. 107)

In his exposition of the Testimonium Flavianum, Ehrman on the other hand accepts (or at least postulates) that there originally was a different and peeled-off version of the Testimonium written by Josephus, although not in a single one of the preserved manuscripts is this reconstruction supported. To paraphrase Ehrman, what is the hard evidence for that version in Josephus? There is none. We do not of course have the original of the Antiquities of the Jews; we have only later copies made by scribes. But every surviving Greek manuscript includes the normative version of the Testimonium. If an original passage was altered sometime before Eusebius in the third century, why is it that none of the manuscripts of either Josephus or Eusebius has left any trace on the manuscript record? Why were the older copies not copied at all?

Then what are we to make of 1 Thess 2:14–16? Is it really that important that the text is present in every one of the later manuscripts? I do not think so; because there are solid indications that Paul could not have written this.

1)      First of all, the fact that the wrath of God is said to have finally come upon the Jews definitely looks like it is referring to some catastrophic event that befell the Jews in the past. The obvious catastrophe is the destruction of the Templein 70 CE and the banishment of the Jews. And since First Thessalonians is believed to have been written by Paul c. 50 CE, he cannot possibly have known about this. One can therefore assume that this was written by someone other than Paul at any time after 70 CE. Any attempts to link this to Claudius’ expulsion of Jews from Rome maybe in the late 40’s are vain, not least because this letter of Paul is written to the church members of Thessaloniki.

2)      Nowhere else is Paul writing that the wrath of God already has come or is coming. At other occasions he writes about God’s wrath as something that will come in the future. See for example, Romans 2:5, 3:5, 4:15, 5:9 and so on.

3)      The anti-Jewish tone where the Jews are enemies [Ehrman translates this as “not pleasing”, however ἐναντίος rather means “opposed”] of all mankind, is in glaring contrast to what Paul writes elsewhere. Paul is depicted here as really intransigent, while elsewhere he hopes that the Jews eventually will turn to Christ. One could say that Paul here is taking the opposite position of the one we encounter in Romans chapter 9 to 11. In Romans 11:25–28, Paul says that all the Jews will be saved: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written”. 1 Thess 2:14–16 reflects thus seemingly a later and more Hellenistic anti-Jewish view, compared to Paul’s more pro-Jewish view. This argument is quite the same as the one Ehrman advances in order to deem 2 Thessalonians as non-Pauline; and besides, this sentence is also found in verse 15, the part which Ehrman sees no reason to suspect that Paul did not write.

4)      The line that it was the Jews who “killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets” also implies that Paul himself was not a Jew, which he obviously was and also said he was. In fact it was “the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus” and “they persecuted us”, and “they are not pleasing to God” and “they might be saved” and “wrath has come upon them”. In for instance Romans 11:1 Paul writes: “I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.” (see also Rom 9:3–5, 1 Cor 9:20 and Gal 2:15). Even more, many members of the congregations to which Paul wrote were also Jews. (see for instance Rom 9:24, 10:12 and 1 Cor 12:13). Why would he say to them that the Jews were enemies of all mankind?

5)      And finally, only in this passage does Paul blame the Jews for the death of Jesus. For example in 1 Corinthians 2:8, he instead argues that Jesus was killed by lower spiritual beings (“the rulers [archontes] of this age”). It is also quite obvious in Romans chapter 11 that Paul does not know that the Jews killed Jesus. In 11:3 he cites the words of Elijah in 1 Kings, namely that the Jews in the past had killed God’s prophets. Paul probably wrote Romans several years after he wrote 1 Thessalonians. If Paul already several years earlier when he wrote 1 Thessalonians had known that the Jews had killed Jesus, it is almost inevitable that he would have said so in Romans chapter 11 when he claimed that they killed God’s prophets. But Paul does not even hint at that. This is an additional indication that he had never heard that the Jews would have killed Jesus, and therefore did not write in 1 Thessalonians that they did.

There are accordingly good reasons to suspect that not only the last sentence in 1 Thess 2:16 is an addition, but that the entirety of 1 Thess 2:14–16 was not written by Paul.

Neil Godfrey lists even more arguments from Birger Pearson in favour of the passage being a forgery. Apart from the reasons I already have given, he says …

a)      The passage begins a second “thanksgiving section” in the letter — something that appears to be an anomaly in Paul’s letters

b)     This same passage begins with a repetition of the same words and phrases (or identical ones) as had been already written in 1:13ff [sic! 2:13ff?].

c)      The passage intrudes into a ‘travelogue’ or ‘apostolic parousia’ section, something used by Paul to declare his travel plans and desire to be with the congregation, etc. — Paul nowhere else breaks up a ‘travelogue’ section

d)     The passage urges one church to follow another church as an example — while elsewhere (including in chapter one of this same letter) Paul commands his churches to follow him, or praises them for doing so, as he follows Christ

e)      This passage points to a period of persecution of Christians in Judea between 44 and 66 (when the Jewish War against Rome began) CE — there is no other evidence for such persecution

Nevertheless, Ehrman gives additional reason to why he believes the passage was indeed written by Paul. He says:

The other point to stress is that Paul did think the wrath of God was already manifesting itself in this world. A key passage is Romans 1:18–32, where Paul states unequivocally, “For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven on all human ungodliness and unrighteousness, among those who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” When Paul says that God’s wrath is “being revealed,” he does not simply mean that it is there to be seen in some ethereal way. He means it is being manifested, powerfully made present. God’s wrath is even now being directed against all godless and unrighteous behavior. In this passage in Romans Paul is talking about God’s wrath now being directed against pagans who refuse to acknowledge him here at the end of time before Jesus returns from heaven. It would not be at all strange to think that he also thought that God’s wrath was being manifest against those Jewish people who also acted in such ungodly and unrighteous ways. And he has a full list of offenses against which God has responded.

This is though something quite different, as it here is said that he wrath of God is being revealed, while in 1 Thess 2:16 the wrath of God already has struck the Jews, meaning he already has “punished” them. This really suggests that the author had the destruction of the temple in mind. Further, we still have the statement in 2:15 that the Jews are opposed to (the enemies of) all people.

This is anyway how Ehrman summarises his discussion of the passage:

In short, I think that Paul originally wrote l Thessalonians 2:14-16. He certainly wrote everything up to verse 16. What this means, then, is that Paul believes that it was the Jews (or the Judeans) who were ultimately responsible for killing Jesus, a view shared by the writers of the Gospels as well, even though it does not sit well with those of us today who are outraged by the wicked use to which such views were put in the history of anti-Semitism.

Did you notice the shift from think to certainly to a fact?

a)      Ehrman thinks that Paul originally wrote l Thessalonians 2:14-16. He gives two reasons for this, there is no textual evidence to the contrary and Paul thought that the wrath of God was already manifesting itself in this world. To me these arguments are weak, but still they are valid arguments and obviously they have made him think that the passage was written by Paul.

b)     It is however a mystery how Ehrman can go from a personal opinion that l Thess 2:14-16 was written by Paul to a “certainty” that all of the verses 14 and 15 plus the beginning of verse 16 is genuine? He has not produced a shred of evidence that this would be the case, simply stated this as a fact of certainty.

c)      The next leap is yet even more breathtaking. From an unwarranted certainty he moves to make his case that “this means …that Paul believes that it was the Jews … who were ultimately responsible for killing Jesus”. To further emphasize this, he calls on the Gospels and thereby tries to prove that Paul was aware of the Gospel stories. But was not that what he was supposed to prove without bringing in the Gospels?

Ehrman thinks that Paul wrote all of l Thess 2:14-16 and from this, his own personal opinion, he draws the conclusion that this means that Paul believes that it was the Jews) who were ultimately responsible for killing Jesus. To this can also be added that Ehrman says that Paul believed that they were responsible for killing Jesus, not that they actually killed him. However, the author of l Thess 2:14-16 does not say that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus, but that that they actually killed him themselves. Ehrman has made an interpretation of the passage based on the Gospel stories, and thereby managed to find a point of agreement with the Gospel story that is not found in the passage. He can thereby use these circumstances to claim that Paul was aware that the Jews killed Jesus (who then obviously must have been a real person); and that he was killed around the year 30 CE, as is confirmed by “the fact” that he knows the Gospel story (that says that Jesus was killed c. 30 CE) which depicts the Jews as “responsible for killing Jesus” although not actually doing the killing themselves.

However, if there is any passage in the entire New Testament, where there is no textual support but which nevertheless is likely to have been added afterwards by someone else than the original author, then that passage is l Thessalonians 2:14-16.

Roger Viklund, May 2, 2012

Annonser

Agamemnon Tselikas’ Grammatical and Syntactic Comments Explored

An examination of Agamemnon Tselikas’

GRAMMATICAL AND SYNTACTIC COMMENTS


Agamemnon Tselikas, the Greek palaeographer contracted by Biblical Archaeology Review to examine the handwriting of Clement’s Letter to Theodoros, came to the conclusion that the letter is a forgery and “that the forger can not be [any] other person than Morton Smith or some other person under his orders.”

The reasons he gives for this are a combination of several arguments, of which I in this article will shed some light on one. Tselikas says in his summary that he …

“… noticed several grammatical errors in the text which we can divide into two categories: Those which are due to the ‘author’ and those which are due to the copyist. The first category concerns syntactic and meaning errors, which St. Clement would not be possible to make. The second category concerns the wrong dictation of some words. This phenomenon is frequent in the Byzantine and post Byzantine manuscripts and we can not give particular importance. However, if the scribe generally appears as an experienced and very careful, some of these mistakes show that he had not sufficient knowledge of the language.”

Tselikas accordingly divides his observations into two categories, those due to the author and those due to the copyist. The errors that might be due to the copyist are of minor importance and will not be dealt with in this survey, but the errors that might be due to the author (Clement) are of outmost importance. Tselikas claims that these are errors of syntax and grammar of a kind that Clement could not possibly make, and this study will investigate this issue.

The errors he thinks are due to the author are those he has listed under the numbers: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 28.

The errors he thinks are due to the copyist are those he has listed under the numbers: 3, 4, 5, 14, 15a, 16, 17, 18, 19, 25 and 27.

Number 26 is not included in any of these two lists, so I have just in case included it among errors due to the author, not knowing what Tselikas had in mind. There is no number 15a in Tselikas’ list, but a number 5a, which then probably is what Tselikas meant. This, anyway, is an error he thinks is due to the copyist.

I will primarily let scholars more knowledgeable in Greek than I am present their opinion. Since Morton Smith already made a thorough investigation of the language and presented this in his 1973 book Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, I will in most cases simply quote Smith.

Tselikas’ original remarks are set in red and bold text. They are from section B Grammatical and Syntactic Comments of his divided report. All the quotations from Smith follow upon the name Smith in bold and the page number(s) in Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark from where the quotations are made. Smith’s numerals “refer to the Stählin edition of Clement by volume, page, and, if a third number is given, line.” (CA, 7)

Smith also included summaries and quotations from remarks made upon the text by other scholars consulted by him. The shortenings A.W. stands for Albert Wifstrand, Professor of Greek in Lund, Sweden and a Classical philologist; A.D.N. for Arthur Darby Nock, Professor of the History of Religion in Harvard, USA; B.E. for Benedict Einarson, Professor of Classics at the University of Chicago, USA; W.M.C. for William Musgrave Calder III, a Classical philologist from Columbia University in New York, USA; C.M. for Claude Mondésert, a Jesuit at Fourvière, Lyon, France and a specialist on Clement of Alexandria; C.F.D.M for Charles Francis Digby Moule, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, U.K.; J.R. for John Reumann, Professor of the New Testament and Greek at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, USA; P.B. for Pierre Benoit, theologian, exegete, Koine Greek translator and Director of the École Biblique in Jerusalem, and; C.H.R. for Colin H. Roberts, Lecturer in Classics and Papyrology at St John’s College at the University of Oxford, U.K.

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Tselikas writes:

1. v. 3-4. Οὗτοιἁμαρτιῶν: The only verb that we can suppose is εἰσὶ after the word γάρ. The absence of the verb here is not probationary.

Theodoros I.3-4 (my emphasis)

οὗτοι γὰρ οἱ προφητευθέντες ἀστέρες πλανῆται· οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς στενῆς τῶν ἐντολῶν ὁ δοῦ εἰς ἀπέρατον ἄβυσσον πλανώμενοι τῶν σαρκικῶν καὶ ἐνσωμάτων ἁμαρτιῶν·

Smith’s translation

For these are the “wandering stars” referred to in the prophecy, who wander from the narrow road of the commandments into a boundless abyss of the carnal and bodily sins.

Smith 8:

οὗτοι γὰρ.  II.195.10, οὗτοι, φασίν, εἰσὶν οἱ ἐκ γενετῆς εὐνοῦχοι (initial, as in the letter); II.178.14 οὗτοι γὰρ οἱ (initial).

Tselikas claims that the verb εἰσί (εἶμι: to be or to go) should be present. However, it is allowed in Greek, as well as in English, to omit the copula, and no other expert who has examined the text has remarked on this. Besides, a word like “εἰσὶ” could easily have been lost at any point in the transcription process, and does not need to be an error due to the author.

Smith also refers to Stählin II.178.14, where οὗτοι γὰρ οἱ occurs as initial. I do not have access to book II. Nevertheless, this seems to be from Stromateis 23, which reads:

Οὗτοι γὰρ οἱ ἀνταγωνισταὶ παχεῖς καὶ Ὀλυμπικοὶ σφηκῶν ὡς εἰπεῖν εἰσι δριμύτεροι, καὶ μάλιστα ἡ ἡδονή, οὐ μόνον μεθ´ ἡμέραν, ἀλλὰ καὶ νύκτωρ ἐν αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἐνυπνίοις μετὰ γοητείας δελεαστικῶς ἐπιβουλεύουσα καὶ δάκνουσα.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

2. v. 7. ἐλευθέρους: It must be nominative and not accusative case (ἐλεύθεροι) in order to agree with the participle καυχώμενοι, because the subject is the same person.

Theodoros I.6-7

καὶ καυχώμενοι ἐλευθέρους εἶναι· δοῦλοι γεγόνασιν ἀνδραποδώδων

Smith’s translation

and, boasting that they are free, they have become slaves of servile desires.

Smith 12:

ἐλευθέρους.  I.269.31, etc. [the accusative in this construction is frequent in Greek of this period; see Radermacher, 181 and Schmid, II.57; III.81; IV.83,620. ἑαυτούς may be supplied. A.D.N. Nevertheless, the construction in this letter is difficult. The parallels in Radermacher and Schmid have for the most part expressed subjects of the infinitives and are not so hard as this instance, where the nominative participle is immediately followed by the accusative. Similarly Thucydides, I.12.1 and IV.84.2, where predicate adjectives of the infinitive are put into the accusative, are easier than that of this letter. If the text here is right, I can understand it only as influenced by ἑαυτούς of the preceding line. A.W.] Cf. Apoc. 3.9: τῶν λεγόντων ἑαυτοὺς Ἰουδαίους εἶναι. In the preceding phrase, the writer had been thinking of Apoc. 2.24. [If the text is corrupt, a possible emendation would be ἐλευθεροῦσθαι. C.H.R.] The content of the letter here is paralleled in II.216.24, where gnostic libertines are described as λεγόντων ἐλευθερίαν τὴν ὑπὸ ἡδονῆς δουλείαν.

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6. v. 19. Μάρκος: pleonasm.

Theodoros I.18–19

τοῦ δὲ Πέτρου μαρτυρήσαντος· παρῆλθεν εἰς Ἀλεξάνδρειαν ὁ Μάρκος.

Smith’s translation

But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over toAlexandria,

Tselikas must accordingly interpret “ὁ” as a relative pronoun, i.e. “ὁ Μάρκος” = “him Mark”. But why could this not simply be a “definite article”, i.e. “ὁ Μάρκος” = “the Mark”? Personal names in Greek are often given with a definite article, and ὁ is the singular and the masculine gender.  Daniel Wallace writes:

By the nature of the case, a proper name is definite without the article. If we read Παῦλος we do not think of translating it “a Paul.” Further, “the use of the art. w. personal names is varied; as a general rule the presence of the art. w. a personal name indicates that the pers. is known; the absence of the art. simply names him. . . . This rule, however, is subject to considerable modification. . . . “ … The difficulty with the article with proper names is twofold: (1) English usage does not correspond to it, and (2) we still cannot achieve “explanatory adequacy” with reference to the use of the article with proper names–that is we are unable to articulate clear and consistent principle as to why the article is used in a given instance. (For example, although sometimes it is due to anaphora, there are too many exceptions to make this a major principle.) What we can say, however, is that a proper name, with or without the article, is definitive. (Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics, p. 245–246)

One of the reasons for using the definite article is stated in Funk’s Grammar at 711.4:

When the individualizing article determines a “subject” previously introduced into the discussion, its use is known as anaphoric (anaphora: reference back [to something under discussion]).

Accordingly, since Mark is the object of this passage and was introduced in I.15, the mention of Mark again in I.19 is a reference back to I.15 and should therefore have the definite article ὁ.

The definite article ὁ in front of the name Markos can be found in for instance Cassius Dio, Roman History, 72.5.3:

“ὅτι ὁ Μάρκος ἐλάλει πρός τινα τῇ Λατίνων φωνῇ,

“Once when Marcus was talking to someone in Latin”

and in Polybius, Universal History, 8.5:

ἓως ὁ Μάρκος δυσθετούμενος ἠναγκάσθη λάθρᾳ νυκτὸς ἒτι ποιήσασθαι τὴν παραγωγήν.

In the end Marcellus [Markos] was reduced in despair to bringing up his ships secretly under cover of darkness.

Even Eusebius of Caesarea uses the same definite article before Markos in Quaestiones evangelicae ad Marinum, 3, 00034:

τὸν δὲ τῆς τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἐπιφανείας, τὸν πρωῒ, ὃν ἔγραψεν ὁ Μάρκος εἰπὼν ὃ καὶ μετὰ διαστολῆς ἀναγνωστέον «ἀναστὰς δέ·»

… and that of the Saviour’s appearance, “early in the morning”, as written by Mark in words to be read as including a pause: “Having risen again”.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

7. v. 19. τα ταυτου: In τα the accent is missed and in ταυ the soft spirit, ie. He ought write τὰ ταὐτου. But the more probationary was to write τὰ ἑαυτοῦ.

Tselikas transcribes this as τα ταυτοῦ while Smith transcribes it as ταταυτου.

Theodoros I.19–20

καὶ ταταυτοῦ καὶ τὰ τοῦ Πέτρου ὑπομνήματα

Smith’s translation

bringing both his own notes and those of Peter,

Smith’s transcription is supported by the fact that two rows above on line 17 there is another instance of τατα (in the word χρησιμωτάτας) which looks the same and, although the two syllables of τα are written as separate units (χρησιμω τά τας), they obviously are part of the same word.

Smith 27:

καί . . . τ᾿ . . . καί.  [If one reads καὶ τά τ᾿ ατοῦ καὶ τὰ τοῦ Πέτρου, which I find preferable to τὰ ἑαυτοῦ, the καί . . . καί cannot mean ”both … and,” because a τέ cannot be combined with a καί in this manner, but the last καί must be connected with the τέ and the first καί is connected closely with κομίζων and stands for ”also.” He carried with himself also his own and Peter’s hypomnemata. A.W.]

Smith 28:

τὰ αὑτοῦ.  MS, ταταυτοῦ. [A.D.N. would read τά τ᾿ ατοῦ, on the supposition that the copyist did not understand the letters he found in his MS and so reproduced them en bloc.] This would suggest that he may have had before him a MS without accents and breathings. [But had that been the case, there would have been many more instances of omitted accents and of false divisions. I suspect that an ancestor had τὰ αὑτοῦ, which became ταυτοῦ. This can represent either τὰ αὑτοῦ or τοῦ αὐτοῦ. To show that it represented τὰ αὑτοῦ someone superscribed τὰ―hence ταταυτοῦ. καὶ τά τ᾿ ατοῦ καί is odd Greek; I should expect καὶ τὰ ατοῦ or (omitting καί) τά τε αὑτοῦ. B.E.] Stählin, I.XXXVIf, remarks on the frequency with which his manuscript used ατοῦ, etc., after articles, in place of the reflexive forms, and omitted the coronis in crasis. However, I think the error here must be given an explanation which will accord with the amazing correctness of the rest of the MS. I should suppose, therefore, that the writer found a folio of an uncial MS with few or no explanatory signs or word divisions. Therefore he studied it carefully, correcting the spelling, marking the divisions, adding accents, breathings, and the like. Along with his other changes he indicated by a superscribed τά, as B.E. suggests, that ΤΑΥΤΟΥ, which stood in his text, was to be understood as τὰ αὑτοῦ. Then he copied his corrected text into his book. He was pressed for time when he copied, and therefore made a number of minor mistakes, of which ταταυτοῦ was one.

There is accordingly no reason to presuppose that Clement made an error, as this just as easily could be an error made in the transcription.

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8. v. 24. ἐπιθεὶς: More probationary was to write προσθείς.

Theodore I.24 (my emphasis)

ἀλλὰ ταῖς προγεγραμμέναις πράξεσιν ἐπιθεὶς καὶ ἄλλας

Smith’s translation (my emphasis)

but to the stories already written he added yet others

Smith 39:

ἐπιθείς.  The same form is used, as here, of literary addition, with the dative and accusative, II.305.6. [However, in II.305.6 the ἐπιθείς occurs as part of the set phrase ἐπιθεῖναι τὸν κολοφῶνα. Apart from this phrase, ἐπιθεῖναί τι τοῖς προγεγραμμένοις is not very common in Clement’s time; the ordinary would be προσθεῖναι; but cf. Apoc. 22.18. A.W.]

And Revelation 22:18 reads in GNT Morph (my emphases):

μαρτυρῶ ἐγὼ παντὶ τῷ ἀκούοντι τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου ἐάν τις ἐπιθῇ ἐπ’ αὐτά ἐπιθήσει ὁ θεὸς ἐπ’ αὐτὸν τὰς πληγὰς τὰς γεγραμμένας ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τούτῳ

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. (NIV)

The word ἐπιθείς was then unusual, however not non-existent, since it was used in for instance the Book of Revelation. And we should be aware of the fact that there of course were many more words and expressions in use than what are attested in the preserved literature.

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9. v. 25. μυσταγωγήσειν: The dependance of the infinitive is unclear. If it depends from the verb προσεπήγαγε, then it must be a participle of the purpose and not infinitive, ie. μυσταγωγήσων Μάρκος, which agree to the sense of the phrase. If it depends from ἠπίστατο, then the subject is τὴν ἐξήγησιν, that is fully not probationary.

Theodoros I.24–26 (my emphases)

ἔτι προσεπήγαγε λόγιά τινα ὧν ἠπίστατο τὴν ἐξήγησιν μυσταγωγήσειν τὸυς ἀκροατὰς εἰς τὸ ἄδυτον τῆς ἐπτάκις κεκαλυμμένης ἀληθείας· οὕτως οὖν τὰς εἰς τὸ ἄδυτον τῆς ἐπτάκις κεκαλυμμένης ἀληθείας·

Smith’s translation: (my emphases)

moreover, brought in certain sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of truth hidden by seven veils.

Smith 40:

μυσταγωγήσειν.  Also in III.161.18 where, as here, it refers to advanced instruction evidently effected by “exegesis” of “the Lord’s sayings.” Again, with the same sense, in II.320.7, where the mystery imagery is further developed with emphasis on the ᾄρρητα. Gnostic teachers are described as μυσταγωγοί in III.75.7. That Clement conceived of documents, especially the books of Scripture, and their interpretation as means of gnostic initiation is shown by Völker, 354ff. The method which the letter ascribes to Mark is that followed in the earliest period of rabbinic mystical speculation but already being abandoned in the time of Clement. Scholem writes, Gnosticism 31: “Tannaïtic tradition has it that a pupil who is found worthy to begin a study of mystical lore is given . . . only . . . ‘beginnings of chapters,’ whose function is only to point to the subject matter to be dealt with and leaves to the student the task of proving his understanding.” For this Scholem finds evidence in the Talmud Yerushalmi (hereinafter J.) Hagigah II.1(77a), and he concludes that texts giving full accounts of secret doctrine are post-Tannaïtic (third century or later) “even though much of the material itself may belong to the Tannaïtic period—which, of course, was, at the same time, the flowering season of Gnosticism.”

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10. v. 27. προπαρεσκεύασεν: It is not clear what is the object of the verb, his Gospel or himself before his death?

Theodoros I.26–27

οὕτως οὖν προπαρεσκεύασεν· οὐ φθονερῶς οὐδ’ ἀπροφυλάκτως

Smith’s translation

Thus, in sum, he prepared matters, neither grudgingly nor incautionously, in my opinion,

προπαρεσκεύασεν = prepare beforehand

Smith 41:

Προπαρεσκεύασεν.  II.422.17. Since LSJ s.v. reports the absolute use only of the middle forms of the verb, some object (“the text”? “matters”?) is probably to be understood here. [An object is similarly understood in Aristotle, Historia animalium 613a4. Cf. the use with ὅπως and a verb in the future, Plato, Gorgias 503a, 510d. A.D.N.]

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11. v. 30-32. Τῶν δὲ μιαρῶνὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν: The whole phrase has wrong syntax. It must be: Ὑπὸ δὲ τῶν μιαρῶν δαιμόνων ὄλεθρον τῷ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένει πάντοτε μηχανώντων Καρποκράτης διδαχθείς.

Theodoros II.2–4

τῶν δὲ μιαρῶν δαιμόνων ὄλεθρον τῷ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένει πάντοτε μηχανώντων· ὁ Καρποκράτης· ὑπ’ αὐτῶν διδαχθεὶς·

Smith’s translation

But since the foul demons are always devising destruction for the race of men, Carpocrates, instructed by them …

Tselikas accordingly wants the sentence to begin with “Ὑπὸ δὲ τῶν” instead of “τῶν δὲ” and the “ὑπ’ αὐτῶν” (by them) at the end to be removed.

Smith 45:

τῶν . . . μηχανώντων.  Initial genitive absolute indicating cause or prior condition (“since”), I.90.2f. Genitive absolutes are rare in Clement, but occasionally he uses a number in quick succession, e.g. II.212.29–213.4 (5 in 8 lines). They appear in his narrative style, as here, in III.188.3 and 12ff.

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12. v. 31. μηχανώντων: The grammatical form of active voice of the verb was never in use. Only once we find the verb μηχανῶ. The usual and probationary is μηχανωμένων.

Theodoros II.2–4

τῶν δὲ μιαρῶν δαιμόνων ὄλεθρον τῷ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένει πάντοτε μηχανώντων· ὁ Καρποκράτης· ὑπ’ αὐτῶν διδαχθεὶς·

Smith’s translation

But since the foul demons are always devising destruction for the race of men, Carpocrates, instructed by them …

Smith 45–46:

μχηανώντων. [sic! μηχανώντων] Clement uses the middle in I.261.25, with dative (ἡμῖν understood) and accusative, as here. The active appears only in poetry, ἀτάσθαλα μηχανόωντας (Odyssey XVIII.143), which was echoed by Apollonius Rhodius, III.583, and of which the phrasing of the letter may be reminiscent. [Cf. the echo of Sophocles, below, II.14–15; the active of μηχανάω appears also in Sophocles, Inachus 21 (SP III.24) and Ajax 1037. On the latter passage Kamerbeek, Ajax, remarks, “It would seem that the rare active use here raises the verb above the all-too-human sphere . . . Note also the sinister associations of ambush and guile inherent in the verb μηχανᾶν.” The uses of the passive in Sophocles, Trachiniae 586 and elsewhere, also imply the existence of an active. W.M.C.] Clement frequently quoted and paraphrased Homer (IV.41f, four columns of references, including a quotation of Odyssey XVIII.130 in II.202.7), and his prose contains many words described in LSJ as primarily poetical and appearing in prose only in the work of “late” writers, that is writers of about Clement’s time. Besides these words, Clement uses in prose a considerable number of words cited in LSJ only from poetry. Of these latter, inspection of Stählin’s index from ααμ alone has yielded ἀεικίζω, 1.40.6; ἀθυρόγλωσσος, I.253.13, etc.; ἀλετρίβανος, I.155.20; and ἀμβρόσιος, I.197.1. Therefore this use of a poetical form is not atypical of Clements’ [sic!] style. [On this point I am particularly happy to record the agreement of C.M., who has had so much experience in edition and translation of Clement’s Greek.]

That the “grammatical form of active voice of the verb was never in use”, as Tselikas claims, must accordingly be seen as an exaggeration, as it was used in poetry. Furthermore, Clement often used words primarily poetical and in his prose a considerable number of words from poetry.

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13. v. 32. ἀπατηλοῖς: It must be corrected in ἀπατηλαῖς.

Theodoros II.4

ὑπ’ αὐτῶν διδαχθεὶς· καὶ ἀπατηλοῖς τέχναις χρησάμενος

Smith’s translation

instructed by them and using deceitful arts

Smith 47:

ἀπατηλοῖς τέχναις.  1.47.28, ἀπατηλὸν τέχνην, of art used to make images. Here too the adjective is of the second declension. In the letter it probably refers to magical practices [though A.D.N. thinks this reference not certain]. Clement uses it with this reference in 1.4.23, etc. The Carpocratians were widely accused of magical practices, Irenaeus (Harvey, 1.20.2 = Stieren 1.25.3); Hippolytus, Philosophumena VII.32; Epiphanius, Panarion XXVII.3; etc. Clement in his recognized works does not mention the accusation, but he had no occasion to do so.

Even if this is an error, there is no reason why it could not be an error that occurred in any of the subsequent transcriptions we must presume have been done from the original autograph. After all, the “dispute” is simply about one letter – an alpha or an omicron. I cannot possibly see why this need to be an “error” made by the author (Clement?)

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15. v. 34. ἀπόγραφον: This word with the meaning of a copy of book and not of the imitation of a text is very modern. The correct word must be ἀντίγραφον.

Theodoros II.5–6

οὕτω πρεσβύτερόν τινα τῆς ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ ἐκκλησίας κατεδούλωσεν ὥστε παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἐκόμισεν ἀπόγραφον τοῦ μυστικοῦ εὐαγγελίου·

Smith’s translation

… so enslaved a certain presbyter of the church in Alexandria that he got from him a copy of the secret Gospel

Smith 49:

ἀπόγραφον.  Not in Clement—who has, however, ἀπογράφεσθαι, meaning “to copy,” II.471.7. ἀπόγραφον meaning “copy” or “imitation” is used by Cicero, Ad Atticum XII.52 end (overlooked by Oksala, 158); ἀπόγραφος with the same meaning appears in Dionysius Hal., Usener-Raderm., Isaeus 11. In Diogenes Laertius, VI.84, ἀπόγραφος is taken by R. Hicks, in the Loeb translation, to mean “an imitator” [but more likely it means “a copy”—B.E.]. ἀπόγραφον is, in the preserved literature, a rare word; one can hardly believe that an imitator would have chosen it instead of the common ἀντίγραφον. [But the rarity of ἀπόγραφον is no argument against Clement’s possible use of it. A great many words which must have been common in ancient everyday usage are extremely rare in the preserved literature; see the numerous examples in the vocabulary of Krauss, Lehnwörter. A.D.N. Moreover, ἀπόγραφον (-ος) has a contemptuous sense not found in ἀντίγραφον. Thus in Cicero, Diogenes, and perhaps Dionysius ἀπόγραφον is dyslogistic. B.E. With this opinion, however, A.D.N. disagrees, contending thatCicero was only “apologizing whimsically for his philosophical works,” and that “when you speak of a man as being a copy, you imply inferiority; it is not so with a book.”] But the usage in this letter seems to support the opinion of B.E.

Accordingly, the word ἀπόγραφον was used in this time in this sense, and was in this context a more suitable option than the more common ἀντίγραφον, which lacks the contemptuous sense that ἀπόγραφον has. As Smith puts it: “one can hardly believe that an imitator would have chosen” ἀπόγραφον “instead of the common ἀντίγραφον” – unless, of course, one presupposes that the genius of Smith “the forger” allowed him to foresee this argument: he chose this awkward word, so that he could later defend its use in his published analysis of Secret Mark.

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20. v. 38-40: οὐδὲ προτείνουσιν … εὐαγγέλιον: The syntax is very dense. Προτείνουσιν as dative of person referent to εἰκτέον and ἀρνητέον suppose to be ἡμῖν. But the words προτείνουσιν αὐτοῖς have the position of dative referent to συγχωρητέον, and so an infitive is missing (for ex. λέγειν, διατείνεσθαι), from which must depend the phrase εἶναι τοῦ Μάρκου τὸ μυστικὸν εὐαγγέλιον. The sense is: It is not permited to those who suggest the lies to sustain that this is the secret gospel of Marc.

Theodoros II.10–12

τούτοις οὖν· καθὼς καὶ προείρηκα· οὐδέποτε εἰκτέον. οὐδὲ προτείνουσιν αὐτοῖς τὰ κατεψευσμένα συγχωρητέον τοῦ Μάρκου εἶναι τὸ μυστικὸν εὐαγγέλιον, ἀλλὰ καὶ μεθ’ ὅρκου ἀρνητέον.

Smith’s translation

“To them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath.”

Scott G. Brown, on the other hand, prefers the translation (he has adapted from C. Mondésert’s translation given by Smith in CA, 52: “c’est là l’ ‘Evangile mystique’ de Marc”):

“To them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that it is Mark’s mystic Gospel, but should even deny it on oath.” (Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery, Wilfrid Laurier, 2005, p. xx)

Smith translates the sentence such that one should not concede that the Secret Gospel is written by Mark, while Brown translates is such that one should not concede that the Carpocratian Gospel is the same Gospel as the Mystic Gospel and written by Mark. Apart from the fact that Brown’s translation better corresponds with the inward sense of the letter, it also seems to better correspond with the Greek. Tselikas makes a similar interpretation as Brown by translating, that to those who suggest the lies (i.e. the Carpocratian mutilated version of the Gospel) should not be conceded [permitted] that this Gospel is by Mark.

Since this seem to be the best translation of the text and since the text then also makes perfect sense, I cannot see what it is that Tselikas reacts against and why Clement could not have written it.

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21. v. 41. ἀληθῆ: More correctly must be τἀληθῆ.

Theodoros II.12–13

οὐ γὰρ ἅπασι πάντα ἀληθῆ λεκτέον.

Smith’s translation

For, ”Not all true things are to be said to all men.”

Smith 54–55:

οὐ γάρ . . . λεκτέον.  This saying appeared in Philo, Questions . . . on Genesis IV.67, from which it was quoted by Procopius in his commentary on Genesis in the form οὐ πάντα ἀληθῆ λεκτέον ἅπασιν. Philo’s text, according to the preserved Armenian translation, went on to elaborate the principle and to teach (in IV.69) that “the wise man requires a versatile art from which he may profit in imitating those mockers who say one thing and do another in order to save whom they can” (my italics). This text strikingly parallels Paul’s claim in I Cor. 9.22, “I became all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” Since influence of Philo on Paul or of Paul on Philo is almost out of the question, it would seem likely that these two passages derive from a single source. The common-sense idea behind them had long been familiar in ancient philosophy. Diogenes Laertius, VIII.15, quotes from Aristoxenus, as a saying of certain Pythagoreans, μὴ εἶναι πρὸς πάντας πάντα ῥητά; for further examples see Reumann, Οἰκονομία. From philosophy and common sense alike it was taken over by early Christianity, where the example of the Apostles—and especially that of Paul—is often cited to justify the use of deception for good ends (Bauer, Rechtgläubigkeit, 41f; cf. above, on μέθ᾿ ὅρκου). Clement, as remarked above, shared this early Christian belief, which he summed up with the words τῷ μὴ πάντων εἶναι τν ἀλήθειαν (II.497.16) and understood as a principle even of divine revelation; cf. Sibylline Oracles XII(X).290f, τὸ δ᾿ οὐχ ἅμα πάντες ἴσασιν. οὐ γὰρ πάντων πάντα. Clement was deeply indebted to Philo (IV.47ff, 7 columns of citations—more than any other non-Christian author except Plato, who has 10). Both his similarity to Philo and his borrowing from him have resulted in considerable confusion in medieval MSS, where many passages now found only in Philo are attributed to Clement (III.LXXI–LXXXII). Among these are at least two from Questions . . . on Genesis (III.LXXIV, no. 511.15; LXXX, no. 339). Moreover, Clement himself appropriated without acknowledgment two considerable sections of Questions . . . on Genesis (II.474.1–20; 474.23–475.11). Therefore this saying may have come into the letter from Philo; cf. Reumann’s note on τἀληθῆ above, on I.10. On the other hand, it may have been a popular proverb (though it does not appear in the Corpus paroemiographorum). For further parallels to the idea see Nock, review of Goodenough V–VI, 527ff and, for the relation of Paul to Philo, Chadwick, St. Paul and Philo. On 297f Chadwick discusses the question of veracity; he has an additional parallel to the present passage (Cherubim 15).

And this is the passage to which Smith refers regarding Reumann’s note on τἀληθῆ in I.10.

Smith 14:

τἀληθῆ.  II.517.14; III.162.11, with crasis; II.465.14; III.66.5, without crasis; these irregularities in the use of crasis are probably scribal, but Stählin notes them also in the other MSS of Clement, IV.223 s.v. ἀλλά. Ἀληθῆ without the article, as a substantive, III.39.14, where Clement explains that the true Christian will sometimes lie, as might a doctor, for therapeutic purposes—a principle he justifies by appeal to the example of St. Paul (Acts 16.3; I Cor. 9.19f). [Cf. Philo, Questions . . . on Genesis IV.204. J.R.] It is characteristic of Clement to talk most of truth when recommending falsity.

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22. v. 44. ἔχοντος ἀρθήσεται: The passage must be completed as follows: τοῦ δὲ μὴ ἔχοντος καὶ ἔχει ἀρθήσεται.

Accordingly not:      τοῦ δὲ μὴ ἔχοντος ἀρθήσεται·

But instead:            τοῦ δὲ μὴ ἔχοντος καὶ ὃ ἔχει ἀρθήσεται.

Matt 25:29 reads:   τοῦ δὲ μὴ ἔχοντος καὶ ὃ ἔχει ἀρθήσεται ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ

This is accordingly a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, however shorter than what is found in the preserved gospel. Even if this would be an error (which, as Smith explains, it hardly can be said to be) one would not suspect a forger to make such a mistake as to make an incorrect quotation from a gospel.

Smith 57:

τοῦ . . . ἀρθήσεται.  Mt 25.29 ||Luk 19.26. The text is considerably shorter than that now found in the Gospels. This might be the result of deliberate abbreviation. However, Clement’s text of this verse probably differed in much the same way from that preserved. He quotes the first half twice (II.10.21 and III.41.7), both times in the form τῷ ἔχοντιπροστεθήσεται, which differs from the preserved forms of the first half as the text of the letter does from those of the second. Moreover, Clement’s text and that of the letter, put together, yield a simple, epigrammatic, rythmically [sic!] balanced version of the verse; the Matthaean and Lucan forms are unbalanced and cluttered. This does not prove the simple form the original form. [Simplicity is often the result of revision—A.D.N.] But it strongly suggests that the letter, since it contains the second half of the simple form, comes from Clement, in whose works we find the (parallel) first half of the simple form. (II.100.1ff and 263.25, which Stählin took as references to this passage, are probably from an extracanonical logion, combined in 263.25 with Mt. 6.33 || Lk. 12.31. The tradition of the saying is extremely complex; see Lindeskog, Logiastudien.)

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23. v. 44. μωρὸς ἐν σκότει πορευέσθω: Cf. ἄφρων ἐν σκότει πορεύεται (Ecclesiastes 2, 14, 2).

Theodoros II.16

καὶ ὁ μωρὸς ἐν σκότει πορευέσθω

Smith’s translation

and, ”Let the fool walk in darkness.”

Smith 58:

μωρός . . . πορευέσθω.  Ecclesiastes 2.14. Clement quotes Eccles. in II.37.3ff (1.16ff) and 8f (7.12), and in II.385.18ff (1.2), each time in texts almost identical with LXX. The text in the letter differs from LXX by substituting μωρός for ἄφρων (as did the above quotation from Prov. 26.5) and πορευέσθω for πορεύεται. The Hebrew text has holek (πορεύεται) and no variants are noted, so this latter difference may be interpretive. [It may also have been motivated at least in part by stylistic considerations. The imperative is more vigorous Greek. A writer with atticizing traits, like Clement, would prefer it. Similarly, De sublimitate IX.9 has γενέσθω φῶς . . . γενέσθω γῆ, where LXX has γενηθήτω. W.M.C.] Clement’s willingness to alter scriptual [sic!] quotations to suit his purposes is noted by Kutter, 22; Tollington, II.178; and others. [It may well have been subconscious, since he quoted from memory. A.D.N.] His use of an OT quotation, as here, to follow and clinch a NT one, is found in II.131.20–29 (the “NT” one is from Barnabas) ;135.23–31; 141.22–24; etc.

This is accordingly also a quotation, although not exactly the same as the text of Ecclesiastes 2.14 in Septuaginta.

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24. v. 47. ἠρωτημένα: More appropriate would be πρός τά ἠρωτημένα or τοῖς ἐρωτηθεῖσιν.

Theodoros II.19–20 with my addition of τῶν.

σοὶ τοίνυν οὐκ ὀκνήσω τὰ ἠρωτημένα ἀποκρίνασθαι· δι’ αὐτῶν [τῶν] τοῦ εὐαγγελίου λέξεων τὰ κατεψευσμένα ἐλέγχων

Smith’s translation

To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel.

Smith 61:

τ ρωτημένα.  Clement uses the verb often (Stählin does not index it fully) and has the perfect middle passive in III.163.32. The perfect participle meaning, as here, “the questions which have been asked” is found in Plato, Laws 662e.

Smith 61:

<τῶν>.  Possibly omitted by the copyist through homoioteleuton; cf. II. 495.4. [A.W. thinks its insertion necessary, especially if one thinks the letter written by Clement. B.E. also suggests it. A.D.N. disagrees.]

Homeoteleuton (Greek: μοιοτέλευτον) means that the endings of (two) following words are repeated. In this case we could presume that the word αὐτῶν was followed by τῶν. The scribe then lost sight of the two repeating τῶνs and lost the second one. If the model was written in majuscules, than the text could have looked similar to this: ΑΠΟΚΡΙΝΑΣΘΑΙΔΙΑΥΤΩΝΤΩΝΤΟΥΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΥ. The scribe would then have missed the ΤΩΝΤΩΝ and only copied one ΤΩΝ in αὐτῶν, and left out the following τῶν.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

26. v. 61. ἐπέταξεν αὐτῷ Ἰησοῦς: An infinitive as object of ἐπέταξεν is missing, eg. ἐλθεῖν.

Theodoros III.6–7

καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέρας ἓξ ἐπέταξεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς

Smith’s translation

And after six days Jesus told him what to do

If Tselikas intended this to be included among the things Clement could not have written, it should be noticed that this is supposed to be a quotation from Secret Mark. You cannot blame Clement for incorrect grammar in the things he quoted.

Smith 115:

ἐπέταξεν.  The verb: 4 in Mk., never in Mt., 4 in Lk. (1 Markan) + 1 in D. The person commanded is always in the dative. The form ἐπέταξεν occurs twice in Mk. and in the D variant to Lk. (8.55). ἐπέταξεν Ἰησοῦς αὐτοῖς is found in Dit. to Mk. 6.39 (where other witnesses lack Ἰησοῦς). These parallels demonstrate merely that the word was used normally by Mk. and Luk. The peculiarity here is the failure to specify the content of Jesus’ command; that is understood from the context, as in Mk. 1.27; Lk. 4.36; 8 25. [C.F.D.M., however, remarks that ἐπέταξεν αὐτῷ without direct object is odd, and the parallels adduced here are not quite similar for in all of them the content of the verb is perfectly clear. Moreover, why did the young man have to come to Jesus and stay with him, if Jesus was at his house?] The direct object may have been part of the secret oral teaching. It will be argued later that the young man came to Jesus to receive baptism conceived as a magically efficacious rite. If so, he had to come to Jesus becauses [sic!] Jesus had to prepare (purify? exorcise?) the area and the materials for the rite. The story suggests a large house, perhaps a villa. The young man was rich. Jesus and his followers may have been given a wing for themselves.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

28. v. 69. αὐτὸν: pleonasm

Theodoros III.14–15

καὶ ἦσαν ἐκεῖ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ νεανίσκου ὃν ἠγάπα αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς

Smith’s translation with my insertion of “him”

And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved [him] and his mother and Salome were there

This is also part of that which Clement quoted from the so-called Secret or Mystic Gospel of Mark, and accordingly the language in this passage is nothing Clement can be held responsible for. You cannot accuse Clement (or even a forger?) for using bad grammar in quotations from the Gospels. And this is a passage which Tselikas definitely includes among the mistakes he thinks Clement never could have made.

This pleonasm is also typical of “Mark”. The sentence verbatim reads “whom Jesus loved him”. This type of construction, with the interposed “him”, is foreign to standard Greek, but not only typical for Semitic languages, also in most cases necessary, and reveals that the original author of this text (Mark?) probably had a Semitic language as his native language.

Smith 120:

Further evidence that the longer text did not get its formula from Jn. appears in the pleonastic αὐτὸν, to which the uses in Jn. afford no parallel, and which a writer familiar with Greek would hardly have added; it is probably a Semitism—cf. ἧς . . . αὐτῆς in II.23, above, and the note there. [P.B. would distinguish the examples of this construction in the longer text and in Mt., where he thinks them Semitisms, from those in canonical Mk., where he thinks them emphatic, and would find in this distinction evidence that the letter’s Gospel is not by Mark.] The distinction seems to me so fine as to be subjective; it escaped Moule, Idiom-Book 176, and Blass-Debrunner-Funk no. 297.

The part in the letter which Smith refers to is this:

Theodoros II. 23–24

καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς βηθανίαν καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ μία γυνὴ ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτῆς ἀπέθανεν

Smith’s translation with my insertion of “her”

And a certain woman whose [her] brother had died was there

Smith 100:

ἧς . . . αὐτῆς.  Redundant αὐτός following ὅς in the oblique cases is found twice in Mk., once in Mt., and twice in Lk. (one Markan), always in the genitive. ἧς . . . αὐτῆς appears only in Mk. 7.25. The same construction appears again in III.15, below, in the accusative. It is probably a Semitism rather than a sign of literary dependence; there are 10 instances, in all three oblique cases, in Apoc. (These figures do not include the peculiar readings of codex Bezae; Yoder’s concordance has not indicated the peculiar usages of αὐτός.) Both the instances in the longer text, and all those in canonical Mk., have in common a trait which Doudna was not able to find in the papyri, “namely, the fact that the redundant possessive pronoun follows its noun immediately” (Greek, 38).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

To sum it up, almost every example presented by Tselikas as proof that Clement could not have written this text has already been examined and explained by Smith. On top of that, Tselikas also presents examples which are quotations made by Clement and accordingly not anything that can be used as arguments against Clement as the author. Further, some errors in the text are obviously more easily explained as errors in the transcription process than errors made by the original author. As far as I can tell, not a single one of these passages can exclude Clement as the author of the letter.

Roger Viklund, April 15, 2012

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

More on Morton Smith’s lack of skills to be able to forge Clement’s letter to Theodoros

As usual, it is Stephen Huller who caught my attention, this time regarding Edward R Smith’s book “The Temple Sleep of the Rich Young Ruler: How Lazarus Became the Evangelist John” from last year. Edward Smith is defending the authenticity of the Secret Gospel of Mark and is step by step refuting both Jeffery’s book and Carlson’s. He is however paying little attention to the handwriting analysis done by Carlson. Another issue did however arouse my interest. Edward Smith is quoting “Roy Kotansky, a scholar who knew and worked closely with Smith on transcription projects:” I suppose this quotation could be seen as a little too extensive, but anyway this is what he says:

I am a scholar of magic, and though I did my Ph.D. on magic at Chicago (1988) under Dieter Betz, I asked Morton Smith, a longtime colleague and friend, to be my principal reader, outside of Chicago. My work, on the magical lamellae, has long since been published in a Cologne papyrological series. As a managing editor of Betz’s Greek Magical Papyri In Translation, years ago, I also read and critiqued, all of the contributors’ translations, including those of Morton Smith. What strikes me most about the issue of forgery of SM, is not that Morton would have done this at all (he wouldn’t have, of course), but rather that he COULD NOT have done it: his Greek, though very good, was not that of a true papyrologist (or philologist): his translations of the big sections of PGM XIII did not always appreciate the subtleties and nuances of the text’s idioms, I believe, and he seemed very appreciative of my corrections, at that time. He certainly could not have produced either the Greek cursive script of the Mar Saba ms., nor its grammatical text, as we have it. There are few up to this sort of task…. He would never forge, nor could he. I was with him once at the Getty Museum examining magical gemstones in the collection in the ’80s, and many times I had to gently correct his misreadings of rather obvious readings. Morton was not a palaeographer/epigraphist, nor a papyrologist. I don’t think that he read these kinds of Greek texts very well.

Once again we have someone well versed in the Greek language, who knew Morton Smith, and who testifies that his knowledge in Greek was not good enough for him to be able to compose Clement’s letter to Theodoros.

On top of this, Edwards refers to one occasion where he witnessed a discovery made by Scott Brown, when he at the JTC was examining the annotations that Smith had made in C. H. Dodd’s book Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel. On page 249 Dodd writes the following:

Among these topographical notes there are three which refer to the work of John the Baptist:

(a) 1. 28, ταῦτα ἐν Βηθανίᾳ ἐγένετο πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου ὅπου ἦν ὁ Ἰωάννης βαπτίζων. This is taken up in (b) x. 40, ἀπῆλθεν πάλιν πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου εἰς τὸν τόπον ὅπου ἦν Ἰωάννης τὸ πρῶτον βαπτίζων. (c), iii. 23, ἦν δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰωάννης βαπτίζων ἐν Αἰνὼν ἐγγὺς τοῦ Σαλείμ, ὅτι ὕδατα πολλὰ ἦν ἐκεῖ. Taking x. 40 to be a mere back-reference to i. 28, we have two distinct statements regarding the scene of the Baptist’s activity at two separate periods of his life.

Dodd is accordingly quoting three passages in the Gospel of John in Greek; i.e John 1:28: “This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” This he says is taken up in John 10:40 which is a mere back-reference to 1:28: “Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days.” Finally Dodd quotes John 3:23: “Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water”. Aenon is then located West of the Jordan in Judea.

Smith came then to realize something, as he opposite of the reference to 10:40 (x. 40), which Dodd claimed to be a mere back-reference to 1:28, and that we have two distinct statements regarding the scene of the Baptist’s activity, wrote the following in the margin:

“This is Bethany. So the journey back was from Bethany to Bethany?! Some mix up here.”

As Edward Smith writes, “this comment shows us the moment when Smith first realized that there were two places called Bethany involved in the raising of Lazarus.” And as C. H. Dodd’s book was first published in 1963, Morton Smith could not have made this discovery earlier than 1963, five years after his discovery of Clement’s letter to Theodoros.

Interesting,

Roger Viklund, 2012-02-26

Flavius Josephus’ Ancient Editors Modifying the Text of The War of the Jews. A Guest Post by David Blocker

Vad gäller frågan om huruvida Josefus skrev något om Jesus eller inte,  är den intimt förknippad med frågan om hur mycket man har varit benägen att ändra i de texter av Josefus som genom århundradena har kopierats om och om igen av kanske främsta kristna. David Blocker tar upp berättelserna om Josefus’ kapitulation, hans profetia om att Vespasianus skulle bli ny kejsare och hur detta påverkade dennes uppfattning om Josefus. Blockers tes är att man inte alls dragit sig för att skriva om berättelserna efter eget skön. Över till David Blocker …

The issue of whether or not Josephus wrote anything about Jesus is intimately related to the question: to what extent were people willing to alter the texts of Josephus which during the centuries were copied over and over again by mostly Christians? David Blocker deals with the stories of Josephus’ surrender, his prophecy that Vespasian would become the new Emperor, and how this affected Vespasian’s impression of Josephus. Blocker’s thesis is that people did not hesitate to alter and rewrite the stories their own way, if it suited their purpose. Over to David Blocker …

Flavius Josephus’ Ancient Editors

Modifying the Text of  The War of the Jews.

By David Blocker

There were late classical and medieval scribes, translators, apologists and authors who had no compunction about modifying the text of the works of Flavius Josephus, either to use the altered text to better support their own arguments, or merely to add drama to the story they were telling.

In the autobiographical section of “War of the Jews”, Josephus recounts how he commanded the Jewish forces besieged by the Romans at Jotapata.  When the Romans breeched the city wall, rather than fight to the death, he fled and hid in an underground cistern with a group of other men.  When their hiding place was discovered, Josephus’ compatriots wanted to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Josephus, their former commander, took charge of the situation and organized a suicide lottery. Josephus survived the mass suicide, surrendered to the Romans, and was taken to Vespasian, the victorious Roman commander.

Josephus survived his encounter with the Flavians, Vespasian and his son Titus.  For the remainder of the Jewish War Josephus assisted Vespasian’s son, Titus by acting as an informant about Judean affairs and by negotiating with the revolutionaries.  After the war, Josephus was rewarded by being made a Flavian client, and was given an estate in Judea, a pension and a house in Rome ([1])

Josephus claimed that Vespasian spared him because he had prophesied that Vespasian would become the Roman Emperor.

Several different versions of Josephus’ account have been preserved (See Appendix 1).

One version presented Josephus as a pious man whose life was preserved by God so that he could become God’s minister to the Romans (or reveal him to be a self serving hypocrite who used religion to justify even his most distasteful actions).   Another version showed him to be a fast thinking trickster, and yet another as a man who preserved his life through the use of intimidation and force.

Other details concerning how Josephus and his compatriots were discovered also underwent alteration; some versions present the Romans in a less favorable light than others.

Finally, there are different versions of the story how the prophecy was delivered to Vespasian.  Some offer an alternative narrative that does not include Josephus (See Appendix 2.5 and 2.6).

If the original text did not survive, then an alteration could either remain undetected, or a suspected alteration could end up the topic of endless unresolved debate.

The changes to Josephus’ story show that his biographical or historical works were not considered fixed or canonical texts by the persons who transcribed, translated, quoted or otherwise transmitted his books.

If critical passages dealing with Josephus’ narrow escape from death, and his subsequent encounter with Vespasian could be altered according to the whim of the redactor, then it is quite probable that other passages in the works of Josephus have also undergone alteration.

David Blocker, 2012/01

Appendix 1:

 

Different versions of Josephus’ account of his escape from death from the hands of his fellow combatants and then the Romans, followed by his prophecy that Vespasian would become the ruler of the known world are presented below.

1) From the standard Greek text of Flavius Josephus’ War of the Jews, Book 3.8 (388 et seq.)

In this version Josephus stated that he had a dream that lead him to believe it was his duty to surrender and “act as God’s minister to the Romans”.  He survived the death lottery thanks to the “providence of God” and through his powers of persuasion; he convinced his fellow survivor that unlike their predecessors in death, they should neither murder, nor be killed by, a fellow country man.

Josephus had been in command of the Judean forces resisting the Roman siege of the city of Jotapata.  After a prolonged siege, the Romans were finally able to break through the city walls, and sack the city.  In particular, they wanted to find Josephus, whose leadership had allowed the city to hold out against them for so long.

Josephus hid from the Romans in a cistern, or underground chamber, with 40 other men.  The Romans captured a woman who revealed their hiding place.

Out of supplies, and with the Romans, threatening to force them out of their hiding place, Josephus’ companions wanted to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.  Josephus, their former commander, unsuccessfully tried to convince them not to kill themselves.  At this point they began to threaten Josephus, and attempted to attack him.

Josephus fended off his 40 irate compatriots.

3.387But in his straits, his resource did not forsake him.  Trusting to God’s protection, he put his life to the hazard, 388and said: “Since we are resolved to die, come, let us leave the lot to decide the order in which we are to kill ourselves; let him who draws the first lot fall by the hand of him who comes next; 389fortune will thus take her course through the whole number, and we shall be spared from taking our lives with our own hands. For it would be unjust that when the rest are gone, any should repent and escape.” This proposal inspired confidence; his advice was taken, and he drew lots with the rest. 390Each man thus selected presented his throat to his neighbor, in the assurance that his general was forthwith to share his fate; for sweeter to them than life was the thought of death with Josephus. 391He, however (should one say by fortune or by the providence of God?) was left alone with one other; and, anxious neither to be condemned by the lot nor, should be left to the last, to stain his hand with the blood of a fellow-countryman, he persuaded this man also, under a pledge, to remain alive. 392Having thus survived both the war with the Romans and that with his own friends, Josephus was brought by Nicanor into Vespasian’s presence. 393The Romans all flocked to see him, and from the multitude crowding around the general, arose a hubbub of discordant voices: some exulting at his capture, some threatening, some pushing forward to obtain a nearer view. 394The more distant spectators clamored for the punishment of their enemy, but those close beside him recalled his exploits and marveled at such a reversal of fortune. 395Of the officers there was not one who, whatever his past resentment, did not then relent at the sight of him.”

Josephus predicted that Vespasian will become emperor:

One of Vespasian’s friends raised the question why Josephus did not predict the fall of Jotapata and his capture.

“To his [Josephus’ prophecy] speech Vespasian, at the moment, seemed to attach little credit, supposing it to be a trick of Josephus to save his life. 404Gradually, however he was led to believe it, for God was already rousing in him thoughts of empire and by other tokens foreshadowing the throne.  He found, moreover that Josephus had proved a veracious prophet in other matters.”

Josephus replied that he had foretold that Jotapata would fall in 47 days and that he would be captured.

2)  The next passage is from PseudoHegisippus, a 4th century Latin paraphrase of Jewish War.  Josephus uses his powers of persuasion to escape from the death lottery.

“Also at Iotapata an attack was made at early dawn on the forty eighth day,  … …

Others much wearied by the fight dropped their hands and offered themselves to a wounding, so that by death they would be snatched away from the deadly spectacle of their misfortunes. Deceived by the carelessness of those dying the centurion Antonius asked by a certain one who had taken refuge in caves, that he should give him his right hand a pledge of pardon and safety, heedless of treachery immediately extended it and, woe to the wretched too confident of triumph, but that one strikes him off guard with a javelin and immediately transfixes him, lest the victory be complete for the Romans. That very day all whosoever who were found were killed, on the following days however even from cellars and other underground holes they were brought out or killed on the spot small children and women excepted. Forty thousands were killed through all the days, in the number who were seized two hundred thousand were led into servitude. The city was destroyed and burned up by fire and every redoubt in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero.

Josephus meanwhile in a certain cistern was hiding among the glowing ashes of the city, not all unaware that as the leader of the opposing forces he was being zealously sought for. Having come out on the second day, when he noticed that everything was encircled, he returned into the cistern.

On the third day a certain woman found out (and) revealed to those seeking him that the hiding places of Josephus were known to her.

But in the cistern (there were) also forty men who had fled there (and) were hiding themselves. Who -when they noticed Josephus (was) to be summoned out by Vespasian in the hope of (his) safety (guaranteed) first through Paulinus and Gallicanus, (and) afterwards through Nicanoris, who was bound to Josephus by virtue of ancient friendship, and for that reason sent (to him, so) that he should give a pledge, he willingly carried out the obligation of the assigned task, having surrounded Josephus, they addressed him with words of such kind.”

*   Here follows the lengthy argument they made about why they should kill themselves, rather than allow the Romans to display them in a Triumph, or otherwise take advantage of them once they had surrendered their freedom. See Note below for the complete text ( [2] ).

XVIII. These things (to) Josephus (were) laid out, by which he voided the vindication of voluntary death. But those who had once vowed themselves to death, because they were unable to oppose their words, with their swords stood around the man, as if they were about to strike immediately unless he should think he must acquiesce.

But he, (who was) surrounded, called back one (of them) by the authority of a leader by the consciousness of courage, he approached another with a severe gaze. He withdrew his right hand, he turned aside the wrath of that one, he soothed them with the wholesomeness of his counsel.

By various methods he twisted away the irrational fury of each. And indeed although a last lot had twisted away the dignity of the conquered, he had not completely destroyed their respect. And so gradually their hands were withdrawn, their swords were sheathed, however their purpose persisted.

When he saw himself to be held alone beset by many, he thought that by some chance or plan he should reduce the number of those opposing (him).

‘Let us commit,’ he said, ‘the order of dying to a lottery, so that no one withdraws himself, since the lottery applies to all. The agreement of a lottery of this sort is, that he who will die by chance will be killed by him who follows.’ And therefore it was that the lottery adjudged each to death, not his own will. ‘Let each stand therefore beneath the lottery as the judge without sin and free from captivity, so that he does not quicken his future death by the decision of another or avoid it by his own. No one will be able to refuse the outcome, which either chance will have inflicted or the will of god will have designated.’ An offering established faith and the agreement of everybody assented to the lottery. Each was chosen by chance, he provided death to the man following.

‘And so it happened that all the rest having (been) killed, Josephus with one other remained for death. It necessarily remained that he would either be condemned by the lottery, or certainly if he should survive the slaughter he would be defiled by the blood of a comrade.

He proposes that they should reject the lottery.

Thus he escaped a domestic fight and by Nicanor [p. 221] was escorted to Vespasian.

There was a rush to the sight of his coming almost all the Romans assembling together. Some wished to see him killed, whom shortly before they saw in charge of great affairs in a position of the greatest honor, others struggled to mock the captive, others marveled at such different and changeable turns of human events. Most prudently sighed, who thought that in other circumstances the same thing could happen to them. Titus in view of all the rest was moved by an innate gentleness of spirit, him for so long a proud fighter, suddenly sentenced to the power of the enemy, to await the lottery of an alien nod the shipwreck of life banished from hope uncertain of safety. To exert such great influence in battles, so that in a short time by chance he renders unequal to himself, when the powerful are either thrown out or overthrown are released. And so the better part of them, namely those in positions of honor, give the gentler counsel. Titus was for Josephus, before his father, the greatest portion of his safety. Vespasian ordered him to be kept in custody, lest by chance he should escape.”

3)  I have not been able to obtain either a legible copy of, or modern language translation of the 4th or 5th Century Latin translation of “Jewish War” attributed to Rufinus.  Therefore, I am unable to compare the Latin translation of the passages about Josephus’ surrender to the standard Greek version.

4)  The Josippon (Part III, Leonard Zoll, Dissertation for Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature,, Hebrew Union College, NY, NY,  1965, P 41), a Hebrew recension of Jewish War, with strong affinities to PsuedoHegisippus.

In this text Josephus survives the death lottery by acting deceitfully ([3]).

After the fall of Jotapata to the Romans, Josephus hid in an underground cistern with a large group of his compatriots.  Josephus tried to persuade them not to commit suicide, and instead surrender to the Romans.  The text is inconsistent or corrupt since it has the men stab themselves in the bowels before Josephus makes his speech, and their assent to the lottery driven suicide pact, even though they have apparently already stabbed themselves.

“But the people who were with Josephus during his lengthy comments to them, when he stretched forth his hands to heaven, did not continue listening to him, for they sought to die.

When Josephus saw that he had lost their attention, that it was of no avail, he spoke to them deceitfully, “If you seek death by the sword, it is proper for you to die by lot.  You shall select two, who shall cast lots, and the man to whom the lot falls shall slay his brother with the sword.  And so shall we do until we all perish.  We shall die together, and we shall not witness the disgrace of the Temple of out God, and the exile of our people.”

And the men did as he said.  Two men stood and cast lots before Josephus, and when the lot fell, the one slew the other.

And thus did they, until they all fell by the sword, and none remained except Josephus and one man.

And then this man said to him, “Come let us cast lots, even we, so that we may join our brothers.”

But Josephus replied to his comrade, cajoling him, “why should we impune our souls?  For if I kill you, I shall be considered a murderer, and if you kill me you also shall be considered a murderer, and we shall have destroyed our hope for the future from the Lord, our God, for all these people died without propriety”.

When the man heard Josephus’ words, he did respond to him for he was afraid of him, and in this way was Josephus saved from his comrade’s sword.

At that time, Nicanor, the general arrived. Josephus and his comrade surrendered and they were sent to Vespasian.  When the Roman army saw Josephus they were excited, and sounded the trumpets with a great blast.  Throughout the camp here was great joy because of his capture.  They said to each other, “Out eyes have seen our enemy.”

But throughout the country there was bitter mourning, for they said, “Was this not the most famous warrior in the Jewish army as well as the Roman?  Who instilled his fear in the entire Roman army? And there was heard throughout the land the question, “How was he captured? How was this war-hoer and great general seized??” “And we, what shall we do if a man like this is captured in his own land; in the midst of his own people and his kinsmen? How shall we survive in a strange land?”

But Titus, son of Vespasian, began joking, and tossed his head and said, ”Who knows whether we will be captured as we captured Josephus, the great general, ad expert warrior in battle? Therefore, let us spare his from death by sword?” Afterward, Vespasian and his entire force marched from there and went to Acco.”

(In this text, Josephus does not make any prophecies about Vespasian becoming the emperor.  In the Jewish tradition, this prediction was made by Johanan ben Zakkai, during the siege of Jerusalem.  This is an anachronism, since Vespasian had already departed Judea, by the time of the Siege of Jerusalem.  See Appendix 2, the Talmud version of the prediction)

5) From the Slavonic version of Josephus’ Jewish War.

In this text, the woman who revealed Josephus location to the Romans did not willingly betray him.   She revealed his location after the Romans had tortured her.

Vespasian was not impressed by Josephus prophesy at the time it was made.  It was not until his installation as Emperor that he realized that Josephus prediction had come true.  In this version of the text, Josephus’ prophecy was not used as a Flavian policy making tool.

As in the Greek version of Jewish War, Josephus, after the fall of Jotapata, hid from the Romans in an underground chamber with 40 other men.

The Roman’s captured a woman and tortured her until she revealed Josephus’ hiding place.  The Romans then tried to force the men out of their bunker.  Josephus’ compatriots threatened their former commander when he attempted to dissuade them from committing suicide.

“386And still revering, their commander as if in battle line and feeling ashamed, none laid hands on him. 387Then he, trusting his safety to God, his protector, said 388”since God has willed us to die, let us kill ourselves by the count. The one on whom the end of the count falls, let him be killed by the next”. Having said this, he counted the numbers with cunning, and thus misled them all; 390And all were killed by each other, 391except one. And he anxious not to stain his hand with the blood of a fellow countryman, persuaded him and both came out alive. They took him to Vespasian and all the Romans ran to see the spectacle. 393There were various cries, some were pleased with Josephus’s capture; others were threatening;

394others demanded that the enemy be punished and killed, others marveled at the vicissitudes of life.

( text ommitted for brevity)

398Vespasian gave orders to secure him and send him to Nero.

[Josephus predicts Vespasian will become emperor.] …

And Vespasian did not believe him, considering that Josephus had made this speech thinking about his own safety.  But afterwards he began somehow to believe him, when God was installing him as Caesar and handing him the emperor’s scepter.”

(Josephus said that he had predicted that Jotapata would fall in 47 days and that he would be captured.)

From: Josephus’ Jewish war and its Slavonic version: a synoptic comparison of the English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray with the critical edition by N.A. Meščerskij of the Slavonic version in the Vilna manuscript translated into English by H. Leeming and L. Osinkina. Brill 2003, p.370 et seq.

6)  From Jacques de Voraigne “The Golden Legend”, Book 67: Saint James the Apostle.

This version has Josephus determine the order the lots were drawn in order to insure his ultimate survival.  He used his strength and agility to overcome the last man standing and thus bring the selection process to an end.  This version also had elements of the Veronica legend, and the “Avenging the Savior” legend incorporated into it.

A relic of Jesus was used to cure Vespasian of an infestation of his nasal worms.  Then,

“Vespasian then went to Rome and obtained Tiberius Caesar’s permission to destroy Jerusalem and Judea.  For years during the reign of Nero, when the Jews were rebelling against the empire, he built up several armies: hence (according to the chronicles) he was acting not out of zeal for Christ but because the Jews were renouncing Roman rule. Vespasian then marched upon Jerusalem with a huge force, and on the day of the Pasch laid siege to the city and trapped the innumerable multitude gathered there for the festal day. Sometime before Vespasian’s arrival the Christian faithful who were in Jerusalem had been warned by the Holy Spirit to leave the city and take refuge in a town called Pella, across the Jordan. Thus, with all her holy men withdrawn, Jerusalem became the place where the vengeance of heaven fell, upon the sacrilegious city and its criminal people.

The Roman’s first assault, however, was against a town of Judea called Jonapata, in which Josephus was both leader and ruler, and he and his people put up a brave resistance, but at length Josephus, seeing that the city’s fall was inevitable, took eleven Jews ([4]) with him and sought safety in an underground room.  After four days without food his associates, though Josephus disagreed, preferred to die there rather than submit to servitude under Vespasian.  They wanted to kill each other and offer their blood in sacrifice to God; and, since Josephus held first rank among them, they thought he should be the first to die, so that by the shedding of his blood God would be the sooner placated.  Or (as another chronicle had it) they wanted to kill each other so as not to fall into the hands of the Romans.

 

Now Josephus, being a prudent man and not wanting to die, appointed himself arbiter of death and sacrifice, and ordered the others to cast lots, two by two, to determine which of each pair would put the other to death, The lots were cast and one man after the other was consigned to death, until the last one was left to draw lots with Josephus. Then Josephus, who was a strong, agile man, took the other man’s sword away from him, asked him which he preferred life or death, and ordered him not to waste time choosing. The man, afraid, answered, promptly: ”I do not refuse to live, if by your favor I am able to save my life.”

 

Josephus now had a talk in hiding with an intimate of Vespasian with whom he himself was on friendly terms: he requested that his life be spared by Vespasian and what he requested he obtained. He was taken before Vespasian, who said to him: “You would have deserved death, if this man’s petition has not secured your freedom!” Josephus [said]: “if anything wrong has been done, it can be set right!” Vespasian: “What can a conquered man do?” Josephus: “I will be able to do something, if what I say wins me a favorable hearing.” Vespasian: “It is granted that you may say what you have to say, and if there is any good in it, it will be listened to quietly.” Josephus; “The Roman emperor [Nero] has died, and the Senate has made you emperor!” Vespasian:  If you are a prophet, why did you not prophesy to this city that it was about to fall under my sway?” Josephus: “I foretold it publicly for forty days!”

Shortly thereafter legates arrived from Rome, affirmed that Vespasian had indeed been elevated to the imperial throne, and took him off to Rome.  Eusebius, too, states in his chronicle that Josephus prophesied to Vespasian both about the emperor’s death and about his own elevation.”

Vespasian left his son Titus in charge of the siege of Jerusalem.

Josephus cured Titus of a paralysis of his leg([5]).

Appendix 2:

Different Versions of the Prophecy About Vespasian Becoming the Emperor.

1)  From Suetonius, The 12 Caesars: Vespasian, 10:

“5 There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome, as afterwards appeared from the event, the people of Judaea took to themselves; accordingly they revolted and after killing their governor, they routed the consular ruler of Syria as well, when he came to the rescue, and took one of his eagles. Since to put down this rebellion required a considerable army with a leader of no little enterprise, yet one to whom so great power could be entrusted without risk, Vespasian was chosen for the task, both as a man of tried energy and as one in no wise to be feared because of the obscurity of his family and name.

…….

6 When he consulted the oracle of the god of Carmel in Judaea, the lots were highly encouraging, promising that whatever he planned or wished, however great it might be, would come to pass; and one of his high-born prisoners, Josephus by name, as he was being put in chains, declared most confidently that he would soon be released by the same man, who would then, however, be emperor.

2)  Tacitus (Instead of Josephus, a priest at Mt Carmel named Basilides predicted that Vespasian would be Emperor.):

“Nor was Vespasian uninfluenced by such superstitions. In later days, when he was master of the world, he made no secret of keeping an astrologer called Selucus to help him by his advice and prophecy.  …

On the frontier of Judea and Syria lies a hill called Carmel.  A god of the same name is there worshipped according to ancient ritual.  There is no image or temple, only an altar where they reverently worship.  Once when Vespasian was sacrificing on this altar, brooding on his secret ambition, the priest, Basilides, after repeatedly inspecting the omens said to him: Whatever it is which you have in mind Vespasian, whether it is to build a house or to enlarge your estate, or to increase the number of your slaves, there is granted to you a great habitation, vast acre and a multitude of men.” (Tacitus, Histories 2.78)

The majority [of the Jews] were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judaea would go forth men destined to rule the world. This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this exalted destiny was reserved for them, and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth.

(Tacitus, Histories 5.13)”

3)  Cassius Dio, From Epitome of Book LXV: (Roman History by Cassius Dio, published in Vol. VIII of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1925)

“These portents needed interpretation; 4 but not so the saying of a Jew named Josephus: he, having earlier been captured by p261Vespasian and imprisoned, laughed and said: ”You may imprison me now, but a year from now, when you have become emperor, you will release me.”

4) From Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286), Bar Hebraeus’Chronography VIII, The Roman Emperors.

After CLAUDIUS CAESAR, NERO CAESAR [reigned] fourteen years. He sent FESTUS and dismissed FELIX. And he was the first one who set up the persecution of the Christians in which PETER and PAUL testified in ROME and were crowned (i.e. suffered martyrdom). In the thirteenth year of NERO the JEWS rebelled, and NERO sent [against them] VESPASIAN and TITUS his son. And in one year, in the month of HAZIRAN (JUNE), TITUS captured the city of YOTOPATA (IOTOPATA) because he heard that JOSEPHUS, the scribe, the son of MATTAI the priest, who was the captain of the host of the JEWS, was there. And when he was taken he prophesied concerning the death of [50] NERO and who was going to reign after him. Therefore TITUS did not kill him. Now this JOSEPHUS was not KAYAFA (CAIAPHAS), as some men have thought, for CAIAPHAS was also called JOSEPHUS.

And after these things the ROMANS encircled JERUSALEM, and whilst VESPASIAN was occupied in the war against JERUSALEM, the report of the death of NERO arrived, and of the tyrant OTHO, who stood for three months, and he killed him, and of VITALLIANUS, the tyrant, who stood for eight months. Him the ROMANS slew in the middle of the city. Then the Roman troops who were with VESPASIAN proclaimed him king, and he committed the war against JERUSALEM to TITUS his son, who went to ALEXANDRIA and subjugated it, and [then] departed by sea to ROME.

(From Bar Hebraeus’ Chronography, Translated from Syriac, by E. A. Wallis Budge, London, 1932.)

5)  The Talmud.

According to the Talmud it was not Josephus, but Rabbi Yohanan who made an anachronistic appearance to Vespasian (according to other accounts, by the time of the siege of Jerusalem, Vespasian had already left Judea for Rome,  leaving the management of the siege of Jerusalem to his son Titus, and his aide Tiberius Alexander.

Rabbi Yohanan escaped from Jerusalem in a coffin carried by his disciples.

“The disciples continued to carry the coffin until they got to Vespasian.  When they opened the coffin R. Yohanan stood up before him and said, “Peace to you, O King! Peace be to you, O King.!” Vespasian replied, “your life is forfeit on two counts.  To begin with you call me king and I am not a king. Moreover, if I am a king, why did you not come to me until now?” R. Yohanan replied, ”As for your saying that you are not a king, you are in fact a king,  If you were not a king, Jerusalem would not be delivered into your hand, for it is written, “And Lebanon shall fall by the mighty one”(Isa., 10:34), and the epithet “mighty one” is applied only to a king.  As for your question, “If I am a king, why did you not come to me till now?”- the Zealots amount us did not let me”.  Vespasian asked. “If there is a jar of honey around which a draco is coiled, would not the jar be broken to get rid of the draco?”  R Yohanan did not respond.

(From The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud, Edited by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky.  Translated by William G. Braude. Schocken Books, 1992, p. 191-192.)

6) The Sibylline Oracles (c. 1st to 3rd century C.E.):

Sibylline Oracles 3:652-656:

”And then God will send a King from the sun who will stop the entire earth from evil war, killing some, imposing oaths of loyalty on others; and he will not do all these things by his private plans but in obedience to the noble teachings of the great God.

Sibylline Oracles 4 (A prophesy ex ventu about the death of Nero, the appearence of false Neros or a Nero redivius ([6]), and Vespasian’s, Rome’s foremost man or future emperor destruction of Jerusalem) :

…  ; and there shall also come
150 To Solyma an evil blast of war
From Italy, and God’s great temple spoil.
But when these, trusting folly, shall cast off
Their piety and murders consummate
Around the temple, then front Italy
155 A mighty king shall like a runaway slave
Flee over the Euphrates’ stream unseen,

Unknown, who shall some time dare loathsome guilt
Of matricide, and many other things,
Having confidence in his most wicked hands.
160 And many for the throne with blood
Rome’s soil while he flees over Parthian land.
And out of Syria shall come Rome’s foremost man,
Who having burned the temple of Solyma,
And having slaughtered many of the Jews,
165 Shall (bring) destruction on their great broad land.

(From:  The Sybylline Oracles Translated from the Greek into English Blank Verse by Milton S. Terry,1899.)

150. Solyma.–That is, Jerusalem.

155. Mighty king.–Nero, whose murder of his mother is notorious, and whose flight beyond the Euphrates and expected return as antichrist was a superstitious tradition long maintained.]


[1]) Life of Flavius Josephus, 76 (422 et seq.)

[2])   *  ( XVI.”’Now the great downfall of the Jewish name is tested, now the bitter ashes, which submerge and hide the teaching of our splendid lineage and undermine every distinction, when Josephus a captive is ordered to be saved for the triumph. What do such solicitous inducements of the enemy suddenly wish for themselves? What of this voluntary offer of safety? They did not spare others seeking life: Josephus is sought out, Josephus is asked that he should live. They fear evidently that they may lose the pomp of a triumph, lest he should be wanting, whom Rome would see a captive, whom in chains Vespasian would direct before his chariot. You wish therefore to be saved for this spectacle? And from what will they triumph, if their leader will be lacking that over which the triumph is celebrated? Or what sort of triumph, if an alliance is given to the conquered? Do not believe, Josephus, life is promised you, but worse things than death are being prepared. Roman arms conquered you, do not let deceit capture you. [p. 211] Their gifts are more heinous than wounds, the former threaten servitude, the latter save freedom. You are bowing, Joseph, and broken by a certain weakness of spirit you wish to be a survivor of your country? Where is the teaching of Moses, who sought to be erased from the divine book that he might not outlive the people of the lord? Where is Aaron, who stood in the middle between the living and the dead, so that death should not destroy a living people with a cruel contagion? Where is the spirit devoted to their country of King Saul and Ionathas, and that death bravely borne for the citizens, gloriously received? The son encouraged the father by example, the father did not forsake the son in the purpose of death, who although he was able to live, preferred himself to be killed rather than to be triumphed over by the enemy. He encouraged his weapon bearer saying: Strike me lest these uncircumcised should come and strike me and make sport of me. Because his weapon bearer feared to do this, he transfixed himself with his sword, worthy whom that David in a prophetic spirit would vindicate, because Amalechita had boasted falsely about the manner of his death and had thought to diminish the renown of the man who had saved himself from the enemy, he lied that he had been killed by himself  6, worthy whom that even such a great prophet should praise saying: Saul and Ionathas beautiful and beloved inseparables in their life and in death they were not separated, lighter than eagles, more powerful than lions. David himself also when he saw his people struck by an angel, wished to draw the heavenly vengeance upon himself lest he should be spared with the people perishing. Finally what of the divine law, whose interpreter you have always been, which promised everlasting immortality to the righteous instead of this brief life? When the god of the Hebrews, who teaches the righteous to have contempt for death, [p. 212] to owe it even to escape this earthly dwelling place, to fly back to the heavenly, to that region of paradise where god consecrates pious souls? Now finally you wish, Josephus, to live, when it is not fitting, indeed not permitted, what indeed is more important it is not proper? And you want to snatch at that life, I dare to say, of slavery which is in another’s power? So that a Roman may snatch it away when he wishes? May throw into the dark corner of a prison when he wishes? And you would choose to flee from here and not be allowed to die? And with shame you go to them, from those whom you persuaded to die for their country? What excuse will you have that you have stayed so long? They are awaiting what you might do, they are certainly saying already: Why is Josephus delaying who ought to have come? Why does he come so tardily? Why is he refusing to imitate his followers whom he persuaded to die for freedom? We will permit certainly that you choose to serve a champion of freedom, but that you doom yourself a slave to the Romans, that you put bondage before freedom? But be it that you wish to live, how will you obtain this from them against whom you have fought so many times? How will they look upon you, with what eyes, with what feelings? How will you wish to live with angry masters even if it allowed? And who will not believe you to have been a traitor to your country, who will see to whom the reward of treason was paid? Choose whichever you may prefer, that it be one of these is necessary: your life will be the reward of treachery or the suffering of slavery.”

[3]) The Josephus Problem or Josephus Permutation.

In computer science and mathematics, the Josephus Problem (or Josephus permutation) is a theoretical problem related to a counting out game.

[4]) Other texts have him hiding with 40 other men.

[5] ) The Talmud contains a similar account of how R Johanan cured Vespasian’s swollen feet, after learning that he had been appointed Emperor.  The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud, Edited by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky.  Translated by William G. Braude. Schocken Books, 1992, p. 191-192

[6])  There were astrologers and imposters who claimed Nero would or had returned from the dead:  Tacitus, II.8, Dio, LXVI.19.3, Suetonius, LVII.

The Reliability of Eusebius. Misrepresenting a Monument Celebrating an Imperial Conquest as an Artifact of Christian Faith

Tonight the tide is turning; the light will return after the darkest night on the northern hemisphere and then Christ of course is born. What could then be more suitable, than to publish a short essay by David Blocker on the trustworthiness of Church father Eusebius – who after all lived in the period when the winter solstice was associated with the Birth of Christ.

Over to David …

The Reliability of Eusebius.

Misrepresenting a Monument Celebrating an Imperial Conquest as an Artifact of Christian Faith

Eusebius Pamphili ([1]) is the source of much of our knowledge of the history of early Christianity.  It is necessary to ask if he was an accurate and unbiased reporter.

In at least one instance it can be demonstrated that Eusebius allowed his Christian beliefs to influence his description and interpretation of an object he recorded for posterity in his Ecclesiastical History.

Eusebius stated that there was a statue of a man and a kneeling woman in Caesarea Philippi ([2]).  The existence of the statue was confirmed by three other ancient authors ([3]).  The statue was in a state of disrepair when it was first noted in ancient chronicles.  It was later moved into the sanctuary of a church in Caesarea Philippi and was finally destroyed at the order of the Emperor Julian ([4]).

The original description of the statue by Eusebius follows:

The Statue Which the Woman with an Issue of Blood Erected.

Since I have mentioned this city ([5]) I do not think it proper to omit an account which is worthy of record for posterity.  For they say that the woman with an issue of blood, who, as we learn from the sacred Gospel ([6]), received from our Saviour deliverance from her affliction, came from this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and that remarkable memorials of the kindness of the Saviour to her remain there.  For there stands upon an elevated stone, by the gates of her house, a brazen image of a woman kneeling, with her hands stretched out, as if she were praying.  Opposite this is another upright image of a man made of the same material, clothed decently in a double cloak extending his hand toward the woman ([7]).  At his feet, beside the statue itself, is a certain strange plant, which climbs up to the hem of the brazen cloak, and is a remedy for all kinds of diseases.  They say that this is an image of Jesus.  It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city ([8]) ([9]).

Eusebius stated that the statue was of Jesus and the hemorrhaging woman, when in fact the statue was of Hadrian in the Judea Capta style ([10]). The principle figure was the bearded Emperor Hadrian dressed in a Roman toga, accepting the submission of a female figure representing Judea.

Similar imagery had appeared on the coinage Hadrian had issued to commemorate his tour of other provinces ([11]).

The coins that celebrated his arrival or “Advent” in a province, showed Hadrian accepting the greetings of a standing female figure.

The coins issued after his departure commemorated his legislation that benefited or “Restored” the province.  They showed a standing Hadrian accepting the gratitude of a kneeling female figure, who usually held an object associated with the province.  Most of the coins showed the kneeling figure as resting on one knee.  In the case of Judea, the female figure representing the province held palm branches and was accompanied by additional figures of small children.  No other coins issued by Hadrian had the Provincial figure attended by children.  The children probably represented either the regrowth of Judea following the devastation of the First Jewish Revolt, or were symbolic of a new generation of Judeans loyal to Rome.

Examples of Hadrian’s coins are shown below. Note that the image of Hadrian and the female symbol of the Province closely resemble Eusebius’ description of the statuary group that stood in Caesarea Philippi.

Hadrian Restitutor Phrygia

Hadrian Restitutor Hispanae

Hadrian Advent Ivdea

The second Jewish revolt is though to have occurred between the issuing of the first or “Advent” set of coins, and what would have been the second or “Restoration” issue of coins.  This made the kneeling figure of Judea represent “Judea Capta” ([12]) rather than a Judea offering her thanks for Hadrian’s visit and his generosity.  The coins of Hadrian with the kneeling Judea lack the word “restore” which was present on the coins issued in other provinces.  This suggests the Judea figure was kneeling not in gratitude, but in submission and defeat.

Hadrian’s Judea Coinage, Advent and the Restitutor Type without a caption ([13]).

The statue as described by Eusebius, was clearly a statue commemorating the Roman subjugation of the rebellious Judeans.  It showed Hadrian looming over the conquered figure of Judea.

Furthermore, Eusebius was also credulous enough to assign miraculous qualities to a plant that was supposedly growing on the statue. One has to wonder if there was an actual plant growing on the statue, or if Eusebius was fancifully describing the carved palm branches, that were also represented on Hadrian’s Judea coins.

Eusebius concluded that a statue of the Emperor accepting Judea’s submission following the brutal subjugation of the Second Jewish Revolt, was actually a statue of Jesus performing a miracle.

He also stated that the statue had miraculous healing properties.

One has to ask if Eusebius was merely credulous and unquestioningly accepted everything he was told by his sources, or if he consciously or unconsciously assigned a Christian significance to what he saw.  One has to ask if Eusebius was deliberately trying to mislead his readers into believing that that he had actually seen a bronze statue of Jesus in Caesarea Philippi.

The fact that Eusebius did misrepresent a statue of a Roman Emperor as a statue of Jesus means that his accuracy, reliability and possibly honesty as a historian is suspect.  Other assertions he made in Ecclesiastical History must be carefully assessed before they can be accepted as the unvarnished truth.

David Blocker 2011/12


[1] Eusebius of Caesarea (c. AD 263 – 339) also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Christian polemicist.  He became the Bishop of Caesarea about the year 314.  He wrote several works including the Ecclesiastical History, a pious account of the first 300 years of the Christian Church.  He was a supporter and a favorite of the Emperor Constantine.

[2] Eusebius, H. E. vii, 18.

[3] Sozomen (H.E. v. 21);  Philostorgius (Hist. Eccl. vii.21);  Asterius of Amasea (Conc. Nic. II,  Labbe, vii 210), in A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, William Smith and Samuel Cheetham, editors, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, p878, 1875.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Caesarea Philippi (Banius).

[6] Matthew xi 20

[7] “…On a tall stone base at the gates of her house stood a bronze statue of a woman, resting on one knee and resembling a suppliant with arms outstretched.  Facing this was another of the same material, an upright figure of a man with a double cloak neatly draped over his shoulders and his hand stretched out to the woman.”  From Eusebius, History of the Church, translated by G.A. Williamson, Dorset Press by arrangement with Penguin Books, 1984, p.302.  This translation depicts a statue that even more closely resembles the image on Hadrian’s coins, than does the older Schaff/Wace translation given in the body of the text.

[8] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History  vii, 18; from, A Select Library of Nicene and Post Nicene fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Volume 1, Eusebius, Church History, p 304.

[9] Note that even though this is but a very short translated excerpt from the writings of Eusebius Pamphili, it contains at least two phrases: “think it proper” and “remain to our day” that have analogues in the so-called Testimonium Flavianum (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3): “think it proper” /”if it be lawful”, and “remain to our day” /“are not extinct at this day”.

[10] “Judging by the analogy of many coins, the memorial had been erected in honor of an emperor (probably Hadrian), and falsely interpreted by the Christians, perhaps on account of a σωτῆρι  (soter/Saviour) or θεῷ (theos/god) appearing in the inscription.  There can be no doubt of Eusebius’ honesty in the matter, but no less doubt that the statue commemorated something quite different from that which Christian tradition claimed.”  Gieseler, Eccles. Histo.. Harpers ed. 1.p. 70, from footnote on p.304 of A Select Library of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Volume 1, Eusebius, Church History.

[11] Larry J. Kreitzer, Striking New Images, Roman Imperial Coinage and the New Testament World,  Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.  See descriptions of Flavian “Judea Capta”coins, and Hadrian’s coins showing grateful provinces accepting his rulings.

[12] The 1st century Flavian dynasty had issued a set of Judea Capta coins which celebrated their victory over Judea in the First Jewish   Revolt (66-72 C.E.). These coins typically showed an armored Roman standing over a cowering or dejected female figure of Judea.

[13] Image from Larry J. Kreitzer, Striking New Images, Roman Imperial Coinage and the New Testament World,  Sheffield Academic Press, 1996, p.176.

Dating the Birth of Jesus: What is truth? Irreconcilable Traditions, Myths, Legends and “Facts”.

A Guest Post by David Blocker

The traditionally accepted year of Jesus’ birth, “1” AD, was estimated by Dionysius Exiguus (died c. 544), (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York) who had to work from limited and perhaps inaccurate sources.

The year 4 BCE, accepted by traditional scholars, was chosen in order to reconcile the birth narrative in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:1 (NIV), “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod … ”) with the chronology found in the histories of Flavius Josephus.  4 BCE was the last year that the birth of Jesus could have occurred during the life time of Herod the Great.  Herod the Great died in 4 BCE (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities XVII.vi.5-ix.3; Jewish War I.xxxiii.5-9.) and the War of Varus, a Judean uprising against the Romans and their representatives, began shortly thereafter (Antiquities XVII.x).

The time of Jesus’ birth given by the Gospel of Matthew conflicts with the time of birth given by the Gospel of Luke.

The Gospel of Luke does not associate Herod with Jesus’ birth.  Instead the birth of Jesus was linked to a Roman census (Luke 2:1 (NIV), “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”).

The only Roman census of Judea from this time period of which we have a record occurred in 6 or 7 CE, after the Romans had assumed direct control over Judea (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 17.13. 5).  The purpose of the census was to allow the Romans to determine the taxable resources of Judea.

The birth narrative chronologies presented by the canonical gospels are contradictory and cannot be reconciled.  According to the Gospel of Matthew Jesus was born while Herod the Great was alive and ruled Judea.  According to the Gospel of Luke the birth of Jesus occurred after the death of Herod, when the Romans were consolidating their control over Judea.  Driven by theological constraints, Dionysius’ attempt to date Jesus’ birth, can be considered, at best, to be an act of pious self-deception.

The two canonical gospel accounts of Jesus birth cannot be simultaneously true.  One or the other, or both, must be in error.

Both of the Gospel birth narratives fail to mention the unrest in Judea during the two time periods they assigned to Jesus’ birth.  The time of birth given by the Gospel of Matthew occurred just before the War of Varus.  The 7 CE Roman census to determine the taxable resources of Judea, inspired Judas the Galilean and his colleague Zadok to campaign against the Roman occupation of their country (Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.8.1, “118 Under him (Coponius, procurator of Judea) a Galilean named Judas incited his people to rebel, calling them cowards if they paid tax to the Romans and let themselves be ruled by mortal men, having formerly served God alone.”).

There are early non-canonical sources that provide a date for the birth of Jesus.  The majority of them place the year of Jesus’ birth around 3 to 2 BCE.  Therefore, Jesus was conceived, near at the beginning of the War of Varus.

Early sources which give a date for Jesus’ birth at variance with the traditional 4 BCE date are listed below:

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (ca. 194 AD) (Stromata, Book 1, Chapter XXI)  “from the birth of Christ to the death of Commodus (December 30/January 1, 192/3) there were 194 years, one month, and 13 days.”  Clement implies that Jesus was born on 18 NOVEMBER, 3 BC

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: “Our Lord was born in the twenty-eighth year, when the first census was ordered to be taken in the reign of Augustus.” (Stromata, Book 1, see Clark’s edition, pages 444-445).  Clement, since he lived in Egypt, reckoned the sole reign of Augustus from the death of Cleopatra, and so gives the twenty-eighth year instead of the forty-first. This gives a birth year of 3/2 BCE.

IRENAEUS, about AD 180, wrote ‘Our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus.’ (3/2 BCE).  (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 21.3)

TERTULLIAN wrote, ‘When Augustus had been reigning for twenty-eight years after the death of Cleopatra, Christ was born, and the same Augustus survived after Christ was born fifteen years; and the remaining times of years to the day of the birth of Christ bring us to the forty-first year, which is the 28th of Augustus after the death of Cleopatra.’ (Answer to the Jews, Chapter VIII)

Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide in August 30 BC.  This places the birth of in the forty-first year of Augustus, which is 3/2 BCE.

JULIUS AFRICANUS assigned 3/2 BCE as the year of Jesus’ birth (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Hendrickson, 1998 ed., §§ 284-290, pp. 154-157)

HIPPOLYTUS of Rome (AD 170-236) – placed the birth of Christ in 2 BC.  (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, (Hendrickson, 1998 ed.) §§ 293, pp. 158-160).

ORIGEN (AD 185-253) – In a fragment of Origen’s homilies on Luke, he states that Jesus was born in the forty-first year of Augustus, that Augustus ruled in all fifty-six years, and that there remained to his rule from and after Christ’s birth fifteen years. (Frag. 82 on Luke 3:1).  This translates to 3/2 BC

EUSEBIUS, The History of the Church I. 5: ”It was the forty-second year of Augustus’ reign, and the twenty-eighth after the subjugation of Egypt and the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, when our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, at the time of the first registration, while Quirinius was governor of Syria… was born in Bethlehem in Judaea.” (2 BC by Augustus’ reign year and the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra.  This cannot be reconciled with Quirinius’ census, showing that Eusebius writings cannot be accepted uncritically).

EPIPHANIUS, agreed with Eusebius that Augustus reigned fifty-six years and six months, and wrote that Jesus was born in the 42nd year of Augustus reign which would have been 2 BC  (Panarion, XX, ii).

EPIPHANIUS elsewhere dates the Epiphany of Christ in official Roman terms, saying that it was in January of the year in which the consuls were Octavius for the thirteenth time, and Silvanus (Augusto XIII et Silvano); this was January, 2 BC (Panarion, LI, xxii, 3).  By Epiphany, he probably meant the conception at the time of the Annunciation by the angel to Mary, which is nine months before the actual birth (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Hendrickson, 1998 ed., §§ 493, p. 289).

PAULUS OROSIUS stated that Christ was born in the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the founding of Rome.  752 A.U.C. is 2 BCE (Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, trans. Roy J. Defarri; FC 50; Washington D.C. Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1964, pp. 280-281).  (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Hendrickson, 1998 ed. §§ 497, p. 290.)

CASSIODORUS (490-585 CE) placed the birth of Christ in the consulship of Lentulus and M. Messala (Lentulo et Messalino), stating “When these were consuls, our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God was born in Bethlehem in the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus” or 3 BC (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Hendrickson, 1998 ed. §§ 498, p. 290).

GREGORY OF TOURS (d.594 CE), History of the Franks 1.19: “in the forty fourth year of the reign of Augustus, our Lord….was born.” About 1 BCE.

“EURIPTUS, disciple of John”: “1, 1 In the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, after our Lord Jesus Christ was born according to the flesh in Bethlehem of Judea, Herod Antipatris (son of Antipater?), king of Judea, sought to kill Jesus.”  (From The Beheading of John by Euriptus, the disciple of John. Geerard’s CANT (180; BHG 831-833). Translated from: A. Vassiliev, Anecdota graeco-byzantina, I, (Moscow: Universitatis Caesareae, 1893), pp. 1-4, based on Montis Casin. 277 (11th c.).  (Other manuscripts containing this text are Vat. gr. 1192 (15th c.), and Vat. gr. 1989 (12th c.)).  Translation and internet posting by Tony Burke, Associate Professor, Dept. of the Humanities, Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, York University.  Text downloaded from:  http://www.tonyburke.ca/more-christian-apocrypha/the-beheading-of-john-by-euriptus-the-disciple-of-john on 06/2011.

Augustus was named Julius Caesar’s heir in 44 BCE.  The 42nd year of Augustus would be 2 BCE.

The birthday of Ceasar Augustus and the traditional birthday of Jesus occur at the same time of the year.  According to Suetonius (b. ca 69/75- d. after 130), ” From that time on Augustus had such faith in his destiny, that he made his horoscope public and issued a silver coin stamped with the sign of the constellation Capricornus ( Approximately Dec.-Jan.), under which he was born.”  (From Suetonius, The Twelve Ceasars, The Divine Augustus, 94.)

When attempting to determine the year of Jesus’ birth one has a large number of sources from which to choose.  The Gospel of Matthew states that Jesus was born before Herod the Great died (before 4 BCE).  According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born after the death of Herod, after the Romans had directly annexed Judea and were preparing to apply direct taxation to it, approximately 6 to 7 CE.

The traditionally accepted date of 4 BCE was decided upon by a 6th century CE monk who was trying to find a theologically acceptable reconciliation of his sources.

The preponderance of early writers place Jesus’ birth in the year 3/2 BCE, which is later than the traditional dating of 4 BCE (See Jack Finnegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Revised Edition, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., 1998, p. 279-291 for disscussion) and concurrent with the War of Varus.

The researcher is left with the task of trying to extract historical truth from a melange of unattributed reports, myths, legends and pious fictions.

David Blocker 2011/11/14

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

IN ENGLISH

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

PÅ SVENSKA

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

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.

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

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

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

Craig A. Evans

In the previous post I examined Craig Evans’ attempt to link the mystery of the kingdom of God to forbidden sexuality in Secret Mark and came to the conclusion that the text does not support such an interpretation, as Jesus and the youth according to the preserved text of Secret Mark are not said to be involved in anything sexually. If so, you cannot claim that Morton Smith already before his discovery showed interest in subjects which are supported by the discovery.

But we could also investigate if Smith really linked the mystery of the kingdom of God to forbidden sexuality. In order to link these subjects, you must assert that Smith made a point of the mystery of the kingdom of God having something to do with forbidden sexuality. This is the real issue to be dealt with.

It is repeatedly said by different people, and now by Craig A. Evans, that Morton Smith “linked Mark 4:11 (‘To you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God . . .’) with secrecy and forbidden sexual activity”. But is this really so?

This argument is quite tricky to deal with. The reason for this is mainly due to the fact that Morton Smith made no real linkage between the mystery of the kingdom of God and secrecy and forbidden sexual activity. But since he mentions these things in close connection to each other, it might seem as if he did. And since the relationship between these entities is so indistinct, it also becomes difficult to unveil where the forgery proponents get lost. We need to know what Smith really is trying to say. The problem for me then is more of a pedagogic nature.

Of course this has already been quite thoroughly investigated by Scott Brown and Allan Pantuck. Brown showed in 2006 in Factualizing the Folklore: Stephen Carlson’s Case against Morton Smith, that the arguments presented by Stephen Carlson misrepresented what Smith actually wrote. And Pantuck made a similar rebuttal to the arguments presented by Craig Evans at the Toronto conference this year (basically the paper I am examining). So my attempt now will simply be a repetition of what previously has been elucidated by these two scholars.

Anyway, Evans’ claim that Smith published three studies where he made this connection; 1) in the 1951 English release of his Hebrew doctoral dissertation as Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 2) in a “1955 review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark” and 3) in his article “The Image of God” from March 1958, just a few month before he made his discovery at Mar Saba.

1) Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels (1951)

Smith’s dissertation was about Rabbinical (Tannaic) verbal parallels to Gospel material. Smith is comparing the Gospels to the Talmud, the Old Testament and so on. In the chapter referred to by Evans, Smith is in Allan Pantuck’s words “considering how the Gospels portray the words of Jesus in much the same way as the rabbis portray the words of the Law.” (Allan Pantuck, Reply to Evans, p. 2–3)

Evans then quotes the passage where Smith according to Evans links the mystery of the kingdom of God with secrecy and forbidden sexual activity. Like Stephan Carlson before him, Evans simply quoted those parts that would allow him to draw the conclusion he sought to find. He then continues …

I have quoted about one half of a lengthy paragraph. It is part of Smith’s discussion of human comprehension and what can and cannot be taught openly. The paragraph that has been partially quoted explores the idea that the early Church seems to have held to a doctrine of secrecy. Evidence of this, Smith thinks, is found in Mark 4:11, where Jesus explains to his disciples, “To you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God . . . ,” and in Paul, who says that he and other Christian leaders “speak wisdom among the perfect [or mature] . . . the wisdom of God in a mystery” (1 Cor 2:6–7).26 Following these two New Testament citations Smith suggests a comparison with the rabbinic distinction “between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching.” The secret teaching includes forbidden sexual relationships and Ezekiel’s vision of God’s chariot throne. The paragraph concludes with a further comparison with the Torah, which according to the rabbis was to be taught openly, and the teaching of heretics, which was to be taught secretly. Smith believes the evangelists Mark and John edited and presented the teaching of Jesus in response to this rabbinic teaching. (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 9)

So, according to Evans Smith suggested …

a)      that the early Church held to a doctrine of secrecy,

b)     a comparison with the rabbinic distinction “between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching.”

c)      that the secret teaching includes forbidden sexual relationships and Ezekiel’s vision of God’s chariot throne.

But in order to more easily follow Smith’s train of thoughts, I will quote the entire pertinent passage from Smith’s book Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels from 1951:

Further, I think the passage in Sifre on Deut. to have been based on the fact that an important part of primitive Christianity was a secret doctrine which was revealed only to trusted members.  Such a doctrine is suggested by the words put in the mouth of Jesus, speaking to his disciples: ‘To you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to those outside all things are in parables, that they may surely see and not perceive,’ etc.  And Paul himself wrote in I Cor. 2.1–6 ‘and I, coming to you, brethren, came not proclaiming the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom . . . that your faith might not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  But we speak wisdom among the perfect, and a wisdom not of this age . . . but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.’ A similar distinction was recognized by the Tannaïm between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching, as we learn from Hagigah T 2.1 (233): ‘The (passages of the Old Testament dealing with) forbidden sexual relationships are not to be expounded to three (at a time,) but may be expounded to two; and the account of creation not to two, but it may be expounded to a single hearer; and (Ezekiel’s vision of) the chariot may not be expounded to a single hearer unless he be learned in the Law and of good understanding.’  In spite of this the composers of T L thought, as has been seen, that there was an important difference between the words of the Law, which were taught openly, and the teachings of the heretics, which were taught secretly.  (Morton Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 1951, p. 155–156)

Smith is not at all linking the mystery of the kingdom of God with forbidden sexual activity. What he is doing is showing that there is a difference between the outer teaching for the general audience and the inner teaching preserved for the disciples or a smaller group; and that this is true both among Christians and the Jewish rabbis. And while doing this he is providing examples to prove his point.

The Christian examples he takes from Mark 4:11: “To you is given “the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to those outside all things are in parables, that they may surely see and not perceive,” and from Paul, 1 Cor 2:1–6: “But we speak wisdom among the perfect, and a wisdom not of this age”.

Then Smith says that a “similar distinction was recognized by the Tannaïm between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching”. He is accordingly referring to a “similar distinction” between the inner and outer teaching made by the Jewish rabbis. Notice that he is only claiming that both Christians and Jews have a similar distinction between teaching meant for the people and teaching meant for a small group of chosen individuals. That is the point Smith wants to make and in order to do so, ha also exemplifies this from the Tannaic literature by referring to the Mishnaic tractate Hagigah 2.1, which Smith then quotes:

“The (passages of the Old Testament dealing with) forbidden sexual relationships are not to be expounded to three (at a time,) but may be expounded to two; and the account of creation not to two, but it may be expounded to a single hearer; and (Ezekiel’s vision of) the chariot may not be expounded to a single hearer unless he be learned in the Law and of good understanding.” (Morton Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 1951, p. 155–156)

According to this text there are three subjects that could only be expounded to a few people: 1) Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot could only be expounded to a sage, 2) the account of creation (from Genesis) could only be expounded to a single hearer, and 3) the passages of the Old Testament dealing with forbidden sexual relationships could only be expounded to two hearers.

According to Smith this shows that also the rabbis made distinctions between inner and outer teaching. The fact that one of the tree examples in Hagigah happened to be about forbidden sexual relationships, was not the issue for Smith; it was the fact that it only could be expounded to a few. Smith did not link the mystery of the kingdom of God with the forbidden sexual relationships; he simply gave a few examples which would prove his point of similarities between the Tannaic and Christian teachings.

Incidentally, these “forbidden sexual relationships” refers to the Levitical laws from primarily the Book of Leviticus. And although homosexuality is one of the sexual activities that are forbidden, there are a vast number of other sexual behaviors which are equally forbidden; that is incest, sodomy, intercourse with a woman who has her period, or is married to another man, intercourse with an animal, castration and so on. Homosexuality is simply one of the forbidden sexual relationships referred to in that part of the Hagigah.

2) The 1955 review of Taylor’s commentary on Mark

Evans writes the following:

In his 1955 review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark Smith vigorously challenges Taylor’s denial that Mark 4:11 envisioned secret rites. Against Taylor, Smith reminds us that Mark represents Jesus “as teaching in secret and commanding secrecy on many occasions,” which is based on the “recollection that Jesus (also for a wide variety of reasons) practiced secrecy.” The first part of Smith’s statement will elicit no objection from those persuaded by William Wrede’s interpretation of Mark (wherein the point of secrecy was to hide the messianic identity of Jesus), but the second part of Smith’s statement is quite another matter. Jesus “practiced secrecy,” we are told, “for a wide variety of reasons.” What could Smith have had in mind? Could one of those reasons have had to do with teaching regarding prohibited sexual activities, as perhaps hinted at in his dissertation? And as hinted at in subsequent publications, not to mention his remarkable discovery at Mar Saba? (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 10–11)

I am quite surprised that Evans even tries to cast suspicion on Smith by alluding to this classical review by Smith.

Taylor claims that there “is no case” in “the NT, and especially in the Pauline Epp.” in which μυστήριον (mystêrion) “connotes secret rites or esoteric knowledge communicated to ‘initiates.’” Taylor then refers to Mark 4:11 and says that in this “passage and its parallels, it is used of a knowledge concerning the Kingdom of God which has been imparted to the disciples, but not to the people in general.” It is this assumption by Taylor to which Morton Smith is responding. He writes:

This looks self-contradictory, but perhaps T. intended to distinguish between ‘the disciples’ and ‘initiates,’ or some word such as ‘Elsewhere’ should be understood before the first sentence. However, the secrets to which μυστήριον refers in the rest of the NT are not always ‘open,’ e.g. 1 Cor. 2.6 f. (cf. 3.1–3); Col. 2.2; Eph. 5.32. In 1 Cor. Paul says plainly that there is a wisdom which he preaches among the ‘initiate’ (τελείοις), but which he cannot yet preach to the Corinthians because they are still ‘carnal.’ Paul, therefore, claimed to have a secret doctrine. As for Jesus, Mark, of course, represents him as teaching in secret and commanding secrecy on many occasions. The worst error of the ‘Messianic secret’ theories — as Cadbury has remarked — was that they tried to explain all or most of these occasions by reference to a single motive. Actually, the early Church had a wide variety of motives for attributing secret doctrine to Jesus, and among them may well have been the recollection that Jesus (also for a wide variety of motives) practiced secrecy. Every such attribution, therefore, must be judged individually. (Morton Smith, Comments on Taylor’s Commentary on Mark, HTR, Vol. 48, No. 1, Jan., 1955, p. 29)

As can be seen, Smith is never referring, or even alluding, to any prohibited sexual activities. That “the early Church had a wide variety of motives for attributing secret doctrine to Jesus, and among them may well have been the recollection that Jesus (also for a wide variety of motives [not “reasons”, as Evans quote Smith]) practiced secrecy”, does of course not imply that Smith “had in mind” a “teaching regarding prohibited sexual activities”. Why would he? He was simply responding to Taylor’s assertion that mystêrion (μυστήριον) never “connotes secret rites or esoteric knowledge communicated to ‘initiates” in the NT.

In fact Smith does not even think that the expression “the mystery of the Kingdom of God” was something Jesus originally said. Smith continues namely…

Mk. 4.11–12 is probably an answer to Jewish polemic. The Jews are saying, ‘Jesus was not the Messiah, because if he had been he would have been recognized by our scholars. He was heard and rejected.’ The Christian answer is, ‘They never heard his true teaching. He revealed the mysteries [sic!] of the Kingdom only to his disciples; for outsiders he had only parables. Thus he fulfilled God’s command to prevent the Jews from believing.’

So, if Smith did not think that Jesus taught the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but the Christians later invented that saying, how could he then have thought that this saying was a reference to secret sexual practices taught by Jesus? There is nothing in Smith’s review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark which suggests that Smith believed that the secrecy practiced by Jesus had anything to do with prohibited sexual activities; as Evans is suggesting.

3) The article “The Image of God” (March 1958)

This is what Evan says:

In an article that appeared in March of 1958, just a few months before Smith visited Mar Saba, Smith once again mentions the Hagigah passage from the Tosefta. This time, however, he also mentions Clement of Alexandria and cites his work Stromateis. This interesting article calls for a few more comments. Twice Smith mentions Hagigah, one time in reference to the story of the Jewish sage Aher, who “used the spiritual power acquired by his mystical esperience [sic!] to lead good Jews into heresy.” Smith mentions Hagigah a second time in reference to “the teaching about the throne of God,” which was “to be kept most secret of all.” Smith adds that this teaching “quite possibly was not committed to writing.” In a footnote to this final part of the statement Smith references Clement of Alexandria, where in Strom. 1.1.13–14 he discusses secrecy, the secret elements of Jesus’ teaching, and how it is incumbent on him (Clement) to omit some of the teaching, and to impart what teachings he thinks he is permitted to impart cautiously, lest his readers “stumble by taking them in a wrong sense.” Here we have echoed themes articulated in the paragraph from the 1951 dissertation quoted and discussed above.

It is quite difficult to follow Evans’ logic here. You have to study the footnotes, which I have not included in the quotation, in order to realize the connections Evans is trying to establish. According to Evans Smith mentions the tractate Hagigah twice. I don’t know what Evans wants to make out of the fact that Smith is saying that the “vegetable symbols originally outranked the astral” and that it “is probably older”; and then supports this statement with this footnote:

The symbolism persisted, of course, after the destruction of the Temple. When Aher entered paradise “ he cut down the plants ” , i.e. used the spiritual power acquired by his mystical experience to lead good Jews into heresy (T. Hag. 2.3, ed. Zuckermandel, p. 234). … (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. 505, n. 1)

This has nothing to do with anything Evans is intimating and it is not even referring to the same paragraph in Hagigah as the one dealing with forbidden sexuality.

The next reference to Hagigah is according to Evans “in reference to ‘the teaching about the throne of God,” which was ‘to be kept most secret of all.’” Evans then says that “[i]n a footnote to this final part of the statement Smith references Clement of Alexandria, where in Strom. 1.1.13–14 he discusses secrecy, the secret elements of Jesus’ teaching, and how it is incumbent on him (Clement) to omit some of the teaching, and to impart what teachings he thinks he is permitted to impart cautiously, lest his readers ‘stumble by taking them in a wrong sense.’” Evans believes that “we” thereby “have echoed themes articulated in the paragraph from the 1951 dissertation”. But is this really so? This is what Smith writes:

It is upon the tree of life that God rests when he comes to the Garden of Eden—on this rabbinic, pseudepigraphic, Christian and magical texts agree.(2)  This legend, plus the fact that the tree of life is the symbol of the saint, enables us to understand the cryptic saying of Resh Laqish, “ The patriarchs, they are the throne of God “.(3)  We should not expect this doctrine to be developed in the preserved rabbinic material, since the teaching about the throne of God is specified as that to be kept most secret of all,(4) and quite possibly was not committed to writing.(5)

2 …
3 …
4 Hagigah 2. 1 and parallels.
5 Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom. I. 1. 13-14 etc.

Smith is simply supporting his view that “the throne of God” is to be kept secret by referring to Hagigah 2.1, where as we have seen the Mishna forbids any public teaching regarding Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot or the throne. It is true that Hagigah 2.1 also refers to all sorts of forbidden sexuality, but this is not what Smith is referring to in this case. It is amazing that someone can suggest that Smith is alluding to forbidden sexuality by referring to a certain passage, although he explicitly refers to another subject in that passage.

Smith then refers to (or cites) Clement, Stromata 1.1.13-14 etc., to support that this secret teaching was not committed to writing. That he chose Clement to support this idea is of course quite expected. As Scott Brown puts it:

Again, Smith was discussing secret doctrines, and Clement is the most obvious Christian example of the widespread philosophical attitude that the most profound doctrines should not be put in writing: (Scott G. Brown, Factualizing the Folklore: Stephen Carlson’s case against Morton Smith, HTR, July 1, 2006, p. 325)

But all this does of course not support anything of Evans’ suggestions. The mystery of the kingdom of God and Mark 4:11–12, are not mentioned; neither is any forbidden sexuality. The reference to Hagigah 2.1 is to another prohibition and not to sexuality. And just because this tractate happens to be in a footnote followed by a footnote reference to Clement of Alexandria, does not support that Smith linked them to each other.

Summary

Evans claim that Smith already before he made his discovery of the Clement letter with two extracts from a Secret Gospel of Mark in the summer of 1958, had expressed similar ideas as those found in Secret Mark. Apart from the fact that those elements are not found in Secret Mark, Smith never made the connections Evans is saying that he did. According to Evans:

Prior to the discovery of the Clementine letter at the Mar Saba Monastery Smith had published three studies (1951, 1955, 1958) in which he discusses (1) Mark 4:11 (“the mystery of the kingdom of God”), (2) secrecy and initiation, (3) forbidden sexual relationships, including union with a god, (4) omitted Markan material with Johannine traits, and (5) Clement of Alexandria, usually in reference to his Stromateis, who believed it was necessary to omit some of Jesus’ secret (potentially offensive) teaching. (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 14)

It is of course not a bit strange if a scholar who has studied both Christianity and Judaism, also in his writings has mentioned Mark 4:11–12 and the mystery of the kingdom of God, and secret teaching as well, since also this was part of his study field. But the point is if he made the connection between the elements Evans believes can be found in Secret Mark. And the answer is definitely no.

In his dissertation and book, the Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels from 1951, he does not link the mystery of the kingdom of God with secrecy and forbidden sexual activity. He is simply showing that there is a difference between the outer teaching and the inner teaching and supporting this with examples to prove his point. Then he happened to chose Mark 4:11 as one of the Christian examples and Hagigah as the Jewish example to prove his point, and one of the subjects in that tractate was about all kinds of forbidden sexual relationships. That is all there is.

The 1955 review of Taylor’s commentary on Mark shows nothing at all. Smith is never referring, or even alluding, to any prohibited sexual activities. Evans’ belief that Smith would have alluded to “teaching regarding prohibited sexual activities” is totally unsupported.

And in his 1958 article “The Image of God”, Smith never even mentions the mystery of the kingdom of God, nor refers to any forbidden sexuality. He simply happened to put two footnotes next to each other, one referring to Clement where he suggest that not everything should be put in writing, and the Hagigah, where it said that the throne of God is to be kept secret.

Next, I will look into Evans’ suggestion that Smith would have supported the idea that Mark should have omitted material with Johannine traits and that this is also true regarding Secret Mark.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-30

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

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

Craig A. Evans

Craig A. Evans has written an article on the Clement letter including the Secret Gospel of Mark as being a forgery, Doubting Morton Smith and Secret Mark, which has been favourable received among the forgery proponents. This has also triggered a debate between James F. McGrath here and here, and Craig Evans here. At the end of his article Evans writes that the full text of his “York paper will be published under the editorship of Tony Burke and Phil Harland.” Since he at his homepage publishes the paper Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt, which he says is a “Paper presented at a conference hosted by York University, Toronto, April 2011. To be published in conference volume”, I suppose that this is the York paper to be published.

Anyway, I will take a look at Evans’ York Paper, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt. Evans has obviously skipped some of his not so well thought-out arguments, which he put forward in his book Fabricating Jesus and to an even greater extent when he acted as an “expert” for Lee Strobel in Strobel’s book The Case for the Real Jesus (see my article One Thousand and One Untruths: How Reliable Is the Account of Secret Mark by Lee Strobel and Craig Evans?).

Evans’ paper is some sort of summary of most of the arguments which are put forward as evidence that the Clement letter is a forgery and that Morton Smith is the forger. On the whole Evans’ arguments are a rehash and a repetition of arguments already put forward by Stephen Carlson, Francis Watson, Bart Ehrman and others. One could say that Evans’ paper makes a nice summary of all those arguments. I will therefore obviously not be able to answer and try to refute every single argument. This is on the other hand not necessary, since most of the arguments already have been met and often fairly thoroughly refuted by others and some also by me.

I will however concentrate on those issues on which Evans spends most of his time. He says that the reason why he views the find with grave suspicion is “that Smith possessed knowledge of distinctive elements of the Mar Saba find, prior to his finding it”:

“… what I find most troubling is 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. And these are not just themes of interest to Professor Smith, they are quite unusual themes and, apart from Professor Smith himself, they are themes advanced by no one else. In what follows two unusual themes will be explored: (1) The “mystery of the kingdom of God” and prohibited sex, and (2) Markan materials omitted from Mark that exhibit Johannine traits.” (p. 8)

I will begin with the “’mystery of the kingdom of God’ and prohibited sex”.

In order to make such a connection Evans need to show a) that Smith actually made a “linkage between secrecy and prohibited sex”, b) that such a linkage would be seen as something quite unusual and c) that the teaching of the mystery of the kingdom of God in Secret Mark has to do with prohibited sex, or sex whatsoever.

We can leave point b) aside, since the probability that Smith by chance would have dealt with issues he later were to discover are difficult to calculate and therefore to evaluate. But in order for Evans’ equation to work both a) and c) must be true. Because if Smith made no linkage between secrecy and prohibited sex, it makes no difference if the teaching of the mystery of the kingdom of God in Secret Mark would turn out to be about prohibited sex. And the other way around, if the mystery of the kingdom of God in Secret Mark has nothing to do with prohibited sex, it makes no difference if Smith would have linked secrecy with prohibited sex. As it turns out, neither of the assertions seem to be true.

Although, as I said, this paper by Evans constitutes a vast improvement compared to previous attempts by him, it still has logical fallacies and also factual errors on issues on which he should not, or even could not, be unaware of.

Already in the first paragraph Evans says the following:

“What makes the find controversial is that in one of the passages quoted from this Gospel Jesus teaches a naked young man the ‘mystery of the kingdom of God.’”

But you only need to have the ability to read in order to see that the young man is not naked:

“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.”

As anyone who can read ought to be able to see, the youth is not naked as he wears a linen cloth. If you wear a linen cloth you are not naked. “He only wore a pair of trousers and a t-shirt over his naked body”. This means that he is dressed. One could of course argue that the youth intended to take off the linen cloth, but this will have to be a pure speculation built on no facts at all. And Evans does not even discuss this possibility, but simply asserts that the young man was naked. On top of this he also extends this assumption on page 27 to include Jesus as well, when he writes that “Jesus (in the nude?) instructs a new convert”. For sure he this time has a question mark, yet no discussion around the body of evidence for making such an assumption.

Now, one could say that this is just a trifle; some failed wording. But by saying that the youth was naked, Evans is actually dishonestly presenting something which is not true. The real problem here is though that this faulty assumption then forms the basis for much of his further conjectures.

Evans says that “forbidden sexual activities are hinted at throughout the Clementine letter, including and especially the first quotation of the longer edition of Mark”(p. 15–16). And it is correct that Clement is accusing Carpocrates for distorting the meaning of Secret Mark and the Carpocratians for dealing with carnal and bodily sins. But Clement also elsewhere in his unquestioned writings accuses the Carpocratians for these things, so this is nothing new. The real issue is what is said in the Secret Gospel of Mark, as this is where the mystery of the kingdom of God occurs. Evans (and others) can only make the connection if he can show that Jesus and the youth were indulging in some sex-act when Jesus was teaching the youth the kingdom of God. And there is nothing in the text that supports such a theory. The reasons for this are …

1)      The excerpts from Secret Mark never say that there were any sexual activities between Jesus and the youth.

2)      There is no example anywhere else, neither in Christian nor other writings, that the mystery of the kingdom of God would be a veiled expression for (forbidden) sex.

3)      Jesus is also teaching the other disciples the mystery of the kingdom of God without anyone considering this to have anything to do with sexuality.

4)      A youth wearing nothing but a linen cloth is also present in Mark 14:51–52, and the fact that he is stripped of his clothes, does not hint at (and has not been interpreted as) anything sexual.

5)      The fact that the youth later is described as the one whom Jesus loved,  does not imply anything sexual, as Jesus also elsewhere is said to have loved other people. And besides, the Greek word agapê, which primarily refers to Platonic love, is used.

6)      Clement, who for certain represented the view among those in the Alexandrian Church where this Gospel was used, did not find anything sexual in the text. On the contrary, he quoted the passage in order for Theodoros to see the obvious himself.

So, even IF Smith would have linked the mystery of the kingdom of God to forbidden sexuality, this has no impact on Evans’ arguments since they are not linked in Secret Mark, and (homo)sexuality is no issue in the text.

To be continued …

A Quest for Secret Mark’s Authenticity: A Chain is as Strong as its Weakest Link

I wrote this article more than a year ago, and had it published at my web site. But since it went by without being much noticed and as I think it has some good points, I have decided to publish it once more and then here on my blog.

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A Quest for Authenticity:
A Chain is as Strong as its Weakest Link

by Roger Viklund

It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This means that if a number of arguments are presented in favour of a particular opinion and these arguments are dependent upon each other, then that opinion itself is no stronger than the weakest argument. If that argument is a dubious argument, then it does not matter if the other arguments are solid. On the other hand, if you can produce a chain of arguments leading from the beginning to the end; and every argument in that chain is intellectually persuasive, then this chain would reasonably produce a very strong case. If the chain cannot be broken by cracking one of the links, the chain would form what could be considered to be a proof or at least strong evidence.

What I will do here is to try to present such a chain of arguments leading up to a reasonably solid ground for authenticity of the Secret Gospel of Mark and as a result thereof also the Clement letter. In this I will focus on the elements which form the separate links in the chain and leave most of the other circumstances outside the discussion, as I believe that motives, opportunities and other circumstantial evidence are irrelevant if a solid case for authenticity can be presented. I will also, as a second chain, argue for the longer secret/mystic gospel being the original Gospel of Mark, preceding the canonical version in the Bible.

I will take my stand in the Secret Gospel itself, beginning from the very start and advancing to modern time; quite the opposite approach compared to what is often seen, where the investigation begins with Morton Smith and the discovery at Mar Saba in 1958. In order to make my case as clear as possible, I will also try to keep this article as short as is defensible, not arguing in detail for every position, but instead presupposing that the readers are aware of the history of the letter and Mark’s literary techniques with intercalations, framing stories and so on.

The first Chain: A Claim for Authenticity

Authenticity Link One

The Secret Mark fragments form both an intercalation
and a framing story within the Gospel of Mark

For convenience I will designate the Secret Mark fragments in connection with the intermediate section from the Gospel of Mark (10:35–45) as an intercalation, even though I know that some people consider it not to be an intercalation. Regardless of what one thinks is characterizing an intercalation; the parts from Secret Mark do interact with the Gospel of Mark in a way which is typical of how the Gospel of Mark is composed. When Mark (to me a code word for whoever wrote the gospel) is telling a story, he has a habit of incorporating an additional story and letting these two stories unfold simultaneously by letting the focus shift from one story to the other. He does this so that the stories illuminate each other, thereby highlighting Mark’s theological intention. The technique is called intercalation or Markan sandwich technique. The course can be described as letting an A-event progress while a B-event is put inside the A-event. The course is A, then B and finally A again, or better, A1, B, and finally A2.[1]

Below, I reproduce Secret Mark fitted in its context in the Gospel of Mark; both the Greek text and an English translation.

Mark 10:32–34, Alexandrian text type, GNT Morph

ἦσαν δὲ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἀναβαίνοντες εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ ἦν προάγων αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο οἱ δὲ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἐφοβοῦντο καὶ παραλαβὼν πάλιν τοὺς δώδεκα ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς λέγειν τὰ μέλλοντα αὐτῷ συμβαίνειν ὅτι ἰδοὺ ἀναβαίνομεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδοθήσεται τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς γραμματεῦσιν καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτὸν θανάτῳ καὶ παραδώσουσιν αὐτὸν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν καὶ ἐμπαίξουσιν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐμπτύσουσιν αὐτῷ καὶ μαστιγώσουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται

SecMk1 (the A1-story)

καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς βηθανίαν καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ μία γυνὴ ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτῆς ἀπέθανεν· καὶ ἐλθοῦσα προσεκύνησε τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· υἱὲ Δαβὶδ ἐλέησόν με· οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτῇ· καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπῆλθεν μετ’ αὐτῆς εἰς τὸν κῆπον ὅπου ἦν τὸ μνημεῖον· καὶ εὐθὺς ἠκούσθη ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου φωνὴ μεγάλη· καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπεκύλισε τὸν λίθον ἀπὸ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου· καὶ εἰσελθὼν εὐθὺς ὅπου ἦν ὁ νεανίσκος ἐξέτεινεν τὴν χεῖρα καὶ ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν· κρατήσας τῆς χειρός· ὁ δὲ νεανίσκος ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἤρξατο παρακαλεῖν αὐτὸν ἵνα μετ’ αὐτοῦ ᾖ· καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου ἦλθον εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ νεανίσκου· ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος· καὶ μεθ’ἡμέρας ἓξ ἐπέταξεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης ὁ νεανίσκος πρὸς αὐτὸν· περιβεβλημένος σινδόνα ἐπὶ γυμνοῦ· καὶ ἔμεινε σὺν αὐτῷ τὴν νύκτα ἐκείνην· ἐδίδασκε γὰρ αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὸ μυστήριον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ· ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς; ἐπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου.

Mark 10:35–45 (the B-story), Alexandrian text type

καὶ προσπορεύονται αὐτῷ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης οἱ υἱοὶ Ζεβεδαίου λέγοντες αὐτῷ διδάσκαλε θέλομεν ἵνα ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωμέν σε ποιήσῃς ἡμῖν ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς τί θέλετέ με ποιήσω ὑμῖν οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ δὸς ἡμῖν ἵνα εἷς σου ἐκ δεξιῶν καὶ εἷς ἐξ ἀριστερῶν καθίσωμεν ἐν τῇ δόξῃ σου ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω ἢ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ δυνάμεθα ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω πίεσθε καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθήσεσθε τὸ δὲ καθίσαι ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἢ ἐξ εὐωνύμων οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι ἀλλ’ οἷς ἡτοίμασται καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ δέκα ἤρξαντο ἀγανακτεῖν περὶ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωάννου καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι αὐτῶν κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν οὐχ οὕτως δέ ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν ἀλλ’ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ μέγας γενέσθαι ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος ἔσται πάντων δοῦλος καὶ γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν

Mark 10:46a + SecMk2 (the A2-story), Mark 10:46b

καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ καὶ ἦσαν ἐκεῖ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ νεανίσκου ὃν ἠγάπα αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ Σαλώμη· καὶ οὐκ ἀπεδέξατο αὐτὰς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ Ἰεριχὼ καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλου ἱκανοῦ ὁ υἱὸς Τιμαίου Βαρτιμαῖος τυφλὸς προσαίτης ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν

Mark 10:32–34, NASB

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, [saying,] ”Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. ”They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill [Him,] and three days later He will rise again.”

SecMk1, Morton Smith’s translation

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be 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. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.

Mark 10:35–45, NASB

James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on [Your] left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. “But to sit on My right or on [My] left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Hearing [this,] the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:46a, SecMk2, Mark 10:46b

Then they came to Jericho. And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar [named] Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.

Although of course also other writers in antiquity sometimes tended to interweave stories into other stories, the specifically Markan techniques for doing so have explicit characteristics. Actually, “Mark employs the sandwich technique in a unique and pronounced manner.”[2] This realization has led to more and more scholars arguing that “the purpose of Mark’s sandwich technique is not in itself literary but theological”.[3] Scholars disagree also upon what should be called an intercalation or not, but at least six passages are generally accepted as intercalations[4] and at least a dozen more are disputed. Among these six there are stylistic features they have in common. These can be summarized in five typical characteristics of a Markan intercalation.[5]

  1. The A2-story is repeating the opening theme from the A1-story in order to draw attention to the relationship between the two A-stories.
  2. The B-story is independent of the A-story and also complete in itself.
  3. There are different protagonists in the A- and B-stories.
  4. Both the A-story and the B-story are set to contrast the other story theologically and thematically and they should be reciprocally interpretative.
  5. The A1-episode should continue and be fulfilled by the A2-episode.

The two quotations by Clement can be seen as the A1-story and the A2-story (SecMk1 and SecMk2). The B-story is made up of the part in between these stories, Mark 10:35–45, the request by James and John to accompany Jesus in his Kingdom. How well does this then fulfil the five criteria?

The first criterion: SecMk2 is repeating the opening theme of SecMk1, but only if Mark 10:46a is added, and this shows that they should be seen as a unit from the beginning.

SecMk1: Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς βηθανίαν καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ μία γυνὴ ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτῆς  ἀπέθανεν.
And they come into Bethany, and there was a certain woman whose brother had died.

Mark 10:46a + SecMk2:    Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ καὶ ἦσαν ἐκεῖ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ νεανίσκου ὃν ἠγάπα αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
And they come into Jericho, and there was the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved.

Both passages begin with “and they come into” and thereafter the place. Then another “and” after which the same woman is mentioned and she is in both cases identified as the sister of the youth … and so on. This means that the first criterion is fulfilled, as the A2-story “contains an allusion at its beginning which refers back to A1, e.g., repetition of a theme, proper nouns, etc.” in order to draw attention to the relationship between the two A-stories and so the reader not “fails to link A2 with A1”.[6] One could of course argue that Mark 10:46a (Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς, and a place name) is such a common phrase in Mark (also in Mark 5:38, 8:22, 11:15, 14:32) that this should not be counted as a repetition. Still it is a repetition of SecMk1, and the rest of the sentence is in itself enough to make the connection. On top of that there is also another typical Markan intercalation sign in this story. Tom Shepherd describes this Markan technique in his doctoral thesis:

Also, a previously unmentioned character is introduced, or a new name is given to a group previously introduced in the first part of the outer story. This new character or newly named group is the subject/actor of the first or second sentence of the reentered outer story.[7]

That is in the first or second sentence of the A2-story. This also perfectly fits the Secret Mark-intercalation, since Salome, a person who is not mentioned before in the Gospel of Mark, is introduced in the first sentence of SecMk2. Also the youth’s mother (provided she is not Jesus’ mother) is a new character, never previously mentioned. John Dart, who happens to believe that Secret Mark was the original composition by Mark, believes the mother to be Jesus’ mother. He writes:

The rebuff of the women by Jesus, without direct explanation, is not unprecedented in Mark. Earlier, Mark has Jesus express disdain for his mother and siblings at 3:31–35 and at 6:4, apparently for believing Jesus was “mad” and a prophet pretender, respectively. Mother is ignored again in Secret Mark’s 10:46.[8]

The second criterion: In SecMk1 (A1) Jesus raises a youth from the dead and then teaches him “the Mystery of the Kingdom of God”. In SecMk2 (A2) one of the persons from SecMk1 (A1) is back, namely the sister of the youth. The B-story is on the other hand in itself complete and independent of the A-story, and it concerns seemingly another subject, namely that James and John strive to drink the cup of Jesus and request to be elevated to his Kingdom to sit on each side of him. The second criterion is therefore fulfilled, as “the B-episode forms an independent unit of material”.[9]

The third criterion: There should be different characters in the A- and B-stories. The exceptions are normally Jesus and the disciples, as they (at least Jesus) are part of almost every story. But if the disciples are present in both stories, they are not supposed to play a major part in both.[10] Also this criterion is fulfilled. In the B-story the disciples, and then particularly James and John, are the protagonists. In the A-story (SecMk1) the protagonists are the youth, his sister, Salome and the mother of either the youth or Jesus. The disciples are only mentioned at the beginning, and then as a group.

[Mark] brought two stories together not only in the telling, but also in the way the characters of the stories have so many parallels and contrasts to one another. And yet, the evangelist also held the stories apart by lack of character cross over between stories …[11]

Mark 10:46a has Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ – ”And they come to Jericho”. It is then interesting to note that according to Clement, Mark 10:46a instead read: “And he comes to Jericho” (καί ἔρχεται εἰς Ἰεριχὼ). Thereby the disciples’ involvement in the A-story is even more abridged.

The fourth criterion: Particularly this criterion, where the A- and B-stories should contrast each other theologically and thematically and also be reciprocally interpretative, is a late discovery, which according to Scott Brown was not fully accepted until the 1980s:

It was during the second half of the 1960s and the 1970s that a sizeable number of scholars came to appreciate intercalation as a device that permits stories to be mutually interpretative. Yet this perspective only began to dominate in the 1980s.[12]

J. D. Crossan emphasizes that “a Markan intercalation is not just a juxtaposition of two events”. Instead it is “a literary-theological technique, with both sides of the hyphen equally important.”[13] The two stories, the outer framing and the inner intersection, should at the same time be unrelated, with different protagonists operating in different environments and scenarios, and related by a more subtle understanding that they relate to a similar subject, yet often expressed more symbolically, thereby illuminating each other.

Also this criterion is seemingly fulfilled in the Secret Mark-intercalation. The A1-story and the B-story are tied together by the conception of death and ritual inauguration. In order to reach the place of honour, James and John need to drink Jesus’ cup; to “drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with”. (Mark 10:38) In SecMk1 the youth is dressed in a linen cloth, and has prepared himself to undergo what could be interpreted as an initiation rite, being taught “the Mystery of the Kingdom of God”. Symbolically he could be said to undergo Jesus’ baptism, which in that case is not a baptism of water but one of spirit and knowledge. If so, he tries to achieve Jesus’ glory by drinking his cup, the same as also James and John immediately afterwards requests.[14]

As James Edwards says, there “are many examples in ancient literature where an author interrupts one story with another in order to achieve a desired effect.” And he refers to both the Odyssey and the Iliad and from Hebrew Scriptures for instance 2 Maccabees, Hosea and 2 Sam 11:1-12:25. But he also says that to the best of his knowledge “the use of an inserted middle to give new meaning or to resolve a tension in a host passage can be seen” only in Hebrew Scriptures, and even then seldom. Still these stories differ from the ones in Mark, as “their B-episodes are intentional commentaries on the flanking A-episodes, whereas in Mark the B-episode is (with the exception of 4:1-20) always an independent narrative.”[15] “Almost always the insertion is the standard by which the flanking material is measured, the key to the interpretation of the whole.”[16]

The fifth criterion: Point 5 is however not fulfilled as the story from SecMk1 is not continuing and getting its fulfilment in SecMk2. Although the story in some way continues, as the sister of the youth who showed Jesus to the grave in SecMk1, and perhaps also the youth’s mother, now wish to meet Jesus, even if he rejects them. But SecMk1 is of course not fulfilled by SecMk2, as the first story is complete in itself.

This fifth criterion is seen by many as the ultimate criterion for an intercalation and therefore this story is by them considered not to be an intercalation, at least not a typical one. There are though other intercalations within the Gospel of Mark where the A2-story really is not needed to fulfil the A1-story, for instance in the intercalations in Mark 11:12–25 and Mark 6:7–32. In for example the A2-story in Mark 6:30–32 the travel-weary disciples simply reports back to Jesus what they already had done. This A2-story is really not necessary to fulfil the A1-story. SecMk1 is also unusually long to be an A1-story, and SecMk2 is unusually short to be an A2-story. But John Dart refers to Mark 6:30–32 as an example of why, according to him, “the postscriptlike conclusion” should not be considered to be too short an end frame.”[17] And on top of this; if Mark 11:1–12:12 is seen as a triple intercalation, then Mark 11:1–10 (11) is also a completed A1-story just like SecMk1.[18]

Whether the Secret Mark fragments inserted in the Gospel of Mark, shall be called an intercalation or not, is on the other hand simply a matter of semantics, and is totally irrelevant for my line of argument. I settle for noticing that four out of the five criteria put forward for identifying an intercalation are fulfilled, thereby showing that whoever wrote these two passages from the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark was aware of at least four out of the five techniques which the author of the Gospel of Mark utilized when he composed his intercalations. And if that person was aware of these four, he would for sure also have been aware of the fifth, since it is the most obvious one and easiest to detect.

The framing story

On top of that, also a framing story is attained where Mark 10:32–34 in interplay with SekMk1 are mirroring the language and the narrative of the actual ending of the Gospel of Mark (16:1–8), and both these “frames” are enclosing the extensive part which as a unit deals with Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem.

Authenticity Link Two

Ancient authors were unaware of Mark’s literary techniques

If someone else than the author of the Gospel of Mark has written the Secret Mark fragments, we would need to presuppose that this author was aware of Mark’s literary techniques, as presented in the previous authenticity link. Is there any way that someone in antiquity could have discovered these techniques? How does one prove that ancient authors were not aware of Mark’s literary techniques? One could of course point out the obvious, that no one shows any signs of knowing them. No Christian writer in the first centuries (and probably also later) says anything about the Gospel author’s literal techniques, neither directly nor show any awareness of them. But one could also take a broader perspective, and see that no one even cared for evaluating any author’s technique. The church fathers saw the gospels more like one testimony from God and they defended a passage in one gospel by referring to another gospel or to an epistle.

Notice that I do not claim that no one could have imitated Mark’s writing style, such as forming phrases and using words similar to those found in the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s style would be fairly easy to imitate, in antiquity as well as in modern time, by someone who had read the gospel thoroughly. It is after all just a short passage which needs to be invented, and Mark’s language is rather simplistic. Instead of focusing upon the language, I am specifically referring to the intercalation and the framing story.

How could anyone in antiquity have detected these techniques and then afterwards also been able to imitate them? Remember that no form of textual criticism like science has evolved into today was known in antiquity. And it has been a long and painstaking road to walk until just a few decades ago before we came to realize all the techniques that we so far know are being used in Secret Mark. Simply the fact that it took modern scholars so many years to discover Mark’s techniques would make it quite unlikely that the ancients would have been able to do the same thing (and all of this secretly). The only true examples we have to make comparisons with are the different endings of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:9ff), where certainly not Markan techniques are being utilized.[19] The ones who wrote these endings did not even manage to write in a typical Markan language, but were instead using words and expressions alien to Mark.

We are to believe that whoever managed to forge Mark could imitate his writing style, creating a framing story in interaction with the already finished Gospel of Mark and on top of that also an intercalation, where the author could identify and implement four distinct Markan characteristics which by science was only discovered at different times during the last centuries. Yet at the same time he was doing this, he would refrain from using the obvious sign of an intercalation, a sign which at least would be possible to discover if someone set out to analyze Mark’s literary techniques.

And as previously said, James Edwards claims that although there are many examples in ancient literature of sandwiching techniques being used, only seldom and then only in Hebrew Scriptures is there an inserted story that gives new meaning to the “host passage”. And even then “their B-episodes are intentional commentaries on the flanking A-episodes, whereas in Mark the B-episode is … an independent narrative.”[20]

There are those who believe that these techniques could have been more common in antiquity than we are aware of, and also that they could have been imitated subconsciously. I do not think so, since it is not just a matter of literal construction but mainly of theological. It is obvious for instance in one of the classical intercalations (Mark 14:53–72), where Peter denies Jesus thrice before the rooster crows twice, that the division between Jesus’ trial and Peter’s denial is not primarily done in order to increase the excitement, but to highlight the difference between a coward and someone willing to stand up for the faith, even if it costs him his life. This division is done to strengthen the supporters’ faith, and is not just a literal technique learnt in some rhetorical school. There is a huge difference between realizing what standing up for the faith means to me, and to unveil the technique used to create this insight and afterwards also being able to imitate it.

For those reasons, no one in antiquity could (within a reasonable way of using probabilities) have written Secret Mark, apart from the one who also wrote the canonical Gospel of Mark.

Authenticity Link Three

Medieval authors were unaware of Mark’s literary techniques

Could then someone later on have made the forgery? I am specifically referring to the period from the 3rd century (after Clement’s days) to the 18th century (before the letter was copied into the end papers of Vossius’ book). I would regard this as equally or even more unlikely. Equally unlikely, since the awareness of Mark’s literary techniques did not radically increase during this period. More unlikely, since a forger during this period also would have had to forge Clement, quite a difficult task, and by many regarded as almost impossible to do before 1936,[21] when the first concordance of Clement’s words was released.[22]

It is therefore not a realistic scenario to envision that someone would have made up this letter during this period and that a monk at Mar Saba in the 18th century took that text, which he thought was genuine, and copied it onto the end leaves of Vossius’ book.

Authenticity Link Four

Was the letter invented by someone else than Smith in the 18th, 19th or 20th century?

It is also unrealistic to believe that the letter was produced in the 18th, 19th or 20th century by someone else than Smith. The reason for this is though quite another than what previously has been argued for. Someone who would invent this letter in the 18th century would not have had the problem of producing the actual writing. Still in the 18th century that person could not have been aware of all the Markan literary techniques in order to produce the Secret Mark fragments. And he would also have faced the same problem as everybody else before 1936 in composing the Clement-part of the letter. Someone writing in the 1940s or 1950s could possibly have known all these things, but then the circumstance under which the letter was found makes this scenario really impossible to embrace. If someone would have gone through all the painstaking work of producing, what by many has been seen as the forgery of the century, then this person reasonably must have made sure that the letter also was found. To produce the forgery and then stick the book into a bookshelf at the Mar Saba library and hoping that someone eventually will find this forgery by pure chance and that this someone also will realize the importance of the discovery, is so unrealistic that I cannot really consider it to be an alternative at all. It is really out of the question.

Authenticity Link Five

Could Smith himself have forged the letter?

Morton Smith could in my opinion hardly have forged the letter. Out of these five links, this is probably though the weakest one, with far less hard facts to back it up. Apart from the option that both the Clement letter and Secret Mark are genuine, the only other realistic scenario seems to be that Morton Smith forged the letter. Of course, nothing so far presented as indications that Smith forged the letter can really be considered as evidence. It all basically comes down to casting suspicion on him. There are though a number of reasons that makes it quite unlikely that he forged the letter.

The sheer difficulty in imitating Mark, both literary and using his techniques, imitating Clement, both literary and implementing his world view, and imitating a fluid rapid cursive 18th century Greek handwriting, is in itself a strong argument in favour of Smith not having forged the text. He, like everybody else, could not possibly have managed to do it even if he had wanted to. On top of that, his correspondence with Gershom Scholem shows “him discussing the material with Scholem, over time, in ways that clearly reflect a process of discovery and reflection.”[23] And according to Helmut Koester, Smith was struggling to understand the document, even had problem to decipher the Greek handwriting. Not what one, according to Koester, would have expected from a forger.[24] But still, Smith could have been the cleverest forger ever to have appeared! This is at least what the proponents of this theory often claim.

But if so, there are some very strange facts to be considered. One of my main reasons for claiming that Secret Mark is not an ancient forgery is the fact that both an intercalation and a framing story occur within Mark if the excerpts from the Mar Saba letter are inserted. One of my main reasons for claiming that Smith did not invent the letter is the same, yet partly for a different cause. One could say that these typical Markan techniques could easily be imitated by a skilled scholar in modern times. But the problem here is that just four out of five characteristics of an intercalation are achieved. And the four that are achieved are the more subtle ones, some of which were poorly understood in 1958. There is of course one sign which is the most obvious sign of an intercalation and that is that the A1-episode should continue and be fulfilled by the A2-episode. This one, which is recognized by all as the obvious sign, is not fulfilled.

What a shrewd forger, who manages to make an uncharacteristic intercalation, leaving out the obvious sign, yet including signs that just a few scholars started to realize and which by then (1958) was not generally accepted! We are to believe that Smith besides being able to produce an almost perfect forgery, yet had the nerve to exclude from that forgery the most typical sign which everybody would recognize as a marker for an intercalation. At the same time he chooses to include markers which were only proposed by a few, not accepted or perhaps not even recognized by the majority, and which in 1958 no one would even have known if they in the future would be accepted. This is what Scott Brown says:

But the biggest problem for any theory of imitation is the fact that longer Mark contains more Markan characteristics than any imitator living before the 1980s is apt to have noticed. Although Mark has been studied intensively since the theory of Markan priority began to dominate in the last third of the nineteenth century, specialists in Mark have only quite recently begun to discern and articulate many of the Markan literary techniques used in the longer text … And these scholars have been able to build upon each other’s research. Indeed, it is only in the last few decades that scholars of Mark realized that Mark was capable of employing intelligent literary techniques.[25]

This line of argument can be pushed even further, as there obviously are elements within Secret Mark that correspond to Matthew, Luke and John. This is often put forward as signs of Secret Mark being a late pastiche, where the author has drawn on different sources.[26] But what a stupid forger who is perfectly imitating Mark, yet borrowing from the other gospels although he is trying to make it look as if it is written by Mark!

Smith then should at the same time have been the most shrewd forger and stupid forger. Or, he was so clever as to insert esoteric elements, yet leaving out the obvious signs, in order to fool those clever enough to realize this. By this way of arguing you cannot lose. You will find signs of forgery either way, as your arguments work both ways.

As a result, the most reasonable way of interpreting this is that no forger in modern time would have included the subtle elements of an intercalation and at the same time left out the obvious one; no forger would have accomplished such a perfect forgery, yet at the same time included elements which could be suspected for being taken from the other gospels. Compared to all the other achievements which a forger in such case would have made, it would have been a piece of cake to include the obvious sign for an intercalation and to exclude the passages which echo Matthew, Luke and John.

Summary

This chain of links accordingly says that 1) the Secret Mark part contains typical Markan techniques; 2) these techniques could hardly have been discovered in order to imitate them in antiquity, especially not when the most obvious one is left out; 3) it would have been equally difficult to discover and imitate them in the time from Clement to the 18th century, and on top that also extremely difficult to imitate Clement; 4) the way the discovery was made, it is really implausible to think that someone in the 18th–20th century, even if that someone could have accomplished this forgery, would have hid it in the back of a book at Mar Saba where it possibly never would have been discovered; and 5) if Morton Smith against all odds would have been able to produce the forgery of the century, we are still to believe that he managed to include signs of an intercalation not yet fully understood in 1958, while he would have excluded the most obvious criterion, and he also would have been so clumsy as to echo expressions from the other gospels.

The Second Chain: A Claim for Secret Markan Priority

I will in the same way argue that Secret Mark was the original Gospel of Mark, preceding the canonical Gospel of Mark. In this section I will presume that Secret Mark is genuine and written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Mark, relying on my arguments in The first Chain: A Claim for Authenticity. Of course Clement seems to be claiming the opposite; the secret parts were added by Mark after he had completed the gospel which now is in the Bible. However, this is not absolutely certain. Clement says that Mark “transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge.” It is reasonable to think that this “former book” was the version known to us from the Bible, at least basically, since the summary Clement makes of the material into which the Secret Mark material is fitted, is in accordance with the Gospel of Mark, and he gives no indication of that the former book would be any other than this book. But still, we do not know this for sure. I will nevertheless disregard what Clement says regarding both the authorship and the order in which the gospels were written. I am so to say specifically investigating the order in which they were written, not the order in which they were made public (which might differ). I will examine how the text from Secret Mark interacts within the Gospel of Mark and base my judgment solely on that.

Although it is never explicitly said in the letter, there is still every reason to presuppose that there were more material in the additional parts than what is quoted by Clement, and reasonably rather much more. Clement only alluded to the specific parts which were part of Theodoros’ concern. Because of this there is also reason to be cautious, since in reality we are making exegesis on a material which is far too small and incomplete to let us draw any firm conclusions. In the letter Clement states that Mark made use of material in form of notes, which of course is quite likely no matter what. Whenever you produce a book, whether fiction or science, you first have to collect the basic facts, the material, and organise it before you can actually write it down. If we are to believe that the author first wrote the shorter version and then added more material for the secret/mystic longer version, then he anyway would have had to prepare for the insertion. And if so, then he also technically must have written it, because you can hardly prepare for something you have not written. If so, you would at least need to rewrite also the original material for the new material to fit.

Priority Link One

Secret Mark 2 part of the original gospel

This time I take my stand in the second part of Secret Mark quoted by Clement, which are to be inserted in Mark 10:46 after Jesus and the disciples comes to Jericho. The strange part in Mark 10:46 is of course the way the story is rendered:

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people …

Why would Mark even mention that they came to Jericho if they immediately afterwards left without doing anything? Of course one can say that this was just a simple editorial detail in order to make Jesus and the disciple leave the town to get to the place where they could cure the blind man. That explanation is in some ways reasonable, but it is the manner in which this was done that makes it strange.

When I examined the Gospel of Mark, I found a total of 42 passages, including Mark 10:46, where Jesus, the disciples and others are said to arrive at a place.[27] Not all of these 42 examples are entirely representative; as Jesus in some cases is brought to the site and as several examples are from Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, where it is fairly obvious that something will happen. But at least the majority of these 42 cases should be representative.

On those 42 occasions it is not once said that Jesus arrives somewhere … stop, and that he immediately afterwards leaves the site. The only exception is Mark 10:46. In those cases where he or someone else soon leaves a place it is always said why they went there or what was done there. However, there are some passages that require further investigation. Mark 8:27 reads: “Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples …”. Here it is not explicitly said that Jesus did anything. But “Mark” still solved or settled this issue quite elegantly, partly by talking of several villages in the area; partly by letting the story carry on during the walking-tour. Another example is Mark 11:11–12:

And he entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when he had looked round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.

This is the most matching example I have found. Yet the differences between this and Mark 10:46 are significant. It is for sure said that Jesus is leaving Bethany, directly after he arrives there. But it should be noted that in the sentence before, the reason why he went to Bethany is made clear; it was late at night and he obviously needed somewhere to sleep for the night. He is also said to have arrived there at night and to have left in the morning. A totally unambiguous construction!

And here an additional commentary can be made. As David Blocker and I showed in our article A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?, in the Hebrew version of Matthew, which probably is relying on ancient material, Jesus is actually said to have done something in Bethany during the night (apart from sleeping). He is said to have explained to the disciples the Kingdom of God. That is to say, also in Matthew 21:17 there seems to originally have been an ancient tradition about Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God to the disciples during the night; something originally found in the Gospel of Matthew but now lost, leaving a passage where Jesus enters and leaves Bethany.

“Mark” also uses other techniques. In Mark 14:3, he simply says: “And being in Bethany” without it ever being told that Jesus came there. In Mark 6:6 Jesus “went around teaching from village to village”, and in Mark 9:30, he “passed through Galilee”. In Mark 11:1 Jesus is said to have sent two of his disciples when they “came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives”. It is literary constructions like these we would have expected to find also in Mark 10:46 if the purpose was just to inform us that the miracle occurred in the vicinity of Jericho, or after Jesus had just passed Jericho. We also have the same unobjectionable construction in Mark 7:31, which says that Jesus “went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis.” Mark did not write: “And they came to Sidon. And he left Sidon and went to the Sea of Galilee.”

As far as I can tell, Mark 10:46 is the only example in the entire Gospel of Mark where the arrival to a place is not accompanied by a reason why he got there; that something special happened there, but he just left the place again. “And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho …”. But if the part which Clement says he quoted from the Secret Gospel of Mark is added to Mark 10:46, then the text makes sense:

And they came to Jericho. And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them. And as he went out of Jericho …

One can of course argue that this oddity in the Gospel of Mark was something that a later imitator tried to correct, by simply inserting this sentence so that the visit Jesus made to Jericho would make sense. But then we have to assume that Mark originally accomplished this rather awkward construction, and (as far as I can tell) the only “mistake” he has done. This so to say contradicts that the Secret Gospel of Mark would, as Clement says, be written by Mark after he had written his former book; reasonably the biblical Gospel of Mark. For then we must still assume that Mark achieved this “awkward” design in his original version. This is one argument in favour of the part with the sister, the mother and Salome waiting for Jesus in Jericho being part of the original version of the Gospel of Mark, and I would say a strong argument.

Priority Link Two

SecMk1 interacting with SecMk2

Since it makes more sense that the second quote from Secret Mark (SecMk2) was part of the original composition of the Gospel of Mark, also the first quote (SecMk1) must reasonably have been there from the beginning, since that part is interacting with the second part. For instance are the same characters repeated in the opening verses and it would have made no sense to mention “the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved” in SecMk2 unless that sister and that youth would not have been previously introduced, as they are in SecMk1. Therefore also SecMk1 with the raising of youth from the dead ought to have been part of the original composition of the Gospel of Mark.

Priority Link Three

SecMk1 interacting with Mark’s ending

SecMk1 must reasonably have been there also in order to interact with the ending of Mark (16:1–8), in order to form the framing story. Otherwise “Mark” could hardly have composed Mark 16:1–8. The reason for this is that the ending of Mark is mirroring not only what is stated in the resurrection passage from Secret Mark (SecMk1) but also what is said in the sentences before this (Mark 10:32–34). These parts are therefore a unit which interacts with Mark 16:1–8, and all of this had in all likelihood to be composed at the same time.

If you do not know what will be in SecMk1 and how it will interact with the surrounding material in Mark, how could you then compose the grave-act (Mark 16:1–8)? How could you compose the grave-act if you later are to compose a framing story? And if SecMk2 is part of the original version and interacts with SecMk1 which in turn interacts with the intersecting material, how could SecMk1 then not have been written? One could of course argue the Secret Gospel of Mark was “published” afterwards, and that is possible but also impossible to know, since the text does not reveal when it was made public. But if one simply dismisses Clement’s statement about the secret or mystic parts being added to the former book by Mark (whether this is the Gospel of Mark or a predecessor), assuming that Clement is unaware of the process, and solely study how the Secret Gospel material interacts with the material in the Gospel of Mark, it is difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the original composition of the Gospel of Mark also included the additional secret/mystic material. We do not know how much more material this was, but it is reasonable to think that the material intended for the advanced was removed by someone, the author or someone else, and the remaining material became sometime later on known to the broad mass of people as the Gospel of Mark.


[1] John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus, Harper-San Francisco, 1995, p. 62, 100–101.

[2] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 216.

[3] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 195–196.

[4] Mark 3:20–35, 5:21–43, 6:7–32, 11:12–25, 14:1–11, 14:53–72.. James R. Edwards identifies nine sandwiches, Mark 3:20–35, 4:1–20, 5:21–43, 6:7–30, 11:12–21, 14:1–11, 14:17–31, 14:53–72, 15:40–16:8. Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989) 197–198.

[5] I am here following Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005, p. 165–179; and specifically p. 173.

[6] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 197.

[7] Tom Shepherd, The Definition and Function of Markan Intercalation as Illustrated in a Narrative Analysis of Six Passages, Andrews University, 1991, 315, as quoted in Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel, p 167. Se also, Tom Shepherd, The Narrative Function of Markan Intercalation, New Testament Studies, 41 (1995), 522–540.

[8] John Dart, Decoding Mark, Trinity Press International, 2003, p. 41–42.

[9] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 197.

[10] Tom Shepherd, The Definition and Function of Markan Intercalation as Illustrated in a Narrative Analysis of Six Passages, Andrews University, 1991, 317–318; as referred to by Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel, p 168.

[11] Geert van Oyen, Tom Shepherd. The trial and death of Jesus: essays on the Passion narrative in Mark, Leuven, Peeters, 2006, p. 237.

[12] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005, p. 178.

[13] John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus, Harper-San Francisco, 1995, p. 101.

[14] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (2005) p. 168, 175.

[15] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 200–203.

[16] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 216.

[17] John Dart, Decoding Mark, Trinity Press International, 2003, p. 42.

[18] Scott G. Brown, Mark 11:1–12:12: A triple intercalation? (The Catholic Biblical Quarterly; jan 1, 2002). Also argued for by Brown in Mark’s Other Gospel, p. 171–173.

[19] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (2005) p. 227–8.

[20] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 200–203.

[21] Otto Stählin: Clemens Alexandrinus (1936).

[22] Bart D. Ehrman, Response to Charles Hedrick’s Stalemate, Journal of Early Christian Studies – 11:2 (Summer 2003) s. 155–163; Lost Christianities: the battles for Scripture and the faiths we never knew (2005), s. 78. Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery; refers to Quentin Quesnell (p. 12, 35) and Andrew Criddle (p. 36).

[23] Anthony Grafton, Gospel Secrets: The Biblical Controversies of Morton Smith ”The Nation”, January 26, (2009). Guy G. Stroumsa, ed. Morton Smith and Gershom Scholem, Correspondence 1945–1982, Boston (2008).

[24] Helmut Koester, Was Morton Smith a Great Thespian and I a Complete Fool? Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 2009, p. 58.

[25] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel : Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005, p. 227.

[26] For instance by Raymond E. Brown, Per Beskow, F.F. Bruce, Craig A. Evans, Robert M. Grant, and Edward C. Hobbs.

[27] Mark 1:9–10, 1:14, 1:21, 2:1, 3:20, 5:1–2, 5:21–22, 5:38, 6:1–2, 6:6, 6:32–33, 6:34, 6:53, 7:24, 7:31, 8:10–11, 8:13–14, 8:22, 8:27, 9:2, 9:30, 9:33, 10:1, 10:10, 10:46, 11:1, 11:11, 11:15, 11:27, 14:3, 14:16, 14:17–18, 14:32, 14:37, 14:40, 14:41, 14:53, 15:1–2, 15:16, 15:22–23, 15:42–43, 16:2–3.

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

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